Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tucker's Claim - Sarah McCarty (HQN - Feb 2011)

Series: Hell's Eight (Book 3)

He is everything her body craves ... and everything her faith denies

Tucker McCade has known violence his whole life: orphaned in a massacre, abused as a "half-breed" child, trained as a ruthless Texas Ranger, he's learned the hard way that might makes right. So even he is shocked when he falls for Sallie Mae Reynolds, a Quaker nurse.

Unable to resist Tucker's charm, character and chiseled body, she throws herself into their torrid affair, indulging every one of her wildest sexual fantasies. Tucker's occupation, however, is the one thing about him she can't embrace. A staunch pacifist, Sallie Mae can't understand how his strong, caressing hand can clench in fury or pull a trigger to take a life. In this lawless land, Tucker knows you have to fight to survive.

But when Sallie Mae becomes pregnant, he's willing to do whatever it takes to have his family -- including hanging up his guns. Every night they spend together exploring new heights of ecstasy binds them ever closer, slowly erasing their differences...until the day Tucker's past comes calling, precipitating an explosive showdown between her faith, his promise and the need for revenge....

Good book, with two storylines. The main one is the romance between Tucker and Sallie Mae, with some inroads into the ongoing mystery of what happened to the Hell's Eight's sister-in-law, Ari. Sallie Mae is a widowed Quaker woman, who has continued her late husband's medical work. The townspeople have no problem using her services, but they also look at her somewhat askance because of her independence. Especially since she has Tucker staying in her barn whenever he's in town. Tucker is a Texas Ranger, which gains him some respect, but he is also half-Indian, which makes him despised and distrusted by most people. 

Tucker and Sallie Mae are drawn to each other despite all logic. Sallie Mae is attracted to his hot body, his occasional charm, and the good man she sees underneath the violent surface. However, his violent lifestyle makes it hard to think of anything permanent with him. Tucker fell hard and fast for Sallie Mae, but knows that because of who and what he is, he can't have her. That doesn't stop him from wanting her, and discovering that she wants him too puts them on a collision course with trouble.

I really enjoyed the development of the relationship. It starts out with the decision to indulge in a single night together, but neither is satisfied with that. They easily slip into being together whenever possible. The passion between them is incredible, though I have to admit that some of their activities were not to my taste. Both find themselves wishing for more than just an affair. But Sallie Mae can't reconcile her beliefs and his lifestyle choices, and Tucker just doesn't believe that there is any way for them to be together.

I liked Sallie Mae but she also frustrated me. In a time period when you did not associate with anyone bearing Indian blood, she is completely without prejudice. She believes that everyone is one of God's children. I liked the way that she saw his honor, his kindness and his gentleness. But I also had a problem with the way she was so fixated on the violence. He is a Ranger, so it isn't that he has a whole lot of choice in what he does. He is very protective of those he cares about, and he will do anything to keep them safe. As they got closer, she does begin to soften her stance a little, asking him to try. I also thought she was rather naive about her own safety around the men of the town, until it was almost too late.

I really liked Tucker. He is a man with a pretty deep sense of honor, though most people don't look past his Indian blood to see it. His relationship with his family is close, as they have been there for each other since their families were killed. He has fallen hard for Sallie Mae, but because of who he is he does his best to protect her reputation. I loved seeing how tender and gentle he could be when he wanted to, but also pretty forceful when he was trying to get her to see things his way. 

When Sallie Mae ended up pregnant (not really a surprise), I loved that Tucker was immediately ready to take the next step. However, he is also well aware of the danger once it becomes known that she is pregnant with his child. I loved his determination to marry immediately and take her back to his home. It was at this point that Sallie Mae's insecurities became more visible, as she worried about finding her own place in his world.

On their way to Hell's Eight, they run into trouble related to the search for Ari, as their group is attacked. The attackers believe that Sallie Mae is either Desi or Ari and are determined to capture her. There are some intense moments as she tries to protect the others and nearly gets herself killed in the process. She learns something about her own capabilities which in turn opens her eyes more to Tucker's life. Then a crisis at Hell's Eight brings out her strengths, though not without some rather amusing confrontations with other members of the family. I loved the ending and seeing how they were figuring out the best way to make their beliefs work together.

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