THE DEVIL TO PAY. Also, my friend Heather managed to finagle a copy, so I got to buddy-read it with someone! YAY
The book opens with our heroine, Lady Moonlight/Mystere, robbing the hero, Rafe, at gunpoint with the help of her accomplices. She then makes him strip naked, putting a cherry on his humiliation sundae. Obviously, he swears revenge-- and Rafe is the type of dude who makes revenge his hobby. Despite being part of the rich, he blames the upper-crust of society for his parents' ruin and subsequent humiliation, so hunting down the beautiful thief who left him naked by the roadside is just par for the course.
Mystere is not without sympathy, though. She's working for a crime boss posting as her uncle, and he beats her if she doesn't do what he tells her to. So she's stuck in his house, working as his servant with the rest of his household, until the next time that he trots her out to steal. There's sort of a wicked Cinderella bent to this part of the plot, which I really liked. She also is looking for her missing brother and trying to figure out who her missing family is because of a super secret letter she got from her mother. Which I guess maybe is a little more Anastasia than it is Cinderella, but whatever, I still dug it.
When she encounters Rafe at a party, he's pretty sure she's Lady M. Some reviewers seemed to find that unrealistic but to me it seemed kind of like the Clark Kent/Superman phenomenon, where people see what they expect to see, and it's easier to dupe people who aren't suspecting. Rafe, however, is definitely suspecting. Here, the book enters a sort of cat and mouse situation, which leads to some really spicy and steamy scenes. I think that the banter game between the H and the h in this book is almost as sexy as the riposting between Lyssa and Ivan from WHEN ANGELS FALL (my favorite McKinney book out of all the McKinney books, which I recently bought in paperback).
This was SO close to being a five-star read for me, but there were just a few things that kept it from being perfect. I loved the banter between the characters but I do think they fell "in love" both too late and too quickly. Rafe is pretty cruel to Mystere and even though he does redeem himself, I would have liked to have more scenes leading up to that, showing his shifting feelings. I also really didn't like the ending. It was way too abrupt. Like, when I got to the end, I was like, "Wait, is there more?" The whole book dangles Mystere's history over the reader throughout the whole book like there's going to be some kind of dramatic reveal and then... nothing. Also the final scenes with the villains felt kind of anticlimactic. I WANTED A DUEL.
That said, I still loved this book and there were parts where I LITERALLY could not take it from my hands. It was like it had been superglued to them by my own sheer will. I either love or hate McKinney's books, because she seems to be one of those authors who either dials it in or gives it her all. I've given her three two-star reviews and three five-star reviews and I believe one three. This is my first four-star review of her work, which I think is fair, because it was amazing but not the glittering perfection of which I know she is capable. It's still staying on the keeper shelf for those spicy scenes, though.
God, I wish this one had a stepback.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars