5 out of 5 Stars
*I was gifted a copy of Northland by the author. I am not compensated for my honest review.*
Logan Ward has been lost in life for the last few years. Two years ago, an ex showed up with his two-year-old son, turning Logan’s life upside down. Logan also met a man he was attracted to, further confusing him. Now, he and his son Justin are planning to spend three months in Alaska where Logan will work on a Retreat and learn the ways of Alaskan life. It sounds simple enough, but Logan is only more confused when he realizes he’ll be spending those three months working with Kyle, and that his attraction to Kyle hasn’t waned.
Kyle Shaw loves the Alaskan way of life, and he despises anyone who criticizes it without understanding. He’s been taking care of his ten-year-old niece Lani for the past five years. This year, he allows Lani to accompany him to the Retreat where he’ll work for three months. After spending most of his life as a playboy, not caring whether he bedded women or men, Kyle has recently tamed his sex life. But Kyle didn’t expect to see Logan again. And he certainly didn’t expect his attraction to Logan to be returned.
Logan will need to figure out what—and who—he really wants out of life and where his home is. Kyle needs to learn to overcome his fear of parenting, because before he knows it, he has two kids who want to call him Dad.
I’ve read several of Cara Dee’s books, and she’s an author I can count on for a good story that will draw me in every time. Northland is no exception. Although Northland is book two in The North Novels, it is a standalone novel and you do not need to read the first book in order to enjoy this one. There is enough backstory provided throughout the pages to give the reader an understanding of what came before this. That said, there is also enough to entice you to want to read the previous story.
Northland jumps right into the action, giving pieces of the main characters’ personalities and history throughout the adventure. Both Kyle and Logan show tremendous growth during the story. Logan starts out confused about his life and not very open to the Alaskan way of living, to the point of insulting how Kyle is raising Lani. But as the story progresses, Logan’s eyes are opened to not only what a good person Kyle is, providing for his family in ways many others wouldn’t, but also to how living in a different part of the country with a different culture can be a wonderful thing. Logan also realizes that defining himself by some type of sexuality isn’t what’s important—loving whomever he chooses to love is. I particularly loved when Logan made the decision to move to Alaska and made plans on his own for him and Kyle to live together, even going so far as to draw up blueprints for expansion to the cabin so Logan, Kyle, Lani, and Justin could live there as a family.
Kyle begins the story feeling like he doesn’t know how to be a parent, even though he’s essentially been Lani’s dad for the last five years. With guidance from Logan and a little help from an unassuming four-year-old “ankle biter,” Kyle realizes it’s okay to make mistakes, and having your loved ones’ best interests at heart is what matters. I may have teared up a bit when both Lani and Justin wanted to call Kyle “Dad.” And the way Justin drops himself into Kyle’s lap—literally—is adorable.
Even Lani, who is somewhat of a secondary character, is characterized perfectly. In many ways, she’s wise beyond her years because that’s the way of her people. She’s been taught how to provide for her family from a young age, so she’s no stranger to hunting for food. Yet at the same time, she’s still only a ten-year-old looking for her uncle’s approval. The way she lights up under Kyle’s praise will steal your heart. I also loved the relationship between Lani and Logan. In exchange for helping her with schoolwork, Lani taught Logan how to cook, and the pair grew as close as father and daughter.
Northland also provides a realistic look at the Alaskan way of life throughout the story. There’s a little bit of everything from stocking up on milk when it’s cheaper in the city, to tying a rope between buildings so you don’t get lost in a whiteout, to having to kill rabid wolves. These additions are worked into the plot seamlessly.
Northland is a must read for anyone who enjoys m/m romance and a good adventure. I will definitely read more by Cara Dee. You can find my review of Cara Dee’s Look but Don’t Touch here.