All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: From Alaska With Love by Ally James

From Alaska With Love
Ally James
2020, 336p
Ebook via Borrow Box/my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A soldier has six weeks to convince the only woman he has ever longed for to take a chance on life with him in Alaska….

Sara’s letters were the only bright spot during Gabe’s devastating tour in Iraq. With each new correspondence he fell harder, needed her more, wanted to be with her. Now, after initially rejecting his offer to meet, she’s shown up at the door of his isolated cabin in Alaska looking for…what? Gabe’s not sure what made Sara change her mind, but he knows he never wants to let her go.

Major Gabe Randall is everything Sara Ryan wants but nothing she feels she deserves. A modern-day spinster, Sara hides behind family obligations and the safe, quiet life she’s resigned herself to living. But secretly, even though she may have stretched the truth about who she is in her letters to him, she wants Gabe. Will he still want her when he discovers the real woman behind the pen?

Once they meet, Gabe asks her for six weeks in Alaska. Six weeks to spend getting to know each other, and then she’ll have to decide whether they are better together or apart.

There are two “A’s” will get me to pick up a book whenever I heard them – Antarctica and Alaska. These areas fascinate me and I love reading or learning about them in any way possible. I’ll watch documentaries, reality shows, read articles. I also love books set there, obviously. Alaska tends to be the most common and I’ve read quite a few books, both fiction and non, set in Alaska. Most books I’ve read regarding Antarctica that are fiction tend to mention it or involve a brief trip there or near there given it’s a place where there are only research stations for scientists and no permanent population. The environments of both are so interesting – both are on my bucket list but unless I win the lottery at some stage in my future, I don’t see either as places I can realistically visit. So I must visit in books.

To be honest, the title of this is a bit misleading because Alaska isn’t really featured until past the halfway point in the book and it’s in such a way that it could really be anywhere that experiences snow in winter, it doesn’t feel specifically set in Alaska.

Sara gave up her job several years ago to become a nanny for her brother and his wife. She adores her niece but it isn’t long now until her niece will be in school and Sara is aware that soon she won’t be needed as much. When she overhears an advertisement on radio to write to troops stationed overseas and send a card, Sara decides to do so on a whim. She gets a response back from Major Gabe Randall, who is terse at first, but Sara’s warmth and wit gradually draws him out of his shell and soon they are communicating every day, moving to texting and then FaceTime. When Gabe returns home from Iraq he wants Sara to come and spend time with him in Alaska and see if they can explore this attraction that has developed from writing and talking. But a few things go wrong and…..soon it’s about salvaging something.

I really like novels that feature letters but this one often featured the letter that one of them would write as they were doing it and then again as the recipient read it, which seemed a bit of an odd choice as it made it feel a bit repetitive. I appreciated the idea to write to those stationed overseas as I’m sure it gets lonely and frustrating for soldiers and it gave Sara something to do that wasn’t literally being a doormat to pretty much her entire family. Her sister-in-law is hideous, I think it’s framed as her guilt being a working mother making her be horrible to Sara but there’s literally no excuse for the way she treated the woman basically raising her child. Her brother is wilfully oblivious to how horrible his wife is and is also guilty of taking advantage of Sara and believing her to be without a life. Their mother is manipulative and plays helpless since the death of Sara’s father and constantly critical of Sara, despite the fact that she’s given up her whole life to assist the family in various different ways. This got to be incredibly frustrating – it made me annoyed at Sara because she’s so incredibly passive and allows these people to just walk all over her, make her feel bad or worthless and even at the end, when it’s supposedly ‘resolved’ it didn’t at all feel like they accepted the way they’d treated her was wrong and she’d had years of them talking down to her. Gabe did make them see she deserved to do something that made her happy but it didn’t really seem like they acknowledged their problematic behaviour in a meaningful way.

Speaking of Gabe, he was fine I guess. A career military man who had little else in his life apart from his dog, Trouble. He has family but they don’t seem very close and he hasn’t met anyone he’d like to ask to wait for him whilst he does his tours and the like overseas. With Sara that changes and he sees someone he could make a life with. There are quite a few bumps in the road, some of which feel a bit farfetched. There’s a strong reliance on ‘mean girl syndrome’ for conflict, which is my least favourite sort of conflict for a burgeoning couple. Sara travels to Alaska but there’s little about it….Gabe is working for some of it which means she’s alone so they don’t really do any exploring, so you don’t really get that Alaskan vibe. There were times when his intentions, although I think were good, came off as a bit full on and ended up creating some awkwardness between them. Although Sara was such a wet blanket that she’d probably never have agreed to actually go to Alaska to spend time with him if he hadn’t basically forced her hand. She was so convinced she couldn’t leave her family and her niece in the lurch, after the years of being made to feel like somehow, she owed them. I do appreciate that Gabe could see the value in Sara as a person and was willing to have her back, stand up for her, make her family respect her. But it felt sad that Sara couldn’t do this herself. Her family were horrible to her when she was there, even worse when she left to see Gabe. It was disappointing.

This was just okay for me. It was a long time before I really felt any romance and although I appreciated the build, there were times when it was more awkward and distant and it made me wonder why anyone would continue to suffer through that. I would’ve liked more about Alaska, especially in regards to Sara going there from North Carolina and adjusting to what it’s like up there. Gabe lived in Anchorage, so not exactly the wilderness but it would still be a different experience you’d think, for Sara. It took a long time for anything to happen and then once it did, it felt a bit over the top but Gabe was sweet and I’ve no doubt that he’d make Sara’s life better (and more about her, than it always being about other people).


Book #82 of 2020