Out of the Shade

Out of the Shade

The hardest battle is the fight to be yourself....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...

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Title:Out of the Shade
Author:S.A. McAuley
Rating:

Out of the Shade Reviews

  • iam

    This was

    alcoholism, violence, past and present domestic violence and sexual abuse and rape of a side character (mostly off page but there are some graphic descriptions), side character attempts suicide, homophobia, internalized biphobia; mentions of drug addiction.

    Most content warnings can also be found in the book's blurb!

    As heavy as these content warnings sound.... I was surprised to find that

    is not a dark book at all. In fact it was warm

    This was

    alcoholism, violence, past and present domestic violence and sexual abuse and rape of a side character (mostly off page but there are some graphic descriptions), side character attempts suicide, homophobia, internalized biphobia; mentions of drug addiction.

    Most content warnings can also be found in the book's blurb!

    As heavy as these content warnings sound.... I was surprised to find that

    is not a dark book at all. In fact it was warm and really funny and witty at parts which I totally didn't expect.

    I also didn't expect to like the Kensington boys - Jesse's group of friends who all grew up in the same town, a tightly knit and almost exclusive group that does everything together and is defined by their love for and loyalty to each other.

    While the parents, wives and kids of these men are also very much involved, I didn't expect to like the dynamics going on. It's not exactly a small town environment, but similar, with hypermasculinity and focus on traditions very prevalent. I fully expected to be made very uncomfortable by the men's interactions - so I was completely floored when I wasn't, and instead genuinely loved the dynamics of the group.

    Yeah, there are a few silly jokes about being manly men, and there's different friendships within the group, but the love and care they all have for each other was palpable at all times. And as I mentioned before, while the core group are the men, their singular families are very much involved as well.

    I also liked the journey of Chuck and Jesse's relationship. They are both great characters (fleshed out and likeable, like the rest of the big cast) and I liked that the romance wasn't a straightforward line from meeting -> attraction -> dating -> minor conflict -> happily ever after. The way it was felt natural for the characters and fit their storylines very well, as well as driving home that a romantic partner isn't the solution to any and all problems.

    Despite me saying it's not a dark book, there are quite a few heavy topics handled in it. Both the main characters and the side ones go and/or have gone through quite a bit.

    Both the abuse and the queerphobia was handled very well, even if it was heartbreaking at times.

    Especially the way Jesse views his own sexuality got to me, and it very well got the point across that representation and support matters.

    There's a bit of a weight loss/getting into shape plotline going on, but it's rather minor.

    A minor plotline I liked was Jesse getting more in touch with his heritage: he's biracial, with a white mother and a east polynesian/from New Zealand.

    In the Author's Note the author talks about her own experiences of growing up in such a tightly knit environment and how

    is a very personal book, which is very apparent while reading. I'm glad she chose to publish it because it's an important, touching story on top of being a great, well written book.

  • Bo

    This was a hard story to get into at first, but I ended up loving it. Be warned... so many triggers! I don't wanna spoil anything, but there are a lot of possible triggers. It's not graphic and most is not on page in detail. This book had so much going on, maybe too much for some, but it worked for me. I found it raw and real, too real sometimes. Sometimes friends and family let us down, and sometimes we let ourselves down the most. We have to LOVE ourselves before we can love anyone else. I rea

    This was a hard story to get into at first, but I ended up loving it. Be warned... so many triggers! I don't wanna spoil anything, but there are a lot of possible triggers. It's not graphic and most is not on page in detail. This book had so much going on, maybe too much for some, but it worked for me. I found it raw and real, too real sometimes. Sometimes friends and family let us down, and sometimes we let ourselves down the most. We have to LOVE ourselves before we can love anyone else. I really felt for these characters through their many trials and triumphs. The camaraderie in helping the community was inspiring. Did I sense something between Ryan and Kam!? I might just be crazy!?😬

  • ☆ Todd

    For me, this was a story with which I most definitely did *not* immediately connect.

    When the book began and I was introduced to the world of the Kensington Boys, it was all so completely... Bro Dude. There was even caveman speak for fucksake!

    Instead of this tight-knit group of men in their thirties coming across as grown-ups, it felt much more like they were still stuck in their college fraternity days. Or worse, high school.

    They were getting drunk and acting immature in nearly every single scen

    For me, this was a story with which I most definitely did *not* immediately connect.

    When the book began and I was introduced to the world of the Kensington Boys, it was all so completely... Bro Dude. There was even caveman speak for fucksake!

