Griffin Barrett works for his family’s transportation and tourism business in Alaska. While the others enjoy leading the tours, Griffin much prefers the solo jobs. After losing someone he loved and battling alcoholism, Griffin likes the quiet life and relishes his privacy. However, when his mother needs him to pitch in and lead a tour, Griffin knows he can’t refuse, especially after all his mom has done for him.
After burning out on life as a high fashion model, River has made a name for himself as a writer, documenting his travels all over the world. River has faced his own demons, including his mother’s death and battling an eating disorder, but he copes by constantly moving. When he joins an Alaskan tour group, River expects nothing more than fodder for his next book, but he isn’t prepared for the sexy mountain man leading the group.
River is interested in Griffin right away, but Griffin is more hesitant to get involved. However, when the men end up unexpectedly sharing a hotel room for a few days, they finally act on the attraction between them. River and Griffin enjoy each other’s company throughout the tour, and when it ends, neither is ready to give up on the fledgling romance they are building. But with Griffin eager to return home to his quiet life, and River always wanting to keep moving, finding a way to be together won’t be easy.
Arctic Sun is the first book in Annabeth Albert’s new Frozen Hearts series and this book is most definitely a love letter to the beauty of Alaska. The setting plays such a prominent role in the story, particularly during the tour portion of the book. Albert paint such lovely pictures as she describes the vast wilderness and beautiful, off-the-beaten path locations, I could see it all so clearly in my mind. I particularly liked how we get to see more remote spots that may not be on the typical tourist destination list. This was my favorite part of the book and I just loved how Albert brought it all to life.
The story is very character driven and both Griffin and River are layered and well developed. They are men who seem quite different on the surface, but who both are haunted by demons and memories from their past. What differs is how they cope, and River keeps himself constantly moving from one adventure to the next, while Griffin has hunkered down to a quiet life he doesn’t like to leave. As the men make it through both smooth and difficult times together, we can really see how their personalities and their struggles have shaped them and their dynamic with each other. These guys do have a lot to unpack, however, and despite the quite long story, I think there is a lot that doesn’t fully get addressed. For example, we know River’s experience as a high fashion model living a fast-paced life has left him majorly burnt out, but this part of his past is barely touched on in the story, despite the set up. So there was a lot happening here and not all of it gets fully covered.
My biggest issue with the story is that I didn’t really feel the connection between Griffin and River that I wanted. Things start off a little rocky as River is definitely interested in pursuing a fling with Griffin who, while he finds River attractive, is not interested in a hookup. River is pretty darn persistent despite all the times that Griffin says no, and I found it off putting. River even notes how he would never push, and makes mention of consent, but yet he still pushes nonetheless. Here we are in River’s POV:
Oh, he was going to get Griffin in bed before the end of the trip, and that was just a fact. But when he did, Griff would come willingly, and it wouldn’t be because River had made a pest of himself. Pushy wasn’t part of River’s MO. He did like the thrill of the hunt so to speak, but he’d give Griff plenty of space to sort himself out.
To me, the fact that he sees this as a hunt, that he has decided he will get Griffin in bed despite Griffin’s earlier refusals, doesn’t sit with me as someone who isn’t “pushy.”
Once the guys get together, there are elements that worked for me between them, but other areas where things never really settled in. They have such fundamentally different perspectives on life, differences that mean some drastic changes for them to work out as a couple long term. And we never really get to see how they make it work at that point beyond highlights in an epilogue. So the chemistry was a little off for me. I don’t think it was helped by the fact that that is a long book (about 350 pages) and the story dragged for me at times. So there wasn’t quite the spark I needed between the men to carry such a long story.
Despite my issues, I did enjoy this first installment in the series. We get some nice bits here about the MC for the upcoming book, so I am definitely intrigued. I liked the set up here of the family business and the wilds of Alaska, so I am looking forward to seeing what Albert brings us in the upcoming books.