Workin’ On The Railroad by Deirdre O’Dare starts in Roane’s viewpoint as he takes a job to pay for college after he parties too hard at New Mexico State University and almost flunks out and his family stops paying tuition. He is eager to correct his past mistakes, and he’s also not afraid of hard work. He ends up in the remote four-corners area of New Mexico, in the all-male world of railroad maintenance. Here, the work is grueling and very dangerous and the laborers divide along lines of ethnicity when they’re not sleeping four to each filthy bunk car. Meanwhile, the foreman seems to be involved in drug trafficking.
Our other viewpoint character, the crane operator Alden, sparks Roane’s lust even while he initially keeps Roane at a cold distance. Once we’re in Alden’s viewpoint, we realize that a past tragedy makes him wary of getting involved with Roane, despite extreme temptation. He also has his hands full with tensions among the laborers and the sinister actions of the foreman. Alden has never wanted a leadership position, but increasingly, it’s one he’s forced to assume.
This novella is a very strong stand-alone story in the Working Stiffs series published at Amber Allure by different authors to the theme of a working class man involved in a gay love affair. Mostly in romance fiction, we readers tend to get a mention of the characters’ jobs and then the focus shifts to their relationship after hours. Here, the author makes the daring decision to center the romance within the job of railroad maintenance on a remote site. The details of the job are precisely placed to make the grueling work environment come alive, but are not so numerous as to slow the pace. Both characters are very appealing – innocent, confident Roane and melancholy, inarticulate Alden. Highly recommended!