Joy Lynn Fielding is a new author for me and her latest novel, Blowing Off Steam, was not only sweetly romantic, but chocked full of interesting facts about steam locomotives. Now before you think that you need to be some sort of train enthusiast to really get this story, never fear. There is a rich plot line and two wonderfully drawn characters who inhabit this trainspotting world this author has so carefully created.
Sam has led a life that is best described as lurking in the shadows. Orphaned at age eleven by a fatal car crash killing his parents, he is sent to live with his Great Uncle Ken who does everything he can to love and raise this very hurt and lonely boy. But Sam was different and often the ridicule of his peers, bullied unmercifully as a teen, Sam withdrew into himself and never really acted upon the desires he had growing up, the ones that involved other boys. Now he lives a life where most, if not all, of his friends are retirees and he lives quietly in his a small town where watching the trains, particularly Old Bess, is the highlight of his week. What little social interaction he has comes for trainspotting chat rooms and his sexual life is relegated to using his hand while watching porn late at night. That is it until Bess gets a new driver and Sam begins to see more than just trains to keep him fascinated.
Ryan is a bad rich boy who is determined to turn over a new leaf. With a father who is more hardened negotiator than doting parent, Ryan has been told to keep this job and never contact his father again. Trying desperately not to be bitter, and hating the small town he has landed in, Ryan does have a genuine love for one thing, Old Bess. He cares for her like no other thing in his life and when his job as a driver is threatened, Ryan can only react with the same anger and cynicism that has been the touchstone of his life for so long. When he first sees the baggy clothed young man watching the trains he dismisses him outright as a geeky nerd not worthy of his time. But then he gets a glimpse at the kindhearted man beneath all that clothing and stops for just a moment to learn more about him or, at least, take advantage of the smoking hot body hidden beneath all those layers of fabric.
One thing leads to another and before they know it, Sam and Ryan are in a race against time to not only save Ryan’s job but Old Bess herself. Corruption, greed, and sabotage are just waiting to take them both down and when Sam unwittingly adds fuel to the enemy’s fire, it seems as though what little affections Ryan had for him may just go up in smoke.
I loved the character of Sam. I truly did. Written without a hateful bone in his body, he was exactly what Ryan needed to heal and begin to trust in the idea of friendship and love for the first time in his life. The slow and gradual build of affection between these two men was handled so carefully and written so exquisitely. From the moment they met, it was apparent that both had no delusions about the other and yet it was that little ball of hope inside Sam that just maybe he could be good enough for Ryan that kept this novel from feeling like series of one night stands in the ugliest of the meaning. Instead we watched a love story unfold and caught glimpses of how lovely each of these characters were deep inside, which prompted you to root for them from their first encounter.
The train facts and stories only enhanced this novel for me, as did the visiting spider in Sam’s bathtub and the well-meaning old ladies who watched out for Sam. Each piece of this lovely romance fell right into place and kept this reader swiftly moving along with good pacing and rich characterization all wrapped up in a story that had its fair share of sinister twists and turns. Blowing Off Steam will certainly not be the last I read of this author. I look forward to checking out her other work!