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    Sexy and suspenseful continuation of the series

    This third story in the Desert Dogs series doesn't focus too much on the mysteries that have been part and parcel of the first two books in the series, but is definitely a continuation of the plot. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, and there is enough background given that you could jump into the series at this point, but I do recommend going back and reading the first 2 books if you haven't already, as they give you a good sense of all the characters, and what's been happening in the small town of Fortuity (murder and mayhem!) since the Casino development company came in and tried to strong arm the inhabitants into accepting them with open arms. This story is more character driven, and is about choices, decisions, consequences and fallout. Casey is a wayward son who's returned home. After a 10 year absence, he's back, ready to take on some of the responsibility for his ailing mother (from whom he may have inherited an early age dementia gene) and committed to running the local bar with Duncan (OCD hero of book 2). He's also become good friends with Abilene, one of the bartenders whom he had a crush on, prior to finding out she was pregnant by her ex-boyfriend. She's given birth to a beautiful little girl, and Casey has found himself stepping into the role of male father figure bit by bit. But Abilene's ex is due to get out of jail soon, and it's not sure what his reaction will be to the baby. As well, Abilene herself is keeping other secrets, ones she's afraid will destroy the friendship she and Casey have, as well as the dormant attraction that is starting to resurface. With the town still on edge and questions about the Casino development unanswered, will the relationship Abilene and Casey are starting to build be over before it's even begun? This one had a slow start for me, in part because stories with babies aren't my favourite. It took probably a third of the story for me to really get into the characters and their motivations. Abilene comes across as a bit of an enigma - you see right off the bat that she's very dedicated to her child Mercy but you know that she's not on the up and up with everyone around her and that she's keeping secrets - ones she's worried her ex will spill when he gets out of jail. As a result there is a lot of tension surrounding her and she brings that tension to the people around her by not telling them why she's so concerned about him coming to see her and the baby. Casey comes across as a dedicated and loyal friend, his attraction to Abilene undiminished by her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. If anything, her stint as a mother now, her physical shape, all soft and womanly is even more attractive to him. (And thank you Ms. McKenna for writing a heroine with a shape women can relate to!). Though Casey is quite clear that he's not looking for a marriage or partnership, Abilene isn't above seducing him for her own sexual interests and they share some steamy scenes together. When Abilene's ex James shows up, he's not quite the way Abilene had described him. In fact, I quite liked him as a character, despite the wrongdoings that ended him in jail. I thought it was interesting to take the 'villainous' character and make him into someone with many facets, not all of them bad. In fact, when some of Casey's secrets come to light, one is hard pressed to decide who has done the most wrong. It certainly made for an interesting take on the consequences of one's actions, and how something one might perceive as harmless is anything but. To his credit, Casey works hard to regain the value he used to have in Abilene's eyes when she discovers the truth about his past (and learns that her own past isn't as much of a deal breaker as she thought it would be). Miah is a prominent secondary character in this story, as in the previous two. It's clear that he's got his hands full running the ranch and events transpire that test him to his limits (no spoilers, but the second half of the story is full of some suspense and action scenes). There is a woman introduced to the readers in the latter part of the story, one who could end up being his love interest when he gets his happy ending (hopefully soon!). While this isn't my favourite of the series, it definitely picked up for me and by midway I was fully committed to Casey and Abilene's relationship. 4 stars for another sexy and suspenseful story in the Desert Dogs series!
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