Rating: 4 stars
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The night before leaving for their Mormon missions, Chris and Joshua gave in to their attraction to one another, thinking it would be two years before they saw one another again. But one year later, Joshua disappeared and was presumed dead, leaving Chris heartbroken and mourning. Now six years after that night together, Chris learns from Joshua’s sister that he is still alive after running off to France and letting everyone think he was dead.
Chris is stunned to hear his best friend and the man he once cared so deeply for is still alive. And even more that he faked his own death, disappearing after realizing he could no longer live up the pressures and expectations of being a good Mormon and perfect son. Joshua always faced so much pressure to be exactly what his parents wanted and when he finally broke, he become a different person. Now Joshua has reinvented himself as Julian Sargent. He is a soldier in the French Foreign Legion, he is no longer a practicing Morman, and he is comfortable in his own skin in a way he never was before. And now he is returning home as Julian, as his father lay dying and he hopes for a reunion.
Despite his disbelief, Chris is thrilled to see Julian again. He never stopped caring for him, and seeing Julian as a confident adult makes Chris’ attraction even stronger. But Chris is wary; Julian ran away once and he has no reason to be sure that he won’t do it again. Especially because Julian’s family wants to reconcile and will do anything to bring him back into the religious fold. Chris is openly gay and no longer a member of the Church, so they view him as a negative temptation to Julian and want to keep them apart.
As Chris and Julian spend time together, all the old feelings between them come rushing back and they begin to fall in love. But Chris knows that really loving Julian means supporting him if he wants to reconcile with his family, especially as his father lay dying. Chris just must hope that once all the dust settles, Julian will still want him and the future they can have together.
No Distance Left to Run is the fourth book in the Distance Between Us series (the first three written by Witt alone). The book is only loosely connected with the others however, with Chris an employee at Wilde’s and friends with Kiernan, another character from the series. But this book is otherwise independent and stands alone perfectly fine.
The story takes a really interesting angle in its look at the hold of religion on these two men. While we often read about the effects of religious intolerance in m/m romance, in this case the book approaches it from a slightly different angle. Julian’s family is very much a part of the Mormon community of Seattle and believe Julian’s return to the church is essential for his salvation. Their concerns about his relationship with Chris are less about Chris being gay than about the fact that he has left the church. While they are happy to have their son home, they believe firmly he must reaccept his old faith if he is going to have any kind of relationship with them.
The book picks up in present day, so we only learn about Chris and Julian’s past in hindsight. But it is clear that Julian was a young man who faced incredible pressure to be the perfect son, the perfect Mormon, and to follow the rules laid out for him. He was being forced into a mold that didn’t fit, and when he left his mission and fled to France, he was able to grow into the person he is really meant to be. Yet as much as Julian has changed, he still feels the pull from his family, the desire for acceptance, especially with his father’s imminent death. The authors do a nice job showing that conflict between the man he has become and the son who still wants to please his family and be accepted.
The story is fairly simple in plot, focusing on the reunion between Chris and Julian and then Julian’s relationship with his family. The two men find almost immediately that the connection they once had is still strong and quickly move into a passionate affair and fall in love. Chris understands Julian’s reasons for what happened and is able to forgive him pretty quickly. The major conflict focuses on how their relationship fits within Julian’s relationship with his parents, and if it is even possible to have both. And if it is not, which direction Julian will choose.
I enjoyed the story and liked Julian and Chris together a lot. They have an easy connection and are fun and sexy together. I did feel like the story was missing a little intensity for me though. We don’t ever see them as young men, so the conflict between the person Julian once was and the man he has become is a little more muted than it might have been if we really knew him then. We also get the story from Chris’ POV, which creates an interesting dynamic as he is not nearly as active a player in the story as Julian. Mostly Chris is caring for Julian and waiting to see what Julian will decide. Again, I think this takes away some of the intensity of the story because we are not in Julian’s head as he deals with the pressures from his family, the expectations, and the decisions he must make. On the other hand, I think it is an interesting choice for us to be in Chris’ head, as we get the outsider’s view on what is happening with Julian and his family, as well as getting a better idea of the shock they all go through when finding out Julian is alive.
I also think the ending may be a little to neat and easy for me. There is a lot of conflict here. The fact that Julian disappeared and let everyone think he was dead is a huge issue, but on top of that he faces this enormous roadblock of religious reconciliation. Then there are the facts that no one in his family knows he is gay, that they want him to stay away from Chris, and that ultimately he must tell them about their relationship. So there is a lot going on and it seems to resolve super fast and perhaps unrealistically neatly. I felt like for all the build up, there needed to be more time to see things resolve, or at least resolve in a less pat and perfect way.
But overall I really liked this one and have enjoyed this series quite a lot. The story takes an interesting approach to the lovers reunited theme and places some unusual obstacles in front of these men. I found them to be a likable couple and great characters. So a nice story and a great addition to the series.