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

Standard

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

Review of Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) by Abigail Roux

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Zane Garrett has moved in with Ty Grady, his lover and FBI partner and life is good.  There are no dangerous cases pending at the FBI,their workload consists of paperwork to be completed on back cases.Now they are enjoying the lull in action and adjusting to living together with all its perks, including their temporary pesky cats.  But a phone call from his sister in Texas interrupts Zane’s equilibrium and he stalls in answering Ty’s questions about the call.  In fact, Zane has never been very forthcoming with information about his family.  Ty can only guess from the tenseness in Zane’s body language and pained silences when the matter comes up that Zane’s relationship with his family is strained at best.  The only family member Zane occasionally talks about is his sister, Annie and his niece.  Ty’s family, on the other hand, is a known factor to Zane and both men travel to West Virginia after Mara, Ty’s mother calls them home.

While at the Grady homestead an acute observation brings out revelations about their current relationship as well as the Ty’s past and the Grady family dynamics may never be the same. And while Ty and Zane are dealing with the emotional aftermath of the Grady family visit, Annie calls Zane again, this time to say their father has been shot.

Family relations and responsibilities reach out to ensnare Ty and Zane from West Virginia to Texas even as they try to solve the mystery of  the shooting on the Garrett ranch.  Can their relationship withstand the pressure from their families as well as their own insecurities? Ty and Zane have to solve the mystery behind the attacks on the ranch and work for their families acceptance before they can go forward into a shared future.

I got the book at midnight before the server crashed, read through the morning and then started over again. So now I sit here, tired and yet throughly satisfied the story, with Abigail Roux, and the direction Ty and Zane’s relationship is headed.  Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) is less action adventure then it is an exploration of both mens past, their present relationship, and the possibilities that their future might hold.  In each previous book, another layer gets pulled back and more of either Ty or Zane’s history is revealed.  Up until now, it has been mostly Ty.  In the last book (Armed & Dangerous), we learned of Ty’s ordeal, taken hostage and tortured, during a secret mission for the Marines.  We will hear more about that during the events here.

In Stars & Stripes, both men have to deal with family issues of past hurts, parental love, as well as family acceptance that have been lurking just under the surface since book one. Ty has always had a strained relationship with his father, wanting his approval while feeling that he never quite measured up to Earl’s standards.  Tense scenes between both Earl and Ty have played out throughout the series. As Ty and Zane’s relationship deepened, Zane’s opinion of Earl and his treatment of Ty colors Zane’s view of Ty’s family. And while Zane has had a front row seat for some of the Grady family altercations and squabbles, Ty has no knowledge of Zane’s background with his family, as Zane refuses to talk about them and his past.  Between them, it is both all and nothing, a status that is about to change for Ty and the reader when the setting changes to Texas.

Once upon the Garrett family ranch, Ty and the reader start to see a totally different Zane.  Here Zane’s past is laid out before us and part’s of Zane’s character development is clarified to all.  Once more, Abigail Roux, reveals additional depths and dimensions to the characters Ty and Zane that we thought we knew.  I love that even after five books, we are discovering new emotional territory with both men even as they discover it themselves.  I find this highly realistic as it is a true measure of a relationship’s growth that a person can shed more of their inner walls to become vulnerable to the person they love, just as Zane and Ty do here.  And if we are talking characterizations, and we are, then Roux grabbed my expectations of Earl’s behavior, shook them like a cat with a mouse, returned them to me in a completely different state.  Do not look for cardboard characters or a one trick pony here, you won’t find them.  The people you meet between these pages, whether they live in West Virginia or Texas, are as authentic a bunch as you will meet, complete character portraits.  I love Harrison Garrett, what a great creation. Same goes for all of Ty’s family,Earl, Mara, Deuce, including the irrepressible Chester and his shovel.I loved Annie and Sadie and hope we will see more of them too.

Let’s talk location, shall we?  It’s all about vivid descriptions and homework needed to make the places come as alive as the people in it.  Abigail Roux is great with the first one and does the second in abundance.  Her blog was full of her travels to Texas and her visit to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas, complete with photos.  And it shows.  As Ty and Zane visit the Animal Sanctuary next to the Garrett ranch we get a feel for the look and sounds of big cats rescued, both their appeal and the fear.  We feel the heat and the sounds, the smells that come with summer in Texas where the air is so dry the dust coats the skin, and manure is both pungent and pervasive. Roux made me want to get on the plane and experience it all myself, just as Ty and Zane do.  I wasn’t in my bed reading my Kindle, I was on horseback traversing uneven ground past cacti and heat baked plains.  Just marvelous.

Yes, there is action and adventure but the focal point here is Ty and Zane’s relationship and how it affects their families. That can be far more treacherous and scary than any spy or traitor.  Throw in an injured father and explosive family dynamics, and this newest addition to the Cut & Run series equals anything that has come before.  But Abigail Roux leaves us with a mystery and a hint about Zane’s past that may be returning to threaten them all.  I hope I am reading this right.  The anticipation is building again.  The author says we are getting nine books.  That’s 3 more to go.  I can feel explosions on the horizon.  So here I sit.  Waiting.  Is that a Shelby Mustang I hear coming?  Please don’t make us wait too long.

Cover.  Love the covers by LC Chase.  They were listed in my best series cover.  Find it here.

Ten percent of the sales of Stars & Stripes are going to IEAS per Abigail Roux’s website and author’s note.

How to support Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue:

International Exotic Animal Rescue (IEAS) link here.

Cut & Run Series:

Armed & Dangerous , #5 – read my review here  written by Abigail Roux

Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux