Review: Force of Nature (Coming About, #4) by J.K. Hogan

Everyone knows that bonds formed under extreme circumstances never last.

Harbor Patrol officer Neal Hesse has had his life turned upside down by a sudden break-up with his partner of ten years. After sleeping his way through Seattle failed to take his mind off his broken heart, he decides to take a leave of absence from work to find himself again. He hires a professional wilderness guide to take him up into the mountains, so he can get away from everything and live off the grid for a few days.

Travis “Rock” McCreary, ex-Army Ranger turned survivalist, hates doing guided excursions, but it’s his primary source of income while he’s working towards getting his own survival show. Working in such a testosterone-fueled profession has forced him so deep into the closet, he feels like he might never see the light of day again, which makes it even harder to put on a friendly face for his happy, normal clients.

When Rock is hired by clumsy city-boy Neal to take him up into the North Cascades for a survival adventure, his patience and his resolve are tested at every turn. He has to teach Neal to survive in the wilderness while fighting an attraction he can’t allow himself to act on. When their trip doesn’t go as planned, Neal’s getaway turns into a true survival situation, and he and Rock are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. If they make it out of the wilderness, can their newfound connection survive in the real world?

 *Possible trigger warning: situations where consent may appear dubious.

What should I talk about first?

*Jeopardy theme plays in the background*

Oh alright, let's start with the dub con thing. Lookit, I freely admit that I am a filthy perv and prolly unreliable in most respects when it comes to consent but... this wasn't dub con. Did their first time go down weirdly? Yeah, you bet. Was I expecting Neal to be that dude? No, I wasn't. But dub con? No. Not in my book. Not when they have a quick convo about barebacking before any penetration occurred. Certainly Rock was caught unawares but he asked to get fucked and not just with his body either. That to me voids any conversation about dub con and puts their first time firmly in the hate sex category. It was fueled by hate and revenge, and these two had been needling each other from the jump. Was it shitty for Neal to jump him like that? Absolutely. But as the narrative unfolds this is kind of their MO.

Rock likes it rough and Neal likes to give it to him roughly. They wouldn't describe their relationship as D/s, but I'd say sexually Rock is submissive. They just don't go in for all the pomp and circumstance. They do kind of fool around with breath play and I would *hope* one of them works out that they need a word/signal at some point if they keep up those shenanigans.

So in case you haven't worked it out, Force of Nature is sex heavy. Some of it was titillating but a lot of it felt like filler. They seem to equate sex to love and I don't subscribe to that in a romance narrative; I need the sex to have a purpose and to show their connection. Oftentimes Rock and Neal fuck in lieu of having a conversation. There's a greater likelihood of me swooning over a declaration or a romantic gesture than a sex scene. I like couples to express themselves at least internally and hopefully at some point verbally but these two seem uncomfortable with their feels. Thus I had a hard time truly investing in them as a couple. They have oodles of sexual chemistry and seem to like each other but as far as their long-term compatibility, I'm not sold on an enduring emotional connection.

Both of these characters are crafted well. Rock's pretty grouchy so I liked that. He's also deeply closeted which drives the majority of the conflict. Neal I liked less but I can't really pinpoint why. I don't hate him or anything. I'm just sort of meh.

The strength of this book, however, is Hogan's knowledge of survivalism. Either she did a boatload of research or she's a survivalist herself because there is a wealth of information about surviving on ingenuity and determination. Surprisingly, I really liked this part. It kept the pacing up, held my attention throughout and the climatic event had me on the edge of my seat. Stepping up and taking charge in a crisis always resonates with me and Neal comes through in the clutch.

The verbiage used to describe the Cascades was beautiful, evocative and made me want to see it for myself.

Man, I need a vacation! Stupid book left me with vacation envy. I'll pass on the survivalism but I could do the Cascades, especially from that Twin Peaks hotel.

Once they return from the trek things felt rushed to me. Big decisions were made quickly and the whole story lost momentum.

Overall, my first Hogan was a good experience. I found her writing style engaging and was immediately drawn into this story so I would definitely read something else of hers.

Recommend to survivalists and/or fans of Bear Grylls.

A review copy was provided.

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