Wild west meets the udead.
- Review by Kazza K
When Cowboys & Vampires begins Josh Stanton is getting warm, and with that warmth there is a dread that someone is lying dead behind the door of his home. The one he shares with Agnes Pritchett, the woman who took him in as her own when he was found at five alone and scared. The woman who taught him to read and write, enjoy books, and fit in, amongst many other skills. The woman who showed him love and kindness. He knows that if the heat his body is giving off is right he will have to do something that he doesn't want to -
He sat and caught his breath as darkness slowly took the room. As the shadows lengthened, Josh sat stiff and alert in the rocker, resigned to keep watch. He wanted - no, needed - to see if the warm feeling inside him was a common sign. And if it was, he thought he knew how to make sure Agnes stayed dead.
...he could not bear to witness Agnes's awful rebirth. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to recall good times he's had with Agnes, but the only thing he could remember was the feel of her hand on his, dry and soft, as she taught him how to hold a rifle and shoot.
Dex is the deputy Sheriff in the town of Belkin's Pass. He has the task of riding out to Agnes Pritchett's place to see what has happened to her after a young girl, Ling, rode into town telling him that Agnes has been shot....by Josh. He has known Josh since they were children and they have been best friends ever since. He doesn't want to believe that his friend, and the man he fantasises about, could be responsible for shooting Agnes. He knows that Josh loves her. But it doesn't look good when he finds Agnes with threes shots to the body, including one to the head, and there is a witness. On top of this, a neighbour of Agnes Pritchett's, Wayland Overbrooke, has now come to his attention as he's not been seen in town recently. He is also found dead by Dex with four gunshot wounds, one to the head. Some coincidence having two dead bodies with multiple gunshot wounds, all with one to the head, next to one another. The Sheriff is away and it's Dex's job to look into the situation and see what he can find out. Hopefully clear his friends name before the Sheriff gets back.
The book also focuses on the local saloon, the One-Eyed Rooster, and in particular a feisty half Indian/half Anglo working girl, Glory. Glory is known to get into a stoush or two, and this night is no different as she looks out for and protects her friend and fellow working girl, Edith, from some possible problems. When there is trouble she gets to feel Ohanzee, so she relished trouble. Glory is an interesting character. She had a POV along with Josh and Dex throughout the book. She has a spirit-guide-come-protector Ohanzee, who comes in mighty handy as things start to get a bit...unusual at the Rooster. Glory notices a red-eyed man one night, one who she thinks is the devil, who Ohanzee helps protect her against when the others girls are succumbing to his charms. The red-eyed man is Balthazar. Balthazar makes up the Vampire part of the title and he is intent on creating his own vampire minions.
Meanwhile, Josh has taken off from Belkin's Pass to his biological mother's cabin on the outskirts of Venom Valley. He needs to regroup and work out what he is going to do. Even though he has been raised by Agnes and had to do what was required, same with Wayland, no one will believe what he has to tell them about his abilities and why he has had to shoot someone who is already dead. He doesn't know what Dex will do, he is a lawman first and foremost, and Josh feels he will be taken in, if he is lucky, or just hanged for what has happened.
I won't go into any more detail about the plot. I'll just lay out what worked and didn't work so much for me.
What worked for me -
The premise is a good one - cowboys/vampires in a wild west setting.
Josh's not yet fully realised ability is an interesting one. And I'm sure there will be more to come.
Friends to lovers is always a good story line for me. And it worked pretty well here. There was no insta-love, they had known each other for some time but not shared their feelings because neither knew how the other felt....outside of friendship -
Beyond his physical traits, however, Dex had a good heart. He was, above all else, a good man, and Josh had fallen in love with him over the years. He wanted more than anything to lay with Dex, to feel the heat of the man's body lying beside him, covering him, feeling the prickling bush of Dex's whiskered jaw as they kissed.
The book started strongly, with powerful actions and feelings being relayed well to the reader. It also finished strongly with plenty of action.
The dialogue and sex between Josh and Dex was very erotic and sweet -
He stretched out on the floor in front of the fire, Dex sprawled on top, his cock like a fence post pressed against Josh's thigh. The kiss that had started frantic slowed and deepened. Dex's fingers eased open the buttons of Josh's shirt as they kissed and when it lay open, Dex pulled the linen undershirt out of his breeches. Sliding a hand beneath the soft fabric. Dex's fingers finally touched Josh's bare skin. Josh shivered at Dex's touch and pulled back to gasp.
"You all right."
"I'm all right. I just...I've never been touched that way before..."
Dex smiled and leaned down to kiss him again. "Me neither," he whispered.
He stared at the broad, hardened length of Dex's cock, the glistening head half hidden by foreskin, and thought how different it looked this way: more demanding and insistent. "You're beautiful," Dex whispered.
"Dex," Josh said between kisses...
"I want you to...."
Josh paused, unsure how to ask, It wasn't a natural act, but at this moment nothing in Belkin's Pass was natural. He kissed Dex again and said, "I want you inside me."
I also liked Glory, she was a strong, likeable female lead, and her relationship with Ohanzee, her Indian spirit-guide/love, was interesting.
The connecting of the three MC's (Glory is not with either of the MC's) was good
I liked the three POV that were going on.
I'm interested enough to want to see where the series goes.
What didn't work for me -
I didn't like the repetitive use of words. There were several, but the words sweat- it was used way too much -and hunkered down....bothered me. I have to tell you that hunkered down really sticks in your mind when it's used more than once or twice. I don't want to even tell you how many times sweat was used. I get it, it was hot, they were hot, everything was hot... but -
Sweat plastered his hair to his head and his face was flushed pink and shiny.
He smelled the tang of Dex's sweat and ran his tongue along the man's skin, tasting the salt.
Sweat stung Josh's eyes as he finally came to a stop with Dex's cock resting along his cheek
...all within a span of a page or two gives you an idea and this was pretty standard throughout.
The middle section of the book got a bit bogged down. It detracted somewhat from Josh and Dex and the build up of their story. I put my Kindle down more than I should have in that section. In contrast, the beginning was strong and the last third (approximately) was action packed and I couldn't put my Kindle down.
I have always enjoyed Hank Edwards as a writer and Cowboys & Vampires fits in there nicely with the others I have read. There were only a few niggles here, some can happen in a first book in a series, some are just an individual thing, but overall they didn't detract dramatically from my enjoyment of the book. I will most definitely be reading Venom Valley #2 when it comes out.
Recommended for paranormal lovers, specifically those who enjoy the undead, who may also like the wild west thrown in with their friends-to-lovers. Be aware this is a serial style series so it doesn't end with everything wrapped up.
4 Very Sweaty Stars.
This book was supplied to me by the publisher. Wilde City Press, in return for an honest review.