5 Drops / Release Day Review: A Chaotic Range by Andrew Grey

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Title: A Chaotic Range 
Author: Andrew Grey
Series: Stories from the Range, #7
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M, Contemporary, Western, Romance
Release Date: November 7th, 2014
Length: 200 pages / Novel
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Purchase: Dreamspinner | ARe | Amazon

Most of the time ranch hand David rescues stray cattle, but this time he and his fellow cowboys Wally and Haven save a stranded motorist. David is surprised to find his former high school classmate nearly frozen in his car. After learning that Brian Applewright’s boss fired him from his ranch for being gay, they invite him back to theirs to take a job.

David and Brian moved in different social circles at school, but working together brings them closer. However, David has a rocky history on the ranch. The foreman is his ex, and he only recently returned after a heartbreakingly unsuccessful attempt to find greener pastures. He can’t risk his heart getting close to anyone.

But on a ranch, nature has a way of forcing an issue. When a snowstorm threatens, David and Brian head out to mend a fence and round up some stray cattle. David gets injured, and they must survive in the snow, cold, and wind. It might be the start of a relationship… or the end of their lives.

From the very beginning of this book I was sucked in and held hostage by Andrew Grey’s writing and the vivid feel of the characters. I have to admit, I really didn’t like David after the previous book. I wasn’t looking forward to this one as much because I hate cheaters, BUT – yes, there’s a very good reason for the all caps, I promise – David is so much more than I thought. Such a wonderful character that made bad choices, but then don’t we all fail others and ourselves at times? I loved seeing David develop into such a rich character. I rooted for him almost from the beginning and found that many assumptions I’d made (some his ex on the ranch had made as well) were not quite true.

Enter Brian, and what a terrifying entry it is (see the excerpt below to see what I mean), the ranch hand running from another ranch where lies and homophobia cost him everything, almost including his life. But when these two men come together, much more than their hearts are healed. David’s past is dealt with as is Brian’s and seeing the rest of the ranch crew was wonderful!

A Chaotic Range is a must read! I love this series, but honestly, this has to be one of my very favourites, not just of the series, but of the western m/m romances I’ve read. Period. If you love hot men, characters that grow and bloom, abominable snowmen, and love, then this is the book for you.

Thank you Andrew Grey for the chance to read along with your wonderful characters!

SNOW BLEW in front of, behind, and all around the red car, so thick the hood looked white now. Every few seconds, Brian was able to see something on the side of the road. He’d passed a town a ways back and wished he’d stopped. He had been looking for a p
lace to turn around for the past twenty minutes, but he’d found nowhere wider than his car. The needle on the gas gauge took another lurch toward empty, and Brian realized he didn’t have much time left. He had to find a place somewhere, somehow, but he saw nothing but white. Occasionally, he saw a fence post by the side of the road—the only indication that he was actually still on the road. His heart pounded louder and louder. Thankfully, the heater continued to pour out warm air, but that was the only saving grace right now.

Something green stuck out of the snow on the side of the road. Brian pulled to a stop and leaned over to that side of the car. A road sign and another, homemade sign with an arrow pointed down the other street, where he could just make out tire tracks. He took that as an indication that there had to be someone down that way. He made the turn, and the wind changed. It was coming from behind him now and he could see a little farther ahead of him, but no farther to the side. He kept going and going, hoping to see some sign of life, but the tracks petered out and he had to blaze a trail through drifting snow. Brian knew if he didn’t find something soon, he would be totally out of luck.

The wind died down and the view in front of the car opened up. He could see the land in front of him: a few trees and some white mounds off to the left. He hoped like hell those were buildings. Then, just like that, the wind roared back, the opening closed, and visibility got even worse. Brian was barely moving, and the sound under the tires changed as the ride roughened. Brian realized he was off the road and turned the wheel, but he overcompensated. Before he could turn the wheel back, the car started fishtailing back and forth and then spun, and for a few seconds he was going backward. Then the back of the car dropped and came to an abrupt halt, jarring him back and then forward. Thankfully, his seat belt kept him from hitting the wheel or the window, but he was definitely whipped a little.

