Rating: 3 stars out of 5
2 stars for the characters and disaster in the middle
4 stars out of 5 for the survival and nature parts
(really I wavered here, at points it was 2 for inconsistencies, others 4 for accuracy=what a strange story)
Harbor Patrol officer Neal Hesse has had his life turned upside down by a sudden break-up with his partner of ten years. After sleeping his way through Seattle failed to take his mind off his broken heart, he decides to take a leave of absence from work to find himself again. He hires a professional wilderness guide to take him up into the mountains, so he can get away from everything and live off the grid for a few days.
Travis “Rock” McCreary, ex-Army Ranger turned survivalist, hates doing guided excursions, but it’s his primary source of income while he’s working towards getting his own survival show. Working in such a testosterone-fueled profession has forced him so deep into the closet, he feels like he might never see the light of day again, which makes it even harder to put on a friendly face for his happy, normal clients.
When Rock is hired by clumsy city-boy Neal to take him up into the North Cascades for a survival adventure, his patience and his resolve are tested at every turn. He has to teach Neal to survive in the wilderness while fighting an attraction he can’t allow himself to act on. When their trip doesn’t go as planned, Neal’s getaway turns into a true survival situation, and he and Rock are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. If they make it out of the wilderness, can their newfound connection survive in the real world?
*Possible trigger warning: situations where consent may appear dubious.
Force of Nature (Coming About #4) by J.K. Hogan was such a strange and potentially upsetting book to read. On one side, the author did a tremendous job of portraying the wilderness survival trip and the beauty of the woods and mountains. It conveyed with a realness and immediacy that this retired Park Ranger could see and believe in. So too the drama with with a calm hike could turn with a shocking swiftness into a fight for your life. Totally authentic.
Then I have to get into the characters.
There is a larger cast of characters here that apparently belongs to the series. That would be the group of close friends of Neal Hesse, one of the main characters. This is, however, the first book that I have read in the Coming About series and I didn’t feel that I was lacking in any real information here. This absolutely can be read as a standalone novel.
I was into both characters. Neal Hesse, the Harbor Patrol officer that’s coming off several bad events in his life. His long term relationship of 10 years has ended badly, showing him exactly how shallow and meaningless it really was and he and his Harbor Patrol partner are coming off a hostage situation that was personal. Neal is depressed, questioning himself, and looking to see how to go forward. A hike with his group of friends and accidental meeting with Travis “Rock” McCreary, a survivalist, YouTube star and guide changes everything. Especially when Neal decides that a survival expedition is just what he needs to evaluate himself and his current situation and his guide turns out to be McCreary.
Travis is an ex-Army Ranger with an rigid conservative church background and family who would never accept a gay son. Into the closet he went while in the Army and there he has stayed until meeting Neal makes him want more than he think he can ever have. I got Travis, this is a fearless man in the wild but in his personal life? He’s bound by fear, beaten into him by his past and outside expectations as well as his own. Their dynamics on the trail, and both men’s inner discourse on their attractions to each other, the wariness etc. delivers, again a nice dose of realism. Then the author completely derails her story.
That’s where the “possible trigger warning” note comes in. I was truly into these characters right up until the author took an unimaginable left turn into “what the hell did the author just do” land. What the author does to her own characters is so completely bonkers in my opinion because it’s completely out of the character’s personalities she’s laid down for them that not only is it shocking but deplorable. In order to get back to the point that I liked and was able to enjoy this story again, I almost had to believe that those scenes didn’t take place. Because pages later, they all return to normal.
What was the author thinking?
Another iffy aspect here? One that’s sort of folded into that mess above? It’s where Neal decides to pull Travis out of his closet because, hey, it, totally shouldn’t be his decision. Shakes head. Then there is a switch back to where Neal decides it is Travis’ decision to where he wants to stay in the closet or not. I mean…this author had two great characters and one job to do….
Yes, I liked the ending. I thought that was lovely. And without that deplorable mess in the middle which granted wasn’t long, this rating would have been very different. But it’s there and I keep feeling the rating should have been lower. I just don’t know. So much of the book is well done but I just can’t recommend it.
Cover art is lovely. That part I recommend.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 1, 276 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Euphoria Press
SeriesComing About #4