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Caine’s Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

I have known Ms McCarty for a while—at least in the sense of online interactions—but I confess that I hadn’t read any of her work until now. However, after reading all 472 pages of Caine’s Reckoning overnight, in one sitting, I find myself hooked. I will definitely be reading more by her—I can barely wait for the release next month of Sam’s Creed, the second installment in her Hell’s Eight series.

Set in the Texas Territory the mid 1800s, Caine’s Reckoning is marketed as an “erotic adventure” right on the cover, but for my money this is an excellent character study more than anything else—though it is a really good romance in its own right. I have to warn readers that there is also some violence—both the blood and gore kind, on screen, and sexual violence, in Desi’s memories.

Here is the back cover blurb:

The Hell’s Eight is the only family he’s ever needed, until he meets the only woman he’s ever wanted…
Caine Allen is a hardened Texas Ranger, definitely not the marrying kind. But when he rescues a kidnapped woman and returns her to town, the preacher calls in a favor. One Caine’s honor won’t let him refuse.

From the moment he beds Desi, Caine knows turmoil will follow. Desi might have the face of a temptress, but she also has a will of iron and while she needs his protection, she’s determined that no man will control her again. They establish an uneasy bond, but it isn’t enough for Caine. He wants all Desi has to offer. He wants her screams, her moans, her demands… everything. Yet there’s still a bounty on Desi’s head, and keeping her sexually satisfied is proving easier than keeping her alive.

It is very difficult to discuss the book without giving some of the plot away, so if you are one hundred percent spoiler phobic you should not read this. Really, don’t.

Okay, with that out of the way…

It takes a few chapters, but we quickly learn what happened before the novel starts: Desdemona aka Desi has survived much more in her short life than most people could. After being raised in the lap of luxury back East, her parents and brother are massacred by Comancheros right in front of her and her twin sister. Both of them are then raped and beaten and abused for a while, until a group of white men “rescue” her by buying her from her captors—leaving her sister behind. (more…)

So, I read Sarah McCarty’s Caine’s Reckoning last week. As most of the people who request book reviews from me can attest, I’m a lazy bugger when it comes to writing reviews, especially when the book is dull as dishwater.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the back cover blurb:

VERDICT

I loved this book. I really did.

One of the reasons I love Ms McCarty’s stories is because of her ability to deliver the reader into the psyche of the characters in her books. I love when I can get to know the people in a book on an intimate level, rather than just observing them as an outsider.

As I do with the books that I really love, I like to look at the characters individually, so here goes:

The Heroine

Desi’s story is an extremely tragic one, the only survivor when a group of Comancheros attack her home, killing all of her family, with the exception of her, and her twin sister, Ari, who was taken away to God-knows-where.

Much of Desi’s sorrow stemmed from the knowledge that she had never appreciated how lucky she was, and how pampered and spoiled her life was, before everything was so cruelly ripped from her. The loss of her sister is one thing that haunts her, yet she holds on to the belief that Ari is still alive.

I liked Desi, because she was a victim, who refused to behave like one. She refused to be beaten down by life, and had the courage to keep fighting, even when the odds were heavily weighted against her. Having said that, I did find myself wanting to hug her, and tell her that she wasn’t to blame for any of the things that had happened to her.

She was a mass of contradictions, in that she could be feisty as hell, when faced with a bunch of men trying to hurt her, yet she had a fragility about her that was quite touching. She also had a very tender side, which became more evident, as her trust in Caine grew.

For a book to work for me, the heroine has to be spot on, and I think that Desi was. She wasn’t annoyingly feisty (read: assholic), and she wasn’t as dumb as a box of rocks. That pretty much made her perfect in my eyes.

The Hero

Caine Allen is very typical, as McCarty heroes go. He’s sexy, he’s confident, he’s possessive, and once he falls in love, he loves with everything that he is. How can anybody not love a hero like that?

Also, as well as all of the above, he was likeable. I’ve read so many books where the hero is actually so unbearable, that it’s been hard for me, the reader, to understand why the heroine would fall for such an arsehole. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with Caine.

The story starts with Caine and his posse tracking a bunch of ruffians who’d kidnapped the sheriff’s wife, and a few other women, including Desi.

