I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this book from Ms. McCarty. I have been a longtime fan beginning with her Promises series, which are also western historicals.
Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the Hell's Eight series. It is the story of Caine and Desi. Why have I been a longtime fan of Ms. McCarty's? Simple. She delivers a story with fully fleshed out characters, an exciting storyline, and beautiful, intimate, erotic sex that drives the story forward rather than simply being gratuitous.
What I liked: I liked Desi. Y'all know me. It's not often that the heroine is the first thing I like about a book. However, it frequently is the case with Ms. McCarty's books. Her heroines are women who should be broken by their life experiences, yet somehow discover a strength within themselves that brings their men to their knees.
We learn about Desi's background, and what brought her to the point she is at in her life. She has passed the point of self-pity, and has moved on to anger. This could make her unlikeable, but it makes her sympathetic. McCarty adds in the searing vulnerability that is necessary for a woman in her position.
I liked the supporting character of Tia. I loved that she could bring the men of Hell's Eight to their knees and turn them into submissive "yes, ma'am" types with a simple word. She is a strong character, and although we never get her full story, it is intimated that she also had a very hard experience that has brought her to the Hell's Eight door.
I liked the men of Hell's Eight. These are men that will do anything for those they care about and love. They immediately like Desi, and take up her cause. That means protecting her not only physically, but also against verbal attacks made by the townfolk.
I liked Caine. He seems bemused at first by his reaction to Desi, yet at the same time completely accepting of her as his wife, his woman, his fate. We get just enough background on Caine to understand his strong ties to the other men of Hell's Eight, and how he became a Ranger. If anything, I would have liked to have seen just a little more introspection on Caine's part in terms of his background. Don't get me wrong. It was definitely there. I understood how it made him the man he was in everything he did except for how it colored his attitude with Desi. Perhaps it really didn't, other than to strengthen his protective streak.
And can I just say that Sarah McCarty does write just the most fabulous sensitive alphas? Just wonderful.
There was also a terrific scene that lightened up the heavy tension. In it, Desi is trying to learn how to fire a gun. She and Caine have a bet that she can't hit a target, and Desi decides to lose. What is Caine's prize for her loss? A kiss. So she deliberately aims way off, and blows a hole in the outhouse. Oops. Out of the outhouse comes one of the other guys, pulling up his pants as he races out, gun at the ready. Oops.
What I didn't like: Much of the end of the book is spent attempting to discover who the main villain is... who set up the entire plot against Desi and her sister. And unless I missed an important page somewhere there at the end, we never find this out. But in the epilogue, Desi reveals it in a letter to her sister. That seemed a little disjointed to me, and I felt cheated that as a reader I didn't get to observe Caine and Desi making the discovery for themselves. It almost felt as though McCarty deprived them of the right to know and discover this. And while I'm sure he'll get his due in the sister's book (which I'm sure will be coming in conjunction with another of the Hell's Eight heroes, and I'm fairly certain which one...), it just seemed that they should have at least gotten the opportunity in their book to discover his identity, if not to catch him. Anyway, 'nuff said.
So only one thing that I was just slightly miffed about. This Spice book is officially released November 1, but it's already shipping from both B&N and Amazon. If you are a fan of the Promise series, you will love Hell's Eight as well. Sam's Creed is book 2, and it comes out in July. Finally, we will be getting more books after a long dry spell. 'Bout time, too! Phew!