Desert Isle Keeper
Where We Left Off
I fell in love with the Middle of Somewhere series from the start – but if I’m honest, by the end of book one, In the Middle of Somewhere, I just wanted to know more about secondary characters Leo and Will. Ms. Parrish instead opted to redeem a much hated character in Out of Nowhere (book two), and made readers/fans wait for Leo and Will’s love story. Though I was frustrated by this decision, Ms. Parrish did what I thought couldn’t be done – she wrote a great book about someone I swore I wouldn’t like. Where We Left Off was worth the (not so long) wait. Leo and Will are an odd, opposites attract pairing, and their romance is no fairytale – but it’s authentic, original and Ms. Parrish makes it work. It’s a great book.
Readers were introduced to Leo Ware in In the Middle of Somewhere, when Daniel spotted him being hassled by a group of bullies and intervened on his behalf. Eventually, Daniel and his partner Rex became pseudo-big brothers to Leo, and he started spending much of his free time hanging out at Rex’s cabin. When Daniel and Rex moved to Philadelphia, Leo made plans to head to New York City for college. At the last minute, his financial aid fell through and he was forced to spend another miserable year at home in the small town of Holiday, Michigan. When Where We Left Off begins, Leo is in New York City settling into his dorm room, waiting for his new roommate, and trying to make plans with Will Highland.
Will was Rex’s friend/fuck buddy before Rex met Daniel. Will is also the main reason Leo wants to attend college in New York. Leo’s always known he was gay, but no one has ever made him feel the way Will does. When Will and Leo first met the chemistry between them was off the charts, but either because of Leo’s age – or his friendship with Daniel and Rex – Will never tried anything beyond flirting with Leo, despite their obvious attraction to each other. That is, until Will showed up at Leo’s job and kissed him before making his way out of town. Now Leo’s in NYC and he wants Will. He’s convinced they’re destined to be together, and hopeful they can pick up right where they left off.
Though Will is happy to see Leo again, he makes it clear from the start that he has no intention of being more than friends. Leo, heartbroken by Will’s unwillingness to try and have a romantic relationship with him, sort of accepts that friendship is all he can have if he wants to spend time with Will. Oh, Leo. Meanwhile he adjusts to his new life as a college student – making friends, getting a job, going out – but torments himself with romantic thoughts about Will and how it could be between them. Sometimes, it even seems as though Will wants more from him too. After a profound conversation one night about what Leo really wants from Will, they have sex. It’s clear Leo thinks sex with Will means they’re finally a couple, and equally clear that Will doesn’t. The sex is better and more intense than either imagined – but not enough to tie Will to Leo.
Where We Left Off doesn’t read like your average romance. Ms. Parrish brings together two men from such disparate points of view and places in life, I despaired of them ever ending up together. Leo wants the fairy tale romance and he wants it with Will. He struggles to understand why, if Will wants him, he doesn’t want to be with him as his boyfriend. Will tries to resist his attraction to Leo because he doesn’t believe he’s capable of loving anyone. He’s used to being wanted merely for his good looks, and he grew up in a dysfunctional family with parents who loved themselves more than him or his sister. He never learned how to be loved – or how to reciprocate. He’s willing to sleep with Leo, but only if he can sleep with other men as well, and he doesn’t want Leo to want more than friendship or sex from him. He makes this very clear – though at times it seems he struggles to maintain his emotional distance from Leo.
Through Leo’s PoV, it’s clear the sex is frequent, hot, intense (and graphic) and everything Leo imagined it might be. He knows he’s fallen in love, and despite Will’s entreaties not to make him into something or someone he isn’t, Leo convinces himself that Will feels the same but can’t admit it. This happy delusion doesn’t last. A shattering discovery leads Leo to question just what he’s willing to accept in order to have relationship with Will. He decides to cut Will from his life, and despite Will’s attempts to reason with him and remind Leo that he never made any promises, a devastated Leo asks him to stay away.
After a family crisis, Will reaches out to Leo. Time apart has taught Will that Leo means more to him than a one-night stand, and it’s given Leo the space he needed to understand that his version of happily ever after isn’t the same as Will’s – but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a future together.
The unconventional pairing, and ‘happy for now’ ending didn’t bother me, but I can see how some readers might not like it. Will doesn’t commit to monogamy, but he does commit to trying it for Leo. At the end of the story, he makes a big romantic gesture (the kind he hates and Leo loves) and admits he loves Leo. Leo makes him work for it – and the scene is unique and special – just like this couple, and this story.