Stakes & Spurs by Hank Edwards

StakesSpurs_cvr2-2Title: Stakes and Spurs

Series: Venom Valley 02     

Author: Hank Edwards     

Genre: Historical Western, Paranormal     

Length: Novella (159pgs)     

Publisher: Wilde City Press (21st August 2013)   

Heat Level: Moderate     

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥ 4 Hearts    

Reviewer: Pixie     

Blurb: Dex Wells, former deputy of the prairie town of Belkin’s Pass, awakes to the sound of screaming. He is chained to the wall of a cave, prisoner of the powerful vampire Balthazar, who has turned many of the residents of Belkin’s Pass into vampires like him, and used most others as food. Balthazar keeps Dex as bait, hoping to lure Dex’s lover, Josh Stanton, into the caves and capture him. There is something different about Josh, Balthazar senses it, but what that difference is he can’t quite tell.

Josh Stanton can raise the dead. It’s a power he’s always had within him, and something he’s considered a curse. Now, however, he’s discovered that the risen dead can bite through vampire skin and bones. If he can just learn to control the power and, with it, the dead he’s resurrected, he might be able to save his lover, Dex, from Balthazar’s caves. But there’s still a bounty on Josh’s head for a murder he did not commit, and he ends up back in Belkin’s Pass with Glory, a half Indian, half-white former saloon girl watched over by a Native American spirit. Together, they gather the few residents left alive and make a stand against the rampaging vampires and the wolves under their control.

The arrival of two members of the US Army, however, throws their careful plans into uncertainty as Josh is taken into custody. Can he convince the Army men the truth of their outrageous claims? And can Dex be saved before Balthazar turns him into a vampire as well?     

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Review: This story is part of a series and must be read in order. Dex awakens to find himself the prisoner of Balthazar, the powerful vampire, but he isn’t alone. Somewhere in the depths of the cave he is chained in someone is screaming and Dex is determined to escape. Balthazar is using Dex as bait, he wants to know Josh’s secrets and lure Josh into a trap, Dex has the answers, but a stubborn will and Balthazar will use any means to wear down Dex’s defenses. Josh wants to rescue Dex desperately but with the wolves and vampires chasing them Josh and Glory find themselves in the hands of the sheriff of Belkin’s Pass unable to convince him of the danger that is coming. Trapped in a town where the residents are falling victim to the vampires and wolves and their hopes of rescuing Dex dwindling, Josh and Glory with the few remaining townspeople prepare to face the vampires.

Well, we left Cowboys and Vampires as Balthazar snatched Dex from the Indian’s camp, now we rejoin Dex, Josh, and Glory as they try to find a way to reunite while in the midst of vampires, wolves and a town that is being destroyed. Dex is left facing Balthazar as the vampire tries to break him, his hope of rescue dwindling as Balthazar tries to twist his mind against Josh and seduce him to Balthazar’s needs. Josh is desperate to rescue Dex but he has many obstacles to face when the sheriff catches up with him and Glory and they are returned to Belkin’s Pass, convincing people of the danger is hard to do until they are faced with the horror that has overtaken the town. Glory discovers from her spirit guide that she holds the means to help Josh with the dead, and she still longs for those moments when her spirit guide protects her. 

This is a wonderful continuation of Venom Valley that leaves you guessing what will happen as you turn the pages, will Dex succumb to Balthazar? Will Balthazar take that last bite? Will Josh ever convince anyone of the truth? Will they survive through the night? What will happen with Josh’s newfound attraction to the army Sergeant? Will they be able to rescue Dex? And just how will they go up against so many vampires and wolves? This story is brilliantly woven, leaving you guessing and trying to figure out yourself how they will pull it off, has you murmuring ‘resist Dex, resist Balthazar’ and has you wondering what will happen next. The characters really make this story great, the difficulties they face bringing out the best and, in some cases, the worst in them and making you vested in their survival.

I have to recommend this to those who love western historicals, dark vampires, desperate men and women, pulling together in times of survival, desperate loving and hope, and an ending that prepares you for the adventure still to come.