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Alaska

REVIEW:  Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

REVIEW: Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

broken-trails

Scotch Fuller has already run the Iditarod three times and is preparing for a fourth attempt. Her single-minded focus on the rigors of training allows her to forget the shocking loss of her lover in a tragedy for which she blames herself.

The only race Lainey Hughes runs is away from her past and into the bottom of a bottle. After a devastating injury in a war zone, she’s continued her photojournalist career in the natural beauty and warmth of Uganda. A trip to Alaska to cover dog sledding is not what she wants, but the lure of a paying gig proves too tempting.

Lainey trusts her camera and Scotch trusts her dogs—and neither cares much what the other thinks…not at first.

Dear Ms. Redhawk,

The description of your latest book had already caught my attention before I read the glowing review at Ladylike Book Club. Since I have a long time fascination with the Iditarod – ever since reading “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulson and “My Lead Dog was a Lesbian” (no, I’m not trying to be funny, that really is the title) by Brian Patrick O’Donaghue – I probably would have read it anyway but the other review sealed the deal.

From the blurb, I hadn’t realized that Lainey would end up running the race as a rookie or that so much time would be spend in months long preparation for the March race but this allowed for some in depth, behind the scenes insight into just how much effort goes into sled dog racing – tons – and how grueling it is for the mushers – unbelievable. By the time the race arrives, I was mentally exhausted.

But I was loving all the information. I enjoy a book where the characters are given unusual occupations or a unique event takes place and this book has both. Better still, instead of being mere window dressing, they are integral to the plot, well researched, and seamlessly integrated into the whole.

When the mushers and their dogs set off from Anchorage, the real endurance begins. Reading about Scotch’s efforts to win the race and Lainey’s to merely finish it, I truly understood that this race ain’t for sissies. If you’re not prepared, you could die. If you don’t take proper care of your team, you all could die. Worst of all, even if you do everything right, the conditions could still be enough to cause you to scratch after all that hard work. Or die. Being in Lainey’s head as she navigated and experienced the race was almost like being there but it also convinces me as nothing else could that following from home via the official race website is the way to go for me.

Ah, but where’s the romance? For the first third of the book, both Scotch and Lainey play the is-she-isn’t-she guessing game and lust a little as they’re dishing out dog chow and taking the dogs out on trail runs. The mental lusting never becomes as bad as some books I’ve read wherein the characters practically stand in a daze of drool. I do think readers should anticipate that the sexuality is low key for a good long time. When Scotch and Lainey do finally get a chance to jump each other’s bones, the jumping is delicious, sexy and nicely done but it takes a while to get there.

Scotch and Lainey also have other issues to deal with namely a disastrous past romance for Scotch and Lainey’s alcoholism. Of the two I felt the alcohol issue got more page time and attention. You don’t hesitate to show how addicted Lainey truly is, how it runs her life and how hard she denies it. As the book ends, each woman is coming to terms with her issue and things are looking up but I would like to have gotten more insight into the demon of Scotch’s past.

As an exploration of what goes into the training for the Iditarod – both for mushers and dogs – I think the book is great. As for the romance, I’m afraid that takes a back seat to the race so readers looking for a more even balance or a book heavy on the relationship will probably be disappointed. I like that not all the loose ends are tied up, that Lainey and Scotch both know there will be more work needed for their past and present issues but also that they’re committed to solving their problems and building a life together. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Addison Fox

REVIEW: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Addison Fox

“After a frantic call, Sloan McKinley travels to the heart of the Alaskan wilderness to be there for her best friend, who’s just inherited property in the small town of Indigo. The last thing she expects is to be lured by the town’s matriarchs into their annual contest to get their grandsons married off.

