Title: Beneath Dark Stars (The Sundown Saga #2)
Author: K. C. Kendricks
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: White Deer Enterprises
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal/Shifter/Mystery
Length: Novella (29k words)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A guest review by Raine
Summary Review: An unexpectedly real and romantic exploration of a developing relationship between two unlikely lovers, set against the urban backdrop of a cold case murder mystery.
The sequel to Amber Allure’s Best Seller The Back Stairs…
Fallon Roxbury, seasoned detective and special police consultant, knows that appearances can be deceiving. Trained to gather the clues and arrive at logical conclusions, he fits the puzzle pieces of a situation together to find the truth. But there’s nothing reasonable in Fallon’s attraction to the sexy, secretive shapeshifter called Sundown.
Sundown has studied people all his life. Having his very own human male is all he ever wanted. In Fallon, he’s found a man he can trust with his secrets and reveal his true nature. Keeping Fallon happy is a joyful exercise into which Sundown puts his heart and soul—when he’s not teasing Fallon’s police partner by leaving strange footprints at crime scenes, that is.
Fallon’s new case ties into an old one. At a dead end, he knows it’s time to ask Sundown for a little help. With his special abilities, Sundown can get into places Fallon can’t. All Fallon has to do is figure out a way to prove what he already knows. But what’s a cop to do when the truth takes a shift that’s stranger than fiction? ?
This sequel is set just six weeks after the action in The Back Stairs (reviewed by Lily here) and is very much about the development of Fallon and Sundown’s relationship. This deepening affair between human and alien shapeshifter is explored without using any of the usual second book or fantasy cliches; there are no frustrating, misunderstanding-created break ups, no forced stressing of the relationship—not even alien race hatred—in the making of this book, and this was a really pleasant surprise indeed.
We learn enough about Sundown and his race, the Chal, to explain some things but enough mystery remains about these alien shape shifters who have coexisted with, but unknown to, humans for two thousand years, to maintain the delicate illusion of the fantasy. Sundown is very important to his people acting as a rare catalyst to enable reproduction. However they are still willing to allow his relationship with Fallon to continue, because, ” …..the Elders have great trust in you.Your first impulse was to protect us.”
Sundown is a lovely character, sexy, teasing and fun. His otherness is subtly shown in he diction of his speech and he and Fallon enjoy word play,
“I know you’re not pissed, babe, so you might as well give it up.”
Sundown sighed and set his glass down. “Very well. Do you want me on my back or my knees?”
Fallon is such a good guy, cynical but funny and loving. His first person narrative is warm and intense, revealing both his uncertainties and his sureties with a light touch. His career has changed after an injury received in the previous book, and he is still less than 100% after being close to burn out from the stress of his job. He is now a special police consultant, working on cold cases when not needed in this role. One of his old cases—the unsolved murder of Maria Delong—provides the drama for the book, when another similar death opens old wounds.
Still with his long term partner and best friend Juny, this partnership is described as a mismatch between ”Sergeant Redneck” and “the faggot “, but the friendship shows real affection. Juny is an interesting character, with his fun obsession with Sasquatch footprints, he is protective of Fallon and obviously mildly suspicious of Sundown, who he still thinks of as a hooker.
The whole noir, gritty hint of sleaze that was an essential part of The Back Stairs is missing from this book. Instead we have an atmosphere of romantic love, with a maturing sexual and emotional relationship. This is delightfully illustrated on Sundown’s return, after a week’s absence, when he sets up a special place for them on the roof:
Candlelight lit the interior of a small canopied frame with the fabric drapes that tiedback to let the breeze flow through……
and he says, ” ….I wanted to make love to you, but I wanted to see the stars, too.”
A symbol of their maturing love is Sundown’s altered appearance, which I thought clever and endearing, especially when his usual shape change to dog is also now a ” smokin wolf ”…….
There is none of the usual opposite attraction issues—the werewolf/vampire, Buffy/Angel hysteria. There is obviously some exploration of human/Chal differences involving what do they really look like and what other powers do they have, yet strangely almost more interesting are just normal nuances of behaviour such as both Fallon and Sundown having jealousy issues and the changing sexual roles to explore.
The murder mystery enables the growing partnership of trust to develop, and the Chal acting as information gathers prove essential in solving the case. However this perhaps the weakest element of the story as twice now murderers caught by Fallon have been described as delusional, muttering about shape changing dogs and wolves.
Additionally, delightful as I found the idea of Sundown’s changed appearance, they never do decide how they are going to explain it away to Juny!
Nevertheless I found Beneath the Dark Stars a real pleasure. It is very much a continuation of and counterweight to The Back Stairs. I read them back to back, which really worked for me.