Tag: Sarah McCarty

Guest Review: Caden’s Vow by Sarah McCarty

Posted November 16, 2012 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of Caden’s Vow (Hell’s Eight #6) by Sarah McCarty

His past has haunted him for a lifetime…but one woman could be his salvation.

Gunslinger Caden Miller’s compadres are becoming a bit too domesticated for his liking. So he’s off to Kansas territory to carve out a living and a space of his own-alone, just the way he likes it.

Maddie O’Hare has been drawn to Caden ever since she escaped to the Hell’s Eight compound from the brothel where she was born and raised. And she’s not ready to let him go so easily…until she’s captured by his new neighbors.

When Caden discovers that Maddie is being held against her will on a nearby ranch, he demands they release his fiancée. Caden is as surprised by his own lie as Maddie is, but the fiery promise in her grateful kiss is far more unexpected. With old enemies catching up with him, Caden and Maddie will face a danger that tests their passion-and will either bind them together forever or break them apart for good.

Eight little boys who hid and escaped a massacre during the Mexican/American War are now grown and have become known as Hell’s Eight.  The ranch they own together is also known as Hell’s Eight and it, like all the ranches in that territory are now in grave danger because a great deal of military presence which had protected the ranchers and settlers is being reassigned to the Civil War.  Now Caden is also facing his own restlessness–all but three of the original eight have found their life partners, are married and having families, and he once again feels it is time to move on–time to keep a promise he made to his dad on that fateful day when he lost everyone he had ever loved.

Maddie has been a part of Caden’s life for a year now–living at Hell’s Eight and recovering after fleeing the whore house where she was born, abused and used since she was eight years old, and trying to regain her sense of reality.  She is a woman whose only salvation, her only psychological and emotional refuge has been retreating mentally to a “safe place” in her mind.  There is a part of Maddie that the dirt, the cruel abuse and the sexual misuse has failed to touch.  But she has come to love Caden as well, even though he appears to see her only as a fallen woman, someone he can easily leave behind.

This story is kind of a sneaky one . . . it appears not to really be going anywhere, but as the bits and pieces of Maddie and Caden’s story gradually come together, the crisis in each of their lives begins to make an impact on their collective experience.  One is readily aware of Maddie’s brokenness and that is very apparent from the first.  But Caden’s own inner turmoil, his own deeply guarded secrets and emotional wounds, while they have been buried deeply, are just as disturbing and dangerous to the future that Caden and Maddie could have together.  It is the kind of story that doesn’t back away from the realities of life in the 19th century Old West for women legally, especially for those who have had no resources or who must rely on selling themselves in order to survive.  Maddie must learn the hard way that she has practically no standing in the community apart from a relationship with a husband, brother, or father.  And for someone who  must make it on her own, it can be a very scary life.

There is an intensity in this novel that I have come to expect in all McCarty novels.  The brash reality of life without any sugar coating is characteristic of her stories and brings the raw edges of trying to survive into the reader’s awareness in sharp relief to the very cushioned life we consider normal in the 21st century.  It was a life where death was only inches away.  And as with all the previous American historicals she has written, Ms McCarty gifts readers with characters who are unusual in many ways while appearing to be what we would expect for that time period.  There are some twists and turns that catch the reader unaware here, while pointing up the deep loyalty and friendship between members of Hell’s Eight, the kind of “brotherhood” of shared experience that allows friends to tell one another the truth and to know when to back away while still offering the support of authentic respect and regard.  It is that kind of honesty that makes it possible for men like Caden and Ace to find their way in a world that is never free of personal and collective danger.

As with all her work, Ms McCarty has written in such a way that words to their work well–each word and phrase carries its own weight in telling the story.  It is a good reading experience besides giving the reader a story that entertains as well as educates.  The love scenes are beautifully written–the tension of true gentleness is perhaps more powerfully demonstrated in this story more than I have experienced in a number of recent books.  As Caden and Maddie’s relationship is pushed and pulled through the knotholes of danger and personal anxiety, they must each decide who they are, what they mean to themselves as well as to each other.  It is a very romantic story in many ways, very sexy and intense, but most of all it is a love story that doesn’t flow smoothly, making it seem oh so  much more real.  It’s a treat for McCarty fans and worth the time to read and enjoy.

I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5

The Series:
Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin HQN. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Shadow’s Stand by Sarah McCarty

Posted March 29, 2012 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of Shadow’s Stand (Hell’s Eight #5) by Sarah McCarty

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.

