Title: Hotel Pens
Author: Geoffrey Knight
Length: 16,288 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, French Men, NYC
Rating: Pretty Good
Travel writer Joe Jordan hasn’t been home to New York since his boyfriend broke up with him. Instead he’s hopped from hotel to hotel, collecting pens like a child in a fairytale might leave a trail of breadcrumbs hoping to find his way back. But now he has an assignment, an article titled “5 Ways to Rediscover New York.” Being back on his home turf is daunting—until he meets Claude Desjardins, a gay romance translator staying in his hotel who, after a night of near passion, leads Joe on a treasure hunt through Manhattan, writing clues on Joe’s skin using hotel pens. But it isn’t just New York Joe needs to rediscover.
This refreshing short romance is from an author that I’ve liked for years now, but deviates from a certain style I’ve grown to associate with his work. In the past, the books I’ve read by Geoff Knight have always had a tendency for campy flair, and while I enjoy that style, this appealed to me as well. It is somewhat more serious in tone overall, yet vacillates between light and poignant, all conveyed by how the characters choose to view the world.
Joe Jordan travels extensively, drifting from hotel to hotel all around the world for his job. He once had a home, and a man there, but all of that drifted away as well. The setting was in New York City, a home city if he could ever call it that. He hasn’t wanted to return until now, when he’s given the assignment to write an article on 5 Ways to Rediscover New York City. His one claim to existence is to compulsively gather pens from every place he visits, which are usually hotels. He has a massive collection of them, like a timestamp on every move in his life to tie him to some sort of permanence. He doesn’t see it as anything special, really, until he sees a beautiful french man named Claude in the lobby of The Beacon also stealing a pen…
The story of Hotel Pens is cinematic and certainly not entirely original, but poignant by it’s characters ties to the real world and especially New York City. I enjoyed it all the same. I think that the style of writing here might not appeal to some, as it still holds a great deal of flare for melodrama, but that is all in the readers’ taste and didn’t bother me in any way. In fact, I found it muted compared to some things I’ve read by this author and enjoyed in the past.
In particular, I found quite a bit to like about the characters, which came through for me quite well in such a short time. The style of the story is a travelogue (like the articles Joe writes) as Claude spirits Joe through a city he knows well to do exactly what he needs to write about — rediscover the city and through that himself and his connection to his romantic life. It is inherently romantic, from the setting (everything good about the city), to Claude himself (sexy french man? check), to the teasingly erotic writing on bare flesh with stolen pens.
Joe has a host of insecurities that manifest in his life quite symbolically; the vignette style of writing reflects this well, skipping between memories and present in dis-jointed time. It is still orderly, that isn’t quite the point. The point really is to emulate the way that Joe tells a story, which like his life refuses to settle down. This was portrayed very well, yet was also one of the reasons I couldn’t quite settle into the story myself. Oh, it was very enjoyable, I guarantee you. And while there were one or two points in the story where I felt things start to come together, it never quite did in the end. I needed Joe to expose himself a bit more and then to really look at himself, otherwise there doesn’t seem much of a future for him and Claude, only another relationship doomed to fail by his past behaviors. Of course, much of this is in the author’s intent and that may not have been it, but that is what would have taken this story to the next level for me to become really wonderful.
This is one I definitely recommend, and I’m always excited when Geoff releases a new story. It is especially a nice little story to read to cheer up your mood. It is cute and totally devoted to romance, and I loved that about it.