Levon Ludlow and Jay Jantzen have been together 13 years now, ever since they met in college. At the time, they were both low level supers. Jay could manipulate liquids, but only about 32 ounces. And Levon talks to animals, though not the “good” ones. He mostly communicates with animals people think of as pests — chipmunks, pigeons, roaches, etc. Levon and Jay weren’t interested in fame and glory. Both men had family members with greater superpower abilities and neither man wanted the pressure of living up to those expectations. Instead, the men had simple lives and simple jobs and have been happily living in their small town together since college.
However, things are changing and Levon isn’t too happy. As it turns out, Jay has been secretly working on leveling up his superpowers and now has much stronger abilities — including flight. When Jay saves a town from a flood, suddenly he is famous and in high demand. Jay is even up for a new, important job that would take him across the country. Jay promises he isn’t going anywhere without Levon, but he doesn’t realize that Levon has no desire to move or change their lives. He is not only happy as is, but with all his anxieties, the move might be more than Levon can handle.
Levon doesn’t want to lose Jay, but it seems that the men are moving in different directions. Levon hopes maybe if he can improve his own powers, he can catch up to his boyfriend. But he isn’t sure that is even what he wants. Now the two men face a crossroads as they are realizing that they want different things from life. Jay and Levon must figure out whether the lives they want for themselves are still ones that can include each other.
Ok you guys, brace yourselves, because if you are anything like me, this one is probably going to have you tearing up. The blurb describes this book as “bittersweet” and that is definitely the case. While the story does end on a positive note, and I think the guys are in the best place they can possibly be given all their hurdles, it is definitely not a traditional romance happy ending, so be prepared. However, despite the fact that I was pretty much feeling all the feelings after reading this one, I found it an incredibly well written, loving story about two men who are figuring out how to mesh their changing visions of the future.
The thing that Lillis does so well here is allow us to really see things from both Jay and Levon’s perspectives. Even though we are only in Levon’s POV, I really felt like I could understand what both men are dealing with. Levon is a pretty tense, anxious guy. He likes his simple life, he likes his routines, and deviating scares him. He is totally happy living the same life he has always lived, and he is terrified when he starts to see that Jay is changing. Part of Levon doesn’t understand why Jay can’t be satisfied just as they have always been. For his part, Jay has grown and changed over the years and wants different things than he did at 20. He is getting stronger and gaining more abilities and he is excited for new challenges and new opportunities. I think what makes this story work so well is that it is clear that despite the fact that they want different things, Jay and Levon love each other deeply. They are struggling with how to move forward, but there is never any question that they care for each other and want the other to be happy. So even as we watch them struggle, we can still feel the love between them.
I particularly loved the way Lillis brings in the story of one of the side characters who had her own romance that ended when she and her partner wanted to go different directions. It provides a nice parallel to what these guys are going through and gives some perspective and poignancy. There is even a little side note about one of their animal friends and, you guys, if you had told me before this that I would be crying over a love story between a dog and a deer, I wouldn’t have believed you. But these side elements really round out the story and give some nice nuance to Jay and Levon’s situation.
The book is told in an alternating timeline between present day and various points in their history together. The chapters are labeled and I had no trouble following the back and forth. Lillis does a nice job of tying things together between the different time frames and using elements from the past to illustrate what is currently happening between them.
So I really enjoyed this one, even as it left me choked up and emotional. At the end of the story, Lillis promises there is more for these guys, so I am hopeful the bittersweet will turn into a full on HEA. But for now, I feel content that these guys are exactly where they need to be and that the love between them is strong enough to carry them through.