It took me a bit longer to get into the story but once that I did, I was immediately immersed with it. I thought the combination of Western (the story is set in Oklahoma Territories, the Dukedom of Louisiana, the People's Republic of Texas) and paranormal element (we have various shifter tribes) worked really, REALLY well.
What I loved the most about this was that Cari Z. didn't shy away from the repercussion of the hardscrabble lives as well as the dangerous journey that Carter and Rani took to get Carter's cattles to the auction on time. The description of the harsh tracks of Mason Canyon, the viscious snakes with their venoms that threat both men and the cattles, and the hard storm, was vivid and riveting. There was one time when I had to cringe on both fascination and disgust (it had something to do with what Rani did to the snake) and another time I was feeling very sad when I imagined the scenery (it related to the storm aftermath for the cattles).
Although the story was short (only around 20,000 words) but the relationship was progressed nicely and in timely manner; it didn't feel instant at all. It took time for both Carter and Rani to trust one another, with Rani being a shifter and Carter a human. So I became invested with their relationship as it went along. Cari Z. also kept Rani's shifter shape until a bit later; which added a mystery element to it a little bit. It was quite an unusual animal, and not particularly indigenous to the area... totally not an animal I had in mind *laugh*
I did think that Carter sounded younger than his thirty years of age, and I would love to actually confirmed that Carter's brother-in-law (and Carter's sister) to get what they deserved, which means more pages would be nice ...
I tend to enjoy Cari Z's works and this one is another winner for me.
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.