Alien in the Family
by Gini Koch
Cover Artist: Daniel Dos Santos
Review by Meagen Voss
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756406684
Date: 05 April 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Nobody picks up supernatural romance novels for their literary value. I'm not trying to say that there aren't any well-written supernatural romances out there, but generally the prose is secondary to the plot, which is typically crammed with so much drama, action, and sex that steam rises from the book every time it's opened. Now, I enjoy a steamy book and I'm not expecting jaw-dropping prose as long as there's a good story to follow. But the prose in Gini Koch's Alien in The Family is like a collection of jagged rocks punching holes in the bottom of a ship, and with each excessive adverb or bit of lackluster description, a story that had potential sunk bit by bit until it drowned.
At the center of this adventure are Katherine "Kitty" Katt and her alien lover Jeff Martini. The two of them head up Alpha Team, a group of Armani-wearing, alien-butt-kicking agents that do their best to quash evil alien plans and keep interstellar incidents to a minimum. Of course, Kitty quickly finds out that interstellar incidents--and not to mention the usual family squabbles--are impossible to avoid when you are planning to marry the alien of your dreams. Turns out that Martini is alien royalty (surprise!) and his distant relatives have showed up to see if Kitty is royal bride material. Mix in a menagerie of other aliens who decided to crash the party with Kitty's lingering doubts about whether she's marrying the right guy, and suddenly picking out a wedding dress becomes the least of Kitty's problems on her way to the altar.
To be fair to the author, I had no idea that this book was a part of series. I can't fault her for the lack of series-appropriate labeling on the cover. Still, if you are going to attempt to read this book, go back and read the other two first. But given the amount of material packed into this story, confusion is pretty much guaranteed even if you do read the first two books. Just when you think you finally have a handle on Koch's haphazard collection of plot twists, characters, and alien conspiracies, she springs something new on you that doesn't add to the plot so much as turn it into a mess that rivals textbooks in the amount of unrelated details that are crammed into every paragraph.
All of these twists and details would have been tolerable if the writing was decent. Instead, the writing contributes to the confusion. Koch has a style that focuses heavily on dialog, and like many writers who try to mimic actual conversation, she will often leave out the attributions (as in "Kitty said" or "Martini asked"). This doesn't work well for Koch, and many times it's difficult to tell which character is speaking. On top of that, her work has a dearth of description, and even when the description is there, the prose tends to be bland and uninteresting. As a result, the action in the story came up short in terms of dramatic tension, and even the sex scenes (which are the whole point of this genre, no?) were just...dull.
Maybe I would have had a different take if I read the other books, but if the writing quality is the same, then I highly doubt it. While Koch has good ideas and seems to have a handle on what readers in the supernatural romance market are looking for, her prose makes it difficult to enjoy the story. She must have fans and a good agent though, because Daw Books has purchased the next two books in the series.