This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.
I hadn’t read a “chick flick” book in a long while, so I thought I’d shake things up a bit. I always like books about mountain climbing, and I’ve never read a book set in Alaska before, so In the Shadow of Denali had all the makings of a unique and grabbing read for me.
And for the most part, it was that. The characters were slightly flat, it’s true, and the romance was truely cringe-worthy (and the villain ridiculously stereotypical), but those things honestly didn’t bother me as much as they probably should have. The fact is that I really loved Cassidy, who was a good mixture of sweet optimism and realistic emotions. I didn’t like the men quite as much (they were all a little too perfect for my taste), but reading about Cassidy’s time in the kitchen, all the foods she makes and her growing friendship with the head cook Mrs. Johnson, was what kept me stuck to the story. Mrs. Johnson is probably my favorite character, actually. I can’t say much about her backstory, but I really loved watching her gruff outer shell peel away over time!
It does have to be said, though, that the discussions of both romance and religion are almost uniformly hard to read throughout the book. The characters are so obnoxiously slap-you-in-the-face Christian (and so obsessed with making sure everyone thinks exactly the way they do) that it got a little old for me–even though I actually am Christian! It’s not like they act like God makes life one big rose-fest, because all of the main characters grapple with some pretty scary/hard things throughout the book, but something about the discussions of faith just felt cheesy and unrealistic to me. There’s also a fair bit of instalove, which anyone who has read this blog for long knows is a big pet peeve of mine. Cassidy and Allan barely know each other at all when they start having feelings for each other that they’d never had for anyone else in their entire lives. Despite the fact that they only spend minimal amounts of time with each other and don’t really seem to have anything in common, we’re supposed to believe they’re perfect for each other. Meh. I’d rather have seen Cassidy wind up with Thomas, the seventeen-year-old kitchen boy who has a crush on her–I honestly liked him better than I did Allan, and the age difference could have easily become negligible if the authors had made Cassidy just a year or two younger!
Anyway, you wouldn’t guess it from all the negativity in this review but I really did spend a few happy hours reading In the Shadow of Denali. Now that I’m writing out my thoughts I’m realizing just how many little things bugged me about the book, but when I was actually reading it I was sucked in nonetheless. I love Cassidy, Mrs. Johnson, and Thomas, and I have pretty neutral (though certainly not negative) feelings toward Allan and Cassidy’s father John. I liked the basic premise of the story and the conflicts that came up, and I loved getting a look at what life was like in Alaska during the 1920s. We even get to read about President and Mrs. Harding staying at the hotel on their 1923 trip to Alaska right before the president’s sudden death! I’d never even heard of President Harding, let alone known that he traveled to Alaska.
Basically, I can’t recommend In the Shadow of Denali as fine literature. If you’re looking for some clean, fluffy (and slightly preachy) entertainment set in a rural Alaska setting, though, then this might just be the book for you. If you do give it a try, comment below to let us know how you like it!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my review.