I’ve been a fan of Annabeth Albert’s books since starting my M/M journey. I started with her #gaymers series because it spoke to the need in me. Then I moved on to her Portland Heat, and some of her Out of Uniform series’s (time being what it is, I don’t always have the the chance to read for pleasure).
I love her books because I love her characters. They’re not just characters, though, but character studies. They have hopes and dreams, flaws and strengths, and every variation in between.
So when the opportunity was presented to review Arctic Sun, I jumped at the chance. And I have to say that Griffin and River are classic Annabeth Albert characters.
This one features three characters. Now, you might be wondering how that’s possible when it’s not a menage romance. Well, one of the main characters, at least in the beginning, is the state of Alaska itself. It’s clear from the descriptions that Annabeth did an enormous amount of research into the state. The visuals are absolutely beautiful. However, they seemed to overshadow the MCs at times and could drag somewhat.
That, however, is more than made up for with the actual human MCs.
River is a former super model-turned author in the process of penning his second novel. He’s a traveler, never staying in one place for long periods of time. Basically running from a past and pain that he can’t deal with.
Griff is my favorite kind of character. Big and gruff, he’s the strong, silent type, with a super soft center. Ultra-serious to the point of not seeing the point to the word “fun” This is also a direct result of his painful past, both physical and emotional.
They’re romance isn’t exactly a whirlwind, nor would I consider it a slow-burn, but rather something in between (mostly because Griff is so closed off). But once it starts…wow!!! Ever try to read a book that has you misty eyed?
I will say that one of the pieces I enjoyed the most was Griff and River trying to navigate the idea of a long-distance relationship. From the planning of when they’ll be able to see each other next, to the fears that something will come along to derail the whole thing. I’m in a long-distance relationship myself, so I found this relatable and pitch perfect.
This is a longer than normal book for Annabeth, clocking in at over ninety thousand words. But it’s also vintage Annabeth, filled with emotion. I look forward to more in this series.
· Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
o I love both River and Griffin for different reasons—they each hold a piece of my heart for sure. For River, I love his blue hair, his zero fucks to give attitude, his unicorn tattoo, his drive to find himself, and his deep yearning to belong. For Griffin, I love his gruffness, his drive to overcome past challenges, his deep commitment to his family, his love for Alaska, and his most secret longing for connection.
· What was the inspiration for the story?
o I wanted to write an Alaska series for a very long time, and I knew that I wanted the series as whole to contain a lot of “fish out of water” type stories. As I was brainstorming, I came up with the most unlikely duo I could think of—a male supermodel and a gruff Alaskan guide who doesn’t want to deal with tourists, let alone a flirty, high maintenance guy who may be a lot more than he seems at first glance. As I delved deeper into the plot bunny, more serious elements started to emerge, and I realized that not only was this likely to be an opposites-attract kind of story, but also hurt/comfort.
· What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
o I hope that the book sends the message that we are all worthy of love exactly as we are right now—imperfections, challenges, issues, and more. We don’t need to change to become worthy of love. We are never, ever too “broken” for love. And while love is never a magic cure, love heals and inspires and encourages deep personal growth.
· What is the significance of the title?
o Titles are hard! This one went through a bunch, both my own ideas as well as those of the team at Carina Press. We knew we wanted the trilogy to have linked titles, and we knew that we wanted each title to resonate with the themes of the book. Arctic Sun works because the book takes place in the summer in Alaska with all those hours of daylight, but also on a deeper level, this is the sun coming back into the lives of two struggling men who have been missing that warmth and connection in their lives. For Griffin, River truly is the sun he’s been needing.
· Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
o With Carina Press, we do a cover request form that includes things like a blurb for the book, character descriptions, covers we particularly like, and more. I usually also include visuals for each character from pictures that I used while writing the story. In this case, the three books in the series all got covers at the same time so that the covers had a cohesive look. We went through some changes to colors and fonts as part of the cover process. I knew I wanted Alaska on the covers—big, sweeping scenery along with our heroes and I feel the cover delivers!
· What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
o The next book Arctic Wild stands on its own, but you will see a little cameo from Griffin and River near the end!
The mountain man scowled at River. The older guy next to him was the one splashed all over the website— well-known photographer Roger Barrett—with the sort of craggy features that suggested a long life lived in the sun. He smiled at River, shaking his hand, and telling him what a fan his sister-in-law and nieces were of his book. But it wasn’t the old guy who held River’s attention at all. No, that was all reserved for Mr. Tall, Dark, and Cranky, who clearly didn’t share Roger’s good opinion of River, but good heavens, the man certainly made all those rumors about mountains and fresh air resulting in larger-than-average humans seem true.
He totally looked the mountain man part too— shaggy brown hair, the sort of tan that River’s friends would pay good money to emulate, hazel eyes that re- minded River of the greenish brown stone of a mosque he’d visited in Istanbul. And muscles for days. Big, broad shoulders stretching the fabric of a denim shirt, thighs like tree trunks, and that scowl. This was a guy who would be at home playing the sheriff in some old west drama. Or maybe a gunslinger...
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