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This blog entry was updated on 9/17/11 to include a review of the fifth and final book in the series: Blood Sacrifice. That review follows this overview of the series so far:
I don't know why it took me so long to discover this series, which takes a fresh approach by placing the story in Rio Seco, a small town in the Southwest Texas hill country. Although the publisher markets the series as UF, and I concur (sort of), the stories are heavily dosed with relationship issues.
The heroine is Keira Kelly, who is half Fae on her mother's side and half shapeshifter on her father's side. After a brief childhood life with her mother's family in Wales, Keira was shipped off to live with Dad's shape-shifting clan in Texas. Keira grew up in Texas, spent her young-adult life in Europe (mostly London), and has now (at age 37) returned to Rio Seco. Keira's life has included three main love interests: Carlton Larson, her human high school sweetheart, whom she left when he proposed marriage; Gideon, a shape-shifting cousin, whom she left when she discovered his (very) dark side; and Adam Walker, a human (or is he?) with whom she flirted in London. Three supporting characters are involved in all of the stories: Beatriz Ruiz, Keira's childhood friend; Tucker, Keira's wolf-shifter brother; and Niko, Adam's second in command.
In Matters of the Blood, Adam turns up as the owner of a classy resort ranch near Rio Seco at the same time that Carlton comes back home to become the sheriff of Rio Seco. When Keira's cousin is murdered, the three must solve the crime.
In Blood Bargain, the mystery involves the disappearance of four teenagers and one illegal immigrant. The story arc for the series is two-pronged: the developing relationship between Keira and Adam and the series of changes that Keira goes through as she comes into her full powers.
The first two books each have a villainous murderer—always the epitome of evil. Blood Kinintroduces more Kelly clan members and unveils a number of secrets and complications involving some convoluted connections with the Seelie and Unseelie Sidhe Courts—to the point of incredulity.
Blood Heat follows Keira and Adam as they attempt to solve the disappearances of several local werewolves. The book ends in a cliffhanger when the villainous Gideon (Keira's ex-lover, distant cousin, and now, her enemy) shows up at the ranch claiming the right to challenge Keira and Adam for their lands—and he is accompanied by some surprising supporters.
Blood Sacrifice is the final book in the series. As the story begins (just moments after Blood Heat ends), Adam and Keira are still in the middle of the reception following their blood-bonding ceremony, where Gideon has Challenged them for ownership of their land. Just to remind you—Gideon has multiple connections to both Keira and Adam. He is Keira's distant cousin and former lover, Adam's brother, and Keira's rival as heir of the Kelly clan. Keira and her crew spend most of the book trying to decipher the ambiguous language of the Challenge, which is bespelled as well as being written in the Old Language (with which none of them is proficient). Eventually, the plot bogs down in Fae politics and mythology, which are muddled to the point that it's often difficult to understand exactly what's going on and why various incidents are so important. The main problem with this book is that it lacks action. Keira and company are mostly passive, waiting for something to happen or reacting feebly when something does. Unfortunately, when the opposing forces finally do clash—very late in the story—the action is fairly low key and much of the battle takes place off stage. We get a new character in this book: Father Antonio, a 200-year-old cursed priest with a connection to Adam's past. Antonio's piece of the story is definitely overwritten: way too many meaningless "Antonio" scenes and details. The priest is actually a deus ex machina who has been dropped into the story to manipulate the resolution of the plot, and his climactic moment is telegraphed far in advance of its actual enactment.
I was hoping that BLOOD LINES would go out with a bang, but no...that didn't happen. This last book is definitely my least favorite book of the entire series—very disappointing. Readers should be aware that Blood Sacrifice is not a stand-alone. You will need to have some familiarity with the mythology of the series in order to make sense of the story.
In general, the series is fast paced (except for Blood Sacrifice), and the plots are compelling. Keira is an effective UF heroine—not too whiny and not over-the-top kick ass. I do wish that Adam were a bit more alpha/macho, but I guess it's O.K. that, for a change of pace, we have a kinder, gentler vampire hero than we usually see in UF series. Also, if you're looking for graphically sexy scenes, you won't find them here. Both of the couples (Keira-Adam and Tucker-Niko) keep their doors closed while they're getting it on.