The Lake), I thought I knew what to expect from Josh Randell, but he threw me a delightful curveball with The Stop.
The story opens with a gentleman picking up a hitchhiker at an interstate rest stop. The young man looks clean and healthy, but tired, and the driver worries about someone else taking advantage of him. There is a minor misunderstanding their first night alone, when Pat tries to 'pay' for his ride, but that just leads to a deeper level of trust between them. The next day, Pat's already feminine mannerisms become even more pronounced, leading to some confusing feelings in our gentleman driver as he begins treating his passenger more and more like a woman.
If any of that sounds creepy or strange, rest assured that it most certainly is not. Their road trip is quite casual (sweet almost), and you can feel their friendship just waiting for the right spark to blossom. When Pat comes out of the bathroom that night looking like a beautiful young lady, our driver is instantly smitten, and once Patricia explains about being a guy in body only, who someday hopes to change that, the spark takes and romance is kindled.
There is so much to like about The Stop. Both characters are wonderfully developed, real people with genuine thoughts and emotions. The slow burn of their friendship-cum-romance is lovely, as is the reveal of Patricia's true gender. Even though we meet Pat as a young man, this is clearly a heterosexual romance in spirit. Most of all, I loved the sentiments both share about femininity, what it means to them, and how they appreciate it.