So, two things happened when I read the prologue to Julie Ann Walker’s Hell on Wheels. First, I guessed the secret that was tormenting Nate—our stoic hero. Walker telegraphed that punch pretty strongly. Second, I learned that telegraphed punches take nothing away from general enjoyment of a book. Those 10 pages were enough to get me hooked. The rest of the pages were enough to get me hooked on Walker's entire series.
Hell on Wheels starts with Nate Weller making the death notification to the parents and baby sister of his best friend. He’s always had a thing for Ali, baby sister, but you know how that goes, right? Your best friend threatens to rip your arms off and beat you to death with them if you touch his sister…..sounds like a pretty important warning to heed, right? Nate keeps his distance. But, when it turns out she is being stalked, she runs to him for help, and finds out about the secret life he and her brother had been living. Ali is interested, definitely, but Nate has some pretty dark demons working on him. It’s a romance, so you know the ending will be satisfying.
But…..and this is where I have to put in a very strange disclaimer for a book I love: Not every book is for everybody. Yes, this is a romance. Heck, let’s even call it romantic suspense. You’d expect a certain level of violence, but this book seemed to go beyond some of the scenes in similar books. There was one scene, it happened as a flashback, that I still haven’t recovered from. In all honesty, I’m not sure the reader is meant to ever recover. You move on, the book moves on, but that scene is meant to always be remembered. It is harsh and powerful and brilliant. And horrible. If you prefer your violence off screen, just know this book may not be for you. You can skip that scene, you’ll know it when you get to it, but you’ll be missing a very important part of Nate’s story.
Did I just spend an entire paragraph telling you not to read this book? Only those of you who don’t like violence. The rest of you, run to the store to pick this up. And, while you’re at it, you might as well get books 2 and 3 in the series as well. If you’re like me, you’ll want to start the next one as soon as you finish the previous one. The men are super Alpha and fascinatingly layered characters. The women are more than just Alpha bait. They are also complex, with their own character development and lives that don’t revolve around what their intended may or may not be doing. If I had to make comparisons, I would say these books remind me of an intriguing mix of Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series (in terms of theme) and Lara Adrian’s Breed series in terms of characters. Maybe a little bit of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood in terms of character interaction.
It’s fun. It’s sad. It’s hot. The characters will draw you in quickly. Not just Nate and Ali, but the entire cast of characters. You’ll be rooting for Nate and Ali, both as individuals and as a couple. You’ll be curious to see how the future pairings will shake out, and you’ll try to fit the suspense pieces together.
So—what are you waiting for? Go to Hell!
Robin Bradford is a lawyer, a librarian and, most importantly, full on Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices addict. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or on the new blog Collection Reflection.