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 beautifully-written, short, 100+ page read is about many different things, all of which I'm happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed.
It's about a once-hopeful, young student, who fled from his homeland, because it refused to allow him to be who he truly was or love whom he wanted to love.
It's about that same man, now a jaded, 30 y.o. flight attendant, deciding that he was sick of running and heartsick for a home.
It's about discovering that home is not necessarily a place, especially a place whose people can't accept you as you are. That home can also be a person. Someone that, no matter where you are, as long as you're together, you're exactly where you want to be. Where you need to be.
It's about learning to trust yourself and knowing what will make you happy, as soon as you let go of your past demons and say goodbye to the things holding you back, while clinging to the things that help build you up.
And lastly, it's about taking a chance, no matter how crazy it seems, to reach for that one thing that could make you happier than you've ever been.
One aspect of this story that I truly loved was how, although the majority of the book takes place over only 6 days, it never really felt like insta-love to me.
Sure, Ondro and Jamie fall into bed on day one, but for the following five days, sex is the very last thing that their time together is about.
I loved how Ondro swooped in, without even a second thought, to take care of Jamie when he fell ill. Jamie needed him, so Ondro was there, full stop.
And it's during Jamie's convalescence that they fall into an easy companionship, and in that isolated bubble where their relationship sprouts and begins to grow roots.
Ondro has a lot of mental baggage from his past, but I was thrilled to see him working through that, one freak out at a time, then actually putting himself out there, taking a chance to find his own version of happy, finally, after 8 years of simply existing.
The story is not overly steamy, with only a couple of those scenes, as Jamie is fighting walking pneumonia for most of the book, but I really didn't miss it, since it forced them to focus on getting to know one another while getting Jamie well again.
I especially loved the epilogue, from 4 months later, as Ondro confronts his past head-on, with Jamie by his side. I was cheering for them every step of the way, adoring the way they demonstrated that they'd actually become a supportive, loving couple.
It was really strange, but as I read the very last line of the story, the song "At Last" by Etta James popped into my head, which totally captured the feeling of where Ondro and Jamie's journey had taken them.
At last, they were together. At last, they were happy. At last, they were free.
("At Last" video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q2rZ...)
There really wasn't much at all that I would've changed about this story, so I'm rating it at 4.5 stars and would definitely recommend it. : )
My ARC copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.
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