Title: The Layover
Author: Roe Horvat
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 104 Pages
At a Glance: The Layover is gorgeous and emotionally gratifying in every way a romance should be.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: 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….
Review: Sometimes you take a chance on a new, or new to you, author, and it works out so perfectly. This is one of those times.
Roe Horvat’s The Layover is a rather simple story, when it comes right down to it. What makes it so lovely, however, is very much that simplicity. It’s an intimate story, told in the first person by a man whose cynicism is anything but subtle. At thirty years old, Ondro is plenty jaded about life and relationships. He sees seduction as a challenge, sex the payoff, no strings attached. And it’s worked for him—to a certain extent—until a flight cancellation in Switzerland becomes the catalyst for the upheaval of his life.
He’s just quit his job as a flight attendant, based in Dubai, and is on his way ‘home’ to Slovakia when his future takes a drastic and powerful detour. Horvat did such a masterful job of crafting Ondro. His misanthropy and emotional disconnect could have made him remarkably unsympathetic, but a chance meeting with another stranded passenger, drinks and conversation at the hotel bar, are not only revealing but it works as the alchemy for his metamorphosis. Ondro’s interior monologue, peppered throughout this moment of first contact, helped me relate to him, watching his fascination with and respect for Jamie grow through his own thoughts, and watching that tide change—from him wanting nothing more from Jamie than sex, to him falling in thrall to Jamie’s intelligence and respecting his skill at meaningful conversation—was the tipping point in my embracing and, eventually, loving him. As much as Ondro intends to make their encounter about sex, Jamie’s becoming more than a means to an end and an outlet for Ondro’s killing time on this unexpected layover reveals how at loose ends Ondro truly is.
Jamie is just fantastic and it’s easy to see how and why Ondro’s goal for their encounter evolved from objectification to respect to admiration and, finally, a needful sort of love—not cloying and unhealthy but life altering. Jamie is a serious sort, not given to flirtatious playfulness let alone hookups, and I love how that set Ondro aback. Jamie may be the younger of the two, but he’s wiser and more grounded in many ways. This forces Ondro’s humanity to the fore and to see Jamie as more than a nice way to pass a few hours before they part ways—Ondro to Slovakia, Jamie to Edinburgh—and while the means the author used to keep them together beyond just one night might fall into the category of simplistic and/or convenient, I couldn’t have cared less because by then, Horvat had already effectively hooked me in their potential for something lasting. I wanted it to happen, and wish fulfillment is the heart and soul of romantic fiction, isn’t it?
As a reader whose library consist of thousands of books set in the US, Great Britain, or Alternate Universes altogether, the setting of The Layover was a nice change of pace. Though the story takes place almost entirely indoors—limited to the airport or hotel rooms in Switzerland—Ondro is Slovakian and he shares that part of himself throughout the narrative. It added a flavor and color to the story that I enjoyed quite a lot, and I liked how it informed his character. Between Slovakia and Dubai, Ondro isn’t familiar with what it’s like to live as an out gay man, but he knows what being an airline flight attendant implies and what his family disapproves of. The backstory of Ondro’s first love, and the scene with his mother towards the end of the story are both telling and touching.
The Layover is not only a beautifully crafted love story, it’s also an impressive debut and ensures I’ll be on the lookout for Horvat’s future work. Could it have been longer? Of course. Did it need to be longer? Absolutely not. This is a complete and character driven story that succeeds because of its characters. Ondro and Jamie’s romance is based in need and longing, thanks to an unplanned delay which caused their worlds to collide, but it’s the author’s skillful storytelling that convinces readers there are no two people who belong together more than they do. Gorgeous and emotionally gratifying in every way a romance should be.
You can buy The Layover here: