California Skies by Kayla Bashe

California Skies by Kayla Bashe
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (43 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Bandits came looking for the legendary emeralds belonging to Maggie’s family, killing her older brother and scarring her face. She can’t change the past, but finding the jewels will help her injured sister recover. In need of reliable muscle, she goes to an old friend of her brother’s: tough-as-nails nonbinary bounty hunter California Talbot.

While Maggie expected hard roads and violence, given the tragedy that provoked the journey, she wasn’t expecting the bar fights, snakes, and bandits to be the easy part—and the difficult part to be a growing attraction to someone who’d probably never look twice at her mutilated face.

Many people carry some sort of scars from their past, but most folks don’t have their pasts written on their faces.

The writing was memorable. There were several times when I jotted down a sentence from the dialogue or descriptions because they were either humorous or made me smile. What made them even better was that most of them can be understood before reading this book. For example, this quote from one of the earlier scenes is something I’d consider to be universally funny: “Anyone else want to make a disparaging comment to the bounty hunter in a dress?”

Maggie made choices during the course of this tale that I struggled to understand. Her backstory made me assume she would have reacted completely differently in those scenarios. I was never sure if there were hints about her past that I’d missed or if her unexpected reactions were supposed to mean something that I never was able to decipher. It would have been helpful to have more hints about what the author was trying to communicate about this character as I was confused by all of these pieces of her life that didn’t fit together.

All of the flashbacks were used effectively. At first I was a little surprised by how often the narrator jumped back into the past given that this is a short story, but every single of those scenes was important in order to understand what was currently going on in Maggie and California’s lives. I was glad to have all of them.

California Skies is a good choice for anyone who likes romances that are set in the American frontier.

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