Caden's Vow (Hell's Eight #6)
His past has haunted him for a lifetime but one woman could be his salvation.
Gunslinger Caden Miller's compadres are becoming a bit too domesticated for his liking. So he's off to Kansas territory to carve out a living and a space of his own—alone, just the way he likes it.
Maddie O'Hare has been drawn to Caden ever since she escaped to the Hell's Eight compound from the brothel where she was born and raised. And she's not ready to let him go so easily until she's captured by his new neighbors.
When Caden discovers that Maddie is being held by a rival at a nearby ranch, his plan to rescue her backfires, and he finds himself the groom in what's literally a shotgun wedding. As shocked as Caden is by the bizarre turn of events, Maddie's grateful kiss holds a fiery promise that's far more unexpected. But with old enemies catching up with him, Caden and Maddie will face a danger that tests their passion—and will either bind them together forever or break them apart for good.
I have long looked forward to another addition to the Hell’s Eight series. I was afraid after the last one that the series would not get any more stories, but thankfully I was wrong. The characters in this story are just as lovable and fiery as previous couples, though there were some moments I was unsure if this books would have a satisfactory ending. The story revolves around Maddie, a formerly enforced prostitute, who was brought to the Hell’s Eight group by Tracker a few novels ago, and Caden, the most restless of all the guys and the one most unlikely to ever settle down.
Caden decides it’s time for him to move on, leaving behind all the newly formed happy couples on their spread in hopes of fulfilling a promise made to his father before his brutal death. Though to this point he has been happy to work with his “brothers” to improve their spread and their property, he wants something he can call his own. And Maddie can’t be part of his future. Though he has always lusted for the seemingly simpleminded young woman, he knows he is too rough for her and chooses to leave before his lust overrides his brain and he takes her. But absence does not dull his lust, and knowing she’s safely at home is the only thing that keeps him sane.
Maddie is no longer the simple girl she was when she arrived at Hell’s Eight. Though she still has moments when she retreats to her fantasy world—inside her own head—she needs that respite less and less as she finds her niche on the farm. She sees so many female role models around her and is determined to make herself like them and be deemed worthy of the only man she’s ever wanted for herself—Caden. When he leaves the ranch, striking out on his own, Maddie decides to follow him and make him see that she is deserving of his love. But her plan goes badly awry when she’s discovered alone on the trail by a group of men thrilled to find a woman alone they can take advantage of. Lapsing into the only skill she feels will save her she bargains for her safety—with her body.
Caden and Maddie’s journey together, once he “rescues” her from her capturers is fraught with danger and emotional turmoil. Caden feel betrayed by Maddie’s manipulations and decides that if she is woman enough to trap him in a marriage he never wanted, she's woman enough to become his wife in all ways. The lack of communication between these two is the biggest issue, leading them both to hurt each other and make their own lives more challenging. Even with Ace there to try to help them they bungle through several nights as husband and wife, before Caden finally installs Maddie in a larger town by herself in an effort to protect her from the dangers of small groups on the frontier.
Maddie, however, doesn’t see his decision quite the same way. Feeling abandoned by the only man she’s ever trusted, she is determined to make a mark for herself. She refuses to sink back into the lies in her own mind. Venturing out into the new home she’s landed in, she finally finds a way to make a life for herself, without having to live on her back. Using what little money Caden left her with, Maddie quickly blossoms into the town’s baker and a woman that any man in town will protect—if only to keep her baking cinnamon rolls! I loved how Maddie grows into a strong independent woman and business owner, finally finding her inner strength and becoming the type of woman she’s always strived to be.
Caden’s reaction to Maddie’s choices, once he finally deigns to return for her, was maddening to say the least. His anger and pride once again drives him to make stupid and hurtful decisions. Maddie is wonderful in how she handles Caden and I just loved that she’s finally able to stand up for herself in their marriage and begin to see how they can flourish together in their new life with a bit of work for them both. I was pleasantly surprised when Caden quickly comes to see how great the new Maddie is and that he loves the new Maddie just as much if not more than the old timid Maddie.
Ultimately, this book was a definite favorite. There was so much emotion leaping from the pages I could feel my eyes tearing up and my own heart breaking more than a few times. Caden is a perfect example of an alpha man of his time, but finally embraces the changes around him that make life better than his staid and compliant life before he lets love in. Maddie is a character that confused me a bit. It was hard to tell with her if she was being tricky or really was lost in her own mind in a few places in the story, but in the end I really came to appreciate her strength and ambition. The love between these two was wonderful to see develop and deepen, while the lust was apparent in every word and look, even when Maddie wasn’t sure she knew what lust was as she felt it. I’m extremely glad the series continued with Caden’s Vow and I’m hoping the rest of the bachelors of Hell’s Eight will get their own stories.