Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
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Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
The Kiss of DeathThe Kiss of Death
By: Valentina Cilescu
Constable and Robinson
September 2012

Reviewed By: Sacchi Green

I used to take pride in being able to judge a story from the viewpoint of its intended audience, even if I myself didn’t share those particular tastes, but The Kiss of Death has been a real challenge. 

I do admit that there are elements to the story that I can appreciate; the underlying premise of an immortal vampire who draws his strength from the sexual energy of others is scarcely new, but it can be serviceable for erotica. The old “fangs in the neck” routine seems to be reserved here for recruitment, while sex (often augmented by exotic aphrodisiacs) is the real source of nourishment; I never thought that the blood connection was particularly sexy, anyway. The descriptions of settings are often well done, from rituals in Dymastic Egypt to the ruined Cathedral in Whitby (with a reference by one character to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of course) to the various set-pieces arranged for the orgies held in an abandoned country house. Winterbourne, once used for training British intelligence agents during WWII, has become an exclusive bordello protected by the fact that its clients are all rich and powerful and politically connected—as well as the presence of an immortal vampire (the Master) imprisoned inside a magical crystal in a sepulcher in a bricked-up room in its cellar, with enough power remaining to manipulate and prompt the bordello’s owner, and even, fueled by the ambient erotic energy, to take over the owner’s body for limited periods of fun and games.

So far, so good. And even better is the depiction in the middle of the book of how the Master, wandering the world after his soulmate, Sedet, has been imprisoned and hidden away by rival Egyptian priests, passes some of his time as Rasputin corrupting the Czarina (no wonder they couldn’t seem to kill him!) and then in Sicily as tutor to Aleister Crowley’s crew of nouveau-occultists, and finally as advisor and personal sorcerer/fortune teller to Hitler, a thankless job since Hitler would never belief his warning or take his advice. I could appreciate a whole book written around this premise, especially the part where Allied sorcerers trap the Master, imprison him in his own magic crystal, and wall him up in the cellar of Winterbourne. WWII with dueling sorcerers! What’s not to like?

My problem is that by the time I got to any of these interesting bits, I’d been slogging through so many repetitive, florid, bloated, adjective-overladen sex scenes that if I’d been able to use the traditional editorial red pen on the manuscript it would have looked as bloody as any vampiric orgy. Yes, the main point of erotica is to arouse the reader, and plenty of sex is just what’s expected, but I had a hard time imagining the audience for this particular jumble of sex scenes. I have nothing against orgies. In reading about them I prefer a focused point-of-view character to provide a sense of participation, rather than a flailing mass of body parts in cameo appearances, but I can see that the idea of being an observer could be titillating, even though the paying participants are, for the most part, made deliberately unappealing. Would even aging stockbrokers fantasize about aging stockbrokers team-fucking a well-paid whore? This may be part of the general thrust to make uninhibited sex feel “evil” enough to give the reader that pleasurable frisson of being naughty. The repeated claims of “No limits! Nothing is forbidden!” don’t seem to result in any new, creative perversions, just the old dishes reheated and served again and again. 

The most original erotic encounter, in fact, occurs in the research room of a public library, between the only two characters who are developed at all as three-dimensional human beings, and who seem to be potential foils for the Master. It was a relief to find people one could conceivably root for after the stream of color-me-evil cardboard villains.

So what’s my problem, aside from some awkwardness of continuity? I’m a language junky. Too many “love-shafts,” “carnal lances,” “bags of love juice” (on males) and “torrents of love juice” (from females) even when love clearly has nothing to do with it. Too much repetition, and, when an attempt is made for original metaphors, too many that made me either laugh or cringe. Breasts like “juicy amber fruits” with nipples like “twin stalks” isn’t all that bad, until you see the terms “rising stalks” and “burgeoning stalks” applied to masculine appendages. The difficulties with portraying prolonged, ever-increasing lust are noticeable when at one moment a man’s “wild electric eel” is “thrashing” against his belly, and a few moments later, with even more provocation, it merely “twitches compulsively.”

Kiss of Death is part of a series called Modern Erotic Classics, and I suspect it was written quite a bit longer ago than the 2008 and 2012 dates for its recent publications. I may be judging it by unfair standards. The author may well have been deliberately trying for the style of, say, Bram Stoker, although Stoker, fortunately, did not attempt full-blown erotica. I was curious enough to do a bit of research, and discovered that Kiss of Death has a sequel published in 1993, The Phallus of Osiris. I admit to being glad of that, because I’d been about to close with a warning against getting too fond of the relatively good guys (or girl and guy.) In fact, in spite of all my ranting about the less stellar aspects of the book, I might well read the sequel if I come across it, to see whether good sex and love prevail at last. At least it’s not called The Burgeoning Flower Stalk of Osiris.