Elizabeth Coyote is an enigma. Her father treated her like the son he never had, making for a rough upbringing for a girl, but after attending a fancy finishing school back East, she knows how to behave like a proper lady. Elizabeth promised her father before he died that she would keep the family ranch going, but as a woman in a man's world, she's having a hard time of it. The ranch hands resent taking orders from a woman, the foreman can't keep his hands off her, and rustlers and other ne'er-do-wells have nearly bankrupted her operation. Elizabeth will do anything to keep her ranch, even if it means marrying a stranger so that she'll have a man to help her run things, but the first guy she "hitched her wagon to" turned out to be anything but the gentleman she thought he was. After blacking her eye on their wedding night and stealing all the money from her bank account to gamble, the scoundrel finds himself at the wrong end of a gun that Elizabeth is holding. She demands an annulment and her money back, then boldly offers herself to the gunslinger in the corner based solely on his reputation as a decent man who can also strike fear into the hearts of other men.
The minute Elizabeth walked into the saloon, Asa MacIntyre was intrigued. When she pulled a gun on her errant "husband" he was amused, but when she proposed marriage to him in exchange for her ranch, he was downright shocked. Asa had a rough childhood of his own, and all he's ever wanted is a place to belong. He's long dreamed of marrying a lady and having a nice spread of his own, so Elizabeth's offer is the answer to his prayers. Marriage to a proper lady like her and ownership of her ranch will finally give him the respectability he's craved all his life. Once he's hitched to Elizabeth, Asa has no intention of straying from his pretty new wife, but darned if she isn't an uptight little thing. He's going to have lots of fun persuading this prim, sweet beauty to unleash her wild side, while also vowing to do everything in his power to protect her and save her ranch.
While many erotic romance authors seem to fall into the trap of sacrificing story for sex, Sarah McCarty is one of the few who knows how to balance an engaging plot with great character development and scorching hot love scenes to create a beautiful story that's a pleasure to read. It is because of this deft combination that Ms. McCarty has become my current favorite erotic romance author and one of my overall favorite authors too. I had previously read and enjoyed some of her Hell's Eight novels. Promises Linger was my first read from her Promises series, and I'm pleased to say that it is her best book that I've read so far. I adored the characters, the plot was well-developed, and the love scenes were smokin'. What more could a romance lover ask for?;-)
When the story opens, Elizabeth marches into the saloon and stands down her "husband" of only one day who stole her money and gave her a black eye. It was absolutely adorable how she was trying to maintain the prim and proper comportment she'd learned at her fancy finishing school back East while holding the man at gunpoint. Throughout the story this dichotomy comes into play frequently, and I loved the delicate balancing act that she performs between trying to be a perfect lady and reluctantly learning to embrace her naturally wild tendencies. Once she dispenses with the evil ex, she immediately offers herself and her ranch to Asa MacIntyre, a man she knows only by his reputation. Having been misinformed at her finishing school, Elizabeth thinks the marriage bed is nothing more than a duty and experiences extreme virginal jitters on her wedding night, but Asa was infinitely patient with her, trying to seduce her little by little. When she still wouldn't warm up to him and he was about ready to leave, not wanting to force the issue, she tells herself she needs to do it to keep him and to save her ranch. At that point, she takes matters in hand, doing something that surprises the heck out of him. Things didn't exactly go the way Asa had planned, but lucky for her, he's an incredibly generous lover who showed her what she was missing the next morning, and the way she responds is just too cute. On the outside, Elizabeth may be starched and buttoned up, always trying to maintain a steel grip of control, but inside, she's fiery and passionate. Lucky girl that she is, Asa is just the man to help her loosen up. Having been treated by her father like the son he never had, Elizabeth is unused to any softness in her life. She is wary of men, thinking that they all like to hit and treat women badly, so sadly, the gentleness and consideration that Asa shows her is a completely foreign concept to her. He constantly makes her feel off balance, like she never knows where she stands with him. Elizabeth may know how to behave like a gently bred lady, but Asa teaches her what it means to be a woman in more ways than one.
[Sigh] Asa is just to yummy for words. The man totally had me drooling for him and has more than earned a spot on my favorite romance heroes list. He may have had a rough upbringing, but he definitely knows how to treat a lady right. All he's ever wanted in life was a place to belong, a nice spread to call his own, and a wife to love and share it with. When Elizabeth offers her proposition, it's like all his dreams have come true in one fell swoop. Asa is immediately drawn to her spunky nature and understated beauty. In fact, he not only respects her feistiness, but finds it amusing. Asa is oh so sexy and just the kind of alpha hero I love. He positively oozes confidence and control and knows how to be dominating without being a jerk. He's the kind of alpha who gets his way through gentle persuasion rather than arrogantly imposing his will on others, namely Elizabeth. If anything, he's rather laid back but is very protective of anyone or anything he deems "his," and yet underneath he has a tender heart of gold. He's the type of man who understands how to use his own self-assurance to build a woman up, not tear her down. I love how Asa is protective of Elizabeth, not just physically, but also of her battered heart and psyche. He won't stand for anyone, not even someone she considers a friend, putting her down or causing her even the slightest bit of pain. Asa is also very intelligent and intuitive, reading between the lines of the things Elizabeth says (and doesn't say), as well as interpreting her moods and emotions to understand what she's really thinking. It was so sweet how Asa cleverly made Elizabeth think he was in control in an effort to put her at ease, when in a sense he was really giving her the reins. One example was when he told her that a man needed to be warmed up to enjoy love-making, so she wouldn't rush it. That scene was just too cute. I also adored the way he gently teased Elizabeth even though she didn't understand it at first. Asa was simply one of those scrumptious, devil-may-care cowboys who gives his all to the woman he loves and treats her like a precious jewel, and I absolutely loved him for it.
Promises Linger introduces a few key supporting players who become main characters in future books of the series. Cougar was another of those sexy, laid-back cowboys who definitely intrigues me. He's a half-breed who apparently has a reputation as being a rough, tough cowpoke on the outside, but inside has the heart of a romantic and believes in true love. Unfortunately, he's smitten with a woman who can't stand him and only wants his money. I'll be looking forward to reading his story, Promises Keep, which is the next in the series, and seeing him get his HEA with a woman who can appreciate him more. There is also Clint, one of the ranch hands on the Rocking C. He helps watch out for Elizabeth and we get a hint that he may have a thing for a woman Elizabeth has occasionally been helping. That lady, Jenna, is mentioned in the background of this book as dealing with a hard-drinking, abusive husband. Clint and Jenna become the hero and heroine of book #3, Promises Reveal.
Overall, Promises Linger was a wonderful read. It had all the things that make a romance enjoyable to me: a to-die-for hero, a spunky but emotionally damaged heroine, likable secondary characters, a tender story that tugs at the heartstrings, and steamy but tasteful love scenes. Need I say more?;-) It definitely has me eager to continue the Promises series, as well as get back to Hell's Eight and pick up more of Sarah McCarty's other works too.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal sex, which may offend some readers.
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