Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Cowboy Rubies by Azura Ice and Maria Moonstar
Cowboy Rubies by Azura Ice and Maria Moonstar
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Fantasy, Paranormal, Western, Steampunk
Length: 203 pages
After years of fighting, a tenuous treaty has been established between the Moon Wolves and the Life Drinkers. Kyle Vanderbelt’s job is to keep the peace—a job that gets much more difficult when Kyle’s fellow agent and former lover is accused of stealing the ancient Moon Rubies that are said to sustain the balance of power between the two peoples.
Kyle sets out to find the thief but is sidetracked by a brutal enemy... and a newfound ally. Shades Hallowvale, a Moon Wolf, is mostly dead from a Life Drinker’s attack when Kyle finds him, but nursing him back to health is a career move Kyle can’t walk away from because Shades has information on the rubies, the theft, and an insidious plot deeper than one man’s greed.
Shades soon becomes more to Kyle than a means to an end, but even as the two men track down the thief, Kyle fears their tenuous connection may not survive and the rubies really will destroy everything they love.
There's a lot going on in Cowboy Rubies by Azura Ice and Maria Moonstar: there's Old West, vampires, werewolves, steampunk, ancient prophecies and a quest. There's so much going on that the story struggles to contain all the chunks, and gives a distinct feeling that had it been divided in two and published separately, the results would have been much stronger. The prophesies and quest parts sit very uneasily with the rest.
The world building is fun – why shouldn't the American West be populated with werewolves and vampires along with the humans? The three races seem to get along reasonably well, mixing in the saloons without fighting and choosing a werewolf for sheriff. No one tries to hide what they are, and no one seems terribly afraid of a group with the fearsome name of "Life Drinkers." In such a world, I know who I'd hire to herd my cattle. The steampunk elements are interesting – jaunting cars don't seem to need roads to get about in the desert and airgraphs transmit both code and sound.
Unfortunately, the fun stops there, because of the lack of internal consistency. The quest to find the stolen Moon Rubies has the very short time limit of three days and the stakes are extremely high – without them, we are told, there will be total war between Moon Wolf and Life Drinkers and the entire world is at risk, but the main characters have time for leisurely dinners, hookups with strangers to deny the attraction in each other's direction, and crude banter with a so called spy who really does not blend in. Anastasia the spy is actually the most interesting character; she's unabashedly rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, as well as the deepest thinker of the lot.
The main characters are so distractible that they lose any sympathy their difficulties might have gained them. Resolution Agent Kyle tells himself to keep a clear head and a watchful eye, but thirty words later he's downed a tumbler of whiskey and followed a sexy stranger to a bedroom. Sheriff Shades can actually hold his sister's severed head and still think about sex. While Kyle occasionally recalls his main mission, though without actually doing anything about it, Shades is more completely led by his cock. Disaster looms from several directions, but he's ready to have wild sex. Without lube—Kyle never once uses it.
Both characters have heightened senses of smell – Kyle can identify the animal by the scent of its old spilled blood, but since neither wolf nor vampire applies this ability to a major problem, discord and violence increase. Other elements are set up and then either disregarded or contradicted, and Life Drinker Kyle is at one point described as being a Moon Wolf. A major character is brought to death's door but is in perfect health a paragraph later with no explanation at all.
The ending does wrap up a number of these issues, but unfortunately the resolution gives the same satisfaction as "and then he woke up."
This could have been two very satisfying books of two very different types, but it's trying to be all things at once. Even with all the elements left in, it could have been a tongue in cheek romp. When someone uttered that classic line: "You'll never leave this tent alive!" I thought I might have been missing the joke, but there are too many bodies and too much gruesomeness for laughter along the way.
While I applaud the authors for the varied story elements they've created, the combination does not work as well as it needs to for an enjoyable read, and I cannot recommend this book. 1.5 marbles