Book Review: Beneath A Darkening Moon by Keri Arthur

Title: Beneath A Darkening Moon
Author: Keri Arthur
Social Media: Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: Piatkus, imprint of Little Brown Book Group
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: E-Book at $9.99

About The Author:
Keri Arthur, author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson Guardian series, has now written more than thirty-three novels. She’s received several nominations in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards and has won RT’s Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. She lives with her daughter in Melbourne, Australia.

About The Book
Someone is murdering humans on the Ripple Creek Werewolf Reservation, and the murders are eerily similar to those Chief Ranger Savannah Grant witnessed nearly ten years ago. Having once had the reputation for being the wild sister, it seems her past has come back to haunt her. Worse still, the man sent in to help with the investigation is the one man Savannah had hoped never to see again – the man who had taken her trust and her heart, and smashed them both.

Cade Jones is in Ripple Creek to catch the killer who escaped a decade ago. He doesn’t expect to find the woman who nearly caused his death – a woman who knows far more than she’ll ever let on. This time, Cade has every intention of discovering exactly what she does know. Soon it becomes clear that the murders are not random and Savannah finds herself having to trust the one man she’d sworn never to trust again.

Content Warning: This blog-post will discuss Abusive relationships (family relationships and romantic relationships), Emotional abuse (within the family situation/environment and romantic relationship environment), Rape and Sexual Assault (specifically Mind-Rape). It will also be discussing Rape Culture aspects such as Slut Shaming.

General Observations:
~Unfortunate Implications – Family Abuse and Emotional Abuse: Savannah and her identical twin sister Neva were raised within the Ripple Creek Werewolf Reservation within the conservative and puritan rules of the Golden pack (a huge emphasis on no sex before marriage). The Golden pack is a pack that specializes in strong telepathic abilities, their parents are, well I wouldn’t call them Alphas, but their parents sit on the committee and hold a lot of political sway and/or opinion over the Golden Pack.

Now when Savannah was about nineteen, she ran away from home, assumed a false name and joined a sex-cult. Savannah describes herself as a sexually repressed teenager (when reflecting with Cade on that time period) who just wanted to explore her sexuality and sexual options. As far I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that, the problem is that the head of the cult turns out to be a serial killer (something Savannah knew nothing about at the time). If, as a teenager, a character feels that they have more freedom of expression and that their opinion counted or mattered more inside a cult run by a serial killer, then I only assume that character’s home-life was abusive.

Though Savannah returned home after the “sex-cult incident” and resumed a relatively conservative lifestyle (from my perspective anyway), her parents (especially her father) continue to undermine her community appointed position of Chief Ranger, in fact Savannah comments at the beginning just how frustrated she is with her father’s puritan attitudes and how he is using the events of the earlier book where she was attacked and was in a critical condition at the hospital as an excuse to remove her from her position.

These are not the actions of a concerned parents afraid they will lose their daughter because of a dangerous work environment, these are the actions of parents who are determined to punish Savannah for the rest of her life for daring to defy them, for daring to leave home, for daring to take up and authoritative position such as a police officer/chief ranger, a position of power and influence in the community and a threat to her parent’s position and their way of life. While in the previous book, Neva calls her parents out on their position of forcing her to choose between her family and her life-mate, though Savannah is completely supportive of Neva and her choices, Savannah never really confronts her parents herself.

Here’s the thing, I understand why Neva is in a position to call them out but perhaps how Savannah might not be, she’s the Chief ranger, she has to work with the committee (regardless of her personal feelings) and as a law enforcer, she has an image to protect, she has to grit her teeth and force herself to get along for the sake of the greater good. Not to mention that people like her father would use the fact that she allows her personal problems to affect her professional abilities against her.

Now, my big problem with this situation is that the Author doesn’t go deep enough with this issue and the author (I feel) presents this situation as Savannah and Neva’s parents as being “old fuddy duddys” or “sticks in the mud” who just won’t “get with the times”, instead of what it actually is, which emotionally abusive behavior. Emotionally abusive behavior, controlling and manipulative behavior such as denying your daughter knowledge or an education with regards to sexual health such as understanding of consent or bodily autonomy, should be referred to as such.

~Unfortunate Implications – Slut Shaming: Savannah refers to her time period in a “sex-cult” as her “wild party days”, I don’t see it that way, in all honesty, I do see it as a young inexperienced woman being taken in by cult and being taken advantage of. While I suppose this will depend on a reader’s point of view on the subject, I feel as though as long as all parties involved are of legal age (or within the legal age requirements) and are able to give consent, then it should be fine. However, power dynamics such as age, experience and possible positions of power (like police officer or cult-leader) do need to be taken into consideration.

