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ISBN-10: 1-55404-140-6
Genre: Alternate Lifestyles/Romance
eBook Length: 174 Pages
Published: June 2004

From inside the flap

"Calico" is something of a breakthrough novel in that it spans a bridge which is only now opening for two-way traffic. The author describes "Calico" as a "western/romance/adventure/mystery with a twist"...the twist being that its cowboy hero/protagonist just happens to be gay.

Calico Ramsey finds himself with the responsibility of seeing that two 17 year old orphaned twins from Chicago, Josh and Sarah Howard, get safely from the rail line’s end to their aunt in Colorado. But things have begun to go terribly wrong even before the twins arrive, and it doesn?t take long for Calico to realize someone does not want him to reach his destination (though how anyone even knows the trio’s destination is a mystery to Calico).

There is enough action, adventure, and mystery to satisfy both diehard western fans, and even those who don?t normally care for the genre. The gently developing romance is non-threatening to those who have lived their lives on the "mainland" side of the bridge, but offers a unique insight into the 10 percent of the population living at the other end of the bridge.

Reviews and Awards

A Gay Western Romance
Release date--June, 2004

Is there anything Dorien Grey can?t write? His latest, CALICO, starts right up with a good old fashioned shootout in the town general store, and although he didn?t start the battle, Calico gets stuck with the bill for the damage. Good Guy that he is, he agrees to pay it.

Calico has been raised by a man he calls Uncle Dan since his parents were killed when he was just a young?un. Seems Uncle Dan has just received a letter from his brother’s solicitor. His brother’s wife had died years before, leaving his brother with twins to raise alone, and now his brother is dead. Although Dan and his brother haven?t corresponded for many years, the solicitor informs him that his brother wanted him to take over the rearing of his twins, a boy and girl who are only a few days shy of eighteen.

Dan’s not all that hot on taking the kids in, but allows as to how he really should and begins to prepare the homestead for them. Then he receives a letter from the kids? aunt on their mother’s side, offering to take them in. Dan says no, his brother wanted him to raise the kids and he will. But just before they?re to arrive, Dan is killed by a gunshot wound from an unknown person or persons. Calico, still grieving for Uncle Dan, meets Josh and Sara when the train rolls into town. He takes them under his wing, intending to take them straight to their aunt, where he figures they?ll be safe and well taken care of. But then things begin to go bad for all three of them. Someone is following them as they head out of town and Calico doesn?t know why.

If you like good westerns you?ll love this one. It includes a romance with (as Grey refers to it) a twist. The twist is that this is a gay Old West romance and I have to tell you, no matter what lifestyle you follow, the growing love story between Calico and Josh is a thing of subtle beauty. My feeling is that a love story is a love story, and this is a particularly nice one, with growing sexual tension developing as only a master of characterization could write it, slowly and with great tenderness. I doubt many people will be able to read this book and put it down untouched.

Grey has managed once again to create a cast of characters you really, truly care about. This is Grey’s forte; wonderful, warm, human characters you fall in love with right away and never forget, even long after you?ve put down the book. A brand new style, a great western novel, a whole new side of Dorien Grey. I expect his westerns to become as well known as his Dick Hardesty Mystery series. Don?t miss this one.

Beth Anderson’s Website:

Calico: A Different Kind of Western Romance
by Dorien Grey

This book is about a man named Calico who finds himself in the midst of a gunfight when his adopted uncle inherits his twin niece and nephew, just shy of being adults. Calico knows something is amiss when Uncle Dan gets killed just before he was to pick up the twins, Josh and Sara, from the train station in Hutchinson.

Calico takes charge of the city-bred twins from Chicago and takes them to Uncle Dan’s sister, Rebecca, who lives in Bow Ridge, Colorado with her husband, Mike. Calico becomes aware of the danger lurking just around the corner when the first hotel he and the twins stay in burns up in flames. He feels protective over the twins as the four thugs continue to be just ahead of them prepared to cause them harm.

The book comes to life and I found myself drawn to the old West with cowboys, wagons, gunfights and small town saloons. I was impressed with Grey’s vivid descriptions of the characters and backgrounds. The story spans from Hutchinson to Bow Ridge, Colorado as Calico and the twins make their way to Rebecca while avoiding and fighting off the thugs. During their adventure, the twins learn to adjust to the harsh living out in the country and Calico learns more about himself. This book is about a different kind of romance, but it’s the kind of romance that feels natural. I recommend this book for those who like to read western and those who are open minded. The twist in the plot will sure to surprise you!


Reviewed by,
Gracia L. Mason

Reviewed by  Murder and Mayhem

Calico is a likeable young man, caught up in situations that he had never dreamed of and with no one to advise him, nonetheless manages to figure out who is after them, and how to cope with the new and confusing feelings that are coming over him. This is a fascinating coming of age story set against the backdrop of the wild west with a touch of romance and mystery thrown in. You will find yourself caught up in the lives of these three young people as they try to find their way in a world that is strange to all of them.

