Rating: 5 stars
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Author Hank Edwards adds a second excellent installment to the Venom Valley series with Stakes & Spurs. Picking up where the first book left off, this is definitely a novel that needs to be read in order–and what a novel it is!
Dex has been captured by the vampire Balthazar and chained in his underground lair. In the meanwhile, Josh and Glory are in pursuit, hoping to get to Dex before he is either killed or worse, turned into a vampire as well. Josh’s power to manipulate the dead by reanimating them and having them do his bidding is still beyond his reach to control, but he fights back against the onslaught of turned townsfolk by discovering their bodies during the day and driving stakes into their hearts. When he and Glory discover that the local smithy is still alive, they devise a plan to melt silver down and make bullets–the only thing that will stop someone as powerful as Balthazar.
But as time ticks away, Dex falls further and further under the throes of the vampire’s powers and seeds of doubt as to whether Josh truly loves him are planted. The vampire Balthazar uses Dex in unspeakable ways, causing Dex to fear that Josh will ever want him again. Now Dex must find a way to escape before he is bitten a third time, which will turn him into the very creature he hates. Along the way another person is discovered in Balthazar’s lair and who they are will cause such a stir that by novel’s end, revenge is the only thing Josh and Dex have on their minds.
I could not put this book down–there were many times I wanted too, trust me. Not because it was disappointing or poorly written–no, not by a long shot, but because my heart was in my throat and I had to calm down in order to continue on in the story. It was a wild ride from beginning to end. The creepiness of the undead, the way in which poor Josh had to stake entire families, the insidiously evil Balthazar, all these elements added up to make Stakes & Spurs a real nail biter.
The tension that author Hank Edwards creates with this race against the enemy made this novel even better than its predecessor, Cowboys and Vampires. While that novel focused on setting the backstory and pulling off the cliffhanger, this one was all about the growing plot line and developing the characters. I really liked how Edwards gives both men serious competition for their affections. Yes, I admit that the vampire Balthazar was pure and simply evil and manipulated Dex, but the soldier that Josh encounters, while so exhausted and hurting from not being able to save Dex, was an interesting twist in an already action-packed story.
All in all, Stakes & Spurs was a worthy sequel to a riveting ongoing series by Hank Edwards. I cannot wait for the next installment. In the meanwhile, enjoy this book it is one that I highly recommend!