But Sloan can’t deny the appeal of the rugged local men-Walker Montgomery in particular. Soon she finds herself falling in love with the wild outdoors…and with one of Indigo’s most beloved residents. There’s just one question that remains: is the town’s most confirmed bachelor ready to get caught?”

baby it's cold outside foxDear Ms Fox,

I’m never sure what arcs Jane is going to send me but in one of the latest batches, she tucked a copy of your new contemporary, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Not having ever tried any of your books before, I thought, “what the heck.” The blurb sounded like it could be cute so I dove in.

The book starts off well and gives a succinct background to Sloan and why she might not only go along with the bachelor stuff but be more ready than Walker in admitting to her feelings and going for what she wants. Then…

it’s off to Alaska and the feeling that I’m missing something. Grier and her story storta get started then dropped for much of the book with only an occasional return to it to remind us since by now we’ve almost forgotten it. I suppose since this appears to be a series that more time will be spent fleshing out Grier’s past and issues with her father but for right now as this book ends, I’m still truly confused. Since this is only sprinkled on top of Sloan + Walker’s book, I can – and will – ignore most of it for now.

The whole bachelorette thing could have taken over this story and made it silly. After all, the idea is kind of sexist especially since there are so many more men than women in this area so why should the women even be competing? Seems like the men should be proving their worth. Anyway, I’m glad that outside of lighthearted trash talking between the men and women this aspect was left for last and quickly over. I did kind of expect some more time to be spent on the bachelor auction as this sort of thing is usually good for a laugh but even this got skimmed over. Hmmmm

Sloan impresses me. She’s smart, witty, good natured, willing to have some fun after letting her hair down and she lets go of her preconceptions about Alaska and admits she shouldn’t have them. She seems like the type who’d be a great travel companion. She’s also a great friend to Grier and new found friend to Avery and sometimes that involves telling a girlfriend what she doesn’t want to hear. And those two need a lot of telling. I like that Sloan is willing to dig deep into herself and take the chance on telling Walker what she feels and wants. She’s the one with the balls about it. And she also gets off a great story about the whole adventure and learns from everyone then makes use of her new self knowledge. But then what the fuck happens after Walker announces his little “this is my background that precludes me from ever falling in love for good” and Sloan seems to throw all her principles about how she deserves more from a man out into the snow for a few nights of sex? This part disappointed me as it seems like falling into standard “pad the middle of the book and extend the word count because they can’t both fall in love just yet.”

Meanwhile Walker can be a putz. A handsome putz and putz who’s a good lawyer but Lord the man does need a 2×4 lumber whack to the head. Sloan doesn’t mock him when she finds out the reason he’s so against forevah, she sees and feels his pain, but then she is the one to point out that he isn’t his father, he’s grown and he can make choices if only he’s got the nerve and strength to try. As the page count wound down, I wondered if Walker wasn’t going to pull the rug out from under their romance once too often but the grovel scene, where he announces to the world what a fuckwit he’s been then goes about fixing that, is worth most of the price of admission. But man is he a fuckwit for a long time then, after a brief moment of epiphany where he pulls his head out, he plunges back into fuckwittery til the end.

I get the impression you either already love Alaska or have fallen in love with your research about it. It’s not only Small Town Life Rulez but snowy, extremely cold Alaska life Rulez. Okay, it does look like a bee-yut-eful place but for everyone to fall madly in love with life here in such a short space? In winter? Really? Which leads me to another issue which is one brought up here in a recent Open Thread for Readers. The story starts in late November, goes on for 2 weeks and it’s like mushing the romance to the finish line. Wedding bells haven’t rung yet on the New Years Eve that wraps up the book but let me catch my breath from the speed that a lot of today’s romance books seem to share.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” starts off very nicely but gets bogged down a touch by the middle before finding its way again for the end. I was disappointed that Sloan gets temporarily turned into a character who – out of the blue and for little reason we’ve seen so far – suddenly realizes! “I’m in lurve. Let’s have a few nights of hot sex.” And that Walker switches into putz-mode when the plot calls for it. I’m not ready to move to Alaska yet but could be persuaded to continue with the series to see where you’ll take the plot threads next. B-

~Jayne

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