In this debut romance novel, a woman with a traumatic childhood hopes to find healing on an Alaskan vacation, where she meets an intriguing widower.
Dana Montgomery has long dreamed of visiting Alaska, a place that represented escape to her when she was an unhappy, lonely child, the victim of her sexually abusive uncle. Several people, including Dana’s therapist, have been nudging her to take a sabbatical; Mark, Dana’s thoughtful and caring (but maybe overprotective) best friend/boyfriend, sees her off with good wishes. In the beautiful summer landscape of south central Alaska, Dana tries to let go of her past, but horrific images of the abuse keep intruding. Meanwhile, Dana meets Luke MacFarland. After his wife died, he built what was to have been their dream house on a 9-acre island; he sails, does carpentry jobs and plays guitar at a local bar. The two feel immediately relaxed with each other. At Luke’s, they explore the island together, and Dana learns she can trust him. For the first time, Dana experiences truly joyful, painless, uninhibited sex. As the book ends, Luke says goodbye to Dana, hoping she will return. For Dana, what matters most is knowing her future will be one “of her making, on the path of her choice.” Hatfield’s fast-paced debut novel makes excellent use of its beautiful natural setting, weaving in many distinctive features of wildlife, geography and outdoor pursuits such as kayaking. That said, the book is rather formulaic. Dana and Luke are, of course, gorgeous; also of course, Dana doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. Dana’s childhood trauma, while unquestionably sympathetic, has become one of the biggest clichés in novel writing. Plot points can be seen coming a mile away: When Luke wonders how he can possibly put his feelings into words, the reader can guess he’ll write a song. Everything is smooth and easy. Dana and Luke disagree on nothing, have no annoying habits, never worry about money. The Alaskan winter is too far away.
Overly neat and calling on too many tropes, this novel offers wish fulfillment without nuance or complexity.