Despite marketing efforts (the cover for the second book in this series touts the author as “the new star of paranormal romance”), I wouldn’t classify Tempting Evil as a paranormal romance. I would place it firmly in the Urban Fantasy section of your local library. That’s not to say there isn’t romance in it, but most of Riley’s relationships in the novel are casual, to relieve tension, or to gain information. I have no issues with this aspect of the novel, but those with expectations of traditional romance novel heroines may find it off-putting. Consider yourselves warned.
Riley Jenson is kick-ass. It’s a label that has been bandied about an incredible amount over the last couple of years, but Keri Arthur redefines it, without jeopardizing Riley’s emotional vulnerability, her humanity (such as it is, being half-vampire/half werewolf), or her personality. No super-strong robot, Riley is flesh and blood and thought and emotion and very sympathetic.
The men in the novel aren’t half bad either. There’s a vampire, a werewolf, even a werehorse, and each has his own powerful potential. While Riley’s inner wolf yearns for her perfect mate, she’s not limiting her options in the meantime.
Riley has finally accepted that being a Guardian is her destiny (Guardians police other non-humans and administer justice if need be), even though she fought against it for quite some time. Her first mission is to infiltrate a compound and try and discover – and destroy – the secret laboratory being used to create tragic monstrosities. She enters as a wrestler, a part of the evenings’ entertainment, but soon discovers that this is no WWE. The crowd wants blood, and they’ll have it one way or the other. With ever increasing security, and creatures sprung from nightmares, Riley begins to worry about surviving her first mission, let alone succeeding.
To say that Keri Arthur reminds me of the early Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake series is really to undermine Arthur, though there are similarities in what makes both these series great. The heroine is genuinely tough and strong, but still vulnerable enough to make her interesting. The men are, if somewhat cookie cutter, full of potential and growing more and more three-dimensional as the series progresses. The secondary characters and creatures are rich and diverse. The plots are involved, the action dramatic. Arthur is not derivative of early Hamilton – far from it – but the intensity of her writing and the complexity of her heroine and her stories is reminiscent.
What I liked best was the constant references to Melbourne and Australian culture. It’s unusual to find a paranormal or urban fantasy set outside of the United States or Britain. It is even more unusual for that setting to actually feel outside of the US. But Arthur drops in Australian slang, geography, even magazine titles. And, yes, I’m Australian, but at the same time, it lent a vibrancy and diversity in a genre that’s tiptoeing on the precipice of saturation.
Tempting Evil is the third Riley Jenson novel with one more to follow, each being released in close succession. I’ve only read Full Moon Rising, which is the first. I could follow this story relatively easily, but, at the same time, I wonder what I’ve missed. There’s a lot of plot in this novel, and the action is practically non-stop from the opening page. Even though I concentrated, I do feel that some elements may have gone sailing over my head. Whether this is due to the fact that I haven’t read the second novel or just the sheer density of the plot is unclear to me … and will be until I get my hands on Kissing Sin.
However, I have no hesitations recommending Keri Arthur and Riley Jenson to all you paranormal lovers out there, but Tempting Evil does come with a proviso: it’s great, but read the others first.