Calico (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

Calico drew a careful bead with his brown eye and squeezed the trigger, watching with a vague sense of pleasure and vindication as the thunderclap of the shot was followed by the appearance of a bright red stain on the dirty gray shirt of the hulking man in front of him. The man stood, unmoving, a look of surprise on his pockmarked face.

His head turned slowly, as though looking for the source of the shot. Then, the gun in his hand wavered and dropped to the ground. He opened his mouth as if to speak, and a small trickle of blood oozed out of the corner and ran down his stubbled chin. Like a felled tree, he toppled forward onto his face, raising a small cloud of dust on the empty street.

"One down," Calico murmured, then strained his ears for any telltale movement in the surrounding buildings. All he heard was his own breathing, suddenly interrupted by the girl’s renewed sobbing. He turned sharply, raising a finger to his lips to silence her.

"He’s not moving," she sobbed, indicating the curly dark head of her brother, cradled in her lap.

"He’s just passed out," Calico whispered reassuringly, though the knot in his stomach reflected his concern for the young man’s condition. "He?ll be all right. ’Sides, he ain?t feelin? any pain’s long as he’s out." He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. The youth’s face was drained of color and it was only by staring at his chest, bared to dress the shoulder bullet wound, that Calico could see the almost imperceptible movement of his breathing.

But at the moment, Calico Ramsay had other things to worry about, if the three of them were to get out alive.

The general store in which they?d taken refuge gave a perfect view of the entire main street. The town had only two streets, which formed a rough-shaped letter "T"; the top, consisting of a few storefront buildings and a smattering of houses running along the foothills, the base trailing off down into the valley. The general store was located exactly at the juncture of the two arms, its back to the foothills and its front facing squarely down the center of the main street. No one could come or go across the street without being seen, and the cluttered mass of mannequins, bolts of draped cloth, and other paraphernalia in the shop’s window afforded an ideal camouflage.

The one small pane through which Calico was firing had apparently broken out some time before, with no broken glass evident either inside the store or out. It would be hard to tell, without looking closely, that it was even missing.

Far off to the left, on a high hill overlooking the town, Calico could make out the tiny forms of the majority of the town’s inhabitants, clustered together in the center of the iron-fenced cemetery where a funeral apparently was in progress. The remaining townsfolk, if any, were huddled safely behind doors. Calico knew the sound of the firing could be clearly heard on the hill; he?d been able to hear distant singing as he?d ridden into town; but he suspected that the people there knew better than to come back to town until they were sure it was safe.

A quick movement behind a window on the balcony of the saloon three buildings down on the main street caught his eye, and Calico quietly and smoothly cocked his rifle. A black-hatted form appeared at the window and crawled through the open bottom half, silently, then slithered out, belly-down, onto the balcony.

The black hat appeared over the low railing, followed by the dark moon of a face, looking from side to side. From the position of the dead gunman in the street below, it was obvious to Calico that his own location could be fairly easily determined.

A rifle barrel snaked over the railing as the man cautiously raised his shoulders and arms into view. Calico followed the man’s gaze as it swept from the fallen figure up the street toward the general store. The man turned slightly to someone still inside the open window behind him. "They?re...." Calico squeezed the trigger, and the man was carried backward by the force of the bullet, the crash of his body onto the balcony muffled by the singing echo of the shot reverberating down the row of store fronts.

"And one makes two," Calico said aloud, hastily re-cocking his rifle. They?d know where he was now, no question. Not taking his eyes from the street, Calico began talking to the girl in a low, calm voice. "Sarah, you leave Josh here and move over to that back door, y?hear?" The girl started to say something, but Calico cut her off. "Now I don?t want to spend all day arguin?, so you just do like I tell you. Josh?ll be all right. You move over to that door real quiet...and keep down low to the floor."

Eyes once again searching the buildings in front of him, Calico heard rather than saw her movement across the rough wood floor, behind the counter, and to the door.

"Now you open it, just a crack, okay?" He heard the rustle of her dress as she raised her arm to the doorknob and turned it slowly. The door opened with a slight creak. "Now keep your head close to the floor and peek out. Can ya see anything?" More dress rustling. "Is anybody out there?"

The back of the shop opened onto a small, scruffy back yard with only a clothes pole, an outhouse, and a low stack of wood between the building and the sharp rise of the foothills. Her view was unobstructed for several hundred feet in either direction. "I don?t see anyone," she said in a small, frightened voice.

Still watching the street, Calico grunted. He was pretty sure there were only the four pursuers who?d been on their trail for the past several days. Two dead, one probably still in the saloon, and the fourth one probably trying to circle around behind them right now. It would be a gamble, sending the girl out, but he had to risk it.

"Good," he said, trying to make his voice as natural and conversational as possible. "Now, two doors down on the left-your right-there’s a haberdashery, remember? You go down there and see if ya can get in. Hot as it is, chances are the owner’s left a window open, at least. There’s no spaces between the buildings, so ya won?t be seen."

"But what about them?" Sarah asked, her voice a little more steady.

