Review: A Shared Range (Range #1) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 5 stars

A Shared RangeDakota 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 Troubled Range (Range #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range #3)

A Foreign Range (Range #4)

An Isolated Range (Range #5)

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:

International Exotic Feline Sanctuary (bigcat.org)

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, Tyler, TX

In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center Wylie, Texas 

Never Cry Wolf Rescue

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

Wolf Mountain Sanctuary

And of course, our wonderful World Wildlife Fund

A Troubled Range (Range series #2) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4.5 stars

A Troubled RangeHaven Jessup has never understood the hatred between his father, Kent Jessup and Jefferson Holden who owns the ranch next to theirs.  The feud between the two men has been there all his life, but his father’s hatred for the Holdens has never been his.  One day as Haven is out checking his fences, a huge storm comes up and Dakota Holden is there to save his life and take him home to the  Holden ranch to dry off.  Once there, Haven meets Dakota’s partner Wally and Phillip Reardon, a friend of Dakota’s in for a visit.  Haven is afraid to admit even to himself that he likes men, he knows what his father’s reaction would be but inside the Holden ranch, Haven sees men in love with each other and not afraid to show it and for the first time, Haven starts to question the manner in which he lives his life.

Phillip Reardon has come to see his friends after being fired from his job in the city.  Phillip has never wanted to settle down romantically before but as he watches Dakota and Wally interact, he realizes that he wants that type of relationship for himself but where to find the man to spend the rest of his life with?  Phillip recognizes the inner turmoil he sees inside the shy, young rancher and works to help Haven accept himself.  As both men move forward into a new and hidden relationship, trouble arrives on the Holden ranch in terms of cut fences, rustled cattle, as somewhere someone with a secret agenda is threatening the Holden ranch and the safety of all who live on it.  How can a new relationship withstand the strain and stress of all the recent events and the knowledge that one day soon Phillip is going to leave to return to the city and Haven will be on his own once more?

The Range series continues to be a favorite series of mine by Andrew Grey, author of a number of wonderful series on a variety of subjects.  A Troubled Range continues the story started in A Shared Range, that of the men of the Holden ranch from father Jefferson Holden and his son, Dakota to the men who arrive there and find their little heaven on earth.  A Troubled Range brings the neighboring Jessup ranch into the story, as part of that family has been engaged with a feud with  Jefferson Holden for most of their lives.  Neither man will reveal the cause of the hatred they bear for each other to their sons but it impacts all around them.

The two families could not be more different, especially when it comes to the treatment of their  sons.  Jefferson Holden loves his son and accepts his son’s homosexuality with ease, welcoming his son’s partner into the family without hesitation.  Haven, on the other hand, cannot remember if his father has ever held him or told him that he loves him.  In fact, Haven has been treated more like a farm worker by his father than a son all of his life.  Andrew Grey is terrific at exposing a family’s discord and its effects upon the innocents caught in its path.  Kent Jessup is a hard man who has retreated from the physical work needed to be done while still managing to punish and hound his son about his disappointments in Haven on every aspect of his being.  We feel for Haven immediately as he continues to do his best for the ranch he loves,and  deal with his abusive father.  Then you add onto that emotional load the fact that Haven is gay and conflicted about his sexuality, and your heart goes out to the boy who doesn’t break but find the courage to reach out for more in life.

Phillip Reardon is the exact opposite of Haven.  He is a self assured city boy who has never settled down with one man nor had the  desire to do so. Then the loss of his job shakes up his complacency and makes him take a hard look at the lonely future ahead of him if he doesn’t change his ways.  Phillip likes Haven and is attracted to the young man with all the problems.  At first, Phillip just wants to help Haven as a friend as Haven works to accept his sexuality and then attraction deepens into something more.  But Phillip has to sort out his own internal baggage before he can make room for another in his heart.  Grey makes sure that all his characters reflect on their true natures and we get to watch as they sort themselves out.  It’s realistic, it’s emotional and it brings us so much closer to these wonderful characters and makes us understand who they really are.  Andrew Grey knows how to  deepen our connections to his characters and their stories and does so with a maestro’s touch.

A Troubled Range brings us storms on the prairie, heartbreaking moments of both pain and joy and ending with the deep satisifaction of two men finding true love at the end of the road.  As the characters are drawn from life, we see betrayal and loss that cuts to the core amidst the dynamics of two opposing western families.  What an amazing series that can bring together so many intense conflations, of battlefields both internal and physical and still manage to make them all fresh in each book of the series. Don’t pass any of these books by.

Cover art by Catt Ford, who continues to do a wonderful job with branding the series.

