A guest review by Jenre
The rich, the famous, and the most serious skiers come to Wapiti Creek, where Jake helps them onto the lifts and Kurt improves their skiing skills. It’s perfect winter work for men who love the outdoors but like the comforts of hot water and a big bed when there is several feet of snow on the ground.
For rangers who have been mostly alone with one another for months, it’s a big change to rejoin civilization. Making friends is tough, especially when a ski patrol finds Jake far too appealing for Kurt’s peace of mind, and why does everyone snicker about the Alpenschlossl Ski School? For two men still finding their way as a couple, it isn’t clear if the biggest danger comes from vicious coworkers, would-be friends, the mountain, or each other.
Snow on the Mountain is the sequel to the excellent Fire on the Mountain (reviewed here). Whilst it can be read as a stand-a-lone, I would recommend that you read Fire on the Mountain if you really want to get the true measure of how the character of Jake, especially, has developed since the end of the previous book.
The book begins a few months after the end of the previous book. Jake and Kurt have finished their summer job as forest rangers and are now working at an exclusive ski resort for the rich and famous – Kurt as a private ski instructor and Jake as a ski lift operator. The two men are very much still in the honeymoon period of their relationship and Jake in particular has grown in confidence in his feelings about Kurt and his sexual experience with Kurt. Kurt is pleased that he’s landed a well paid job, but begins to get suspicious when hints are dropped about some of his ‘other duties’ towards his clients. After realisation hits, Kurt tries to all he can to get out of his contract and that’s when the real trouble starts.
The story is told in two different points of view. All Jake’s point of view is in the first person (which is how Fire on the Mountain is written). Kurt’s point of view is written in the third person. This may sound a little clunky, but it wasn’t at all. I found it easy to switch between the two different views, especially as it is necessary to the plot for us to see a little of what Kurt is doing whilst Jake isn’t around.
Jake is such a delightful character, even more so from the first book, as he revels in his feelings for Kurt and his new found sexual confidence. The first sex scene between them was instrumental in showing how much Jake’s feelings have become entangled with Kurt and his possessiveness, rather than being alarming was endearing as he shows Kurt exactly how he feels about sharing him with other people. Underneath the confidence though is still the same Jake who I grew to love in the first book. He’s socially awkward and finds it difficult to interact in social situations and yet seems to be able to connect well with children. It isn’t long before he’s accidentally sent mixed messages to another worker at the resort, Mark, and spends most of the book trying to entangle himself from that relationship without hurting Mark’s feelings. The use of the first person viewpoint also lends itself to some humourous scenes where Jake seethes with jealousy internally when Kurt is hit on by others whilst putting up a good front of nonchalance on the outside. There’s also one hilarious scene where Jake is drunk and trying to listen in on an argument/discussion which is happening in front of him, trying to keep focused but eventually failing. Actually, humour was used quite effectively on a number of occasions in the book to diffuse serious conflict or tense scenes which, whilst still keeping a serious tone didn’t allow any angst to overwhelm the book.
I said in my review of Fire on the Mountain that Kurt was a little idealised. In some ways, seeing some of the book from Kurt’s point of view in this book allowed us to see some of his failings. I liked that and it allowed me to connect to Kurt better than I had in the previous book. As Kurt is the skier (Jake doesn’t ski very well), he is the one who gets most of the skiing scenes and describes to the reader the exhilaration of skiing. I have never skied, but the wonder and excitement that Kurt feels – and Jake too later in the book – made me wish I did. There isn’t the space in the book for the huge sweeping descriptions of the mountains which I loved so much about Fire on the Mountain. Instead the focus is on the relationships between Jake and Kurt and their co-workers, and how that impacts on their own developing relationship. I was quite happy about this – after all how much description can one possibly have about snow? – and enjoyed instead meeting some of the secondary characters such as Mark (who I’m hoping is going to get his own story) and Marty, Egon the disgruntled Bulgarian, Todd and Gracie the terrible twins and other assorted work colleagues; all of whom were fleshed out into real people.
If I have any niggles at all about the book – and these are very minor – it’s that the villains of the piece were maybe just a little over the top. The other niggle was that I found it difficult to always picture the ski resort because I’ve never been to one and didn’t always understand the skiing terms used in the book – those of you who do ski will probably find the attention to detail with the skiing a bonus, rather than a detraction. However, both of these niggles were not enough to spoil my overwhelming enjoyment of this book.
It’s not often that I give five starts to a book, but in the case of Snow on the Mountain it is well deserved. I picked the book up and could hardly bear to put it down again. I finished the book immensely satisfied with the conclusion, but also sad that I’d finished with these two wonderful heroes. If you are looking for a book about two men who are perhaps both a bit naive and yet love each other very much; a book where the romance is balanced with exciting action sequences, with humourous situations and with tense and thrilling scenes; then this book is for you. Highly recommended.