Where Sea Meets Sky

Author: Karina Halle

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: March 31, 2015

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4.5

Format: PRINT

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Josh falls instantly in lust with Gemma the first time he sees her at a Halloween party in Vancouver, Canada. She's from New Zealand and has been traveling in North America for a few months, about to fly home the very next day. They have an amazing one-night-stand and then Gemma goes back to resume her life in Auckland.

Josh gets accepted into art school in Canada and decides he craves Gemma's traveling lifestyle too much to resist it, so he flies off to New Zealand. He hopes he runs into Gemma but Josh doesn't intend to find her intentionally, until he tells his story to three German guys he meets at a hostel. They insist that they all go find Gemma at the gym she works at, but Gemma isn't working there. Assuming he'll never see her again, Josh is floored when Gemma walks in the door as they're leaving.

Gemma's cousin Amber is arriving from America and they're off to explore New Zealand together before Gemma has to start work at the gym in February. Gemma invites Nick, her off-again-on-again boyfriend from Australia, to join them on their trip but he declines until he finds out that Gemma has invited Josh along. Not to be outdone, Nick decides they will become a foursome.

Gemma is insanely attracted to Josh and Josh is extremely attracted to Gemma, but she knows it will only be temporary with Josh until he goes home to Canada to attend art school. With Nick, even though he's never told Gemma he loves her and doesn't treat her as he should half the time, he's not as temporary, even if he is a bit of a jerk. Will Gemma give up what's semi-comfortable and predictable for something messy, unpredictable and long-distance?

These four twenty-something-year-old young adults set off on a trip of a lifetime in a VW bus, aka Mr. Orange, staying in backpacker hostels or camping in the camper-like bus. The sleeping arrangements are unusual to say the least and Nick can't keep his hands to himself very long, so Josh and Amber are subjected to listening to this couple's sexual escapades more often than they should. It's not long before Amber's attraction to Josh is initiated, but will Josh oblige her when he hasn't had a chance to see if this thing he has for Gemma will ever be reciprocated?

I have to honestly say that this type of story isn't the kind I'm normally interested in. I'm not big on love triangles but this one works by the end of the story. I will forewarn you that the language is raw and the sexual exploits are vivid and leave little to the imagination, sometimes bordering on TMI for my taste, but I still loved this book.

Josh is a very likeable hero and Nick is not, so that settles that from the get-go. Josh isn't perfect and he can be one-track minded when it comes to one of his body parts, but he does want more than sex with Gemma as he tries to help her get over her issues in a caring way. Amber is cute and sweet, so she's a great secondary character who helps move the story forward. Gemma is a puzzle most of the time. Half the time I didn't even like Gemma, but that's a testimony to how great her characterization is written because Gemma doesn't even like herself. By the end of the book, I was cheering for Gemma because she finally learns to love, including loving herself.

What is so well done in this story are the travel aspects of it. It's very reminiscent of the 70s, complete with Pink Floyd cassette tapes in the funky hippie-like VW. The places these four go and the things they do are amazingly detailed, adventurous and highly entertaining. WHERE SEA MEETS SKY is the perfect road-trip story.

I didn't expect to be mesmerized by the characters or to be so emotionally riveted that I cried three times. This book really touched me, especially because Josh and Gemma are both artistic and broken. I have a soft spot for artists because they remind me of my own youth and many of the friends I made in the art world. I can relate to the travel adventures because I experienced similar travels, staying wherever I could as cheaply as possible. That find-yourself trip of a lifetime before college is something never forgotten and it's really fun to relive those feelings with such an eclectic group of characters.

Promoted as New Adult fiction, this novel isn't as angsty as some I've read, even though there are some very powerful emotions explored. Most of the book was enjoyable and even though I'm not big on the frequency of raw language used at times and the high focus on sex, it was realistic and suited the characters.

The hardest part of the novel for me was getting used to a first person narrative switching back and forth between Josh and Gemma. Josh seemed a bit feminine at times and that's probably because I was still stuck in Gemma's head when I should be in Josh's. Josh is very much a guy with crude guy thoughts, but he doesn't pretend to be anyone else than who he really is and I liked his honesty.

I dithered on the rating for this book between four and five because there were some things that I felt were a bit over-accentuated for my taste, but the emotions and ongoing travel story were so amazing that I had a very hard time putting this book down, and I'm still sad that I've reached the end. I want the characters to meet on a reunion trip and maybe find out what happened to the three German guys who were in and out of the novel in a couple places. I'm also super curious about Amber's future travels, so I'm thrilled that her story is coming in July 2015 as RACING THE SUN.

WHERE SEA MEETS SKY takes the best attributes of travel memoirs and mixes it up with young love in an emotionally riveting story. Karina Halle has earned herself a spot on my favorite authors list and I'm looking forward to exploring more of her novels. If you love to travel and have always wanted to take a road-trip across country, then grab a copy of WHERE SEA MEETS SKY for a sexy New Adult romance that illumines a sunset in all its glorious hues.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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