The Layover by Roe Horvat
Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Airport Meeting, Social Commentary
Length: 117 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
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….
This book and I, Ondro and I, did not start on the best terms. I know the book’s blurb states Ondro is jaded but it’s not that so much as he comes across as judgemental and damn rude. His initial thoughts about Jamie were not particularly kind, nor others he had encountered, and I wrote a few thoughts of my own in my notes about my lack of care regarding Ondro.
Looking at his delicate profile, I felt my exhaustion lift like a morning mist giving way to a sunny day. I had a free night in this city and hadn’t got laid for four months. The last time was Clive, my roommate in Dubai. He was from Australia. If you’re picturing Jackman or Hemsworth, forget it. Clive was a towheaded, clingy drama queen with a permanent sunburn and a squeaky joke of a voice. Most of the time, he’d got on my nerves.
Okay, Ondro. Bitchy. That is just one example. I put the book down for over a week and then came back to it. I still struggled for a while with Ondro but then the book took a turn, a turn for the better, and Ondro’s voice became more enjoyable, more passionate, decent, and I already liked Jamie. That’s when I started liking The Layover.
I think it took Roe Horvat some time to find his writing groove and some humanity for the main voice of the book, but once he did this book shone. When the impact of politics and religion in his home country, his feelings, his worries, his loss were laid out on the table, I understood him. That writing translated into a better relationship dynamic between him and Jamie, as well as me with this book.
The MCs feelings for one another develop very quickly, but you can work that out just from reading the blurb, but there is something intrinsically romantic or nice about the thought that you can meet someone you love at any point in time, in the unlikeliest of places. That you can find real hope and happiness at a time when life seems to be quite dark because some people, your home country, make it clear it doesn’t want your ‘kind’ around.
“Sorry. You know, I won’t be able to touch you today,” I confessed, my voice low with shame. I’d been apprehensive about our trip to Slovakia. Now I felt it acutely, the fear squeezing my ribs. What will Jamie think? Will he see the same misery I used to see? The same smallness, worthlessness, those narrow-minded people…? Will he judge me for it?
This book ended up being a nice romance, sweet, yet with important social commentary and an inside look at one man’s immensely personal and difficult struggle with his home, and it comes complete with a HFN. I became fully invested in both the MCs as I continued reading. I needed to finish this novella to see what happened with Ondro and Jamie. The Layover is nice reading, and it’s a good start to a Roe Horvat’s writing career. 4 Stars!