For the past year and a half I’d say I’ve been slowly but steadily making my way through the romance genre. When I started this novel I figured it would blur in my mind with all the others, but somehow Tucker managed to write something that stands out.
I think it’s safe to say that most romances are formulaic. They tend to have a backstory or side plot that’s utilized purely to get the MC and love interest together. Well, that’s not the case here. In The Simple Wild we follow Calla, a recently unemployed 26 year old, who’s leaving the bustle of the city behind in exchange for the quiet wild of Alaska. This comes as a result of hearing that her estranged father has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and this might be her last chance to get to know the man.
To me, the heart of this novel isn’t so much the romance as it is Calla’s personal growth and familial bonds. Honestly, if K.A. Tucker had decided to throw away the romance portion all together, I would’ve still fallen in love with the story. That’s how strong the plot is. In fact, there’s a lot to admire about Tucker throughout the book.
For one, she takes time to develop the world. In an organic fashion she introduces tidbits about Alaska and the town Calla visits. I’m not joking when I say that after reading so many fun facts I now want to visit Alaska as in… this instant. Additionally, every character that’s introduced to the reader is three dimensional, and not just a funny side character that’s meant to egg on the protagonist to go for the broody bad boy. I grew to feel like I was a member of this fictional community, and genuinely enjoyed what every minor character added to the story.
Speaking of characters, I beyond love the relationship Calla has with her family. In fiction it seems stepdads and stepmoms tend to get a bad rep, but again Tucker goes against the norm and introduces a healthy strong bond between Calla and her stepdad Simon. Simon, who is a pure, light, almighty, cinnamon roll and someone I honestly don’t think any of us deserve. I like the way he takes care of Calla and her mother, and finds ways to be the voice of reason even if it’s his well being that’s at stake.
Additionally, I love how in the beginning of the novel, despite being a graduate and a working woman, Calla lived with her parents and there wasn’t any animosity from either side because of that fact. I think so often we expect all characters to be moved out by 18, or want to be moved out by then, or have parents that are urging them to do just that. When in reality there are a lot of young adults who live with their parents and are content to do so.
Now onto the romance, which is where I start to differ from popular opinion. Listen, I get the appeal of Jonah. A bearded protective wild man who saves villagers on the daily? Sure, I could see why that’s swoony. But man was he annoying as hell. First, it was with his overall bad attitude toward a woman he’s never met just because she’s “city” and “pretty.” Then, what really pissed me off was when he got angry at Calla for not visiting her father before.
Let me say this louder for the people stuck back in 1950: you do not owe anything to anyone who’s never made an effort with you even if they’re blood. I find it completely ignorant and infuriating that Jonah chastises Calla for not forgiving her father or not starting anew right away. Yes, it turned out Wren (Calla’s father) wasn’t that bad after all, but that doesn’t mean you get to assume or voice your opinion about a relationship you know nothing about and frankly isn’t any of your business. At the end of the day, Wren bailed on his daughter and made no effort to rectify this throughout the years.
Plus, don’t get me started on Jonah’s whole you’re prettier without makeup , let me make fun of you everytime you wear that junk, or my personal favorite let me hide all the cosmetics you enjoy wearing so I can teach you you’re beautiful. Did you hear that? That was me gagging. Here’s a thought: maybe she wears makeup because it makes her feel good.
Overall, I really did like The Simple Wild. But again, I think the strength of this novel for me lied in the family aspect and the theme of making amends. Everything else dealing with Jonah just made my eyes get stuck in the back of my head. Dude just wasn’t for me.