14 August 2015

Trail of Kisses (Hot on the Trail, Book 1)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Someone is trying to kill Lynne Tremaine. After her father sentences two members of The Briscoe Boys gang to death, Judge Tremaine feels he has no choice but to send Lynne to Denver City along the Oregon Trail to live with her Uncle George…against her will. For Lynne, the only thing worse than being sent away to the wild west is making the journey with the handsome, arrogant, wicked man her uncle has hired to escort her. Especially when the anger she feels toward him begins to turn to something hotter. 

Cade Lawson is determined to prove himself to his employer, George Tremaine, after letting him down months earlier. But what he thought would be his second chance may, in fact, be a harsh punishment for his past mistakes. Lynne is headstrong, fiery, and determined to show him she is fearless. She is also beautiful and tempting, and when Cade sees just how afraid she really is underneath her brave act, he may be in danger of losing his heart to her forever. When her would-be killer attacks, it’s all he can do to keep Lynne safe. 

He swore to protect her, but who will protect him from her?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Smashwords, 2014.

How acquired: Received from Badass Marketing for review.

First line: The first glimpse Lynne Tremaine had of the mass of wagons that would take her west was enough to sink her heart.

My thoughts: Our story opens with Lynne Tremaine saying goodbye to her father and joining a wagon train to Denver City, much to her dismay. Judge Tremaine has been receiving threats from the Briscoe Boys in retaliation for hanging two of their members, and he is sending Lynne to stay with her aunt and uncle in an effort to keep her safe. He's hired a young man to drive her wagon, and Uncle George has sent one of his employees, Cade Lawson, to escort her.

Lynne is very independent, very stubborn, very headstrong. Her father calls her his brave girl, and she's determined to live up to that assessment, no matter what. I'll admit that in the beginning, while she's a very likable heroine with an appealing character, I still got a little exasperated with her, thinking her a spoiled idiot who doesn't have the sense to understand the danger she is in, making Cade's job of keeping her safe harder than it should have been. I didn't expect her to be a weak complacent female of her time, taking men's orders and doing as she's told without complaint, but she still seemed to swing too far the other way. However, as the story progressed and I got a little more into her head, I began to look at her in a different light, realizing what motivated her, what shaped her character.

Cade Lawson is also very likable, and very appealing. On a recent assignment he slipped up, and now he feels like a failure and a disappointment to his boss. He's hoping that safely escorting Lynne to her uncle will put him back in the latter's good graces.
He muttered a curse under his breath and swung his horse around to mount. “This is definitely a punishment.”

Cade and Lynne are constantly at odds, and their sparring often made me smile.

Not too long into the trip, it becomes apparent that the Briscoe Boys, or someone working for them, is among the many pioneers on the wagon train:
On top of her things, turned so that it faced her, Lynne found a photograph of her father, splattered with blood.

As the threats become more frequent and more frightening, vulnerability makes it's way into Lynne's personality. By now Cade is smitten with her, and I loved that whenever she gathered her resolve and acted like her old tough nothing-scares-me self it made him grin and his heart would swell a little more for her. As frustrating and recalcitrant as he often found her, it was clear that he preferred her that way over meek and mild.

There's quite a bit of sexual tension between Lynne and Cade, and then suddenly there was actual sex, which was a little jarring at first as up until then the tone of the book felt more...innocent, for lack of a better word. Especially considering the time the characters live in, when proper young ladies did not bed down outside the marriage bed, and where it would be so easy for their traveling companions to suspect, or realize, what's going on. But that's not a complaint – just an observation.

Except...there was one instance that nagged at me. When Cade and Lynn are making love, and Cade tells Lynne “Come for me, sweetheart,” and she moans “Say that again.” That just kind of took me out of the book for a moment, wondering if people actually used the word “come” in this context in 1863, and if a well-bred young woman like Lynne would have ever heard that expression, or understood it's meaning.

I had an inkling of who was behind the threats fairly early on, though several times I thought I might be wrong. But that did nothing to mar my enjoyment of the story. This was a fun, sometimes tense read, and I look forward to continuing the series. 

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