“Do not allow yourself to lose sight on the way to your future, while wandering in the darkness of the past.” ~ Lucas Hunter
Avery's (Ave's) future, of 'Not Just Passing Through' by Jamie Dean, seems as bleak as the dry desert landscape that surrounds the shabby hotel he runs for his aunt. Ave's days drag by as he passes the time maintaining the business while trying to keep his loneliness at bay. Even the customers who come to stay at his establishment are dull and boring, doing nothing to lighten his mood; that is, until the stranger, Chase, on the big, black motorcycle needs a room. Before Ave can even see him clearly, he has a feeling in his gut that tells him that the fabric of his life is about to change.
From the moment Chase pulls up, Ave knows this man is unlike anyone he's ever known. Chase is a drifter with no roots; Ave has lived in the same place all of his life and has never travelled far from his home. Chase is cocky, sexy, and he knows it, and craves the attention he receives from others. He flaunts his heterosexuality by having a different woman in his bed almost every night. Ave is content to be alone, to fade into the woodwork, afraid of being touched, afraid of feelings, and especially afraid of his sexuality. Ave is content to stay in his solitary but safe closet rather than face what might happen if he steps out. But, Chase's gaydar picks up on Ave's sexuality right away and immediately lets him know it. Chase blatantly flirts with Ave, but also makes it clear that he can “look all he wants, but don't touch” because he doesn't swing that way.
Chase ends up staying at the motel much longer than is his custom and strikes up a friendship with Ave. They enjoy spending time together. Chase even gets Ave to ride on his bike with him. Ave anticipates as well as dreads having to be flush against Chase's body. He's done his best to keep his sexual desires at bay, but Chase already knows the effect he has on Ave and doesn't hesitate to tease him when he notices Ave's interest. Ave accepts the fact that he's in love with Chase and gives up fighting it, at least in his mind. He realizes that Chase won't be there forever and decides to make the most of him while he's there. Ave fantasizes about Chase all the time and even becomes accustomed to Chase's random touches and hugs. It's something he's never been able to do with anyone else. One night, an obviously drunk and sexually frustrated Chase wanders into Ave's apartment after a failed seduction of a woman he met at the bar. Ave has been drinking more than usual too. His inhibitions are down and his desire is up. Ave hates seeing Chase in such a state and offers to “help” him and Chase accepts his offer then leaves right afterward. Ave doesn't see him the next day, he's filled with remorse and guilt, convincing himself that he's destroyed their closeness forever.
I've never read a book by Jamie Dean before so I didn't know quite what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the story was. It's well-written, engaging, and entertaining with a few life lessons thrown in for good measure. From the title and blurb, I expected it to follow familiar tropes associated with stranger meets boy in town, seduces him, and either stays or rides off with him into the sunset. To some extent, it did follow along familiar lines, but Jamie added elements that made them just different enough to make it refreshing. A drifter with no roots always has a history. I got the feeling from the start, that Chase was running away from more than a bad situation and, although he seemed tough, he wasn't cruel. Even when he was teasing Ave, he always made certain he knew it was in jest. Avery soon saw both sides of Chase but it didn't help him keep his objectivity. In fact, it caused Ave love Chase even more. If you enjoy character-driven stories with lots of emotion, angst, twists and turns, and an against-all-odds happy ending, you may enjoy this tale. Thank you, Jamie, for a memorable read.