Author: Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW
Rating: 4.5 stars
Provided by Publisher
Blurb: A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.
With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.
They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.
Review: Nineteenth century poets like Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman have always praised nature and the great outdoors for its calming and restorative qualities, and frequently cajole their readers to go forth and enjoy it. This heroine, Liz, seems to have listened. Feeling increasingly caged in by her live-in relationship with co-worker Dante, she’s desperate for a way to create some space and distance from him and his expectations–especially after a recent decision she made starts to overwhelm her.
She’s always wanted to hike California’s John Muir Trail; so for her thirtieth birthday, she’s decided to do it–alone. Dante hates the thought of her being away for three weeks and at the last minute decides to go with her–ending any hope she had to process her problems by herself. It also narrows the chances of her being able to keep her secret from Dante–guilt and second thoughts are weighing heavy on her mind. If she screws up and tells Dante what she’s done before she’s ready, it’s going to destroy him and their relationship at the same time. But does she really want that? She doesn’t know, which is EXACTLY why she needed the time–ACK!
Liz grew up with a very distant mother and always envied those with close knit families, seeming to seek them out through the men she dated. Her previous marriage was an example–she’d fallen in love with Gerald and married him only to fail at fixing the relationship when it ran amuck. His early death made most people assume that it was a tragic love story of a happy marriage that ended too soon–but as she confided to Dante early on in the trek–it actually wasn’t happy, at least for her. She’d resolved to never fall in love again after Gerald, but then came Dante. His sweetness and constant attention had convinced her this could be different, but once they moved in together his expectations were more than she could handle. She just didn’t know how to do relationships.
As they readied themselves for the hike, Liz was expecting Dante to fail. He had no clue how to do the hike, and all his choices highlighted his inexperience. The trek started out auspiciously enough but soon Liz and Dante were at odds–which wasn’t helped by the oddly menacing Root brothers they meet on the trail. When Dante left after a couple of days because of his feet, Liz started enjoying herself…until she got frightened by a thunderstorm and the feeling that she was being watched. Luckily, a chastened Dante reappeared at the next stop, with a confession about why he’d wanted to come that touched Liz and made her determined to make their hike work. If only that decision were in her hands…
What neither of them knew was that soon, things were going to start happening that would test even the most hardened hiker. Rodell and Payton Root liked to play truth or dare, and they’ve picked Liz and Dante as their unwilling playmates in a game that turns their hike into a survival course, pitting not only their relationship but their lives against a threat larger than their secrets.
The entire landscape becomes a part of the narrative as the weather, the scenery and the hiking conditions are described in careful detail alongside the internal monologues in Liz’s mind and the external dialogue between the characters. The tension is taut and edgy and the action scenes are primitive and thrilling in their stark detail. If you’ve ever been alone in the woods or camping with a friend, you’ll recognize the sheer terror you feel when you realize that you’re all alone–miles away from the nearest help–and it’s up to you to survive or perish. Wonderfully alive book with sensational inner turmoil juxtaposed against the raw, feral beauty of nature. Great thought provoking read, thanks!