Special Agent Gillian Hamilton works as a magic caster with the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam. He has come to Shallow Grave, Arizona, on the hunt for a madman known as The Engineer, who uses steam technology to create destructive devices. Gillian is powerful and experienced, so he feels confident he can take on The Engineer. But he is not prepared to also encounter the infamous outlaw, Gunner the Deadly, apparently on the hunt for the same man.
When the men are outsmarted by The Engineer, Gunner suggests that they team up. The pair are on opposite sides of the law, but perhaps together they can bring down the bag guy. Gillian is an officer of the law and definitely doesn’t approve of Gunner, even though it seems like most of his misdeeds are targeted against other criminals. But he also realizes they will need to combine forces to have success. Not to mention that Gillian finds himself attracted to Gunner despite himself. Gillian has never been with a man, and having to keep his interest in men hidden has left him lonely. When Gunner reciprocates his attraction, Gillian throws caution to the wind and lets himself enjoy a night with the outlaw. But outsmarting The Engineer won’t be easy, especially as he has created devices that challenge even Gillian’s strong magic. Now, Gunner and Gillian will have to work together and fight with all they have to save the town and stop the bad guy.
Oh, this one was a lot of fun. And the world building! The story is sort of a mash up of steampunk, magic, and Wild West historical and I love how it all comes together. Poe does a great job here really developing the magical world with lots of unique and interesting details. I loved the combination of magic and steampunk, and it works here so well, particularly as the men battle using both weapons. It was also fun seeing these elements brought into the western setting, rather than the more common Victorian steampunk style. The big fight scenes are fun as they combine the steam technology, magic, and old fashioned Wild West showdowns.
I also enjoyed the enemies to lovers element here, as we have Gillian and Gunner on the opposite sides of the law. We pretty quickly realize that while Gunner’s exploits may not be exaggerated, he definitely falls (mostly) on the side of protecting the innocent, even if he breaks the law to do it. We see how much the people of Shallow Grave appreciate him for looking out for them. So while Gunner is technically an outlaw, as a reader it’s easy to root for him from the start. I enjoyed seeing the more straight-laced Gillian let himself go and reach for that connection with Gunner.
This story is really an introduction to their relationship, as it mostly spans only two days. It is clear there is a connection between the men, but things are just establishing here, so don’t expect an HEA or even an HFN. It is more of two men who really like one another and want to explore more. With another book already on the horizon, I am looking forward to more to come for these guys.
One tiny quibble here, and I only mention it because I found it distracting. The chapters are all date stamped, but as I said, the book only really spans two days (the last chapter jumps ahead a bit). And when we go from one day to the next, we see the character go to bed and wake up the next day, so the passage of time is clear. So while I think it was nice to know the original date, I don’t know why every chapter had to show the date when time isn’t really passing. I found it distracting because since it was shown in each chapter, I kept checking every time. Like I said, small thing.
Overall, I found this story really delightful. It is a quick, easy read and I pretty much tore right through it. This book is a great example of how a full and engaging story can be presented in a shorter format. I loved the world Poe has created and I am really looking forward to reuniting with Gunner and Gillian for their next adventure.