Iditarod by D. Jordan Redhawk

I finished this online story just about 20 minutes ago and wanted to get my thoughts down before they start to fade away. I want to state right away that I know the author and have had several conversations with her over the past year or so. It started when I called bullshit while discussing her book, Tiopa Ki Lakota, during a Cocktail Hour podcast. To be fair to Redhawk, the bullshit being called was based on the online version and not the published version, which I haven’t read yet but plan to do so very soon. She left a message somewhere, I can’t remember exactly where now, that let me know that the issues I was calling BS on had been fixed in the published book. It’s become a joke of sorts between us and I’ve come to like Redhawk quite a bit. We even discovered that we lived across the street from each other in Idaho. Not at the same time, about a decade apart, but still pretty cool.

I debated for a few minutes about whether I should post a review of Iditarod, but decided that I’ve called enough bullshit with the author that she’s not going to get her feelings hurt by anything I have to say here. And the story is damn good and I’d hate to have readers miss it. I had heard about it a long time ago but didn’t load it up on my reader so I never read it. Then a few months ago, I was scrolling through Callie’s Creations and saw the cover that I’ve used here. I grabbed it and stuck it on my reader. But, yeah, I forgot about it again…

The truth of the matter is that I would see it, sometimes, while scrolling through, looking for a cover or title that grabbed me but I never picked it. I liked Tiopa Ki Lakota so much and I was worried that Iditarod would be a let down. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to any of you but that was in the back of my head so I would keep scrolling until something else jumped out at me. Redhawk is going to be on Cocktail Hour with me and Andy at the end of September so I decided that I should go ahead and read it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

As the title gives away, this story centers on the annual dog sled race. I had heard of the Iditarod before but never any real details. I feel like a pro now! Lainey Hughes is a photo journalist who gets a last minute assignment to capture the end of the Iditarod. She’s none too happy about that and becomes even less happy once she gets there. The one bright spot is being picked up by Scotch Fuller. Literally. Lainey slips on some ice and falls on her ass. Scotch gives her a hand up and gets a bit of attitude in return. Later, at the awards dinner, Lainey can’t keep her eyes off of Scotch and feels a strong attraction that she can’t seem to shake, even after leaving Alaska. She turns that attraction into a deal that has her back in Alaska a few months later. And that’s where the story really begins.

I won’t go much more into it than that except to say that there are some action sequences that had me on the edge of my seat. There’s not loads of action but I was definitely engaged in the race and in the development of the relationship between Lainey and Scotch. There were a few places where it seemed to drag on a bit too long and there were some typos and misused words – very typical stuff in an online story – but nothing that made me even consider putting it down. The only thing that was irritating was the overuse of “tawny curls” to describe Scotch’s hair but that eased up toward the later part of the book. There were also a few things that I wanted to know a bit more about that weren’t addressed, like if Scotch’s family knew about the growing feelings between the women and what their reactions may have been.

Those things, for me, didn’t take away from the enjoyment I experienced while reading. The thing that I loved so much about Tiopa Ki Lakota came shining through in Iditarod: the obvious research that Redhawk put into this story. The descriptions of the race are so carefully detailed that I could see the landscape in my head. I felt like I was on the sled, looking out over the dogs and seeing what the musher saw. And the human characters weren’t the only ones that I felt a connection with. The dogs each had their own personalities and relationships to each other and the humans they lived and worked with. I cheered for the entire team, not just the musher, and when any of the dogs had to be dropped, I felt the disappointment that they must have felt. And just like when I read Tiopa, I wanted to put the book down and google so many things. I wanted to learn even more about this incredible race.

When you read Iditarod, keep in mind that this is the first draft of a novel. It has been picked up for publication but there’s no release date just yet. I’ll be sure to post a comment here when it’s available. I will definitely give it a read. In the meantime, you can read the online version here:

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