Review: Dawn’s Desire (Prairie Smoke Ranch #1) by VL Locey

Rating: 4 🌈🌈🌈🌈

I have been looking forward to this book and series since it’s origin story, A Brush of Blue, in her Colors of Love series. It’s there that we met Landon Reese, goalie/hockey player and his future husband, bandleader Montrell Pittman. And at the end they are facing a great future together, full of new journeys, including one that sees both at Landon’s large spread in Wyoming, the Prairie Smoke Ranch.

It was such an amazing story and that couple was so fascinating and diverse that I couldn’t wait to see how their lives continued and what happened next….on that ranch.

We get that here, although not as much as I had hoped to see of Landon and Martell. Here, we run across Landon most often as the carryover character. He owns the ranch after all. Of the complex , musical cross dressing Martell, we catch just glimpses.

No the focus of this novel is the Prairie Smoke ranch foreman, Nate Pearson and Dr. Bishop Haney, associate professor of Paleontology at UWW. It’s their love story, with heavy overlay plot lines of theft, bigotry, feuding ranches, rustling and more.

And that mixture of elements and storylines is both a blessing and , well not a curse then definitely a frustrating point, reader and review wise, about this novel.

Writing a series, authors can format their stories in various ways. There’s a main foundation or universe, here it’s the Prairie Smoke Ranch and it’s location near the Tetons as well as surrounding communities, town and Native tribes.

Locey has established a great setting and niche community here. We have the larger towns and citizens referenced and secondary characters from there who make appearances.There’s the smaller found family the author is slowly creating at the ranch itself that’s a combination of owners, ranch hands, and support staff. New people already situated or are soon to arrive within this group are those who’s relationships will be launched in the forthcoming books.

As I said, this series looks to follow the pattern of individual romances emerging from the ranch family that is growing before us on the page instead of following through on the couple already presented.

From foundation universe and main couple romance, then a author can layer on more themes or plots that get threaded through the narrative to further tie books and series together.

For me this has always been a somewhat tricky format to balance and have each tale remain satisfying in and of itself while moving the series objectives forward.

As a reader, I want to come to the end of each novel I read and feel happy (if it’s that sort of fiction) as well as satisfied that some if not most of the plot lines raised have been concluded , even if it’s not the arc storyline . That’s more so the case because it’s a anticipated smaller percentage in novels from a series because yes, you allow for a certain number of storylines to carryover into the next novel. I still emotionally need closure on something! Please don’t leave me with more questions then answers or spending hours wondering why I didn’t even connect 100 percent to our couple. More on that.

When that happens. Even if there’s no real cliffhanger (something I abhor in a series), having multiple major elements left dangling at the end , well frustrating is a nice way to put it. Then I start to look at every aspect of the story with askance.

That includes what seems to be a happy, loving main couple . Here after some thought, even their romance here feels just as unfinished as everything else. Definitely a HFN book. An air of uncertainty hangs ever present over all elements.

For me that perfectly frames out how Dawn’s Desire reads and comes across at the end. I done nothing but think about this story and why I just felt unsettled and yup, frustrated by the end.

Let’s tackle the romance first of all.

It’s very well written, especially when creating and defining the men who become lovers in this HFN story.

Nate has a tragic history which is easy to emphasize with and feel a part of this man’s life story. I connected with Nate. And even now he stands out so clearly in my head. I know this man.

Bishop, all energized, nerdy yet capable, messy man bun and long limbs, is equally amazing and relatable. From his California great looks to his positive outlook, Bishop feels as real as Nate.

Their chemistry is off the charts hot and I can even believe they love each other at the end.

The author did such a thorough, great job in giving both men not only a layered history but each has an emotional richness to them. Nate speaks hauntingly and with deep conviction of his connection to the wide spaces of Wyoming and his almost sacred bonding to the land. As he spoke at times during the story of his need and emotional ties there , it was so moving and natural.

Bishop too has equally meaningful layers to him. Not surprisingly, these strong ties run from his joy and passion for paleontology . But on the same level as Nate’s great need and love for the land surrounding the Tetons is Bishop ‘s innermost connection to the ocean, it’s waters , smells, and sounds that speak to Bishop of his heart. It’s a immense part of his soul, one that he says feels empty when he’s away from it. Yes, I understood Bishop too on a visceral level.

Soooo… anyone seeing a potential issue here for a HEA? Because yes, Bishop is a associate professor at UWW, that’s a both a field that calls for major time spent on digs (wherever they may be found) but he likes the city and his oceans.

This may be a case where these men are so well crafted as to feel real. We understand their inner emotions and can then see past a simple relationship whereas love here being everything. For me instead of focusing on their HFN status, all I could think of is this relationship has a real time limit realistically speaking. That sometimes love isn’t enough.

While realistic, probably not the tone Locey was going for in this romance.

The story doesn’t address my concerns about the romance feeling like a summer ranch fling however much they declared their love.

Add that to the fact that none of the other storylines (entertaining and suspenseful major threads) come to any fruition . Each one is left to continue through to the next book. Not one is resolved.

I got to the end of Dawn’s Desire feeling as though I’d read the first half of a book where the rest of it was missing.

I’m sure more information about each mystery and plot will be featured in book 2 in this series. However, that story doesn’t center around Bishop and Nate but another couple entirely.

And unlike Landon and Martell who communicated and worked , in that novel, how the complications from each man’s job would fit into their newly domesticated lifestyle, here between Nate and Bishop we get nothing. Just a declaration of love.

Just not very satisfying, at least for me.

So finally, Dawn’s Desire does a great job in setting up the foundation and conflicts going forward in the series. It does nothing to resolve any thread just a setup and move forward.

It does give us a age gap, layered realistic quick romance between Nate and Bishop, running from lust to love. We understand and come to love each man, easy to do as they’re intelligent, funny, poignant, and sexy.

But is this a romance built or written in a way that feels lasting? Not so much. More like Nate’s first step out of emotional hibernation than a HEA. And I could see Bishop, at another dig, thinking about Nate as the one thing he left behind. That feels believable.

Will the upcoming stories change them and my general feelings about this couple? Remains to be seen. Along with the conclusions to some of the mysteries started here.

I’ll be waiting anxiously for the next novel to see what it brings.

Great cover btw that’s absolutely Nate.

Prairie Smoke Ranch series:

Dawn’s Desire # 1- Nate and Bishop

To be released….

Twilight’s Touch #2 – Perry Willow and Will Abbot

Dusk’s Devotion #3- Kyle and Shepard

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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