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 of Horse of Bells by Pelaam

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Rating: 3 stars

Horse of BellsPrince Donal and his younger brother, Caolan, are hunting in the royal woods when a mysterious stranger saves Caolan from a wild boar.  A case of love at first sight, the two make a pact saying that they will meet back in the woods as soon as possible, saving themselves only for each other.  But royal politics interfere with that promise as their evil stepmother is plotting to kill them and have her nephew seated on the throne. To interfere with her plans, the princes are sent away for their safety and Caolan never returns to the woods.

The princes plan to stay in exile until Donal comes of age but a trick by their stepmother, Queen Doireann, sends the brothers on a quest to obtain the Horse of Bells from the Dark Prince, a mission destined to fail as all the others who have tried have been put to death after entering the Dark Prince’s lands. On their journey, the stranger from the woods joins them in their travels.  But the kindness is gone and in its place a bitterness towards Caolan that threatens to derail their mission before they get started.  In this fairy tale, two brothers must fight for their honor and for love if a happily ever after is to be theirs for the taking.

This story has all the basics of a fairy tale.  It has the princes in danger, the evil stepmother, the clueless  King, the dark strangers to the rescue, and even a magical horse.  What is missing from this tale is the charm to go with the Prince Charmings, the warmth and glow of a childhood tale reworked for adults.   I love a good adult fairy tale but unfortunately this one felt a bit flat.

I will skip over the two instances of instant love as that is certainly permissible in a fairy tale, but give me characters that make it even a little bit believable.  All of the characters that Pelaam delivers are pretty one dimensional people, from the princes to the Dark Prince to the King. Even fairytale characters must be fleshed out enough that we identify with them to some degree. How can we feel any angst at all that the prince will be torn away form his true love if we don’t care about the characters?  All have so little depth that it flattens out the story, wiping it of any gaiety and joy  associated with stories of this genre. It  did have one little bit of darkness in it but it felt out of place considering all that had gone on before.

I did like the magical Horse of Bells, a nice creation and the stepmother was suitably “evil” in her mechanisms but I keep waiting for the literary magic to begin, to be swept away into a enchantedl kingdom, where everyone is gay, and all good Princes wait for their Prince to appear.  That would have made a great fairytale.  But I can tell you after reading this, I am still waiting for that Kingdom to appear.

Review of Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 2.5 stars

Sullivan Leopards Spots 7Sullivan “Sully” Ward is heading off to college, full of excitement and ready to try new things, a true small town boy come to the big city.  Sully lands in Texas, San Antonia to be exact, ready for life as a student at UTSA and to see what life in San Antonio will hold for a young inexperienced leopard  shifter.  And it isn’t long before he runs into trouble in the wrong side of town and ends up saving a young hustler named Mando.  Mando is under age , just another teenager thrown away because his parents didn’t want a gay son.  Sully takes him into the awful apartment he rented online, feeds him as Mando reminds him of his younger brother and decides now Mando has a home with him.

When he talks to his parents back home, his story stirs up concerns that Sully is in over his head so they contact Bobby Baker, the wolf shifter brother to Josiah, pack alpha and mate to Sully’s cousin.  Bobby and his pack live in San Antonio. All Bobby has to do is check to make sure  Sully is fine and that Mando isn’t a trouble maker.  But from the first meeting, it is clear the trouble is not from Mando but from the fact that Sully and Bobby are mates.  Sully is ignorant of the effect it has on the partners who have found their mates but Bobby isn’t.  He knows Sully is his mate and it scares him enough to send him running after a bout of intense sex, especially for a virgin like Sully.

To make matters worse, there is a psycho stalking Bobby’s pack and an arsonist loose setting fires in Bobby’s clubs. And they both appear to be targeting Bobby and anyone Bobby loves.  Bobby must come to grips with his destiny and accept Sully as his mate and soon.  Sully and Bobby have an arsonist to track and in a horrifying turn of events, an attack to revenge.

Out of the seven books of the Leopard’s Spots series, this is the worst by far.  Bradford is getting farther away from the unique elements of this series, that of the Leopard Shifter history, their interaction with the Amur Leopards, and the mystery of a group of people intent on drugging and experimenting on them.  All of that is not even mentioned here as we track back to the wolf shifters of Texas that are attached to the story via Josiah and Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2).  But that is the least of the problems here.

Bobby Baker was introduced in the last book and he was an exciting, exasperating character.  I would have hoped that if Bradford was going to abandon the Amur Leopards, at least we would have a good book out of it.  But instead we get a book that is 5 percent promise, mostly because of the character of Mando, the vulnerable, underage hustler Sully has taken under his wing and his “brother like” relationship with Sully.  Those scenes were charming, endearing, funny and held out the promise that the rest of the book would be of a similar vein.  Not so as the remaining 95 percent focuses in on the mate relationship between Bobby and Sully.This turns out to be much less affecting as they  have little chemistry as a couple, and Bobby spends most of the book fighting his role as Sully’s mate.  His club is literally burning down around him,a person close to Sully is heinously attacked by the nutjob stalking Bobby, and the two of them are having ridiculous amounts of sex and paying no attention to anything else.  These two act in such an irrational manner that the reader’s frustrations almost exceed the amount of sex they are having.