All in all, Savannah was only sleeping with two men total (both of who were older and more experienced than her). One of them being the previously mentioned serial killer and the other being Cade, the guy using her to gain access to the cult and therefore arrest the serial killer (more on Cade later). So, engaging in a casual sexual relationship with two different guys (who know about the casual/open relationship policy of the sex-cult) isn’t what I would consider “pushing the envelope”, though at the time (due to her family’s attitudes towards sex) Savannah probably thought it was rather controversial (I suppose it’s harder to shock today).

While the serial killer character never restricted her on who she could and couldn’t sleep with (seems a little hypocritical when you’re the head of a sex-cult), Cade did have her restrict her sexual partners so that it was only him and the serial killer guy, he didn’t do this to protect Savannah or with Savannah’s well-being in mind, he did this so he could gain better access to her and any possible information she might know. Years later, when Cade and Savannah meet up again because of the present case resembling the previous actions the serial killer made, all Cade and Savannah’s conversations resolve around Cade slut shamming Savannah for being involved in a sex-cult, he does this continuously through out the novel.

While Cade eventually comes to the conclusion that his slut shamming stems from jealousy and that he probably should stop acting like a giant butt-face, never once does he apologize for his emotionally abusive behavior. To Cade, the means justify the ends, no matter what the circumstances.

~Unfortunate Implications – Mind Rape: At the Beginning of the novel, the reader isn’t privy to the reason that Cade and Savannah broke up, the reason Savannah left the sex-cult and terminated the relationship with Cade because he violated her mind by forcing himself into her mind to see what information she might have possessed with relevancy to the serial killer, as I mentioned before, Savannah had no idea the guy was a serial killer and only found out AFTER the fact (when the case became public knowledge). So Cade destroyed a meaningful relationship with a nineteen year old for no reason. I would also argue that Cade was taking advantage of her, not just because he was an older police officer, but because he was using Savannah for information (I’m sure he cared about her, but there is no denying that he was using her for his case or that his case was the greater priority).

The HUGE problem here is that not only does Cade feel no remorse for his actions (he acts as if Savannah is “over-reacting” to the mind-rape), it’s only until Savannah, a werewolf of the Golden pack who have a history of strong telepathic abilities, tells him just how violating it felt to have him inside her mind against her will, but just how unethical it is, how there are rules and boundaries. Savannah and Neva often share telepathic conversations because they are strong telepaths and because they’re twins, but consent between them is obvious, they respect each others boundaries.

Even after Savannah has explained the how’s and why’s of mind rape, he apologies not because he feels horror or remorse for his actions (or the possible emotional and psychological damage he may have caused) but because he regrets the consequences of his actions (her terminating the relationship). The impression I got from Cade is that “this isn’t a big deal for me, but it’s a big deal for you, so I’ll make the effort to try”. It makes me wonder how many times he’s violated the minds of other people, it’s an especially scary thought seeing as he’s supposed to be a police officer and the good guy here…

~Abusive Romantic Interest – Cade Jones: If you somehow managed to read all of that instead of just skipping to the bottom (which is fair enough), I salute you. Now Cade Jones Sluts Shames Savannah and previously performed a Mind-Rape on Savannah (this should be reason enough to consider him abusive). He also proceeds to treat her like crap and acts like a giant butt-face in general because he thinks that if he’s an arse-hole long enough, Savannah will confess all the things Cade wants to hear (why do male characters think this way? It always backfires, especially in reality). Cade (an older police officer) also cohered a nineteen year old Savannah into making a moon-bond.

This is a magical bond thing that the werewolves of Ripple Creek share with their mates, but I have no idea why the female werewolves even agree to it in the first place as it can so easily be used against them in abusive ways, and Cade has no problems with using their “moon bond” against Savannah. And Savannah, as a police officer herself, tolerates this because… The sex is good? That’s literally the only reason I can think of. I have no idea what Savannah sees in him. Most importantly, it’s only after Cade is willing to pull his head slightly out of his own arse that the case begins to make progress.

In conclusion, any good points this novel might have are drowned out by the terrible misogynistic implications this novel has, it’s really confusing and depressing to read the glowing reviews for this book on goodreads, only to read it and realise all of this. I understand some readers will think I’m looking too much into it, but I’m happy with the label of over-analyzing.

~Your Child’s Virginity Is None of Your Business by Libby Anne

~The Truth About Slut-Shaming by Leora Tanenbaum

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