Sunday, September 25, 2016

ARC Review: Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere, #3) by Roan Parrish

Leo Ware may be young, but he knows what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova … and then was gone just as quickly.

For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny … though Will certainly tries.

But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairytale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.

Jewel's rating:

So this series has taken a New Adult/Coming of Age turn. Where We Left Off isn't really what I would call a romance. It does have some romantic elements, but by and large, it just isn't. Now, that isn't at all a deal breaker for me, but I wasn't expecting it, so it took me a bit to settle into the rhythm of the story.

Leo Ware is nineteen (at the start of the story) and finally able to start college at NYU, after being set back a year in his plans because of financial aid issues. He wanted to go to New York, because he hoped that he and Will Highland, whom he met a couple years ago at the cabin Daniel shared with Rex, would maybe get together. That's not the best reason to pick a college, mind you, but ... Leo is young and inexperienced at, well, everything, and does have rather romantic notions about how life should be.

Will isn't the easiest character to like, for sure. He's brash, blunt, and never bothers with the niceties. Will could be amazingly frustrating. He made it plain to Leo, right away, and repeatedly, that he didn't want a relationship at all. Just simply wasn't interested in going that direction. Will was stubborn, but he also had a tendency to hide behind that stubbornness in an effort to avoid things. He had a tendency to be emotionally unavailable, as well, as if hoping that it put everyone off.

I kind of got where he was coming from, though. Will has never had high expectations when it comes to other people. He comes from an extremely dysfunctional home and his sister is bipolar and won't medicate, so she regularly goes off the rails and Will, well, Will is terrified of feeling responsible for someone else's emotions when he can barely manage his own. The thought of getting caught up in someone else's orbit terrifies him because he's never actually been able to depend on anyone in that way. So he just doesn't.

So Will tends to keep an emotional distance between himself and other people. He lets down his guard more with Leo than he ever has with anyone else, but Will is still Will and he really has no interest in monogamy. He did have his sweet moments, as well, and he occasionally showed a great amount of vulnerability, but Where We Left Off isn't really about him. In fact, Will is present in less than half the book.

Where We Left Off is less the story about Leo and Will getting together, becoming boyfriends and getting their HEA, than it is about Leo taking a bit of a hard road in discovering that living someone else's truth simply does not work. And also, that going into any relationship with the idea that you can change the other person is foolhardy, at best.

Most of the story was really all about Leo and him settling into college life and learning how to adult. It was about him making friends and learning that sex doesn't actually have to mean a relationship. It was about learning what could be measured and maybe what couldn't be. It was about stripping away what you want the truth to be so you can see what's really there. It was about letting go of expectations and just learning to be.

The story ends with an HFN, that I, personally, was ok with. One, Leo is 20 years old and is just figuring out life. And two, though he and Will compromise and negotiate a tentative monogamous relationship, Will isn't ready to fully commit to one, if he ever will be. That's going to be a deal breaker for many readers. Theirs is not a traditional relationship, which, again, I'm good with. As long as they're honest with one another and they keep communicating (Will needs lots of practice on the talking about his feelings), I think they'll be ok.

PS -- I kind of loved the scene in front of the planetarium at the end. Will needs to feel publicly embarrassed every now and again. And it made their HFN a little less tentative.


ARC of Where We Left Off was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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