This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Signet
Released on February 3, 2015
A hard woman bar owner in a hard little town on the edge of nowhere and a man accustomed to refined things and ways who sees this diamond in the rough- and likes her just as she is. The backdrop for the story is a small Nevada desert town chosen to be put on the map by casino developers is fulminating with secrets including the private secrets of its citizens. The Desert Dogs series is gritty, dirty, passionate, intriguing, compelling, and just leaves me thirsty for more.
This is book two in the series and it is definitely not standalone or out of order material. It begins pretty much where the last one left off. Even though the spotlight shifts to a different set of main characters, the characters and plot all began back in the beginning.
The Desert Dogs stand together to protect what is theirs and now that Duncan Welch stands accused of taking bribes and possibly worse after he helped them bring posthumous justice to a fallen friend incurring dangerous enemies, they must stand by him. He loses his job, he is under suspicion from the Feds and he is the target of a destructive stalker. His calm, cool exterior starts falling away as his panic attacks, anxiety and OCD behavior increase. He has never relied on anyone in his life after learning repeatedly through the foster system that he only has himself. Raina, her friends and the whole town think they have him pegged and that is what he wants. He knows he is abrasive, the face of the enemy casino and won’t win any hearts in the small blue collar town, but he was okay with it until all he had built up for himself and even his persona is ripped away leaving him raw and bare. Now the very people he disdained are the ones he needs to help him and oddly, he needs their respect too. And Raina, well that wild, forceful, freedom-loving woman has him tied in knots and he’s not sure if he ever wants her to let go, but he knows she will because Raina doesn’t do relationships, love or anything permanent.
Raina Harper, owner of the local gathering place and water hole learned practically from the point of birth that people left and took a piece of you with them if you let yourself get attached. Other than one break for freedom that ended disastrously, she has been stuck in her dead-end home town tending her dad’s bar and dreaming of making something of her tattoo artistry gift. Miah wants her to settle down with him and raise a family. She loves him, but she can’t. Her heart is untouched and always will be that’s why the cold, calculating Duncan Welch seems like a better bet. He knows the score with her and he won’t cross the line. But even as she determines to seduce him into a bit of sexy excitement, she realizes that Duncan’s world is crashing down around him and he’s in grave danger. When she gets a peek through the cracks in his facade, she realizes that she might have gotten a lot more than she bargained for and it scares her to death for Duncan is no iceman and she is not immune.
After the first book and meeting Raina and Duncan, I was well aware that this story wouldn’t be easy. They both are hard people with pasts and not easily loveable to the reader to give fair warning. I had moments in the earlier book when I was confused by Raina and disappointed in her especially when it came to Miah. I started out that way with this book, but as this hard-bitten woman’s story unfolded, I realized that Miah was definitely not the man for her. This woman had the lethal combination of a torturous past, impetuous spirit and gritty inner strength and she needed a man who could accept that and partner her with equal depths and strength. Duncan was something else in this book. I was in awe of him. Unlike anyone else in the series, he is not the hard-bodied bad boy type and actually comes across as an uptight metrosexual until you get inside his head and see his past. A very refreshing, different sort of hero. He truly hit bottom, was broken and got up with Raina’s help to put himself back together into something so much better. It was amazing to see- well to watch both of them remake into something new to be honest.
There was one moment near the beginning that will give you an idea about these two together when they first circle each other warily:
[quote]”Will you be answering all these questions yourself?”
She smiled, “Will you be admitting you want to hear my answers?”
“Okay, then,” Duncan agreed. “I lost my virginity when I was seventeen.”
“OCD doesn’t keep you from getting your rocks off, then?”
His smile was slow and wicked. “Sex is one of a very few things in this world that I prefer dirty, Ms. Harper.” pp. 106-107 Raina and Duncan, Give It All[/quote]
All that character growth and relationship development was layered over a diverting mystery and suspense as the investigation continues. Duncan is being framed and the whole town believes him guilty so he is determined to clear himself in the only way he knows. He must solve the original crime- the burned bones that are missing. While he works on his defense case and his relationship with Raina and the rest of the Desert Dogs, he must battle an enemy in the shadows who doesn’t want the case solved for their own reasons.
To wrap up, I was just as into this story as the last- more so in some ways- with the strong and deep characters, hot, gritty, yet passionate romance and the compelling suspense. Next Desert Dog soon, pretty please! For recommendations, I think this would appeal to both Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense fans.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
In this series, Duncan doesn’t come across as hero material or even good anti-hero material like Vince did in the first book. He’s stuck up, starched, OCD, calculating and unapologetic about his ‘what’s in it for me self-preservation’ attitude. In the beginning of the story, he doesn’t seem to have a redeemable feature or a sex drive for that matter. As a reader, have you come across a character who is set up as a hero and is so least likely to impress you as such? Did the writer convince you and change your mind by the end or did you have trouble seeing him as the hero?
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