I received this book when I won a contest and I had no idea until I started reading that it was part of a series. It took me a little bit to work out the world that Heather Long has created, but once I had my feet under me I really enjoyed the book.
The story’s main romance is between Cody a wolf shifter and Mariska a gypsy girl. Cody is traveling west in his wolf form with Kid Kane as his riding partner. Both Kid and Cody are running from their pasts. Cody’s wolf had decided that his adopted sister was to be their mate, but Scarlett ended up marrying someone else. Cody loves Scarlett as his sister, but his wolf half grieves. Kid is running from having to acknowledge his unique gifts and share this knowledge with his family. He has the ability to read emotion. It is not until they reach a fort high in the mountains of New Mexico that Cody is driven to shift into the man body because Kit has left him at camp and did not return from the trading fort when he said he would. After a little adventure there, he remains as a man.
Without their knowledge, Cody and Kit are being tracked by an angry revenge minded hunter who became their enemy from the first book. He plans to kill the wolf that bit him and the man who left him to burn in the fire.
Mariska is part of a small band of gypsies traveling west to make a new start by joining another stronger band. Her father wants her to marry the son of the other band’s leader. She wants the right to choose. Their wagons are attacked by Apaches and it is Cody and Kid who rescue them. Cody saves Mariska from being taken by one of the braves. By the gypsy way, Mariska is now Cody’s. She does not want to be his, but adversely she gets in a snit when the big blond blue-eyed stranger tells her grandmother that he doesn’t want her. Later when her father returns, he offers the hospitality of the gypsy camp to Kid and Cody making it plain to Mariska that he plans to offer her to Cody.
Mariska panics and decides to drop some herbs into Cody and Kid’s food so they will sleep and not give Cody the chance to claim her before their wagons continue west. Unfortunately, Cody doesn’t drop off quickly enough and figures out what she did and her father is close enough to hear the accusation before Cody succumbs to the herbs. Due to her grievous breech of their laws, she is left tied to her wagon to be at the mercy of the two men when they wake up. She watches fearfully as Cody starts to wake and then is terrified when the man becomes a golden furred wolf who has anger and danger to her in his eyes.
The story becomes pretty exciting stuff from there so I won’t spoil it for anyone.
This was my first historical western paranormal and it was awesome. I loved the world building. Cody, his adopted father and seven other adopted brothers and sister are all gifted in various ways because they survived what is known as the Fever. It is a mystical illness of sorts that generally decimates whole groups of people like the plague, but for those who survive it changes them. The Fevered are feared and must always be careful. From what I gathered, the first book is Scarlett, Cody’s sister’s story and she has the gift of wielding fire. I must go back and read that one then continue with the rest.
The plot was exciting both with the action and the steamy romance between the feisty Mariska and the alpha male Cody. The story is told from many points of view: the brothers back in Texas, the family at the mountain home, Kid, Cody, Ryker, and Mariska. I had to work a bit to follow the switches because I was reading an Advanced Copy of the book that still needed cleaning up. I liked keeping up with the many people in the story and adding the hunter, Ryker’s voice just added tension. The best was having Cody and Mariska’s take on their growing romance. They are both passionate people, but come from two different backgrounds causing them to size up the same situation or words very differently.
As I alluded to when talking about the plot, there are many wonderful characters and they were the best part of the story to me. I like the paranormal and historical aspects, but the people are what made me keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. The brothers are so loyal, but playful and loving. I liked Cody and Kid’s camaraderie where they always had each other’s backs. Mariska was like a flame to Cody’s oil and together- whoosh!
This series has good potential with all those brothers still needing their stories told.