A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: An almost too-easy but nicely entertaining GFY romance set in the Alaskan mountains.
Devastated after losing his partner of fifteen years to cancer, Dr. Bradford Mitchell tries to escape the emptiness and loss by leaving his life in Seattle behind. Traveling to the Alaskan mountains where he and Jeff often vacationed, Brad reconnects with Mac Cleary, the ruggedly handsome and very straight floatplane pilot who had flown them to Hyline Lake many times in the past. Brad and Mac form an unlikely friendship and buy an old log cabin together, and as he and Mac begin to bring the old cabin back to life, Mac watches Brad come back to life as well, stirring emotions in him he’s never felt for a man before.
When fear, confusion, and a near tragedy threaten to force the two men apart, they’ll face some tough questions. Can Brad let go of Jeff and the guilt he feels about beginning to care for another man? And can Mac deal with his fears of being gay and accept the fact that he is in love with Brad? It will be a struggle for both men to keep their heads and hearts intact while exploring what life has to offer.
As the book opens, Brad Mitchell spends the last few moments of his lover Jeff’s life with him. They’ve been down the long and painful road fighting Jeff’s colon cancer and the end has come. It is a touching scene and the emotional devastation Brad experiences is well-written and easily felt. Three mostly forgotten days later, Brad decides he needs to leave the Seattle home he shared with Jeff and takes off for one of their favorite places–in fact, “their spot”–, Hiline Lake in Alaska.
When he arrives at the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, he runs into McGovern Cleary, the float plane pilot who flies guests to the lodge at Hiline Lake. After explaining Jeff’s absence to the sympathetic pilot, the two depart for the lodge, where they bond over similar losses. Years before, Mac’s wife had died from breast cancer, leaving him the sole parent of an adopted teenage daughter.
While out hiking the next day, Brad stumbles upon an abandoned–and for sale–cabin. It’s largely one room, with a composting toilet (I never knew there was such a thing), solar power, well water and a loft. There’s another bed in a corner off the living room. Brad is immediately enchanted and decides to buy it. When he tells Mac about it, they decide to split it. Mac and his wife Lindsey had always wanted a cabin in the mountains. They’d actually seen that one years before, but it wasn’t for sale then, nor were they in a position to purchase at the time.
The two friends spend the rest of the short Alaskan summer completing upgrades and repairs, including enhancing the solar panels so they can enjoy hot running water and have a few of the creature comforts, such as a microwave and coffee maker. Between completing these updates and the general clean up the place required, the two men grow closer and Mac begins to notice his attraction to Brad. Six months later, the first major storm of the season is approaching. While Mac has chosen to deal with his attraction to Brad by working as much as possible and spending less time at the cabin, Brad has been busy preparing his new home for the onset of the long Alaskan winter. Now, Mac has to take the lodge owners down to Anchorage and come back before the storm hits or Brad will be left to face his first storm alone.
Eventually the two share an unexpected kiss and have the first of many “come-to-jeebus” talks about what’s happening between them. While I appreciated these discussions as necessary for their relationship to progress and some of Brad’s theories about sexuality were interesting (and, no doubt, bound to spark some tempers), they didn’t always work for me. One reason is that Mac and Brad are almost always on the same page, thinking the same thoughts. Where one paragraph ends with Brad thinking X, the next POV change begins with Mac thinking X as well. These two were too in sync too easily. Thinking back on my own struggle to accept my sexuality (at 17, not 46 as is Mac’s case), he accepts his attraction to Brad and enters into a physical relationship with him with remarkable ease. Angst is one of my favorite plot elements, I freely admit that, but I could have done with more here.
Tears are shed in this book–nowhere near the Pacific Ocean of Tears bawled out in A Red-Tainted Silence, but enough for me to notice. Many of them are understandable because they come from the agony of losing a spouse; others I felt to be self-indulgent and, largely, pointless. There is an awful lot of timekeeping done in this book, too. There were so many thirty minutes laters and glances thrown at clocks that I wondered how these two guys would get through an entire winter without going insane.
Overall, I truly did enjoy this book. Mac and Brad are likeable guys who actually talk to one another (Wave, I know you’ll appreciate that!) and develop a romantic relationship after having first become friends. It was easy to feel both Brad’s intense anguish at losing Jeff and his fear of betraying him by giving in to his burgeoning feelings for Mac in such a short time. At the same time, while Mac’s struggle with his sexuality seemed to last all of five minutes, I liked that he and Brad discussed what they were feeling and how or even if they should proceed with a relationship. If you like GFY stories, pilots or VHF radio talk, you will appreciate this sweet, mostly easy romance.
On a side note, take a moment to appreciate the subtlety of the cover art. It took me until just now to notice the guys in the snow at the bottom of the page. Beautiful.