This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on April 7, 2015
A rousing good time is had by all when a saucy lady bounty hunter and a man with more charm than any male should be blessed with partner up on this western suspenseful adventure romp. I eagerly grabbed this one up, set spurs to it and finished with a delighted grin on my face. My second book by this author and I do believe I’ve established that I love her stuff. She hits a good balance between wild, harsh west and sassy-fun western spirit.
This is a standalone story that starts with a madcap opening scene. Quill McKenna stops by Madame Fry’s establishment to relax, enjoy the liquor and an armful of curvy woman when his plans are derailed by the most captivating female he has ever seen. She’s nothing like his ideal woman, but who cares. His protective instincts are aroused when he senses something off about her new customer. This lands him into an adventure with the infamous female bounty hunter, Calico Nash and it is her skill in bringing down her criminal target that later has him recommending her for the task of guarding his boss’ daughter. Not that he would admit that he has some personal interest in the exciting, witty woman that stirs him out of his complacency.
Calico had an unusual childhood that made her more fit for a man’s world and lacking in refined feminine skills, but it uniquely qualifies her to bodyguard the daughter of wealthy mine owner, Ramsay Stonechurch even as Quill works to keep his headstrong boss from getting nailed by whoever is making the deadly attempts on his life. Quill McKenna got under her skin and close proximity with the truly handsome, enigmatic man leaves her off-balance. For the first time, she thinks about something permanent though the idea of putting down roots with a man terrifies her. Still, Calico is no coward and let’s the chips fall where they may. Meanwhile, she and Quill work to figure out who is threatening Ramsay and Ann with no obvious suspects and a vengeful enemy from their past draws closer and closer.
The story covered some truly fun western territory from a cathouse to a mine. Western cliches are where its at with me, but the author doesn’t write tired plots even if there is very familiar stuff that can be noted in most Western Historical Romance. Nope, this was exciting, dangerous and fun. I loved the feeling of anticipation the author built so that I knew it was going to be an adventure on many levels including the romance between Quill and Calico. There is a gritty quality overlayed with humor and passion. The bad guys are scary and are worthy of their roles and the secondary storylines added good layers to the plot.
The plot was strong with a variety in pacing. There are the scenes with the Stonechurches establishing their situation and filling in their stories around Quill and Calico’s story. There were nicely drawn details about the mine town and mine setting during that period in history. And also there was a slow to tease out suspense plot that gained momentum near the end. Not sure how it happened, but I cottoned to things and why it was happening from pretty much the beginning with that so I wasn’t surprised at the crisis point or at the reveal. It was still pretty exciting to see how things filled in between point A and point B.
My only niggle was the dialogue takes some adjustment. The main characters are very precise and formal in their speech. I was expecting it to be more relaxed and casual, but as I said, small niggle.
As to characters, I’ll start with the heroine. I am so hard on the gals in stories, but seriously this one was a treasure and a treat. Calico is a reversal role for gender as a female bounty hunter, but she isn’t over-played so that she’s a caricature of herself. I loved how she was written as a woman who happens to have a certain skill set and a brain. She is shrewd, observant and doesn’t play around. Oh, she has her weaknesses. She doesn’t know what to make of having feelings for Quill and fears that he won’t accept her as she is. That doesn’t mean that she got coy about stuff. Oh no, Calico embraced her fears. She threw a loop over that bronco and rode him hard.
Then there is Quill. The author let Quill start the narration on this one long before it switched to Calico. Usually when that happens, I get to know that person so much better, but nada. Quill was a mystery even though he narrated half the book. Oh, who he is as a person shines through with his thoughts and dialogue, but his background is teased out slowly. There are clues, but even I wasn’t ready for the final reveal to his story. Poor Calico didn’t stand a chance. She wasn’t used to having a guy around that could see right through her and think circles around her. He was her match just as she was his. Quill’s the renaissance man of the west. He’s assertive, but he also can be persuaded. He is as taken by Calico as she is by him and he doesn’t want to change her even though she challenges him at every turn.
The romance was paced well developing over time long after the original spark of attraction. It is sassy, witty and oh so caliente hot. Calico might not have had a lot of experience before being with Quill, but she sure wasn’t shy once they got going. These two had a good time exploring their sensual connection. Their sexy times were steamy, but they were humor-filled and fun too. They could argue like an old married couple, but there was respect and humor involved so it didn’t get ugly. Some people match up so well and I honestly could have kept reading beyond the point of the story because I liked them so well.
I loved the way the secondary characters had strong roles too. Sometimes they even got to narrate a scene or two. Ramsay cracked me up particularly when he and Quill are together. He’s got a mischievous quality even though he has a diabolic intellect just like his daughter. Quill has to keep the man in line. I felt sorry for Ramsay in the end and I would love to see him get his own Autumn romance. Ann is a chip off the old block and has many of Ramsay’s qualities which makes her keep Calico on her toes.
Okay, now I’m going to point out something silly and trivial, but the hat on the cover is driving me nuts. I really want to push it back even just a little to see his eyes. I know this is common if you ever look at enough pictures of sexy cowboy models- you know where they stand with head crooked down so all you see is the top of the cowboy hat and not the face, but it bugs me. I want faces. Haha!
So, to wrap it up, this was a fantastic read that carried me back to the Old Wild West giving me a spicy romance, strong plot, and sparkling characters. Lovers of western historical romance should definitely give this a try.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.