Caine's Reckoning

Sam's Creed
by Sarah McCarty
(Spice, $13.95, R) ISBN 13-978-0-373-60523-1
OK, so there must be something wrong with me. I just don't get all the hype around Sarah McCarthy. As far as I can make out, her latest erotic romance is just a loosely-strung series of gymnastic exercises. Personally, I'd rather hold out for the Beijing Olympics.

Texas Ranger Sam "Wildcard" MacGregor is doing his lonesome Ranger act, when he comes across a burning wagon. And lo and behold, there is a beautiful damsel in a torn-off dress hiding out there.

Now, Sam's a regular hot-blooded male. So even though the woman is in pretty bad shape, he's attracted to her. He's also a Texas Ranger. So she brings out the protective instincts in him. He puts her on his saddle. They don't go far before trouble hits.

Isabella Montoya  is running away from Tejala. He's a really bad guy. He believes Isabella is his: he has already killed her father for her. Isabella is convinced that someday soon he'll get her. But she is also determined not to give him everything and especially not her virginity. That's where Sam comes in.

Sam and Isabella eventually make it back to her ranch. They deal with Tejala, a couple of inner demons and, yes, Isabella loses her virginity and a whole lot more.

Sam is supposed to be tough and tender, dangerous and solitary, but there is very little evidence of any of this. His troubled past, which is given a lot weight, is never fully elucidated. And if tenderness means enjoying sex and shouting "mine, mine", I need to check out a dictionary.

The evidence for Isabella's fiery, independent spirit is just as lacking. Deciding to have sex with practically the first guy you meet does not amount to having high self-esteem. To make matters worse, Tejala is so over-the-top as the villain, it is truly hard to recognize any bravery in anything she and/or Sam do.

Sam and Isabella are supposed to be moving towards something, but they don't do much growing in the process. There is some attempt to flush out her relationship with her mother, but this too remains confusing and unconvincing.

As a whole, the story is rather episodic. Sam and Isabella do have sex going for them, but even that is nothing to write home about. With little emotional depths and some fairly mechanical moves, this supposedly hot and spicy book left me surprisingly quite cold.

--Mary Benn

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