The Low Road by Eleanor Harkstead

The Low Road by Eleanor Harkstead
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short story (52 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Can a lonely driver and a tragic hitch-hiker cheat both time and death?

One night in the pouring rain, Alex stops on Gallows Hill to pick up a hitch-hiker. But when the hitch-hiker vanishes from the passenger seat, Alex fears for his sanity.

Then he discovers that Gallows Hill is a place filled with ghosts—of smugglers, witches and highwaymen.
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And a young, tragic hitch-hiker named Joe.

When Joe appears again on Gallows Hill, Alex dares to hope that they can cheat both time and death. But how can there be a future for them when Joe is trapped in a few minutes of a rainy night forty years before?

Alex is driving home along winding country roads in a bad rain storm and is shocked when he comes up to a hitch-hiker out in the crazy weather. Unable to pass by, he stops and gives Joe a lift, the young man heading to a party to catch up with some friends. Sparks fly between Alex and Joe, but nothing is quite as it seems for the two men.

I’m often not a fan of the “strange events” type of stories. I usually like my stories to make sense, or be thoroughly explained so I don’t need to doubt or wonder what’s going on. That’s why I was both surprised and quite delighted at just how much I enjoyed this story. A fair bit of the first half is not clearly explained – there’s plenty of suggestion and as the reader I could make a few educated guesses as to what was really going on. And while usually this sort of haziness drives me nuts I found that the author wrote Alex (and Joe, too) to be interesting enough to carry me along through the doubts and after even just a few pages I desperately wanted to know what, exactly, was going on. In this aspect, I found the writing to be phenomenal.

Readers who enjoy just a very small amount of creepiness (along the lines of ghosts, spirits or haunting) but don’t want anything so strong that they can’t read it alone or at night should be as delighted with this story as I was. This isn’t a mystery story in the traditional sense – no real “who done it” or even crime/problem as such, but I definitely felt there was a strong element of suspense in the story and a mystery in the sense of Alex trying to work out exactly what was going on – both past and present – with Joe and the situation they found themselves in. My only very slight disappointment is that I didn’t feel there was a clear – or properly rational – explanation for the way the story ended. It’s happy and I was satisfied where Alex and Joe were left in a romantic/relationship sense, but I feel I would have been more satisfied if a bit more time had been spent explaining how things came to turn out like they did.

If readers are looking for a romantic story this might not hit the right spot for them. I enjoyed the chemistry and attraction between the two men finding it sweet and nostalgic how they shared a few steamy kisses but not any stronger intimacy. The emotions and growing attachment between Alex and Joe were very satisfying and I felt this should help appeal to readers who like a bit of romance in their stories but don’t want anything too heavy or intimate.

A good and solid read, I enjoyed this story a lot and will happily try other stories by this author.

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