Review – Wystan (The Heckmasters #1) by Allison Merritt

Reviewed by: E

Certain that an ad for a job in a small New Mexico Territory town is the answer to her prayers, Nebraska schoolteacher Rhia Duke packs her sister into a rickety wagon and heads west.

Except when they reach the near-deserted town, she learns the truth. There is no job, no future, and no welcome in the bleak blue eyes of the handsome sheriff.

The minute Rhia’s runaway team thunders into town, Wystan Heckmaster feels the change in the air. One of three sons of a demon who dared love a human, he keeps watch over a Pit guarded by seven seals, and slays any Hellbound demon that attempts to free the master imprisoned within.

With a gut full of regret and a forgotten town filled with reformed demons, Wystan is certain of one thing: he can’t be the man Rhia needs. But when the truth behind Rhia’s flight from Nebraska comes to light, Wystan must open his soul—and pray there’s enough love between them to overcome the darkness rising from the Pit.

Warning: Contains a take-no-prisoners sheriff, a woman who can’t outrun her supernatural secrets, and a dusty town where hope is as thin as dust in the wind. Author recommends keeping a glass of cool spring water at your elbow while reading.
This blurb came from Goodreads

I really enjoy westerns, I enjoy books with demons, and I enjoy romance so I thought the blurb to Wystan was calling my name. As I was reading I kept having mental flashbacks to long cross-country drives which included the sometimes desolate West. I would see dust devils or clouds of something on the horizon and wonder what stirred up the land. Unexpected flashes of color or reflections not to mention the mirages and occasionally the burnt out hulk of an old building or the town mostly reclaimed by the desert with one or two buildings showing signs of life also caught my attention. As a result it was very easy to immerse myself in Merritt’s world as she brought to supernatural life what I had experienced.

Rhia, her sister, and her friend were in desperate straits, almost out of food and money with a raggedy wagon and a team who had seen better days when they arrived at her planned destination, Berner, New Mexico. Only instead of a job in a quiet town she encountered a mostly empty town with a Sheriff who wanted her gone, odd townsfolk, and strange deadly creatures attacking the town. I enjoyed how the townsfolk despite their outward appearance retained traits of who or what they were before settling down. I also liked how the names of the prominent characters contained more meaning and implications then I expected.

Berner was populated by demons and other supernatural entities who were reformed or had broken away from the Demon Lords. The three Heckmaster brothers, half-demon themselves, were also an interesting set. They cared for each other while suffering from their own personal nightmares, fears, and guilt as they tried to defend the town from demon incursions. Wystan felt rooted because he was responsible for everyone and everything. Eban tried to escape but returned to support his brothers because they were stronger together. Tell became a wanderer but he also always returned home. They had achieved a sort of peace between them and a silent agreement on their roles until Rhia arrived and then things became unsettled.

Rhia’s arrival upset more then the brotherly relationship. It heralded an uptick in the number and type of attacks on Berner. As she struggled to find a place and security so too did the brothers struggle with their attraction or interest while they attempted to continue holding the town secure against an increasing threat. As the story unfolded so did secrets, temptations, a few unexpected allies, a persistent enemy, and romance. Even though Wystan explained to Rhia what he saw as significant about her name, I was still not quite sure why she was such an attractive target for the demons.

For the most part I enjoyed reading this story and I am curious about the other two stories but I felt things were a bit rushed towards the end. Several developments appeared to spring out of nowhere, which pulled me from the story and left me wondering if I missed something. I hope since the world has been established the rest of the series displays more even development between characterization, romance, and action.

I give Wystan a B/B-

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