Title : Motel. Pool.
Author : Kim Fielding
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Paranormal
Length : 206 pages (e-book)
Published : May 12, 2014
Rating : ★★★★1/2
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.
There is so much to love about this book. Though it’s true that Jack, one of the main characters, is a ghost throughout the bulk of the story, this story is about life. About living. About loving. About learning from one’s past. About making a difference for somebody. About making the most out of what we have been given here on earth.
I was drawn into this story immediately, becoming completed immersed in Jack’s turbulent Hollywood life in 1955. It didn’t take long to realize that the young actor had starry eyed dreams that were probably not going to match up with harsh realities that he had yet to acknowledge, or even identify. Being gay in that era of Hollywood was not a problem behind the scenes, far from it, but being the boy-toy of a big name male star was not going to put Jack on the fast track, at least not the one he was hoping for. I felt like such a helpless bystander as Jack was played and betrayed. My heart went out to him. There was some pretty tough reading here, I’m sure my jaw dropped and I know I cried.
Fade out to where we meet present day Tag. Tag is on a road trip, literally searching for meaning in his life. The world is completely grey to him. Even his first ever viewing of the Grand Canyon elicits zero emotion from him. He had been hoping it would jump start some, any, feelings from within his cold despairing heart. He had always had good luck, but not the good fortune or sense to keep from screwing up what it brought his way. And his latest screw up had been huge. While driving along tired and wrung out on an Arizona desert highway, Tag is the recipient of an intervention of sorts by a kind hearted cop. After being ordered to pull over and sleep at the next exit, Tag does just that, and realizes the next day that he picked up a passenger of the incorporeal persuasion.
Tag assumes he has really gone around the bend, he is surely hallucinating. His mother had been mentally unstable, why not him too? Gradually through speaking with Jack and witnessing firsthand some of what Jack could do, Tag has to admit to himself that yes, Jack is a ghost. A very solid, cigarette smoking ghost that Tag could touch and feel, but a ghost none the less. Jack is ecstatic to have Tag’s company, and to be traveling. Seems he has been relegated to existing as the lone ghost at the grounds where a motel used to stand, and has had no contact with anyone of either the spectral or material variety for years.
Tag plans to head to Vegas, the two proceed together. They talk about many subjects, including why some dead people hang around as ghosts, others don’t, and still others do for a while, then they move on. Along the journey, Jack encountered other ghosts and was able to communicate with them. The consensus with them was that the ghosts who were “hanging around” had unfinished business. Once they had seen their business to a satisfying end, they moved on. Jack was highly puzzled as to just what his unfinished business could be. All he could think about was how much he had wanted to be a major movie star and garner all the trappings, fame, and adulation such an accomplishment would garner.
Jack and Tag bonded and grew intrinsically close. To Tag’s surprise, they were able to have sex, and if that wasn’t surprise enough, it was extremely gratifying and emotional sex. The guys were drifting along, trying to find their answers, settling into a fragile happiness – only to have it yanked away. Perhaps they had been fated to meet this way, to help each other out and move on, each alone in their separate planes of being. Or perhaps higher forces had something else in mind for them…
The following are some lovely quotes from the two guys. I feel these words get right to the core of their hearts:
“If nobody remembers you, it’s like you never even existed. I know I was never anyone big, Tag, but I existed.” –Jack to Tag
“I want a happy-ever-after with the man I love. I want to be able to lean on him forever and know he won’t let me fall. I want him to lean on me. I want to lie in bed with him and feel our hearts beat in tandem.” –Tag to a blackjack dealer
I love the cover of this book. It oozes nostalgia and ambience. I’ve been on old Rt. 66 and to Las Vegas several times, and I know the author has road tripped along there as well. The authenticity throughout the story is apparent and appreciated, and makes for a very vivid and rich setting for this story. The secondary characters of Buddy and Rick became very important to both Jack and Tag. Buddy won me over with his, been there, done that easy going, yet extremely caring approach to life. They had quite a positive impact on both Jack and Tag, and me!
A minor plot point niggled at me. I did wonder about ghost-Jack being able to get an erection, and orgasm. He did not require food, had no heartbeat, no circulation, and did not even have a sense of smell or taste. It seemed… convenient. Then again, I have just fully embraced and enjoyed the hell out of a book that featured a ghost – so if this ghost was wired that way, more power to him!
Jack and Tag won my heart. It took a while in Tag’s case. At first he seemed a sullen mystery, and even a bit of a woe-is-me type. As his life history and head space became clearer to me during the course of the story, I became much more empathetic towards him. I loved how the author resolved everything – including Jack’s unfinished business ♥ – and brought the guys to their HEA. There were some really great twists and surprises along the way – not least of which was the mission they went on at the end of the story – I was expecting something else, but was very glad to be wrong 🙂
Rated 4.5 stars by Dianne