The Wilderness Spa brings people from three quite different sources together to survive catastrophe in the Alaskan wilderness. They amaze themselves in their ability to coalesce and work cohesively in the face of hunger, injury, insecurity, and possible death. With that on their minds, they explore statistics, logic, social justice, and challenges to philosophies and social norms.
After rocky starts when new members enter the group, they learn to find the best in their fellow travelers, how to help, follow, and lead when necessary. Nothing is ever easy. Without attacking each other, they dig deep to reconcile their differences.
Join the group as they make the best of what they have. Struggle along with them and reconcile your own philosophical belief systems with logic and science.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
Alone, I think every character featured in Wilderness Spa would’ve had a dreadful time surviving alone in Alaska’s wilderness. Together, the trek to safety was not easy. There were juries and casualties.
Wilderness Spa stressed the importance of teamwork. The stranded campers had to use their life skills and adapt to survive the trek to Fort Yukon. Everyone was assigned a task/role. Tom, still recovering from his injuries, did his best to lead the group. This was a difficult feat for the loner. A man with no family and no friends now had his fate resting in the hands of strangers. And these strangers were relying on Tom to help them get back to civilization.
Surprisingly, things went pretty smoothly until I was about 3/4 of the way through it. Then, things took a turn for the worse. While I wouldn’t wish their troubles on real-life people, I welcomed the action scenes for literary purposes. The break-time discussions on racism, evolution, Medicare, Christmas, and so forth reduced my interest in the overall story and the outcome of the characters. When you travel (on foot) through dangerous territory and in less than desirable weather, you expect and want bad things to happen. It makes the story and its plot more realistic.
When you live or visit an area with questionable weather and wild animals, you have to expect that bad stuff can and probably will happen. Therefore, every incident that occurred in the last portion of Wilderness Spa was plausible!
Final note: I love the book’s cover. And, I would love to see the Northern Lights of Alaska one day. #BucketList
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest)
Jim Halverson is the author of Trials & Trails (2019) and Ponce, What Actually Happened at the Fountain of Youth (upcoming, 2021). Jim grew up in the rural, gold-mining town of Mokelumne Hill, CA and received his MBA from Golden Gate University. He spent part of his life on a ranch and is an avid student of psychology. He recognizes the struggles of all men and women seeking equality and respect. Jim and his wife, Gail, spend their time traveling from their small farm in Forestville, CA.
Assaults, petty thefts, robberies—it’s all in a day’s work for Detective Tessa Leonard, a veteran with Reid County, Virginia PD. The detective is committed to her busy work life but not so much to a love life. Once disappointed after rushing into love, Tessa is in no hurry to pursue romance again.
Prosecutor Renee Hamilton is just as busy trying bad guys just as fast as Tessa and her fellow officers can arrest them. Long hours in the courthouse are more appealing to the dedicated attorney than anything offered by the County’s social scene. She, too, was once let down by love and is now reluctant to open her heart again.
But when simple vandalism escalates to arson and attempted murder involving ex-cons, drug dealers, and a bookie, things quickly heat up in Reid County. And to their surprise, the detective and the attorney find themselves in a slow-burn romance as Tessa and Renee discover there’s more to life when it comes to love.
Follow Tessa and Renee as they take down tough guys while taking on each other.
A.M. McKnight is also the self-published author of County Vices (2017) and Goslyn County (2015), both available at Amazon.com.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Television shows give us the impression that cases are solved rather swiftly. Smoke Before Fire by A.M. McKnight depicted what I would consider a real-life scenario of the highs and lows in a case. Smoke Before Fire is a work of fiction, but events that occurred could be taken straight out of the headlines — much like Law and Order does weekly. 😀
Smoke Before Fire didn’t have a happy ending for the criminals, but Tessa (detective) and Renee (lawyer) did get theirs. Their relationship was a slow-burn romance. Most lasting relationships fall into this category.
I enjoyed Smoke Before Fire; however, I think I gained 5 pounds reading it. All the delicious mentions of food made me crave one snack after another. I even ate a couple of donuts in honor of Tug. 😀
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score: ❤❤❤❤
While dangling a fishing hook from his flat bottom skiff before dawn, former SEAL-turned-PI Craige Ingram spots grey-black smoke coiling above the treetops across the river in the direction of the Georgia bayous and Corpsewood Manor. Bayou or bogs, fire in the uncut cypress and pines bodes a sense that the river is no barrier to the fire that threatens his ancestral home, Moccasin Hollow. Neither are the bodies later found in the burned mansion of Corpsewood Manor. Craige wastes no time in helping his ex-SEAL buddy Lt. Graysen MacGerald who is now Head of Buckingham Homicide Investigations by unofficially investigating the bodies and an exquisite dragonfly brooch found in the mansion with a reputation for evil, hauntings, and mystery.
