*~~*ARC kindly provided by the author to me in exchange for an honest review *~~*
Eight years ago, Ondro Smrek fled Slovakia and the bigotry that drove his first lover to take his own life. The demons proved impossible to outrun, though, and now, desperate for somewhere to belong, Ondro is returning to start over. During a layover in Basel, Switzerland, he meets Jamie, an American living in Scotland who is as brilliant as he is beautiful.
Jaded Ondro never would have guessed he could fall in love during a brief layover—until now. When he is put in a position to offer Jamie comfort without hope of recompense, Ondro doesn’t hesitate. Soon, he catches a glimpse of the home he longs for. But with their separation looming, confessing his feelings would only lead to pain and humiliation. Life has taught Ondro not to hope, but then, he never believed in love at first sight either….
Roe Horvat is a debut author for me and I was curious when I saw the cover. For a while I forgot the release day but was reminded again. When I had the possibility to read the book I imidiately smashed myself into the book. And what a book it is!
The book starts with an author’s note about the situation about LGBTQ+ rights in Slovakia. This gives you a feeling of the topic which is included in the book. I actually had goosebumps imagine how gays in Slovakia feel. Roe made it “real” in their (Roe uses genderneutral pronouns) book. It’s full of own voice and therefore a true gem.
I was actually engrossed from the first page on and my heart was captured by Ondro. It’s told from Ondro’s POV, in first person, which gives you a really subjective point of view but because of Ondro’s sarcasm and – as he himself tells so – as a possible nihilist we get a really neutral, observative description.
Ondro isn’t a main character you would describe as “handsome” in a classical way, but he has an intoxicating way of how he views the world, he is sarcastic and grumpy as hell, but it’s actually what makes him interesting. He is also carrying a dark cloud above his head. He is far away from his homecountry, left it eight years ago, left his lover behind – get impersonal information about him and his “whereabouts” – , and started a new life. After all the time he wants to go back – with the full knowledge what he is to expeceted. The book is next to dealing with the problems of being a gay Slovak man the search of a home, of an origin and a place where a person can make roots. Ondro is struggling. He is aware of how his physics affects other, he describes his greenish eyes as “slanted and mean”.
He has mixed feelings of where he comes from. In one part of the story he says:
Mosty I was ashamed. Ashamed of my roots, of my family, my language and heritage, ashamed of things I was given without having any say in it.
This gives you as a reader a huge impact, I was so touched and I could also relate in a way to him. He is homeless, he is in search for something permament and when he met Jamie he is mesmerized. He is his complete opposite. Vibrant colors, beauty, fairy-like appearance.
He was pretty. The longer I looked at him, the prettier he seemed. Huge, scared, pale blue eyes with girly lashes, an irragular dusting of stubble after a long day, straight nose, small but full of character nonetheless, full curvy mouth, and an inncent forehead.
And at a later part in the story:
His hair was shny, soft-looking, and tied in a small knot high on the back of his perfectly rounded skull.
Jamie leaves a picture Ondro can’t get out of his head and due a unconventional situation both guys are bonded together – and reveal feelings the more they take time together.
It is totally touching how Ondro is taking care of Jamie, and how Jamie is responsing to him.
It is a love story, and we get erotic scenes, but it feels so natural, you are capture and mesmerized.
Their feelings are soon visible for the reader, and the way how the book ends is the perfect solution.
If you are in search of a story with a sarcastic, but also lonely, homeless, rootless character in search of love and intimicy, you get it with this. Although Ondro wouldn’t commit it himself, he is in search of all this – and it’s so heartwarming to go the journey with him and Jamie. ❤
I will definitely read more books by Roe Horvat. I am so happy I “found” this book. It’s at the Top 5 of the new author/debut work authors along with Liz Jacobs’ Abroad , Anna Martin’s The Impossible Boy, Austin Chant’s Peter Darling and Avon Gale’s and Roan Parrish’s Heart of the Steal.
Total recommendation and 5 out of 5 stars. I will re-read it soon. :3