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All Wrapped Up
Morgan Harcourt;Laylah Hunter;Thea Hayworth;Gryvon
Iron & Velvet - Alexis Hall
2.5 stars

Kate lives in a dangerous world populated by lots of superbeings: vamps, weres, demons, mages, faeries...

She is a supa herself, a faerie with some skillz of her own. One of them being gorgeous, as few in this world seem able to resist her charms. Oh, and she’s a huntress with a nose for the scent which helps her PI work. Kate’s been hired to investigate the dead bodies piling up in London.

The premise is interesting-- a lesbian private dick (“I’m cynical, not a complete dick”) who battles baddies. Kate starts off engagingly enough. She’s full of ’tude, in fact, she’s a snarkfest of badass with a slut rep to boot. Colorful. A heavy drinker (“I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.”) with a penchant for girls, she’s been known to toss a few boys between the sheets, too. Vamps, weres, faeries… it doesn’t matter to Kate. She’s an equal opportunity huntress… I like her:

“It always starts with scent… traces of damp earth, fresh blood, and cold starlit nights. This was who I was. A hunter.”

Kate’s romantic counterpart, Julian, the Prince of Cups, vamp leader (who is, in fact, a she), is an ex-demon-hunting ninja nun. She’s made some enemies who want to do her harm… She’s tough, every bit as snarky, and wears her confidence well:

“I’m also a hedonistic, bloodsucking narcissist with nearly a thousand years’ worth of enemies but… I’m never dull.”

In this world where a girl can be a ‘Prince’ and wear a man’s name with panache (yes!!), Julian makes a good foil for Kate. She hires Kate to find out who is targeting her vamp family, and they start their mating dance. But… I never get a real sense for just what she see’s in Kate romantically, besides the superficial.

These two MC’s are pretty okay… so, what happened? From the beginning, the story suffers from awkward plot transitions and flow-- the first half so slow moving. And there are so many characters that a chart is necessary to keep them all straight. Also, we aren’t invested in them. How can we be? The sheer numbers of them mean little to no development, we’re merely told who they are and how they react as we hop back and forth between them.

“I’m Henry, by the way. My friends call me Harry. Bunny calls me Hal…”

“Dude, that’s a lot of names… Sorry, who’s Bunny again?”
--Kate


Even the characters are confused.

The language is littered with similes (also an issue with Hall’s other book, “Glitterland”) and in the sex scenes, they’re just silly. This is Kate’s voice, is she really thinking this during sex?:

“her passion and her ease in it heated my skin like lovers’ breath”
“she sparkled in my mouth like champagne”
“kisses landed on her skin as vivid as butterflies”
“the idle play of her fingertips glittered over me like dew across a spider’s web”


and:

“she lay underneath me like an unexploded grenade” ... yikes!!

And when the characters start speaking in similes, too… well… c’mon now!!!... really???!!:

“Does the tart flavour of the strawberries perfectly complement the dry sweetness of the meringue, like dust motes dancing on an April morning?”

There are some great words on the page. In fact, some of them go together quite nicely. But not all of them. And there’s the dilemma-- it’s a data dump with lots of window dressing, but little depth-- too much clever going on and trying too hard. All this only gets in the way of the story and some good main characters who have real potential. The mystery wasn’t especially entertaining either; even though the action finally picked up towards the end, I was ultimately left unsatisfied.

What about the lesbian sex, you may ask? Coming from the male slash world, I gotta say I found the two sex scenes not especially titillating. But, maybe I’m just a cockamamie, penis-centric, dick-biased reader…

I was hoping for much more in this first installment of Kate’s adventures (it took me two tries to finish it). Perhaps others will find lots to love here, but it just wasn’t my cuppa.

2.5 stars---> 2 stars which means OK, coulda been a lot better.


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