Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review: Lay It Down (Desert Dogs #1) by Cara McKenna

Series: Desert Dogs #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publication Date: 8/5/14
Format: eARC
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 stars
Backbreaking days, wild nights, and the hard hum of steel between your thighs... 

That’s a life well lived, according to the Desert Dogs—four friends who call Fortuity, Nevada, their badlands home. Vince Grossier is the self-crowned outlaw king around here. But when Fortuity’s slick new mayor invites a shady casino development to town, the invaders’ cutthroat takeover tactics quickly turn deadly. With police turning a suspiciously blind eye, it’s up to the locals to fight back, and Vince is on the front line. The pretty photographer hired by the developers might be the key to infiltrating the enemy. And a temptation too good to pass up.
Finally free of a controlling ex, Kim Paget’s not looking to be taken for a ride—not on the back of some tattooed roughneck’s bike and definitely not in his bed. But when she finds evidence that her bosses are rattlesnake-dangerous, Kim must entrust her safety to the man who threatens danger of a whole different kind.

My Review
No one will be more surprised than me that I did not love Lay It Down. I don't even personally know of another reader who was more anxious to read this book. It's possible that my expectations were too high, but I honestly don't think that's it. As much as I wanted to love this book, I didn't.
Here's why...
Cara McKenna is a master at writing stories with a bit of quirk. It can be that the character has an unexpected kink, personality or occupation. Or they story might revolve around an unusual circumstance. Whatever it is, I go into a McKenna book just knowing there will be some sort of hook that will have me dying of giddy as I read. Lay It Down didn't have that. It was mainstream, which is fine. I'm sure that this novel will find a huge audience for that very reason. But for some reason, deserved or not, I just felt somewhat let down.
Lay It Down is not an MC book. And fine, that doesn't really bother me, and it's not promised in the book description, but.... it's kind of implied. A lot of readers are going to look at that cover and assume. Vince Grossier is a dude who just happens to ride a bike while trying to solve a murder mystery and get into his favorite gal's pants.
Lay It Down read like a cross between a modern-day western and romantic suspense. The story is set in northern Nevada, with the townspeople, led by Vince, dismayed over a casino development. There's a lot of talk about the red dirt and quarries and shafts (not the fun kind). Though it's actually fit the story, it didn't turn my crank. The same for the romantic suspense element. There's an old murder, a new possible murder and bad guys who'll stop at nothing to get their way. The story does not end on a true cliffhanger, but there seems to be a big series arc. I just don't have a lot of luck with the sub-genre.
Something I love about McKenna's other work is her ability to make me believe in a couple, despite impossibilities. I've believed in a hermit alcoholic with a penchant for ropes and his sweet lady love. I've believed in a Parisian male prostitute and his virgin lover. I've always felt that connection. With Kim and Vince, I totally bought the physical, but didn't really understand why exactly they fell in love.
There's an element of magical realism in Lay It Down, and it just didn't work for me. Vince's mom and his brother both have "the sight". They're able to predict the future and it does play an important role in the story, at least on the mom's end. I don't know, it felt unnecessary, to me.
As long as I'm wearing my tightest pair of rantypants, let me just add one more issue. I love the swears. I use the swears a lot in real life. I like to mix things up which means I vary my swears. But geez, it felt like every other sentence started with the word "Goddamn..." I mean, I get it, it's a great swear word but what about the other greats? They were vastly underused. I swear, I got so annoyed that my eye started twitching every time another sentence started with that word.
Okay. I know this review is coming off as pretty negative, but I did like Lay It Down well enough. The main characters were fairly engaging, as were the secondary characters. I'm hoping future books will focus on different leads, particularly Rayna and Vince's brother Case. The story was interesting, it just didn't pull me in. My favorite part, to no one's surprise, was the sex. McKenna is always stellar at the physical interactions between her characters, and Lay It Down was no exception.
So. Do I recommend Lay It Down? I do, but long-time McKenna fans should be prepared for something completely different.

Favorite Quotes
  She spoke to his throat, watching the pulse tick there. "I want you to know, you're the most obnoxious man I've ever met."
  He nodded thoughtfully, looking not at all surprised. "That's why I dialed back my usual wooing tactics."
  "You banged a guy named Vince... Holy shit. That is so awesome. Are you his old lady now? Do you have to get his name tattooed on your cleavage?"
  "He's not in a gang you spaz. Though he is on parole..."
  A pause. Jesus Christ, Kimbo. I don't think I've seen you go through a major breakup before, but when you're in the market for a bad-idea rebound, you do not fuck around."
  "Apparently not."
  "You're my new hero. Tell me everything."

