When special forces vet, Leo Bailey, gets up the nerve to approach artist, Vinnie Noland, it is the start of something wonderful between them. The men begin a relationship that eventually leads to marriage and the birth of their son, Oscar. Years later, they have moved across the country where Leo is working as a teacher and they are happily settled into their new community. Things seem perfect, except for their strange neighbor, Arthur Fletcher, who makes them uncomfortable with his weird reactions to the men.
One day, Vinnie and Leo’s whole world falls apart as they take one wrong step and suddenly Oscar is separated from them and presumed dead. But even as they grieve, the men know that the official explanation for what happened to Oscar doesn’t mesh with what they know of the events of that day. As they put the pieces together with the help of Leo’s former teammates, they also realize that the disappearance is connected to their neighbor, Arthur, and research he was doing into an archeological site. Soon, Leo and Vinnie realize that the question is not where Oscar has gone, but when. And now the mission is on to figure out how they can save their son from where he is lost in time.
I am a big fan of time travel stories, so I was eager to check out Addison Albright’s take on the trope. Where this story really stood out for me is on the unique approach to the time travel theme. I have read a lot of time travel books, but this story really takes things in a new and interesting direction, and I was really impressed by the author’s creativity in how things all come together. There isn’t much science to explain how time travel happens, and I had to squint a bit a few times to make it all make total sense. But I found myself really eager to follow along here for most of the book, as I found the storyline quite compelling in terms of what happens to Oscar and how his dads manage to unravel what is going on and how to find him.
Where I struggled here is that while the storyline is creative and engaging, the character and relationship development are almost non-existent. The book opens with a brief scene where we see Leo and Vinnie meet. We then jump to two years later where Leo tells his dad the two are getting married, then there is a six-month jump and another brief scene after the men are already married and have moved across the country. The book then picks up after Oscar is born and is about 15 months old. So basically, we are talking a handful of pages and a few scenes that cover the entire start of Leo and Vinnie’s relationship through the birth of their child. We don’t see the men spending time together, falling in love, or building their relationship at all. I never felt like I had any sense of what draws these men together or what they love about each other. We just know they are in love because we are told and almost nothing is actually shown on page. We also get virtually no individual character development. After reading this story, all I can really tell you is that Leo is former military, has a strained relationship with his parents, and is now a teacher. Vinnie is an artist, estranged from his family, and more on the flashy, femme side. Truly, I can’t think of anything else to describe either of them after an entire book. And again, most of this is stuff we are just told, not actually shown. There is just no depth given to their character development or their connection to one another.
This stands out in stark contrast to the detail we often get on other aspects of the story. We get a detailed description of what snacks the guys pack for a trip to the park, for example. When they time travel, we get tons of detail on the people they meet, how they live, tiny nuances of their everyday life. There was actually a point toward the end where I found myself bored by the overwhelming detail. Yet the characters are left with barely any development at all. It feels like Albright focused so much attention on the time travel plot and the extensive detail on the place/time where the men end up that everything else gets short shrift. So things are just too one sided here and it was hard for me to feel a connection to these guys given how little depth they have. As far as their romantic relationship, honestly, they could have been brothers or friends and the book would have read almost the same.
Despite these reservations, this story has such an interesting and creative time travel storyline that it kept me invested even with these concerns. If you are a fan of time travel stories, I think there is a lot to like here. Just don’t go in expecting a lot of romantic or character development and I think this can be an entertaining story.