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Set in the post-Civil War American West, this is a Beauty-and-the-Beast-type series, with lovely young women falling for the fierce, barbaric Reapers who lurk on the edges of civilization. Each Reaper is a man who was kidnapped at an early age, injected with a mysterious substance, tortured at length, and turned into a werewolf. The Reapers were used by Them (always capitalized and always in italics) as assassins. If a Reaper completed his horrific assignments well, he was rewarded with drugs that calmed down his monstrous nature and turned him temporarily human. Without the drugs, the inner beast stayed in control. Eventually, the Reapers revolted, killed Them, and set off for the western frontier, where they formed a governing council and set up a code of laws. The bad Reapers are unable to control their inner beasts, so they attack humans and cause various kinds of trouble. The good Reapers have slightly more bestial control, and their mission is protect humans and kill off the bad Reapers. The drugs They used on the Reapers destroyed their earliest human memories, so the Reapers have no recollection of their pre-Reaper lives and no real personal ties with their humanity.
As Reaper's Justice opens, Isaiah, a good Reaper and a council member, visits the home of a human woman he has been watching over for many years, only to find that she has been kidnapped by human bandits. He rescues her and takes her to his shack on a mountain top where she hires him to be her bodyguard and asks him to take her virginity. Adelaide Cameron ("Addie") has a tragic past. (Of course she does.) Some years ago, she watched Indians murder her parents and then spent several years in Indian captivity. Rescued by her cousins, the Cameron brothers, she has tried to make a new life as the town baker. (No real details are provided about Addie's years of Indian captivity. I guess we're expected to intuit that experience from watching old movies like The Searchers. Just pretend that Addie is the Natalie Wood character, Debbie, and that Colt is the John Wayne character, Ethan.) After a few days, Isaiah returns Addie to her home where they have a few days of relative peace, but then a gang of Reaper thugs comes to town and attacks Addie. The climax includes a life-changing experience for Addie.
The silliest part of the story occurs after Isaiah and Addy get back to town. On the day they return, Addie gives him a lesson on how to bake bread, and—Voila!—he immediately turns into a top-notch baker. The man has been living as a reclusive barbarian for decades, has made his home in a stick-and-mud hut, and can barely hold a conversation, but within a day he excels at baking everything from spectacular apple bread to fluffy muffins. I don't think so.
Other characters include Addie's three arrogant cousins: Cole, Reese, and Dane Cameron. Additionally, Blade, one of Isaiah's Reaper acquaintances, makes several appearances, first as one of the bandits and later as one of Addie's rescuers. Besides the obvious conflict in the story, Addie's relationship with her cousins—and particularly with Cole—is a major source of discord. The overly protective Colt feels responsible for Addie's recent kidnapping, and he definitely doesn't want her having anything to do with the monstrous Isaiah.
We never learn the who-what-why-how details of the Reapers' changeover from human to werewolf. Which side of the Civil War were They on? How could They have had such technology in the mid-1800s? Can the Reapers be sure that They were all destroyed?
This is looking to be a somewhat derivative series with growling, snarling heroes and fragile-but-tough heroines. Click HERE to read a G-rated excerpt. Click HERE to read a spicy excerpt.