Title: Hotel Pens
Author: Geoffrey Knight
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Art: Adrian Nicholas
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: contemporary m/m romance
Length: Novella (82 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A beautiful, positive tale, wonderfully romantic and yet without the slightest trace of corniness.
The Blurb: Travel writer Joe Jordan hasn’t been home to New York since his boyfriend broke up with him. Instead he’s hopped from hotel to hotel, collecting pens like a child in a fairytale might leave a trail of breadcrumbs hoping to find his way back.
But now he has an assignment, an article titled “5 Ways to Rediscover New York.” Being back on his home turf is daunting—until he meets Claude Desjardins, a gay romance translator staying in his hotel who, after a night of near passion, leads Joe on a treasure hunt through Manhattan, writing clues on Joe’s skin using hotel pens.
But it isn’t just New York Joe needs to rediscover.
The Review: Travel writer Joe Jordan dreads coming home to his native New York. Once upon a time, he would’ve been happy to return from one of his assignments, back when he had someone to come home to, his then-boyfriend, Shawn, who had left his own hometown of LA and moved to New York in order to be with Joe. But Shawn, tired of Joe’s long absences, ditched him six months previously, and Joe has been drifting ever since, the pens he collects obsessively from hotels all over the world as he chases from deadline to deadline his only constant in life.
New York doesn’t feel like home to Joe anymore, and the Beacon Hotel on Broadway is just another hotel to book in and steal a pen from. Or so Joe thinks. Until he notices a stranger in the hotel lobby who also pockets a hotel pen–but in plain view, unapologetically as opposed to Joe’s more clandestine way of appropriating the objects of his desire. Intrigued, Joe follows the stranger’s lead, only to discover that nothing bad happens from doing things differently than he’s used to. And a new way of coming by hotel pens turns out to be not the only thing that Claude, the stranger, can teach Joe…
Fluently written, told in Joe’s simple and pleasant voice, with a delicious trace of humor and yet with a subtle undercurrent of meaning, this little novella was a real treat. The paper chase across New York on which Claude put Joe was at once cute and funny and also one of the most romantic seductions I’ve ever read.
Claude, an expatriate Frenchman who translates gay romance for a living, suffered heartbreak and loss of his own in New York, one that should have left him with nothing but bitterness for a place that cost him so much. But instead Claude has made his peace with the city that also holds so many happy memories for him, and he teaches Joe to look at his hometown with different eyes. Because in writing his directions on Joe’s skin, in places that Joe can’t easily look at on his own, Claude forces Joe to face his fear of exposing himself, be it to strangers or to his own view in a mirror. In doing so, Joe gets to looking at his own life from a different perspective too, and in the end, at himself.
Or in his own words, this is what Claude helps Joe to achieve:
Rediscovering the city I thought I knew so well.
Learning not to doubt myself.
Learning to be brave again.
Learning that nothing stays broken forever, not even hearts.
In a way, this isn’t only a romance between two men, but also a subtle declaration of love to New York. Entirely within the meaning of Joe’s assigned article, “5 Ways to Rediscover New York”, this story uses the setting to the best of its abilities, confirming that this place is really the city of opportunity where anything, everything is possible.
The ending is appropriately open, a HFN rather than a HEA, but promising and optimistic too.
This is as much about overcoming misgivings and about forgiveness as it is about daring to seek love and commitment despite the possibility of loss. It’s a wonderful, life-affirming tale that I can only warmly recommend.