Wendy and Melissa review ‘Wild’ by Adrienne Wilder. Self published September 1, 2017, 326 pages.
August Vallory had it all. A modeling career, a man he loved, and the extended family he’d acquired in the business. Then the world he knew was torn away when the plane he was on crashed en route to a photo shoot.
Lost in the Alaskan wilderness, August doesn’t stand a chance.
No sane man would choose to live in the Alaskan bush unless he had something to hide. And Keegan Brooks has secrets darker than night, more dangerous than wolves, more brutal than an Alaskan winter.
Every day was a fight for his life until he stumbled upon a downed plane with a lone survivor. Now it’s no longer just Keegan’s life teetering on the edge of survival.
It’s his heart.
The eyes watching August from the tree line were not blue. They weren’t even human. They belonged to a brown furred monster, with long black claws.
Snow crunched, and piles were ejected from under the stretcher with the forward movement. Night had already fallen under the trees, creating shadows that swallowed the bear as it moved. There were times it disappeared so long August thought he’d imagined it. Then the golden highlights in the animal’s fur would snap it out of the dark.
The stretcher bumped a rock and August was jostled hard enough to move his leg. He clenched his jaw. Sweat stung his eyes, and nausea welled in his stomach. It withdrew, and the bear picked up its pace.
Wind tossed up particles of ice. August coughed, trying to clear his throat but it was too dry. “Keegan.”
Could the man hear him? His heavy breaths were more labored than August remembered. How long had he been asleep? How long had the bear been following them?
And if he yelled, would it charge?
August had to take the chance. He put more force behind the man’s name, and everything came to a stop. The ice had made chunks in Keegan’s beard and clung to the fur covering his hands. More had packed the folds of his pants. The edge of his boots was swallowed by what covered the ground.
The bear froze, its body a mass merging into the thick trees. Was it gone? Dark eyes glittered. Then slowly, as August’s eyes adjusted, the outline of the beast reformed. It had crouched down, body tense. A loaded spring.
“Bear.” The word wasn’t much more than an exhale.
The Keegan made a slow turn and at the same time dropped the rucksacks he carried. By the time he had his back to August, the rifle was in his hands.
“Two o’clock,” August said. Keegan took a step, blocking August’s view. Then another, clearing the way. Shadows pooled in the empty space around the tree trunks. Keegan scanned, turning his whole body, rifle raised. When he’d made a full circle, he put down the gun.
“It was there,” August said.
Keegan knelt and loaded the satchels he’d been carrying onto the stretcher.
“It was there. I saw it.”
“I believe you.” He tightened everything down.
“I swear, I swear, it was that fucking grizzly.”
Keegan put a hand on August’s shoulder. “I said, I believe you.” As Keegan stood, a massive brown shape rose up behind him. The scream got caught in August’s throat, but it was too late. One huge paw came down, catching Keegan in the side, sending him airborne. There was a clatter of metal and wood and Keegan rolled out of sight. The bear raised its head and the air shook with its voice.
August struggled against the bindings holding him down for all of a second, then the weight of the grizzly met with the earth.
Nose, lips, small ears, rich colored fur, then those eyes. Not quite black. Not quite brown. A deep rust-gold, and empty of mercy. It twitched its nose, nostrils flaring, lips pulling up. Ivory daggers flashed against black gums. August willed himself to close his eyes but he couldn’t.
Death exhaled a hot breath against his cheek, sniffed his neck, his chest, then hooked one of its massive claws in a ruck sack attached to the foot of the hammock.
The bear pulled, and the stretcher cut ruts into the snow. August struggled against the bindings. Another yank and the stretcher rode up on a rock, turning on its side, and then he was falling. Snow filled up the space between August’s neck and the fur wraps. His chin hit a rock then raked against his chest. Uneven ground pushed against his leg through the wraps. Glass and needles clashed under August’s skin, filling his calf with fire. His heart threatened to burst, but not before his stomach would expel anything it had. His scream was buried against the ice. Then the ground was at his back again, the coming night above. The bear grabbed a mouthful of fur wrap and yanked. Cans of food, what looked like a book, the damn piss pot, and other items were gutted from their hiding place. The grizzly yanked another pouch, this one deposited palm sized packets and what looked like chunks of meat.
The wave of pain threatened to drag August under. He fought against the blackness, forcing himself to breathe. Maybe it was a mistake because no man wanted to look death in the face while it ate them alive.
The bear ripped the fur sack free and took off toward the trees.
August’s teeth chattered, his pulse pounded in his skull, and he just couldn’t seem to draw in a full breath of air. Melting ice slid down his chest, turning warmer as it soaked the furs, but not enough to keep him from shivering.
Somewhere in the distance, an animal yipped. There was snow on August’s right, rocks on the left. Both were mounded too high for him to see much more than the top edge, which became a horizon to the forest. He pushed at the wraps, twisting his torso. The top strand had loosened enough for him to free his shoulder. Cold air bit his skin, but the part in the wrap gave August the half-inch of space he needed. He got his forearm free and through the layers of fur. A hard pull undid the quick release knot Keegan had tied, and the ropes fell away from August’s chest.
