In the late 1970s, a pair of mysterious islands were discovered that were not only rich in undiscovered flora, but in miraculous and almost unbelievable fauna. Not just any fauna, either, but dinosaurs! The two islands had been kept safe and hidden by a cluster of small anomalies until satellite imagery was able to pick them out. While the animals are, indeed, dinoasaurs, there are no T-rexes or triceratops. The islands are too small to host such giant creatures and instead are home to the dangerous carnotaurus and smaller oviraptors. A small settlement was built for 300 international scientists, but the islands are still protected areas allowing no hunting and very little tourism.
For Logan Beck, working on the South Pacific Archipelago is a dream come true. For the last six years, he wakes up, has breakfast, and then gets to go watch over dinosaurs for a living. It’s also a job that lets him have near-constant run ins with handsome Kit Sterling, one of the most respected paleogeneticists in the nature preserve. Something about the smaller man just checks all of Logan’s boxes, but they can never seem to have even one meeting where they’re not arguing with one another. Logan figures it’s just a crush that will remain unrequited until a cupid in the form of a dissimosaur called Dizzy ends up bringing the two of them together.
Starving and outcast from her herd, the little dinosaur will most likely die without their help. While it goes against every rule and regulation, Kit can’t just leave her to die and asks Logan to help him save her. That fateful decision leads to their first kiss and their unofficial — and illegal — adoption of Dizzy. Trying to keep their baby dinosaur hidden is only part of their worries as someone, somehow, is selling dinosaur leather on the black market. How poachers got onto the island, and how they’re getting the dinosaurs off it is something Logan’s going to have to discover, and soon, if they don’t want the dinosaurs of the Archipelago to go extinct.
Kit Sterling’s specialty makes him in high demand for the island research station, and he has been fortunate enough not just to be appreciated for his brilliance, but to be the scientist to officially name the dissimosaur — something he still treasures. Kit is more comfortable keeping people at arm’s length; he’s not averse to romance or sex, but it’s not high on his list. While Logan makes him feel all hot under the collar, he can’t seem to find the right words to say around him or, sometimes, any words at all. When he does, it usually leads to an argument as Logan thinks Kit can’t, or won’t, get his hands dirty, while Kit thinks that doing work in the lab is just as valuable as squatting in the dirt.
Logan is a big man, used to being misjudged based on his physical prowess. He’s fought to get to where he is, as head ranger on the islands, but while he technically has rank equal to — if not greater than — many of the scientists on the island, he still feels less. For Logan, respect is a giant issue that he never quite knows how to handle. He’s tired of being seen as muscle, of being ordered around, and he, at times, mistakes Kit’s hero worship as simply silence.
The two of them do their very best to sabotage any hope of a relationship with one another. There are moments, several of them, where all it would take is some small communication to start something. (Do you have plans tonight? Do you need help with that box? Can I get you something?”) Instead, they’re both so in their own heads with their own insecurities and presuppositions that those opportunities pass them by. Even when Kit does finally make a move, they still do their best to destroy the moment as both of them, out of politeness, offer to make a dinner for two a dinner for more.
Because both of these men are educated and slightly older (being in their 30s), they’re aware that a relationship is more than just a quick snog in a closet. When they have their second kiss and their first date, Kit hesitantly tells Logan that he isn’t up for sex. Kit needs an emotional connection, he needs to know this is a relationship before he feels comfortable getting into bed with Logan, and Logan is okay with that. While he might have preferred to move a bit faster, he’s more than willing to slow down to Kit’s pace. He, too, wants a relationship, someone to be a friend as well as a lover, someone to come home to, not just someone to visit.
It’s such a slow burning, soft romance that it faded completely into the background of the story as babysitting the baby dinosaur began. Where she was at first a catalyst to their relationship — both of them bonding over their concern for the dinosaur — she soon became the main focus of the story. Her eating, her pooping, and what noises she made took up so much of the book that the primary plot — smugglers and the well-being of the other dinosaurs — felt like a tacked on afterthought. I had some issues with Dizzy, as well, since, as conservationists, you’d think Kit and Logan would know better than to take an endangered animal and treat it like a pet, so much so she could no longer be reintroduced to her own kind.
There is a great deal of imaginative world building in this book, and some moments — especially early on — where I was completely on board with Kit and Logan. But, once it became the Dizzy show, I lost interest and had a hard time finishing. I would very much like to see more books in this world (or on this island), but this one in particular left me feeling a little indifferent. Still, the writing is good, the pacing is pretty good, and if you like adorable baby animals, you might want to give this one a try.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.