I just love Pamela Clare’s books. Everything from her historicals, to suspense, to plain contemporary romance is an auto-buy for me. While I obviously like some books more than others, it seems anything she writes is at least a base level of good, and that certainly holds true for Holding On.
This is the sixth book in Ms. Clare’s Colorado High Country series, set in the small town of Scarlet Springs. Like those that come before it, Holding On technically stands alone, but there are enough references to the characters of past books that you may want to read the others first. Or not – if this is all you can get your hands on, it’s still worth picking up.
Harrison Conrad is one of the more famous members of the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. A world-famous mountain climber, he makes his home in Scarlet Springs and works with the team when he can but spends much of his time scaling peaks around the globe. Unfortunately, that came to a halt when his climbing party of four had an accident on Mount Everest. Harrison was the only survivor and has spent the following year living with a group of Tibetan monks, struggling to come to terms with the fact that he survived when the others didn’t.
When Megs, leader of the team, manages to bring Harrison back home to Colorado, no one can see he’s still broken more clearly than Kenzie Morgan. Kenzie runs a local kennel and trains dogs for search and rescue, so has worked with the team for years. She’s been a friend of Harrison’s and has long danced around other feelings for him but doesn’t want to date a climber. As his friend though, she’s concerned about how uninterested in life he’s become, so devises a plan to help Harrison.
Although she already has one fully trained S&R dog, Gizmo, Kenzie recently took on a new puppy to train, who she calls Gabby. Hoping that caring for Gabby might lead Harrison to take better care of himself, Kenzie fosters the puppy with him, convincing Harrison that Gabby and Gizmo don’t get along well. While this does help Harrison re-enter the world, it also helps him realize what’s been under his nose all along, and he and Kenzie start dating.
I don’t think Kenzie’s plan – or the backstory surrounding it – would have worked nearly so well if Harrison hadn’t first spent time grieving by Mount Everest. Ms. Clare works hard not to trivialize Harrison’s grief or his struggles with rejoining the world. She allows him months for his sorrow on Mount Everest, and now that he’s returned to Colorado it feels natural that he should start trying to interact with the world again. He can manage grocery shopping, for example, but seeing his old team buddies is more of a challenge. As is figuring out what to do with his life, now that he’s retired from mountain climbing. Even then, he’s not 100% certain he’s retired. It’s not an easy road, but it feels realistic and made me like Harrison all the more.
Kenzie, too, has her own share of issues to deal with, although they’re minor compared to Harrison’s. After her first serious boyfriend – who was also an adventurer – died in the wilds of Alaska, she’s understandably hesitant to start a relationship with Harrison. Another reason for reluctance is Kenzie’s occasional doubts about herself, something Harrison is able to help her with. The fact that she needs his support, as he needs hers, keeps things from feeling unbalanced and added to my enjoyment of the book.
If there’s anything to critique here, it might be the idealized supportiveness of the town, and even then, I’m not sure that I’d really complain. As the sixth book set in Colorado Springs, it’s natural that Ms. Clare has built up a cast of very supportive secondary characters. Those characters are one of the good things about the series, even as they make the town feel a little too perfect. It’s the environment we all wish we could bring our wounded friends home to, even if it’s not usually what they’d get.
I’d recommend Holding On to just about anyone, and definitely to fans of Ms. Clare. It’s just the kind of story to sink into on a cold winter night – or on a hot summer day. It’s a perfect reminder of why Pamela Clare is on my auto-buy list.