The Layover, by Roe Horvat
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 19, 2017
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….
Love at First Sight
Reference to Past Suicide
I feel like this book is worthy of so much more than five stars.
This book is about timing. When the story starts, we meet Ondro Smrek, a gay man who left his home country of Slovakia fleeing heartbreak. Having traveled the world for almost a decade, Ondro receives life-changing news about his past lover and decides to go home. His country is not welcoming, currently actively oppressing homosexuality. Upon arriving to Brasil, Switzerland for a layover, Ondro is unexpectedly delayed and, while at the airport, he first meets and is intrigued by Jamie, an American living in Scotland.
So that’s the summary… all repeated in a nifty Pixie recap. BUT WHAT THAT DOESN’T CONVEY IS HOW WONDERFUL THIS STORY IS.
Where to begin. Ondro and Jamie are an unlikely match. Jamie is much less jaded than Ondro, having a certain privilege that comes with being American, immigrating to Scotland, and being educated and mostly accepted. I liked Jamie and could understand his actions, his pensive nature and his well-thought-out impulsivity.
Ondro… is definitely a man at a crossroads, while also seeming to being resigned to… I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t say he was a man with a death wish, but something about him seemed like someone who’d given up. I wasn’t sure what made him so determined to go back to a country and a family that seemed to not only not want him, but openly despise him. His friend from home, while willing to provide a place for him, was basically shouting a warning that Ondro would not be safe and should not return . But people do the oddest things when faced with great loss.
The thing that I think was the best about this book was the tone. Roe Harvat really captured that feeling of melancholy that happens when you’re resigned to accepting life as it is. Ondro had lost the will to fight. He reminded me of someone who had just decided to lay down and take it. It was beyond my comprehension how he could just up and decide to turn in his notice for his job and go back to his country. Honestly I think he’d decided, somewhere along the line, that the man he left in Slovakia was the love of his life, and had just stopped living. Living in his head while seeing how much potential and want he still had was crushing. Jamie… while different seemed to be suffering the same trauma. He’d had a long-term relationship that hadn’t turned out, and had kind of stagnated when it came to men. He seemed resigned to be wrapped up in his work. You know the type, that one friend that seems like a great catch and yet just seems committed to remaining unattached.
Another thing I adored about this book was there were several times where I thought is this going to actually happen? It was like life; there kept being these times where it seemed as if there was a potential for more, and yet more did not arrive. Towards the end of the book I started to get frantic. The range of emotions this book took me though in a mere 100 pages was phenomenal.
Roe Horvat was born in former Czechoslovakia in a time when everybody wore the same red and blue sweats and free thinking was a risky business. They endured a miserable adolescence in the postcommunist wasteland, mostly observing from afar and dissecting the pointlessness of being. It might have made them sophisticated… or bitchy. Equipped with ample sense of sarcasm, they left the Czech Republic to explore Europe.
These days, Roe writes to gain control in the chaotic world, saving the lives of their fragile imaginary friends and sharing the love in all shades of the rainbow. Contemporary romance conveniently balances out Roe’s real-life pragmatism. One day, though, they might start time traveling again.
You can purchase The Layover from:
Or add it to Goodreads
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.