It’s January 2012 in Kentucky, and Joshua Stouder stands by a creek, mourning his lost lover. As he looks at where he spread Neil’s ashes, Joshua is still consumed by grief. At the same time, in Atlanta, a baby is born to a woman named Alice. She names him Neil.
And thus begins a journey of love that spans the test of time. Neil and Joshua only had nine months together, but it was enough to fall hard for one another. When Neil was killed in a traffic accident, Joshua was devastated. It was hard for him to even imagine how to go on, but go on he must. So Joshua continues his life, finding love again, but never getting over Neil and certainly never forgetting him.
Meanwhile, Neil Russell was reborn in another body, but retains all his memories of his first life. What is the most painful, the most devastating, is that Neil still loves Joshua, yet he is not a man anymore, but a child. He knows that he can’t have Joshua back until he is grown, if ever. Joshua has moved on with his life, but that doesn’t stop Neil’s pain at being separated from the man he loves.
But the two aren’t separated forever. Neil continues the medical research he began in his past life, and it ultimately brings him back into Joshua’s path, almost 20 years after Neil died in his first body. But how can he possibly tell Joshua the truth? Even if the man would believe him, Neil wonders if they could possibly pick up where they left off without causing Joshua too much pain. Not to mention, Joshua is now a man around 40, while Neil’s new body is only 19. But the love between Joshua and Neil has lasted 20 years, and with a bit of trust and patience, it could last them a lifetime (or two).
So I’ll admit, I really didn’t know what to expect here. Reincarnation stories are not always my thing, but I adore Leta Blake’s writing and so I decided to give this one a shot. I just loved this story and it is so sweeping and romantic, I was totally captivated. The premise here isn’t necessarily so unusual, but the way the story is structured sets it apart and made it so engaging and intense. The book opens with Joshua mourning Neil’s death and the new baby Neil being born. From there, we follow two paths as Joshua slowly and painfully moves on from his loss and into a new relationship. At the same time, we follow Neil’s birth and growth into adolescence.
This could have felt slow or frustrating as the men are separated. But instead, Blake uses this time to really help us get to know the men, as well as to feel the depth of their longing for one another. On Joshua’s end, we can see that even as he loves his new husband, Neil is always part of his heart (something his husband, Lee, supports and accepts). For Neil’s part, we watch him grow, and these early years are shown to us from his mother’s POV, which is an interesting twist. Not only does this make sense, as getting narration from an infant or young child would have been difficult, but it also gives us the perspective of an outsider who is observing Neil, but not fully understanding him. She hears her 5-year-old son ask for Joshua, or become engrossed when the man appears on TV, but she has no idea why. This section is really just so well done and Blake makes even their separation feel fascinating and enlightening about both men.
Eventually these guys reconnect in present day as Neil is a young student conducting medical research, and Joshua is administering the foundation that oversees this research with money from the first Neil’s estate. As much as we can feel the depth of emotion these men have for each other when they apart, when they get together it is just amazing. This is a love that has burned bright for 20 years. Yes, both men have had to put it aside at times, just to make it through their lives. But as soon as they are back together, the passion and intensity they have between them just burns so bright. This one will bring all the feels as you can rejoice along with these guys to finally be reunited.
So I really loved this story and I think it will appeal to the romantic side of readers. Blake has taken a simple premise and really given it a fascinating execution. Added to that, she builds such as sense of sweeping romance, of a love that can never die and spans the test of time. I just loved it and definitely recommend this one.
P.S. I don’t want to give anything away here, but just as an FYI, there is no cheating in this story in case that’s an issue for you.