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A man of few words, Ranger Jay Daniels values the calm, quiet solitude of the Great Smoky Mountains. Never quite fitting in with either side of his family, he prefers the company of birds and trees to people.
Yeah, he’d most definitely prefer a bird—any bird, any bird at all, take a vulture for instance—to the human-tornado hybrid that just blew onto his peaceful stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
The path of true love never has run smooth for Olive Perry. After getting dumped and promptly abandoned in the middle of her multi-month hike, Olive swears off men. Determined to finish the long trek by herself, she doesn’t need a prince—or broody and taciturn ranger—to save her.
Yet, when an early snowstorm threatens the mountains, and Ranger Daniels is charged with getting hikers to safety, that includes hot-tempered Olive Perry. Snowed in and forced to share an abandoned cabin, can Olive’s heated intensity melt Jay’s cool reserve?
And if so, will this happy trail lead to true love? Or will their time together be just another bump in the road?
‘Happy Trail’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Park Ranger series.
When you are a socialite, finding romance can be hard. For Olive – the stream of failed engagements follows her wherever she goes. Without a real goal in life, Olive finds herself headed to the Appalachian Mountains so her latest boyfriend can work on his Instagram counts. As an influencer – everything about the trip will be documented for the public. With sponsorships and new follows a name of the game, Olive finds herself along for the ride.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail starts growing on Olive. The sights, sounds, and fellow travelers are intriguing and allow the pampered socialite to experience a pleasure in life that Olive didn’t realize she was missing. Then an unexpected live stream took Olive by surprise. With thousands of followers ‘watching’, Olive’s boyfriend pops the question in the middle of the hiking trail. Olive doesn’t accept the engagement request, and her boyfriend decides it is not worth finishing the hike. He leaves Olive right where her rejection was live streamed for all of Instagram!
Determined to make the most of her experience, Olive sets out to finish the journey that the couple started all on her own. Without the luxuries from sponsors, Olive is definitely ‘roughing it’ on the trail. A looming storm brings Olive into the path of Ranger Jay. The park ranger is tasked with making sure all those that travel in the mountains are safe from the oncoming weather. With little time to seek shelter, Jay and Olive find themselves seeking refuge in a moonshiner’s cabin in the woods. As the two are faced with rustic accommodations, they quickly discover that you should never take someone at face value. With a fire burning through more than the chimney, Jay and Olive will have to face an impending attraction that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Happy Trails is the first book in the Park Rangers series that revolves around the Penny Reid universe, but is written by Daisy Prescott. I have loved all of the back catalog of Prescott’s, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this unique series starter. The first thing that stumped me was where the author references AT repeatedly in the first few chapters. I stopped several times and asked myself if I was missing something. What was the abbreviation for? Then several chapters deep, we learn that the AT stands for the Appalachian Trail. The reference states that everyone uses the shortened moniker if they are experienced hikers or locals. Now – I have children that hike the Appalachian Trail and spend a lot of leisure time in the Great Smoky Mountains. NONE of them say ‘AT’ when referring to the Trail. I know the book is fiction, but I am so used to Reid’s spot on references for the towns and other focal points to the Tennessee area that this feels weird to reference the location this way. There is such an abundance of AT references, that it distracted me from the story.
Now let’s get to the bones of the plot, Jay and Olive just did not have a believable romance in this story to me. There was so much time spent on the buildup of the couple crossing paths, but when it came time for the romance, the story jumps a HUGE span of time. Jay and Olive only spend a couple of days together, but we jump in time to a place where tons of life events have taken place. The lengthy absence is not really addressed in a way that explains how Jay and Olive can’t seem to live without the other. It is a whiplash of emotion that fell flat for me after such an amazing and descriptive meeting of these two characters.
Another thing that bugged me about this story was the life altering event that Olive found herself facing after coming down from the trail. We get a glimpse into Olive’s life and the importance of her grandfather, but the contact between Olive and Jay disappears as easily as a lightening bug in the autumn winds. It is so hard to believe that Jay and Olive could have the depth to their connection that is shown after all of their time apart.
The connection to Green Valley wasn’t as strong in this book as I would have expected. Other than the backdrop taking place in the Smokey Mountains, there wasn’t a huge presence in the Winston World. Cletus and Drew do make a quick appearance, but their place in the story doesn’t really impact the plot. Overall – this story just felt comfortable and not up to the expectations that I would expect when delving into the Pennyverse.