When Caine first meets Desi, she’s trying to defend herself from one of the kidnappers who’s determined to get hold of her. Caine is mightily impressed by Desi’s wicked right knee, as well as her courage. He becomes smitten with her then and there, and when the town preacher calls in a favour, he doesn’t hesitate much to make Desi his.

Caine was a surprisingly well-rounded character, and I loved that he was able to find humour in any situation, even when dealing with Desi’s understandable reticence, and her constant self-flagellation.

It was the little things that he did for our heroine, that made this reader totally fall for him. There was a scene where he brought Desi chocolate that totally melted my heart. There was also a scene where he washes Desi’s hair for her. He was so gentle and sweet with her that it almost brough tears to my eyes.

That was such an “awwww shucks” moment.

The Secondary Characters

There were a whole host of secondary characters to get to grips with, but that wasn’t so surprising, seeing as CR is the first book in the Hell’s Eight series. I have to say though, at no point was I overwhelmed by the number of secondaries, as every person who appeared in the book had a good reason for being there.

I was most fascinated by Sam and Tracker, who were both Hell’s Eight men. Sam had a bit of a thing for Desi, and didn’t mind that Caine knew it, which I thought was quite sweet. He seemed to be the most easy going of the two men, but this may have just been a front.

Tracker was much harder to gauge. He was the quintessential darkly brooding hero, didn’t say much, but when he spoke, he was quite compelling. I’m really looking forward to his story.

Tia, another secondary character, was the Hell’s Eight house-keeper. She seemed to be the obligatory Mammie-type character, equipped with a quick temper, and a warm heart.

There were other characters, including the villain of the piece, but I just can’t be arsed writing about them.

One of the things that I appreciate most about McCarty’s stories, is that they aren’t just about swapping bodily fluids as often as possible, in as many positions as possible, with as many people as possible.
Although Desi and Caine spent a lot of time getting horizontal, the scenes were timely, beautifully written, and really demonstrated the difference between erotic romance and some of the smutty pretenders out there.

Caine’s Reckoning is definitely a character-led story, so for the readers who crave fast-paced action, and guns flaring on every other page, this may not be the book for you.
However if you appreciate a slower sensual ride, where you have time to smell the roses, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and fall in love, then I would highly recommend Caine’s Reckoning.

You can buy Caine’s Reckoning here, and visit Sarah McCarty here.

As found here.

Hell’s Eight

Bloggers are you ready?
(readers who don’t blog can win an arc by entering my .net site contest that will start later- 10/1/07)

My first NY Western Historical series is releasing from SPICE in just over one month. It’s a super-hot, fast-paced romance with a strong heroine, a hero to die for, and a happily ever after that will touch your heart. Like my Promise series, Hell’s Eight probably is not what a reader thinks of when they think Western Historical, but each of these stories is a slice of life rich with emotion, spiced with passion, and filled with moments I hope will make your heart twist. The men of Hell’s Eight are unpredictable and fascinating. They’re definitely a law unto themselves, as wild as the West in which they live. Determined, and single-minded, they’ve planned for every contingency that could complicate their goals except for the one they never saw coming: the extraordinary women that will capture their hearts.

Read an excerpt.

Think you’re ready?

Okay, here it is, your chance to win one of the six ARCs of Caine’s Reckoning, first in the Hell’s Eight series.

The goal of this contest is to spread the word far and wide of the upcoming release of Caine’s Reckoning.

To enter:

1. Copy and paste this post on your website, blog, MySpace, or wherever you wish, including a link to the excerpt.

2. Once you’ve completed #1, email SarahMcCartyContests @ Gmail.com (no spaces) with the link to your site and you are entered. It’s as simple as that.

3. If you are the lucky winner of an ARC, simply be ready to read the book and review it during late October. You can review it on your blog, MySpace, online websites like Amazon, etc.

That’s it.

Blog. Email. Read. Wait till the last couple of weeks of October. Review.

To enter, EMAIL me at SarahMcCartyContests @ gmail.com (without the spaces), with:

1. Caine’s Reckoning ARC in the subject line.

2. The link to your post about the ARC contest.

3. Your name and address.

4. Where you intend to review the book.

Contest (open to US and Canadian residents) closes September 30th, 12 midnight, EST US.

Good luck!

Found via Let’s Gab.