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Off the Shelf: Alaska rom-com is a not-so-guilty pleasure

From the start, the story has the same allure of a Hallmark Christmas movie

I’ve never liked the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Too often, I feel like the phrase is invoked by people worried about being shamed for liking silly things that make them happy.

Do you like to watch “The Bachelor”? To read trashy magazines or eat ice cream by the pint? Cool! Life’s too short to worry about what other people might think about you for a harmless indulgence.

That said, my own reading habits can be a bit intense. Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that every book I read should be nonfiction, that’s won or been shortlisted for awards, or that otherwise seems like it will grow my brain. Every now and then, I read something just because I think the story sounds fun, and almost always get swept up in an easy breezy read.

I didn’t know when I checked out “Enjoy the View” from the Soldotna Public Library that it is technically the third in a series of books, all set in the fictional town of Moose Springs, Alaska, by Sarah Morgenthaler. The first installation, “Mistletoe and Mr. Right,” was published in 2014, while the second, “The Tourist Attraction,” was published in 2020.

While characters from those other installments appear in “Enjoy the View,” the story mostly stands on its own.

Our protagonists are River Lane, a spunky Hollywood actress making a career change, and Easton Lockett, a gruff and hunky mountaineering guide tasked with leading River and her documentary film crew up and down Mount Veil, a notoriously dangerous peak that locals call “The Old Man.”

The setting of all three books is the fictional town of Moose Springs. Based on the description given at the beginning of “Enjoy the View,” which describes the route into town as being along Turnagain Arm and notes that the ski lodge is the largest attraction in town, I pictured Girdwood as I read.

There are certainly some scenes that will stand out to anyone who’s spent time in Alaska as inaccurate — see: references to the “county line” and the inexplicable presence of raccoons — but for the most part, Morgenthaler’s Moose Springs felt believable — see: locals skeptical of tourists and small-town politics.

From the start, the story has the same allure of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s an alternate reality version of Alaska in which everyone’s happily ever after is one coffee date away, and dramatic conflicts — never a legitimate risk to the character’s well-being — are the crucible in which forever love is forged.

Easton plays the role of the somber mountaineering guide who, despite his best efforts, fails to impart on the daring (and devastatingly beautiful) River the dangers associated with climbing on glaciers. In one chapter, River hangs precariously over the edge of a crevasse with only an ice ax to hold her in place and Easton comes to her rescue.

“This is the reality for us mountaineers,” one character laments after telling River she must leave an injured Easton behind.

Over the course of the book’s roughly 375 pages, River doesn’t always fall into the tired trope of the damsel in distress. She and Easton take turns saving each other, and the rough-and-tumble Alaska man indulges River’s movie-making inclinations.

In addition to the rich web of lovable characters already spun by Morgenthaler in previous installations of the Moose Springs series, “Enjoy the View” boasts its own charming cast, including River’s lovable film crew, a lovesick marmot and a pinkie toe hellbent on succumbing to frostbite.

Especially on days like Wednesday, when I was able to spend the morning curled up on my couch, watching the snowfall and reading “Enjoy the View,” there was certainly no guilt about indulging in this simple pleasure.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

Off the Shelf is a bimonthly literature column written by the staff of the Peninsula Clarion.

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