Title: The Simple Wild
Author: K.A. Tucker
Genre: Contemporary romance, new adult
My Rating: ★★★★★
Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.
I just finished reading this book and knew I had to immediately write my review while all my feels are still fresh. Y’all, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have been so lucky that the romance books I read in 2018 were stellar. The Simple Wild is no exception, and I’m so happy I got to end 2018 with this piece of joy.
This book pretty much had everything I ever wanted: atmospheric wilderness, enemies-to-lovers, found family, small town feels, hot pilots, and AIRPLANES. Like… you don’t understand. I used to fly planes. Having an entire book centered around aviation made my heart so damn happy.
In a nutshell, we follow Calla, a 26 year old woman from Toronto. She and her father never had a relationship after her mother left her father in Alaska. However, one night Calla receives a phone call asking her to come visit because her father is ill. When she arrives she is greeted by a rather moody bush pilot, Jonah — and their strange and kind of wacky relationship blooms from there.
I really loved how K.A. Tucker painted the romance; it wasn’t an insta-love situation, yet the male and female love interests weren’t horrible to each other, either (which is what I dread sometimes going into an enemies-to-lovers plot). I’ve read some romances where the man is just way over the top mean, but he really wasn’t at all! And this book has more witty banter and silly pranks which I thought were so fun. The romance is definitely a slow burn, but it all played out organically and realistically. (And let’s just say there’s a cabin scene and you KNOW that shit makes me weak.)
I also loved how Calla is into fashion blogging and instagramming, because it felt like I was reading about myself. Trying to capture that perfect instagrammable photo, thinking of the perfect captions, and perhaps over packing a little too much for a trip. Yeah, that’s relatable af to me.
And, of course, you can’t have an aviation-centered book without me picking it apart! Sorry! But I can honestly say K.A. Tucker did such an amazing job researching everything from aircraft mechanics, avionics, terminology, and aircraft types. It was fun for me to come across a plane and be like, “Oh! I’ve flown one of those before!” I was living for all of the flying scenes, and they’re abundant but so different from each other. Bangor, AK is a fictional town but it’s based off of Bethel, AK (according to the Acknowledgements) so I creeped the Bethel airport. Sure enough, it’s quite similar to how the Bangor airport is described in the book, and it surprised me they have a control tower, too! (tbh I thought Bangor was much smaller than the real town it’s based off of, but hey, it’s a fictional book so I won’t drag it.)
But I digress. I just simply loved the dynamics between these characters so much. There’s the found family between Jonah, Wren (Calla’s father), Agnes, and Mabel… and just everyone in town and nearby villages who all know and love each other. The sense of community is real in this book. And I loved how Calla and Wren were able to reconnect their father-daughter relationship. The message in this book really resonated with me; how we can’t expect others to change, but it is okay to still love and support the choices they make.
I will say that one thing that bugged me was how much Jonah made Calla feel bad for enjoying things like beauty and fashion, It’s so common for men to believe women put on makeup to please men or for other shallow reasons, when really I personally put on makeup for myself. I like makeup, and I like the way it looks. I’ve grown used to going make-up-free as I’ve gotten older, but I still love buying it and using it. I’m not saying Jonah is in any way a “toxic masculinity” character, but his constant griping about women and makeup got to be annoying. But I can’t let Calla off the hook, either. She refers to Jonah as a “yeti” a lot because of his long hair and beard, and that got pretty old, too.
There’s also the constant reminder that Jonah is the “best damn pilot” out there and it’s like, okay, I get it — let’s stop with the overused shtick from 1980’s action films, please. Being a good pilot is one thing but he does make some unsafe decisions so… [insert KermitSippingTea.jpg]
But seriously, I loved this book so much, and I did not expect it to punch me so hard in the feels. I was worried I was going to be angry with the way Wren’s illness was handled, or how the aviation was going to be portrayed, or that the love interest was going to be horrible — but none of that happened. I wholeheartedly recommend this book especially if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan. I will definitely be reading more books by K.A. Tucker soon!
Trigger warnings for cancer, talks of cancer treatments, parental separation.