Arctic Sun (Frozen Hearts #1)

Title: Arctic Sun: A Gay Romance (Frozen Hearts Book 1)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 1, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Hurt/Comfort/Healing
Page Count: 384 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

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.

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