An on-the-job shooting has left forester Warden Michael Brooks shaken and drifting. Trapped on paid leave rather than being allowed to do the job he loves isn’t helping his mood. Then Michael meets Sonny Rydell, an environmental scientist who needs a guide to lead him into the high country so he can obtain data. Normally babysitting wouldn’t be high on Michael’s list of fun, but Sonny is attractive and smart and a few weeks in the wilderness together doesn’t sound so bad.
Sonny has work to do but the sparks between he and Michael are impossible to ignore. Lust quickly evolves into something more profound as they make their way deeper into mountains. Neither man finds the idea of a relationship easy, yet they realize the connection they have is worth more than a fleeting hookup. But they are on a dangerous path and unfortunately they are not alone at Timber Lake. Soon a shadow from Michael’s past threatens their lives and any hope of a future.
Timber Lake was okay in almost every aspect. Just okay. Nothing really grabbed me or made me love this book in a big way, but nor was anything too terrible except for a rushed and chaotic ending. The narrative is fairly well written save for a habit of awkward transitioning from one scene to another. I came across this problem in another book I recently reviewed and found it to be a real annoyance because it continually jerks the reader out of the action. This said, the author does a nice job of capturing the essence of being in the wild, especially the isolation and freedom of it all. This was an unexpected surprise and one I truly enjoyed. Additionally, the overall pacing is decent and so too is the character development, which I feel is Timber Lake’s real strongpoint.
Michael and Sonny are both strong willed men who claim to know what they want, when in reality they have no clue. Their relationship moves unrealistically fast but the push and pull of their personalities is engaging. They aren’t perfect by any stretch and those quirks and human eccentricities fit together nicely for the most of the book. Towards the end of Timber Lake, Michael and Sonny act particularly stupid and this incident comes off as out of character for both of them so it didn’t work for me. But for the most part they are a fun and work well together as a couple.
My main gripe with Timber Lake was the last third of the novel. The basic arc of the action described is supposed to, I assume, create an edge of your seat tension. But in reality the threat to Michael and Sonny comes almost out of nowhere and offers very little substance for the reader. The characters are placed in momentary harm, but this entire portion of the book resolves too quickly without leaving much of an impression. I feel like the author could have turned Timber Lake in to something of a taunt, suspenseful romance, yet none of that happens. All the ingredients were there but nothing got mixed together very well. As a result I was rather bored by the last few chapters. I had been relatively engaged up to that point and then my interest just tanked. I kept hoping it would recover and that we could get back to the likable tension created by Sonny and Michael rather than getting tangled up in a rather contrived plot device.
Timber Lake was not particularly inspired but it was far from terrible, save for the unfulfilling ending. Its characters were a highlight and while they won’t ever be one of my favorite couples, Michael and Sonny did work well within in the context of this novel. They seemed naturally suited to one another and beyond the rapidity with which their relationship developed, their struggles were generally realistic. This taken in conjunction with the author’s ability to communicate the intrinsic wild beauty of the mountains, left me feeling that while Timber Lake was far from great, it did offer more than a few moments of enjoyable reading.