Title: Out of the Shade
Author: S.A. McAuley
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.40 stars out of 5
Jesse Solomona has always tried to be the perfect straight guy–a cocky sports fan capable of drinking more than he did in his fraternity days and an expert at one-night-stands. That he hooks up with just as many men as he does women is a secret Jesse’s been hiding for years, fearful of losing his family and tight group of friends. He’s a Kensington boy–a group of guys that grew up in the same neighborhood and somehow all ended up back in their hometown. They, and his family, are the only things that still matter in his otherwise soul-sucking life.
Chuck Dunn, a tattooed and pierced sports photographer, has refused to step back into the closet since he was disowned by his family, but he keeps choosing men who can’t fully be with him. Finally free from a long-term relationship he should’ve ended years ago, he quits his high-profile gig in favor of getting back to the art of sports photography–documenting a local boxing club that works with at-risk teenagers. He may not have the same swagger anymore, but he’s working to be happy with who he is.
When Chuck joins one of the Kensington boys’ community center sports leagues, Jesse’s self-imposed rules are systematically demolished. But there’s one barrier Jesse can’t find the strength to break through–coming out to the other Kensington boys. Chuck knows hooking up with Jesse is a bad idea. Falling for him even worse. But he can’t stay away.
Chuck is damaged by his past. Jesse is frightened about his future. But, together, they may just be able to come out of the shade.
Reader Advisory: Out of the Shade is a standalone novel with an HEA that carries the following warnings–alcoholism, mentions of sexual and physical abuse, mentions of drug addiction, mentions of rape, attempted suicide by a minor character, violence, homophobia, closeting
The blurb says it all, more or less. We join the close-knit community of the Kensington boys (not the Kensington, London, but one of the US Kensingtons). The boys have known each other and have been hanging out together since they were kids. They’re now in their early thirties, most of them have married, some of them have kids, and their rituals consist of playing football once a week (I wasn’t quite sure if it was your American football, though, or our football, which I think you call soccer, for odd reasons), making testosterone-powered jokes of dubious taste and wit, slapping each other’s backs, and occasionally getting pissed together. One of our main characters, Jesse “Sollie” Solomona, is part of that group. He seems to be the only one left who’s not married by now. His buddies think it’s because he’s a serial womanizer, but in fact, as he’s a closeted and shameful bisexual, he keeps his encounters both with dudes and chicks casual (and the former well hidden from his friends). Jesse is also the guy who drinks most, to the point where his drinking is no social hanging-out-together-with-the-boys habit anymore, but has turned to a serious problem everyone but him is worried about. Arrives Charles “Chuck” Dunn, sports photographer of nation-wide renown, openly gay, but as butch and buff as the Kensington gang. He’s immediately accepted as one the group, even though he doesn’t hide his sexual orientation. And Jesse is immediately attracted to this masterpiece of a hunky hunk. Same thing for Chuck. Unsurprisingly, they hit the sack only a couple of pages into the book with sizzles and moans and brewing chemistry galore. But Jesse isn’t the only one with issues. Chuck has only recently left behind his well-paid job and his closeted on-and-off boyfriend, a professional basketball player, because he longs for open commitment.
The lusty, emotionally charged but commitment-wise frustrating story of Jesse and Chuck evolves for the first third of the book. Sex-scenes make the pages steam, cosy buddy-moments in Jesse’s house hint at a deep level of understanding between the two guys, who you can see falling head over heels in love with each other, but as soon as another person enters the frame, they have to pretend they’re just best mates. I was getting the dynamics of the plot right from the start, but I have to admit, I was almost struggling with that first third. The guys too butch and rough-necked for my taste, way too much sports (shoot me), way too much self-loathing from Jesse and even, to a certain point, Chuck. I couldn’t shake off the big question either: why the dickens does Jesse think he must hide his feelings for Chuck (and his attraction to men, more generally speaking) from his group of friends? You get the feeling those guys have spent all their adult lives having each other’s backs and accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies, kinks and jerks, so Jesse coming out wouldn’t be a big deal for anyone (except one guy, who didn’t welcome Chuck into their group as warmly as the others). So, why does Jesse procrastinate, endangering his budding romance? For Chuck can only take so much prevarication…
Well, that’s when the shit seriously hits the fan, pardon my French. And that’s when I got definitely hooked, drawn in, unable to put the book down. Because Jesse’s issues, which you could have thought minor ones, cause a break-up with Chuck and even get him arrested. The first third of the book finally sums up. Everything falls into place, with me, the poor reader, thinking that the author wants to deprive me of my thoroughly longed-for HEA. The serious stuff just seems to go on and on too. Don’t get me wrong—serious stuff tackled with intelligence, insight and empathy, as is done in this book, is absolutely no turn-off for me. As the blurb warning says, the issues explored in this book include alcoholism, childhood and adult abuse, gay/bisexual self-loathing, violence, attempted suicide, a family throwing out their son because he’s gay. Of course, Jesse carries only some of those burdens, but he, Chuck, and their buddies have to deal with them.
This could have been a bleak book. Yet what I really liked about it is that the author didn’t go for the bleak stance. This is a book about serious problems, but most of all, it’s a book about resilience and redemption. The positive emotions such as friendship, romantic love, self-help and character development outshine the darker sides of mankind. Yes, it’s a book that tells us we all need to embrace who we are, we need to accept our failures, our weaknesses, our wounds in order to learn and become more comfortable with ourselves. Happiness isn’t easily gifted, we all have to struggle and fight to earn moments of it. This was a really compelling, thrilling read I can only recommend. It should be proof-read one last time—commas missing, may-might errors (it’s as if you felt that “might” was only the conditional of may, while it’s simply the past tense). But what I read was a) an ARC, and b) the book is self-published. Now, I know from my own experience how hard it is to find all the little typos, spelling and grammar errors that you edit into your manuscript when you think you’re correcting it, so I’m inclined to be more lenient compared to books released but publishing houses.Buy Link Amazon Global Author Link GoodReads More Author Reviews