He’s huge and he’s gorgeous, bearing the obvious appearance of one of mixed heritage–Native American and Mexican–and a man who has been defamed and insulted on that basis alone. Now he is dangling at the end of a rope for horse theft, when in deed he was retrieving his own horses. His only hope: if a woman wishing to marry him cuts him down. (Only in the American West, eh?) And that’s just what happens, when a woman who is half Chinese and half American decides that she needs him to protect her as she tries to work out a very complicated set of circumstances which involve, in part, freeing her Chinese cousin from an unprincipled man to whom Fei Yen’s father has sold her. (The American West wasn’t a good place for any women, it would seem.)

The continuing stories of Hell’s Eight, a finely tuned group of strong and independent warriors with the Texas Rangers are some of Sarah McCarty’s finest. Strong, Alpha-type men who have come through hell–thus the name–as their families were massacred and their community plundered, barely surviving and only with the help of a few individuals who reached out to them. Now they are each having to deal with their inner demons, and none more troubled that Michael (Shadow) Ochoa, a man of strange extremes and one who is not afraid to show strength one minute and tenderness the next to strangers, but is scared stiff of opening his heart to a little Chinese American woman who is wise beyond her years and who loves him without reserve. The only thing she insists on is complete honesty and her fearless pursuit of the real person who is Shadow Ochoa is almost his undoing and the death of the tenuous relationship they call a frontier marriage.

I have long delighted in Ms McCarty’s stories after having read one of her other American Western historical series and found her writing to be stimulating to the imagination and a treat for the brain, but also heart warming and resonating with genuine human qualities, with characters that speak of the best and worst that people can be. She does not paint the American West with a gilded brush, choosing to deal realistically with persons and situations that often existed outside both legal and moral boundaries which celebrating relationships that could only have existed where a greater amount of legal and moral freedom was to be found. Life was hard and it was even harder for women. Consider that a woman was of mixed race, and she was even more invisible and thought to be even less of a person of worth. Yet this story’s heroine knows how to deal with the issues she knows are hers, the burdens of society’s prejudice, and yet she is willing to beggar herself in many ways in order to bring the best to this man whose inner wounds have never turned him loose.

Lastly, the continuing story of the loyalty and friendship that binds Hells’ Eight together form a very important part of this story. For each of these men and especially for Shadow, their relationship, their support, their friendship and regard are his true “home.” And even in the darkest moments of this novel, the existence of those ties are what keep Shadow sane and possibly just a little hopeful. Best of all, each of these men can be trusted to do whatever it takes to do right by one another, even if that means telling truths that don’t want to be heard, crashing into situations where their presence can be unwanted, or dragging one of their compatriots out of circumstances where they wrongly choose to be. They are, in a word, true friends. As an ancient text proclaims: “Greater love has no man than this: that a man will lay down his life for a friend.” Such a love is at the heart of this story.

Don’t miss this one. It is truly a keeper. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

The series:
Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from HQN Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Jace by Sarah McCarty

Posted October 5, 2011 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Published by Berkley, Penguin

Judith’s review of Jace (Shadow Wranglers #3) by Sarah McCarty.

Vampire Jace Johnson was not a family man until he met Miri. But their forbidden relationship ended when she disappeared. After a year of searching, Jace finds Miri in a Sanctuary enclave.

After a year of cruel experimentation by the Sanctuary on her werewolf form, Miri is no longer the passionate wife Jace remembers. She only lives to rescue the daughter Jace never knew they had.

Now, they must overcome the tragedy of their pasts if they are to reclaim the future they both desire.

This paranormal romance is the third in the Shadow Wranglers series, and as I had not read the first two novels in this series, I floundered just a bit making connections with characters and situations that were carry-overs from the previous stories. Yet in the truest sense of the word, this is a stand alone story and I didn’t have a massive amount of difficulty figuring it all out. Being a Sarah McCarty fan from her Western historical romance, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read another of her works. As I had found in her other writing, Jace is filled with sexual tension, relationships that are strained alongside those that are close and collegial. Add in the tension of a missing baby, the ever-present tension between wolf-shifters and vampires, rogue paranormals, mad scientists who are seeking to grab paranormal individuals for “lab rat” status, and you have a novel that is tense, edgy, erotic, sexy, and downright riveting. There is also the protracted issues between Jace and Miri–her year-long absence as a missing person has affected both of them: Jace, with his frustration at not being able to find his mate; and Miri, who had eventually given up hope that Jace would ever find her. Now they must find a way to deal with those inner wounds, with the self-protective mechanisms we all use when we don’t want to be hurt again, and the issues over a missing baby daughter–a daughter Jace didn’t even know existed. No easy love relationship here.

