The Road to Paradise (Karen Barnett) – Review

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.

But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.

When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?

Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Release date:  6 June 2017
Pages:  354

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  iBooks  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Ford hoisted the lady’s trunk from the rear bumper of the superintendent’s vehicle. The weight caught him off guard, and the box slid from his grip, dropping into the dirt. Mud splattered across his boots. “What have you got in this thing? Granite?”
Miss Lane blinked at him with deep brown eyes. With the hat framing her pale face, the woman resembled a cornered barn owl. “I wasn’t sure what I would need, so I erred on the side of caution. Likely as not, I overpacked. I usually do, I’m afraid.”
He reached around the box with both arms, grasping the leather handles before heaving it to his shoulder, smearing his uniform with mud. “I didn’t know dresses weighed so much.”
The woman laughed, her lips forming in impish smile. “Not dresses. Books. I brought Forests of Mount Rainier National Park, The Glacier Playfields of the Mount Rainier National Park, Features of the Flora of—”
“I see. Well, there’s only so much you can learn from books.” Ford turned and plodded down the path. She may be well read, but he guessed she couldn’t tell the difference between a raccoon and a spotted skunk. Might be fun to find out.
She caught up to him a moment later, her short legs matching his stride. “That’s why I was so eager to come and study with you.”
“Study…with me? I’m no teacher.”
“Not with you, exactly. But someone like you. One who speaks the language of creation—who can hear the whispers of the waterfalls, see the secrets hidden in the soulful eyes of the black bear…” She lifted her hand to gesture to the surrounding forest. “To sit at the feet of a master.”
What kind of fairy world had Margaret Lane dropped out of? He looked her up and down. Clearly, she’d never been in close quarters with a bear. Ford turned away, the weight of the box crushing against his shoulder.
The woman’s skirt swished as she trotted at his side. “I’m determined not to waste a minute of this opportunity. I shall soak in the timeless wisdom of the forest primeval.” She beamed. “And I shall endeavor to live up to your expectations, just like any other ranger.”
Ford halted a few feet from the cabin door. “You are not a ranger. Is that what Harry told you?” The twinge in his spine grew talons.
She took a step back. “Not in so many words. But Superintendent Brown said I’d be working for you, so I assumed—”
“You assumed wrong. A person—a man—has to earn the right to that title. We don’t just hand out…” Ford caught himself, Harry’s warnings still ringing in his ears. “You’re not a ranger. Just a—a naturalist. And here on trial, at that.” Ford tromped up the cabin steps and dropped the box at the door. The sharp sound echoed through the stillness.

~ Review ~

What a thoroughly enjoyable few hours this book gave me! I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked it up, but whatever my expectations were, the reality surpassed them. It was fascinating to explore the world of Mount Rainier National Park during the early years of the National Park Service, especially since a large part of the story revolved around the competing claims of those who wished to develop the land into a high-class tourist resort area (such as Margie’s former fiancé), and those who passionately believe the land should be preserved in its natural state for the benefit of future generations (such as Margie and Ford).

Hog-tieI absolutely loved Margie and Ford; especially the way in which the author gave them such distinct voices and personalities. Margie is gentile and well-spoken, poetic and book-smart (or as Ford puts it, poetry-spouting and plant-obsessed!), and yet she’s also a woman with quiet determination and backbone. Her book-learning may not have prepared her for all of the realities of living in a rustic cabin in a wilderness area, but she doesn’t shrink from the challenge, even if she does let out the occasional shriek! I can well understand Ford’s pleasure in seeing the world anew through Margie’s eyes, because I experienced that very same joy throughout this book.

Every brushstrokeFord was born and bred in the shadow of Mount Rainier and took the position of Chief Ranger following his father’s death two years previously—something that still haunts him. Whereas Margie’s love of nature is expressed in poetic delight and an eagerness to experience it first-hand, Ford’s love of nature is tempered by a healthy dose of respect for the fact that the wilderness is a dangerous and unforgiving place. It also serves to illustrate to Margie that their beliefs are completely at odds. “She saw God in every loving brushstroke of creation. Ford saw only beautiful chaos—something to be appreciated, but not trusted.” As Ford himself says: “Any sensible fellow could see the majesty of the place—but a show of God’s love? A single careless step on this mountain would teach you how little attention God paid to the humans who walked its slopes.”

God's creationNotwithstanding Ford’s disillusionment, the author’s love of creation is evident on every page, and the setting is so alive! The climb to the summit of Mount Rainier toward the end of the story was one of the most exhilarating bookish experiences I have ever had, not just because of the way it was described in the book, but because of its significance to the story and the characters, particularly Ford’s faith. And the power play made by Margie’s former fiancé (who had me picturing Billy Zane’s character in Titanic) made the story that much more engrossing.


Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ About the Author ~

Karen BarnettKaren Barnett is the award-winning author of The Golden Gate Chronicles (Out of the Ruins, Beyond the Ashes, and Through the Shadows) and Mistaken. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two kids, and three mischievous dachshunds. When she’s not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, decorating crazy birthday cakes, and dragging her family through dusty history museums. Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) honored her with the Writer of Promise Award in 2013 and a Cascade Award for her debut novel, Mistaken, in 2014. In 2016, she was named Writer of the Year by the prestigious Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Karen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) and has been published in Guideposts and other national magazines.

Connect with Karen:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest  //  Instagram

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, New Releases, Romance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Road to Paradise (Karen Barnett) – Review

  1. Winnie Thomas says:

    Loved this book! Now I need to visit Mount Rainier National Park and see it for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

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