The third book in the Desert Dogs series tackles the story of Casey Grossier and Abilene Price. Casey is the Prodigal who came home to help, but reluctantly. Abilene has been lost for a long time, but has found a home in the dusty ‘end of the earth’ desert town of Fortuity.
Alright, so this is a story that I was ready for since Casey blew into town and had that tantalizing secret past and the strange dream connection to his mother. I wondered what would be the new direction of the series after the wrap up of the last book’s murder mystery. Now I know and it’s another doozy that waits to show up in full until near the end. Whew boy is it a rough one and leaves me gasping for the next book. The books in this series feature a different Desert Dog each time, but the series arc does build on the ones before so I would highly recommend getting them in order.
So this one starts out a few months after the last one with Abilene already had the baby and now is living out at the ranch with Miah’s family to give her some protection when her angry ex gets out of prison and follows through on his threat that he is coming to see his baby. The dust is settling on the Casino plot, but there is still the developers after the ranch and Abilene’s ex as potentially dangerous. The Desert Dogs have an uneasy peace particularly between Miah and Raina, but they come together to back Abilene. Abilene is on edge both because James will come after her because of his daughter, but also because he knows her secrets and they are not ones she wants her new friends to know. She has a new name, a new life, and a new chance, but it’s all built on lies. Then there is Casey. He thinks she’s wonderful and she couldn’t bear it to see him turn away in disgust if he knew the truth not that he’s not harboring his own secrets and has made it clear that he doesn’t do relationships.
Casey feels absolutely twitchy because he’s cutting free from the life he has been living for several years and putting down roots. Between worrying about having his mother’s mental illness, trying to do right by Abilene, and setting up the bar and restaurant as co-owner with Duncan, he is maxed on responsibility and duty which he has avoided for years. Vince is proud of him as is Abilene, but they don’t know just what he has done and the temptation to drop everything and go back to all that carefree living. He can’t be what Abilene needs for long-term, but he will stand between her and her ex to protect her and the baby girl he knows deep down are more his than that man’s.
This one was an interesting blend of table setter for what comes next in the suspense and the current romance. Like the others, it has an earthy, gritty quality to its characters, plot, and setting. These people are raw, rough, but essentially good. The author has a gift for place. I’ve been in this part of Nevada and she has nailed it. She also has a gift for taking flawed people and getting them on a good path without it becoming some sort of hearts and rainbows affair. It was also interesting to see how the author did a few misdirects to keep things interesting. It’s definitely a good series to not assume because people or situations are not always what you think. I enjoyed the startling reveals in that aspect. As to the romance, Casey and Abilene were not the stuff of romance particularly in their past lives, but maybe that’s why they work. They both appreciate the dream of starting over with a new slate.
I wasn’t really a fan of their romance because I wasn’t an Abilene fan. I felt she was a manipulator and talked the talk, but didn’t walk it. She’s busy insisting that she’s going honest, but she lied to herself, to Casey, and well, to everyone. She stirred up a lot of people and made a certain person out to be a bad guy to cover her own butt. No respect for that stuff, Abs! Her little couch seduction scene didn’t work for me either. Again, it smacked of manipulation and her getting high off controlling men instead of wanting to be with Casey and caring about him. Might not be perceived that way by others, but that’s how it went down for me. Then she pulled this high road crap on Casey when he came clean while she was still hiding her dirty past. I knew this was where she would grow and finally change, but I guess I wasn’t into her enough to care. I didn’t hate her or their road to romance, but was more indifference than anything.
I will say Casey and Abilene’s baby girl was some sweet loving that I did adore. Big rough men gentling around babies and caring for them will melt me every time.
The stuff stewing in the background out at the ranch between the worries over developers, the drug runners, and the shadowy visitor, and Miah’s slow recovery from losing Raina were actually my favorite part. I also loved seeing the Desert Dogs come together for each other. That big scene near the end left me gulping back tears for another loss. Man, this group can’t catch a break it seems. But it’s all leading to something big in Miah’s book. Can’t wait!
All in all, it’s still a captivating, rough and tumble passionate series. I’m not sure if its Contemporary Romance or Romantic Suspense, but I think those who like those genres when they get a little gritty and spicy might want to give these a go.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.