Series: THE SHADOW REAPERS
Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance in the Old West
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Berkley Sensation
Reaper's Justice (2/2011)
Isaiah's pack of Reapers lives in a secluded valley surrounded by impenetrable mountains. Supposedly, there is only one way into the valley, and that involves climbing up a tall, steep cliff face and then climbing down through a narrow opening into an underground passageway. McCarty emphasizes the difficulty of entering the valley to draw our attention to how secure it is. Unfortunately, she then adds some details that contradict her portrayal of the difficult valley access. For example, the Reapers have a stable full of horses. Even Rage, Cole's horse, shows up in the valley. How did they get the horses up the cliff face and down the narrow hole in the ground? Late in the story, a gang of bad-guy Reapers attacks Isaiah's compound. How did they get in without being detected by the sentries? These improbabilities are never explained.
Almost as soon as Cole arrives in the compound, he meets Miranda, a scarred and emotionally wounded widow with a young daughter. He soon learns that the two of them were turned out of her house to make room for Cole. Then Cole discovers that they are staying with Clark, a cowardly bully who plans to make Miranda his second wife (the first one is still living). Even though no one likes or trusts Clark, and despite the fact that a number of single men are available for marriage, the Reaper Council is forcing Miranda to marry Clark. This makes absolutely no sense. Additionally, when Cole discovers that Clark has been beating Miranda, he asks some of the Reapers why they haven't stepped in to protect her. The answer he gets is that she didn't ask for help, so they didn't give it. Again, this is unbelievable because the men are otherwise portrayed as being reasonable and caring people.
The love story is an easily predictable battle between Clark and Cole for Miranda's hand in marriage. Clark is such an obvious villain that you know from the beginning that Cole will be the winner. Complicating the story is the fact that Cole is bitten by a rogue Reaper in the first chapter, and the consequences of that bite are life-changing for him. As the story plays out, both Miranda and Cole are faced with major decisions as they fall in love and face an uncertain future.
Although this novel features two interesting main characters, the mythology remains rather muddy. The Reapers know very little about their history and seem to have no control over their futures. In this novel we learn a bit more about their connection with the European werewolves, but not much. Blade, the Reaper enforcer, appears to be the key to learning more about themselves, but Blade keeps his cards close to his chest and gives up tiny bits of information only when it is of some benefit to his own purposes. What we do learn is that the mysterious men who created the Reapers were "a group of opportunists, businessmen as they liked to call themselves….They created us to be assassins and to provide them with…leverage" over their enemies and/or competitors. (p. 212)
McCarty is well known for her erotic love scenes, and this novel is no exception. Cole and Miranda don't consummate their relationship until 2/3 of the way through the book, but from that point on, they spend a lot of time getting it on. If you love erotic paranormal romances in which all the men are dominant, overbearing alphas and all the women are feisty, but submissive in the bedroom, you'll probably enjoy this novel. Click HERE to go to this novel's amazon.com page. Then click on the cover art to read an excerpt.
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 control over their bestial natures, 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—ALL paranormal romance heroines have tragic pasts.) 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 before a gang of Reaper thugs comes to town and attacks Addie. The climax includes a life-changing experience for Addie.