Review: Stealing West by Jamie Craig

Stealing West Leon Stroud is wanted for robbery and a murder he didn’t commit. On the run to California with his partner-in-crime, Kenneth, he spots the relentless bounty hunter, Thomas Grady, on the train. The only way to protect Kenneth is to create a distraction, and that’s what Leon does when he flees the train at the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He forces Thomas to chase him, but nothing can prepare him for what it means to be caught. Thomas Grady always gets his man, and Leon Stroud is no exception to that rule. But almost from the moment Thomas touches Leon, he wants the outlaw for something besides his bounty. Driven by desire he doesn’t understand, Thomas repeatedly claims Leon’s body on the long journey from Soda Springs to San Francisco—and Leon only begs for more. An even bigger threat, with a larger bounty, could be the very thing they need to drive them together...or tear them apart.


This is exactly how you want your old school westerns to be, just a million times better because of the absolutely off the charts heat between Leon and Thomas, the two MC’s in Stealing West. This book has it all, good guys doing bad things and bad guys doing good things, the morality line is a little more skewed by the need to survive in the old west while being on the run from the law.

This is actually a sequel to Stealing Northe, the story of Leon and his partner Kenneth and how Leon came to be on his own. Stealing West can be read as a standalone. There is enough background given, you won’t be lost for not having read the first installment of the Stealing series. Stealing West starts out with Leon, Kenneth, Kenneth’s new wife Amy and her son Woody on a train bound for Salinas. There is a bounty on Leon and Kenneth and Kenneth’s only goals are to keep Amy and Woody safe and to start on a new life living the straight and narrow. Leon and Kenneth had been partners for years, in many ways and Kenneth looked to Leon for direction and comfort throughout all their adventures. Now that Kenneth has a family of his own, Leon can’t help but feel like an outsider and it’s heartbreaking to see the brave face that Leon puts on in front of his friend.

Leon decides to go for a walk through the train to clear his head and stretch his wounded ankle when he locks eyes with Thomas Grady, a bounty hunter who always gets his man. Leon can only hope Thomas didn’t see him, but knows that is probably wishful thinking. Leon makes his way back to Kenneth to warn him, and it’s time for them to separate, hopefully not for good, but there are no guarantees and the two say goodbye. The plan is for Leon to create a diversion, drawing Thomas off the train at the next stop and off Kenneth’s trail.

Leon creates quite the distraction when the train arrives and it rivals the great escape stunts you see in the best of westerns. Thomas isn’t easy to shake though and Leon is ill prepared for the ride and the weather. He’s also still nursing a broken ankle, so the chips are stacked against him. After a few days chase through the mountains Thomas does finally catch his man and this is where the real fun begins. Leon is absolutely full of snark and I liked him a lot. Thomas is the perfect stoic straight man to Leon and their banter ratchets up the tension between them that is so fun to read. For instance when Leon says to Thomas after Thomas accuses him of being too stubborn:

“Stubborn? Me? I’m the picture of good manners. I didn’t knock your hat off your head when I shot at you now did I?”

And, of course, there is an undeniable something between them that starts to show itself when Thomas ties Leon up for the first time. The banter increases, the tension increases and damn if pants don’t come off. One thing that Leon has never admitted, not even to Kenneth, was that his preference was undoubtedly for men. Leon and Kenneth had always stuck with the “we’re doing this just to relieve some tension” dance, but the encounters always meant way more to Leon and what happens between Leon and Thomas is the ultimate release for Leon.

If you don’t think you are into reading BDSM books don’t let that keep you from reading this one. While the story does have some of the elements, it really isn't. These guys do what works for them and I like that it can't really be labeled. That seems more real to me. The relationship and balance that develops between Leon and Thomas really makes sense and is easy to understand. I think what makes it so believable is that the development is a real revelation for both of them and takes them both by surprise. Neither of them really understands what is happening between them, and it’s a completely fun and filthy journey reading about how they figure it all out. It’s the balance that they strike that is so appealing and you never mistake Leon for being a stereotypical sub. Reading from his point of view gives you the sense of power and release he feels, even when he’s on his knees.

As the two make their way to town so that Thomas can turn Leon in to the authorities and collect his bounty, both find they aren’t really ready to let go. When they reach town they hear word that there is an even bigger bounty to be had for catching Phoenix, the outlaw to end all outlaws. Add the fact that Leon has some information on Phoenix that he may be able to use as a bargaining chip to win his release, we have hope for Leon and quite possibly and even more importantly, for Leon and Thomas.

So, on to San Francisco where more western adventures are to be had by our two MC’s. I’ll leave all those adventures for you to read, because this is where these two really start to get their kink on. Give these boys a hotel room, a hot bath and a little rope and dammit if that isn’t the hottest bath scene I have ever read. The. Hottest. I. Have. Ever. Read. And I may have read it repeatedly. I may go read it again right now.

For all the wonderfully deliciously filthy bits in this book, what may end up surprising you is how incredibly romantic it can be too. How the authors managed to fit that in is really well done and is completely believable for these two characters. This story has everything in it that you don’t normally put together with true romance; BDSM (but not really), fisting, (yes, fisting – don’t be scared, it works), ridiculous amounts of rope and a distinct lack of lube, yet, with all of that said, it is one of the more truly romantic books I have read.

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