BEAUTY AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Once Upon a Time in the West #1)

beauty bounty

Publisher’s Blurb:

Love and revenge both come at a price.

Cathleen Chase is no killer—but as Cat O’Banyon, she is a ruthless bounty hunter who always gets her man. Catching one lowlife after another, she continues her search for the only man she really cares to locate. The one whose voice she will never forget; the man who murdered her husband. She’ll stop at nothing to find him.

Con artist Alexi Romanov taught Cat every trick she knows. He is a master of deceit, disguise, and desire. He’s difficult to trust, and even more difficult to resist, but he has news she can’t ignore. The man she’s after has placed a bounty on her head. To get him before he gets her, she’ll have to team up with Alexi again…and just like before, the two of them together are nothing but trouble.

RHFL Classifications:

Historical Romance

American West

Heat Level:  3 = moderate, non-explicit

Review Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q:

I have found a new series and a new author to love! I was hooked from the very first scene, where Cat, a grieving widow-cum-bounty hunter disguised as a prostitute, wrangles yet another outlaw in her effort to track down the man who murdered her husband, a man whose face she’s never seen, but whose voice haunts her. But an unexpected wrench is thrown into her plans in the form of Alexi Romanov, the con-man Cat stumbled upon when she was most vulnerable, who showed her how to escape from her pain by losing herself in the art of the dodge, and whose bed she left in the middle of the night one year ago without ever looking back.

But Alexi has been looking back. He can’t forget the one woman to get under his skin and leave him wanting more. As much as he’d like to revel in reacquainting himself with all of Cat’s charms, he’s come with a very serious purpose. Someone has put a bounty on Cat’s head, and he’s no longer content to track Cat’s activities from afar. He would like nothing more than to throw her over his shoulder and carry her to safety, but he knows that’s the surest way to ensure Cat does the exact opposite of what he wants her to do. So instead he sets up a dodge to lure her back into his life, back into teaming up with him, and back into his bed. Cat’s not best pleased, but the hunter has become the hunted, and she’s not likely to last long without an ally. Together with their bodyguard Mikhail, Cat and Alexi hit the trail–Cat determined to track down the man who ruined her life and put a price on her head, no matter the cost–and Alexi determined to keep her safe from the bounty hunters and from herself, even if he has to con her in the process.

From Abilene to St. Louis to Denver, Cat and Alexi dance around each other, falling back into the intuitive partnership that made them such successful cons, but each holding on to their own agendas. But this time they both find themselves wanting more, yet reluctant to trust in each other’s feelings and intentions. In a relationship forged in deception, can they put aside their vulnerabilities and overcome the tragedies in their pasts to grasp for a future together? With every gunslinger in the West hunting for Cat O’Banyan, and Cat O’Banyan closing in on a face-off with the most dangerous of them all, they might not live long enough to find out.

The story takes place in 1870, when the American West was becoming more connected via railroads and telegraph wires, but was still full of isolated hiding places and lawless towns; and during a time when many disillusioned Civil War veterans were heading west, some running from the past, some seeking new beginnings. In a land where life was hard, temptations were many, and violence was rampant, Ms. Austin does a fabulous job of creating an atmosphere of contradictions: of wariness and wonder, resignation and hopefulness. And she has created two unique and memorable characters in Cat and Alexi. They are two scarred souls who have spent the past years of their lives pretending to be other people so much that they don’t know how to be themselves anymore, but the closest they come to it is with each other. Their histories are slowly teased out in a sexy story that had me burning through the pages. Evocative historical setting, great characters, punchy dialogue, wry humor, and a poignant storyline with plenty of danger and action to go along with the emotional angst–it all adds up to a very satisfying Western romance, and one that stands out from the crowd. I’ve already added the forthcoming second in the series to my list!

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