All his life, Hugh Mathews has done what his wealthy father ordered him to do. Hugh didn’t chose his college major or career, and he regrets every bit of it. One day, Hugh quits his hated job and prepares to get out from under his father’s thumb in a most extreme way. He and his dog, Orion, will be giving up everything and walking into the woods, intending to fall off the grid and live off the land — hunting animals, looking for wild grown veggies and plants, and sleeping under the open sky.
Things actually seem to be going Hugh’s way. He finds an abandoned cabin he begins to weather proof (as much as he can using anything he can find). He and Orion are a great team, and Hugh is finally feeling free. While he is out searching for supplies, he encounters a man called Ansel Jeffries. Ansel is a nature photographer out searching for an abandoned mine and he becomes interested in what Hugh is doing and makes him an offer: let Ansel do a story about him. He promises not to reveal Hugh’s name or his location, but he will tell the world about Hugh, Orion, and his journey. Hugh agrees, and Ansel, after taking care of some things, returns to Hugh and the cabin in the woods.
The two men become close as the work together to repair the cabin and get ready for the upcoming winter. Soon, friendship leads to more and they spend the nights keeping each other warm. They also begin discussing what their future holds and what they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives.
You guys…I really enjoyed this book! I found the idea intriguing, so I took a chance on it, and I am so glad I did. I’ve never encountered a story where someone goes off the grid on purpose. Usually, stories about mountain men pick up after one of the characters is living outdoors, so Hugh was a refreshing and unique character. I loved how he decides to take back his life in such a big way. What better way to get away from his father and a life he’s miserable with? It was interesting to read about how prepared he actually was. This wasn’t a last minute decision, and Hugh was ready for just about anything he encountered. Also, I liked how he included his beloved Orion. I’m not sure if I could herd five cats, but I know I wouldn’t want to be without my sweeties, so it was nice to know he wasn’t going to leave Orion behind.
The book continues to be compelling all the way through, and I actually felt like I was learning something along the way. It’s obvious the author did quite a bit of research on things Hugh would be encountering…anything from plants, to animals, to shelter, and even the things he could use in case of a medical emergency (including how to take care of Orion). Hugh was a strong character and I really liked him and wanted him to succeed.
Ansel was also an interesting and likable. He’s not pushy when he presents his idea of doing a story on Hugh. Also, he doesn’t beg Hugh to go along with the idea. He’s very matter of fact and practical, and he was willing to actually work with Hugh rather than just sitting back to observe. He went into the project fully aware he’d be living off the land too.
While Off the Beaten Path is a rather short book, there was enough time for the relationship between Hugh and Ansel to develop. It wasn’t instalove, and they developed as men and friends before they realized they wanted to be more. When they finally did come together, it was sweet. They were believable, and even funny, and there was an equal amount of tenderness along with sexy. Their love scenes contained just the right amount of detail. They were hot, but not overly graphic. If I closed my eyes, I was able to see them and imagine how they looked and sounded as they made love.
Another thing that made the book enjoyable was the fact there was no major conflict between the men. They worked together, and there was no fighting, anger, separation, or general angst. Both of them are fundamentally good men in an interesting setting. They made decisions together, weighing the pros and cons before deciding what to do.
The end was neat and clean, if not predictable. I didn’t mind that at all. It was the way it needed to be. I was rooting for them from the beginning, and I was so happy to see them get their ride off into the sunset. Off the Beaten Path was a unique and relaxing read. I read it at night while I was on vacation, and it was definitely a contribution to an enjoyable stay in Vegas. I highly recommend it, and I will more than gladly search out other books by Edward Kendrick.