    Instead of this tight-knit group of men in their thirties coming across as grown-ups, it felt much more like they were still stuck in their college fraternity days. Or worse, high school.

    They were getting drunk and acting immature in nearly every single scene, which got tiring and old pretty quickly. I'm assuming that was why a few of my Goodreads friends DNF'd the story pretty early on.

    The book eventually got better, to the point that there were actual feelings, instead of just grunts and groans as pitchers of beer were passed around the tables by grown man-children with wives and families at home.

    I really liked Chuck right from the start, and Jesse was okay, but it took a while for me to connect with him, after coming across as yet another of those closeted "

    " kinda guys.

    The story did eventually bring me around to the point where I was fully invested in Jesse and Chuck's relationship, thankfully, so I enjoyed the story as a whole.

    What I didn't enjoy as much was Jesse's alcoholism, which was completely unexpected, since he didn't seem any more out of control with his drinking than any of the other Kensington Boys.

    We were *told*, not *shown*, about his problems with getting drunk and becoming belligerent in the past (referred to as him going "

    "), but it was so out of left field that the plot point felt contrived to me.

    *ding-ding*

    One slutty ex-girlfriend, a flurry of shots, and one run-in with the law later and we saw the MC's were broken up, which has never been my favorite thing in stories. But at least that time was used wisely here, which increased my liking of where the story ultimately headed.

    In regards to steam, this was *not* a slow burn read, as the pair met, hung out, then immediately got down and dirty with one another. Then post-separation through the end of the book, the sex is pretty sparse.

    This was a fairly-angsty read, but never really tip-toed up to the line of comically absurd, being more of a steady stream of "

    "

    I'd rate this story at around 3.75 stars, after dropping the score a bit for the lack-luster sections at the beginning, which didn't work for me at all.

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  • haletostilinski

    I fell for this author when I read her Borders War series, starting with

    . I felt that that series was severely underappreciated and I think I've been waiting for this author to come out with another book for a long time, to not only see what she could do with something completely different, but also to just get more S.A. McAuley.

    While this wasn't a complete win for me, it was still really really good, in my opinion. It's always tough to read stories where one of the MC's

    I fell for this author when I read her Borders War series, starting with

    . I felt that that series was severely underappreciated and I think I've been waiting for this author to come out with another book for a long time, to not only see what she could do with something completely different, but also to just get more S.A. McAuley.

    While this wasn't a complete win for me, it was still really really good, in my opinion. It's always tough to read stories where one of the MC's is extremely closeted - or closeted at all, but especially when it is extreme - so going into this I knew it wouldn't be an easy read.

    Sometimes, for some people, even if they grow up in a good household, and never had anything particularly homophobic thrown at them specifically, they still can't handle being not straight, and it seems like they never will come out - and for some people, they never do, or do it very late in life - and Jesse is that person.

    His sister had an abusive father - physically and sexually - and then she married an abusive man - but while that definitely affects Jesse because he loves his sister and wants her to be happy, it isn't happen

    Jesse, so it isn't like this trauma is happening

    him. But other than that, he has two parents who love him - his father is different from his sister's father - and while they're somewhat distant with him, that doesn't mean they're bad parents.

    Jesse has grown up with the Kensington boys, a group of fairly exclusionary guys who take pride in being a group of friends from Kensington. I don't know if Jesse grew up with these guys being particularly homophobic, but I bet there was a casual homophobia among some of them, nothing too overt, but homophobic all the same, even though there's only one guy in the group who really has a problem with gay guys - like when Chuck shows up, no one seems to care except for Ryan.

    So, for all intents and purposes, it's a wonder why Jesse is

    afraid, so much so that he's 33 years old, and still closeted, still hiding that he sleeps with men as well as women - and he is bisexual, not gay, but he's still scared about anyone finding out he likes men as well - and is so messed up by his attraction to men that he turned to the bottle to hide his anxiety and fear and everything over it, and he becomes an alcoholic, really.

    But sometimes it doesn't have to be so horrible for someone to start drinking or self-destructing, sometimes it's their own fucked up thoughts, without any real outside interference, that does it, and that's what happens with Jesse.

    I did love how this book took Jesse's journey. He hits rock bottom around 40, 45% and it's only up from there, really. He gets almost black out drunk - which of course, Chuck has never seen how he acts when he gets that drunk - and to make matters worse, he lets his problems with Chuck and himself manifest badly enough that he beats up Emily's abusive ex almost to death. Not that anyone would miss the guy, but that's not the point. Jesse truly reaches rock bottom.

