Title: One for the Road
Author: Lacey-Anne Frye
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Connor Greeley hitchhiked out of Wyoming in pursuit of a dream: he’s on his way to Los Angeles to be an actor. After a run of good luck, he gets into a spot of trouble at a truck stop, but he’s saved by Jace Bennett, a knight in shining denim. A good man who asks for nothing in return, Jace offers Connor a ride; and it isn’t long before Connor faces a tough decision: pursue his lifelong dream or take a chance on what’s right in front of him.
One for the Road is the debut work of this author, and while the story started out all right and I thought it — and the author — had potential, there were quite a few reasons for this to be a miss for me.
Connor Greeley wants to be an actor badly enough to leave college and disappoint his parents to follow his dream. But that is only one step; he now needs to get to LA, and his plan is to hitch from Wyoming to California. After his first ride leaves him off at a truck stop outside of Cheyenne, he makes the rounds looking for someone to take him the next part of the way. Unfortunately, the only trucker willing to take him on as a passenger, creepy Erik, is looking for something other than gas money for payment. In a bit of a pickle, Connor is saved by a “knight in shining flannel,” and escapes the dangerous situation. Connor later meets his savior, Jace Bennett, a thirty-year old divorced trucker and someone who has now agreed to take him part-way. Connor is attracted to Jace, and thinks Jace is maybe bi. As they make their way to California, passions flare, the smexxin starts, and emotions build. Soon Connor must make a difficult decision as they get closer to either stay with Jace or follow his dream.
I need to say upfront that as I read OFTR I kept having the feeling that the author is young and reading her bio at the back of the book makes that feeling even stronger. I thought the writing, though not terrible, was borderline amateurish laced with some grammatical errors (such as mixed tenses), and the plot uneven in its pace. The story left me with more questions than answers, and for every little piece that we are given about the protags and the situation, I was left wanting more that unfortunately was not given.
OFTR is narrated in first person by Connor. Connor is twenty-four years old and has chucked college in hopes of becoming an actor in Hollywood. Twenty-four is relatively old for an undergraduate student, yet there is no explanation as to why that is. Did he take a break between high school and college? Did he have problems? Did he go to school part-time? Also, what makes him think that he could be a successful actor in perhaps what is arguably the toughest town for that profession? He mentions nothing about having acted previously or having any kind of acting skills. I would have thought we would have been given some kind of indication that he could actually do the job he was hoping to get, but we aren’t. The only thing I can tell is that he apparently he thinks he can get an acting contract based on his looks:
Even if I didn’t exactly consider myself too good-looking, I still thought I had what it took. [describes himself] I hope the acting agents in Hollywood thought I was a decent-looking guy.
I felt that Connor acted more like a teenager than a mid-twenties adult. The way his excitement was described, the words he used, his actions and his overall naiveté led me to believe he was much younger than his twenty-four years. Had I not known his age, I would have said he was sixteen, maybe eighteen, and much of the story just shows how juvenile, clueless and helpless he is. As I read, I found myself repeating to myself “How old is this guy supposed to be?” and “How is he going to live on his own?” Because of this, I felt the story had some pretty strong Yaoi undertones. Connor may have been tall, but he often needed protection in the form of the big, strong Jace, and his emotions were immature and superficial.
I liked Jace, or I should say that what I saw of him I liked just fine. I would have liked to have gotten to know him better, but the first person narrative of Connor didn’t allow for that. Connor was looking at him through hero-worshiping, rose-colored glasses, so that — along with the short format — prevented Jace’s real nature and any faults to be shown to us. What I liked about him was his willingness to step in and save Connor time and again, as well as take care of him during their travels. He easily could have taken advantage and didn’t. But that’s the only thing I can really say about him.
I thought the first person narrative was not successful here. I feel that first person POV is tricky because when not done well, we don’t get to know the other characters enough, but here I didn’t even feel that I got to know Connor, the narrator, either. As such, I never connected with either protag nor did I feel invested in them. I also felt that neither protag had any depth, and therefore they came off as one-dimensional. Additionally, I felt absolutely no chemistry between them and that the smexxin was just motions.
Much of the action happens off screen and I felt bereft at missing out on conversation and interaction between the Jace and Connor. There were times where this is brought to our attention, such as:
“I hear the way you talk about acting,” he said to me. “You love it, it’s your life, and you don’t want to do anything else.”
They may have talked about it off screen, but the reader is never privy to it. Perhaps if we had been present for conversations and interactions like this, I would have felt differently about some of the negative aspects of this review (chemistry, character depth, etc.).
The whole scene in the room with Erik, the would-be-rapist, and Jace coming in to save him was unbelievable and unrealistic to me start to finish. Why didn’t Connor yell or scream? He had ample opportunity to do both instead of unsuccessfully figuring out a way to fight the guy off. And Jace’s action hero/kicking down a hotel room door part was too much. Then, Connor is in the process of being attacked and the first thing he can think of when Jace comes to the rescue is how hot he (Jace) looks:
And there he stood, my savior once again.
Only this time, he was clad in his jeans and a wife-beater that was way too tight to be legal, much to my delight.
Then afterwards it’s almost as if it never happened. No talk of fright or any other emotion, though he mentions the next day that it was “probably the most exciting night of [his] dull, dull life.” That shouldn’t have been exciting. He was assaulted and almost raped — again. This once again shows me that he is immature and unworldly.
There are smaller things, too, that bothered me:
There is a scene with a father and son and conversation about a ’78 Camero after our heroes had just finished smexxin up over said Camero. I found the scene odd and questioned why it was even there. It added nothing to the plot and could easily have been removed for some character development.
Throughout the book, we are witness to statements or thoughts with little backup. An example of this is:
As I flipped through the pages of CDs, I couldn’t help but notice that even they were neat and organized — something you wouldn’t expect for someone like Jace.
Connor met Jace the evening before and knows next to nothing about him. How could he say something like this?
This may be a niggle and it may not be a problem for others, but something that kept bothering me was the passing of time in the story. According to several mapping services, driving from Big Piney, WY, to LA takes about 14 hours road time, yet it took our heroes days and days to get there, or at least that’s how I took the following: We spent our days on the road…spent our nights cooped up in our hotel room… and “How ‘bout we take a break from this driving thing?” In the US by law, truckers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Jace must have driven either really slowly or they took tons of breaks sightseeing, smexxin it up, eating, hanging out in hotels watching television, whatever (since this happens off screen and we are not given details, I have to make some guesses). Because of this, I have confusion over the number of days it took to get there and why it took so long, if it truly was “days.” Easily this trip could have taken a day and a half driving straight through. There is no explanation in the book either way. Then at the end, Jace mentions “…we’ve only known each other a few days.” Confusing.
There is not an HEA ending and even though I am fine with a tentative HFN, we didn’t even get that, and I was left dissatisfied. In fact, for as much as Connor wanted to be with Jace at the end — as much as I could tell because there really is little emotion shown to us — he has such a complete turnaround of emotion to the point that I had to re-read to see if I missed something (but I didn’t), showing once again how immature Connor is and how much chemistry is lacking. It’s as if he never felt anything for Jace and he was just a ride to his destination. Now, the ending was left open for a possible sequel, so perhaps there will be more of Connor and Jace — or Connor and someone else — so I will reserve final judgment on this aspect until we know for sure.
Once again, I am just one reader with one opinion, but between characters that had no depth, the story happening mostly off screen, unbelievable plot situations and an unsatisfactory ending, I felt that this book was not for me nor can I recommend it in good conscience. In saying that, if the author is as young as I suspect her to be, perhaps with some experience and maturity, she can achieve the unrealized potential I see in this story.