I can’t remember where I first saw Happy Trail (2019) by Daisy Prescott, but I immediately decided I needed to give it a try. I mean, it’s the first book in a “Park Ranger” series. That might not mean much to some, but I love hiking and backpacking. I’m slowly making my way through all the National Parks in the United States. Even the aptitude test I took in college said I should be a forest ranger. Now, I’m not attracted to every park ranger I see, but there is something undeniably sexy about a man who is competent in the outdoors.
Olive Perry is a rich, half-famous, society girl who was hiking the Appalachian Trail southbound because her boyfriend thought it would be a good idea. But when he dumps her, leaving her in the middle of the trail, Olive decides that she wants to continue on her own.
Jay Daniels is a Park Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a wildlife biologist who specializes in ornithology (birds)–if I’m remembering correctly. A big, unexpected storm is hitting the area, and he goes out on patrol to make sure all the hikers and campers make it to a safe place. Olive is doing quite a good job hiking on her own, but she hasn’t heard about the snowstorm. She is the last person that Jay runs into, but by then it’s too late.
The two take shelter in an abandoned cabin during the snowstorm. It turns out that Olive got interested in birds during her hike. Jay is surprised to find that they have so much in common. He also does not follow social media enough to recognize that Olive is a famous, rich socialite with family in politics. They develop a connection.
When I started reading this book, it felt like it was written just for me. The main character is doing a thru-hike of the PCT, and the main love interest is a Park Ranger? And he’s an expert on birds??? (I’ve just recently gotten interested in birding–a fascinating world that I knew nothing about just over a year ago). Unfortunately, my glee at the subject matter didn’t last. Although there were parts I enjoyed, I was a little disappointed in the end.
My main problem was that the book didn’t feel real to me. The actions of the main characters were not believable, whether it was hiking in the woods or falling in love. I realize romance novels are often more fantasy than reality, but it really took me out of the story. First, I can’t imagine a park ranger going after one thru hiker because of a storm. At this point, Olive had hiked over a thousand miles. She had certainly dealt with bad weather, and she had the resources to make it through a storm. Unless someone is lost or missing, the park service is not going to go after hikers. Second, I had a hard time buying their awkward attraction in the cabin. Again, it didn’t feel real to me. Finally, I also had a hard time buying the end. ***SPOILERS*** Olive leaves after kissing Jay once, and she doesn’t talk to him for months besides a couple of random postcards. Then she shows up the next year expecting them to start again where they left off, which they do. But I didn’t find it romantic that she basically ignores him for the good part of a year.
In the end, my very high hopes were disappointed, but I might give it three stars for including a park ranger.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.