“Shit!” Brian breathed and blinked a few times, taking stock to ensure he wasn’t hurt. The engine had cut out. He tried to start it again, but though the engine turned over, it just wouldn’t start. He was most likely too low on gas. Brian stared out the windshield for a few minutes in a daze and then became fully aware of himself once again. He unfastened his seat belt and tried to open his door. It didn’t budge, and he pushed harder, but the snow must have been packed around it because it barely moved at all. The wind, however, found the crack and began pushing its way inside. Brian yanked the door closed. He turned on the fan to force what heat he could get from the engine into the car and then turned it off. He left the hazard lights on, hoping someone might pass or see them if there was a break in the wind. Brian knew it wasn’t likely. He felt the heat slowly dissipate as he sat.

After a few minutes, he figured he had nothing to lose. The car was getting colder and colder, so he shifted to the passenger seat and tried that door. It was worse and would only open an inch no matter how hard he pushed. Brian was stuck, he knew it, and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it. As it got colder, he decided to try his door again. By rocking it back and forth, Brian was able to get it open about six inches, but he’d robbed the last remaining heat from inside the car to do it. He continued working and managed to get the door to open just enough that he could get out.

Brian stepped into snow that went up well past his knees. The car had plowed into a snowbank that had been built up from past efforts to plow the road, with light snow on top of heavy. The back wheels of the car were away from the road, with the body and front of the car resting on the mound. He wasn’t going anywhere, not without help, and all he could see in every direction was white. Nothing but white. He remembered briefly seeing what might have been buildings during the break in the wind, but he wasn’t sure if he’d passed them already or not. His best bet was to get back in the car, try to keep warm, and hope the wind and storm died down soon so someone would see him. So he got back in the car and pulled the door closed. As soon as the door clicked shut, he wished he’d tried to get to his things in the trunk. He reached for the release and it opened, so he got back out and struggled to make his way around to the back.

He managed to open the trunk and somehow keep it open against the wind and snow as he grabbed his duffel and a small backpack. Then he tried to climb back into the car. He slung the backpack over a shoulder and used his free hand to pull himself along the car to the door. He grasped it and managed to leverage himself around the door. He pushed the bags through the opening and then squeezed inside, yanking the door closed with what sounded like a thud of finality. He wasn’t going out again until something changed.

Brian’s hands ached and his ears and face felt as though they were frozen. He tried the engine again, and it blessedly turned over and started. “Thank God,” he whispered and placed his hands over the vents blasting heat into the space. They tingled along with his ears and face as his skin warmed.

After five minutes he was warm and had stopped shivering. He’d reached for the keys to shut down the engine when it sputtered and then went silent. The only source of heat other than himself was gone. Brian listened to the wind as it howled and raged outside the car. There wasn’t a damn thing he could do. He pulled open his duffel bag and shrugged off his coat. He was wearing a sweatshirt, but he found another and pulled it over his head. Then he put his coat back on. The jeans he’d been wearing were wet because the snow he’d picked up outside had melted in the heat, so he shucked them off, along with his wet shoes, and threw them on the passenger-side floor. He had a pair of sweatpants somewhere, so he rummaged for them quickly because he was starting to shiver again in nothing but his underwear. He pulled on the sweats and then a pair of jeans. He had to get creative, but at least the weight he’d lost in the last few weeks made room inside the jeans for the sweats.

Brian stripped off his socks, then found two fresh pairs and pulled those on. He smacked his forehead. He had left his boots in the trunk. He didn’t dare risk getting his last dry clothes wet now, and he couldn’t face another trip out of the car. He’d just have to work with what he had. He found a hat in the duffel and pulled it on, wishing he’d had it earlier. Then he rummaged for something to put on his hands. He couldn’t find anything and figured he could just shove his hands in his pockets. Then he climbed in the backseat and pulled out the few remaining clothes he had left. In the bottom of the duffel he found a bath towel. He wrapped that around his feet and curled up on the seat with the rest of his clothes like a makeshift patchwork quilt on top of him, resting his head where the seat and back passenger door met.

