Title: Motel. Pool.
Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 206 pages
Blurb: In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don’t earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.
Sixty years later, Tag Manning, feeling hopeless and empty, flees his most recent relationship mistake and takes to the open road. On a roundabout route to Las Vegas, he pulls over to rest at an isolated spot on Route 66. There’s no longer a motel or pool, but when Tag resumes his journey to Vegas, he finds he’s transporting a hitchhiking ghost. Jack and Tag come to find much-needed friends in each other, but one man is a phantom and the other is strangely cursed. Time is running out for each of them, and they must face the fact that a future together may not only be a gamble… it may not be in the cards.
Review: This story put me through my paces. It’s not a conventional romance, and not just because of the ghosts, it’s achy and sad, hopeful and sweet, romantic and eternal.
The beginning was so hopeless for me, I knew something bad had to happen for Jack for the story to work. I was waiting for that and watching him suffer through his life. He wanted something he could never have career wise. Dying so young, so sad, so needlessly. It was hard to make myself continue, but I’m so glad that I did.
One of the things that I adored about Jack was his sweet optimism. He hadn’t had an easy life and he lived in a dangerous time for gay men, so he wasn’t naive or blind. It was more like he had a simple contentment inside himself . Even when he was upset about his career or was dealing with life as a ghost he had this hopeful cheer that was incredibly endearing. He was sweet, charming, kind, compassionate and sexy.
When Tag came into the story things began to pick up, but the ache remained. Tag was lost and broken, living on the ragged edge and peering over that edge with more apathy than was safe. He needed Jack so desperately and fell so fast and deep that it took your breath away. The “lucky fuck up” who was exhausted by his failures and so damn lonely you could almost taste it. But an unplanned stop for a couple hours of sleep on his road trip to nowhere left him with a beautiful companion who changed everything.
I loved Tag and Jack. They were so sweet to each other. Watching them help each other and heal. Seeing their consideration, patience and care for one another. I know things happened quickly according to the timeline, but it didn’t feel fast. They prodded each other’s bruises and scars and listened to the other man, heard his story, and comforted any way they could. I didn’t know how they could possibly have a happy ending, but I really wanted one for them.
I know some don’t enjoy ghost stories, but this is a great one. It’s not scary or spooky and while the supernatural plays a part throughout, it’s not what you focus on. I know some of you are thinking it sounds depressing, and it is somewhat, it’s mostly hopeful, emotional and about redemption. The kind of redemption that happens when you forgive yourself and stop worrying about failure. A funny thing happens when you live in the moment and embrace the world around you. It’s amazing what you’ll start seeing when you take the time to look.
Reviewed by Nina