Finally, most of the goodwill this book generates is destroyed in a grievous attack on a character we have come to adore.  Mostly because it seems superfluous to the rest of the action going on and the depth of emotional and physical destruction visited upon this person is really unnecessary. It really seems such a waste of characters that had such marvelous potential and a mess of a storyline that was resolved far too quickly for the buildup and really made little sense.

I will probably stick with this series because I can’t believe it can get much worse than this.  But like a TV columnist says in his intro, “I watch these shows so you don’t have to”.  I will just say I am reading these books so you don’t have to.  And trust my word,  you really don’t want to read Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7).

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) read my review here

Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) read my review here

Gilbert (Leopards Spots #5) read my review here

Esau (Leopards Spots #6)

Sullivan (Leopards Spots #7)

Review of Inertia (Impulse #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4 stars

Detroit handyman, Derrick Chance, has life just the way he wants it after recovering from period of excruciating loss and emotional turmoil brought on by the deaths of his grandparents and brother.  Safe, unexciting, normal. some would say routine even and they would be right.  Everything in its place, everything in order. and especially no unwelcome surprises lurking to throw up his hard won equanimity.  It has taken Derrick 10 years to get to this point in his life where he feels balanced and safe and he doesn’t want anything to change.  Just look at his home and furnishings.  The house is much the same as when his grandparents had lived there, nothing updated, even the appliances.  Heck, he didn’t even have texting on his phone.

Then Derrick gets a phone call from Gavin Hayes, an accountant who needs his home office outfitted with some shelves.  One look at Gavin, a quick handshake and all Derrick’s comfortable and predictable life is shaken up. Derrick gave up trying to date and all personal relationships when trying to recover from the loss of his family at a young age.  He just didn’t have anything left over to give so why bother? Now Derrick doesn’t know how to handle the emotions Gavin is bringing back to the surface after a long absence.

Gavin too is fighting the impulse to get to know his skittish handyman better.  Gavin has just removed himself from an abusive relationship and the thought of trusting another at this time leaves him uncertain and more than a little afraid, given a secret he is hiding.  It is going to take more than time and an attraction for Derrick and Gavin to decide to risk it all on a chance at love.

Inertia is the first book in the Impulse series that looks to follow the course of a relationship between two men, Derrick Chance and Gavin Hayes. The title of the book is an accurate description of the state of Derrick’s life.  Derrick has remained unchanged, and happily so since the trauma of his grandparents death. Then his brother died as well leaving him so emotionally empty that he was unable to do more than react as his life changed forever.  From that time on, Derrick froze himself into a lifestyle of emotional stasis that comes complete with a house full of relics from his grandparents time, a business based on fixing things from the past, and an isolation so complete that his only friends are his dog, his elderly neighbor and his friend, Devon.  When a work order leads to a meeting with Gavin Hayes, their mild flirting shakes him up, to the point of  Derrick reevaluating his choice of a solitary life.

Gormley does a really nice job of conveying Derrick’s uncertainty about the future and making changes to his life.  From Derrick’s perspective, the future has never held anything but heartache and pain causing him to withdraw from an active social life.  She paints the portrait of a man so hurt, so afraid of emotional pain that he does nothing to move himself forward for fear of being hurt once more.  Derrick has also frozen his sexuality as he has been abstinent for years, remaining a virgin into his thirties. This gives his character a certain innocence that plays off nicely against the character of Gavin Hayes.

The character of Gavin Hayes has also some interesting layers to him.  He is just come from an abusive relationship with a man whose ideas on HIV and AIDS are not only frighteningly self delusional but dangerous.  He too is full of fear for the future and hesitant to start a new relationship. So when the men find they are attracted to each other, each advances forward with all the hesitancy and indecisiveness of ants at a tap dance rehearsal.  For each uncertain foot forward, then is an almost immediate step back, sometimes several so that they find themselves back at the starting point.  But instead of this being a frustrating element, Gormley makes us understand these men and their actions.

Then there is the sex.  There are some very hot scenes here as Derrick discovers that his sexuality didn’t die along with his family but has just been dormant, awaiting a spark to come back to life.  Gavin is more than happy to be that spark.  But this is not a teacher/student relationship as Gavin’s former lover has left him with mental scars where their sex life was concerned.  There is a very realistic give and take here between the men as Derrick discovers he has a slight submissive kink and Gavin explores the idea of reciprocity in sex play.

There is no real angst here although from the sound of Gavin’s former lover, it might appear in the sequel Acceleration, Impulse #2. Inertia is simply the story of the beginnings of a relationship.  It may go on longer than necessary. In fact, the entire book could be tightened up with respect to editing errors and repetitive sections.  This is the second edition of this story after all. All of this might be due to the fact that Inertia is a self published book that could benefit from the efforts of a good editor.  That said, Gormley has done a wonderful job with her story and I look forward to the next installment in the relationship of Derrick and Gavin.

Cover:  Interesting cover by Kerry.  Compelling in its own way but also a little rustic in feel.