Other than the wind and his own breathing, the world was silent. Brian lost track of time with only his thoughts to mark its passing. He’d screwed up shit in his life so bad. This was not how he’d pictured his life ending, waiting as cold slowly made its way through the clothing that surrounded him. He worked his hands out of the sleeves of his coat and hugged them to his body. It was a decent coat, but not nearly warm enough for this kind of weather.

The car windows fogged and then formed ice crystals on the inside as the m
oisture from his breath began to freeze. He’d had such plans for his life. His parents didn’t know shit about anything, and he’d left to make his fortune. He was going to be famous in rodeo. That would show them. His hometown of Casper would throw him a parade when he came to town. Well, that hadn’t happened. He knew now it couldn’t have, no matter what, but he’d been a kid full of delusions of grandeur that the world had slowly pulled away from him. Nothing he planned seemed to happen. He wasn’t talented enough for rodeo, and all he really knew was ranch work, but that didn’t seem to be working out either.

Brian closed his eyes and let the movie of his life play. There was nothing else to do, so he figured he might as well wallow in the screwed-up mess his life had become. He’d had his last ranch job near Cheyenne the longest of any of them. He’d really liked the place too. The owners had been good people and they’d treated him decently, even after they found out about the “liking broncs instead of fillies” thing. But the other hands had been a completely different matter. The news had spread like wildfire, and after that, nothing had gone right. The guys had made sure of that, and then, well, he’d had to leave—in the middle of a harsh winter when no ranch on earth was hiring anybody for anything. His only chance was to find a job somewhere and hope that spring would bring something better. Look at him: thirty-two years old, out of work, crouched in the back of his car trying to stay alive, not really sure he cared if someone rescued him. Maybe it was like his old man had said—he’d have been better off if he’d just curled up somewhere and died. Maybe his father had been prophetic. He certainly had crawled here, and unless someone came along, it looked like he would very well die here.

He tried to see out, but the windows were fully frozen now, and they appeared to have already been covered in snow. Hell, for all he knew, the entire car had been covered in snow and someone could pass right by and never realize he was there.

Brian closed his eyes and willed time to pass faster. If he was going to die, he might as well get it over with. He was thirsty now and growing more so by the minute. His stomach rumbled and gurgled incessantly, telling him it was empty, a condition he’d become accustomed to more and more lately. No, there was nothing to do but wait for whatever was going to happen. Let it come.

Brian tried not to move too much. His body had warmed up the seat where he was lying. The rest of the car was cold as hell. He’d completely lost track of time. One thing he had noticed was that the soft beeping of the hazard lights had stopped. The battery was dead now, and it wasn’t likely anyone would find him. He debated getting out of the car and making a last-ditch effort to find help. But the howling wind reminded him of what waited, and he knew that was worse. They always said to stay in the car. Even as cold as it was, the car was warmer than the wind. That he knew, so he stayed put.

His blanket of clothes began to chill, and he felt the cold begin to seep through his clothing. It started with his feet and legs and worked upward. His feet began to tingle and then ache. He wriggled his toes and rubbed his legs and feet together before pulling them up as close to his body as he could. He also shifted some more of the covering over them, and that seemed to help, but it was only temporary. “So this is how the end starts,” Brian whispered aloud, hoping that if this was the end, it happened fast.

The slow chill continued. He thought back to when he was a kid and said one of the prayers he’d learned a long time ago and hadn’t thought about for years. Then he closed his eyes and waited for the end to come.

Cold washed over him, and the shivering that had started earlier increased.

“David, Phillip, there’s someone in here,” a masculine voice called.

Brian was scared to open his eyes, wondering if he was imagining things. The car door near his feet opened, cold whipped around him, and Brian shook more. He opened his eyes and saw what looked like an abominable snowman moving around in the doorway.

DREW GREY grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing). He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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