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This was a great book to read as summer draws to a close. Chris Owen’s Adagio is romance and travelogue melded together. In just the span of a week, I’ve been through Australia with stops at Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Woomera, Uluru, Kakadu and other places. This story centers around two Canadian natives, Jason and Ryan, who meet and fall in love on the trip.

As we meet Jason, he’s 26 and been in Australia for 5 years. After going through an intense partying phase, he’s put his life back together and decides to do what he had come to Australia for: traveling through the Outback painting. Not long after he leaves Sydney, he picks up Ryan, who is hitchhiking his way through the country. Ryan turns out to be just barely 18 and staying in the country for a few months after he’d attended a conference at a university in Sydney. Jason takes Ryan further up the road and they part company. But they run into each other again a couple days later, and Jason finds that he is falling for the young man. Finally the third time they meet up, they decide to travel together.

What unfolds is a wonderful romance between the two. Jason teaches the hyper-wound-up Ryan how to relax and enjoy a vacation (Ryan, it turns out, is super-smart, working on his PhD) and Ryan helps Jason let his past go. Of course, since it would make for a boring book otherwise, it’s not all smooth sailing for the couple. One night Ryan is assaulted by a trio of men and the two must work through the trauma. As you would expect, that only makes them a stronger couple.

This is the best of the Owen books I’ve read so far. He’s drawn such rich characters here (the way he describes Ryan’s bouncy exuberance is delightful). We get to see the two go through so much together, from the initial friendship to testing out love to deciding what to do when it’s time for Ryan to go back to Toronto to finish his PhD work. It’s the sort of book I would have loved to just sit and read all the way through had time allowed rather than splitting it up over the course of a week. I hope there is a sequel because I would love to see how these characters are doing later in their lives.

Next up: Perry Moore’s Hero.