Four years ago, Alexander Thomas thought he found love for the first time. It was a year after his parents’ death and Xan was still struggling to figure out his life in the wake of such a tremendous loss. Max seemed perfect, and gave Xan some hope for a happy future. But now, years later, it is clear being with Max has destroyed his life. Years of emotional abuse have taken their toll on Xan and, while he knows he should leave Max, instead he finds himself unable to break free.
Luca and Sebastion have been married almost 20 years. The men are deeply in love and intensely committed to one another. When a wrong number puts Luca and Xan in contact, Luca can tell right away that the young man is not ok. Sebastion went through similar abuse to Xan years ago, and he can understand much of what Xan is experiencing. The couple want to be there for Xan in whatever way they can, but they also don’t want to overwhelm Xan and make his life even harder. But when the situation with Max escalates, Sebastion and Luca are able to help give Xan a safe place to land.
Things are complicated, however, by the attraction among all three of them. Xan can’t help being drawn to Luca and Sebastion, but he does not want to do anything to get between them. He has no idea that the couple not only shares his attraction, but also have room in their hearts and their relationship for him as well. But Luca and Sebastion know that Xan is in no way ready to move from his relationship with Max to one with them. He needs time to recover from the abuse, as well as a chance to find out who he is and what he wants for the future. And that means Luca and Sebastion may have to let Xan go, and hope that one day he is ready for the love that they all share.
The Other Side of Here is such an intense, incredibly beautiful story and I found myself totally engrossed from the first moments. This is a quiet book with a slowly developing relationship among the three men, and it is to Lindsey’s credit that they are able to make this story so very engaging, even without a lot of action. The set up here is so interesting, told in a modified epistolary style. After losing his parents, Xan began to journal and so he starts many chapters writing letters to his future husband where he shares his fears and his dreams. We also get letters from Sebastion and Luca, mostly notes to one another, but occasionally to Xan as well. These letters and notes set the stage for the story and reveal those emotions or feelings that the men aren’t always able to share with each other directly. We can really feel Xan’s pain as he struggles to break free of his relationship with Max, particularly as he questions why he is having so much trouble leaving. And it also highlights Luca and Sebastion’s feelings as they are falling for Xan, but don’t want to do anything to make his life harder. They don’t even want to tell him how they feel, as they know he needs time without the pressure of their love and expectations to figure out his future and how to recover from his abusive relationship.
The connection among these three men is really lovely. Sebastion and Luca have this intense, incredible love between them that just leaps off the page. While they have always had a sexually open relationship, the pair have never had an emotional connection with anyone else. It seems pretty clear that Luca is poly, although it is never explicitly stated. However, Sebastion notes that Luca has more love to give than can be contained by one person and he supports and accepts the idea that Luca may fall for others. But with Xan, the two find themselves falling in love together. It is painful and beautiful to watch how much they grow to care for Xan, yet they know they may not be able to have him. For Xan’s part, he is so afraid of ruining this beautiful perfect love between the men, never realizing they want him as a part of it. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but it does take time for this all to sort out. Yet I never found myself frustrated or wanting the pacing to move forward faster, as it made perfect sense why the men were holding back sharing their feelings. Even as it takes time for things to resolve, I was still completely drawn in by the dynamics of the relationship among the three of them and just loved how it all comes together at the end.
As a note, Lindsey has written a short story that functions as an extended prologue, called Love Always, Alexander. The story is available for free through a link in the front of the book, and it is definitely worth reading. There is a bit of overlap with the book’s prologue, but the short story takes us back four years to the night Xan first meets Max. But what we also learn is that he met Luca that same night and both men felt an instant connection. So plot-wise it is not necessary to read the short, but it really enhances the feeling that these guys are destined to be together. It also gives readers a chance to see those early days for Xan and the vulnerability he was feeling when he first met Max.
It is probably clear from my description, but be aware that this story deals with themes of abuse. It is not explicitly detailed on page, though some events are recounted later, however it is a major story theme, so be advised if this is a trigger area for you.
Overall, I found this story warm, intense, and incredibly lovely. I was captured from the start and just fell in love with Xan, Sebastion, and Luca. Definitely recommended.