Full Moon Rising
by Keri Arthur
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58845-3
**
With this book, Ms. Arthur attempts to ride two bandwagons at once. They’re not quite going in the same direction, however, and the author is left lying in the dust while both bandwagons gallop off without her.

Riley Jenson is a rare combination of werewolf and vampire. She and her twin, Rhoan, were expelled from their wolfpack as genetic freaks, and have spent the time since hiding their shameful heritage. Rhoan is a guardian with the Directorate of Other Races, a group that polices non-humans. Riley also works for the Directorate but emphatically does not want to be a guardian because “eighty percent of a guardian’s work involved assassination” and she is not a killer.

When Rhoan disappears, Riley is concerned but has trouble getting anyone’s attention as Rhoan frequently flies under the radar. His Directorate bosses don’t want to jeopardize his mission by ‘rescuing’ him unnecessarily.

Then Riley finds a naked vampire, dirty and bloody, on her doorstep. He can’t remember who he is right away, but he’s looking for her brother. She refuses to let him in, but he does have her “hormones doing excited little cartwheels,” possibly because the full moon is only seven days away and Riley’s werewolf mating urges are starting to heat up.

It’s a good thing he’s around, though; he saves Riley’s life when someone tries to kill her with a silver bullet. Turns out he is Quinn O’Conor, gazillionaire and the fourth oldest and most powerful vampire in existence.

By now you’ve guessed that one of the bandwagons in question is the current paranormal fad. On the other bandwagon, this book joins the growing number of continuing series about a single character or couple – and like so many of the other books on that particular bandwagon, manages to miss the point entirely.

The core of a successful series must be vivid, riveting characters who grab the reader’s attention and refuse to let go. Sadly, I never did figure out why I was supposed to care about Riley. This is even more disappointing because the story is told in the first person, and Riley is a singularly un-introspective character. She does make the occasional observation (most of which seem to be about her body’s increasing need for sex as the moon waxes), but there aren’t any surprises.

It was particularly disjointed to be inside Riley’s head when she’s supposed to be in the throes of crazed bloodlust – yet is making perfectly calm and rational observations about what’s going on around her. I think there’s something about this first person thing that Ms. Arthur doesn’t quite get.

The book is also not a romance, except for one thing – Quinn. From what little we see of him, he’s standard issue romance hero, right down to his clichéd motivation. You see, Quinn was badly hurt by a werewolf, so he will never get involved with another werewolf ever, ever again. This is the most over-used, boring motivation in the entire history of the genre, and it was the one romance element the author chose to inject. Excuse me while I yawn.

And, while the premise might make you think there was going to be lots of hot sex, there isn’t. Oh, the characters spend a lot of time talking about having sex, and Riley cheerfully has sex with several non-humans because, of course, that’s just what werewolves do as the full moon approaches. But most of the sex scenes – even the couple between the hero and heroine – are mechanical and even perfunctory. For example: “he made love to me long and hard.” Sorry, but reading that sentence didn’t exactly make my knees weak.

In fact, the author devotes a lot more pages to detailed descriptions of fights than she does to love making. And, frankly, no matter how many times she calls it ‘making love,’ the fact is that the characters in this book screw. Period.

Now, having said all that, I have to tell you that the book is written in a flowing, easy-to-read style that had me turning pages – until the vague plot, detached sex and lack of emotional impact had me putting it down.

-- Judi McKee


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