Review Summary: The worldbuilding alone is worth the price of this book, but I had some difficulties with one of the MCs.
It takes a special kind of person to work in Antarctica. Max Conway, an ex-Navy Seal, loves working at the bottom of the world. Like any other diver, he’s tough and hard drinking. Half the year he’s stuck in the States traveling the commercial dive circuit and hitting gay bars every night. The other six months he’s lead safety diver at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, reveling in the cold blue Antarctic Sea. The only drawback to life way down under is that Max feels like he has to tuck his libido into storage while he’s on station, stashing all those free condoms for use back up north.
That is until Andre Dubois, a gorgeous French scientist, shakes up his world. Not only is Andre out and proud, he’s sober as the day is long. And the days are long during an Antarctic summer. Max must choose between his comfortable inebriated closet and a life in the sun with Andre.
The first time Max met Andre was just before he was due to leave for McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The last thing he remembered that night was being in a bar; the next morning he was in Andre’s bed, still drunk. Apparently Andre took Max to his hotel when he confessed that his drinking buddies had dumped him and he had no place to stay, but he was now so disgusted with him he couldn’t wait for him to leave. To add insult to injury he turned down Max’s offer of a quickie. They next saw each other on a plane bound for McMurdo, which was a surprise to both of them.
Andre was heading up the advance team of scientists conducting research in Antarctica about climate change, while Max was the chief diver on the station. Max’s biggest fear was that Andre would out him, because he was openly gay. That would jeopardize his job as the other divers were homophobic. He had been kicked out of the SEALs when his sexual orientation was discovered and he couldn’t afford to lose this job. Being on McMurdo was Max’s dream and he loved the frigid blue water of the Antarctic Ocean which made him come alive. The only downside was that during his assignment on the station there was no opportunity for sex with another man but he had his constant companion – liquor – to keep him warm.
Max was assigned to work with Andre and his student as they gathered data under the ice. The attraction between them bloomed the more time they spent together but Max couldn’t get off the booze despite his feelings for Andre. Then the inevitable happened as the alcohol affected his job performance.
Max Conway is one of the most flawed and self destructive characters I have met between the covers of a book. He is not very likeable, does everything he can to screw up his life and I couldn’t figure out what Andre saw in him. That is not to say that Max was beyond redemption, but he came pretty close to missing out on the most important person in his life. Some of his behaviour could be explained by his previous career as a SEAL for eight years; he was still having nightmares years later about the things he had seen during his different assignments in war zones. His character demonstrated how powerful addiction is and how it destroys people’s lives, despite their desire to give up their drug of choice, although Max didn’t seem to have any inclination to do so. Fortunately for Max he had someone who never gave up on him, a man who had himself fought his own demons and won. The one thing I didn’t understand was what Andre saw in Max, but I suppose love is blind.
I probably will never visit Antarctica because of its location and temperature, but this book made me long to do so as I felt that I was actually living an adventure at the bottom of the world. My preference has always been to read books set in recognizable locations that are exotic, or at least different, rather than no-name cities in North America or Great Britain which is the norm in many M/M romances. August Ice delivered both in content and atmosphere. When the plane arrived in Antarctica the temperature was a balmy (for an August day) -30F and the complete dark of the winter was gradually changing to daylight that would replace night, as Antarctica became a land of the midnight sun. Just reading that made me want to take off. The realism of life on the station was laid out in great detail, (sometimes too much detail for me in terms of the residents’ everyday activities), but the interaction between the characters who were part of the small community on McMurdo really resonated with me.
The characters were well drawn especially the MCs and Annie, Max’s best friend, and the way their lives were depicted showed how courageous they were to live in such a remote part of the world.
August Ice was much richer because of the care taken to create the location, but like the author’s other book that I reviewed, Learning from Isaac, I thought there was way too much detail about the various everyday tasks undertaken by everyone on the station. While this helped create “atmosphere” it detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the book. However, if you like romances set in unique locations I would urge you to read August Ice because I really did enjoy the book and its beautiful setting. The underwater world during the dives was wonderful.