One final change is the addition of a bonus short story which fills us in with an incident involving Kurt before he became a ranger. I definitely approved of this!
Jake is spending his summer season as a forest ranger before heading off to Pharmacy college. His job is to drive through the forest park looking out for the beginnings of forest fires and putting them out before they can catch and do too much damage as well as keep an eye on the various tourists, walkers and occasional scout groups who wander around the park. He is partnered by Kurt who has spent a few years doing this job. Jake and Kurt are basically living in each other’s pockets in a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere so it’s a good job that they gel and work together. Jake is gay and he finds Kurt, who he believes to be straight, very attractive. He’s managed to keep a lid on his feelings for a few weeks now until something happens to put a spark to his lust for Kurt. The following few weeks are difficult for Jake as he struggles with his raging lust and growing respect and admiration for Kurt, until one day both men are thrown into a life threatening situation and Jake can no longer keep his feelings to himself.
Fire on the Mountain is what you might call a ‘slow burner’ – no pun intended. For most of the book we are treated to descriptions of the daily lives and job of a forest ranger. I didn’t know anything about this job before I read this book, so I found this part completely fascinating. I had no idea about how much effort goes into seeking out potential fire hazards and dealing with them. I also loved the descriptions of the forest park and the simple life that these two men lead, cut off from civilisation. Their peaceful existence is interspersed with some hair raising incidents - not all to do with fighting fires - which adds to the pacing and makes it a real page turner. The quieter moments are spend building the friendship between Jake and Kurt, and in Jake trying to hide his feelings. These were often my favourite parts to the story.
The story is from Jake's first person point of view. I liked Jake very much. He has almost a wide eyed innocence about him and the way he views the world which I found utterly charming. Jake is also somewhat of a naval gazer, being introspective, and he perhaps worries over his problems a little too much, especially later in the book. He has tried so hard not to fall for Kurt because he knows that it will cause a rift in their burgeoning friendship. Once he realises that it is too late and he has a huge case of unrequited lust, he tries to deal with it the only way a man can and takes himself in hand (literally). The number of masturbation scenes in the story is mildly amusing because there’s only so much that can be said about a man masturbating, but I can see why a man in his early twenties may need to let off steam in that way. Although Jake’s naivety was endearing most of the time, when it came to his assumptions about Kurt’s sexuality I was astounded that he didn’t figure it out before he did. Even Kurt is exasperated at what he saw as his obvious attempts to get Jake’s attention:
“I spent most of two weeks trying to get your attention, and you have to ask that? I did everything but drop one wing and run in circles,”Jake has an obvious case of hero-worship when it comes to Kurt so he comes across as a little too wonderful. Having said that he acts kindly to others, gets on well with people and is an all round ‘nice guy’ so it was very difficult to dislike him at all and, as I said earlier, the new or newly expanded scenes help to give us more about Kurt so that he seems fleshed out and realistic.
Fire on the Mountain really is a special read for me and one that I would highly recommend. The book is tightly plotted with a number of tense, exhilarating action scenes; the relationship between the heroes as friends and then lovers is beautifully done and contains a lovely gentleness which I found delightful; finally the descriptions of the forest park in all its terrible beauty just added to the overall positive feelings I have for this book. I recommend that you read Fire on the Mountain – you won’t regret it. Grade: Excellent.
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