by Sarah McCarty, historical (2007)
Spice, $13.95, ISBN 978-0-373-60518-7
Sarah McCarty has a pretty successful time turning up the heat and steaming up windows with her Ellora's Cave offerings and Caine's Reckoning is just the first of this author's dead tree offerings. This one is a historical Western romance, only with the sensuality level amped high so that everyone can have a good time.
When the story begins, our hero Caine Allen and his fellow Texas Ranger buddies Tracker and Sam are hot on the trail of some outlaws who have kidnapped some women. They soon tracked down these outlaws just outside Los Santos, with those morons having stopped to get busy with those women. Believe me, you aren't the only one thinking that these outlaws must be touched by the sun or something if they think they have time to rape some women while a bunch of hot-shot gun-totting men with sneers and artistically groomed stubbles are hot on their tails. Caine thinks so too. At any rate, Caine can't help but to pay attention to one particular woman who led the outlaws through a merry tussle with her spirited attempts to kick and bite, although he can't make up his mind whether she has a death wish or she is just... very brave.
At any rate, our hero and his merry men make a short work out of mowing down the villains and now he's stuck with the hellion, Desi. She is considered a pariah by the other women and she also tries to run away from Caine and his men. She's desperate enough to offer sexual favors just so that Caine doesn't bring her back to her disapproving guardian. Caine is moved to promise her his aid - he is, after all, a gentleman - but when he ends up marrying her to protect her, he realizes the true reasons why Desi doesn't want to return to her guardian.
There isn't any significant external conflict to this story as it's all about Desi getting some sexual healing from Caine. Desi is like a Catherine Anderson heroine in that she isn't just a victim of sexual abuse, the author puts her through rape after rape that I have to wonder whether Ms McCarty is overdoing things just to trigger my sympathy. Like my reaction to pretty much every exploitative romance that Catherine Anderson has ever written, I feel that a line has been crossed somewhere into plain bad taste territory where the heroine's tormented past is concerned.
Still, if Desi is rather one-dimensional in that she's a "victim" character whose tough exterior masks a million vulnerabilities, Caine is similarly one dimensional in that he has no discernible flaws at all here. He is, in fact, perfect. He respects women, he understands that whores are merely women who have run out of options in this harsh land, he is open-minded when it comes to Indians, he is very efficient in his job, and he is, of course, well-endowed and well-skilled to shag every woman's blues away and send her to heaven and back ten times over. I can't disagree with any woman who wants this guy to be her husband, but I can't say that this fellow makes a particularly compelling hero. However, given that this story is all about the sexual healing of a victim of sexual abuse, a flat but perfect hero is no doubt what Desi needs.
However, as dull as I find this story, I have to confess that the love scenes are hot. Oh, stop snickering, people, and just admit that you're going to head down to Borders right after reading this review to thumb through the pages of this book in order to read those love scenes for yourself. Ms McCarty also has a pretty good sense of awareness where her characters are concerned in that while she gives Desi some understandable self-esteem issues, she knows when to rein Desi in every time Desi is in danger of doing something really too stupid. I don't have any problems with the characters, actually, apart from the fact that they and the story they are stuck in are pretty dull and one-note. Will I like this book if it's shorter? Perhaps, although given how the last third or so of the book has plenty of love scenes to keep things going, I'm not exactly complaining. After all, I like the love scenes far more than the story or the characters.
If you like the usual fare from Catherine Anderson and you'd love to read a more steamy variation of the same "Help me, I'm a victim heroine and I need some sexy succor from a well-endowed hunk!" theme, I have this feeling that you're going to like this one. As for me, sorry, but the only reason I'm giving this book a much higher score than I would usually give Catherine Anderson's books is because - yes, you've guessed it - the love scenes kept me awake throughout the story.
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