There were some characters that I would call “shadowy”–the shifter enforcers who functioned as a law unto themselves. I found myself wondering from time to time which side of right and wrong to which they gave their allegiance. Some of Jace’s vampire relatives were puzzling to understand. Obviously, each was somewhat of a “study” and as such, they each posed their own challenges for the reader. But isn’t that the mark of a good writer who knows how to create characters that pose different challenges for different readers?

My greatest surprise was the relationship Jace had with the shifter community. It would appear that he had “standing” with them because of Miri. But the entire portion of the story dealing with his relationship with them and their difficulties coming to peace with each other sat just a little uneasy with me. That being said, it was a unique approach to the traditional antipathy between these two paranormal communities, and after all, this is fiction, so a writer is certainly free to create any relationship with any community in any way each chooses. McCarty has done this in spades and it comes out just fine.

I found this book fascinating as well-written, well-edited, and put together by a writer that knows how to keep not only the details of a story straight but how to make the parts fit into the whole. Simply said, it is just one truly terrific, spectacular read. It is well worth the time and effort to read and a story that will satisfy the most avid paranormal romance lover.

I give it a rating of 4.75 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Berkley Trade. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Reaper’s Justice by Sarah McCarty

Posted July 12, 2011 by Judith in Reviews | 1 Comment

Published by Berkley, Penguin

Judith’s review of Reaper’s Justice by Sarah McCarty

When the War Between the States came to its end, the battle inside Isaiah Jones raged on. Neither fully human nor fully wolf, he found his peace-and the passion his inner wolf craved-with Adelaide Cameron. Though their union was forbidden by the werewolf soldiers, Isaiah satisfied his urges by guarding her from afar. But when Adelaide is abducted, Isaiah must not only expose his dark nature, but invite her into the shadows with him.

Sarah McCarty is one of those authors who writes about everything and all that I have read is good.  I have read some of her Western historicals and so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read and review the first book in this paranormal series.

The characters in this novel are gritty and edgy and as such make an impression on the reader right from the first.  Isaiah Jones is a wolf-shifter and angry about that.  He calls his inner wolf “beast” and barely manages to live with his duality, angry that this condition was foisted on him when he was a boy, angry that he is now and has been an assassin under the direction of others, and angry that he has now found a woman who “speaks” to his human self and believing himself to be a monster, must accept that there is no future with this woman.  In fact, in those days of dealing with shape-shifters, a “Council” of guardians has ruled that no shifter can be in contact with a human woman.  Now, there are no shifter women, either, so these individuals are looking at a long, lonely life filled with violence and not much else.  Isaiah Jones, however, has pushed the rules and been “guarding” Adelaide Cameron for over a year without her knowledge.  He knows her history:  that she was a captive of Indians who slaughtered her family, that she has been run ragged by the over-protective “love” of her Cameron cousins, and that she wants more than anything to be an independent woman with a future of her own choosing and being respected rather than sheltered.  Her abduction by a gang of men bent on selling her South of the Mexican border only adds more terror and hurt to her life story.  It is from this situation she is rescued by  Isaiah and another “reaper” (as shifters were then called) named Blade.  In some sort of twisted way he and Isaiah have formed a pact–maybe even a friendship–and Blade knows Isaiah’s attachment to Adelaide is such that it is, in truth, love.

This is a very emotional story.  The reader is pummeled with Isaiah’s sense of hopelessness, his anger at being what he is, his frustration that the “beast” wants Adelaide as much as he does but is unwilling to claim her with any finesse or kindness.  There is also his deep sorrow at failing to guard her against further harm or terror.  Against almost unbelievable odds, Isaiah, with Blade’s help, is able to wrest her away from her captors, but then begins their deeper connection and friendship.  Addy knows nothing about the true nature of “reapers” but she knows that for some reason she is not fearful of Isaiah, even to the point that she acts on her attraction to him by requesting that he sleep with her and asks that for this one night, he love her sufficiently that she will always have that memory, even if she ends up married to someone else.  During those loving encounters, his “beast” manages to take over sufficiently that she is bitten twice–occurrences she deems erotic and nothing more.

