Under the Midnight Sun (The Heart of Alaska)
This third in The Heart of Alaska series takes time to build the backstories of its central characters: Thomas Smith, an orphan adopted into the close-knit staff of the Curry Hotel that provides the series’ setting, and Tayler Hale, a young naturalist who escapes the drama of her wealthy Denver family for work at Yellowstone National Park. Thomas longs for a family of his own, and God answers his prayers by sending Tayler to fill a job opening at the Hotel for the busy summer of 1929.
The two fall for each other quickly, but are kept apart by their internal struggles with yearning and doubt; the romantic tension is supplied by courtships among other kitchen staff at the hotel, while a pair of twin toddlers furnish adorableness. The placid, sweet tone changes to righteous judgment when a group of bored socialites start to harass Thomas and Tayler’s faithless ex-fiancé, Emerson Pruitt, who shows up insisting that Tayler marry him so he can get his hands on her family money.
The novel’s dedication to illuminating Christian belief in human life leads to characters that lack nuance; the godly souls are wholesome exemplars, struggling only to keep their eyes on the Lord, while the villains are caricatures of selfish greed. But if Thomas and Tayler’s romance feels lightly sketched, the vivid landscape of rugged Alaska and the looming presence of Denali, the High One, provide fascinating presence. Peterson and Woodhouse fans will enjoy seeing how familiar characters have advanced on their path and will embrace the book’s quiet affirmation of faith, forgiveness, and keeping Christ central to one’s life.