Grade : A-

Recently, while stuck on a plane for too many hours, I decided to reread Heat. Back in the day, I loved Smith's complex, morally batshit books. Three of her works, The Last Hour of Gann, Heat, and Land of the Beautiful Dead, were all DIKs for me and I wondered how I'd see her work now. Smith is a fearless writer--her works are violent, gorgeous, and terrifying. She's not at all interested in making readers feel good nor does she care to improve us with her prose. She is, first and foremost, a riveting storyteller. It's safe to say Heat is still a DIK for me and, I suspect, a book that many readers will be appalled by.

This almost 700 page book intricately weaves together the tales of two alien men entangled with Earth women. Smith skillfully constructs a world where Earth remains has been isolated since its discovery by the Far-Reachers of Jota's history. It's a planet where slavers and chemists have thrived for generations.

Kanetus E'Var, the son of Jota's notorious slaver, is about to be sent to Jotan prison for life. (Slavery is illegal on Jota.) He manages to escape and heads for Earth where he can make tons of money by create a powerful drug, Vahst, derived from the human brain. Vahst--it reads as dopamine--is generated when humans orgasm. Kane's MO is to brutally kill humans after they've come and harvest the serum. He's a slaver as well.

Jotans must have sex when the temperature is high or else they feel tortuorous pain and begin to go mad. Kane has landed on Earth during a heat wave and his need for constant sex is intense. The same is true for the other Jotan on Earth, Tagen Pahnee, an officer of the Jotan Off-World Security Fleet, who is pursuing Kane to bring him to justice. Unlike Kane who has visited Earth before, Tegan has not. Earth is an utter mystery to him and he is far more at its mercy than is Kane.

Stranded on Earth, far from their homes, Kane and Tegan navigate a perilous environment teeming with humans and unforeseen dangers exacerbated by the intense Heat. This challenging backdrop adds layers of complexity to their quests. Both men need sex and both are determined to get the thing they most seek: Kane, Vahst; Tagen, Kane. And while it's true that Kane is flat out evil, by the standards of both his world and ours, and Tagen is good, both men have motivations that make their choices morally murky.

This is a dark dark book. There is endless rape, murder, mayhem, and fear. The novel delves into dark themes and morally ambiguous situations, creating a gripping narrative that will most definitely challenge some readers' comfort zones. It challenges mine but I still love it.

One reason for this is that Smith's characters are indelible. Kane and the human lover he finds, Raven, are BAD and yet they and their love story--it is a love story--are thoughtfully and believably portrayed. Tagen and his ultimate partner, Daria, are almost as compelling and certainly much easier to root for. For much of the story, the book switches back and forth between Kane's and Raven's murderous path and Tagen's and Daria's tentative relationship. Kane and Raven are enjoying the hell out of themselves while Tagen's resolute goodness makes him and Daria suffer. It takes many many pages before the good guys get any kind of an upper hand and the body count accrued over that time is high. You can't look away from all the violence simply because you'll so want to see what happens next.

It's rare I'd recommend, to romance readers, a book with so much rape, murder, and cruelty. But recommend Heat I do. Tagen and Daria get the HEA they deserve--their ending is very smartly done--and Raven and Kane, well, you'll have to read the book to see what happens to them. If you decide to give this a chance, understand it's the opposite of fluffy. But, even with all its darkness, it is one hell of a read.

Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Burning

Review Date : January 14, 2024

Publication Date: 01/2009

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Recent Comments …

  1. Same here. Excellent mystery, read in one go (as much as possible). The book was very much about relationships, not…

Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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