Title: What Doesn’t Kill You
Author: Valentina Heart
Buy Link: Buy Link What Doesn’t Kill You
Genre: Paranormal; M/M fiction
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: Constantly changing point of view, and an all too easy love at first sight makes for a confusing story line that I alternately loved and…well, really didn’t get.
Blurb: After another disastrous sexual escapade, Jae only has escape in mind. Running down the stairs, he slips, falls, and blacks out. The first thing he sees once he wakes up is a gorgeous stranger offering him a beautiful future in just a single gaze. Kian is a light demon who’s been looking for his chosen one for years. Even with that set goal in mind, it’s never been an easy path. Once he sees Jae, all the pieces fit into place. The clock starts ticking but they have to run for their life, run hard, if they’re going to get that perfect future. With demons at their heels and dangers lurking around every corner, Kian and Jae have to rely on each other — find their strengths, defeat their enemies and nurture their delicate, still forming connection. What doesn’t kill them is definitely going to make them stronger.
Review: I am confused. I spent a good portion of the novella being confused. And I wish I could tell you that it all had to do with the constant changing of point of view…but that, dear reader, would not be the complete truth.
So let’s begin at the beginning. A prologue followed by a bedroom scene where an aspiring writer, Varick, dreams that he is hawking a book about two demons falling in love when a customer walks up to get him to autograph his book and, of course, seduce him. Cut to where Varick wakes up from the dream and is in bed with a virtual stranger and they have sex.
(Note: There is a LOT of sex—A LOT—in this novel. Read: Sex often drives the plot. Sigh.)
Immediately after sex, Varick opens his email to see if a story he has submitted for publishing has been accepted. It has not. What does he do? Tosses–yes, literally, tosses “J somebody” (he doesn’t remember his name) onto the floor and tells him to get out. J (whose actual name is Jae–clever, eh?) leaves. Now, for your reading purposes, you can promptly forget about Varick because he doesn’t appear in the book again until the very end–and I mean the VERY end.
And here is where that little niggle at the back of my mind began. That “oh dear” moment when I started to think that this novella may be just a bit disjointed…a bit confusing. But I continued…
We begin chapter one with Jae beating a hasty retreat, tripping and falling down the stairs. When he awakens, there is a stranger kneeling over him, who promptly offers to help and laying his hands on Jae, heals him. And Jae’s response to this stranger intimately touching him?
“A stunning man was touching him in a manner that was almost loving. After the scene he’d just been through upstairs, this man could have been a serial killer and Jae wouldn’t have cared. He wasn’t above enjoying the unexpected attention, especially when the stranger’s touch burned right through him, giving him the biggest wood of his life.”
Okay, I get it. As Jae was running down the stairs he briefly remembers feeling like a loser-being used and tossed aside, but, a “serial killer”? Really? He wouldn’t have cared if the guy had been a serial killer? The niggle in my brain now turned to an annoying buzzing sound as I shook my head and read on.
We quickly come to find out that the stranger (Kian) is in actuality a “Light Demon” who has been living on earth in order to find his “chosen”. Guess who that would be? Perhaps this line will shed some light.
“Don’t question it. We are one now, a perfect match.”
You see when Kian healed Jae, he initiated a connection that allowed all of Kian’s memories and experiences to funnel into Jae’s mind. Jae doesn’t immediately trust Kian–even though he wants to have sex with him. Yes. That then led to this:
“We are the promised ones. Two people who are destined to love and cherish each other.”
Shortly after that, with minimal protestations, Jae leaps though a portal with Kian into an alternate world where they would now face a race against deadly opponents in order to present themselves before the leader of the land and have their match recognized. This meant that when they finally arrived at the palace, nearly dead and terrified, they then had to do this bizarre bloodletting ritual that, quite frankly, left me a little queasy.
I need to stop here and say that I really don’t mean for this to sound snarky, but seriously? This loosely developed plot that was stapled together with more sex than I ever thought two people, er, demons capable of and for what? So that they could end up drinking each other’s blood and have their match recognized? I mean, did that make all the creatures hunting them go away? No. Did that mean they were now safe and could live happily ever after? No. Did that mean that Jae, who was a fairly nice human being through nine-tenths of this novella would remain that way–unscathed, perhaps wiser, stronger but essentially the same? No.
In fact, Jae changes tremendously and not necessarily for the better. Kian, however, remains essentially the same–fully committed to his “chosen” one. They go through hell and I am never really sure why. They will continue to be hunted. They will continue to live life on the edge. They had just gone through hell and for what? A marriage certificate?
So as fire alarms were now going off in my head I looked at my kindle and simply could not understand what I had just read. Then I realized I had to sit down to review and I really did not know where to start. I think that there was a good idea buried in this novella–an interesting story begging to get out. There were some beautiful moments of loving declarations and genuine self awareness–even growth, in each of the characters.
However, there were so many loose ends…so many side characters that were never quite explained and left with story line unfinished, that the story became disjointed, uneven, and suddenly I knew what I had to say.
What Doesn’t Kill You by Valentina Heart was a series of hot sexual encounters, woven through a sketchy and under developed plot line. Between the erratic switch in point of view to the unsatisfying ending, where the character of Jae changed so dramatically and, in my opinion, not for the better, I discovered that the story got lost in the details. Sadly, I cannot in good faith recommend this novel to you, dear reader. But as always, you must decide for yourself.