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Calico by Dorien Grey

Calico (2004)

by Dorien Grey

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To all account Calico by Dorien Grey can easily being classified as a Young Adult novel with a Coming of Age story. What sex, or better reference to sex, you will find in it is so light weighted and generic that for sure this is not an erotic romance but I will not arrive to say that it’s not a romance. If you are familiar with the western novels (a la Louis L'Amour style), you know that the love story in that novels, if existing, was not the main theme, and the fierce cowboy was mainly concentrated in reaching a target, whatever target it was; for this reason, the cowboy could be old, sometime even “grandfatherly”, taking care of the young kids in the plot like a substitute father or uncle. This is not the case of Calico, who is 27 years old; sure he is all the same stoic like those cowboys, and sure he takes care of 17 years old twin brothers Josh and Sarah, but he is not at all fatherly. First of all since, at 27 years old, he cannot be really the father of 17 years old boys and second since he more or less “silently” falls in love for Josh at first sight. And if you are thinking that he is taking advantage of an underage kid, first of all consider what I said above, no sex at all, and second it’s Josh that makes his moves on Calico, and Calico will be the perfect gentleman.

Of course, if the target of this novel is indeed a young adult reader, then maybe having an adult fall in love for an underage kid can be controversial; well, you need to consider that, more or less at the beginning of the story, the author explains that 17 years old in the Old West was not being a kid, but for the sake of the plot, the two brothers had to be under guardianship; plus while 27 years old Calico has always lived his adult life in the Frontier, and so not really having much chances to be in contact with women, 17 years old Josh is from Chicago, a big city even at the time. So where someone could question Calico’s preferences for men (he has not really many choices), Josh is way more ahead in his sexual maturity; now I’m not saying he is experienced, far from it, I’m saying he seems to be more self-conscious.

There is really not many discussion on the “I prefer boys, do you?” theme, it’s more or less a mutual acknowledgment: Calico simply asks Josh if he has left a girlfriend behind and Josh says no, expressing little interest in girls, and replying with a “like you” to Calico; that is all, that is all they need to know about each other. To Josh’s not so hidden attempts, Calico kindly resists, not really until Josh is 18 years old, but more until they are both safe. Again, Calico’s acknowledgment that now he has no more reasons to refuse Josh is kind, and Josh is satisfied with the certainty that, once they will be safe, he will have the one he desires.

The story is more about the “travel”, the slowly but steadily building of trust between Calico and Josh, than about the target; the outside threat, and its removal, is important since it serves to give a reason to Calico and Josh to spend time together, but it could have been anything else, and for that reason I don’t think the author put much effort in making it dangerous or mysterious.

  elisa.rolle | Oct 31, 2011 |
CALICO by Dorien Grey can't quite reach its full potential. It isn't a bad book, it just doesn't do the most out of a theme that can deliver quite a lot. It is a historical Western. I am a sucker for adventure and a good dose of gun slinging. But where THE GOD EATERS delivered with spicy installments of whorehouses and renegade priests, violence and great sex, CALICO just barely dips its little toe in the teppid water. It feel as if it is too scared of its own shadow.

The story of CALICO who find himself escorting two beatiful twin brother and sister to their aunt and being pusued by mysterious gun slingers, fire starters and general unwashed scum is in itself a great, if not fantastically original premise. I don't mind familiar themes as long as they deliver a good story and few hours of shameless fun. Romance novels do that all the time, and although I am not that versed in the Western Genre - I understand it happens there quite frequently too.

Let me make it clear- The adventure itself IS fun. There are chases and stampedes and caravan trails, fires and gun shots and a plot that slowly comes to light. The main problem is the characters. When the characters are flat you would be hard pressed to flesh the plot around them. In fact I think it would be impossible. Good characters are like the skeleton of a story - without them the flesh just falls off into a suelchy mass... ok... bad metaphor... squelchy mass would be disgusting but at least interesting. This is not the case with Calico, which is a shame because the story IS pleasant enough.

Calico himself desplays one of the phenomenon I can't stand - The Token of Wierdness. This happens when an author can't make a character deep enough or complex enough in personality and dumps some form of odd physical feature or eccentric behaviour. I think the only person to ever get away with this and make it superb was Agatha Christy but just because she could do it doesn't mean anyone else can... infact I can't think of anyone else who does right now. In the case of CALICO the characteristic happen to be his odd coloured eyes... it just isn't enough.

The twins are very pretty , very loveable and that is just the problem. I don't like un-flawed characters. Full stop. Lovable characters send me to sleep. HELL - even the bible is crammed with absolute arse-holes - surely there is a lesson for us there XD Josh - the twin brother shows imediate romatic interest in Calico and you would think that with Calico's reluctance you would have some stolen moments of smut brought by the overly eager youth throwing himself on the older rancher because like any other 17 year old - he can't take NO for an answer especially since Calico confess that he believe they are destined for each other... but no luck... HE IS TOO GOOD AND SELF DICIPLINED - and that goes for the both of them.

There is a reek of marality there in the way Calico refuses to give in to passion until Josh hits 18. The way Josh desplay 21st century open mindedness of a 20 something adult who has finished grappling with their sexuality already and came up of the closet to the sounds of trampets and a shower of sequins. It just doesn't work. It can work. It just isn't convincing.

There are so many points this book miss oportunities. The sex is the least of them (there isn't any by the way only a couple of tepid kisses). Calico past as a boy on a caravan trail rescued by a rancher after natives slaughtered his family... not that I can feel any sympathy because I AM a politically correct bitch and take the side of the natives any time - but I would like to feel the child fear and loss. There doesn't seem to be any REASON to the mutual atraction of the two characters. It happens because the author tells us so and it is not enough. No one seem to have a past of any significance. actually no one has a personality of much description so it is hardly a surprise that it doesn't develope.

The story is short and it COULD have been longer. I hate fat novels where authors churn water for chapters on chapters on end but THIS novel needs padding and lots of it. ( )
1 vote Zehavit_Lamasu | Mar 23, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193413533X, Paperback)

An old-fashioned 'they-don't-write-em-like-that-anymore' feel-good Western romance with a kick--and enough mystery and adventure to keep you riveted to the very end.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:15 -0400)

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