Source: NetGalley – So many thanks to the publisher!!
TL;DR: Such a soft, sweet romance, I highly recommend this one. It does have a few heavier moments – so see triggers below.
Plot: This is NOT a hiking story so much as it is a love story set out in nature so it’s actually a fantastic use of the hiking/travel plot. Very different than what you might expect!
Characters: Alexei has my whole heart, and I felt was the stronger of the two voices in this. Ben was still fantastic and I loved the glimpses of side characters. I want Ruby to have a story – can Ruby have a story??
Setting: Anita Kelly does an incredible job making the setting in this feel vibrant and alive. I love the outdoors and this really captured that feeling for me.
Romance: The chemistry between these two was fantastic, but mostly I loved the way their relationship built over the course of the trail. I honestly could have read another 100 pages of it.
Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly might be in the running for my favorite romance of 2023, and it’s only March. This is the story of Alexei and Ben, both of whom are hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). They meet early on their solo adventures when Alexei stops Ben from accidentally stepping on a rattlesnake. From there they cross paths repeatedly till they begin to hike together – and they begin a relationship along the way.
For a short book I would call this a slow burn, and wow was it worth it and beautiful to watch. Alexei, who I felt was the most developed of the two main characters, reads very neuroatypical. He’s also struggling with the loss of his family. After coming out as gay his very conservative Russian parents cut him off. He meets Ben, who is a happy and lovingly wonderful person. Ben is attempting to put his life back together after a string of heartbreaks that lead to an abusive relationship and the fall out from that.
The little things are what truly made this for me. Alexei’s love of ornithology, and the inclusion of a Tamora Pierce book. Ben’s soft and constant humming and singing, all of it made the characters feel rich and real to me likely because those are all habits and loves of my own. The third act breakup as well was something that felt believable and warranted. Real life can get in the way of a dream romance, and this showed that well.
And have no fear! The story, while it takes place on a long hike up country does not feel so much like a hiking story. The setting is perfect, and we do get descriptions – when appropriate, of the hike but it is only the vehicle in which our characters are traveling. We are not swamped with details or focused on the trail.
Overall this is a powerful new romance. There are heavier moments and topics, and I’ll list those below, but for the most part it’s inspiring and uplifting. I’d recommend this to any fan of romance. Anita Kelly is quickly climbing my list of favorite authors – I expect more fantastic work from them!
Graphic: Grief and Homophobia
Moderate: Mental illness
Minor: Emotional abuse
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