Publication Date: March 7, 2023
From the author of Love & Other Disasters comes a sparkling grumpy-meets-sunshine romance featuring two men’s sweeping journey across the Western wilderness.
Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with a single snake. And it is angling for the hot stranger who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Lex is prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he isn’t prepared for is Ben Caravalho. But somehow—on a 2,500-mile trail—Alexei keeps running into the outgoing and charismatic hiker with golden-brown eyes, again and again. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . .
Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men. And yet there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that Ben can’t just walk away from. Surely a bad decision can’t be this cute and smart. And there are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life. But when their plans for the future are turned upside down, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.
This was a warm, cozy hug of a book. Alexei and Ben were such warm characters. Well, Alexei took a bit of warming up to people, but he was earnest and friendly. Ben befriended everyone he met and just exuded friendliness and warmth. They had such an easy, peaceful companionship that they fell into as they walked the Pacific Crest Trail. It was so nice to read.
The descriptions of the trail and the hiking were so beautiful and so appealing. It made me feel like I was there with them and made me want to attempt the hike myself. There’s no way I could actually do it, but imagining it feels nice.
The difficult parts were not so much conflict between the two (aside from a few misunderstandings) but rather things each was struggling with internally. For Ben it was the loss of a close relative to Alzheimers and his past abusive relationships. For Alexei it was being cut off by his parents after coming out as gay. These were things each had to wrestle with on their own, and I really like that they weren’t swept under the rug when they got together. They took the time and space they needed and came to terms with them, allowing them to build a stronger future together.
It was wonderful to see Alexei being welcomed into Ben’s family and friend group, and it was wonderful to see Alexei and Ben’s close relationships with their little sisters.
There is a section toward the end where it becomes an epistolary novel for a bit, the sort where most of the letters are unsent. Those are always heartbreaking, and this was no exception. I really, really, like the way it was written. Having the letters be unsent halves of conversations made them so much more impactful.
Most of all, this is a book emphasizing the wonders of queer companionship. As a queer person myself, who values that sort of companionship very highly indeed, this book hit all the right notes for me.
The audiobook performance was beautiful and the narrator imbued the characters with so much personality. I loved listening to it and definitely recommend it.
*Thanks to NetGalley, Forever, and Hachette Audio for providing an early copy of the ebook and audiobook for review.