I love that the back cover description of this book says it includes “some angst.” Have some tissues handy for at least the first two-thirds of the book. This science-fantasy romance (not sure how else to describe it) doesn’t pull its punches for any of the characters, regardless of their ages. Neil and Joshua don’t seem like a couple who make sense the first time around, but perhaps that was a matter of timing. Both men go through epic highs and lows in the time between when the first Neil dies and the second reunites with Joshua. I think the happy ending we get is worth the journey but be prepared for a very wibbly-wobbly romance arc along the way.
Joshua’s storyline is a more traditional narrative of a man who loses his first love too early but finds a second chance at happiness. But not with Neil, at first. Blake balances a fine thread in how I cared for another relationship in this book, even with the inevitable (second) heartbreak I could see approaching. In no way does this diminish the strength of the bond between the two true heroes of this story.
For Neil’s more circular storyline, Blake breaks narrative expectations by making us care deeply about yet another character. Seeing Neil’s peculiar second childhood from an outside perspective enhances the speculative elements without making the story inaccessible to readers of traditional romance. As this Neil aged, I appreciated that he is not the same character who suddenly has all the answers to life. He is still, however, a cranky disaster at heart, which brought moments of much-needed levity to the eventual reunion between Neil and Joshua that is fraught with tension (and then makes up for the slow burn element of the first portion of this book with plenty of heat of a different kind).
This book was not an easy read, but I encourage it for readers interested in a true cross-genre experience. Despite the inclusion of advanced technology in the story, the science elements are hand-wavy enough that it doesn’t limit suspension of disbelief. From the other direction, this book proves that it’s always possible to have a happily ever after in a story that leans heavily into the speculative “what if?”