Silver Saddles (Dakota Series #2 Sequel to Arson) - Cap Iversen

Ladymol's review:

The second in the Dakota Taylor series, this novel surpasses the first both in plot and character development. Arson left you begging for more of Dakota and you’re not disappointed. Interspersed in this novel there are flashbacks to Dakota’s childhood, which are intriguing. He’s irrepressible, unashamed of being a lover of men even as a young boy, delighting in taunting his preacher father with the fact that Jesus was surrounded by men all day…. It’s great fun.

Dakota narrates this one as he did the first, as he’s a great story teller, self-deprecating, amusing and totally honest. Once again the sex is muted, but it’s like a thread running throughout the book. Dakota thinks about men all the time and his passions lead into some of his worst scrapes. I find the sex very arousing, even though it’s so non-graphic.

Now living with Bennie Coulson (the boy who hired him in Arson), Dakota has retired from gun fighting and become a farmer. He hears that his mother has died, and has to go to town to sign some papers.  All he wants to do is get back to Bennie, who obsesses him even after the two passionate years they’ve had together. However, he’s bushwhacked and left for dead. He discovers that someone has posted a bounty for him, dead or alive, and when he recovers from his injuries, he sets out to find out why someone would hate him enough to go to all this effort to see him dead.

The only problem I had with this book was the way Dakota takes off and leaves Bennie without even a word. He thinks about writing to him, but never does. So, this gorgeous young man is left on the farm thinking that the most important thing in his life is dead. This is resolved to some extent, but I felt the hints the author had given us about Dakota’s state of mind—fearing his domestication, wondering if he can still cut it as a gun-fighter—could have been used to make this nine-month absence more understandable. This in no way detracts from the book or the plot; I guess I’m so involved with Dakota and Bennie that I actually felt Bennie had been rather hardly done by!

Dakota soon finds himself involved with the beauty Willie-Blue-Eyes, and lusting after the aristocratic and oddly familiar Caleb. I really like the way Dakota can become involved with other men without for one minute threatening what he was with Bennie, but that these flings are so much more than just sex. He’s an intensely loving man, and his sweet nature clearly comes over to all his lovers. He talks to them, shares intimacies, enjoys their company.

The journey to find his enemy leads him to some surprising places. The descriptions of the landscape are just as vivid in this book as they were in Arson, except now we’ve moved to the Sierra Mountains, and Dakota is fighting snow not drought.

If you’re a fan of Westerns, then you’ll love the detail in this book that brings that genre alive. You can smell the gun oil and horses' sweat; you feel your body ache with the rigours they had to live with in this tough world. If westerns don’t appeal to you, I still recommend you give this series a go. Dakota is a wonderful creation, and to be honest, he carries the novel without plot really!

Wonderful. Needless to say we’ve ordered the third (and sadly last) in the series.

Cerisaye's Review:

I’ve got a pile of books to read and a backlog of reviews to write.  I promised ladymol I wouldn’t open another book until I’d caught up; but this novel sat there (maybe I shouldn’t have put it on top), whispering to me, like Bennie Coulsen in the story calls to Dakota from across the High Sierra.  It’s a short book, and I reckoned I was owed a good read after The Night We Met (sorry, ladymol).

Dust has gathered on those famous Colt .44s, two years on from Arson, our stay-abed hero content to watch the wildlife rather than shoot it.  Dakota’s had a bellyful of killing.  Two Rivers is in gold rush territory, a lawless place where there’s few women and no one bats an eyelid over two men in a clinch at the annual Mother Lode Dance. 

Dakota goes into town to collect supplies, and a letter from his mother.  There in the Gold Dust Saloon he meets a pretty, pony-tailed stranger with a guitar and sapphire blue eyes that’d hypnotise a cobra.   Two years ago, Dakota would’ve leapt willing and eager into bed with Willie Blue Eyes.  Now, he just wants to get home to Bennie.  His fear that cosy domesticity is going to be the death of him very nearly becomes real when he’s waylaid picking blackberries on the trail home.  Someone wants Dakota, dead or alive, and they’d have got him if not for fortuitous intervention by a strange boy Dakota comes to call Angel. 

When Dakota comes to, he’s 200 miles from Bennie, near the Nevada border.  Is it coincidence that Snake Eye is his childhood home, where summer days were spent discovering the mystery of a hard male body?   Where did bounty hunter Nathan Perkins get his fancy silver saddle with the initials SB?  What does handsome dandy Caleb Buckridge want, and why does his presence fill Dakota with a blurred sense of remembering?

Dakota can’t afford to worry about Bennie, and is unable to come up with the right words to explain to him what’s happened.  Dakota must think himself back into gunfighter mode.   Blue Eyed Willie just keeps showing up and he’s a vital distraction, with his long silky moustache that drives Dakota wild.   Nightly fantasies featuring gorgeous Caleb also help.  But Bennie is a constant presence in the book, make no mistake; it’s Dakota’s dream of growing old with his beautiful boy that sustains him.

Dakota sees with his third eye.  He’s a dreamer, who’s been to the edge, seen the best and worst in himself and other men.  As in Arson, good men sometimes are driven by circumstances to do wrong.  Black Eagle Feather, Paiute outlaw, comes to Dakota’s aid because he trusts his blood brother to do the right thing.  We learn more about Dakota’s past, like how he joined the Union cause in the Civil War because he fancied a freed slave. Dakota has always accepted what he is, and has led a free life on his own terms, refusing to compromise. Others aren’t so lucky.  Dakota got his first gun so no one would call him on his ‘affectional proclivities’ but it cost him his mother’s love.

Family secrets, sexuality & relationships and parental expectations, the nature/nurture debate, weave into a complex and satisfying tale.  The story winds to an explosive climax, when Dakota gets to the bottom of the mystery that’s kept him from his lover.  Okay, I’d mostly guessed the truth, but hadn’t considered implications, and there are surprises; I actually shivered when Dakota returns to Angel’s place.  There’s little actual sex, but the story is full of love, and some nice tingle moments, like Dakota recollecting the night they broke the bed.  Dakota makes no assumptions about Bennie. I was nervous as he was when he finally goes home to their cabin.

I love Dakota Taylor, and this book.  And I’ve got #3 in the series looking at me now as I type…

Alyson Publications. ISBN: 155583213X

Buy From Amazon UK here:  Silver Saddles (Dakota S.)

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