For years, Joey has assumed the worst happened to his dad when he didn’t come home from work as a mega snowstorm hit. No one had reported any accidents or seen evidence of any cars careening into the nearby river. Local law enforcement was convinced the man skipped town to escape his domestic responsibilities. Joey never believed any of that, though. Sure, things were tough because Joey’s grandmother was slowly losing the battle against Alzheimer’s. And Joey’s coming out as transgender in the small backwater town wasn’t easy for anyone. But Joey knows his dad would never abandon them. So when he gets the call from a YouTube creator named Owen, a strikingly good looking twenty-something who has dedicated his life to diving in bodies of water looking for missing persons, Joey thinks he might finally get some closure.
Making a YouTube channel profitable is hard work. Owen, his brother, and his brother’s partners trek across the country looking for opportunities to put their diving skills to work helping people. That means endless road travel and organizing with several different public offices to get permits and arrange help when their dives turn up something. But Owen and his brother take it all in stride. Knowing their hard work helps people is what keeps them going. After all, Owen knows how it feels to be abandoned after a lifetime of his parents prioritizing work over family. But when he reaches out to Joey Laine, something instantly attracts him to the young man. Meeting in person sends all sorts of unreasonable sparks flying. There’s no rhyme or reason for the intense feelings of protectiveness and love Owen feels…but they’re there all the same. And astoundingly, Joey feels the same way. But they’ll have to grapple with what it means to find the other half of your soul when Joey’s responsible for caring for his grandmother and Owen’s job keeps him on the road for weeks at a time.
New Colors by Tia Fielding is a contemporary story featuring Joey, a transgender man from a tiny rural town, and Owen, a quasi-nomadic cisgender man. The narration switches each chapter between Owen and Joey, which helped me appreciate the instalove story line. Neither character was looking for love, but both of them feel an undeniable magnetism after their first phone call. That feeling only intensifies as they spend time together. There was a smoldering sense of sexual attraction between Joey and Owen, which surprises and befuddles the characters. Joey also reflected on the difference between love-at-first-sight and lust-at-first-sight and only briefly wondered which label applied to them. Overall, these two characters just complemented one another incredibly well. They both fall hard and as fast for one another and, despite the tragedy that made their paths cross, they met at just the right time.
Fielding does a lovely job working with queer characters coming from two very different backgrounds. Joey had a small circle of people who accepted him, notably his grandmother who enthusiastically supported him and one of his grandmother’s caretakers. I took the Sheriff and one of the deputies to be more representative of the town as a whole: the former looked down on Joey as a social pariah, whereas the latter was selfishly aloof about what it meant for him to be attracted to a transgender man. Owen, on the other hand, spends virtually all his time with his brother Liam, Liam’s two partners, and the rest of their crew. The group gives off a tight knit and supportive vibe. Of course, Owen has a front row seat to what a loving, supportive, queer relationship looks like (Liam’s polycule isn’t shy about being demonstrative). And it gives him the emotional intelligence to understand the potential he may have with Joey. Plus, Owen’s own experiences with grief help him offer the kind of support Joey needed when he needed it as Owen and his team searched for Joey’s missing father.
As far as pacing goes, all the action in the book is largely contained within a three-to-five day period. For me, that slots this story into the “get together” category. Owen and his team are only in Joey’s town for a grand total of three days, plus a little interaction the one day before, and a gray period for a couple days after. Yet during this short period of time, he and Joey go from strangers to would-be lovers. I rather liked the fact that these two didn’t race to bed the first chance they got. Both of them were under no misconceptions about how deeply they felt for one another, but they were cautious about jumping in the deep end knowing Joey was responsible for his ailing grandmother’s health and Owen’s job literally had him crisscrossing the country on the regular. Yet the story has a bittersweet happy ending for these two. Much like how they fell in together, taking the next step seems to be a huge leap and yet made a lot of sense for these two characters.
Overall, this was a sweet queer story that pulled at the heartstrings. I felt like I got just enough details about Joey’s life to really root for him to follow his heart where Owen was concerned. Owen seemed like the perfect match for Joey. If you like stories about finding one family while letting another one go, or those that have a sort of working man’s take on fated mates, then I think you’ll enjoy this book.