Marine vet Gordon Fisher in trouble and he knows it. He has been trying to deal with the effects of PTSD and survivor’s guilt on his own since he mustered out of the service and it hasn’t been working. He is living out of his car, lacking money to eat. So when a group of eco terrorists offered him a fee to release some animals being abused on a nearby ranch, he agreed without asking questions. Unfortunately, those animals were the great cats being cared for by veterinarian Wally Schumacher on the ranch he shares with his partner, Dr. Dakota Holden. And the first animal Gordon tries to release grabs him instead. To his shock and dismay, when bleeding Gordon is then captured by the ranch hands.
Mario Laria is still hurting over the breakup of his three-year relationship with a former ranch hand when he finds the man who tried to break into the cages and release Wally’s cats. Something about the troubled vet calls out to him and when he and Dakota find out that Gordon only took the job out of desperation, well, it only seems right that he offers Gordon a spare room in his cabin, if only to keep him away from Wally. But what to do when he can’t keep Gordon out of his thoughts when while pining for his ex-lover to return?
And it’s not just Mario that is confused, Gordon thinks he might be falling in love but he still has nightmares about his last mission, the eco terrorists are still recruiting people to infiltrate the ranch, and then some people from the military are in town asking questions about a missing vet. Can things get any worse? Or will Gordon finally be able to find the help he needs to heal and accept the love that is being offered?
A Volatile Range is the sixth book in a series that continues to gain strength with each new story. We had met Mario in many of the past books, once as a former lover of Travis and then as a partner of a ranch hand named David. Here Mario becomes the main character and finally gets his chance at the love he has always wanted and seen in the many established relationships around him. Mario is a lovely character, someone who is starting to worry that the type of man and relationship he covets will never be his and the way Grey has him hanging on to all the little accoutrements from his last failed relationship certainly rings true. But the real gem here is Gordon Fisher, the anguished, homeless vet so desperate for money that he agrees to a job he knows might be fishy. Once again, Grey has done his homework and given us a beautifully realized character, a vet of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who returns home to poor treatment and inadequate support for his many emotional and physical needs stemming from their traumatic service. This is such a painfully current subject and Grey has acquitted himself well when it comes to helping the reader understand some of the trauma and pain this one veteran is going through.
Again, there is no unrealistic case of instant love although the attraction is certainly there. But the challenges both men face to any relationship are many and readily acknowledged by each of them which kept this book grounded and gritty in it’s depiction of two confused and wary men trying to find a way to each other. I just loved this.
All our other favorite couples appear as well because the ranch has been suffering since the death of Jefferson Holden, Dakota’s father and the heart of the ranch. I am not sure how much longer Grey intends to go with this series, but if he can keep it as topical and strong as this book, than I see no end in sight.
The only quibbles I had with the story were with a talk with a fellow vet making as much a difference to him as it did. Most vets undergo lengthy rehabilitation and therapy and I would have liked to see Gordon get the same treatment. And then there is that little matter of the eco terrorists… but in the end, this is a remarkable story. It is beautifully written full of well conceptualized characters that grab at your heartstrings and don’t let go. Really this is a wonderful story and one I heartily recommend as I do the entire series.
Here are the stories in the Range series in the order they were written. They don’t need to be read that way but it helps with characters and their relationships.
- A Shared Range
- A Troubled Range
- An Unsettled Range
- A Foreign Range
- An Isolated Range
- A Volatile Range
Cover Art by L.C. Chase. Just a beautiful cover, a little different in color and tone from the rest but in keeping with the story. Lovely.