Kuramos, the Great Sultan of Kad, is in the midst of a nightmare when a deadly illness strikes his palace killing his trusted mentor and threatening the lives of his wives and children. After a freak accident takes the life of his Royal Physician, robbing Kuramos of a cure, the sultan's desperate need forces him to seek help from the rival realm of Teganne. A culture steeped in vile magic, the Tegannese people are scorned by Kaddites but when left with no other options Kuramos will subject himself to the scourge magic users if it'll save his precious family.
Wanting to distract herself from the recent and painful loss of the man she loved, a man who tragically never knew that he held her heart, Varene na Seryn grudging accepts Kuramos's demand the she attend to his family. Amplifying Varene's phycisians' knowledge is her kyrra, a soul magic that allows her the power to heal her patients. Given only a handful of details from the Kad messenger, Varene warily knows that she's facing an illness completely unknown to her and while the Kaddites themselves culturally disturb her, Varene is a healer and she'll not let anything prevent her from saving lives if it's in her power to do so.
Two radically opposing cultures clash violently as a battle of wills erupts the very moment Kuramos and Varene meet yet a grudging respect blooms early between them both as well despite their attempts to remain guarded. Disturbed by the renowned culture of Kad, a culture that venomously hates Teganne, Varene begins her journey already on the defense. Like a fantasy romance feminist, Varene is deeply disgusted by the disrespect shown to women, most importantly she's deeply disturbed by the fact that Kuramos has six wives. Knowing that each woman claims only one-sixth of their husband while he gets them all grates heavily on her morals and strong belief that a marriage exists between two souls not seven.
In contrast, Kuramos's people have gripped the boundaries of their realm through sheer human force. Shunning magic out of a deeply revered respect for their gods, the true and rightful users of magic, Kad rejects the Tegannese empowered mages and sorcerers. And while their matrimonial arrangements may disgust neighboring realms, harems are a long standing cultural aspect of Kad. Kuramos's wives have secured much needed alliances and peace amongst the powerful families of Kad.
With their cultural differences blazing between them, Kuramos and Varene pull and push at each other, peeling back layers of their souls with each turbulent encounter. With his family near death, Kuramos grants Varene all the power she needs within his palace to cure his beloved. Watching her work with mesmerizing intensity, Kuramos begins to admit a lust filled longing within himself for the unconventional Tegannese healer. Varene's wits and sharp intellect engages his mind and his body. Likewise, Varene begins to feel a deep seeded but unwanted yearning for the man that already has six wives. Berating herself for her vile lust, she does what she can to maintain distance but when a skillful hunter such as Kuramos senses prey in its sights, he'll not give up until he's claimed every piece of her soul.
A wounded soul who reminds herself constantly with a worn ring upon her finger that to dally with love can only lead to heartache and death, Varene staunchly clings to the past and the lessons it wrought upon her life. For decades she loved a man from afar because to stick her neck out and declare her affections would have meant that she learned nothing. So Varene allows herself the safety of a crush only to feel acute despair with the fact that he dies never knowing she loved him. Fresh from that heartache, Varene encounters the magnetic force that is Kuramos and for the first time in her life she feels passion and a boundless love. Sadly, she falls once again for a man that she can't have. He's married, to six women no less and the last thing that Varene would ever do is destroy the lives of the women the way she had once been destroyed so long ago.
Shielding her heart and locking her true self beneath the mask of the Tegannese Royal Healer, Varene gifts only herself to her patients and her active feminist views. Rash and impetuous, Varene rushes headlong into many a disaster in Kad because of her strong belief that she should be treated as an equal. This same heedless behavior overflows into her dealings with Kuramos but lucky for her, he's in love with her and her spunk.
Charismatic and fierce as his sultanate demands, Kuramos is a force that's felt throughout the realm of Kad. Strong and muscular with piercing green eyes, he's both angered and enamored with Varene's constant rebellion that he as Sultan of Kad demands as his very right. The woman won't even bow to him! She infuriates him but instead of igniting his ire she only serves to fan the flames of his desire.
Yet like Varene, Kuramas masks his true self from the world. He's a family man full of compassion. He takes excellent care of his wives whom he respects and cherishes. At his core is a man of spartan needs but yet he holds court in the lavish appointments his sultanate dictates. The only true blight on his soul is the guilt and despair for the children he's lost. He's a good man, a caring man and while he wants Varene, never once does he force her to submit to his needs or his sultanate.
My Final Thoughts:
KISMIT'S KISS, while an enjoyable read, I must admit to having a difficult time staying engaged with the characters and their plight. The book never grabbed me, it never took me along for the ride within its clutches. Funnily enough, I like Varene and I like Kuramos. They're well told, multi-dimensional characters. The setting is lavish and richly detailed painting a clear picture of Kad's colorful vegetation, clothing and architecture. Even the sand of the deserts surrounding Kad glittered in my mind's eye as it did for its inhabitants. In addition, the author wrapped up every single plot arc with no stone left unturned. So why didn't this book work for me? I'm narrowing it down to Varene's feminist attitude and Kuramos's six wives.
Contrary to what most modern day women of today represent - equal rights, equal pay, equal respect, in a romance novel it's the last type of attitude I want to read about in a heroine. Hypocritical for sure but while I desire a strong and self assured heroine, I don't enjoy one that flings ingrained customs and culture out the window to make a point that she is above that. Varene's antics get old and while I enjoyed the bi-play between her and Kuramos as a result of her actions, at times I just found her to be downright childish.
However, I did agree fully with Varene's disgust over Kuramos and his harem no matter that it is the custom of Kad but the outcome of Varene's disgust and the result of Kuramos's love simply felt wrong. It's a known fact that romance readers don't always receive a cheating husband well and while Kuramos's situation is rather unconventional, I'm of the feeling that the rule still applies to him. He has six wives, children with each of them. Having a harem is the Sultan's right as well an ingrained aspect of Kad culture yet he'll throw it all away simply because Varene won't share? What if he falls in love with someone later? It's safe to reason that he could for he's a man used to getting everything he wants. I just don't find him trustworthy and likewise I'm somewhat sickened that Varene would demand what she does of Kad's Sultan and its culture. It seemed selfish and unfair that she would want him to give up his family as the requirement to claim her heart.
And finally, I don't necessarily understand the whole point of the fantasy elements used in this novel. For one, they take a complete backseat to the romance. And to get right down to my whole dilemma, I honestly don't see the point in having these characters live centuries-long lives. Fine, let them be magic users, at least that aspect had a role in the plot, but the immortal lives just felt like an additive for genre sake.
Despite my own misgivings with this read, I can easily understand why others will and do receive it in a better, more favorable light. A powerful and charismatic ruler bends to the will of a foreign woman, a woman who defies and overturns centuries long customs, all in the name of love. Its romantic for sure. I just can't let go of my own hang ups....