Series: Hell's Eight #1
Published by Harlequin Enterpises AU on 2013-05-01
Genres: Cowboys, Historical
The Hell’s Eight is the only family he’s ever needed, until he meets the only woman he’s ever wanted…
Caine Allen is a hardened Texas Ranger, definitely not the marrying kind. But when he rescues a kidnapped woman and returns her to town, the preacher calls in a favor. One Caine’s honor won’t let him refuse. From the moment he beds Desi, Caine knows turmoil will follow. Desi might have the face of a temptress, but she also has a will of iron and while she needs his protection, she’s determined that no man will control her again. They establish an uneasy bond, but it isn’t enough for Caine. He wants all Desi has to offer. He wants her screams, her moans, her demands…everything. Yet there’s still a bounty on Desi’s head, and keeping her sexually satisfied is proving easier than keeping her alive.
Hell’s eight are a feared bunch of Texas Rangers in the Old West. They are recruited to rescue some kidnapped women, which is where Caine Allen (Our Hero) first sets eyes on Desi (Our Heroine). Single handedly trying to fight off the armed bandits that are her captors, Desi ignites Caine’s interest immediately. As grateful as Desi is to be rescued she REALLY doesn’t want to go back to her hometown. Upon finding out that Desi is being pretty much held as a prisoner by her court appointed guardian, James, and forced to “service” pretty much every low-life creep in the small town, Caine decides it’s his job to rescue her. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to marry her, so he does! Will Desi and Caine live happily ever after? Or will her tormentors get their prize toy back?
There are parts of the book I loved and there are parts of the book I hated. I will read the next one, so that gives you a good indication of how I felt about it overall.
Desi is a woman on the edge. Brought to the West by her clueless father, she had no idea what she was walking into. Her family were murdered by bandits, who then abducted both her and her sister, and subjected them to continuous torture and rape. She was sold to James and his cronies, where she has lived the life of a prostitute, chained to a bed to serve every one of their desires. By the time Caine meets her, she will pretty much do anything to escape. When Caine marries her, it’s mostly out of obligation to a woman in distress, than burning ambition to be a husband. Caine has no idea what to expect from a wife. He knows she should cook, clean and serve his desires. He seems to forget the trauma that she has suffered, and pushes too hard (I loved Sam for pointing out he was being a douche and making him back off). He may have not come into this marriage for love, but he is determined to make it work. There are some very sweet moments (he made her a “nest” of clothing to keep her warm) but he seems to want her to be a wife in every sense of the word and gets very frustrated when she can’t be what he wants straight away. He takes her to the Hells Eight Compound, where we meet the rest of the Rangers.
The close-knit family that they have created in the middle of scrubland is hard for Desi to watch and she nearly breaks her back trying to be “useful” to the community and be a good wife. This part of Desi was annoying. At the start of the book, she defended herself like Xena warrior princess, but she morphed into an irrational whiny female. I chatted to one of my friends, trying to work out what exactly annoyed me about her and I think it’s because I didn’t see her getting stronger, even though she was under all this care and attention from a bunch of very protective men. In fact, she got weaker as a person.
Darkening the theme of romance in the book is the constant threat of James reappearing and trying to take her back to her life of servitude. Many mercenaries are sent after her, to the Hells Eight Compound, after a reward is put on her head. The danger of this, adds fuel to the thoughts that she shouldn’t allow herself to get too involved with Caine. After she accepts her feelings for him she channels her feelings straight into sex, thinking that will be enough for her. Again a little bit annoying! He tries to walk on water for her (after stopping to realise that maybe a traumatised female won’t want to jump straight into the naked dance with him) making her nests, teaching her to defend herself and being a general sweetheart. He is so used to being in charge, and people jumping when he demands it, that it goes against his nature to back off from what he wants but he does it anyway, for her. He changed from a solo Alpha male to a lovely caring husband. I loved him, even if his “take-charge” attitude over-ran and suffocated his common sense occasionally! Some of the sex scenes between the two were slightly uncomfortable, because I wasn’t sure that Desi wasn’t just lying back and thinking of England, but when she began to develop feelings for him the chemistry is undeniable and wholly satisfying. He knows he wants her from day one and accepts he loves her quickly. He just doesn’t bother to tell her that!
I won’t spoil all the twists and turns of the plot but I will say that, annoying parts aside, I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I am reading the next book, as some of the peripheral characters in this novel were incredibly engaging! If you like cowboys, and don’t mind the story being set in the past, then read this! Just be warned, these characters will do things that test your faith in them, but overall I wanted to see them happy!