Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A BANDIT'S STOLEN HEART by Michelle McLean

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Released April 1, 2013

Blurb: 

Under the persona of the bandit Blood Blade, Cilla Richardson robs from the corrupt and gives to the poor. When an accidental kidnapping leaves her with a handsome captive named Leo Forrester, Cilla finds she has the perfect ally at her side to aid in the fight against the town’s corrupt sheriff. 

Leo reluctantly agrees to help by marrying Cilla’s older sister but the more time he spends with Cilla, the more determined Leo is to steal her stubborn bandit’s heart. However, Cilla is just as determined to keep her heart to herself. Then innocent people are murdered, and the sheriff blames Blood Blade. With their allies now their enemies, Leo and Cilla must convince the town of her innocence before she ends up on the wrong end of a hangman’s noose.





Afterglow:
One word can pretty much sum up Michelle McLean's latest offering: Exciting.

How else do you describe a book with a train chase, Robin Hood-esque sister bandits, bounty hunters, brazen cattle theft, an evil sheriff, fire, murder, a forgotten mine, and a good old fashioned lynching? 

I finished it in one night, up until 2am. Where To Trust A Thief  (Afterglow review here) brought me back to regency romance, A Bandit's Stolen Heart made me want to pick up another western immediately after. Michelle uses expert characterization and rich setting together to root the reader firmly in the ground of her story. To Trust A Thief  rooted me in Victorian times, and A Bandit's Stolen Heart rooted me in the Wild West. I thoroughly enjoyed both rides, though they are vastly different stories. 

The only similarity is the spunkiness of the characters. I don't think Michelle has it in her to write a boring character, which is fine by me! Cilla became the breadwinner of her family (at least in her own mind) at the ripe old age of sixteen. Her devotion to her family, her sense of guilt and duty to help a town besieged by her half-brother the sheriff, and her insistence on doing everything by herself made Cilla a heroine to cheer. 

The colorful language had me stopping every few pages to share an excerpt with my husband, even though he was doing some reading of his own and this must have been kind of annoying. I couldn't help myself. Writing this good, writing this fun, was meant to be shared. From paragraph one, page one, my relationship with Cilla--and with her horse Maynard--was cemented as one of respect and amused appreciation. The opening scene is a Blood Blade bandit jewelry heist from a moving carriage. And the driver turns out to be kind of a key player in Cilla's/Blood Blade's life (understatement). 

It is one hell of a meet-cute

Leo came to town looking for his missing brother, but instead found the butt of a gun to his head. To his incredible credit, he still chooses to be noble to his captors when he sees the unrestrained evil they're dealing with in the sheriff (this is no spoiler, as you can learn as much from the goodreads blurb). He is like Cilla in many ways, which is part of what makes their lumpy, broken road romance so fun and infuriating as they insist on misreading each other and at times out-martyring each other. I had to cheer when I realized Cilla was as determined to rescue Leo as Leo was to rescue Cilla. No wilting damsel here.

Then there is the swearing. Something about cowboys swearing is rather endearing, but when Cilla does it, it's just downright hilarious. I loved that each of the Richardson sisters has a fiery temper all her own, though the oldest, Brynne, has the ability to moderate herself. At different points in the story, all three sisters have an opportunity to showcase their stubbornness, whether it's in loyalty, personal determination, or pride. You just gotta love spunk, especially when it comes in threes. 

Even better, this is a planned trilogy, a book for each Blood Blade Sister:

The Blood Blade Sisters trilogy (Entangled Scandalous 2013) - 
In a time when women are supposed to be seen and not heard, the Richardson sisters go to criminal lengths to take control of their own destinies.

This historical romance series will follow Cilla, Brynne, and Lucy Richardson, three sisters in post-Gold Rush California who become “Robin Hoods of the West” in order to right the wrongs committed by their corrupt brother against the townspeople and themselves. When their identity is discovered and they are framed for murder, the sisters must cut a deal with one of their victims, a man who may just prove to be their savior – and the love of Cilla’s life.

Each book will follow a different sister - Book One will introduce the sisters and their bandit ways with Cilla being front and center. Book Two will follow Brynne, while Book Three will tell Lucy's story. 

I'm looking forward to the stories of Brynne and Lucy in Books 2 and 3, though it was with the customary sadness of goodbyes that I turned the last page on Cilla's and Leo's story. I came to love them for the ridiculously feisty, family-loyal martyrs they are. 

If you haven't read a western in a while, this is the one you want to dive back in. If you haven't ever read a western, start with the Blood Blade Sisters trilogy. It'll be fun!


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Disclaimer: author is an Afterglow contributor and provided this reviewer with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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