by Jessica Hall, contemporary (2003)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20946-X
While I enjoyed the previous book in the author's The White Tiger Sword trilogy (The Steel Caress), the conclusion The Kissing Blades is a convoluted mess. Readers who have not read any of this author's previous books will be spending more time trying to piece together the jigsaw puzzle that is this story, so if you're a newbie to this author's trilogy, start with the first book The Deepest Edge - get out a pen and a large piece of paper for the join-the-dot fun. Or don't bother.
Kameko Sayura meets Sean Delaney when he kidnaps her and... well, that happens in a previous book. Sean is tortured because last year he and this woman... well, like they say, it happens in a previous book. Although I'm amused that while Sean's feelings for this woman has been exaggerated into Madame Butterfly melodramatic levels in the previous books, here the author quickly makes reparations and says that Sean may love the dead woman if she has survived. Poor Dead Woman. Skewered by the more ridiculous limitations of the romance genre formula. Anyway, after Meko and Sean's meeting in the previous books, now Dead Woman has turned into plot contrivance and Sean now lusts after Meko instead. Poor Dead Woman. Oh, and Meko is the daughter of the man that wants the White Tiger swords that are once owned by the crime boss that was the father of the hero in The Deepest Edge who married the woman who contacts Meko right before Meko gets involved in the mess that also involves the characters in The Steel Caress and this is before... you know what? Forget it. I can't do this.
Let's just make it simple. Meko's assistant is missing. The kidnappers want the White Tiger Sword. Meko needs Sean's help, and she tells him after a strange sex scene involving a drunk Sean and a caught off-guard Meko. The cops think Miko killed the assistant. The FBI wants the swords. The Asian crime syndicates want the swords. The characters are plunged in a truly ridiculous story of conspiracy involving the swords, the inscription on the swords, and every character the author has ever written and the characters the author has written especially for sequels, all the pieces coming together so neatly in the end that I am really flummoxed. The story is convoluted but the resolution is too convenient. I'm sure if I actually take a pen and try to make notes in order to entangle the author's messy tortuous plot convolutions, I'd be bound to find maybe a zillion loose ends and plot holes, but life is too short for this sort of thing.
And the romance? I don't know. It's just sex to me, and it's not really convincing good sex at that, because Meko and Sean don't really seem to be into each other as much as they are just going through the motions. Towards the end of the story, the author is as frantically sowing the seeds for her next trilogy as much as she is praying that the reader is still conscious after enduring this confusing mess of a story. However, it's still just sex to me, albeit in a thinly-disguised "Sam and Alyssa" wannabe way. The author should really consider closing her current plots first instead of trying to have as many subplots running concurrently if she wants to get more people other than Catherine Coulter to endorse her books.
The Kissing Blades will be a good old tale of espionage, crime, and suspense that more than makes up for its skimpy romances if the author isn't trying to outtangle the Gordion knot in her story. And like all Gordion knots, there is always an easy solution that could solve the whole thing. In this case, I'd recommend a huge explosion that kills everybody in the story, leaving the author free to start anew in a new trilogy that doesn't threaten to cause brain concussions in its readers.
This book at Amazon.com
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