Originally Joe Tierney’s desire to flee his old life in John Shekleton’s HE LANDS IN PALM SPRINGS includes the fantasy that Joe and ex-boyfriend Kenny O’Connor — who now works as an electrician at Camp Pendleton — will get back together. It is Kenny who infected Joe with HIV, after all. Kenny of the sky blue eyes, whom Joe has never gotten over, though it was Joe who iced Kenny out of his world once their diagnoses came in. Acutely missing what they once shared, Joe is sure his and Kenny’s relationship is still meant to be. However Kenny has moved on with someone else, as Joe discovers starting over in Palm Springs. Joe’s friend Episcopal priest, Edward Brockton, has made live/work arrangements for Joe to help him get on his feet in the new location and much of Joe’s experiences beginning again are good ones. He has a new home in a gay apartment complex near the new job that will hopefully allow him to continue affording necessary medication. Many of the people Joe meets are friendly and welcoming. Except perhaps Cyril Anastasis, Joe’s employer and the owner of Casa Vista Oro, who likes to be the center of everything and can be a bit…jealous.
Readers may need a scorecard or character map to keep track of all these individuals and more who populate HE LANDS IN PALM SPRINGS. The scope of unfurling romantic entanglements would be more enticing if the text — which alternates between various points of view — made more effective use of the tried and true axiom: show rather than tell. As it stands, readers often learn things like Joe is nagged by powerful shame because this is stated, but unless such emotions are regularly, subtly shown and deeply delved into, they cannot be adequately felt by the reader. Joe’s internal stress transitioning from being a rising star in ecumenical realms to now cleaning toilets could also be made more visceral. An exploration of many unique story aspects are attempted and commendable, such as becoming part of a ‘throuple,’ dealing with AIDS in the church and the priesthood, gay male masseurs who provide sexual ‘happy endings,’ and life in an LGBT mecca rich with social/educational institutions, plus doctors and healthcare staff all aware of needs specific to the gay community. However these features too are sometimes more touched upon than actually fleshed out. Further efforts could certainly be made to bring the desert beauty of Palm Springs to life as another character in its own right, as settings in the best novels usually are.
John Shekleton’s LGBTQ romance novel, HE LANDS IN PALM SPRINGS, is a veritable gay male soap opera of ethnically and racially diverse characters embroiled in dramas both large and small.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader