Saturday, November 10, 2007
Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty
When I was younger, I used to create stories in my mind as I tried to fall asleep at night. The tales in my head featured heroines who were vulnerable yet strong, heros who were tender yet forceful and love scenes that were lush and unhurried (and quite explicit). While my hazy fairytales had a larger plot to give the love story a context, the focus was always on the relationship and how that relationship developed through physical and emotional intimacy.
I think that in many ways, my romance reading has always been something of a quest to find those inner stories reflected on paper. To have those vague plots and emotions come to life through the talent of someone who has the gift of storytelling more than I can ever hope to. While I've read many romance novels, it's been the rare case that I've run across one that really matches my expectations, allows me to relax into the story and to surrender myself to the journey that the author is creating for the central characters. Sarah McCarty's Caine's Reckoning is one of those rare books.
Caine Allen is a hard man who has seen a lot of death and destruction. Desi is a woman who has been to hell and come through with her spirit intact. In order to rescue her from her enemies, a hasty marriage is arranged. These two relative strangers are now put in the position of living together and learning how to trust one another. Sure, this marriage-to-save-the-heroine plot has been done before, but in McCarty's hands, the promise of the unique opportunity for relationship building in intimate ways is actually realized. Caine is a persistent man and remarkably astute about Desi's emotional and physical scars. He helps her work through her inner demons and never lets her hide her reactions. Although he's dominant and possessive, he's not aggressive or arrogant. Desi too is a strong personality, but she's also very vulnerable. Her past experiences with men have taught her only to mistrust and fear them. But even through her fear, she stands up for herself and shows amazing courage. Part of her journey of learning to trust her husband involves her learning to love herself and to trust her own emotions.
McCarty does an excellent job in drawing not only the inner motivations of both Caine and Desi, but also in using sexual intimacy between them to show the internal growth they are both taking towards each other. The love scenes in this book are blistering, make no mistake, but they never feel gratuitous. I've said before and will repeat here, what I've always enjoyed about McCarty's writing is that she manages to strike that fine balance between erotic romance and romantic erotica. For my money, she's one of the best out there writing these kinds of books and Caine's Reckoning is her best yet. I can't wait to reread this book and to take the journey again.