Dr. Presley Baskin has always lived a quiet, calm life. Unfortunately, nothing about her life in Loveless, Texas — especially not the wild, rowdy, and impossibly close-knit Lawton family who’ve claimed her — is quiet or calm. Which is how loner Presley finds herself roped into patching up local bad boy Shot Caldwell against her better judgment. Presley wants nothing to do with the dangerous, brooding leader of the local outlaw motorcycle club. But when someone starts stalking her, Shot is the only person she trusts to help. Plus he owes her one . . .
Palmer ‘Shot’ Caldwell has always known his life isn’t made for relationships. At least until shy, secretive, Presley reluctantly pulled a bullet out of him. He’s oddly protective of the pretty doctor, so when she comes to him for help, hard-hearted Shot suddenly realizes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.
I have not read a motorcycle club romance in a few years, so I was curious how this one would go. On the one hand, it was fairly easy to familiarize myself with the various family and friends of both of the main characters, and the plot and its conflict did not rely heavily on events in earlier books. On the other hand, the way mental illness is used in this book left me troubled after I finished it, which is why I delayed writing a review for this book. I’m also ethically uncomfortable with how a medical examiner is in a long-term relationship with the president of a motorcycle club by the end of the book, and this is clearly not a cuddly motorcycle club (like Rhenna Morgan’s Men of Haven). Presley is the medical examiner in the novel, and Palmer “Shot” is the motorcycle club president. Presley’s growth is perhaps best seen in how she stops retreating from good things in her life as the book progresses–she also stops retreating from bad things, which maybe isn’t a great development. Shot is more difficult to explain, partly because it felt as though he already knew he loved Presley from the beginning of the book, based on the little inner asides in his voice scattered throughout the book; his character arc is that he is willing to commit to Presley and express his feelings verbally. I wasn’t necessarily satisfied by these arcs, or the general plot.
The book starts off with Presley’s first encounter with Shot. It is dramatic and potentially unethical, depending on how medical examiner ethics work. Presley is in an emotionally difficult place; her mom recently died under suspicious circumstances, her best friend turns out not to be the person Presley believed her to be, thus throwing everything else in her life into a spiral, including her professional reputation. Presley’s friend is mentally ill and has fixated on Presley, and by extension anyone close to Presley in a rather violent and destructive manner. Presley is understandably panicking about this, especially because she also learned that she has siblings she didn’t know of before. So, she meets Shot in all of this and he is able to break through her shell of fear and responsibility and convince her that she needs to keep living her life. And eventually, that is what Presley does, including getting down with Shot, and helping him out of dangerous situations involving wounds. Presley also gets closer to her newly discovered family, and I appreciated seeing them all interact in various scenes.
I have a couple of issues with the whole medical examiner bit. I’m not sure how ethics for medical examiners work, but I am fairly sure that dating someone who is committing crimes and helping them medically are not acceptable things for a medical examiner to do. I could be wrong–you can do a lot of questionable things as a lawyer without breeching the ethics code. But the question kept niggling at me as I read this book. Secondly, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with a medical examiner providing medical care–like performing minor surgery, as opposed to a doctor that works on living people–even if it is a paramedic or some kind of army medic. I am also not clear on why Shot was able to persuade Presley to move forward with her life. He is just as much of a stranger to Presley as her newfound family.
Shot is your typical motorcycle club main character–not very outwardly emotional, willing to do slightly creepy things to keep the love interest safe, and not willing to commit to a long-term relationship at first. There was a lot of macho posturing between Shot and Presley’s brother, which I was not super thrilled about. Presley’s brother is the sheriff in the small town where the book is set. Outside of the threat posed by Presley’s former friend, the major conflict is centered around what Shot and Presley’s brother do to try and keep Presley safe, and that they don’t let Presley in on the details of their plans. This, on top of the no-relationship thing Presley and Shot are trying to pull off–unsuccessfully–is what causes the big conflict scene towards the end of the book. Never fear, Shot is able to grovel sufficiently, and that part held up because Shot admitted that keeping Presley out of the loop was not the greatest thing he had ever done.
We only know that Presley’s former friend has some kind of mental illness because of what Presley tells us/tells Shot. We never actually see her without that lens on, or in a way that would make her choices make sense somehow. I know it is somewhat silly of me to complain that the villain was not believable, given the strange times we’re living in, but here I am, complaining. I am also deeply uncomfortable with the villain’s bad actions being ascribed to a mental disorder, and not something as seemingly simple as raging jealousy. Toborrow from a recent piece by S.e. Smith, a mential disorder can’t be the excuse for someone’s actions.
For all these reasons, I finished the book in a weird emotional place, and had to take time to figure out how I felt about it. Hence, the C grade.
You can buy a copy here.