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. One cold desert night he picks up a hitchhiker who ends up dying before he can get him to his destination. When a letter the dead drifter wrote to the son he hadn’t seen in years turns up in his car, Jimmy decides to continue the journey to Rattlesnake and deliver the letter in person.
The small town of Rattlesnake is nestled in the foothills of the California Sierras, and it’s centerpiece is the historic Rattlesnake Inn, where the bartender is handsome former cowboy Shane Little, the drifter’s son himself. Jimmy feels an immediate attraction to Shane, and when his car gives up the ghost, Shane gets him a job as handyman at the inn.
There Jimmy finds an unaccustomed peace, but tells himself 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.
As always with Kim Fielding, this book was well-written and the characters well-drawn. However, this story was quite slow to engage me and even after it did, the pace was often slow for me. Perhaps this was due to Jimmy’s lengthy stories or the longish descriptions of the town and its history, not sure. But I can say that the characters and engaging storyline were more than enough to keep me reading despite it. However, if you are looking for action or a fast-paced storyline, then this may not be the book for you.
I felt for Jimmy the drifter with no confidence in himself, a man who’d been told from an early age he wouldn’t amount to anything and had taken that to heart. I understand it intimately because I lived it. The black sheep with strange inclinations born into a broken, poor family, check. Being told you’ll never amount to anything (in my case the mantra was, you have brains but no common sense). Yes! And the need to get away? Hell, yes! In Jimmy’s case as a drifter, in mine moving to the other side of the country. So hell yes, I get Jimmy.
But yet, I don’t. Because he’s given up. On love, on finding or making a home. On himself. Forty-three and he never attempted to better himself, to prove them wrong? He let his naysayers and abusers dictate his life for so long? He never stood up and decided he wanted something, and he was going to damn well strive to get it?
To be honest, I wanted to strangle him each time he was going to bail and walk away. He’d start to pack, but it rained or whatever. Would he have really or was he fooling himself and making excuses? Probably the latter. Either way bothers me no end. He’d allowed them to take his spirit, to strip him of his self-worth and confidence so completely that he didn’t even try in all those years? That is just incredibly sad. I have the self-confidence of a gnat, its hard and scary to try and possibly fail. It’s hard to trust. Maybe impossible. But giving up? Never. And when he finally did change his life, it was because he’d found someone else. It didn’t come from within him.
Shane was a whole different thing. Adored him from the start. There was a man who life had kicked, but he got back up like the energizer bunny. His stunning bravery, loyalty, understanding, and trust just floored me. The constant cheerfulness despite the chronic pain was just a little bit over the top, but I still adored him. And the amazing family behind him as a foundation, all wonderfully drawn secondary characters.
The romance between the two men was touching, heated and memorable, and this story packed some serious feels. Very enjoyable. But the slow pace and my annoyance towards Jimmy kept it from being five stars. I enjoy flawed characters–very much so. But I still want them to find strength in themselves. Because, hell, if I’d waited for someone (or a whole town in this case) to rescue me and offer me a home, to give me someone to believe in, I’d still be wallowing in my own mire.
The cover by L. C. Chase depicting a drifter and his duffle waiting for a ride on the side of the road is fitting for the story. However, the man walking towards him on the freeway threw me off as he met Shane in a saloon and never traveled with him nor was picked up by him or anything.