Review: Lay It Down by Cara McKenna

lay it downReviewed by Carrie

This book was SO not what I had thought it was going to be.  I thought I was getting a MC book in the vein of Joanna Wylde or Madeline Sheehan, but what I got was a murder mystery with a touch of paranormal.  It kept my brain whirring the whole time I was reading, trying to piece together the clues.

Vince Grossier is a lifer in the small desert town of Fortuity, Nevada.  The smarter folks, like his brother, leave town for a shot at a more prosperous life.  Vince has stayed to take care of his ailing mother.  It’s not all bad, he figures. He’s got a legit job down at the quarry that keeps his parole officer off his back and a sweet side gig as the local bookie, which keeps his motorcycles humming pretty.  If it wasn’t for the big money casino development going up, Vince would be very content with life. Then one night out of the blue, his childhood friend and sheriff’s deputy, Alex Dunn, calls him spooked about something weird he sees at the casino worksite.  They agree to meet up at the local bar, but Alex never shows and is discovered dead the next morning.

Vince is convinced that something weird is going down in his town when he runs into Kim Paget, a photographer hired by the company to take pictures of the development progress.  Kim & Vince have sparks flying between them from the get go.  When Kim is included in one of Vince’s mother’s eerie visions, she decides to thrown in with Vince to try to unravel the mystery of Alex and the bones.  The supporting cast, from his best friend Miah to his brother Casey, has been built up beautifully because I want to read about each and every one of them.  It gave me a gothic novel sort of feeling when every person is hiding secrets and readers are only shown the snippets so far.

Vince is a study in contradiction and a perfect example of why good girls fall in with bad boys.  He makes no effort to disguise neither his felonious past nor his present bookmaking side business.   He’s coarse, gruff and brutally honest.  At the same time, Vince is hardworking and incredibly loyal.  He takes care of his family, friends and stray folks that might need a helping hand.  Vince might be bossy with Kim, but by no means is he an alphahole.  It’s the gentleness and respect that threw me for a loop and, ultimately, endeared me to the character.

Kim is far less known.  Her backstory implies that she grew up in a wealthy suburb in Oregon with a controlling father.  Prior to coming to Fortuity, she breaks up with her boyfriend because she is bored to tears with him.  The book blurb describes her ex as “controlling” but I didn’t get that sense.  I felt it was more the case that Kim had been following a vanilla life script handed to her by her father (continued by her ex-boyfriend) when Fortuity and Vince happen.  She seizes this as her opportunity to create a life of her own making.

As I stated previously, I was surprised that the romance took a back seat.  Vince and Kim were good together and I can see them becoming great partners later down the line.  Kim might be uncertain and a bit shaky when it comes to her love life but she has a strong self-confidence.   Vince makes no bones what he wants from her, but there’s a vulnerability that is apparent just under the surface.  At every point in their relationship, he tries to give her an out knowing that Kim doesn’t belong in his dead end town and dead end life.  The sexy times are a bit on the tamer side than what I have come to expect from McKenna.  That’s not bad, just not as wild.  I’ll agree that there is some degree of instalove that was a bit eye-rolling but that is commonplace in suspense books.  Towards the end, Kim is left a bit hanging and I hope that her story continues to play out in later books.

The supporting cast has been built up beautifully because I want to read about each and every one of them.  It gave me a gothic novel sort of feeling when every person is hiding secrets and readers are only shown the snippets so far.

This first book really sets the stage for the whole series.  I think the book ends at a natural stopping point.  However, there are so many little rabbit holes that the author left, the reader has to take it on faith that latter books will reveal their purpose.   I could surely see readers saving up these books for a huge binge because I am chomping at the bit to see what happens next.  It’s been two days since I finished the book and I’m still mulling over scenes in my head.  I highly recommend this book for its original take on a group of bikers in a small desert town who band together to get to the bottom of their friend’s death and discover so much more.

Rating: B+

*ARC courtesy of the author

Click to purchase: Amazon

Lay It Down
by Cara McKenna
Release Date: August 5, 2005
Publisher: Signet Eclipse

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