Happily ever after has no map, but sometimes fate sends a guiding light.
Gabe Rice, a seasonal ranger at the Rocky Mountain National Park, can’t seem to get his life on the right trail. He loves the rugged beauty of the land, and there is no place he would rather live than the mountain community of Estes Park. But after six years, Gabe is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever get a full-time position or find love. When Gabe sees Luis—and hears his gorgeous singing—he’s compelled to meet him.
Luis Martinez, the new owner of a hotel and steak ride business in Estes, left California and a career as a therapist for a fresh start in Colorado. But even the beauty of the mountains can’t help him forget the past or move forward. Unprepared for his strong attraction to Gabe, Luis is ready to run and hide from emotions he never thought he’d have again.
Suddenly the path ahead opens to a future that looks brighter for both of them, if they can find the courage to walk forward—together
Mapping the Forest is one of those hopeful and authentic stories that tugs on your heartstrings from the beginning to the end. It worked for me, for the most part. I enjoy Brandon’s stories and I claim to be part Lorax, so I anticipated a solid read. It wasn’t as smooth sailing as I had hoped but it certainly wasn’t a disappointment. There were some distractions that held this back from knocking my socks off but I was smiling as I finished the final page and that’s what truly matters to me.
First let’s get to what shined in this story. Brandon paints such a gorgeous backdrop that I had to restrain myself from hoping on Expedia and booking a vacay to Colorado as I read. Breathtaking views pave the way for a vivid journey. It was extremely well done and I loved it. I am partial to the forest (I studied forestry until I discovered the career difficulties at the end of my degree) and felt a sense of ease and peace wash over me throughout their hikes. The main characters were solid, real, and lovable. Brandon has a gift when it comes to his characters, I yearn to hug them. He’s the master at creating huggable men. And there’s so much genuine emotion surging through the pages, it’s as if the book has its own heartbeat.
As far as the distractions I mentioned earlier, the alternating narration was one of them. I don’t mind first person and I like alternating voices but I found myself stumbling with Gabe’s first person and then the switch to third person for Luis. It was strange. It also felt cluttered by the secondary cast. As the story progressed they grew in such numbers I fumbled with their distinction. What friend was dating who and the past relationships confused me. I understand this is a series and often the first book in a series is weaker than the subsequent books, but the ‘setup’ was an interference I could have done without.
Luis has been beaten by life and is attempting to regain some control….claim his happy back. Gabe is trying to plant roots and find a partner to join him. Their paths cross and they try to tango but it seems they have four left feet. They fumble and bumble and it’s absolutely adorable. They are hardly perfect and that just makes them so damn perfect for one another. They both have incredible friends and I adored the brief snippets of family. There is a lot of agony and mourning but there is also comfort and hope. I also enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout as it offset the sadness.
Great men in great places overcoming great losses. A moment in time smashed Luis’ life to smithereens. His body continued to live despite his broken heart. Clinging to memories allowed him to survive the days and weeks but as months became years, his grief threatened to remain forevermore. Gabe’s bright eyes, pure smile and runaway mouth broke through his shroud of despair. Gabe was his second chance…at love and life. It’s a difficult but beautiful awakening.
Sharp pain from a grieving husband. A few false starts. And a couple of disturbances in the story.
Fans of nature, fans of Brandon Witt and anybody willing to take a bumpy ride with the Rocky Mountain Boys…they are sure to provide a smile and chuckle or two.