Sometimes you need serious reading material. And sometimes, fluffy reads rule! I’ve been leaning into light, not-too-serious reading lately, especially when it comes to audiobooks, and these sweet romances with an Alaska setting have been just right for my mood.
Title: The Tourist Attraction
Length: 352 pages
He had a strict “no tourists” policy…
Until she broke all of his rules.
When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he’s stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless parade of resort visitors who couldn’t interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way…
Two weeks in Alaska isn’t just the top item on Zoey Caldwell’s bucket list. It’s the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she’s smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham’s world, she may just find there’s more to the grumpy local than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.
The Tourist Attraction introduces us to the split-personality town of Moose Springs, Alaska — a quirky little town set amidst magnificent mountains, which both relies on its high-end luxury resort for economic survival and detests all outsiders.
Graham is rude and gruff, but you just know there’s a heart of gold underneath it all, and he falls head over heels for Zoey, despite his no-tourists rule. After an awkward incident in which Zoey thinks she’s about to get murdered by a chainsaw wielding maniac (don’t ask), Zoey and Graham find themselves repeatedly thrown together, and of course, sparks fly.
The setting is charming and sounds beautiful. While Moose Springs is fictional, from the description, I can’t help picturing it as based on Girdwood, a small-ish town that’s home to the beautiful Alyeska Resort.
The romance is cute and somewhat predictable, but chapters that delve into the corporate machinations of The Montgomery Group (which owns most of the town’s property) left me cold. (Cold! ‘Cuz it’s Alaska!) Zoey’s best friend Lana Montgomery is her host during her Alaska getaway, and Lana is one of the Montgomery family’s chief businesswomen and heir apparent — and while Lana seems like a good person, there’s perhaps too much focus on the business dealings for my taste.
There’s an appealing cast of supporting characters, a beautiful setting, a few moose wandering through, and some small-town hijinks. Also, a perfect border collie who is blind, has an extensive wardrobe, and is the most beloved dog in the entire town. The book as a whole is absurdly cute, and is a nice mix of romantic fluff and emotional connection.
Title: Mistletoe & Mr. Right
Length: 400 pages
How the moose (almost) stole Christmas.
Lana Montgomery is everything the quirky small town of Moose Springs, Alaska can’t stand: a rich socialite with dreams of changing things for the better. But Lana’s determined to prove that she belongs…even if it means trading her stilettos for snow boots and tracking one of the town’s hairiest Christmas mysteries: the Santa Moose, an antlered Grinch hell-bent on destroying every bit of holiday cheer (and tinsel) it can sink its teeth into.
And really…how hard could it be?
The last few years have been tough on Rick Harding, and it’s not getting any easier now that his dream girl’s back in town. When Lana accidentally tranquilizes him instead of the Santa Moose, it’s clear she needs help, fast…and this could be his chance to finally catch her eye. It’s an all-out Christmas war, but if they can nab that darn moose before it destroys the town, Rick and Lana might finally find a place where they both belong…together.
In the 2nd Moose Springs book, it’s about six months later, Zoey and Graham are bonkers in love, and Lana Montgomery takes center stage. Lana has been visiting Moose Springs since childhood and has been mostly tolerated by the locals, but her plans to build luxury condominiums and revitalize the local economy are being met with hostility by the townsfolk, who resent her intrusion and the likelihood of even more tourists messing up their lives.
Lana ends up falling for Rick, the owner of the local pool hall, who is equally smitten. There’s a silly subplot about a moose who hates Christmas decorations, but mainly it’s about Lana and Rick deciding to have a holiday fling, then realizing that their feelings go much deeper.
I hate that the synopsis and the book itself keep referring to Lana as a “socialite”. What does that even mean? Yes, she’s a gazillionaire, but she’s a businesswoman heading up her family’s corporate investments in Alaska, not just some flighty rich person attending lavish parties.
This is an opposites-attract plot for sure, since Rick is not rich, polished, interested in “society”, or used to luxuries. But, he falls for Lana, the feeling is mutual, and they have great chemistry and some pretty goofy adventures.
I did feel extremely angry at this book when, toward the end, it feel into a romance trope I hate — the “I’m breaking up with you despite being in love with you because I’ll only hold you back” plot device, which is just, ugh, so emotionally unfair and manipulative. So you know better than the other person what they really need? Yuck.
Of course, there’s an HEA, because hey, this is a romance, not real life. And I enjoyed it enough to want to keep going!
