Lay It Down (The Desert Dogs)
Signet / August 5, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital
Backbreaking days, wild nights, and the hard hum of steel between your thighs...
That’s a life well lived, according to the Desert Dogs—four friends who call Fortuity, Nevada, their badlands home.
Vince Grossier is the self-crowned outlaw king around here. But when Fortuity’s slick new mayor invites a shady casino development to town, the invaders’ cutthroat takeover tactics quickly turn deadly. With police turning a suspiciously blind eye, it’s up to the locals to fight back, and Vince is on the front line. The pretty photographer hired by the developers might be the key to infiltrating the enemy. And a temptation too good to pass up.
Finally free of a controlling ex, Kim Paget’s not looking to be taken for a ride—not on the back of some tattooed roughneck’s bike and definitely not in his bed. But when she finds evidence that her bosses are rattlesnake-dangerous, Kim must entrust her safety to the man who threatens danger of a whole different kind.
Cara McKenna’s Lay It Down is different than any other prior work of hers I’ve read before, including the books under the Meg Maguire name. The plot is simple; something’s not right in the town of Fortuity and local badass, Vince Grossier, wants to know why. Grossier is also opposed to a casino development project that has started in Fortuity, and becomes entangled with Kim, a freelance photographer hired to take pictures of the surrounding area. Add in the element of a good friend’s death and Vince has enough to be suspicious of the casino development and those associated with it.
Luckily, Vince views Kim as an outside third party, so there isn’t a lot of hatred between the two. Instead, there’s blatant sexual attraction that doesn’t really culminate into anything physical until later in the book. Kim is a heroine who has made some radical life choices and finds herself caught up in the plans of a strange man and even stranger town.
McKenna puts you right in the setting with great writing, and I’d argue that her depictions of Fortuity and the distinct cast of unique locals are on par with big “neighborhood romance” names like Robyn Carr. But instead of a quaint desert town, we get a local saloon filled with rough and tumble locals. Probably one of the most outrageous characters is John Dancer, the local grifter/bullet wound expert living in a van down by the river. Sadly, McKenna will not be penning a book about him, but we will be getting books about the rest of the Desert Dogs crew.
Although this book begins a series on a group of men who've bonded over past histories and circumstances, none of the men fits into a pat stereotype. Vince isn’t the “bad boy” or “alpha male.” He’s more of a tactless whirlwind who will lie to get what he wants. His best friend, on the other hand, Jeremiah or Miah, is a ranch hand not completely on-board with Vince’s plans and Casey, Vince’s brother, who is only back in Fortuity under precarious circumstances. Rania, the female rounding out the group, doesn’t go along with what any of the men have to say so the group is joined by a shared past rather than a bond of brotherhood or loyalty like you might find in a J.R. Ward novel.
The characters in the book are a reflection of the desert landscape surrounding them; there doesn’t appear to be much to see either in Fortuity or in Vince, but once the reader starts turning the pages and digging past the layers of grit you find complexities in the simplest interactions, especially those between Kim and Vince.
McKenna does a great job of steering her heroine away from stereotypes as well. It would be very easy to write a book about a badass riding a motorcycle who falls in love/lust with a nearly virginal princess from the right side of the tracks. Instead, McKenna gives Kim her own set of problems that she has to confront. She doesn’t use Vince as an escape, but rather a chance to embrace the opportunities she’s been presented at this point in her life. Overall, McKenna sets up a strong story with powerful characters which will be the closest I come to reading anything sort of “western” this year. If you like gritty characters and great sexual chemistry, keep an eye out for Lay It Down and its next installment, Give It All featuring the city slicker Duncan and sexy saloon owner, Rania.
Learn more about or order a copy of Lay It Down by Cara McKenna, available August 5, 2014:
Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.