Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 31st 2015
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 240 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A drifter since his teens, Jimmy Dorsett has no home and no hope. What he does have is a duffel bag, a lot of stories, and a junker car. Then one cold desert night he picks up a hitchhiker and ends up with something more: a letter from a dying man to the son he hasn’t seen in years.
On a quest to deliver the letter, Jimmy travels to Rattlesnake, a small town nestled in the foothills of the California Sierras. The centerpiece of the town is the Rattlesnake Inn, where the bartender is handsome former cowboy Shane Little. Sparks fly, and when Jimmy’s car gives up the ghost, Shane gets him a job as handyman at the inn.
Both within the community of Rattlesnake and in Shane’s arms, Jimmy finds an unaccustomed peace. But it can’t be a lasting thing. The open road continues to call, and surely Shane—a strong, proud man with a painful past and a difficult present—deserves better than a lying vagabond who can’t stay put for long.
I’ll be the first to admit this is beautifully written. The characters are beautifully molded and described and it’s a heart-wrenching story about the hope and the chances we keep or give away.
Jimmy, a 43 year old drifter, whose longest stay anywhere since he was a teenager is five months, is literally at a crossroads one night with no destination in mind when he sees an old man. He picks up the old man and they head toward Rattlesnake, California. Eventually the old man, Tom, tells Jimmy the tale of how he screwed up his life and left behind his son years ago. Tom wants to return to Rattlesnake to find his son and deliver a letter, not so he can ask for forgiveness, as he knows he doesn’t deserve it, but because Tom’s dying and he’s a selfish bastard who wants to see his son before he dies.
Tom coughed some more before answering. “Listen to me, Jimmy. Someday you’re gonna be an old bastard like me, and you’re gonna regret shit, and you ain’t gonna be able to do nothin’ about it. Don’t wait. You got stuff in your life needs fixin’, you gotta fix it now, while you can.”
Tom doesn’t make it to Rattlesnake, and once everything has been sorted out with the authorities, Jimmy gets back on the road. When he finds Tom’s letter Jimmy decides to go to Rattlesnake and deliver the letter to Tom’s son, Shane. Jimmy tracks Shane down and finds him doing okay so he decides not to give him the letter and just leave him to his life.
With a final wave to Shane, he pushed through the saloon doors. The letter was still in his pocket, which made him feel slightly guilty, but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to give it up. Don’t need to disturb Shane’s quiet life, he told himself.
When Jimmy’s car dies and he’s stuck in town for a bit, Shane helps Jimmy find a place to stay and a temporary job. Their relationship quietly grows, even though Jimmy is determined each night before he goes to sleep that the following day will be the day he gets up, gives Shane the letter, and leaves.
Wishes were like poison, Jimmy thought. When you made them, they were all bright and shiny, sweet as candy. But they lingered and languished and didn’t come true, and so they curdled and went bad. Became toxic. That’s why he never made them to begin with.
The longer Jimmy stays, the more he comes to care for Shane, with his generous heart and indomitable spirit. Every time Jimmy makes the decision that tomorrow will be the day to leave, something happens to stop him. Hope begins to grow in him…but hope is a dangerous thing for Jimmy.
Well, but this was hope, wasn’t it? And Jimmy knew perfectly well what hope became: bitter ashes. Eventually Shane would see Jimmy’s true self and then he’d turn away in anger and disgust. And Jimmy… he couldn’t survive another turning away.
Yet, he still stays. He can’t help but want even knowing what the ultimate outcome will be.
That gave Jimmy the perfect opportunity to hand over Tom’s letter, which was still tucked away in his room, now in the bedside drawer. But Jimmy had become greedy. He wanted just one more day with Shane—one more night, maybe—before he left Rattlesnake forever. And he knew that if he gave a true explanation of how he’d ended up in town, Shane would never forgive him for his lies.
Eventually though, of course, Shane finds the letter.
“I was in the desert going nowhere in particular. I picked up a hitchhiker because he looked cold. His name was Tom Reynolds. He told me… he told me he had a son, and he had regrets, and he was going to Rattlesnake to deliver a letter.” He spoke quietly, without meeting Shane’s gaze. “And he died in his sleep while I was driving. Peacefully. I didn’t even notice until I stopped the car in Fresno. I called the cops and they investigated, but after I got my car back, I found the letter. I guess I could’ve handed it over to the police, but I decided to deliver it myself. So I drove here and I came looking for you.”
“But you didn’t give it to me.” Shane spoke barely above a whisper.
“No. It’s just… once I gave you the letter, I knew you’d want me gone. And the Snake was nice. Peaceful. A good place to rest for a bit. I kept meaning to leave, to keep from hurting you. But you were so goddamn handsome and you treated me kindly and….” He trailed off miserably.
“I’m sorry, Shane. And that’s not a lie. But I can’t be what you need, what you deserve. You can call me a coward and you’d be dead right. I’m… it’s like some stupid country song… I’m just an empty old wrapper blowing in the breeze, and that’s all I’ll ever be.”
Thankfully the whole thing is resolved quickly, and well, but…it still grated on me.
Like I said before, I won’t deny this is beautifully written. I’ll admit the blow-up in particular prior to the ending frustrated the hell out of me. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the whole not-telling-about-the-real-reason-he-came-to-town storyline this would have been a five star read for me. Other than that though, wonderfully done.