This is not a simple love story but Isaiah’s love for Adelaide permeates this tale.  There is violence as Isaiah must protect her–somehow a pack of “reapers” wants Adelaide for sport–and learning what Isaiah is becomes Addy’s journey of discovery.  This is the kind of paranormal romance I have come to love where there are struggles and loving encounters–the kind or eroticism that serves the story and flows from the human encounters of the principle characters–there are issues over family and the evidence that Adelaide is a strong and stubborn woman, especially where Isaiah is concerned and insisting on the right to make her own choices.  The historical context is not just like a stage setting–it is very much a part of why this story works and gives credence to the plot and story development.  McCarty’s style of writing, her adept use of words to bring feelings and actions to life, are the foundation of a truly splendid novel that paranormal romance lovers will enjoy.  I most enjoyed watching Isaiah find himself, struggling to calm and live in sync with his inner beast, while wanting so much to realize fully what humanity he possessed.  There are surprises all along the way as one works through this text, and all keep teasing the reader to move forward–there is an implied promise in the narrative that ultimately the reader will have all questions answered.

This novel was such an entertaining one and a book that I don’t think McCarty fans, paranormal fans, and certainly historical romance fans will want to miss.  Adelaide is a spendid heroine as a woman who has come through hell and still use all her faculties to think and reason, especially in difficulty circumstances.  Isaiah is such a mixture of dark and light, of wolf and man, yet he is the kind of hero that I love to love–one who never wavers in his determination to keep Addy safe with the hope that somehow they will be together in the future. If not, he will give his life for her ultimate good.  What a guy!!  I sincerely hope you will think seriously about reading this novel and that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place

This book is available from Berkley Trade. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review: Caleb by Sarah McCarty

Posted October 29, 2009 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 8 Comments

Published by Berkley, PenguinGenres: Paranormal Romance

Lori’s review of Caleb by Sarah McCarty.

Meet three sexy ranchers-who also happen to be vampires-in the first of a new series by the national bestselling author of Wild Instinct.

Allie always desired mysterious, sexy rancher Caleb Johnson, but he never seemed to notice her. Until the night she’s attacked by a vicious animal, and rescued by a shapeshifting vampire that she almost seems to recognize: the baritone growl, the mesmerizing eyes, the inexplicable animal attraction. That’s because her savior is Caleb, and now he has no choice but to bring Allie into the shadows with him-to protect her from a rival werewolf pack, and to finally reveal his true feelings for the woman he’s been afraid to love.

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah McCarty. I adored the original Promises trilogy. They were the first erotic romances I ever read. If I didn’t love some of her other books, I can say that the one thing that McCarty has always done phenomenally well, even if the story didn’t work for me, is write characters. Her characters have always spoken to me. Loudly. Beautifully. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with Caleb. Neither the story nor the characters worked for me.

In the past, I’ve always trusted McCarty to take me anywhere, even in a paranormal, which admittedly, has never been my favorite genre. That is no longer the case. I closed Caleb with a “been there, done that” feeling. Like this book offered nothing new. To either McCarty fans or to vampire fans.

In Caleb, McCarty uses every cliché there is to use with vampires. Every trick and trope she’s used in all of her books – the westerns and the paranormals – they’re in there. I felt as though I was reading a glossed over version of a McCarty hero without the depth and a mirror image of a McCarty heroine. Throw a few “son of a bitch”s in the mix (because all McCarty heroes must say that) and voila. And every McCarty hero threatens to paddle their heroines. All the time. But in past books, I’ve always truly felt that the threat came from a deep-seated fear for the heroine’s welfare, and huge relief at her eventual safety. Like when you want to swat your child after they ran into the street without looking, and you’re so relieved that they made it across safely. Here, instead, I honestly felt that it was just words taking up space on the page.

Caleb was supposed to be 250 years old, but Allie kept calling him “1860’s man” – as an endearment. That just bugged the ever-living crap out of me. At 250 years old, that would make him 1760’s man. Major blunder, and it took me out of the book every time she said it. I’d accept that Allie was just stupid, except that Caleb gave her his mother’s 250 year old wedding ring. From the 1800s, he noted to himself. Ugh.

There was no character depth; none at all. No history. Especially with Allie. And McCarty is usually fantastic with the characters, if nothing else. But they were totally flat. Even Caleb’s brothers, whom I assume are next in line for their own books, were flatter than an armadillo on the highway in Texas. And even more than that, I was completely squicked out by their admission that they were turned on by Allie. I didn’t find it sexy at all. Just the opposite. So I found the characters extremely lacking from an author who has always had A-1 characterization. And a piss-poor plot to back them up.

An unfortunate entry from McCarty.

1.5 out of 5

Read more from Lori at Living in the House of Testosterone and I Just Finished Reading…

This book is available from Berkley Trade. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

Tagged: , , , , , ,