My Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: New Adult
Type of romance: Reverse Harem
Two thousand six hundred and sixty four miles.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a big endeavor. But after the way my year started, it might be just what I need. So I’ll take five months alone on a trail. Five months to clear my head and figure out my life. It’ll be good for me.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
That is, until I meet Nova on the morning I start my trip. He’s sunshine and smiles and everything I shouldn’t want to get involved with right now. But he’s asked me to join him and his friends as they also hike the trail. And I can’t seem to say no to that idea.
Bats is the strong, tall, silent type. Yet there’s a depth behind that stoic façade I wouldn’t mind getting to know better. Because every time he looks at me, he makes me feel like I’m the key to their entire trip.
Grinder is the kind of guy I’d like to spend the next five months avoiding. He’s all growls and threats, and clearly doesn’t want me with them. And he’s been quick to tell me just that at every chance. So why do I feel pulled towards him?
It’s only five months with three hot guys on the trip of a lifetime.
What could go wrong?
California Sunshine is a slow burning contemporary reverse harem romance set along the Pacific Crest Trail. Determined to put her ex behind her, “Belle” joins “Nova”, “Bats”, and “Grinder” as they set out on the five-month trek from the Mexican border to British Columbia. It’s full of laughs, coffee, cheeseburgers, and chances for a young woman to figure out who she is and what she wants.
I received a free copy from the author and voluntarily reviewed it.
This book caught my eye because of the thru hiking theme. I was interested in learning more about trail hiking and reading a romance at the same time. Unfortunately I felt like I went in with the wrong expectations. This book is about the romance first and the trail hiking is mostly the setting and context.
I really wanted to learn more about the trail hiking while enjoying a good story, but unfortunately this book didn’t deal as much with the actual hiking as I would’ve liked. The trail hiking is an important part of the story, but not in the way I had expected. The trail hiking mostly shapes the journey and where they are going, but the scenes with most detail are the character interactions. The hiking scenes are often summarized and I felt that the hiking was more the backdrop and setting. I wanted to really feel like I was on the trail and being able to visualize everything. I did feel the author did his research well, there are lots of mentions of specific places they camp and where they go to get their resupply boxes and such. I just would’ve liked more descriptions of the actual hiking and experiencing more what it’s like to do such a big hike.
The second issue I had with this book is that I had expected the character journeys to be a bit deeper/ more of the focus. With the premise of how Elizabeth needs this trail to figure out her life and how someone she trusted had betrayed her I had expected more focus on her mental journey and her figuring things out. This is definitely part of the book, but not as much as I had expected. The book actually feels quite light and fun. There are scenes that dive deeper and especially later on in the book we get to learn why the three guys are on the trail and see Elizabeth share her story, but I had expected this to be more the focus.
The third thing that bothered me was Grinder, the grumpy guy of the three. He was being rude to Elizabeth for a big part of the book. It’s clear that this is more his issue than Elizabeth’s issue, but it bothered me and I didn’t like how grumpy and rude he was all the time. When we find out his story it makes a bit more sense, but even then I felt like he was ruining the trail for the others with his constant pressure to walk more and his grumpy and rude attitude. This is also a bit of a personal pet peeve of mine with how he kept trying to rush everyone and get them to hurry up, it just didn’t sit well with me.
While this book didn’t quite hit the mark for me, there were still plenty of things I did enjoy. Like I mentioned before the book had a lighthearted vibe which was fun. I also liked how the three guys all have a very different personality. Nova is the sunshine guy with how happy and optimistic he is, Bats is the more strong and quiet type, while Grinder is the grumpy one. Their personalities also go a lot deeper than that and I liked learning more about them. They have their own personality from the start, but learning more about them as the story progressed deepened their personalities and made them feel more real. I liked how Elizabeth was an interesting main character and also has multiple facets to her personality and I liked the way she forms a different bond with each of the guys.
While I would’ve liked to see more of the hiking, I liked the trail hiking as setting for this book. I thought it felt different from a lot of contemporary romances as they’re constantly on the move, staying in different places and so far away from home. It made for an interesting set up and I liked the bits I learned about trail hiking.
The romance is a medium/ slow burn and I liked how Elizabeth got to know the guys before things heat up. In this book she only gets romantically involved with one guy, but the basis for a potential romance is build with the others. I am curious to see how this turns into a reverse harem. I liked how Elizabeth and the guy she gets romantically involved with spend time getting to know each other before things heat up. I also thought it was realistic how Elizabeth needed some time before she was ready for that. The actual steam felt a bit too much and over the top and I skimmed those scenes, but that’s mostly my personal preference. Besides Elizabeth’s point of view there are also some chapters from the guys points of views now and them, which helps to get a better idea of them and how they see things. I thought it worked well here and added to the story.
To summarize: California Sunshine is a lighthearted reverse harem romance story set against the backdrop of trail hiking. I went in with not quite the right expectations and was a bit disappointed there wasn’t more about the actual hiking, the scenery and hiking didn’t really come alive to me and made it hard to visualize things. I also had expected there to be more focus on the characters journeys and figuring out what they want from life, while this is definitely in the book, it’s not as big part as I had expected. The three guys all have their own personalities and I thought the author really made sure they felt different and also that there was more to them than we see at first. I didn’t find Nova as interesting and I didn’t like how grumpy and rude Grinder was for a big part of the book. I thought Bats was the most interesting one of the three, but the other guys do get more interesting as the story progresses and we learn more about them. I liked how we get a few chapters from the guys perspectives too. Elizabeth was an interesting main character and I liked her determination to complete this hike, she also felt real with how she still struggled with something that happens to her before she goes in a hike. I appreciated how the romance is a bit of a medium/ slow burn where she gets to know the guys first before things heat up.