Top critical review
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on April 2, 2009
The Riley Jenson, Guardian novels cross the fantasy genre with paranormal romance, and Deadly Desire somehow gets lost in the translation.
The premise of Riley's world is unique and interesting, set in modern-day Australia where supernaturals live among humans and are policed by a Directorate of Guardians (a combination James Bond/Navy SEAL squad comprised of supernatural races including vampires and werewolves). Unfortunately, the protagonist Riley Jenson, who is a rare werewolf-vampire hybrid with expanding psychic talents, has a host of annoying personality traits that make it very difficult for readers to take her seriously as a skilled investigator.
Riley's promiscuity is written into the core story as a preoccupation of werewolves due to "moon heat" and often dominates her limited investigatory skills. Additionally, every male character with the exception of her boss Jack and her twin brother Rhoan and his partner Liander, are essentially interchangeable: stereotypical hunks with different hair and eye color. With few exceptions, all of these physically perfect men eventually or immediately become Riley's lovers in the context of each new investigation. Often, the prose is literally recycled in each book with phrases like "kaleidoscope of sensations" and "happy hormones" that make repetitive appearances in all 7 books to date! Riley's investigations largely consist of wisecracking with CSU workers at murder scenes, chasing suspects around the city, and going undercover at exotic locations, which often serve to further her expanding collection of lovers.
Deadly Desire opens with Riley pursing a murder suspect while grousing to herself about the interruption to her sex life with on-again off-again vampire lover Quinn. Riley tails the suspect to an abandoned warehouse where she bumps into Kye, a werewolf bounty hunter paid to find the killer by a victim's parents. Their suspect turns out to be a zombie reanimated by magic who is controlled by a black crow--a shapeshifter who gets away--and who looses a pack of hellhounds on Riley and Kye. Thus begins the investigation of why vampires are being murdered in Melbourne.
Riley's case is constantly thwarted by Kye, who also frustrates her personal life, as their mutual attraction interferes with Riley's intention to remain faithful to Quinn. When a prominent vampire and friend of the head of the Directorate is murdered and a witness fingers a stripper as a possible suspect, Riley goes undercover at (where else?) a strip club. Kye shows up to conduct his own investigation which includes a lap dance from Riley and hints that this werewolf is not all he seems.
While the story itself could serve as a stand-alone in the series, Riley's preoccupation with men and her attractions to her workmates overwhelm her investigation, and the prose in relation to the ever-present love scenes (at times) reaches the level of soft-core porn as opposed to mainstream fiction, or even mainstream romance. Riley's continuing quest for her soulmate becomes a major factor in this story by book's end.
Readers who enjoy erotica will be delighted by the steamy content of Deadly Desire, but for those who prefer more of a focus on police procedural urban fantasy may want to look elsewhere.