Cara McKenna is back with her second book in the Desert Dogs series set in the small desert town of Fortuity, Nevada. The murder of a childhood friend has brought the self-named Desert Dogs back together to figure out what is going on in their small town ever since a casino developer burst onto the scene. Just as they uncover one secret, ten more pop up.
Duncan Welch, the PR shark for the casino development and once-hated enemy, had bought himself a bit of good will when he helped the Dogs discover who was behind their friend’s death. As criminal charges start flying around the town, Duncan finds himself accused of taking bribes. This offends the very essence of this staid and straight-laced man who soon finds himself out of a job, confined to a town he hates and subject to increasing violence from the locals. All the added pressure has Duncan, not a mentally healthy individual to start with, coming apart at the seams.
Raina Harper has been intrigued and repelled by Duncan ever since he first walked into her bar. Initially, his handsome face and dapper dress was cancelled out by a cold and snobby attitude. Raina continued to observe Duncan when he came in for drinks and began to notice that things were happening to the man beneath the surface. A close call with some locals out for blood and a dangerous night of mixing pills and booze sends Duncan spiraling. Raina notices it all and lets her curiosity, and infatuation, get the best of her when she practically demands that Duncan come stay with her.
Raina thinks she can scratch a bedroom itch that has been niggling her since Duncan came to town, at the same time repaying him for his efforts helping out her crew. Duncan knows that he won’t be able to hide his compulsions from Raina when living with her, but also realizes that he needs someone else to stop him from spinning out of control. Raina is captivated when she realizes that there’s a very vulnerable man beneath the slick exterior and very scared of feeling an attachment as Duncan latches onto her as a lifeline.
Duncan and Raina are both very independent and standoffish individuals. There were no warm fuzzies from this couple, even when they are in bed together. Duncan has carefully created his persona as a result of his rough childhood in the foster system. Unfortunately, that strong need for control also manifests itself in OCD compulsions and panic attacks. Raina pokes a bit of fun at his issues but not in a mean way. She empathizes with the need to have control because of some of her own experiences and thus begins to appreciate Duncan needing her. They both don’t want to be beholden to anyone for their needs. While Raina retains this sensibility throughout the story, Duncan completely breaks down to a needy mess. Raina liked to be the one to put him back together. I felt like it made the relationship very one-sided. Duncan was all in with Raina but she was pretty ambivalent about him. I liked them individually (and I didn’t think that would happen with Duncan based on his character in the first book) but I never got them as a couple.
This is mainly a character-driven story where the action doesn’t really start moving until the 80% mark, but when it does, it’s very exciting. Raina and Duncan may not have worked for me as a couple but I enjoyed their interactions with everyone else, especially the blossoming bromance with Duncan and Casey. One part of the mystery of the bones is wrapped up but the author dropped some subtle clues as to the doozies waiting just around the corner. I think this series needs to be read in order to understand the plot and relationships. I would give this a C for romance but a B+ for the suspense. I’m very much looking forward to that charming grifter, Casey’s, story up next.
*ARC courtesy of Signet
Click to purchase: Amazon
Give It All
by Cara McKenna
Release Date: February 3, 2015