Review: The Gunslinger's Man by Helena Maeve

Halloran was meant to free them, but Asher has never known a harsher prison.

Hiring a band of outlaws to assassinate the mayor may be a bold move, but Asher Franklin can’t take another minute of bowing and scraping to the sadist who runs his hometown. Graveyards teem with the bodies of those have tried and failed to rebel against the powers that be, but the legendary Red Horn Riders hold an invaluable advantage over their predecessors: They’re already dead.

Common wisdom would have it that vampires seldom keep faith with humans, though, and the Red Horn Riders are no exception. Halloran, the ruthless bandit at the helm of the gang and Sargasso’s prospective savior, would rather claim Asher for his own than grant him the fate he deserves. His unwelcome kindness is Asher’s worst nightmare. To be chattel is bad enough. To be the property of the one vampire whose duplicity just cost the lives of Asher’s friends is so much worse.

Yet in the ungoverned deserts of the Wild West, vampires are a law unto themselves and terror comes in many forms. Halloran’s bite may be sharp, but worse foes roam the sands than Asher can begin to imagine.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of dubious consent, and violence.

I wanted to like this story and, honestly, I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it. Ordinarily I avoid westerns and cowboys like the plague, but I made an exception here for several reasons. Primarily, the author whose work I've read before and loved, the enemies to lovers trope, but also because of the steampunk and vamps. Not much I like better than a vamp especially the non-sparkly variety who aren't stricken by a multitude of emo feels of which Halloran is most certainly not. Yet even with all that going for it, it still fell flat.

I came up with a few reasons why I think this happened and it's probably a combination thereof.

a.  There was a lot of Western-y, cowboy-y stuff. Lots of cattle and moving cattle and spurs and tumbleweeds. Lots of riding out to do battle and shoot outs without a lot of world building.

b.  There are a lot of characters to keep up with and without the benefit of them being clearly defined or making an impact on the story somehow I found myself frustrated with trying to keep up with all of them. Eventually I just gave up.

c.  I felt like I was one step behind the entire time. I found myself going back to see if the verbiage was vague or if I had missed something. I don't know if vague is the correct word. Maybe amorphous? Left open to interpretation? Talking in riddles? Imprecise? I like to deal with facts for the most part so this was a HUGE stumbling block for me.

d.  I never bought the characters as a couple and therefore never invested in them. The couple is what draws me into a story and these two never clicked for me.

I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood or the cowboy stuff overwhelmed me or what but I felt detached from the characters and this story.

Asher tells the entire story, but I never got a true sense of him as a person nor Halloran. His and Halloran's story is very involved but essentially one of enemies to lovers. Asher hates all vampires but Halloran is different somehow. Vampires are reviled for having taken over a number of southwestern towns and making humans their pets. How this came to be isn't explained well, but the objective is to reassert themselves. Naturally, this is not as easy as it sounds. Asher and Halloran are begrudgingly attracted to each other and work together mostly because that is what circumstances dictate. The sex scenes were somewhat hot but I think suffered due to the fact that I didn't feel it between them. There is something between them but it was simply too intangible for me.

The writing style wasn't my cuppa this time, but I'm objective enough to recognize its lushness and moments of creativity. Maybe under different circumstances or another genre it would've worked. Hard to say. There were a few editing issues which were surprising given my past experience with this author, but nothing too heinous. 

Recommended for cowboy and Western fans.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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