A Kiss of Shadows (Meredith Gentry, #1) - Laurell K. Hamilton, Laural Merlington Merry Gentry lives in LA and works as a private detective, but in reality, she is Princess Meredith, a Sidhe Princess, niece to Queen Andais of the Unseelie Court. She has been in hiding for three years because her aunt is out to kill her. But she is discovered and must return to her home to face her aunt and Cel, the next in line to the throne.

You may be aware that I've been reading the Anita books and, well, don't really like them all that much. So why I am reading LKH's paranormal erotica series? Well, I'll attribute that to a few things:

1. To see if LKH can write a series I do like.

2. For the lulz.

3. There is tentacle sex.

4. Because I stay up late at night finding ways to punish myself.

There are a LOT of similarities between the two series. Merry and Anita are both petite, curvy, hugely magically talented woman very comfortable with guns and knives and working at a job that is independent of the police, yet still fights crime. Scenes tend to go from one action/dialogue sequence to the next. There is a lot of manflesh, told in exquisite, almost fangirlish detail (enough that it makes you think that if the author were a teenaged girl, these men would be gracing the walls of her room). The writing is pretty much the same--brutally functional, with little frills (unless, of course, it deals with the lovely men). And of course, my favorite and yours: yards and yards of intricate descriptions of clothing. Because we can't have a character whose clothing isn't relayed completely! You might get confused which man titty is wearing that lime green g-string after all.

I don't know if it is me, my attitude, the narrator (who gives Merry's a breathy, more reserved tone) or legitimately LKH expanding her writing, but I felt that Merry somehow was her own character. Yeah, her ease with guns, her "I don't take shit" attitude felt a bit out of place, but she seemed more compassionate, less antagonistic, less likely to spend several hours in a pissing contest over how manly and competent she is. She doesn't strike me as any less capable than Anita, but she does endear herself to me in a way that Anita never did. And that makes me legitimately interested and invested in her story.

The rest of the cast--God, there are so many, it's hard to remember them all. Particularly the men. The initial setup, with Roan and Jeremy, was solid. However, after Roan literally swims off (because Merry made him a seal?!?! HUH???), the character list grows exponentially. There is Doyle, Galen, Sholto, Frost, Kitto, Queen Andais, Cel, this woman Merry knew who is trying to be Cel's baby momma (and whose name completely evades me)...it's all a bit much to remember. And other than Doyle and Galen, I can't keep most of Merry's men straight. But I will say, Queen Andais and Cel are pretty decent antagonists.

I think one of the biggest and best things that LKH did was to step away from her vampires-wereanimals story and focus on something completely new. Her world of the Fae felt very well done and different. I loved learning about the goblin society; I liked how a variety of Fae appear (such as Sholto, Tentacle Boy), and Merry isn't necessarily instantly turned off by these different beings.

Of course, what also helps this book is that it doesn't pretend to not be 100% about sex. Not to spoil the story too much, but Queen Andais tells Merry that Merry could be queen--if she bears a child. And she tells Merry to go and make lots of sex with all the Guardsmen. If that isn't a setup for a porno/erotica series, then I don't know what is. And yes, it may seem cheap and cheesy, but at least LKH doesn't try to tell us this is about an "eternal, pure love" like SOME erotica novels out there *coughFiftyShadesanyonecough*. (Yes, I just picked on a book that I haven't read. So shoot me.)

The sex itself, one of the parts I was looking forward to, was actually pretty tame and boring. While there are plenty of teasing scenes (such as Doyle having to lick Merry's inner thigh to heal a scrath *eye roll*), there are only two real sex scenes, and they are pretty meh. The first one was weird. Roan and Merry have sex...and somehow, a seal skin is produced. Roan can step into the skin and then return to the sea. Weird. (Especially sad because I thought Roan and Merry made a sexy couple.) The latter one gets a bit kinky with some rough sex and pain, but honestly, I was kinda bored (and disappointed there was no tentacle sex :( ).

One more complaint: I was pretty excited at the setup. Two ladies approach Merry and her agency for help with their abusive lover. This was an excellent setup, one I was eagerly anticipating. However, the plot thread is wrapped up pretty quickly (even the Branwyn's tears is hastily wrapped up with nary an investigation--though given how the Anita Blake series is, I shouldn't have been too surprised), and most of the novel then is about Merry going to her Fae home (Yes, it is in St. Louis--St. Louis must be the paranormal capital of the world) and some disputes with her family. Not exactly edge of your seat thrilling, even if you toss in some assassination attempts and some "I can't have sex with the celibate Guards or Queen Andais will kill them!".

I went into this book open-minded, with the knowledge that it would probably be a bit cheesy (and knowing how LKH writes). And you know what? I pretty much enjoyed myself--much more than with most of the Anita novels I've read. I'm legitimately curious about whether Merry will be queen. And of course, I have GOT to read that tentacle sex scene!!