    As for the romance - I do have to say that some of my problem with this was the lack of connection between Chuck and Jesse at first. It was there, but...it wasn't

    of a connection for me. So much so that I was wondering why these men were falling for each other. We didn't get to see enough, in my opinion. The sex also felt rushed and that detracted from my enjoyment too. I was expecting more detailed and passionate sex, if not emotional yet.

    Now, that connection did grow more as the book went on and these two got to a much better place, and I did come to really love them together (although the sex was still rushed, which annoyed me. I wanted the making love scenes, okay? Not enough explicitness or passion in the sex scenes for me - they even felt rushed over at times, and it was a bummer for me, especially when I know this author can write incredibly good sex scenes.) and enjoy them together. But at first I just wasn't really feeling it, though.

    Of course, just as I was starting to feel it between them, everything went to shit. In the end the separation was necessary, but sure was hard to read. Also,

    So overall, I really enjoyed this, especially the second half. I saw other reviews stating how the first half wasn't the most fun to read, and I agree. But also we have to read the first half to get that second half. We have to earn that happiness just like Jesse does. We have to see him reach rock bottom in order to see him reach true happiness. We had to see just how bad things were and how bad they got to see Jesse finally pull his head of out his ass and get his life together so he could be happy, whether or not Chuck was in his life (although Chuck is a definite bonus ;) )

    So overall, I really enjoyed this and I hope to get more stories from this author in the future, I feel she is so underrated. And while this wasn't perfect for me, overall it was really good and deserving of a read (and yes, just stick with it through the first half to get to the awesome second half.)

    Two thumbs up from me!

  • Sheri

    This story was painful yet rewarding. From the final note, I gather this story wasn't easy to write. In all honesty, it wasn't easy to read either. It pulled all sorts of emotions from me; frustration, anger, and disappointment.

    It was dark and cloudy...then suddenly a horrible storm blew me away.

    I was inching towards a book tantrum, but thankfully I regained control.

    Why? Because buds of hope began to blossom. Slowly but surely the course shifted. Change can be beautiful. Jesse'

    This story was painful yet rewarding. From the final note, I gather this story wasn't easy to write. In all honesty, it wasn't easy to read either. It pulled all sorts of emotions from me; frustration, anger, and disappointment.

    It was dark and cloudy...then suddenly a horrible storm blew me away.

    I was inching towards a book tantrum, but thankfully I regained control.

    Why? Because buds of hope began to blossom. Slowly but surely the course shifted. Change can be beautiful. Jesse's transformation was radiant. I was overjoyed and bubbling with glee, while deep-seated contentment settled into my bones. I was touched with the sincerity.

    My eyes welled and my heart lifted. It was remarkable.

    This journey hurt but before long, tender gestures soothed the sting. Am I glad I pushed through and fought along with them? Yeah. Yeah, I am. Jesse and Chuck discover love can be painful, it can take patience as well as insurmountable effort. But at the end of the road, there's no greater joy than being loved straight through to your core. When someone truly loves you, scars (internal and inked) and all, you should hold tight and never let them go. Jesse wanted Chuck with every cell in his body but he knew he had to love himself first. This turned out to be a much bigger challenge than he anticipated. How can you love yourself when you can't accept yourself? How can you be true to others, when you hide in the shadows? Denial can be a suffocating beast. Jesse began to patch one affliction with another and soon, he was drowning in a sea of self-inflicted pain. Turns out Jesse may have been born a fighter, but the most tenacious battle has been with himself. The taste of victory is sweet but sharing it with his heart's greatest desire is the ultimate reward.

    Charles, Chuck, Chuckie....whatever you call him, I adored him. I quickly fell for him and could easily see why Jesse did too. Neither are perfect, their relationship is far from it. Yet, they were utterly and completely perfect for one another. 

    There are triggers aplenty, separations, and a lengthy list of distressing moments. And yet, again, I still consider it a worthy journey. Kind of a,

    book but a wager I'm grateful I took.

    A vested reader. Patience is key. Just do me a favor, please? If you start, give them a chance, and don't give up on them. Trust me, there is forgiveness, rebirth, and redemption.

