CAINE'S RECKONING by Sarah McCarty
CAINE'S RECKONING is an erotic western that takes place in 1858 in Texas territory. I will tell you right off I'm a fan of Ms. McCarty's and in recent years I've had very few re-reads, but her PROMISE series is one of the few. I really love those books.
The other thing you need to know, and only if you've never visited here before, is that there's nothing I like more than a good western romance. Frankly, I can't wait for the other books in this series to come out. It is slightly reminiscent of the Rock Creek six series because you can see the other heroes in this story whose books will follow this one. In fact SAM'S CREED, the next book in this series, is coming out in July 2008.
THE GOOD STUFF: There is lots I like about this book. Even though we see other characters for future books on the periphery, Ms. McCarty keeps her feet firmly planted in Caine's and Desi's relationship and their story. The characters here are interesting and people I wanted to know more about. Lots more about. I like the time, the place and the set up for the story. Even though the circumstances of Caine and Desi coming together are not new to a western romance, I was drawn into the drama of their particular situation, cared about these characters and wanted to know how they could possibly find their HEA with all that Desi had endured. Caine Allen is rough around the edges, hardened by life and just the type of hero that I swoon over. He's had his share of hard knocks as well. The set up and the beginning of this book were delicious.
THE HURDLE: Ms. McCarty doesn't take an easy road for herself in this book. Desi has been through about the worst circumstances any woman can imagine. Every time you think you know everything something else is added to the horror of Desi's past. Life in the American West wasn't easy for women and Ms. McCarty plants Desi in conditions and situations that are the stuff nightmares are made of.
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM: Here's why I was thinking about this book, still am truth be told, long after I read it.
Yet, I was waiting for there to be some sort of resolution or turning point because we certainly get the pot stirred and boiling often enough in this book. My quandry is over not really feeling there's adequate explanation or understanding how Desi and Caine could enjoy the relationship Ms. McCarty carves out for them given Desi's past. I found myself looking for cues in the book that would make their particular sexual relationship realistic. I just wasn't comfortable with it. I'm still thinking about it and will probably read the book again before the weekend is over to try and see if there's something I missed in my haste to devour the book.
Are we given an explanation why the physical relationship could evolve into the one that makes up their HEA? Yes, sort of. It's just not one I could buy. It seemed like too much too fast. I'm left feeling like I can tell you lots of facts about Desi and Caine but still don't really know much about the characters and what makes them tick. This surprises me because that certainly isn't usually the case in Ms. McCarty's books. I would also have to say this is more true for Desi's character than Caine's.
IN CONCLUSION: Even with those problems, on a pure escape level I enjoyed this book and certainly want to read more in the series. I'm one of those people who love the story focused on 'the couple' and you get that in spades in this book. So much so, and I can hardly believe I'm saying this, that I would have liked more about the Hell's Eight spread. How'd they all come together and what made them decide to settle? We are literally introduced to the other characters, but not much beyond that. This book lets us know the group is struggling to make a go of their enterprise, but not much on how it supports them all. I'm assuming we will get more of this story in the coming books. Again, can't wait for that.
One of the goal's of any first book in a series is to whet the appetite for more and this book certainly succeeds in that. So, CAINE'S RECKONING is not everything I was expecting but not a disappointment either.