This is the fourth book in the ‘Distance Between Us’ series but can easily be read as a stand-alone.
It has been five years since Chris and his best friend Joshua gave in to their feelings for each other and spent one passionate but clumsy night together. The following the day both of them left on for their separate two year long Mormon missions. Chris has had doubt s about his faith and the Mormon community he is a part of for some time but both his world and his faith are shattered when he finds out Joshua has gone missing and is assumed dead. Cutting his mission short, Chris returns to Seattle where he turns his back on his faith and finds himself excluded from the community he grew up in as well as his family.
When Chris discovers that Joshua isn’t dead and is on his way home to reconcile with his family and dying father his emotions are torn between relief and anger.
The man who returns to Seattle may look like an older version of Joshua but after five years in the French Foreign Legion he’s acquired an accent as well as a new name - Julian - and no intention of returning to the Joshua he used to be. What’s more, the attraction between the two men is as strong as it ever was. Despite his lingering anger and the fear that Julian may just leave again, Chris offers him a place to stay and it isn’t long before that place turns out to be in Chris’ bed.
The Church and Julian’s family aren’t prepared to just allow the lost son to be who he needs to be though, forcing Julian to make an impossible choice between the man he loves and his family. All Chris can do is stand on the sidelines, ready to catch Julian should he fall.
“Not simple by any means - there was nothing left between us that could be considered simple – but easier.”
No review of mine could summarize this story better than the quote above does. This book is an emotional rollercoaster. The love and passion between the two men is so intense and beautiful it will take your breath away while the pressures put on them by their families and community are both realistic and heartbreaking. The angst in this book isn’t the result of doubts about the two men’s commitment to or feelings for each other, although Chris suffers some of those. The tension is the result of outside forces doing their damnest to keep the two men apart. Nobody should ever be forced to choose between their family and the person they love, and yet that is exactly the choice Julian is left with.
While the story is told from Chris’ point of few I did get a good impression of Julian’s difficult journey too and he all but broke my heart. Because Chris has gone through a similar process years before he knows exactly what Julian is dealing with although that doesn’t alleviate his helplessness. He can’t force Julian to choose between him and his family and is all too aware he may lose Julian, despite the man’s obvious feelings for him. Lesser authors might have jumped on the opportunity to force that rift between the two men; Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt are good enough to know the story didn’t need the extra tension. The story as it is provided almost more angst than I could deal with as it was and I’m so grateful they didn’t go for overkill.
For someone who has huge issues with organised religion at the best of times this was the perfect read. Not only because the two main characters take their stance against the indoctrination they’re facing but also because it showed the other side as well. The side where the love within a family can’t be broken, not even by the power and rules of a self-important head of the congregation. I liked that it didn’t make the dilemma black against white. Yes, Chris is shunned by the people he grew up with and knows that he’ll never be able to be part of that community again. But even five years later it still hurts him, because it does. Even when a clean break is the only option it doesn’t mean it is an easy one and I applaud the authors for including that hardship in this story.
And, before I forget, allow me to add that the relationship between Chris and Julian is HOT. Both men have used the five years apart to become experienced and inventive lovers. When they get together passion rules and naughty fantasies spice up their bed, bringing this reader some wonderful moments in the process.
As I’ve come to expect from this partnership this was a very well written and captivating love story filled with tension, tender moments and passionate love. This book was a pure joy to read while giving me plenty to think about at the same time. I may be repeating myself but I don’t care; Voinov and Witt are now high on my list of must-read authors and I can’t thank them enough for being as prolific as they are.