Embraced by Darkness

Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising

The Darkest Kiss
by Keri Arthur
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0553591149
Riley Jenson is a werewolf without a soulmate.  She just got dumped by the guy she thought might be “the one,” but turns out he couldn’t deal with her job.  Just because being a Guardian for the Directorate of Other Races requires her to be available 24/7 to take our rogue vampires, visit crime scenes to communicate with the souls of the recently departed, and remain heavily armed at all times.  Was he threatened, or what?   

So Riley swears off men, and decides to substitute “chocolate, coffee and ice cream,” which sounds like an excellent coping mechanism!   

Welcome to book six in the Guardian series by Keri Arthur.  Riley is Melbourne, Australia’s answer to Rachel Morgan (Outlaw Demon Wails) and Mercy Thompson (Iron Kissed); urban tough girl with an attitude, out to save the population (both human and fey) from the forces of evil. 

In this installment the author has finally hit her stride.  I’ve read all the other books in this series, but in this one everything seemed to gel, which made it a pleasure to read   It seems that Riley’s psyche is explored more deeply, allowing a better understanding of her motivations and relationships. As always, her snappy and sarcastic retorts to her co-workers, friends and family are entertaining.  However, it’s the plot that makes this book hard to put down.   

Arthur deftly weaves three plot lines, which at first seem unrelated. Someone is killing the Toorak Trollops, a group of women who act as escorts for the rich and famous. Riley is called to the first crime scene to interview any souls that are still lurking about.  Surprisingly, there is not a trace of a soul, which is both unlikely and alarming. 

At the same time, a local werewolf club manager named Ben calls Riley to ask for her help in finding out who killed one of his employees.  Helping Ben takes Riley into a local nest of vampires ruled by an emo vamp named Vinnie, and puts her on the trail of an insane supernatural killer who’s on a spree to right imagined wrongs in his past, and whose vengeance is going touch the life of someone she loves.  

And just to stir the pot, Quinn O’Connor — Riley’s vampire lover — is back, and as tempting as ever.  He gets involved in the hunt for both killers, and when the opportunity presents, tries to convince Riley that he could be her soulmate.  Unfortunately for him, she’s not entirely convinced.  Quinn is sexy, intelligent, rich, confident and urbane.  But he’s not a werewolf, and Riley’s still holding out for someone of her own species. 

As speaking of her own species, there are hints in this book of a new love interest that might just be the soulmate she’s looking for. 

Readers should consider reading the other books in this series before diving into this one.  Riley’s reluctance to become a Guardian and her previous relationship with Quinn is an important part of the back story.  The romantic elements play second fiddle to the plot in The Darkest Kiss; with a little bit more romance it would have received a coveted five heart rating.

--Jean Ward

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