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.
This book has atmosphere. There is a sense of history surrounding the town.
The characters feel genuine: Shane's caring but overprotective family; Aunt Belinda who, with Shane's rather relentless prodding, grudgingly hires Jimmy but gives him the side eye until he proves himself; Jenn the cop who's a bit of a nut about parking but who offers Jimmy the benefit of the doubt; even Rattlesnake Murray, long dead at the age of 86.
Jimmy is in his early-40s, ten years Shane's senior. Their relationship isn't all passion and roses. It's more. There is a tenderness between the men, a sense of comfort. The sex scenes are lovely: tentative touches, hungry kisses, imperfect bodies perfect together.
Jimmy's childhood was shit, and he learned to manage on his own. Shane has a supportive family, but an accident ten years prior left him hurting and empty.
I loved Jimmy's stories, Shane's infectious smile, the long conversations they shared over breakfast at Mae's.
There is no exciting twist to this story. The pacing is slower, quiet. Every day is ordinary. Jimmy does laundry. He tiles a bathroom. Shane tends bar and bakes calzones. When Jimmy gets the flu, Shane is by his side. Like in real life, nothing much happens, except everything does.
I read this book long into the night. By chapter 3, I needed a tissue. By the end, I was a sobbing mess. Prepare for serious feels.
Jimmy's sad, lonely life broke my heart. And so did Shane's attempts at planning a future with a man who was just a bus ride away from gone.
Despite the tears, this is a HOPEFUL story, a story about family, friendship, and coming home. A story about trusting enough to stay.
This one rivals Motel.Pool. as my favorite Kim Fielding book of all time. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Jimmy knew nothing in the whole damn world had ever felt as good as Shane's arms around him. For the span of a couple songs, Jimmy was home.