Craige had known Mattie to flip-flop a few times between past and present about things and happenin’s. Mix details of what and when and turned backside forward. Her seein’s coming in jumbled threads were often hard to make sense of. She frequently had no idea what the seein’s meant, but she never wavered about describing what she was sensing. Craige unhurriedly placed his cup into its saucer and carefully unfolded the inner wrappings of the jeweler’s box, and opened the box. Crisp sunbeams slanting through the lace of the window curtains glinted across the brooch, flashing shards gleamed along the truly diaphanous lifelike wings. He hadn’t told Mattie anything about where he’d found it or about Gray’s investigation. The hovering intaglio shimmered as though hoarding its secrets, beckoning with an unreal seduction, as he laid the brooch in her palm.
Her cup delicately paused in mid-air. “How lovely.” Mild ripples trilled across the smile lines of her face. She squinted for a closer look, “There’s something carved into the shiny black jewel.”
“How fanciful. I’ve seen butterflies, crickets, frogs, all manner of doodads for lapel pins and lavalieres but never a dragonfly such as this. Its wings even look see-through. I’m sure—” Her words stopped.
Her pleasant expression crumpled into clouded bemused bewilderment. The sunny room seemed to feel smothered. Her teacup quivered. Ever so carefully, she placed her cup just so in its saucer. Her eyes grew wide in a pinched strained expression. She pulled back, as though some shapeless trepidation hovered about her, ready to seize her. Her hand moved up to the starched bleached, crocheted collar of her navy-blue paisley print dress. She clutched her throat, then gingerly rested her hand aside the unsettled quiver at her cheek, “How dreadful.” She stared at the brooch in her palm. As if the brooch was blistering hot with blazing embers, Mattie tentatively placed it into Craige’s outreached hand, “Such beauty to be so wicked.” In a shaded whisper, “Mister Craige, take this vile thing with its temptations.”
Craige had seen her upset by her visions, but never so abrupt. “Mattie, let’s not go any further with this if it bothers you.” He placed it back in its box.
“Ugliness and cruelty always hover about those what are vulnerable. Such occurrences do bother me, but too shy from it implies acceptance. Good people must be watchful. Malice feeds on fear; drives good folks from facing it. The poor dead creature was being burned, burning away her name so she will be forever forgotten, so no one will ever know what happened to the poor unfortunate woman. There are others. I can’t see their faces. Someone was with her—another woman either with or perhaps following her.” Mattie caught a quick, shallow breath, “You must have nothing more to do with such a bloodstained harbinger. It didn’t belong to her. She took it,” Mattie frowned, “And now she’s dead.”
“Took it from whom?”
“Evil wanted it. It is a bringer of trouble.” Mattie winced, “Someone wanted it from—” Her face puzzled, “Flames were too hot for the hand that reached for the brooch. That awful fire couldn’t wipe clean where she died.”
“She died in the flames?”
“Perhaps somewhere near? Or perhaps somewhere else. I get no feeling of where.”
Mattie’s words didn’t surprise Craige so much as stirred a thing deep inside him, somewhere in those secret whispers between sleep and awake and an unfinished nightmare. From Frannie at PDK to Mattie’s forewarnings, Craige no longer discarded happenstances as coincidence, especially Mattie’s bit about “another woman.” He wrapped the brooch. Closed the box lid tight. “Can you see how the fire started?”
She shook her head slightly. Her expression one less of fear than trepidation, “Only the faces watching you, watching your friend.”
“Who’s watching Gray?”
“Not Lieutenant MacGerald. Your other friend, the one visiting you, the one who swims in the ocean and jumps out of airplanes and hunts with a bow and arrows.”
Her words jarred Craige. Only Gray, Fred, Mabel, and Terri knew Spinner was here. He hadn’t mentioned Spinner to Mattie or that he even had a visitor at Moccasin Hollow.
“Mister Craige, you must take extra care. That pretty bauble in its velvet box belongs to some kind of devil. Washed in blood with terrible long-dead secrets, crawling from their long-dead places. Don’t keep it near you. There is smoke and fire over your home, over that bauble from where she burned.” Mattie’s hands trembled as she reached for her cup of tea and took a long slow sip to calm herself. Her tremulous cup rattled into its saucer, “I will feel so much better once that pretty thing is rid away from you.”
He stood, “I want to let Gray know what you’ve told me.”
A bit calmer, Mattie insisted, “You must promise to not keep that thing inside your home.”
“I will take care.”
Mattie’s face strained, “I most truly enjoy the tea.”
Her hand still lingering at her throat, as Mattie stood in the doorway and waved as Mister Craige drove away. She hadn’t wanted him to know how upset it had truly made her.
Hawk MacKinney began writing mysteries for his school newspaper, served in the US Navy for over 20 years, earned two postgraduate degrees with studies in languages and history, taught postgraduate courses in the United States and Jerusalem, authored professional articles and chordate embryology texts on fetal and adult anatomy, and is well known for his works of fiction. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel, was nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award. Both his CAIRNS OF SANCTUARIE science fiction series and the MOCCASIN HOLLOW MYSTERY series have received worldwide recognition.