After surviving cancer, Owen Han is determined to live life for himself, and that includes leaving his job in finance and experiencing many of his bucket list items. Next up is a winter spent volunteering with the Parks Service in Alaska. When he meets hunky ranger, Quill Ramsey, at training, the decision is looking even better. Quill is gruff and quiet and not super friendly, but Owen has enough enthusiasm and good cheer for both of them.
After his long-time work partner moved on to another position, Quill isn’t thrilled about getting a new volunteer at his remote station. Quill isn’t particularly good with change anyway, but the friendly and sexy Owen makes him feel all sorts of things he has always pushed aside. Quill is not out, and has no plans to be. The idea of others’ disapproval, or even just idle gossip, is too much for him. So he does his best to keep Owen at a distance.
Owen isn’t going to push things if Quill is not interested, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want the two of them to be friends. As the long winter continues, some of Quill’s icy reserve begins to thaw and the men become friendly and spend more time together. And slowly, Quill begins to accept his interest in Owen and even to act on it.
Being with Owen is everything Quill has never let himself even think about having. Quill is happier than he has ever been, and he can almost let himself fantasize about what life with Owen might be like. And for his part, Owen is realizing that continuing to chase each new thing may not be what he wants anymore, that life with Quill could be exactly what he needs. But Quill is still wary of coming out. And even more, he is sure that Owen deserves more from life than a grumpy old ranger in the wilds of Alaska. Now with both their hearts on the line, Quill and Owen must figure out if there is a way to take the love they have built between them and turn it into a lifetime together.
Arctic Heat is the third book in Annabeth Albert’s Frozen Hearts series, a collection of books all set in Alaska. I have been enjoying this series, and as this one features a 40-something hero in Quill, it seemed like a great choice for Older/Younger Hero Week here in our Reading Challenge Month. I’m happy to say that this is my favorite story of the series.
One of the hallmarks of the Frozen Hearts series is the great detail Albert provides about life in Alaska, and this story is no exception. My favorite part of the book was the glimpse into life in a remote parks station and what Quill does as a ranger and Owen as a volunteer. Albert does such a wonderful job of bringing it all to life, I could picture it perfectly. It is clear a lot of research went into this book and it makes the story just pop, without feeling overloaded with information.
I also enjoyed Quill and Owen together. They are such an opposites attract couple, not just because of the age difference, but because they have such different temperaments. Quill is gruff and reserved and shy. He still holds a lot of shame and guilt about sex and being gay and it has held him back from coming out or really enjoying sex and relationships. And Owen is just boundless enthusiasm and energy and is all for claiming what he wants out of life, particularly after his cancer. I loved that Owen was patient with Quill, and never pushes him into sex or anything else. But he also challenges Quill, shows him what life can be like if you relax and enjoy it. There are baby steps here for a long time, but it is really rewarding when Quill finally decides he wants Owen and a life together and is able to put aside all his fears.
I did find the story a little long, particularly through the middle. Owen and Quill live a very isolated existence and most of the book is nothing but the two of them alone together. We only really even learn the names of maybe 2-3 other people in the whole book. So there is a lot of focus on just watching this relationship unfold and Quill and Owen’s daily life, and I think things could have been tightened up here to keep the story moving a bit quicker.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think it is the best installment of the series. If you like gruff men who find their softer side, this one is definitely worth checking out.
P.S. Keep your eyes open for a couple of cameos sneaked in, including Griffin and River from Arctic Sun.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Older/Younger Hero Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of FIVE $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Older/Younger Hero Week here.