Lay It Down, by Cara McKenna

>> Wednesday, August 10, 2016

TITLE: Lay It Down
AUTHOR: Cara McKenna

PAGES: 327

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: Starts Desert Dogs series

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. When his town's slick new mayor invites a shady casino development to town, the invaders' cut-throat takeover tactics quickly turn deadly. With the police turning a blind eye, it's up to Vince. It's time to fight back. It's time to call in the Desert Dogs.

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.
I was kind of dreading this, because I thought it was a motorcycle club book. That is a subgenre I absolutely do not want to read. But this was Cara McKenna, one of my favourite authors, so if anyone was going to get me to give them a shot, it was her. Still, it took me ages to actually pick it up and start reading it after i'd bought it. And when I did, it almost felt like an anticlimax to realise it was absolutely not an MC book.

Yes, Vince Grossier, the hero, does have a motorcycle, and yes, he and his mates used to call themselves the Desert Dogs, but that does not an MC make. The Desert Dogs thing is just a way they played around, and Vince is just the kind of rough-around-the-edges but fundamentally decent guy I’ve already really liked in McKenna’s books. He’s not a saint, but he’s not a proper criminal either. And the plot here is just a regular romantic suspense plot, nothing to do with gangs fighting.

Vince grew up in the small Western town of Fortuity. It’s a small, unsophisticated place, and he likes it that way. But things are about to change, as a huge conglomerate is about to build a luxury resort and casino in town. Vince voted against the plan in the referendum, but his side lost, and he’s still bitter about it.

When he suspects something shady is going on on the site, something that got his good friend Alex killed in a supposed drunk-driving accident, he’s determined to get to the bottom of it. Alex had called him right before he died talking about finding bones on one of the casino’s sites and how he was worried about them. Vince knows the man, and knows that even though he was an alcoholic, he would not have driven drunk. But everyone, including Alex’s colleagues in the Fortuity police department (yes, he was part of the Desert Dogs, but he’d become a cop when he grew up), thinks Vince is just deluded and acting out of his resentment about the casino.

So Vince is on his own, and when he meets Kim Paget, he sees the perfect chance to get on the construction site without getting arrested for trespassing. Kim is a photographer, in town to take beautiful pictures for the casino’s promotional material for investors. But while Vince tells himself that’s the only reason why he’s pursuing her so hard, he can’t deny the attraction.

Kim has just broken up with a controlling, killjoy boyfriend, and she’s ready for a bit of adventure. Vince is not her usual kind of guy and she finds him slightly scary, but it's the good kind of scary, the exciting kind of scary. And it turns out they click together just fine.

I really enjoyed this. Vince and Kim have got plenty of chemistry, and their relationship kept me absorbed, which is not happening as often as it used to in romance novels. And they clearly have quite a lot in common apart from the chemistry, in spite of their very different backgrounds. The romance worked for me perfectly.

As did Vince himself. But for all that I like McKenna’s rough heroes, I love that this is clearly not a statement about what sort of masculinity is appropriate in a romance hero. We also meet here the guy who's the hero in the following book in the series and he couldn't be more different from Vince. He's smooth and polished, a metrosexual kind of guy, to the point of being a bit fussy and dismissive of Vince’s lifestyle. And that's perfectly fine, he can be a Cara McKenna romance hero as well!

The plot was good, but not great. The suspense kept my attention well enough, although not to the point that I'd call myself riveted by it. I should mention some readers might be bothered by the fact that there isn't full resolution of what's going on, and the overall plot continues in the next few books. I didn't mind, because it felt like there was enough resolution here about the immediate issues, but YMMV.

I also didn't mind because I'm interested in reading the next few books anyway. McKenna does a fair bit of setting up for the sequels, developing secondary characters such as Duncan, the guy I mentioned above, as well as Vince's friends and a young waitress new to the town. It didn't feel like sequel-baiting. All these characters felt organic to the plot and worked to make the book richer, as Vince and Kim's interactions with them worked to develop them as characters.

On the whole, this was a good one. Not quite my favourite by this author, but pretty damn solid.



Darlynne 10 August 2016 at 19:23  

I enjoy Cara McKenna's books, too, and will have to look at this one. Living in Nevada for the last 12 years, I'm interested to see how life here is portrayed.

Rosario 11 August 2016 at 06:23  

I'd be really interested to hear what you think of that. To me it felt like a classic Western small rural town. I wonder if there's anything that's particularly Nevada about it.

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