Overall I super enjoyed this book – very fast paced, swoonworthy, and with the beginnings of a love triangle. However, I do have some issues with the choices that the author made. Grab a drink, settle in, and let’s review White Hot Kiss!
Layla just wants to fit in at school and go on a date with Zayne, whom she’s crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister—and Layla is a half demon, half gargoyle with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with keeping humanity safe, Layla’s kiss will kill anything with a soul—including him.
Then she meets Roth—a demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it’s tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne, but as Layla discovers she’s the reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world.
I have mixed feelings about this book. First, the good stuff:
This book read like 2000s fan fiction to me: Fast paced, steamy, at times utterly cheesy and ridiculous, and cute boys every where you turn. Our main character Layla is high-spirited, looking for her place in the world, and immature as all get out. This was so refreshing to me because most of the YA books I come across (and still love) portray their high school characters as young adults with mostly good heads on their shoulders. Layla seemed to be more true to high-schooler form. As annoying as her choices became, it was still fun reading about Layla and her adventures.
Also, Roth? Oof. 🥵 I fell in love with his snark and his humor. He might look super tough and want you to think that he is, but he’s also the gooey center of a cinnamon roll. He’s so soft and sweet – at least to Layla. AND THE ENDING. My heaaarrrrt. 😦
That being said, there were a couple of places in the story that definitely made me uncomfortable for different reasons (some minor spoilers ahead):
- Our main character Layla is half warden/gargoyle and half demon. Her abilities aren’t many, but they do include the capability of seeing someone’s soul. Namely, the color of it. In this story, the color of the soul dictates how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the person is. The more light or white the soul is, the more ‘pure’ the person is. The darker the person’s soul, the more they have sinned or are ‘bad’. One person’s soul she saw was a deep brown.
“What is it?” Roth sounded far away.
I swallowed. “Her soul–it’s bad.”
He seemed to understand. I wondered what he saw: a woman in nice clothes, or the woman that had sinned so badly her soul was now tainted?
“What do you see?” he asked, as if he was sharing the same thought.
“It’s dark. Brown. Like someone took a brush, dipped it in red paint and flicked it around her.”
- This is wild to me because although Armentrout didn’t do this on purpose (at least I hope she didn’t), it’s a definitely a microagression against people of color and playing into racial bias. It’s discriminating against people that have darker skin tones, comparing them to people that are “sinners” and “bad” or “evil” and that people who are lighter skinned and/or white are “innocent” and “pure.” I wish she had chosen something else to denote when a person’s soul was ‘bad.’
- Petr: How many characters do you know that are villains that have a disability or disfigurement as part of their “story”? Captain Hook walks with a cane, Scar has the scar over his eye, Darth Vader is “more machine now than man, twisted and evil.” Petr is a vile character. He makes unsolicited moves towards Layla and when she rebuffs him, he calls her a tease. At one point, Zayne engages him in a fight and leaves Petr with a facial scar. While I absolutely believe that Petr is the literal worst, and the scar is a result/consequence of his actions, I still wish Armentrout had done something different rather than giving him a scar. People who are evil are not the only ones with scars, and having a scar doesn’t make someone inherently evil. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s like saying someone fat is evil or a bad person. No, ‘fat’ is a descriptor, not a judgement of character.
One last thing: Even with these flaws I’m still interested in knowing what happens next in the story. I can’t leave the characters in the position they were in at the end of this book. I’m wondering how the next book in the series will deal with the love triangle as well.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars