Jimmy Dorsett knows what it means to be to down on his luck. So when he sees an old man huddled on the side of the road hoping for a lift, Jimmy picks him up. With a junker car on its last legs and only a few bucks in his pocket, Jimmy isn’t much better off than the man who calls himself Tom, but they have a lot in common. Both have made plenty of mistakes and neither has a place to call home. Tom has a son, one he hasn’t seen since he was a child, and he’s trying to get home to see him one last time. When Tom dies quietly in his sleep, Jimmy decides to deliver the man’s last words to his son.
Shane Little doesn’t have many good memories of his biological father and calls his stepfather Dad. He is naturally attracted to the drifter who blows into town. Jimmy ends up taking work at a local hotel where Shane serves as bartender and passion blossoms between them. As the days pass, Jimmy keeps planning to leave, because that’s what he does and he’s never needed to settle down. Yet, Shane and Rattlesnake have set their hooks into him and whenever he thinks about leaving, it no longer seems like the right choice. But for a man has spent his whole life running, finding a way to stop is easier said than done.
What a wonderful read! Kim Fielding is quickly becoming an auto buy for me. Her stories are well written and often have a nice blend of angst and salvation. Rattlesnake is no exception. The writing is crisp and evocative and does a great job of drawing you into the story from page one. It moves easily and the pacing works well with the overall story. And like all really great books, not only does the author draw you in, she keeps you there. It was pretty hard to put this one down because it was so easy to become invested in Shane, Jimmy, and in Rattlesnake itself.
Jimmy is a 40-something drifter who had a terrible childhood, but hasn’t let that hardened his disposition. He is naturally kind and more than willing to work hard for the money he earns. But he’s never had a home and does a great job of convincing himself he doesn’t need or want one. So when he actually finds a place that wants him and a man he needs, he’s predictably terrified. His character is engaging and it’s easy to like him. He pretends to be something less than he is while Shane and the readers see the obvious goodness in him. Shane is a little different. He came from a loving, supportive family, but a tragedy destroyed his dream of being a cowboy and left him feeling less than whole. He isn’t whiny or weak and I appreciated that while he is a man well aware of his limitations, they don’t stop him trying to live his life. With Jimmy, if he is not made whole than he is certainly better off, which why this couple is so great together. The author makes us believe theirs is a true partnership with a comfortable balance between them. Their relationship works together is a very real way that is neither perfect or without issue and utterly relatable to the reader.
My only quibble of the book concerns the letter that brought Jimmy to Rattlesnake in the first place. Written by Tom and meant for Shane, Jimmy hides the letter because he knows what he has with Shane will crumble if he finds out that Jimmy has lied. This made-to-fit conflict was really unnecessary and added a level of barely viable tension that was incredibly predictable and useless to the storyline. Jimmy’s constant desire to flee created all the conflict needed and when the letter is finally revealed, it just seems weak and ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. That Jimmy knew Tom in the hours before his death would have been enough reason to send him to Rattlesnake and from there the plot could have progressed more naturally. But I stress this is really a minor issue and while it annoyed me, it didn’t drag me away from the action for too long and doesn’t jumble up the pacing too much.
Rattlesnake is a fantastic read and save for one overused plot trope that creeps in, very well written. It is ultimately the story of two men, broken and alone, who find one another in the last place either of them would expect. All of the characters, including the secondary ones, are strong and leave a lasting impression on the reader. This plot is well rounded and flows so smoothly most of the time that I didn’t even realize how far into the book I’d gotten when I finally had to drag myself away. If you enjoy your angst with a side helping of hope and two characters worth rooting for, definitely check out Rattlesnake.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.