  • Nat ReadingAllNite

    I’ve really liked the few books I’ve read by this author and was intrigued by the blurb of this new one. I found a wonderfully layered story and complex characters caught up in a strong hurt/comfort trope. Jesse is one of a group of long-time friends, the Kensington boys, and measures much of his self worth by how those friends perceive him. He’s bisexual but terrified of the consequences of coming out. Chuck is brought into the circle of friends when he decides to document the youth boxing at t

    I’ve really liked the few books I’ve read by this author and was intrigued by the blurb of this new one. I found a wonderfully layered story and complex characters caught up in a strong hurt/comfort trope. Jesse is one of a group of long-time friends, the Kensington boys, and measures much of his self worth by how those friends perceive him. He’s bisexual but terrified of the consequences of coming out. Chuck is brought into the circle of friends when he decides to document the youth boxing at the center run by Kam, another of the guys. Chuck and Jesse hook up fairly quickly and develop a relationship but Jesse’s demons and secrets have him spiraling out of control and Chuck hurt and betrayed.

    I’ll admit to some confusion on how many “boys” there are but only a handful play a part in the narrative. It almost seems like two stories, the blooming romance and passionate intimacy between Chuck and Jesse in the first part, then needed healing and growth in the aftermath of Jesse’s personal crises. The second part delves deeply into both Jesse and Chuck’s perspectives and motivations. It becomes heartbreaking at times and I ached for these guys. It didn’t become maudlin or over-dramatized and I enjoyed the background at the youth center a great deal. An epilogue leads to a strong HEA, always the best part. There was potential for a series in the narrative, so I’ll keep an eye out for any follow-up stories with more Kensington boys. Recommended!

    *An ARC was provided by an author, publisher or a promotional service and I have chosen to publish a fair and honest review*

  • Alisa

    3.5 stars

    This was an interesting book for me. I really struggled with it for the first half. I took an immediate disliking to Jesse and his dudebro friends. I actually disliked Jesse so much that I was ready to quit the book around 40%. I couldn't see what Chuck saw in him. I generally like this author's work and I have a lot of reader friends who really liked this one though so I pushed through.

    The last half of the book was a lot better for me. Once Jesse makes some changes in his life I found

    3.5 stars

    This was an interesting book for me. I really struggled with it for the first half. I took an immediate disliking to Jesse and his dudebro friends. I actually disliked Jesse so much that I was ready to quit the book around 40%. I couldn't see what Chuck saw in him. I generally like this author's work and I have a lot of reader friends who really liked this one though so I pushed through.

    The last half of the book was a lot better for me. Once Jesse makes some changes in his life I found myself liking him more. I didn't have a problem with him being in the closet but I really hated the drinking and frat boy type behavior. For men in their mid-30's it just seemed childish and immature to me. I intellectually know that there are different types of people in the world who have different lifestyles but I just disliked Jesse's so much I was having trouble be tolerant.

    As I said, Jesse makes some lifestyle changes and becomes a person I liked much better around the 60% mark. I ended up liking the last part of the book quite a lot and I enjoyed the romance towards the end. Despite my personal qualms with Jesse, the writing was really good and the plot was interesting. Any negative vibes I had were personal and not in reflection to the author's work. I also really enjoyed the author's note at the end. I don't think I've mentioned those in many reviews over the years but I thought this one was very interesting and I recommend you take a minute to read it.

  • Karen

    Me and this story got off to a rough start but things really turned around for me and at the end of it all this was a solid 4 star read...full review to follow soonish!

    I shouldn't have liked this one and I do mean a lot. So let's get on with this and start a list...

    first off there's the whole neanderthal caveman mentality, copious amounts of alcohol consumption, there's a group of men that in some ways don't seem to have really made it past their high school or

    Me and this story got off to a rough start but things really turned around for me and at the end of it all this was a solid 4 star read...full review to follow soonish!

    I shouldn't have liked this one and I do mean a lot. So let's get on with this and start a list...

    first off there's the whole neanderthal caveman mentality, copious amounts of alcohol consumption, there's a group of men that in some ways don't seem to have really made it past their high school or college days...yeah, let's be generous and say college days...so, in truth I could probably go through the first part of this book and by part I mean about 30 probably 40% and pick out all kinds of details that made me crazy, annoyed the hell out of me or at the very least had me using some very unladylike language. So to those who dnf'd before the halfway point, in all honestly I get it I really do and another time I very probably would have done the same.

    But right now in this moment for me it turned out it was a case of the right time for the right story and the second half of this book was the right story, for me. It was the story that I was looking to read.

    In the first part of this story we meet Jesse Solomona and to be honest the only thing I was definite about during the first part of the story was I did not like Jesse. He was someone with addiction issues...sorry, I don't care what Jesse wants to tell himself. He's an alcoholic add in some definite anger issues...the man was at times abusive towards his friends..seriously I did not like Jesse and if I had done a dnf on this one he would have been the biggest reason.

