Aphrodite's Kiss
Grade : C

Move over, Buffy . . . Step aside, Xena . . . Zoë Smith's the new super gal in town! Ahhh, those marketing folks. They'll say just about anything to make a sale, won't they? Well, after reading about Zoë's adventures I don't think Buffy and Xena need to worry about retiring and settling in for a life of cookie baking just yet. If kicking bad-guy butt is left up to Zoë we'll all be in a sorry state here in alternate-universe land. Zoë may have superhuman powers, but what good is a super girl without a little bit of an edge and lots of snappy, sarcastic comebacks? More importantly, what good is x-ray vision if one has qualms about taking a peek at a handsome male's, umm, assets (and I don't mean just his undies!)? Sheesh, why can't I awaken with those powers? I'd gratefully put them to good use. But I'm getting off track . . . .

To the world around her Zoë Smith is just your every day virginal, bespectacled elementary school librarian. But, unlike mere mortals, Zoë is the result of a mating between a mortal and a Protector (a human with enhanced senses and the ability to fly, levitate and so on). She is what full-blooded Protectors call a "halfling" and has grown up feeling left out of both worlds. As her 25th birthday approaches she must decide whether to become a Protector or remain a mortal and give up all ties to her father and half-brother (both full-blooded Protectors). She decides to become a Protector and devote her life to rescuing mortals from danger, but first she has get her newly blossoming powers under control.

George Taylor is a hunky down-on-his-luck ex-cop turned private investigator. He meets Zoë while working to dig up some dirt on her co-worker at the library. The two have an instant chemistry and Taylor, who is looking for a sweet, girl-next-door kind of gal, thinks she'd be the perfect woman for him. Boy, does he have a surprise coming, hmmm?

Zoë doesn't want to get involved with the mortal Taylor even though they share an intense attraction. Her senses are haywire and she fears his touch would undo her. So she lies and tells him she is "taken" and, even though she may never see him again, she doesn't even attempt to take a little peek to see what lies beneath his pesky clothes. Taylor walks away but can't get her out of his mind.

Now this wouldn't be a romance if the book ended here, would it? Never fear - fate, coincidence, a few meddling friends and the bad guys all help to bring these two together midway through the story.

As their romance is blooming, Zoë's uncle and halfling cousin are cooking up a nefarious scheme. Zoë’s relatives are tired of saving pathetic mortals from their own stupidity and want to be treated like the gods they are. And, hey, can you blame them? They plan to turn humankind into their slaves but need a magical missing stone from the legendary "Aphrodite's Girdle" to bring their wicked plan to fruition. Like all good villains these two cause a whole heck of a lot of trouble for our neophyte super-heroine.

What remains is an adventure-filled, comic book-like story written in a breezy, casual style that makes for a quick read. Alas, the romance is emotionally empty and lacks heart. Both Zoë and Taylor are likable enough characters, if a little bland, but they sorely lack depth. They don't sit still long enough to get to know each other. All I knew about Taylor was that he'd grown up in foster homes and was hot for Zoë simply because she was cute and was the epitome of a white-picket fence, stay-put type of girl. And Zoë was no better. She was into Taylor because, well let's face it, he's a real looker and because he kept crossing her path. There was no mind and heart melding happening here. They confused lust with love and all attempts to prove otherwise rang false.

Aphrodite's Kiss contains some funny moments, but what it really needed was a huge helping of hilarity and lots of witty banter to compensate for the weak character development. There simply wasn't enough of either of the above. Still, if you're not overly bothered by characters lacking depth and crave something unique you may want to give this a look. As for me, if I desire a visit to alternate universe land I'd rather watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer and her witty gang face love, death and the fate of the world with genuine emotion and loads of laugh out loud humor.

Reviewed by Laurie Shallah
Grade : C
Book Type: Fantasy Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 6, 2001

Publication Date: 2001

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