LAY IT DOWN by Cara McKenna
The Dessert Dogs is a new series from Cara McKenna. This is the part where I admit to Lay It Down being my very first Cara McKenna book. McKenna has been on my TBR pile forever and I am so happy I finally got the chance to read her. And what a way to start. The Dessert Dogs series promises to be an excellent one, full of mystery, suspense, danger, and passion. Let’s start at the beginning, the very beginning…the cover. There is a whole lot of pretty on that cover but don’t be mistaken: Lay It Down isn’t a conventional motorcycle club themed book. Yes, you have a group of guys, a small group of friends but a group nonetheless. Yes they ride motorcycles. No, there is not a club. No, there isn’t a hierarchy. No one wears a cut and no, there are definitely no club whores. These folks are life-long friends who grew up in the small, hot, dusty, rock busting town of Fortunity, Nevada.
You have your good guy (Miah), your bad guy (Vince), your loner (Casey) and your tough badass girl (Raina). These four friends have been through it all together and while Casey and Vince are blood brothers, they are all a very tight knit family. Fortunity has a new fancy casino coming to town and it threatens to dismantle the small-town feel the locals have come to love. Eclipse, the big new casino, offers the town an influx of funds it could desperately use but with that sell out comes the loss of the mom-and-pop businesses that have thrived for generations. It’s a tough situation and the lines are clearly drawn between the casino supporters and the nay- sayers. The bad news is, the Eclipse developers might not be on the up and up. The fifth member of the Dessert Dogs from back in their youth is Alex; he is currently the deputy sheriff. Unfortunately he sees some things he can’t un-see while on the construction site and meets an untimely death. Vince is convinced his life long friend did not die the way everyone thinks he did and sets about trying to sort this mystery out.
While Lay It Down gives us insight into each character’s life, past, present and possibly future, this is clearly Vince’s story. Vince is one of the best anti-heroes I’ve ever read. He’s gruff, abrupt, lacks all sense of any social graces, has done time, and is not afraid to bend or straight up break the law when the situation calls for it — but he is also completely and utterly loyal to the people he cares about. Vince is a tough nut to crack but once you get in there, Vince is a safe place to land. Oh, and he’s huge! Well over six feet, he has the muscles of a man who does manual labor all day, dark hair, blue green eyes and tattoos to make you squirm in your seat. He doesn’t smile a lot but when he does, it lights up his entire face. You want Vince on your side; he doesn’t want to show it but he is a really good man.
Vince is convinced that his recently deceased buddy, Alex, needs some homegrown justice. Vince doesn’t have a good feeling about these new developers. Now for the interesting twist in this story: Vince’s mom is suffering from some form of dementia but from time to time, she’s been known, at least by Vince, to see things before they happen. She goes into a trance, has visions of what needs to be done, or what is about to happen, and spouts off cryptic messages for Vince to decipher. It doesn’t happen often, and she never remembers the event but she’s been spot on with her predictions every single time. Vince has kept his mother’s odd and highly disconcerting gift to himself, fearing people will shun her or think he’s crazy for believing her. Vince knows his mom isn’t messing around and he listens closely when she talks; he’s saved at least one life that way. When Vince’s mom slips into a trance when she sees Kim, the photographer hired by the new developers to document the construction process for investors, Vince knows what he has to do.
Kim is fresh off a break up. After losing her mother, her father becomes this over-protective, controlling man who basically tells her how to live and what to feel. Kim finds herself in a relationship with a man very similar to her father and ultimately learns to stand on her own and walks away from it. This weekend job in Fortunity is just the place to clear her head for a bit before she heads home to finish sorting out her life. On the surface, Kim doesn’t look like she belongs in Fortunity, she has outsider stamped all over her pampered and somewhat nerdy body. But much like Vince, you should never judge a book by its cover. When someone or something she cares about is threatened, she is fierce. Kim sees the beauty in the simplicity of Fortunity, and its residents. She joins forces with Vince to get to the bottom of Alex’s death and falls in love with the one person she never thought would catch her eye. Vince makes her feel things she didn’t know were possible, they connect almost immediately even though both of them try to discount it. The sexual tension and the actual sex are mind blowing and as hot and steamy as the sex is, it’s this visceral connection that makes it even hotter.
Vince knows he’s outrun his punt coverage with a brilliant woman like Kim. He might be rough around the edges but he’s not a dumb man, he’s smart enough to not look that gift horse in the mouth. He goes all in: no games and complete honesty with these new found feelings. It’s absolutely out of his comfort zone on more levels than you can imagine. Everyone Vince has ever loved leaves him at some point, especially when things get hard. His father, his brother Casey, even his mother to a certain degree with her dementia. It’s really sad, he’s a good man but his past experiences have taught him to build walls around his heart, he doesn’t open up easily but with Kim, he can’t stop the freight train of feels! Kim can not and will not allow another man to control her. She demands equality in a relationship. Normally this isn’t something a domineering man like Vince could allow but again, his comfort zone is busted all to hell when it comes to Kim. He is hanging on to her with all of his might…and it is beautiful.
Lay It Down does resolve the Alex death mystery with some very interesting twists I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. It also lays the groundwork for future books: Miah and Raina have some unfinished business to contend with, Casey has some explaining to do, and this new guy, Duncan – he might just end up being the new slick Dessert Dog inductee, you never know?!? There’s a lot of sketchy stuff going on with these developers; that casino isn’t even built yet and it’s already shifting the axis of Fortunity.
Scandal reads all things romantic, erotic and paranormal…and Highlanders, never forget the Highlanders! Check out her thoughts on books and her weekly podcast on www.scandaliciousbookreviews.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@ScandaliciousBR) and Tumblr.