Title: Full Moon Rising
Series: Riley Jenson Guardian #1
Author: Keri Arthur
Format: Library eBook
A rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, Riley Jenson and her twin brother, Rhoan, work for Melbourne’s Directorate of Other Races, an organization created to police the supernatural races-and protect humans from their depredations. While Rhoan is an exalted guardian, a.k.a. assassin, Riley is merely an office worker-until her brother goes missing on one of his missions. The timing couldn’t be worse. More werewolf than vampire, Riley is vulnerable to the moon heat, the weeklong period before the full moon, when her need to mate becomes all-consuming.
Luckily Riley has two willing partners to satisfy her every need. But she will have to control her urges if she’s going to find her brother….Easier said than done as the city pulses with frenzied desire, and Riley is confronted with a very powerful-and delectably naked-vamp who raises her temperature like never before.
In matters carnal, Riley has met her match. But in matters criminal, she must follow her instincts not only to find her brother but to stop an unholy harvest. For someone is doing some shifty cloning in an attempt to produce the ultimate warrior-by tapping into the genome of nonhumans like Rhoan. Now Riley knows just how dangerous the world is for her kind-and just how much it needs her.
LET'S TALK ABOUT
If the title of this review is any indication, my reading of Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur did not go as expected. This talk won’t be filled with fluffy compliments and downplayed “issues” I had with the story. When it comes to a book that leaves you so uncomfortable and pissed off, there’s no room for politeness. There’s no room for rainbows and puppies and pretending what you just read wasn’t 60 shades of WTF.
And if you’re someone who needs a review to be nice, this is probably not for you. I would turn back now before the dark side consumes you, too. Your innocence need not be shattered.
You might be wondering…why did I keep reading if it was this bad? What not just move on and shut this door without ranting about it? By the time I finished book 2 in the series (Kissing Sin), the story had left a sour taste in my mouth and I was fully prepared to feed the book to the shredder. I could have moved on to something less cringe after finishing Full Moon Rising, but I wanted to give this series a chance. So many readers made it sound like the perfect paranormal romance. The author herself described it as a sizzling urban fantasy. Neither of these descriptions were true. Not even remotely close.
But my dumb a** fell for it. Twice.
Here is everything wrong with the Riley Jenson Guardian series.
Issue #1: Deceptive Marketing
Before you ask: No. The cover and title weren’t an indication as to the kind of book this would be. What non-PNR readers don’t know is that you can have a book with a half-naked dude on the front and a spicy title, but the story can still be more romance than erotica.
In PNR, sexy covers sell. Sexy titles sell. There’s nothing wrong with a hint of sensuality (got me to pick up the book, didn’t it?). Both the Anita Blake and Night Huntress series’ (which I adored) had this kind of sexiness, but neither had been point-blank erotica (well, Anita Blake did much later, but I stopped reading halfway). There had been relationships, romance, and a plot. There had been rich worlds carefully built.
So many PNR books use this kind of marketing, which is great if you use it right. But in this case, the book is fronting as an urban fantasy and PNR, but is pretty much just sex from page one. Even the covers aren’t THAT bad. Here are the covers for the first two books. There’s a bit of sensual shadow outlining lovers—which is common for older UF and PNR–but nothing that screams WEREWOLF HAREM.
There are hints in the summary that this book will contain sex. That’s not the issue here, of course. My problem is that the premise focused mostly on her missing brother and impending evil, but the story almost entirely followed her sexual adventures in every chapter. And if she’s not having sex, she’s talking and thinking about it. Even her brother talks to her about her sex life…which is weird.
It’s categorized BY THE AUTHOR as a mix of Romance, UF, and PNR. So, I wouldn’t expect it to lean heavily into horror/erotica. The sex was supposed to be a subplot. Yet, it was way more pornographic than ACOTAR and even works by JR Ward, which is too much for something claiming to be UF/PNR. At first, I thought it was just me, but there are dozens of complaints about the false advertising by readers.
If it’s an erotica, just say so.
Issue #2: It's Porn, Not Romance
I already beat this horse dead, but here’s an elaboration: Riley has sex with Talon. She has sex with Misha. She has sex with Kade. She has sex with Kellen. She has sex with Quinn. She will have sex with anything that moves. Everything is sex, sex, sex.
In Kissing Sin, the ways of the wolves are explained a bit further. And in some ways, I suppose the whole moon-dance reasoning made sense, on an animalistic level, but many animals still have preferences. The female wolf still chooses. Riley behaves like a slave to her urges, unable to fight them, while somehow also asserting preference for who she “mates” with. It’s wild how she has no agency over her sexual activity unless it comes to making babies. That made no sense to me, to be honest.
There was zero romance and, at times, I felt grossed out by her mulling over whether to sleep with her ex, who had attempted to impregnate her against her will. And this is after he’s drugged/raped her several times. That’s how little control over herself she supposedly has.
Issue #3: A Hot, Hot Mess That Leaves You Wanting
The biggest frustration of them all was loving the premise, the werewolf/vampire hybrid aspect, and a handful of the side characters, but ultimately hating how slow and ultra-smutty the book was. I enjoy a bit of smut so long as it’s balanced with an actual character arc, rich world, and a sturdy plot.
But the world was barely there, Rilely Jensen didn’t have much of an arc, and the plot kept falling apart. So much of the story’s focus was on Riley’s vagina and raging need that it made it hard to appreciate other aspects of the story.
For example, I was curious about the werewolf culture and hoped that we’d learn more about their lore, courtship, and perspective. However, the only real details we learn about the werewolves involve their sexual activity. Nothing else. Another example: her brother is missing, so she spends half the book sexing it up at the local wolf bar instead of investigating; most of what she finds out is from other characters, rendering her passive at best.
I thought book 2 would, in the very least, delve deeper into the world and reveal more about the characters to us, but nothing new happened. The rich vampire was back. The brother was useless. Riley was a 2D hot mess. Betrayal was rife. There were clones and bars and horny wolves.
In the end, the same big baddie was running amok, and Rilely Jensen was wondering if she should f*ck him or not. That was the point of which I put the book down.
Perhaps there are merits hidden beneath the smuttage; perhaps this series will rock your world in all the right ways. For me, however, it was a failure that began with poor marketing. Being honest with readers about what genre the story falls under is vital because it shapes our expectations of what we’re about to climb into. And we buy into the kind of genres we love. So, when a book isn’t what it seems, the betrayal cuts a bit deep.
There’s nothing wrong with spicy smut so long as that’s what we’re being sold and choose to buy. But wrapping it up as a “Romance” or “Urban Fantasy” when it’s more hard porn isn’t fair to the author or their readers.
Have you ever read a book that fell short of your expectations or blindsided you?
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