Here are the series in the order they were written and should be read:

A Shared Range (Range, #1)

A Troubled Range (Range, #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range, #3)

A Foreign Range (Range, #4)

An Isolated Range (Range, #5)

A Volatile Range (Range, #6) comes out next week, February 5th, 2013

Snow on the Ground and the Week Ahead in Book Reviews

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What Do You Mean It’s Going To Snow?

We had our first taste of winter here in the region recently and parts still bear a light coat of white to prove it.  Schools let out  early, as did many local governments.  The federal government had a liberal leave policy in effect and the stores were crowded with people buying out all the bread, bacon and booze.  Yes, its true, we here in the Washington Metro area go completely bonkers when we think it’s going to snow.  How much snow fell? Perhaps one inch.  Sigh.  But continuing our seesaw season, we are expected to hit  65 degrees F by Wednesday and it doesn’t help that the seeds and nursery catalogs have just started arriving by mail.  Some people are tempted by jewels and clothing, not me.  For me it’s yarn stores and nurseries full of plants and flowers of every shape, size, and color.  Yesterday alone saw me dog-earing page after page of new plants for the season as I scribbled their names along with possible locations in the yard.  Was I a contented camper?  Why yes I was!

And this afternoon sees me off to Busboys and Poets to meet up with the Metro Area M/M Romance group for wild and wonderful conversations and discussions over everything book oriented.  We are a great group of readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers and boy, do we have a lot to say!  I can’t wait.

One more thing…one of my favorite blogs is The Blood Red Pencil where they blog “sharp and pointed observations about writing”.  I adore them.  This week the topic is “Mystery, Magic, and the Aha! of the Reveal”.  It is just a terrific article and shouldn’t be missed.  Here is the link, don’t pass it by. Trust me, these people understand that writing is not for the fainthearted.

So here is the week ahead in book reviews.  I am all over the place.  There is contemporary romance courtesy of Andrew Grey, RJ Scott and Ariel Tachna, three of my favorite authors.  The latest book in Caitlin Ricci’s shifter series and LA Witt’s science fiction/shifter novel that is the first in The Tameness of the Wolf series.  New series, continuing series and great authors, so just be prepare to add to your reading list by the end of the week. What?  It’s February already? *head desk*

Monday, 1/28:                      A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

Tuesday, 1/29                       Pack Business by Caitlin Ricci

Wed., 1/30:                           Overdrive by Ariel Tachna

Thursday, 1/31:                    A Shared Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 2/1:                            The Fireman and the Cop by RJ Scott

Saturday, 2/2:                       Eye of the Beholder by Edward Kendrick

Review: An Isolated Range (Range #5) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 5 stars

An Isoslated RangeMarty Green, college student, was doing the thing he loved best, playing basketball for his first intercollegiate game for his Brackett College team when the unthinkable happened.  While on the court, Marty suffers a stroke and ends up in the hospital for months recuperating and learning to walk again.  Due to the extent of the damage done to his brain, the recovery is taking longer than he had hoped and his parents want him to come home to continue his rehabilitation.  But Marty knows from experience just how smothering and overprotective his well meaning parents can be, so when his doctor suggests an alternative, to go to a ranch  owned by a friend of his where Marty can work on daily chores, help care for an invalid father as well as his rehabilitation, Marty jumps at it.

Veterinary assistant Quinn Summers is there when Marty arrives at the ranch  owned by Dakota and helps him get settled into his room. Everything about the young man in the wheelchair attracts Quinn, including his determination to be independent.  Marty will help care for Jefferson,  Dakota’s father as well as help feed the horses at the ranch.  Marty has alway loved horses as much as basketball and quickly settles into life at ranch.  The biggest adjustment to life at the ranch is seeing openly gay men living and loving each other as other heterosexual couples do.  Marty has known he was gay since his teen years but never came out due to his conservative Republican Senator father.  Now he has the chance to finally be who he really is and Quinn is ready to help him. But there are plenty of obtacles on the path to romance for Marty and Quinn.  Quinn’s father dislikes the fact that his son is gay and works to undermine Quinn in every way possible.  And there is Senator Green who is using an antigay platform to help him get re-elected to the Senate.  It will take courage and heart for Marty and Quinn to overcome their families and reach for love.

Andrew Grey’s Range series just gets stronger with each new book and An Isolated Range is perhaps the most amazing addition yet.  Marty Green is an extraordinary character, inspired by a real life basketball player from Gettysburg College who experienced the same devastating stroke that happens to Marty.  Grey’s description of the stroke as it happens from Marty’s POV is as shattering as it is realistic.  And that authenticity continues from the moment Marty wakes up in the hospital, moves into rehab, and then when he realizes that to get better he must move beyond his family into a more independent living arrangement or have his recovery be stifled by overprotective parents.  The author is able to convey to reader the crushing disappointment that Marty feels when he is unable to walk, his stress and dismay over the lack of progress and his inability to be his own man.  Andrew Grey does a incredible job of bringing Marty Green to life in every facet of this young man’s journey.

