Aphrodite’s Passion is mildly entertaining, but not truly engaging. With a “superhero” hero and talking ferret it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. But as soon as the plot turns inward and focuses on the hero and heroine’s relationship, it falls flat.
Super-hero Hale is a direct descendant of Zeus. Head and shoulders above ordinary people, he can turn invisible, fly across the continent in less than an hour with his propulsion cloak, and talk to the animals. Officially, Hale and his kind are designated “protectors” of the human race. They supervise things and make sure ordinary mortals don’t get themselves into trouble. When Hale is called upon to retrieve the ancient girdle of Aphrodite, he’s headed for trouble of his own.
The girdle has been missing for years, and the protectors almost preferred it that way. An instrument of extraordinary power, the girdle makes the wearer irresistible to the opposite sex and generally makes their wishes come true. It’s fairly harmless if worn by a mortal, but if it is acquired by someone with supernatural powers, it makes the wearer all-powerful. One of the bad-guy super-heroes (un-heroes?) wants to get the girdle in his hands so he can control the world. Currently the girdle is in the possession of Tracy Tannin, who inherited it when her grandmother died. Tracy suddenly notices a surge in her popularity as men begin falling all over themselves attempting to get dates with her. She works as an animal trainer for a popular TV show, and even the sexy star of the show asks her out.
When Hale shows up on the scene, he immediately has a leg up on the competition. Hale’s actually a romance cover model (that’s his day job) and Tracy has been fantasizing about him for years. Hale is very attracted to Tracy, but he knows he can’t lose sight of his mission, which is to retrieve the girdle. The girdle is enchanted, so Hale can’t simply take it, or he’ll lose his super-powers. Ordinary mortals can’t steal the girdle at all. Hale’s preliminary plan is to get close to Tracy (to seduce her, really) and persuade her to give him the girdle of her own free will. But he finds that as he becomes closer to Tracy he wants more than just a brief fling. She may be willing to take the relationship to the next level, but Hale has “mortal” issues – his step-mother left his father when he was young, so he’s convinced that mortal-protector relationships never work.
The story is most enjoyable when focused on supernatural elements. Maybe it was just my mood, but I loved the talking ferret, the propulsion cloak, and all Hale’s little parlor tricks. Hale’s sister Zoë (the heroine of Aphrodite’s Kiss) plays a fairly large role in this book, and she has cool x-ray vision that comes in handy.
A lot of the book is intended to be humorous, and the author usually succeeds. Kenner has a way with one-liners; my favorite was when Tracy finally found out about Hale and Zoë’s powers and asked if the Superfriends would be showing up soon too. The book has a very colloquial style, which contributes to the snappy dialogue.
So what is the pill in all this jam? Well, I’ve mentioned the talking ferret twice already. His name was Elmer, and he was my favorite character. Not Hale, not Tracy – Elmer the talking ferret. Elmer was funny and charming, but the same cannot be said of tepid Tracy and arrogant Hale. Tracy is a little mousy, and little needy, and just not very exciting. There just isn’t much to her.
On the other hand, there is entirely too much to Hale. It can be hard to carry off a plot in which one character is essentially trying to deceive the other, and this one doesn’t quite work. Hale does express remorse about his planned seduction and subsequent abandonment of Tracy, but he’s just so generally arrogant that I had trouble liking him. He views mortals as good sex toys rather than viable prospects for a long term relationship. It’s explained that this is all due to his difficult past, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. Hale maintains this attitude long after he really needs to, and at one point near the end of the book he actually lies to Tracy to drive her away (a plot device that I rarely appreciate).
A word about the sensuality rating: Ordinarily., I would probably classify this book as warm. But there is one scene that features masturbation in a way not usually seen in a mere “warm” book. Hence, the “hot” designation.
If you’re a big paranormal fan, or you really liked Kenner’s previous book, you may find this one worth your time. I would also recommend it warmly to all avid ferret lovers. For everyone else, it will be a tougher call.