Review: White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: young adult paranormal (GARGOYLES! also demons) romance
Format/Source: DRC, Netgalley
Status: book 1 of the Dark Elements series
Links: "Bitter Sweet Love" (Dark Elements #0.5) review

One kiss could be the last.

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I knew from the description that White Hot Kiss wouldn't be a direct sequel of "Bitter Sweet Love," but at the same time, I couldn't help being a little disappointed. I really enjoyed the relationship between Jasmine and Dez, and I was sad that their story didn't continue. However, I was satisfied that we get to see the conclusion or at least the future of their relationship, and it's a good future. Instead, we're focused on Layla, Zayne, and Roth, all three characters who play small roles of varying degrees in "Bitter Sweet Love."

Layla is a good protagonist. She's a hybrid Warden/demon, and she prefers to give precedence to the warden side until hottie mchottie "Roth" shows up to give her a demonic education. What I like about Layla is how good she is. She's just...a good person. She's kind and wants more than anything to be helpful, to earn a spot in her foster family, to earn the respect of her Warden community, no matter how crappy most of them treat her. That being said, I like that she's not a goody two-shoes. She makes mistakes. For a girl who is not at all human, she displays shocking amounts of humanity and whatever part of being human that means you make silly mistakes and snarky/sassy comments about other people. Also, she's shockingly nonjudgmental for a being who can actually judge souls. Well, except for Danika, Jasmine's sister, who Layla considers to be a somewhat rival when it comes to Zayne's romantic affections and to whom Layla directs most of those sassy comments and thoughts.

There is a bit of a triangle here, but I consider this extremely lopsided. It's the kind of triangle where you know where it's headed, which is a little frustrating because that made me wonder what was the point of it. However, I do like both the boys so I don't mind too much. Layla has always loved Zayne, her sorta-kinda foster brother. Their relationship is so sweet and tender, and it's clear to me that Zayne is crazy about her too. I cried when I read the scene where Zayne forgot to get breakfast with her because it was so important to her. [Aside: I love Nicolai so much! His offer to take Layla instead was so kind.] I just wish Zayne would get his act together because he spends much of his page time clearly torn between loving Layla and wanting to be the perfect Warden.

Meanwhile Roth has no compunctions about...well, anything really. Yes, he has some Big Secret Reasons why he wants to get close to Layla, but he also just likes her. He doesn't let the rest get in his way, and thank heavens for that because they have some serious chemistry! Zayne and Layla are long-time friends who have slowly developed feelings, but Roth and Layla had this instantaneous attraction. I'm really glad they just let it simmer for a while, though, because when it finally boils over... Look, all I'll say is that JLA knows how to write some seriously hot scenes. Holy wow, I was fanning my face at times! And it's not just the sexy times that have made me root for Roth (because yes, as much as I think Zayne is a cutie-pie, I'm absolutely pro-Roth. Layla doesn't need a guy who isn't going to choose her first, and Zayne isn't capable of making that decision). Layla humanizes this badass boy from hell. I don't want to say she changes him or anything cliché like that, but Roth opens Layla to the side of her she always kept locked away, and Layla responds in kind. She helps Roth discover his good parts. They very much complement one another.

White Hot Kiss doesn't spend a lot of time introducing the world of the Wardens because "Bitter Sweet Love" did that, but it is a primer in demon politics. This sets the stage for the overall arc of the series. There were some really great scenes full of background information. These history lessons don't feel forced because Layla is also new to it and we get to discover her roots with her as she gets more involved with Roth and his plans. These scenes are nicely balanced with plenty of action, both the steamy and butt-kicking kinds. JLA can do butterfly-inducing romance, and she's also really good at clearly staging and describign some highly excellent fights! I had no problem closing my eyes and visualizing each tussle. Both the informative and fight scenes led up to a very dramatic and heart-wrenching climax that left me breathless and needing more. It's one that hits you right in the feels and leaves you unsatisfied in the best way because you need the second installment so badly. And by you, I mean me because that's how I felt! I mean, seriously. Right in the feels.

While White Hot Kiss didn't WOW me with the sizzle and immediate drama of the novella, it's a great, really solid start to an exciting new paranormal series. I'm digging the characters, and the plot has me hooked. After such a wild and cliffie-tastic climax, I'm quite angsty with anticipation for Stone Cold Touch, which is sure to shock readers as Layla attempts to find something (or possibly someone) she has lost and also discover her place in the world(s) as a demon-Warden hybrid. There's so much that I'm looking forward to in this series, and I know I'm not alone. Looks like Jennifer has another winning series on her hands!

Book Links:

About the Author:
# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout Lives in West Virginia.

All the rumors you heard about her state aren’t true.

Well, mostly. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press), the Lux Series (Entangled Teen), Don't Look Back (Disney/Hyperion) and a yet untitled novel (Disney/Hyperion), and new YA paranormal series with Harlequin Teen.

Jennifer also writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. The Gamble Brothers Series (Tempting the Best Man/Tempting the Player) and Wait for You. Under her pen name, she is published with Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Author Links:


  1. The whole gargoyles thing is intriguing! What a strange and unique creature to focus on!

  2. I slightly struggled with this more than I wanted. I don't know why I didn't connect to the characters. I typically enjoy almost everything JLA writes. For some reason, this just didn't spark with me.

  3. Good review. I have only read the Lux series so far. I need to catch up with this author.

  4. IVe heard nothing but good things about this author! cannot to wait a book by her :)

  5. Great review! I have yet but have not yet read it!