REVIEW: A Kiss from Krampus by Red Hanner

Eighty years ago, a little girl snipped off Krampus’ beard and used it to cast a spell on him, leaving him powerless to punish bad children. Now almost no one remembers him or the sting of his birch whip. Two days before Christmas, Moritza stands at her least-favorite grandmother’s deathbed, where she learns she’s inheriting not only the mean old lady’s house, but a small gold charm, which she’s warned never to open. Of course, that’s the first thing Moritza does, and in the chaos of her grandmother’s death, the charm goes missing. Misplaced or stolen by a creepy store Santa who has been lurking around?

When a tall, dark, and furry stranger arrives, Moritza would like to believe it’s all a sugarplum-induced hallucination. But she can’t pretend she’s seeing things when Krampus lays his hands and his impossibly long tongue on her. Krampus insists he’s there to reclaim his property and mete out some long-overdue punishment. When he discovers that the girl who cursed him is dead, and his charm is missing, he’s reduced to begging for Moritza’s help.

Warnings: death, corporal punishment of children, racially charged folklore

Category: M/F

A Kiss From Krampus is an erotic romance novella centred around the mythical figure Krampus, a Christmas opposite to Santa Claus. Instead of bringing toys to good children, in European folklore Krampus punishes bad children by whipping them and frightening them into obedience. This little story explores a romance with the fearsome Krampus of legend, for a heartwarming holiday number with plenty of spice.

WRITING
This is a fairly short novella, and the plot is pretty simple. Krampus has been imprisoned by a charm for around 80 years, and now that he has been released by the unknowing Moritza, he has a lot of lost time to make up for. But before he can leave to do his job punishing naughty children, he has to recover his lost magical item, and ends up in an exciting little romance with Moritza along the way. It’s all told from Moritza’s POV, in first person, and while I think third person would have better served the story, it’s not bad prose at all. Moritza is engaging enough, and there is a dark kind of comedy to the notion of her late grandmother as a woman so horribly bad that everyone who knows her is glad she’s gone. It’s pretty cheesy, but cheese is fun.

That said, I was uncomfortable with how the author blended the Krampus mythology with the similar, but distinct figure of Zwarte Piet, and even gives him the name “Peter” when incognito in a human glamour, to nod to this alternate folk figure. Zwarte Piet is a different legend, who’s depictions has a sordid history in minstrel shows and blackface, so tying a connection to him for this Krampus (a folk legend whose history is instead tied to pagan spiritual tradition) depiction feels uncomfortable to me.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
Moritza is pretty well developed and I really enjoyed her POV immensely. There’s a dry sense of humour to her voice, and to the bizarre scenario, that makes her almost immediately likeable, in contrast to the clearly unlikable grandmother she is burying. Her budding romance with Krampus is, also, really quite fun and engaging, even if Krampus himself is more of a mysterious figure than he is a fleshed out character. There is a kind of fantasy to that, to the idea of a mystery lover, and supernatural romance thrives on the concept. This one being of course no exception. He can be portrayed very childlike, alternating between quite straightforward innocence, and then very aggressive machismo. The blend is well handled, and he comes off as a truly otherworldly lover.

I will caution the reader however on the subject of the corporal punishment of children. It must be understood that Krampus, a mythological figure that whips naughty children, is a very old legend, from back when it was not only acceptable to spank naughty children, but also quite common to tell children tales of scary creatures that will punish them if they misbehave. It’s not a kind of fairy tale that we use much anymore, and from a modern perspective Krampus makes very little sense. Trying to fit him into the modern world like this book does can come off awkward, as is evidenced in a scene when Krampus grabs a child at a Christmas party and starts spanking him despite the child’s shocked mother’s protests. The reader must understand that this is a byproduct of trying to fit such an old fashioned fairy story into a modern setting, but I think the author could have done a better job at it to avoid such an alarming scene that didn’t feel like it fit the rest of the book.

WORLDBUILDING
The book’s exploration of magic is pretty standard fairy tale rules and logic, and it doesn’t go into too much detail about how the magic works. But there is at least a sense of a wider world beyond what humans are aware of, even beyond just Christmas magic. Krampus takes Mortiza to his home via portal at one point but it isn’t covered where exactly that is, only that it’s warm and lush and not the North Pole. Cutting off his beard gives you the ability to charm, or bind him, magically, although what exactly the trinket bead does (beyond a vague “gives him power”) is not mentioned. I’d love to see further exploration of it’s magical world!

However, I was a little annoyed when the author tried to clumsily work in some more serious themes to the story. Since Krampus has been imprisoned for 80+ years, he hasn’t been able to do his job punishing naughty children, which has led to bad children growing up to be bad people! There is a scene where he blames himself for not having been there to punish child Hitler, leading to World World 2. I found it quite awkward to try to force such a serious historical subject into this cheesy little story, to say nothing of being insensitive to the people who went through those hardships, and wish the author hadn’t tried to bring that up.

STEAMINESS
I really did enjoy the sex scenes, and I think the author is shining the most during them. They are engaging, fun, and they express all of the the ‘in the moment’ feelings and experiences of Moritza. Although Mortiza does find Krampus attractive, her arousal always feels much more situationaly based, and thus I could connect with it quite strongly. There was a lingering sexual tension between the two of them outside of the sex scenes as well that I found highly erotically charged. The author even goes the whole nine yards and makes the Krampus quite inhuman, from his impossibly long tongue and everything it can do, to his retractable and ridged cock. He is generally in folklore described as being a goat-like man quite like a satyr, and the author did not shy away from it. He and Mortiza exploring each other was wonderful to watch, and I really felt there with them. I was a little disappointed that there was no BDSM style play (at one point Moritza asks if he’s going to whip her, to which he responds that he only does that to punish naughty children and won’t do it to her, which I thought was a terrible missed opportunity when you have a character that canonically deals out pain) but altogether I quite enjoyed the intimacy that the author is quite skilled at conveying.

Although I have my issues with this book, I did enjoy reading it despite the author’s blunders. I wish the author had done a little bit more sensitivity research, but think that the book still has some very strong points. Taken on it’s merits, it’s a cheesy supernatural romance novel with some very steamy sex scenes and a heartwarming Christmas backdrop.

Have you read A Kiss from Krampus? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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