Release Review: Where We Left Off: Roan Parrish

Where We Left Off 
Roan Parrish
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Released September 26, 2016

Leo Ware may be young, but he knows what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova… and then was gone just as quickly.

For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny… though Will certainly tries.

But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairytale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.

After being truly wowed by Roan Parrish’s debut novel, In the Middle of Somewhere, the fact that I had some difficulty liking one of the main characters in the follow-up, Out of Nowhere, left me with mixed emotions about whether I wanted to read the third book in the series. Where We Left Off has a distinctly different feel than the first two novels, and while I enjoyed the story, I’m sure I would have liked it more if the focus had been a little different.

Before I get further in this review, I want to point out that while Where We Left Off can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading at least book one of the series beforehand. Both Leo Ware and Will Highland are introduced there, and though neither appears in very many of its scenes, the first story establishes some important basic character traits for each of them. It also sets the stage for this story in that the reader gets to see the effects of their first meeting, of their brief interaction, and of Will’s kiss before leaving Leo behind to go back to New York City. I believe having this knowledge before starting this novel will make it easier for readers to get into this story. Book two, however, is not a necessary prerequisite, as Leo and Will are only briefly mentioned and never appear in that story.

In many ways, Where We Left Off has a very different feel than the previous two books. The biggest difference comes from the fact that the point-of-view (POV) character, nineteen-year-old Leo, is significantly younger than the previous books’ narrators. Together with the plot being, in large part, Leo’s coming-of-age journey, the result is a novel that reads much more like a new-adult (NA) romance instead of the more mature romances found in books one and two. As I had hoped, this story is told in the same smooth and poignant style filled with lush descriptions and beautiful prose found in the first two books. However, in doing so, I felt like the author inadvertently fell into the biggest trap inherent to using the first-person POV: the elevated prose that she’s known for sometimes felt out of character coming from Leo’s younger consciousness. Also reinforcing this NA feel is the fact that the majority of the story focuses on the overwhelming experiences of Leo’s move from small-town rural Michigan to New York City, the event which starts this novel, and his becoming accustomed to being a student at NYU.

Leo arrives in New York City with the excitement of realizing his dream of finally getting a new start away from his lackluster life in Michigan. Even though more than a year and a half has passed since his brief time with Will, he’s hopeful they can continue where they left off. On Leo’s first day in the city, though, Will makes it clear that he wants nothing more than a casual friendship with Leo. After that, the next third of the book is almost entirely Leo dealing with his classes, the new friends he’s making at NYU, and his unsettled feelings from being overwhelmed and pining over Will, who barely appears in this portion of the book. Fortunately, just as I was starting to get irritated with the way the story was going, something happens that allows the focus to come back to the story of Leo and Will.

The crux of their conflict is their difference of opinion on what relationships are. Will is an opinionated, tell-it-like-he-sees-it person, but it’s not about thinking he’s better than everyone else. Instead, it’s a product of his being organized and logical, a master of dismantling a problem to its component parts in order to find the most efficient path to its solution. In discussions, he just as easily accepts valid points as calls out the bogus ones. Will makes it clear he’s not interested in being in a monogamous relationship, not just with Leo but with anyone. Leo, on the other hand, is essentially a romantic, having a fantasy vision of how everything should be, so he can’t understand Will’s stance any more than Will can believe Leo’s as being anything other than illogical. But Leo knows the spark he felt with their kiss back in Michigan wasn’t one-sided, and it isn’t long before even Will can’t deny the chemistry between them, no matter how much he tries to resist it. It’s a satisfying slow burn and it makes the intimacy between them very compelling. As a result, it also makes the problems they have all the more heartrending.

By the time everything is said and done, there are a couple of things that happen that some readers may find bothersome. The first of these is a potential trigger—and it’s something that can’t be mentioned without spoiling, so I have placed it at the very bottom of this review, in case you wish not to know. Furthermore, romance purists may find the ending less than satisfactory. It is a happy-for-now conclusion, but it’s unconventional compared to the traditional romance format. Even so, I found it to be one of the most realistic parts of the book given the nature of the characters and Leo’s ample philosophizing that takes place in the second half of the book.

I honestly believe that readers of Where We Left Off will either like it a good deal or truly hate it; it’s just the sort of book that won’t be in between. I fall in the first of these camps. But like the second book, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, though the reason is the opposite of the problem I had with the second book: here, I enjoyed Will and Leo as characters and the romantic storyline between them, while I was less thrilled about the plotlines external to that. In all, I recommend this title, and I look forward to seeing what Roan Parrish does next.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Where We Left Off in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Both characters have sex with other people after they have been together. Neither case is a cheating situation exactly, but if you find this troublesome, be forewarned.

In the Middle of Somewhere (Middle of Somewhere, #1)
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Released July 10, 2015
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Read Jay's 4.5-star review

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

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Released February 29, 2016
Buy Dreamspinner | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo
Read Jay's 4-star review

The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

Roan Parrish

Roan Parrish is currently wandering between Philadelphia and New Orleans, drowning out her cat's complaints at riding int he car by singing along to the radio at ever-increasing volumes. A former academic, she's used to writing things that no one reads. She still loves to geek out about books, movies, TV, and music—now, though, she's excited to be writing the kind of romantic, angsty stories that she loves to escape into.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends' hair, meandering through whatever city she's in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing.

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