Expected Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HQN Books
Author’s Website: http://sarahmccarty.net/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 5, Hell’s Eight
Series Best Read In Order: Worked well as a standalone
Steam Level: Hot

Official Blurb:

Shadow Ochoa is lying low in the western Kansas Territory, waiting for his fellow Texas Rangers—the Hell’s Eight brotherhood—to clear his name. That is, until he’s unjustly strung up for horse thieving…and pretty Fei Yen intervenes. Invoking a seldom-used law, the exotic lady prospector claims Shadow as her husband and rides off with the bridegroom shackled to her buckboard.

Savvy, fearless Fei is single-mindedly devoted to her hidden claim and all it promises: wealth, security and freedom. A husband is just a necessary inconvenience and a name on paper to hold the claim she cannot.

Shadow isn’t a man to take orders from anyone, especially from lovely Fei—except that the daily friction between them ignites into nightly blazes of all-consuming passion. Soon Shadow is dreaming a little himself: of the life they could have if only Fei could see past the lure of independence. If only bounty hunters weren’t closing in on him. If only he’s left standing when the impending showdown has ended….

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved Fei.  Smart, beautiful, and cunning enough to know that no matter how unjust societies strictures may be, it’s better for a woman to manipulate them to her satisfaction than to outwardly buck against them. I truly adored how sly she was, and I laughed out loud several times at some of her bolder actions.
  • Oh Shadow. *fans self*  So deliciously alpha, and yet a good man underneath all of his crankiness, the fact that he was about to be hanged as a horse thief when Fei rescued him in a far more dramatic fashion than I’d anticipated simply added to his appeal.
  • Having never read other books in the series, I greatly appreciated the amount of history supplied so that when more characters from previous books made an appearance, I was never lost.
  • The climax of the book was very exciting, with plenty of action and harrowing moments.
  • I was also both please and amused with the resolution between Shadow and the rest of Hell’s Eight.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • What really threw me off was the spanking. Now, just because something isn’t really my kink, that doesn’t mean that it’ll pull my rating down. However, when something like erotic spanking is going to be brought into a story, I tend to prefer a bit of, well, warning.  In my mind, there was nothing that hinted towards this type of thing until it was happening, and it really threw me for a major loop. In fact, I actually put this book down for quite a while because of this. Now, before all the die-hard Hell’s Eight fans grab the torches and pitchforks, remember I’d never actually heard of this series until I saw it on Netgalley, and in turn, didn’t realize that this series was considered to be more on the romantica side than regular romance.
  • The “elixir” in regards to the cousin and her captors seemed a little too convenient, though I admit this was a fairly minor point in the long run.

While I don’t think I’m a prude (because really, how can one read as much steamy romance as I do and still be a prude?), I was a bit taken aback by the spanking. Not that it was objectionable, mind you, just that it was unexpected in the context of the story and really threw my off my stride in reading this, and I don’t think I ever really recovered from it.

It was deliciously steamy, and I really loved the chemistry and dynamics between  Shadow and Fei Yen, but because unexpected spanking is unexpected, I couldn’t say that I loved it. *shrugs* From what I understand, though, this series tends to be more romantica than just steamy romance, which of course tends to have light kink and/or taboo acts in them just for the thrills. It was completely a case of mea culpa there since I didn’t pay attention to the fact that previous books in the series were from a steamier imprint.

Even knowing that, however, I can only go by what I actually felt while I was reading it, and in the end I simply never recovered my stride in reading after that one minor incident, no matter how much I enjoyed the characters and the storyline.

4/5 Stars