Demons in the Old Wild West? Three half-demon brothers that are guardian to a town populated by demons and protecting the human world from a gateway to hell? Brave, stubborn human woman and her friends seeking refuge? Well, I do declare! I love it when a story is a blend of genres particularly a historical paranormal and this one is a western paranormal at that. Too cool! It presented a good read with its unique world, fascinating dynamics between the characters, gritty element and action. It had some mild to moderate troubles for me, but was overall a nice introduction to a new to me author and series.
The story opens with Rhia Duke, her little sister Sylvie, and her friend Beryl arriving at the end of their long flight from trouble to find a nearly dead and dilapidated town where the teacher job she pursued was a mistake. Unfortunately, she can’t heed the rude sheriff, Wystan Heckmaster’s order to move on because they are out of money and Beryl is deathly ill. The sheriff’s brother, Eban is more gentlemanly and caring insisting that they can stay at his clinic so he can treat the sick woman while hinting to the impetuous, headstrong Rhia that she still might stay and open the school flouting Wystan’s orders.
Wystan doesn’t want the fragile humans there in the town susceptible to demons attacking and killing them or demons infiltrating their minds forcing him to destroy them, but Eban is insistent and Rhia stubbornly refuses to heed a word he says even the ones that involve her safety forcing him to rescue her more than once. If he thought revealing the existence of demons, that the town is populated entirely by rehabilitated demons and that he and his brothers are half-demons, he is wrong again. The stubborn woman insists that she and her party are staying and she’s opening the school. Oh, and he can just show her this Pit place where the demons come through from hell and by the way, she can take care of herself and her sister.
Wystan, Rhia and the rest are kept busy fending off increased demon attacks, speculating over the good and hope that Rhia and the others bring to the town, figuring out the mystery of Beryl, and the brothers falling out over their attraction to the newcomer, Rhia. Regardless of their differences, the latest schemes of the demon Astaroth require them all to work together if they are to save everyone and their town.
This story really had strong potential for me and I really wanted it to work because of all the things that I enjoy from the paranormal elements, the western historical setting, the gritty situation and character of Wystan, the strong spirit of a woman caring for herself and her sister alone. Even the mysterious Beryl and the seething issues between the three brothers. But for all these things that I like, I just couldn’t connect with this story.
Most of my trouble was the character of Rhia and her words and actions. She’s got that stubborn-stupid thing going for her and she’s got some arrogance that didn’t set well. Her ‘I am the educated school teacher and you’re the ignorant sheriff and a disgusting half-demon so listen up buster’ attitude didn’t endear her to me. And her smarts were all the wrong kind for this situation because it certainly didn’t range into wisdom and common sense. Seriously, much of the dangerous action scenes in the story come about because Rhia has either raced headlong into trouble or wasn’t paying attention to the constant danger. To be fair, she did have a rather big target on her back as the focus of demon plotting, but she made it pretty easy on them. Wystan and Eban tell her to stay in at night because after dark there are deadly dangerous creatures out there, but hey, a girl’s got to tinkle so she trots out to the outhouse instead of grabbing a chamber pot or you know, asking for an escort so Wystan saves her right before she’s about to become some bear-like demon’s tasty morsel. What does he get for his efforts? A tongue lashing! Wystan tells her the dangers as explanation for why he wants her out of there so you know that means he’s selfish, cold, arrogant and cruel in her book and since its obviously his doing that she’s still there he’d better keep her baby sister safe or else. *eye rolls nearly to the point of hurting self*
Beyond Rhia’s not so stellar actions, her lightning fast acceptance of the demon situation was incredible and that minor love triangle thing over her felt contrived just to stir up trouble. The reader is never in any doubt where Rhia’s interests lie or about Wystan’s for that matter. I had no doubt believing these two were attracted and that their strong, fiery natures were perfect for each other in that we’ll go through life fighting and loving in equal measure.
There are several mysterious things and unanswered questions in the book that I assume will get teased out as the series continues with the next Heckmaster brother’s story.
So okay story as a whole even though I seriously wanted to bop the heroine several times. Those who enjoy blended historical and paranormal particularly of the western variety might want to check this one out. The worldbuilding, passion, excitement and promise of more of the same from the rest of the series is worth it.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Literary Pickers #1 PENCIL
Books N Tunes #1
Home Free’s version of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire