Rant, Review

Review: Under an Alaskan Sky by Jennifer Snow (2020)

Wild River, Book #2

Review of Wild River, Book 1

Heat Factor: Once they hop in the sack, it’s like bunnies

Character Chemistry: I’m not entirely sure that the chemistry is as good if you haven’t read the first book in the series.

Plot: She’s been pining for him for five years. Now that he might be ready to make a move, his daughter’s mother comes back to town.

Overall: I can’t deal with emotional angst when it’s just wrong.

I read the first book in the Wild River series during Christmas book reading season. An Alaskan Christmas, if you’d like to check it out. The protagonists in Under an Alaskan Sky were introduced in that first book, and their tension was thick enough to slice. Also, I very much enjoyed the An Alaskan Christmas, which was well written and thoughtful. So I was all kinds of excited about Under an Alaskan Sky. Cassie and Tank’s HEA would be magical, I thought. 

Imagine my disappointment at fluctuating between rage and annoyance about this relationship for pretty much the entire book. Snow ties everything up beautifully and in an emotionally mature way. But I had to read the rest before I got there, and I am going to tell you all about it.

Cassie is an adventure junkie. She graduated high school by the skin of her teeth and then left Wild River to travel the world. When she came back, she started an outdoor adventure company and is living the dream, taking tourists on adventures in the Alaskan wilderness. 

Tank is extremely risk-averse. He’s got a daughter, Kaia, to worry about, and he knows how rough life can be after being orphaned and growing up in foster care. Now he owns the bar in Wild River, raises his daughter, and does his part for the community by being a member of the Search and Rescue team. Oh, and he has a beard. 

Cassie and Tank have been dancing around each other for five years. In An Alaskan Christmas, I felt this was adorable. At the beginning of Under an Alaskan Sky, I realized that it’s actually pretty messed up that Cassie has effectively been acting as Tank’s partner and Cassie’s step-mother for five years, but hasn’t actually got any real acknowledgement of her role because Tank’s been holding her at arm’s length. And she just lives with it because she’s so hopelessly in love with him. So basically she’s not getting her needs met and Tank is (ish…he does have the hots for her) and that imbalance is so not okay. And Cassie doesn’t even realize it until she leads a group on a couples retreat and hears the retreat leader talking about boundaries!

So what happens? Cassie throws a birthday party for Tank (who doesn’t want a birthday party, so boundary issues are a problem kind of all over the place in this book), and they finally kiss. And just when they pull away from each other and talk about what they’re going to do next, Tank’s ex, Montana, walks into his bar without a by-your-leave and HOLY ANGST, BATMAN! Thus begins an enraging merry-go-round of “What’s best for Kaia?” and “But she knows more about you than I do!”

It begins because Montana knows Tank’s given name but (AFTER FIVE YEARS!?) Cassie doesn’t. And Montana knows Tank’s history. Montana has a child with Tank. It’s like Cassie has decided that everything she’s built with Tank doesn’t matter because he had a relationship in the past. And she won’t let it go, even though it’s hard for him to talk about. (So one more tick mark in the “Cassie’s not respecting Tank’s boundaries” column.) To be fair to Cassie, she’s been Tank’s best friend for five years. You’d think if he were going to open up to anyone, she would know a little more than anyone else about Tank’s life. 

It continues because apparently it’s important for Kaia to have both her parents in her life, and Cassie’s parents got back together after her dad got out of rehab finally, and how could she possibly deny Kaia that happiness? Please excuse me while I barf.

We have to withhold judgement about Montana, because she had a pretty legitimate health reason for being out of Kaia’s life for ten years and we’re not fully aware of her motivation for being in Wild River. But she’s addicted to BASE jumping and it’s hard to tell if she’s really there for her daughter (and also for Cassie’s business in another plotline) or if she’s irresponsible and just out for her next BASE jumping high. So the idea that “it’s good for a child to have both parents” without consideration of the parent(s) in question makes me RAGE. And I don’t understand why no other characters are around to be a voice of reason like, “Well, actually, an emotionally or physically abusive or manipulative parent would be harmful to this child, and we don’t know this person from Adam.” But no, we just have to buy into the idea that all parents are inherently good for children. 

AND THEN, let’s talk about the whole, “the parents need to be together for the best outcome for the child” thing. Because that’s horseshit and it makes me so angry every time I read it. Montana never loved Tank, she just tried to make their relationship work because she got knocked up. He loved her, but that’s waaaaaaay over after their pretty crappy history. Even so, Cassie’s over here feeling sorry for herself because she’s processing that maybe she’s getting in the way of Kaia having a loving family because she’s keeping Kaia’s birth parents apart. But Cassie’s dad was gone for 20 YEARS before he finally got sober and successfully completed his rehab program. Does she honestly think her mother would have been happy with an alcoholic spouse who didn’t want help for 20+ YEARS? That their home life would have been sunshine and roses? WTF? And Montana and Tank are nowhere close to that level of mess, but by what logic does it make sense that parents who don’t give a tinker’s curse about each other (or actively dislike each other) would make a better family than three (or more) parents who are actually happily living the lives they want? I’m glad Snow gets us there, but can we please stop with this narrative? It’s extremely problematic.

AND ALSO Cassie’s so obsessed with Tank being honest with her–and to be fair, he does withhold some information that he really shouldn’t–but she also withholds information from him. And doesn’t even acknowledge that she’s doing it sometimes. Or they’re both all, “Let’s have sex instead of talking about important things that are going on in our lives right now.” Because that’s how relationships succeed. I’m really glad that they both just don’t understand how they ever kept their hands off each other, but for real, relationships are more than sex, and serious stuff taking a back seat to orgasms is not cool. 

TL;DR – I thought this story had a good foundation based on the first book in the series, but with a grain of salt, it clearly has some relationship problems from the starting line, and it doesn’t get better once we throw in the parenting drama. Or the Cassie’s small business drama. Props to Snow for coming up with a healthy and emotionally mature ending, but getting there was a real struggle.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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