About Cara McKenna
Cara McKennaCara McKenna writes smart erotica—sexy stories with depth. A little dark, a little funny, always emotional. She also writes red-hot romance under the name Meg Maguire. Her wonderful publishers are Ellora's Cave, Harlequin Blaze, Loose-Id, Penguin / Intermix, and Samhain. She loves writing sexy, character-driven stories about strong-willed men and women who keep each other on their toes, and bring one another to their knees.

Cara was a 2010 Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award nominee, and a 2012 Golden Leaf finalist.

Cara is represented by Laura Bradford, of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Before becoming a purveyor of red-hot romance and smart erotica, Cara was a record store bitch, a lousy barista, a decent designer, and an overly enthusiastic penguin handler.

Cara now writes full-time and lives north of Boston with her bearded husband. When she's not trapped in her own head she can usually be found in the kitchen, the coffee shop, or jogging around the nearest duck-filled pond. She is a very proud member of the Romance Writers of America® and her local New England Chapter.


 photo AndreaSig_zps3f75055b.jpg


  1. I totally assumed this was a MC book too. I get that you had issues but still liked it. I've read many boks like that. Great review, Andrea.

  2. I'm not really sure this one is for me, but I love quirk so yay for this! Sorry it wasn't your favorite though. LOL and no! No surprise that you enjoyed the smexy ;)

  3. Great review. I haven't read anything by this author yet, but I've heard great things about Unbound and After Hours. I'm not really into magical realism in my contemporaries either, they just don't go together in my mind. Obviously that's a personal thing. It's a shame this didn't work for you, but I totally get it. I love the swears too, especially from the guys for some reason... And yes, I did assume it was MC from the cover.

  4. Nooooooooooooo!! I just bought this because McKenna = slam dunk. Or so I hoped.

  5. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this. You're the second person I've seen that wasn't impressed. Such a bummer.

  6. *snort* "wearing my tightest pair of rantypants" It must have been the day for it because I felt like I was more ranty than usual with my review today, too! I've only read a couple McKennas but, yeah, the MCs all had some quirk or kink that really made them different, not mainstream, and I appreciated that. Still, chemistry and a hot, shirtless guy on a motorcycle...

  7. Oh no! I'm sad that you didn't enjoy a book from a favorite author of yours. I'm not going to lie, I thought this had a MC too, so if I had picked it up without reading your review, I totally would have expected it to have one. It's a shame that this one wasn't as good as the author's other books.
    Great honest review, Andrea!

  8. I didn't find the synopsis all that interesting to be honest so it's no surprise to me that it wasn't stellar. Sorry it wasn't what you wanted.

  9. Aw man, sounds like very different from what you expected. But glad it was okay in the end and how she makes you believe in the romance

  10. Well goddamn it! Sad you didn't like this goddamn book and their goddamn sight!

  11. I',m so sad that so much of this one didn't work for you :/ I think a lot will think MC for it too which is unfortunate. The cover would have worked better even a year ago when MCs weren't freaking EVERYWHERE.

    Gah yes the goddamn did get way old. I totally forgot to add that as a gripe in mine and remember now when reading it I totally thought about adding it in. That was probably my biggest annoyance.

  12. So sorry you didn't love this one. It always sucks when a book you are really looking forward to let's you down. Thanks for the honest review.

  13. I was bummed over this too, Andrea. I agree with everything you've written here. I thought it was MC book as well, but that wasn't my biggest problem. Like you, I just didn't really get why Vince and Kim had fallen so hard. I felt like CM didn't convince me and I never got a good read on the characters. Everything was a bit too superficial, even the romance. I hope the next one draws us in more. I was a little disappointed that the romance in the next one seems to be between Duncan and Raina instead of Raina and Miah. They're so clearly hung up on each other and I'm all for second chance romances. Excellent review! :)

  14. Bummer... I surely have had the same problem with the issues you pointed out, so I very well understand the disappointment. Anyway, great review and fingers crossed the next McKenna book will work better for you!

  15. Sorry you didn't enjoy this as much. It does seem interesting. I might pick it up later on. Thanks for the honest review, and I like that quote, "she spoke to his throat" :)

  16. Hmm...I was pretty excited about this one, but now I'm kinda not. :/

  17. The cross between modern-day western and romantic suspense has my curiosity piqued. But I'm sorry this wasn't a stellar read for you, Andrea. I know how much you love McKenna. Maybe this one should come with a disclaimer for fans of her other works...

  18. I'm just sad. I wanted this to be better. Now I have to figure out if I can still read it.


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