Adam Kavanaugh has returned to his small, West Virginia river town after college and a few years living in DC. He is sort of floating along, not really sure what he wants out of life, but somehow drawn to return to the town where he grew up. One day while out jogging, Adam sees a beautiful man floating in the Ohio River. Initially concerned the man was in danger from the violent river, Adam soon realizes he is not only safe, but at total peace in the turbulent water.
The swimmer turns out to be Leith Marshall, a swim teammate of Adam’s brother TJ. The two men hit it off right away, despite the fact that Leith is a bit of an odd guy between his fear of traveling, eerily beautiful singing, somewhat crazy father, and strange affinity for water, which seems to move around him in incredible ways. Yet Adam falls for Leith completely, oddness and all. And Leith opens up with Adam, pushing his personal boundaries and spreading his wings a little away from his hovering father.
The two men grow closer, falling in love, and committing to one another. But it is clear that there is something more to Leith, something special and a bit different. In many ways he is just like his mother who disappeared years before after being unable to be fully happy in the river town and called away to something more. And as Adam exposes Leith to the larger world outside their small town, he wonders if Leith will hear that same calling and that he will disappear as well.
Ah, this is a lovely, sweetly romantic story. Leith and Adam are so adorable together, so immersed in their total love for one another. I loved how Adam is totally accepting (and adoring) of Leith’s oddness. Leith has never really fit in at school or with other guys his age. He is a member of the swim team, but always an outsider. He is too different, too isolated, and has too many issues to blend in. But Adam adores Leith and loves him completely, quirks and all. And Leith’s love for the town and call to the river helps to ground Adam, helping him find his place in the town and feel settled after years of sort of drifting along.
The story is the first in Hawthorne’s new Elementals series, focusing on water. While it is clear that Leith has an unusual relationship with water, it is never spelled out exactly what it is (or what HE is). I sort of liked that it is not clearly defined, either to us as readers or to the characters in the book. It makes him feel just a little bit magically, but still a real person. And Hawthorne gives us wonderful descriptions of Leith, the way he moves and reacts to the water, that make it clear how special he is.
Adam’s brother TJ gets a fairly prominent role in this short novella. On one hand I really liked how he reflects a lot of what is going on in the story. As a teammate of Leith’s he is able to tell Adam what Leith was like in high school and help him understand Leith better. And his reaction to Adam’s leaving town and being away so long help us to see how restless Adam has been and how much TJ missed having him around. But on the other hand, sometimes TJ felt like a bit of shortcut to tell us things that I would have rather been shown. He provides a lot of background narration that tells us, for example, that Adam can’t stick around and commit, rather than letting us see it for ourselves.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. It is lovely and sweet and light on the conflict. Leith and Adam are so great together, their relationship both hot and sweet. There is just enough mystery and magic to keep the story interesting and unusual, while still keeping a very contemporary feel. This is a great story for when you want something light, lovely, and a bit unusual.
P.S. Katey is here today talking about her own river town and giving away a copy of the book, so be sure to stop by!