Quinn Summers is an equally remarkable character.  He has succeeded in his personal life, with help from Wally, Dakota, and Jefferson, to become an exceptional young man who dreams of becoming a veterinarian.  One of Quinn’s biggest obstacles in his life is his father, a self destructive man who continually tries to pull Quinn down with him.  This element of An Isolated Range is as fully developed and layered as the rest of the story.  And you root for Quinn to continue to extricate himself from his father even as the man reaches out to pull Quinn back in.

We also have to watch as Jefferson Holden fades, his illness claiming him as Jefferson is a character we have come to love over the series of books.  This is such an affecting element of this story and Grey plays off the relationship all the men on the ranch have with Jefferson (he has been a father figure to most of them) against the antagonistic relationships Marty and Quinn have with their respective dads.  Marty’s relationship with his Senator father is fraught with complexities as neither of Marty’s parents realize he is gay.  Just as Marty is getting comfortable with his sexuality, Marty’s father starts to ramp up antigay sentiments to help him get re-elected to the Senate, a plausible action that we see mirrored in the media every day.

Really, An Isolated Range is just one outstanding book from every angle possible.  I cannot recommend it enough. However, I would start at the beginning of the series.  Read them in the order they were written, starting with A Shared Range (Range #1) which introduces you to Dakota and Wally, and continue on from there.  Don’t miss a one.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and their relationships:

A Shared Range (Range, #1)

A Troubled Range (Range, #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range, #3)

A Foreign Range (Range, #4)

An Isolated Range (Range, #5)

Review: An Unsettled Range (Range Series #3) by Andrew Grey

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An Unsettled RangeRating: 4 stars

Troy Gardener’s life is a mess.  For years  now he has been a happily married husband and father to his wife and daughter, working hard to get ahead to support them in comfort.  He has refused to admit his homosexuality all his life, even to his gay brother. But deep inside, he knows the truth, and the guilt is killing him because he knows the people he loves will be the ones hurt the most by his coming out. So Troy has remained firmly closeted in his life and mind until circumstances throw open the door into his sexuality and his life is shattered.  Now after losing everything dear to him, including his job, Troy heads west to the cabin his uncle left him and his brother.  He needs time to reflect on his actions and try to find a way back into his daughter’s affections if possible.  But Troy never counted on a blue eyed gorgeous ranch hand showing up on his property, upsetting his self imposed isolation and his heart.

Liam Southard is literally at a dead end after being thrown out of his house by his abusive father.  Collapsed by the side of the road, miles from nowhere, lack of food and water has finally taken its toll on his abused body and soul.  Then a miracle happens, and he is rescued by two men who take him back to their ranch to recover.  Liam thinks he must be in heaven or the closest thing to it because when he comes to, he finds out he has been taken in by gay ranchers, who cloth him, feed him and give him a job and home.  On his first day on the job, he heads into the mountains to investigate a smoke column and finds a gun being pointed at him, and a gorgeous stranger behind the trigger.  His first introduction to Troy Gardener is a rude awakening for both men. Even a rocky start can stop Troy and Liam from thinking about the other but more obstacles must be overcome before they find their happily ever after.

I started Andrew Grey’s Range series by reading the last two published books in the series first.  I loved them both and couldn’t believe that somehow I had missed this series so now I am going back to pick up the remaining books to acquaint myself with all the characters and the relationships mentioned in  A Foreign Range(Range #4) and An Isolated Range (Range #5).  Still reading them out of order just because I am curious to see if they stand up as singular stories (they do), I find the series just as beguiling and charming as ever.

Andrew Grey has managed to give us two characters in each book with backstories that range from abusive families, closeted individuals, and sometimes just haunted personalities that stay with you long after the book is finished.  An Unsettled Range brings us Troy Gardener and Liam Southard, two characters in keeping with Andrew Grey’s marvelous creations for the Range series.  Troy Gardener is a realistic mess of a man.  Admittedly selfish and shallow, he has alienated his gay brother and lied to his wife and child with his self denial over his sexuality.  Grey brings us a credible portrait of an agonized man finally looking at himself in the mirror and hating the image he sees.  It is a shattering moment for Troy and the reader.  And it enables the reader to find compassion for this man who otherwise might be too unlikable to root for.

Liam Southard’s past unfolds slowly throughout the book, the horrific details of his upbringing revealed in spurts.  It is impossible not to love Liam from the first moment we see him collapsing by the side of the road.  Our sympathy is engaged fully at that moment and never leaves this wonderful young ranch hand.  Grey has made him the opposite of Troy, someone who has remained optimistic and great hearted, no matter the pain Liam has been through.  He is such a lovely, believable character, and is a stand-in for all those young GLBTQ youth cast out of their homes like yesterday’s garbage.  I just loved everything about this young man.

