Aphrodite's Kiss
by Julie Kenner, paranormal (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52438-4

I know we, romance readers, love our heroines downtrodden and prissy. There's a school of thought that says it's fun to read about a stiff-lipped woman loosening up. But there is a fine line that can be drawn here, really, between writing likeable neurotics and neurotics who deserve to be put down to end their misery. Zoë Smith is not only the stereotypical librarian marm (virgin, no date, clueless, no self esteem - please, librarians, send your hate mail to this author, not me), when she gets this gift of seeing through men's clothes (among other cool powers), she freaks out.

Here I am, fantasizing and drooling even of how happy I will be if I get this gift. I will move to Hollywood, I tell you. I'll go to the beach and the gym everyday. I will... *slaps own face* Ahhhuuurm. Anyway, Zoë is the half-mortal daughter of a Protector. Protectors are a bunch of superheroes looking over us poor powerless mortals.

So our Zoë comes into her powers one day, and ooh! Instead of buying cool black leathers and shades and auditioning for The Matrix 3, our heroine freaks out! Ohmigod! Naked people! Eeeek! Hairy, ugly monsters! Oh, her virginal eyes! Ow, ow, ow!

Mortal George Taylor has no idea what is going on with this woman he is attracted to. She dare not touch him - not when the author is so busy cutting her down into a morass of hysterics and incompetence. As far as excuses go for heroines to remain in the Lezzie Closet, though, I must say this is a good one: Zoë Smith, Superheroine out to challenge Xena and Buffy's throne, can't handle her powers.

Oh, and there are some rogue Protectors out to squash mortals and make them Protectors' slaves. And here comes Zoë Smith to save the day! In the immortal words of the ancients and wise: Oh. My. God. We are doomed.

Bow! Kabam! Holy Batface, George, my knickers are all tied up! Aphrodite's Kiss falls flat, tries to fly, falls flat again, and finally gives up trying to be a romance. Instead, it mutates into that cheesy old Batman TV series, this time with an incompetent sex-fearing, talent-free, humor-free heroine and her one-dimensional male sidekick providing the corny kabam-bam's. It's fun for a short while, but soon after, it outstays its welcome.

At least the old Batman and Robin aren't afraid to wear ridiculous spandex. Zoë Smith, Neurotic and WonderDitz, would probably wear a hair suit and walk right in front of the bus one day as she tries not to look at passerby men's ding-dongs (good girls don't look, doncha know). It is no fun reading about a superwoman who spends the whole time screaming that she is having a horrible time. It's an ultimate insult implying that Xena and Buffy are inferior to Zero Smith. Good thing Buffy and Xena aren't real, or the author may get two angry tough macho superwomen knocking on her door one of these days.

Memo to author: A realistic heroine, one that thinks and behaves like a normal woman, isn't such a bad thing. And it is okay to have a heroine that knows how to laugh and have fun. Really!

Rating: 59

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