Rating: 5 stars
Dakota Holden is home on school break and his medical studies when he finds out that his father has multiple sclerosis and has been hiding his diagnosis from his son. Dakota puts his dream of a medical degree on hold to return home and run the Holden ranch and watch as his father’s condition degenerates. Dakota has never spoken of his homosexuality to anyone at home, including his father, and the only time he feels he can be himself is on the one week vacations he allows himself every year.
This year, the ocean cruise holiday romance he struck up with another passenger turned into a friendship, and when Phillip Reardon asks to visit Dakota at the ranch, Phillip brings along another friend, Wally Schumacher, a veterinarian, with him. Almost at once, Wally’s presence starts to upset the balance at the ranch. Both Phillip and Wally are out and gay, a situation that makes Dakota reexamine his closeted status. And Wally is loudly vehement against the ranchers and ranch hands shooting the wolves that have come into the territory and threatens the herds. Dakota finds Wally both brave and hot, an attractive that Wally returns 100 percent.
But Wally and Phillip’s vacation is a short one and Dakota must weigh not only coming out to his father and ranch hands but finding out if Wally would want to stay and make his isolated western lifestyle his own. Can Wally’s passion for wildlife and his honesty about his sexuality coexist with the conservative lifestyle and small town point of view that Dakota lives with daily? Or will the call of the big city be too much for their love to overcome?
What fun I have had working my way back to the beginning of the Ranch series where it all started. Was it worth the journey? Absolutely, I just loved the story of Dakota and Wally, the foundation couple that is the impetus that brings all the future couples together and sets several people on the road to understanding their true natures and self worth. When I first met Dakota in book 5, An Isolated Range, he had achieved his dream of becoming a doctor but here we see him as a young man who, in his devotion to his father, shelves his dream to return home and run the family ranch. And we get to see the true measure of his character as he shoulders all the responsibilities because of love, love for his father and love of the ranch and the land. Andrew Grey does such a wonderful job of making Dakota and his life real that it is easy to understand the decisions he makes and agree with them. From the vivid descriptions of the majestic territory the ranch is situated on to the small town that is the hub of ranch society, Grey paints it all with such loving, understanding language that you feel as though you have visited there as well.
Wally Schumacher is another character that quickly eases his way into your heart. Small in stature, large in heart and bravery, he is a firecracker to be dealt with on his own terms, It is through Wally’s eyes that we get to see the other side of the natural beauty and wildlife that is the western United States. While the ranchers see the wolves in terms of livestock lost and financial stability, Wally sees the fierce beauty of Nature and the natural course of predator/prey being played out as it should. Andrew Grey remains an impartial observer, relating both sides to the reader in such a way to let us understand the combustable mixture that occurs when these two widely divergent viewpoints come together while never belittling or downplaying the issues for both sides. One way that is so successful is that Grey’s characters are living, breathing beings. They are equally capable of adjusting their viewpoints to a wider perspective or persons living life narrowly within the confines of a rigid viewpoint. No matter where they may fall on the spectrum, they always come across as viable human beings.
We see Jefferson Holden as the disease quickly takes over, we meet Phillip as he begins to examine his own lifestyle, and so many others as the ranch and our main couple starts to work the magic that will continue through all the books to come. And I got to see how the big cats came to live under Wally’s care. How I laughed about that one and commiserated with Dakota. For me Andrew Grey has created a couple, a ranch, and a series that is just about irresistible, and this book is the beginning of that journey. Don’t miss out on any of it. It doesn’t matter the path you take to get here, forward, backward or zigzagging in between, just make sure your road leads to the ranch where Dakota and Wally make their lives matter and everyone is welcome, including you. You won’t be sorry, I promise you.
Here are the book in the series in the order they were written, linked to my reviews:
A Shared Range (Range #1)
A Volatile Range (Range #6) coming out February 4, 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
Cover art by Reese Dante, lovely job as usual.
To help support the organizations working to rescue these wonderful exotic animals, please visit the following websites, these are but a few that could use your help:
And of course, our wonderful World Wildlife Fund