Riley Jenson and her twin brother are werewolf / vampire hybrids, and they both work for Melbourne’s Directorate of Other Races, which polices the activities, and feeding habits, of the local supernatural populations. However, while Riley is nothing more than a glorified secretary, Rhoan, is one of the elite force of guardians that hunt down and ‘remove’ problem individuals. Unfortunately, someone is killing guardians and now Rhoan has gone missing. Riley needs to find him, but the waxing moon is filling her with an increasingly irresistible need to mate . . . a lot . . . and then a very naked vampire called Quinn arrives on her front doorstep, only adding to her problems.
This urban fantasy is billed as “a sexy, sensuous tale of intrigue and suspense”. I agree that there is an interesting mystery at the core of this story, but I cannot call it either sexy or sensual - more on that later. The underlying premise is not wildly original these days, with weres and vampires living alongside normal humans. Aside from slight variations in appearance, abilities, the usefulness of garlic, etc., there is little to differentiate this universe from those of Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris and others. However, where Ms Arthur really falls short is in her heroine. Riley should have been strong and independent, which is our first impression of her. The very first scene in the book has her kicking the stuffing out of a group of vampires to protect some humans. But, as the moon fever takes over, she becomes increasingly incapable of controlling her libido. This brings me to my main problem – the sex.
There certainly is a lot of sex in this book - and I do mean A LOT! If you are at all uncomfortable reading erotica, then you will want to give this title a miss. The Chili Pepper has had so much heat that it has been reduced to a small pile of ash! Now, I don’t mind reading sex scenes, not at all, but I was getting sex-fatigue. While everyone else gets to run around doing detective work, Riley does very little other than having sex, and, as the story is told from her perspective, we get detailed descriptions of most of it. Kudos for the stamina displayed, but this gets dull very fast, and I think that it was a big mistake to create a universe where all weres turn into sex-crazed lunatics for the whole week leading up to the full moon. In order to scratch her ‘itch’, Riley has two regular mates, Talon and Misha, who she has sex with. As we get nearer to the full moon, these encounters become sleazier, and she discovers that one of them has been manipulating her for his own reasons. Even so, she dutifully has sex with him to get information, which is unpleasant to read. Consensual sex as a purely physical act is fine, but there are several encounters here that border on rape.
In short, I would have preferred a lot less sex and much more character development. I have read reviews that rate her earlier works more highly.