I admit it. I’ve become a little obsessed with cowboys. I’m a diehard Dallas fan from the 80’s and when TNT launched the new Dallas this season with some of the original actors from the past I was squealing with joy. Move over J.R. Ewing, John Ross is the cowboy to be reckoned with now. He’s sexy, devious like his daddy and fills out a fine set of Wranglers. With that being said, I have also found a new love for hot cowboy romance books and when I saw the cover of Undeniable and read the blurb I immediately knew I had to give Alison Kent’s new series a try.
“Sometimes we need the distance to see things clearly.”
Dax Campbell, Boone Mitchell and Casper Jayne are Crow Hill’s notorious misfits known as “The Dalton Gang”. Estranged from his parents, Dax left sixteen years ago, determined to live a vagabond life of a cowboy instead of honoring his father’s insistent wish of becoming a lawyer like all the Campbell men. Now, Dax, Boone and Casper have returned home to claim the ranch left to them by Dave and Tess Dalton. The Dalton’s opened their hearts and home to the three men as teenagers to give them structure and a sense of belonging that they did not receive from their own parents. The men have close bond and are loyal to each other despite their reputation as being wild and untamable. Their inheritance is both a blessing and a curse given the current drought in Crow Hill and the lack of financial income. But all three men have a strong commitment to the Dalton’s legacy and are determined to try and save what’s left of the failing ranch.
Sexy, self-sufficient, Arwen Poole was born and raised in Crow Hill. She learned to take care of herself at a young age after her mother’s death resulted in her father’s debilitating grief and eventually the town drunk. Arwen is now the owner of the Hellcat Saloon which is the hottest spot in town for great food and dancing on the bar entertainment. (Coyote Ugly style.) Arwen attended high school with the Dalton Gang back in the day and always had a secret crush on Dax even though he never looked twice at her. Now that Dax is back, her crush has evolved to lust and Arwen is determine to scratch the itch and get him out of her system once and for all.
“The man she’d swore to work out of her system was taking her apart.”
I’m a sucker for the emotionally tortured hero and not all readers are. Although Dax portrays a cocky, somewhat arrogant attitude on the outside, inside he struggles greatly with his own self worth battling the demons that come with his family name. He has a short fuse when it comes to his family and at times comes across as a real ass. What Dax finds with Arwen is pleasure, no pressure and common ground with no expectations. What he has yet to realize is how Arwen grounds him emotionally. There is one pivotal scene in the story where Dax is literally stripped raw over news regarding his father and in turn takes it out on Arwen. His torment is palpable and so is Arwen’s witnessing him literally breakdown as a result of hurt and pain he has buried for years. Realizing he could only find relief physically with her, she submits to his anger and desperate need. In the aftermath of emotional and volatile sex, she is glad and has no regrets. For me, the scene was authentic to Dax’s character and took the relationship to a level beyond the physical in the aftermath. It further proved that Arwen is the backbone of their relationship and had me questioning if Dax could ever rise to an equal level in order to be what Arwen needed in the end.
“This was sex. Nothing else. Yet the look in his eyes told the truth of the tale. He’d come here looking for something he needed. Something he couldn’t find anywhere else, get from anyone else, and that responsibility weighed on her too heavily.”
First, let me confirm that Alison Kent’s story of the residents of Crow Hill is every bit as HOT as the smoking hot book cover. I’m talking sizzling, ride’ em cowboy hot goodness and by page 24 I wondered if I needed to drink or soak myself in ice water. Both Dax and Arwen are strong characters from dysfunctional families determined to push intimacy and vulnerability aside for raw, no strings sex. No matter what kind of sex you are looking for, they have it covered; angry sex, voyeuristic sex; selfish, starving, all consuming sex. Ms. Kent’s descriptive nature of Arwen and Dax’s uninhibited desire for each other was achingly exhilarating. Furthermore, I commend Ms. Kent for going against the norm and providing two memorable scenes where Dax took sexual pleasure and release before Arwen. The majority of writers focus on the woman being completely sated before the man lets go so it was refreshing to see the complete opposite with this couple. Arwen gave so much of herself not only physically but also emotionally in those scenes and it really revealed the essence of her character. Furthermore, it was just damn hot witnessing Dax lose control in the moment and validated how intense their connection was even beyond the physical.
“She liked this Dax. Helpless Dax. Dax surrendered. Dax unable to fight her or the demons possessing him. She wanted more of this Dax. She loved this Dax, and he would know exactly how much before leaving her bed. He needed to know. His knowing gave her the power to convince him this was where he belonged. With her. To her. Without her he would never be who he was meant to be.”
The issues both Dax and Arwen faced with their families were not all resolved in the end and I appreciated that Ms. Kent did not feel the need to tie up all the secondary relationships to the main characters in a neat little bow. What she did provide was emotional healing and awakening for both Dax and Arwen that allowed them to take a chance on their feelings for each other.
The secondary story of Dax’s sister, Darcy and her budding relationship with longtime crush, Josh Lasko was just as engaging as the main couple. Josh was tender, commanding yet sweet and he was a great pairing to Darcy who has spent her entire life as a people pleaser to her family. I enjoyed their story as much as I did Dax and Arwen’s and desperately wanted them both to have a much deserved HEA.
“She wanted to stay here, to live here, to wake up and have this be her world. Josh and his mouth and his hands that made everything better. Even at the end of the day he smelled like sunshine and fresh air and he centered her, kept her from coming undone.”
This was my first novel by Alison Kent and I am excited by not only the erotic heat she ignites in her characters but her ability to tell an emotionally, riveting story of the character’s and their lives in the Texas town of Crow Hill. Undeniable is an excellent start to the Dalton Gang series and I look forward to Casper’s story, Unbreakable, releasing in 2013.
“It’s a stiff rod with a knob on top. I think I can handle it.”