Title: The Layover
Author: Roe Horvat
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 19, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 104
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
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….
The Layover is a short novella about two men, Ondro and Jamie, who meet in the Basel Switzerland airport when they are each delayed due to an airline strike, and after ending up at the same hotel, spend the night together. Upon returning to the airport, Jamie falls ill and Ondro stays to take care of him, with the two men spending five more nights together while Jamie recuperates.
Former flight attendant Ondro grew up to Bratislav, has been away eight years and is returning home to Slovakia, which is in the midst of voting on a referendum banning same-sex unions. Bratislav may be rife with hate speech, but it’s home to Ondro (“Nothing forced me to go back. I’ve been fine while dying inside for years”) and he desperately needs to be somewhere he feels grounded:
And I realized that there’s a difference between lonesome and lonely, and that I no longer knew which one applied to me.
American Jamie lives and works in Scotland and teaches “biochemistry with a bit of genetics” at the University of Edinburgh. When Ondro first spies him at the airport, Jamie is wearing a purple plasticky straw fedora and black-and-yellow-striped socks, but Ondro quickly feels “He was beautiful in a way that required a second and even a tenth glance to appreciate fully.”
Although the story is just a bit over 100 pages, Roe Horvat does an remarkable job of fleshing out Jamie and unfolding Ondro’s past bit by bit so the book has a richness and completeness to it. Horvat’s writing is crisp and definitely ….unflowery, yet there is a quality to it that can rip your heart out and then gently place it back into your chest. The story of Ondro’s former boyfriend Peter as well as the vignette of Ondro’s mother are incredible in their power, despite their brevity.
After reading the blurb, I didn’t expect what The Layover turned out to be – an extraordinarily well-written short story with an unexpected emotional depth. I think this is Roe Horvat’s first novel and I will definitely read their next book. Highly recommended!
FYI – if you go to Roe Horvat’s website, they have two brief prequels – The Swiss Experiment #1 and #2 from Jamie’s POV – available for free.
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