REVIEW: Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere book 3) by Roan Parrish
Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere: Book Three)
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 fairy tale 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.
Dear Roan Parrish,
Kaetrin reviewed the first book in this series here at DA. I liked it well enough to buy the second one, but then I never read it. I know it is Colin’s story and I know whom he gets his HEA with, but that’s about it.
I was not planning on reading this third installment, but then I stumbled upon reviews that were polarizing in an interesting way and I decided I should read the book and make up my own mind. I fully expected to like the book very much because what the vast majority of one- and two-star reviewers disliked seemed very much like my cup of tea. I do not find anything wrong with a character who is honest about not wanting to commit, and I am usually very happy when such a man realizes that he can have a relationship without sacrificing everything to be in one. My suspicion was that these two would end up in an open relationship, and since I don’t see nearly enough m/m romances going that road, I was eager to read the story. Readers, please note that what I just said is not a spoiler – I will leave it to you to find out the actual ending if you decide to read the story.
This is the story of Leo and Will, both of whom we briefly meet in the first book – I don’t remember anything about their meeting, and I have not reread the first book, so I had to rely on their recollections in this one. Will is a graphic designer who lives in New York and Leo decides he wants to go to NYU. He wants to get out of his small town, but the big reason why he wants to go to New York is because Will is there. Leo was accepted to NYU right after high school, but because they only offered him a partial scholarship he decided to do a year of community college in his hometown first, make good grades, and hope NYU would offer him a better financial aid package the second time around, and this is what happened.
We catch up with Leo when he arrives at NYU, where he is worried about whether to go to orientation and about making friends. He calls Daniel, and being a good sport, Daniel invites him to come over instead of going to orientation, but Rex (Daniel’s lover) suggests that although Leo is welcome, maybe he should go and try to make some friends.
Of course Leo ends up meeting several very nice and fun fellow students who end up being very good friends to him, and I suspect that his new best friend Milton will end up being a main character in the next book in the series. But I am running ahead of myself.
It is also clear that Leo will not last long without calling Will and going to his place. Leo has a huge crush on the guy and wants a relationship with him badly; in fact, despite Will telling him several times that he does not want a relationship, Leo does not stop till Will agrees to try. The problem is that Will does not want to stop sleeping with other people and the only way he will agree to try a relationship if Leo does not mind him continuing to do so.
Leo says he does not mind, but of course he does. He is young and kind of manipulative (my opinion of course!), and he thinks that as soon as Will sees how good they are together, Will won’t want to sleep with anybody else. You can guess how well that goes. Hint – not the way Leo hopes it would.
This conflict seemed to be the main reason for the lower reviews for this story, and just as I predicted I had no issues with Will’s desires and actions, especially since he was so very honest with the young fool named Leo.
Everything was not black and white, though, and Will seemed to really enjoy having Leo around as a friend first and then as more than a friend, and their communication challenges were interesting. Most importantly, both guys grew and changed somewhat over the course of the story while retaining the inner core of who they were as people. Will’s attitude about relationships was not as simple as he presented to the world – he was not lying to Leo, but it seemed that Will learned some truths which he did not quite realize about himself. Leo did not completely abandon the idea of being romantic, but he also seemed to realize that sometimes one needs to think beyond romance. They compromised, they learned, and they let themselves try new things. I liked the romance between them; I thought these two had a pretty good future in front of them if they kept working at it.
So you might ask me why I did not give this story a higher grade than “C”? It’s because I was very bored with a lot of the story. I felt like nothing happened, Leo was just talking and talking and *talking*. I am still not sure what it was – repetition? Yes, I know you really REALLY love Will, I get it now Leo. Was it too much tell and not enough show? This was very likely – for example Leo’s outings with his friends often just felt remote and distant to me.
As I said before, I liked the characters’ interactions, and I do not need to read non-stop action. I was very interested in the various people who populated the story, but I can also find myself getting bored with talking heads and that’s what I felt I was subjected to in this book. The passage I am quoting below is in the last part of the book, and while it is very nice to see that Leo finally had those insights about Will, I caught myself thinking, oh that’s nice, could you maybe take a page from his book and talk less in the future?
““I don’t want to have to conduct a science experiment to know how you feel! Do you know how shitty it is to say that to me? Like it’s one hundred percent my responsibility to… study you? That I’m supposed to look at everything you do and draw my own conclusions and act based on them with no confirmation? Why? Why would you want it to be like that?” And it hit me with a twist of nausea that this was how Will thought things had to be. That he’d grown up watching for signs of what things might mean. Clues.
“Were his parents going to be distracted enough with each other that he could take money from them to go buy whatever he wanted at the grocery store? Was Claire in a mood where he needed to tell her this thing or that one in order to handle a situation? Was someone giving him something because of how he looked or on his merit? Will had become so adept at reading the signs that it never occurred to him to say something if he thought he’d already communicated it in another way. With a gesture or an eye roll, a pattern or a habit. Words were just a redundancy to him.
Like the time I pointed out that there were bananas and he got pissy because he could see them. And maybe there Rex was right again. If I took away what Will had never said as well as what he had, I was left with someone who hung out with me, had sex with me, hugged me, joked with me, ate with me, slept with me, and told me about his day. I was left with… someone who acted like we were together.
I took his hands and pulled him back down on the couch. “Okay, so, it’s not about me being dumb or oblivious. It’s not that I don’t notice things about you.” I rolled my eyes at myself. “I basically notice every stupid little thing about you, so. But sometimes things are complicated and they mean different things to different people, and I don’t want to assume that I know something about you just because I think I do, you know?”