Paul Stone is a thriller-crime novelist from Chicago who moved to an isolated mountain-top cabin in Wyoming years ago to escape…people. He doesn’t people well, especially since his mother was murdered while he was in college. And, Paul’s tired of white folks, specifically because those he met in his youth, and even the nosy journalists who’ve interviewed him since becoming a top-selling author, really did not understand his struggle as a black man, or a gay man.
That’s why Paul isn’t eager to have trespassers on his part of the mountain. While chasing one off, Paul rescues Blaze Langdon, who was about two steps from going over a sheer drop in a fog when Paul finds him. Blaze is a college senior who’s on a mission to raise awareness of the plight of wild pika. These mountain-top rodents have unique societies, but it seems that both climate change and exposure to humans are affecting their lifespans and birth rates. Blaze is hunting wild pika dens to study for his senior research project, as well as to document on his Instagram account. He’s got a decent following, but he’s very low on funding; this weekend Blaze is temporarily homeless and had planned on camping on the mountain before moving in with a new roommate and beginning his semester.
Blaze is a sweet and impassioned gay man, who really wants to change the world for the better. He’s grown up in Jackson, Wyoming, right near Paul’s mountain, and wants to join the forest service there. He’s genuinely wants to raise awareness of the plight of these playful but shy pikas losing habitat and numbers in the wild. Paul sees and respects this pretty quickly, and Blaze all but melts from Paul’s solicitous TLC after being injured on his property. They have an immediate connection, but complications exist. First, Blaze’s school is across the state, a 6-hour drive away. But, Paul gives Blaze permission to locate his cameras on his private property, and their connection grows with Blaze’s visits to check in on his research. And, well, to spent private time with Paul.
Paul has been self-isolating for a long time, and growing more curmudgeonly and stale as an author—despite only now approaching 30. But, Blaze is a huge source of light and life in his world. Newly inspired to grow both emotionally and professionally, Paul begins a whole new series, and both men look forward to Blaze’s now regular visits to the mountain for both research and time together.
This story is a sweet and tender odd-couple romance, with Paul and Blaze working toward a relationship, which is a new experience for both. Their mutual attraction moved forward really quickly, but the duration of the story—unfolding over several months—helped me connect with both characters as they grew and developed. Blaze is considered kind of flighty by old-timers in the ranger service, but the vanguard is younger and Blaze’s social media documentation and his research are cutting edge for their field. I loved that he was seen with gravitas by both Paul and his good friends. I also loved how Paul shared his study skills with Blaze, which helped Blaze learn better and break free from the yoke of a mean-spirited and emotionally abusive roommate. The roommate conflict seemed a little much, in my opinion, but I know that college roommate dynamics can be brutal, so I leave it for readers to make up their own minds there. I honestly would have loved a little bit more digging into the racial and cultural dynamics, because Paul falling for a younger ginger seemed way outside of his comfort zone. I really wanted a better sense of Paul’s conflict over this, more so even than the age/experience gap.
The environmental issues were clearly defined, and I really appreciated that as a scientist and science teacher. I wanted to save those pikas just as much as Blaze! I think the story could have used a bit more page time on the relationship development, but it was a fun and interesting read, with unique characters finding unexpected love and eventual happiness.