Title: (Whispering Pines Series)
Author: S J D Peterson
Cover Artist: Ann Cain
Genre: Contemporary Western/Romance
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: What could have been a well-written western love triangle was spoilt—for me—by contrived character complications.
Blurb: Despite the loving support of his family, Lorcan James wants to try life on his own, so at twenty-one, he finds himself walking halfway across the country in search of adventure. What he finds is desperation, desperation that leads him straight to Whispering Pines Ranch and right into the path of its strong, arrogant, gorgeous owner, who awakens something in Lorcan he didn’t even know existed.
Quinn Taylor is up to his neck in grief and frustration dealing with a neighboring rancher who wants nothing more than to see him go belly-up. He doesn’t need more complications, but from the moment he lays eyes on Lorcan, his world turns upside down. Despite finding in Quinn what his heart craves, Lorcan refuses to be Quinn’s dirty little secret—and Quinn isn’t the only one vying for Lorcan’s attention. Ranch hand Jess will happily declare his love for Lorcan to the world, something Quinn won’t offer—something Lorcan needs above all else.
When I first started reading M/M romance I was a little disconcerted by the reader beware warning that some publishers felt compelled to attach to the books. Well in this case I could have done with a variation of warning but only in the context of the book’s ending.
Excuse me while I start at the arse end of this book and with a self-indulgent rant. This is totally a personal bias, but one of the pleasures I get from the M/M romance is either the HEA—or at least HFN—that is a strong part of the genre. Dreamspinner Press in particular, very kindly have a ‘bittersweet’ line that is marketed as such just so I can avoid them! Likewise if a book is part of a series it is good to know up front. The rather nice cover does say ‘A Whispering Pines Ranch Novel’ but that is a trifle ambiguous. Lorcan’s Desire is part of a trilogy; the second book—Quinn’s Need—is due out in November, which I only found out when I’d finished it. As in a burst of righteous indignation I checked to see if it was indicated anywhere on the buy page on the Dreamspinner site, and finally checked out the author’s website to get this information. The reason it is relevant that this is part of a series is that the ending is not at a time of conclusion or resolution but rather a moment of obviously contrived emotional delusion that is clearly not even HFN. It’s not a big drop cliff hanger, but the fall still exists. I was irritated.
A further reason that this is important is that this self-same delusion is indicative of a major flaw for me in this book. I really felt that the two main character’s personalities were often at odds with their muddled thought processes. Their psychological characters were distorted purely for the sake of conflict.
Lorcan is described as a very pretty young man with a lovely long plait of auburn hair. At this stage Lorcan’s sexuality is unresolved; he has attractions to men and women but has not committed to anyone. However he is often taken as gay and has learnt to fight to defend himself. One of the other characters, Conner very kindly explains Lorcan’s point of view.
“Did you know that what he hates most about people assuming he’s gay isn’t the fact they think he’s gay, but the way they look down at him and judge him when they say it?”
I found this understandable, but still somehow pushing at my belief in the character. However I really liked other elements about Lorcan; call me shallow but I like beautiful young men with long hair. He is also interesting, and thoughtful in other more believable ways.
Indeed the book is enjoyable as it explores the red-hot attraction between Lorcan, whose gay side finally comes up trumps, and Quinn, his closeted boss. It might have been carrying on in a predictable way but the story felt more than credible. So around the half-way point, even after Lorcan has saved him from a barn fire, Quinn decides that in order to preserve the ranch from public opinion he can’t acknowledge Lorcan and their relationship.
Quinn’s mental processes are beyond convoluted. It is exhausting as he weighs up all the conflicting elements, which include the existing socially-accepted gay couple who have worked for him and his father for years. His other employees have always said they had no problem when he is accused of being gay by the guy trying to buy the ranch. Yet still he refuses to come out and he treats Lorcan as a dirty secret. I got really fed up with Quinn and his unrealistic mind, but I was more annoyed with S J D Peterson, who I felt had lost authorial control from this point on—’the character’s made me do it’ just felt so disingenuous to me.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jess, an out and proud cowboy, is falling in love with Lorcan. Jess is a great guy; a big, bold and loving man who shows Lorcan how good life can be. There was a great scene when they played pool and flirted delightfully. Unfortunately, of course Lorcan still loves Quinn…and Jess…and so it goes on and on and into the next book apparently.
All the other elements of S J D Peterson’s first novel that I enjoyed—good dialogue, some intensity, a story that flowed and some great sex—was spoilt by this artificial and perverse character development. This is one I was personally disappointed by, however as I have indicated there were good things here that you may enjoy unhindered.