Review: The Hike by John Inman

Ashley James and Tucker Lee have been friends for years. They are city boys but long for life on the open trail. During a three-hundred-mile hike from the Southern California desert to the mountains around Big Bear Lake, they make some pretty amazing discoveries.

One of those discoveries is love. A love that has been bubbling below the surface for a very long time.

But love isn’t all they find. They also stumble upon a war—a war being waged by Mother Nature and fought tooth and claw around an epidemic of microbes and fury.

With every creature in sight turning against them, can they survive this battle and still hold on to each other? Or will the most horrifying virus known to man lay waste to more than just wildlife this time?

Will it destroy Ash and Tucker too?

John Inman’s stories run the gamut of genres and I love that there is really something for everyone. I happen to love all manner of his words and The Hike reminded me why. One of my favorite themes is horror, but I do have to be in the mood. John can write stories that will haunt your nightmares, but they are always well balanced with memorable characters. I also get that not everyone is down for the horror thing so his stories that focus more on the love pollen that gets spread are more their jam. The Hike is kind of horror-lite compared to say, Sunset Lake or Willow Man but it wouldn’t play well with the Belladonna Arms boys either. The scare level is more along the lines of Spirit or My Busboy. Any Inman fan worth their salt knows what I’m rambling on about here.

The real strength in this story is the bond between Ash and Tuck. The Hike is an angst free (I’m just talking about the relationship here, not the horror that nature becomes) friends to lovers story. There is no question from page 1 that these two are best friends on their way to more. The evolution of their relationship was a treat to read, the banter was adorable without being sappy and the chemistry was dripping off every page. Once Ash and Tuck got together the romance was sublime, seriously, not many authors can write romance the way John Inman does for me. The sweetest thing was the appreciative awe they each felt about the other, Ash planned this whole hiking vacation to have Tucker all to himself and then found out Tucker wanted the same and the realizations and confessions made me swoon repeatedly. They shared firsts that solidified their bond, the kind of things that you only share with someone you trust with your heart and the magnitude of those firsts was not lost on either of them.

As I said, Ash planned this hike to get Tucker all to himself for three weeks, neither of them are great outdoorsmen, and reading about them getting ready and setting off was pretty damn funny. They prevailed and conquered though and that in and of itself was a story. Being a native San Diegan I loved reading the setting that was basically my backyard that we camp in often. John captured the atmosphere perfectly! So, these two are hiking from southeast San Diego to Big Bear and even without the scary AF mystery, their would have been a solid story. The scare factor elevated the tale just how I like though and I ate up the gradual tension that built as Ash and Tuck got further along the trail and further away from civilization.

I think the scariest part was that what was happening could be a legit thing. Unlikely? Sure. But if I heard about it years later as an urban legend, I’d buy it. When Ash and Tuck reached the cabin I was into the book until I finished. There was no putting this thing down at that point and I loved it. I was most certainly stressed out, but the ride the author took me on was a heart pounding and heartbreaking one. The thing that kept this on the horror-lite side was that I never felt like Ash or Tuck would meet their end. Not that everyone made it home, but I felt pretty solid that those two would be find and honestly when you’re reading a horror tale, that’s all you can ask for with your MC’s.

The Hike isn’t a sequel kind of story, but man, I would love to read more with Ash and Tuck. I loved these two and while there were moments of extreme sadness, nature can really be a bitch I swear, there was heavy doses of romance, friendship and some humorous banter that kept me locked into this book.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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