The Layover

The Layover - Roe Horvat Review originally posted at Sinfully.

4.5 stars

I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for future books from Roe Horvat. This debut is a sweet, sometimes haunting, low key story of finding love and direction, told from the POV of Ondro Smrek, a man who is once again running from something.

At 30 years old Ondro is lost and lonely and a bit jaded. He has up and left his job as a flight steward, leaving his apartment in Dubai and is heading back to Slovakia, where he grew up, and he’s not really sure why. There is nothing back there for him other than the best friend whose couch he is going to crash on. He is mostly estranged from his family other than occasional emails with his mother, but he knows he’s already a disappointment to them even without them knowing about his sexuality. The country is riding an anti-gay wave with referendums and rhetoric from the Conservative Catholic church ratcheting up the potential for violence against anyone assumed to be gay.

A delay at the airport has him noticing the beautiful, quirky young Jamie who seems to be everything Ondro is not. There is awkward flirting and getting to know you talk, but Jamie is not usually a one-night stand kind of guy. But Jamie isn’t all he outwardly appears to be either and when circumstances conspire to turn one night of fun into almost a week of time spent together, Ondro finds himself reconsidering almost everything.

There is a low key, simmering love story here but it is more a story about Ondro finding himself and dealing with his past in order to allow himself to move forward with a purpose. Told only from his POV, in a straightforward and simple writing style, it is easy to become immersed in the character, although it took me a little while to decide whether I was going to like Ondro or not. While it is technically insta-love it was easy to accept since we are privy to almost every thought Ondro has from the moment the two see each other at the airport.

Jamie is an unexpected burst of color and freshness in Ondro’s world and I loved his character from the start. Even without his POV and not yet having his full story, I felt as if I fully understood Jamie after their conversations the first night together. He is straightforward and a perfect contrast to Ondro.

The story packs a lot into its short length including commentary on the political climate relating to LGBT issues in various countries. There are several secondary characters that add to rounding out the men’s stories and there is even time for Ondro to go back and confront what he left behind. The story also runs the gamut of emotions as Ondro goes from a closed off man making a zombie-like trek to a place he no longer calls home, to a man whose whole future has opened up in a way he never allowed himself to believe it could.

This is a fantastic debut from Roe Horvat. It’s something a little different than your typical insta-love story so don’t let that scare you away. The Layover is a story that will draw you in and make you think, a romantic character study, if you will, that I think you should take a chance on.