A handheld is going to be line of sight because it is going to be VHF or UHF. No way around it, except to use repeaters. Repeaters mean using the 2-meter (144MHz) amateur radio band or joining up with a GMRS repeater group in the area that you frequent.
The GMRS repeaters work the same as the amateur repeaters do. They have an input frequency, an output frequency, and some sort of PL tone that is required to access them. The difference is that there are far fewer GMRS repeaters and you usually need to ask for permission to use the repeater and will then be given the access codes. For example, there is one GMRS repeater near you, Sylva 600
. If that repeater doesn't cover the area you intend to frequent you'll need to find another one that does and good luck with that.
The amateur repeaters are either open or closed. If open then the access data is published and you are free to use the repeater if you are a properly licensed amateur. There are also repeaters on other frequencies, most notably the 440MHz band and dual-band radios with 2m/440 are popular.
You have one local 2m repeater near you, KF4DTL
on Kings Mountain. There are other repeaters nearby in adjacent counties, I am sure.
As to the radios, good radios are to be had from Alinco, Yaesu, ICOM, Kenwood and the like. These will run from a coupla benjies to a grand. It pains me to say this, but Baofeng is your friend. Cheap Chinese radios of decent quality and indecipherable instructions, they work well and typically cover a wide range of VHF and UHF frequencies, have plenty of memories decent TX power and pretty much every feature you need. The venerable Baofeng UV-5R can be had, I shit you not, for $26 on Amazon. I have one permanently mounted to my KLR in a MOLLE pouch on the tank. I have it programmed with all the NOAA weather channels, all of the southern California 2m repeaters, Forest Service and BLM frequencies, All FRS and GMRS frequencies and all of the local GMRS repeaters, even the ones I don't have permission to operate on.
Every ham in the US looks down his/her nose at the Baofeng as a pukey piece of cheap Chinese crap that no self-respecting ham would stoop to using and every one of them has one, too. I haven't used my ICOMs or Kenwoods in years.
There's a lot to talk about on this, hit me up if you need to.