The best description of Liu’s novels comes from [ profile] meganbmoore, who described them as “The X-Men as genre romance.”

Dirk and Steele is a high-priced, high-class security agency… because its agents are all secretly shapeshifters, telepaths, and other mutants! Each novel is a romantic thriller featuring psychic powers and/or magic, plus some truly cracktastic plotting.

Liu’s prose is ordinary at best, though her dialogue is good, and can veer into ultraviolet. Her plots tend (quite endearingly, in my opinion) toward “everything and the kitchen sink.” Her cast is multiracial and multicultural, and both her heroes and heroines tend to be sweet and tough, wisecracking and angsty. The romances are frequently interracial, though so far I think they’ve all been person of color/white person.

I like her because her romances ring true and don’t make me want to take out a restraining order on the heroes, I love psychic powers and angst and she has lots and lots of both, there’s plenty of action and wry comedy, and I enjoy her enthusiastic approach to plotting (“And then he runs away to the circus, and there’s an old woman who can turn into a dragon, and then they all get on a train to Russia with some immortal dude. And then a mummy attacks.”)

Here’s a quick run-down on her novels. They don’t need to be read in order (and I don’t think I’ve listed them in order.) Like Suzanne Brockmann, there’s a large cast of recurring characters and the supporting ones tend to get their own books and own romances eventually.

Eye of Heaven. Blue is an Iranian-American agent with electrical powers and tons of family angst, including a brother who ran away to join the circus. Iris is a white circus performer who can turn into a lion. Together, they fight organ-leggers! Someone loses an eye, or maybe an ear; I forget. Great fun. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Eye of Heaven (Dirk & Steele, Book 5)

Shadow Touch. Artur is a Russian psychometrist. Elena is a healer. They’re both held captive in an evil laboratory and must bond on the psychic plane to escape. This one is super-angsty. It was the first I read, and got me hooked on the series. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Shadow Touch (Dirk & Steele, Book 2)

Tiger Eye. Dela is a psychic who opens a magic box. Hari is the ancient shapeshifter who pops out of it after being imprisoned for thousands of years as the slave of the owner of the box. The novel avoids accidentally creepy power dynamics by having the characters realize how creepy and horrible Hari’s situation is, and do their best to free him. Sexy and sweet. Click here to buy it from Amazon: Tiger Eye (Dirk & Steele, Book 1)

The Wild Road. He’s a gargoyle disguised as a human. She’s an amnesiac covered in blood who tries to steal his car. They go on the run and end up squared off against the Queen of Elfland, if I remember correctly. The combination of two stoic, quiet, brooding characters is surprisingly entertaining. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Wild Road (Dirk & Steele)

The Red Heart of Jade. Loved the main couple, but the plot crossed the line from wacky to incomprehensible. Some funny bits, but overall skippable. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Red Heart of Jade (Dirk & Steele, Book 3)

The Last Twilight. Rikki is a virologist investigating a hot zone. Amiri is a mild-mannered former teacher and current agent by day, and a cheetah whenever he feels like it. They fight biological weapons-makers in Africa. I loved the main couple and the supporting character (Eddie), and appreciated Liu pointing out that Africa is a very big and diverse place, and that just because Amiri is from Kenya doesn’t mean he knows anything about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Given that, it’s too bad that the actual plot centers around every African cliché from Ebola to hatchet-wielding rebels. I think I would have also bristled at the African hero having an animal form if this had been the first Liu book I read, but since it was about the fifth and the series has multiple shapeshifters of various races, I didn’t. Your mileage may vary. Overall, though, I enjoyed it a lot. Click here to buy it from Amazon: The Last Twilight (Dirk & Steele)

I haven’t yet read the last two on this list, but you can still click to buy them from Amazon!

The one with the merman: Soul Song (Dirk & Steele, Book 6)

The one that isn’t Dirk and Steele: A Taste of Crimson (Crimson City)
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