Title: Arctic Sun (Frozen Hearts #1)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 1, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Hurt/Comfort/Healing
Page Count: 384 pages
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Everything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.
He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.
Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…
River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.
With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.
Publisher’s Note: Arctic Sun deals with topics some readers may find difficult, including sobriety and eating disorders.
Griff is an Alaskan native in tune with the solitude and majesty of the wilderness his family tour company shares with its guests. When his Uncle Roger, a celebrated wildlife photographer, has knee surgery, Griff is pressed into service leading a small group of guests on a ten-day tour. Among the guests is River Vale, a former supermodel who has left the runway behind in order to travel the world and share his perspective in a successful book (soon to be made into a movie) entitled “Professional Nomad.”
I love how the plot keeps us riveted throughout as we meet River, see Griff become gobsmacked by this gorgeous man who comes alive hiking the Alaskan landscape, and watch as they navigate their initial attraction and enter into a “summer fling” of sorts. And let’s face it, the Alaskan setting is really one of main characters of this book – from the Kenai Fjords to Denali and everywhere in between. The author does a beautiful job of giving us a sense of Alaska’s magnitude and how it has contributed to shaping Griffin and his family.
Each man has a lot of baggage: Griff is still dealing with the aftermath of a long unrequited attraction as well as an accident that caused him to leave the Air Force after 12 years. He’s a recovering alcoholic and feels he needs his reclusive routine to cope with his addiction:
“He knew that kind of hurt, what it means to have done battle with habits threatening to do a person in, what it meant to resist temptations to backslide, and how coping really was an individual thing.”
As the author so succinctly puts it: “Griffin coped by staying put. River coped by moving around.” River quit modeling after almost dying from an eating disorder. Constant travel keeps him centered and focused and removed him from his toxic career. But lately, “… these days he simply wasn’t sure who he was, who he needed to be, what direction would yield the same sort of peace that travel had originally afforded him.”
The pace of the story is a bit slow, and I will admit about 50% of the way through, when Griff and River were in the tentative beginnings of their relationship, I felt the story could have been easily wrapped up with a HEA and perhaps an epilogue. But the absolute beauty of this book is how these two wounded souls find each other, and then figure out how to be together. They have a combustible yet tender sexual relationship, but it takes time for them to truly understand what the other needs and to give that understanding with an open and willing heart.
And after all 384 pages of “Arctic Sun,” I found myself willing to read more about Griff and River, so I would definitely recommend that readers stick with this book and surrender themselves to the pull of this unlikely romance, in the same way travelers have given in to the lure of Alaska. 4.5 stars.