“Keegan?” Was he dead? And God, what if he was? August’s vision blurred and snot covered his upper lip. He wiped it away, only to loose a racking cough that ripped at his insides. Every breath stoked the fire in his chest. He had to stop, or that fucking bear might come back. The last bit of sunlight faded, leaving the shadows black, and the snow some shade of blue. A stick cracked. Ice crunched. Where was it? Where was the fucking bear?
August fought with the ties as panic turned the simple knots into complex equations with no solution. He yanked, kept yanking. A dark shape blocked out the pastel sky. August dove away, the stretcher flipped on over, wrenching his back, pulling on his broken leg, but the terror had August digging his hands into the snow and rock and pulling himself and the stretcher across the ground.
The beast’s growl almost formed a word. Furred hands closed on August’s arms. He yanked free but the stretcher was pulled, and he went with it. “I said, easy.”
Keegan held August in place. August froze, staring, staring, sure his mind was playing tricks.
“Quit fighting me. I can’t—” Keegan went to his knees, holding his side.
August fell still. “The bear.”
“Gone.” Keegan’s voice crumbled away. “Along with a month’s worth of dried meat.” He got a leg under him and pushed himself up. “Need to get you wrapped up, still a half mile. Lucky for me it’s downhill from here on out.” He tucked August back into the furs.
“Don’t tie the straps.”
Keegan left them open.
August didn’t know what worried him most, Keegan not arguing or the fact there was probably a good reason why he didn’t tie them.
“Will it come back?”
Keegan retrieved his rifle and piled the stuff on the stretcher, fastening it with sloppy knots. By the time he finished, he was heaving, and August hadn’t heard him strain for breath until now.
“Will it?” August burrowed into the covers.
Keegan rested his hand on his knee. Then slowly, with all the care a man would take disarming a bomb, he lifted the straps to his shoulder, switching his rifle from one arm to the next.
“Not unless it thinks we have more food.”
“It followed us from the plane, why would it matter if it thought we have food?”
“That wasn’t her.”
August shivered in the furs. “It’s the same damn bear.”
“No.” Keegan took a step, and the stretcher raked against the ground. “That one was younger. Probably getting ready to hibernate, and it’s hungry.”
“How the hell can you tell?”
“Cause the bear you saw at the wreck is three times bigger, and if it had been her, she would have killed me and then you.” Keegan yanked the strap and dragged August forward.
Wendy’s review~ I’m trying to think of just the right way to start this review. I can always go with what I told my fellow reviewer Melissa, which was OMG! I was swept away by this book, this story. My heart broke so many times and I spent almost an entire weekend on the edge of my seat because I honestly couldn’t figure out which way this story was going to go. There is the perfect amount of angst, suspense and intrigue here and it’s beautifully presented.
Melissa: Aww, thank you Wendy. Well I read this book because it’s Adrienne Wilder!! Do I really need another reason? I will give you one anyway – because tough mountain man meets model in the Alaskan wilderness. I could not say no. 😀
Melissa’s review~Ok, the star of this book is Daisy, hands down. 🙂
This is an intense story about surviving under the most brutal of conditions. I loved it! I was so very anxious to see what would happen – would Keegan get hurt during a hunting trip, would August fall and injure himself again, or worse? Would the dangerous poachers Keegan sees eventually find them or their cabin? I think I held my breath on more than one occasion and just prayed nobody got really hurt. There are so many ups and downs with this story that my emotions were just everywhere. I didn’t feel the need to cry (which is a miracle with an Adrienne Wilder story), but I certainly felt sad during certain parts. Nobody can grip your emotions and make you care about fictional characters like Adrienne Wilder can. Fans of AW will find this story to be different from her normal tales because Keegan is so much rawer than her other characters. Keegan has lived a life that nobody should have to, and it started at such a young age. He’s strong and fierce and can freakin’ fight a bear!
And August – well August is gay and that fact is what drove him to runaway from his father. He couldn’t stand everything his father stood for and was brave enough to leave and forge his own path. This is how he meets Dan and how August becomes a model. One would think August is weak and wouldn’t be able to survive the plane crash or even Alaska, but he does and manages to make it his home.
I loved these men and can’t say enough about how they just captured all that it means to be strong, and I don’t mean physically. It calls on a lot of mental endurance to survive what they have and I cheered them on all the way. I felt like I was fighting right along with them to get their happy ending, even if neither of them knew that’s what they were fighting for. I worried how this story would end because how could Keegan ever leave the woods and return to civilization? How could August ever live in the woods and winters of Alaska in his condition, with all the wild animals? But I shouldn’t have questioned AW, because the epilogue was so perfect (if short).
I highly recommend, and oh how I hope AW will write more for these men, even if it’s just a short Christmas story with Daisy playing in the snow and stealing Keegan’s socks. I would love the chance to revisit these guys, and girl.
*Note – AW posted on her FB page that she does intend to write more for these characters but she is not sure how she will release it. 😀 Yay!