Benicio Quispe has always wanted to be a tour guide on the Inca Trail. At twenty-six, his dream finally comes true. He’s hired at Huaman Travel, one of the premier companies that leads that leads tourists on the three-day hike up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. As a junior guide, he is paired with Alberto Salazar, a seasoned guide who has been doing this for ten years. Benicio wants nothing more than to be a good guide and to be useful, so he tamps down his immediate attraction to Alberto. Alberto takes Benicio under his wing, and the two men quickly find a rhythm that makes leading tours together a wonderful experience, both for the guides and the tourists. Benicio is a true asset. Not only does he have a love for the Inca Trail and brings his passion forth when he tells stories on the trail, but he also speaks Quechua, the language of the Incans and what is still spoken by the rural mountain people.
Alberto knows he wants Benicio as his partner on the tours, but he also wants Benicio in more carnal ways. He’s not out because it’s not safe to be, and Benicio has never given any indication that he would be open to anything more than friendship. But as the two men grow closer, and as their friendship grows, they both come to care for the other deeply. They both keep it hidden though, not sure how the other will react, and it isn’t until a group of tourists come back for a reunion hike that it becomes clear how they feel about it each other.
Alberto and Benicio have that conversation and put their hearts on the line. They already care about one another a great deal, and taking their relationship to the next level is an easy step. Though they both know that they have to keep it a secret, they are willing to hide together. When rainstorms cause a landslide while they are leading a hike, the men face a dangerous situation. They can’t go forward, but heading back means putting their lives, and the lives of those in their group, at risk. It’s the push they need to admit their love, and they vow to continue their relationship in a more open way. If they make it off the mountain alive, that is.
Confession time: I am a huge fan of Ariel Tachna’s and when I had the chance to review this book, I snapped it up as fast as possible. I knew I was going to love it, and let me tell you, this book didn’t disappoint. I loved just about everything about it, from start to finish, and I couldn’t put it down.
Let me start with Benicio, because he is my favorite character in this story. His so earnest and hardworking, I just adored him from the start. His passion for the Inca Trail just leaps off the page, and I was invested in him from word one. He grew up in a very small, very rural mountain village, and he’s kept the fact that he is gay a secret from everyone but himself. He’s always felt like an outsider, never felt like he could fit in, and he is so relatable and believable that my heart just went out to him. I wanted him to have all his dreams come true. From being a guide on his beloved trail, to finding the man that he could spend his life with. There was something about this man that just endeared him to me.
Alberto may have been a little wary about Benicio at the start—he wasn’t too excited about having yet another new guide to train—but on that first hike together, he realized that there was something special about Benicio. Alberto is a seasoned tour guide, and he loves the trail with a passion that rivals Benicio’s. I loved seeing his verve for his job, but I loved even more his multiple layers. He’s a gay man who has to keep things quiet, and that takes it’s toll. But he’s fine with that as long as he can keep doing his job, and as long as he can occasionally get out and lose himself in dancing at the club. But underneath that, he had a serious desire to find someone to spend his life with, even though he knows it would be very hard. I loved seeing all these aspects of his personality and character.
As their friendship grows, so does their attraction, but neither man wants to do anything to mess up their friendship. Alberto never thought that Benicio could actually return his feelings. Alberto needed a few nudges from some well-meaning friends before he could see the truth. And when they finally got together, oh my goodness, they were so sweet and perfect for each other that it just melted my heart.
This story is the definition of a slow build relationship. It’s more than half way through the book before these two finally confess what they are feeling for each other. But it so works here. Even though it was a little frustrating at times for me to see their lack of communication getting in their way, and that’s what kept it from a perfect 5-star rating for me because it dragged on just a little bit too long, it really lets us see the solid foundation of their relationship before they move it to the next level. And that what makes the easy way they fit together so believable.
As typical with Tachna’s work, we get really well developed and well-rounded secondary characters that really flesh out the story. I loved meeting key people in Alberto’s and Benicio’s lives, and I thought it was a wonderful touch that we got to know some of the tourists on the hikes as well. It was a really lovely addition to the story, and gave it a fantastic, plush feel. And I can’t not mention how wonderfully descriptive the surroundings and scenery were in this book. I almost felt like I had been to Peru myself. Everything was so vividly described that it nearly transported me there.
I am absolutely recommending this book to you. This story is one of growth, of passion, and of two men who are so right for each other that words cannot do it justice. The Path is just a really excellent read.
Cover: Sheer perfection. It captures the feeling of the story so well, and it’s just beautiful
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.