Undeniable by Alison Kent is the first book in a new series set in tiny Crow Hill, Texas and features three hunky BFF's known as "The Dalton Gang." With small town romances currently still insanely popular and the uptick of interest in erotic romance, this book has all the ingredients to be a big success. So it's really too bad I spent the whole novel wanting the bitch-slap the hero into next week.
Dax Campbell left Crow Hill at 18 and hasn't looked back. His asshole Daddy was pressuring him to go to law school and take over the family firm, his mother was indifferent to her own children while taking up various social causes, and all he wanted to do was be a cowboy. As a kid he worked for the Dalton's, a married, childless couple who really needed the help on their ranch. Along with Dax, they hired on his BFF's Boone and Casper. When Tess Dalton dies, she leaves the ranch to all three boys.
Making a go of the struggling ranch won't be easy, and now Dax finds his head turned by Arwen Poole, proprietress of the local saloon. They went to high school together, and Arwen has a major unrequited lust for Dax. When she hears he's back in town she decides to slake that lust and get him out of her system for good. Dax has been celibate for far too long and a "just sex" affair seems like a good idea. That is until their pasts and feelings get in the way.
Heroes like Dax annoy the ever-lovin' crap out of me. They're hot, hunky, and good in bed - which means that apparently gives them a free pass when it comes to behaving like an asshole. His answer is to use people. Use women for sex, completely disregard his younger sister who was left to pick up the pieces after he took off, and run away when he can't deal with the fact that Daddy Doesn't Love Him. So he'll take what Arwen offers and then flee the scene of the crime faster than a burglar hearing police sirens. He'll leave town at 18, NEVER CONTACT HIS SISTER AT ALL!!!!!, then when he rolls back to into town it takes him weeks to CONTACT HIS SISTER!!!!!
And the women in this story? Keep giving this jerk-face a free pass. Oooooh, poor Dax. Daddy doesn't love him. At least Arwen has the decency to be mad at him on occasion, but naturally the moment he takes out his Magic Penis all is forgiven.
Just shoot me.
So what are we left with? Well, the positive stuff. Granted Dax's sister Darcy is your classic Martyr Secondary Character, but I flat-out liked her, and her martyrdom is easier to swallow when you couple it with the fact that part of the reason she got that way is because Dax is a baby who perpetually runs away when there's even a whiff of conflict. I also liked Arwen. She has her own Daddy Issues, and while she ran away from dealing with that baggage, she at least carved out a life for herself. The final showdown between Dax and Daddy I could have cared less about - but Arwen seeing her father again? Oh man, great stuff!
The sex here is plentiful, steamy, and blessedly avoids being "trendy" for the most part (no BDSM, but Arwen does have nipple rings - which all I can say is OUCH!). The way the condom issue was handled didn't work for me (especially when you factor in Dax's past man-whore shenanigans), but it was nice to read an erotic romance where, outside of some buttsecks, the sexy times were largely steamy and vanilla. There ain't nothing wrong with vanilla folks - just saying.
The small town stuff is also quite good. As much as I came to loathe Dax, I got sucked into the setting and various characters. I can see myself reading other books in this series, and I can see lots of readers getting hooked as well.
The final word is that mileage is going to vary here. I know a lot of readers who will have no problem with Dax's behavior because he's, to put it bluntly, the hero (now if the heroine behaved in this manner, that's another story entirely and don't try to deny it.....). Given my distaste for one of the main characters that would normally mean a book landing somewhere in my D range, but outside of Dax? I liked the rest of the book. And even with me being annoyed, if I can see myself reading another book in this series? Yeah, we're grading on a curve.
Final Grade = C-