    Then we have Chuck Dunn a tattooed and pierced sports photographer who's walked away from a very successful career and while he doesn't advertise it, he also doesn't hide in the closet.

    We also meet the Kensington Boys and their wives. These are Jesse's friends. He's grown up with these men and they play league sports together they go drinking together, celebrate holidays and special events together, go drinking together, go on vacation together, go drinking together...are you seeing a pattern here? I have to say I'm not really sure how many Kensington Boys there are but this group is beyond important to Jesse...they're so important to Jesse that being who he thinks they want him to be is far more important to him than being who he wants to be.

    While I wasn't a fan of Jesse this was not the case with Chuck. I liked Chuck and honestly I was definitely not a fan of Chuck with Jesse because, for me, Jesse just did not deserve someone like Chuck...nope, not even a little bit.

    So here I am not quite halfway through the story and honestly leaning towards moving on but there's this little voice that whispers in my ear and says..."But what if you're suppose to read this one...what if it's the last half of the book that's important...that's the story you're looking for...what if you're missing out but not finishing this." and I have to admit that voice whispers in my ear quite often and most of the time I do listen to it...every once in a while I tell it to shut up and go away but somewhere in the clusterf*ck that was the beginning of this book there were a few little things that resonated with me and made me want to know a bit more...like Jesse's sister and some of the Kensington Boys and their wives were interesting and yeah, I admit it Jesse and Chuck just weren't quite working for me so I wanted to see how this could ever possibly work.

    I picked through what worked and what didn't and weighed the pros and cons of it and at the end of it all I thought "What the hell, I've come this far. Why stop now?" so I didn't and here's what I found...

    For me the second half of this book is about what happens when you hit rock bottom and realize that you've basically destroyed your life and lost what matters the most. It's about second chances and what it takes to deserve them and me, I love second chances.

    For everything that drove me crazy about the first half of this book there was equally as much that made me so glad that I stuck with it in the second half of the story. For me the last half of this book is about change, it's about life and it's about love. Jesse is a man who needs to change to get the future that he wants instead of the one that's being created by his destructive behavior, Chuck needs to let go of his past if he's going to have a chance with the man that he's falling in love with and even with some of the secondary characters there's growth and change...maybe not as dramatic or as obvious as that of Jesse or even Chuck but it's the small things the subtle things that often happen in day to day life...somethings may only be a blip on the radar while other things can mean so much more than we realize at the moment...but still it's change and change is life.

    I've always said that if we don't go through the bad times, how can we truly appreciate and know how special the good times are and I feel like that's what happened here the beginning of this story is Jesse's bad times and in order for the reader to truly appreciate the good times and what it took for Jesse to get to them we needed to go through the bad times with him.

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    An ARC of "Out of the Shade" was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

  • Laxmama

    3.75 STARS While I enjoyed this one I would not say it was amazing. One of the MC's Jesse is extremely closeted within a close group of friends. Along with being insecure about coming to terms with who he is he also is carrying a ton of emotional family baggage & an awful alcoholic which adds to his internal struggles. He meets Chuck through his friends and so the story begins. I enjoyed the characters together, it did drag at some points for me and some of the extra side characters confused

    3.75 STARS While I enjoyed this one I would not say it was amazing. One of the MC's Jesse is extremely closeted within a close group of friends. Along with being insecure about coming to terms with who he is he also is carrying a ton of emotional family baggage & an awful alcoholic which adds to his internal struggles. He meets Chuck through his friends and so the story begins. I enjoyed the characters together, it did drag at some points for me and some of the extra side characters confused me but enjoyable.

  • Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

    DNF at 24%. No rating.

    I'm going to be nice and not rate this one, but I don't like the story. I'm surprised, because I usually enjoy this author, but the dude-bro vibes and the sex-forward plot (I usually don't like sex until a connection is established- just my preference) isn't working for me.

    I also don't like the fact that the MCs are drinking in literally every single scene. The whole story feels rough and one-note.

    However, I have many friends who have enjoyed this one, so I'm going to bo

    DNF at 24%. No rating.

    I'm going to be nice and not rate this one, but I don't like the story. I'm surprised, because I usually enjoy this author, but the dude-bro vibes and the sex-forward plot (I usually don't like sex until a connection is established- just my preference) isn't working for me.

    I also don't like the fact that the MCs are drinking in literally every single scene. The whole story feels rough and one-note.

    However, I have many friends who have enjoyed this one, so I'm going to bow out now. Not for me.

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