As always, Andrew Grey brings a multitude of issues into his story.  In this case, it is water rights, Mining companies, and the rights of endangered species.  A lovely irony with contrasted with the rights of gay individuals still being fought, especially out west.  And we also have the plight of large cat rescue as well.  All outstanding elements, all beautifully folded into a heartwarming story.

So, I am off to finish up the rest of the books.  I think you will love them as much as I do.  Here they are in the order they were written and released:
A Shared Range (Range, #1)

A Troubled Range (Range, #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range, #3)

A Foreign Range (Range, #4)

An Isolated Range (Range, #5)

A Volatile Range (Range, #6)

Cover art by LC Chase is beautiful, it not only speaks to the subject matter but brands the series.

Review of A Foreign Range (Range #4) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 5 stars

Country singer Willie Meadows is tired.  He is tired of the fame and the lifestyle that comes with it, he is tired of the hangers on and he is tired of living in houses that don’t feel like home.  Mostly, he is tired of feeling like a fake, of singing songs about being a cowboy when he can’t even ride a horse.  On impulse, Willie buys a small ranch in Wyoming, hoping the change in location will bring him a home, a connection to the land in the songs he wants to write and a return to being Wilson Edwards, his real name.

Steve Peterson is desperate, hungry, out of gas and out of money.  After escaping his father and the cult’s attempt to deprogram Steve of his gayness.  He arrives at the ranch, expecting to find a job promised to him by the previous owner, unaware the ranch had been sold, and his job gone.  Devastated, he sneaks into the barn, hoping just for a warm place to stay for the night.

Wilson finds Steve and sees a young man who is barely hanging on. Steve is shaking from the cold and hunger and when the dilapidated truck he is driving dies at the end of the ranch’s driveway, Wilson decides to give him a job, helping around the ranch, looking after it while Wilson is on the road performing. After the band’s road trip, Wilson returns home to find Steve training horses for his neighboring ranchers and the ranch alive once more.  Wilson loves seeing horses on the land, and watching Steve brings up all the feelings he has put aside in the name of fame.

As Steve and Wilson find their mutual attraction leading into a relationship, both men find their past rising up to block their future together. Steve’s father and his followers find him, threatening to pull him away from the home and people he had come to love unless he can stand up to them.  Wilson too must make some decisions.  He has stayed closeted all these years in fear of losing his fan base and his band.  But now he could lose Steve, who won’t be someone’s dirty little secret.  Can both men find the strength they need and finally come home to love?

It had been a while since I had read one of Andrew Grey’s books and for the life of me I can’t figure out why I have let this terrific writer’s recent books go unread.  I loved A Foreign Range, which is the fourth book in this series, and will now go running back to start at the beginning. But if you are like me and haven’t read the previous books, don’t worry, it isn’t necessary to read those in order to love this one. All the wonderful elements I associate with Mr. Grey’s writing is here.  Real characters, locations described with great feeling and depth, and emotional turning points in peoples lives dealt with sensitivity and warmth.

Wilson Edwards and Steve Peterson are two great main characters whose disparate lifestyles highlight their superficial differences while their true natures and similar values pull them together.  Mr. Grey does a wonderful job with this dichotomy of status  while he is endearing Wilson and Chris to us in scene after heartbreaking scene.  Both men seemed so real to me from the very beginning, and their emotional rollercoaster ride to a shared home and love went straight into my heart. Andrew Grey has a deft touch with creating layered, multidimensional characters and Steven and Wilson are prime examples.  Secondary characters also stand up to close scrutiny. I loved Maria, Wilson’s housekeeper and her daughter, Alicia, is an adorable young character capable of giving the viewer a change in viewpoint of the events and relationships.  Howard, Wilson’s friend and manager, could have easily stayed a one-note villain he appears to be at the beginning of the story but the author shows us that Howard is real person and that his actions, however flawed,  are those of a friend and agent who wants the best for Willy the star if not for Wilson the person.

And then there is the setting, Wyoming’s wide open spaces that come complete with tornados as it does with the  peace, quiet and sounds of nature that speak to your soul and replenish it.  I understood those passages even though it has been years since I set foot on Wyoming soil.  Andrew Grey really gets it and then writes it in a manner that lets the reader feel it as well, even if they have never been there.

So, yes, I loved this book.  I will go back and  now read the others in the series, but no matter what I find there, A Foreign Range will always have a space in my heart.  Pick this one up, I think you will find that you will feel the same.

THE RANGE STORIES

A Shared Range

A Troubled Range

An Unsettled Range

A Foreign Range

Cover.  Cover Artist is Reese Dante who hits all my buttons with this one.  Gorgeous men, palomino horse and beautiful colors.  Sigh.  Loved this!