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.
"You got stuff in your life needs fixin', you gotta fix it now, while you can."
Rattlesnake is a former gold mining town, a peaceful place with ranches, two Chinese restaurants, heavenly french toast with blueberry topping served at Mae's Café, a cemetery where the infamous Rattlesnake Murray is buried, and a bar called the Snake.
The Snake is where Shane works. Shane is scarred and walks with a limp, but he's not broken, far from it. Shane's brain may be a little scrambled, but he knows a good man when he sees one, and he trusts Jimmy from the first moment Jimmy walks into his bar.
Shane looked at Jimmy shrewdly. "You can't outrun your pain, Jimmy, 'cause it's a part of you. You just have to make your peace with it."
Jimmy arrives at Rattlesnake with a less than a hundred bucks to his name and a letter to deliver. Jimmy's a true drifter, never staying in one place for more than a few months.
Jimmy comes to Rattlesnake because of a dead man; he stays for one who's very much alive, a man with the bluest eyes and a collection of identical Pendleton shirts.
Every day Jimmy plans to leave; leaving is his security blanket. If things get bad, you just walk away. But there are chores to be done, library books to read, and breakfasts to share.
And there's Shane. There's always Shane.
Love was the very worst hope of all, and [Jimmy] knew he was setting himself up for a long, hard fall. But he could't stop himself, not anymore.