"I think there’s only about two left," Calico said, "and I doubt as they?ve had the time to get around back--it?ll take quite a while to circle around without bein? seen. I suspect one?ll come in the front while the other tries the back." He glanced quickly at the girl and was relieved to see her staring at him intently, obviously listening to his instructions.

"Now, when ya get in there," he continued, "I want ya to keep low so’s ya can?t be seen from the street. Get up as close to the front as ya can, find yerself a place to hide where ya can?t be seen from either the front or the back, an? wait there. The saloon’s off to the left, so I suspect one of ?em ?ll come down this side of the street, huggin? the storefronts. Now, if he does, you wait ?til he gets past ya, comin? this way. Then you count t? five and throw whatever ya can get your hands on through the front window ...then you duck back out?a sight and stay there ?til I tell ya to come out. You understand me?"

"Yes. But what about the other one?"

"I?ll wager he?ll work himself way around so he can come down the back from the other direction. So when ya get inside, you be sure the window’s closed and the door’s locked behind ya. We?ll take care of him when the time comes. Now you better get a move on. Remember what I told ya, hear?"

"I?ll remember. Don?t let anything happen to Josh."

Calico tossed a wave over his left shoulder without turning around. "You know I won?t. Now get going...and shut the door behind ya."

He heard the girl leave and the door click shut. He wished there were some way to block it against an unwelcome intrusion, but he couldn?t leave the window. He waited until he was sure the girl had enough time to make it into the haberdashery. Then, cautiously, he moved closer to the front door and crouched behind a cracker barrel. The door opened out, he noted, and would easily give with his weight.

On the floor behind the counter, the young man had regained partial consciousness and was moaning softly.

"Quiet, Josh," Calico whispered. "It?ll all be over in a few minutes." The moaning stopped.

It was so quiet, Calico could hear his ears ring. The seconds seemed like eternity. Why didn?t...?

A board on the wooden sidewalk creaked, somewhere to Calico’s left. Calico edged out from behind the cracker barrel and closer to the door, his insides coiled like a spring. He risked extending his neck to see down the street to his right. It appeared clear.

Crouched low by a large crate beside the door, his leg muscles so tense they ached, Calico waited, his rifle clutched in both hands--one on the barrel, one on the trigger guard.

And then it came...a shattering crash from the direction of the haberdashery.

Calico sprang forward, threw his weight against the door, and burst out onto the street.

He saw the figure, gun drawn, in the awkward stance of one who’s started to spin around in one direction only to stop halfway and turn back. Still in motion himself from the momentum of his crash through the door, Calico pulled the trigger and saw the man lifted off his feet by the force of the blast, his raised gun flying through the air like a startled bird. In an automatic reaction, Calico re-cocked his rifle.

At the same instant, the back door to the general store burst open. Calico spun and, aiming by instinct, pulled the trigger, re-cocking immediately. The corner post of the back door splintered, and Calico got the fleeting image of a figure ducking away behind the shop. Calico ran through the store after him, leaping over the counter and narrowly missing landing on the wounded young man behind it, but by the time he got to the rear door, the figure was disappearing around the corner of a building several doors down. A moment or two later, Calico heard a horse whinny and the sound of hoofs heading off down the street to the right.

Still holding his rifle in his right hand, Calico pulled a kerchief from his rear pocket with his left and mopped his forehead. He felt as though someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on him, and his knees felt weak. Then he remembered Josh, and went back into the general store. He knelt over the wounded youth, whose eyes were now open and fixed on his own, and grinned. "Looks like you?ll live."

Josh gave him a weak smile and whispered: "Why do I always miss out on the fun?" He raised his good hand and Calico, setting his rifle at his side, took it, holding it with both of his own for a moment. Then, freeing one hand, he pushed a lock of curly hair back from the boy’s forehead, noting that there didn?t seem to be a fever. A now- familiar feeling-an unexplained tightness in his chest each time he touched the young man-came over him, and he forced himself to remember where they were. Releasing Josh’s hand, Calico picked up his rifle, and called an all-clear to Sarah.

In seconds the girl’s footsteps announced her return. She threw herself down near her brother. "Are you okay, Josh?" She asked, repeating Calico’s act of brushing the hair from his forehead.

Josh made a weak attempt to wrinkle his nose in disgust at being fussed over.

"Course I?m okay," he murmured. Then his eyes closed and he was quiet. Sarah looked up at Calico in concern.

"He’s fine," Calico reassured her. "Just out again. We?ll see if there’s a doctor in town to look after him."

Sarah put a bolt of cloth under her brother’s head, then rose and motioned Calico to follow her out into the street. She pointed to the rag-doll form of the dead gunman draped half on the sidewalk, half in the dusty street. "He’s the one who shot Josh," she said.

"Yeah, I know," Calico said, recognizing the dead man for the first time.

The sound of approaching horses brought Calico’s attention to the return of the townspeople. As Sarah went back into the general store to see about Josh, Calico sat down on the edge of the sidewalk, two dead men within fifteen feet of him, a third a hundred feet away, and wondered just how in hell he?d ever gotten himself into this mess in the first place.

He remembered the very night it had started....