Title: Enjoy the View
Length: 352 pages
A grouchy mountaineer, a Hollywood starlet
And miles of untamed wilderness…
What could possibly go wrong?
Former Hollywood darling River Lane’s acting career is tanking fast. Determined to start fresh behind the camera, she agrees to film a documentary about the picturesque small town of Moose Springs, Alaska. The assignment should have been easy, but the quirky locals want nothing to do with River. Well, too bad: River’s going to make this film and prove herself, no matter what it takes.
Or what (literal) mountain she has to climb.
Easton Lockett may be a gentle giant, but he knows a thing or two about survival. If he can keep everyone in line, he should be able to get River and her crew up and down Mount Veil in one piece. Turns out that’s a big if. The wildlife’s wilder than usual, the camera crew’s determined to wander off a cliff, and the gorgeous actress is fearless. Falling for River only makes Easton’s job tougher, but there’s only so long he can hold out against her brilliant smile. When bad weather strikes, putting everyone at risk, it’ll take all of Easton’s skill to get them back home safely…and convince River she should stay in his arms for good.
Enjoy the View feels pretty different from the previous two books, since most of the action happens outside of Moose Springs, on the (very scary) nearby mountain Mount Veil.
Easton is a familiar character, good friend to Graham and Rick, a huge mountaineer who doesn’t say much, but — as we see here — has a heart of gold and untapped emotional depths. When Easton encounters River, he doesn’t recognize her from her movie career — he just sees a strange tourist walking down the side of the road with a suitcase. He doesn’t realize that by stopping to offer assistance, he’s interrupting a shot for her movie. Oops!
River’s Hollywood career seems to have stalled. At the ripe old age of 29 (!!), she’s not being offered great roles any longer, and she’s turned her attention to producing and directing. She and her trusty crew have been hired by the Alaska tourism board to make a movie about Moose Springs, but unfortunately, the tourist-hating town wants nothing to do with them and impedes their filming at every turn. With no other options, they turn to the big attraction outside of town — Mt. Veil, the intimidating mountain that only the most skilled climbers can successfully summit.
Of course, River needs a guide, and of course, Easton is the man assigned to her climb. As they work together, their attraction deepens into an emotional connection. River is feisty and argumentative, Easton is quiet and strict when it comes to his safety rules, and they clash incessantly — but we just know that beneath it all, they’re falling in love.
I enjoyed reading about the climb and how scary it is, but I pretty frequently wanted to give River a good shake. She repeatedly ignores Easton’s rules and ends up endangering herself and others because of it. Somehow Easton keeps forgiving her, and I assume we’re supposed to find River’s rebelliousness charming and a sign of her independence, but her actions seem downright foolhardy at some points. I would not be nearly as forgiving as Easton, never mind falling in love!
As is typical of this series, there’s cute banter, some adorable wildlife (including a memorable marmot), and lots of breathtaking scenery. I wish the familiar characters from the town had bigger roles in Enjoy the View, but even in their brief appearances, it’s fun to see Graham, Zoey, and Easton’s sister Ash.
Enjoy the View is a fun way to end a three-audiobook binge!
Wrapping it all up…
This is clearly not a series that’s meant to be taken too seriously. It maintains a casually funny tone throughout, even when there are more emotional moments taking place. The town of Moose Springs is full of small-town quirky personalities, and the setting makes it really fun.
My two main complaints are:
1 – The male leads are cookie-cutter outdoorsy-loner types with a soft, gushy intererior. There’s really not much to distinguish them apart from their different occupations and physical builds (although they’re all versions of gorgeous, muscular hunks who look great in flannel). Really, I found Graham, Rick, and Easton to be fairly easily interchangeable (although, I admit Graham’s humor does set him apart to some extent). Not to say that I don’t like them, just that there’s not much distinctive about them.
2 – A more serious complaint is that there is just no Native representation, and that bothers me. Yes, these are fluffy romances, but the books seem to present Alaska as being populated strictly by the above-mentioned flannel-wearing white outdoorsmen. This omission is pretty glaring and is an irritant throughout the books.
Complaints aside, I have to admit that these books are addictively fun, with lots of silly misadventures and cute scenarios. And who can resist big, gruff men becoming marshmallow soft as soon as they fall in love?
I see on Goodreads that book #4 (no details or title provided) is due out sometime in 2022. Hmmm, who will the romantic focus be for whatever tourist wanders into town next? Easton’s sister Ash? Resort owner Jax? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
But will I read it? You betcha!