Fury’s Kiss, by Nicola R. White, was published in 2013 by Strange Roads Press, and is the first of four books in her New England Furies series.
This was a venture a little out of my comfort zone. I believe the genre is urban fantasy, though when I was young it was just called fantasy. Besides, the setting is more small town than urban. There’s a romance subplot too. It’s more erotic than romantic, which I’m not wild about, but the occasional steamy action is not excessive, and narratively justified.
Tara Walker is a twenty-something waiter, with the modest ambition of owning her own restaurant. When she’s stood up for a first date, she heads to a local bar, but the one good-looking man who wanders in, Jackson, is not interested. As she leaves, a new arrival tempts her into a parking lot kiss (there’s something about kissing a stranger), but he wants more, and will not take no for answer. She defends herself with unexpected strength she mistakenly assumes is adrenaline, and in minutes he’s dead.
Wow. Great opening, and certainly a strong female character. The opening sets up multiple overlapping narrative threads. Tara needs to learn to manage her new abilities (and what they are), she’s the subject of a murder investigation, and someone or something is after her. Fortunately, there are a lot of characters to help her. Her room mates readily accept her new skills, there’s a kindly elderly neighbour who is not what she seems, and a young child who is more than she seems. Tara adjusts to sharing her body with an ancient vengeful spirit, and faces ancient dangers.
Then there’s Jackson. Tara is attracted to Jackson, and he, reluctantly, to her, but their relationship is hastened and complicated by the different sexual attitudes of the Fury that possesses her, and his connection to the dangers Tara faces.
If I was being picky, I’d say fantasy must be symbolic,and pull out some coming of age symbolism – Tara’s inner fury is the loss of innocence we adults learn to live with, etc. But this story is too gritty and realistic for an easy symbolic reading. There are gender issues too. When Tara is being mauled at the bar, she recalls that a serial killer of women is on the loose, and it seems much of a Fury’s work is protecting women and children from men. However, the pace and action discourages dwelling on this.
The conclusion brings some good twists, and, after all the excitement and danger, a relatively conventional romantic happy ending. Although Tara retains her powers, the blurbs for the other books in the series focus on other characters who become Furies. In this aspect, the stories are more romance than fantasy. There does not appear to be an overall arc of some growing danger that might explain why multiple Furies appear in close proximity. However, I’m not sure I’d call these romances. Compared to other romances I have read, even paranormals, there is more action and complexity. That also makes this a much richer story than many paranormal romances.
I’ve already picked up another book by White, and looking forward to reading it. That’s probably the best indicator of how much I enjoyed this. Although it’s not the sweet semi-realistic romance genre I prefer, the characters, plot, action, and pacing, and even the grittiness and sex, make it a great read.