Book: Looking In
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Publication date: September 3, 2017
Length: 237 pages
Reviewed by Meredith
David Barrows world fell apart at the age of eleven after his mother died. Years of physical and emotional abuse followed, leaving him scarred in body and mind, mired in the belief that he is unlovable. He spends his days working in a comic shop, and his nights alone wrestling with the ghosts of his past.
As a Marine, Adam Duncan has sworn to protect and serve, and there is no one he is more protective of than his brother and nephew. When tragedy strikes, threatening the security of his family, his protective instincts kick in. But how can he fight an enemy he can’t see?
David and Adam feel the connection between them, but David has built walls around his heart that no one has bothered to break through, until Adam. Adam can see what a special man David is, and is willing to do whatever it takes to break down those barriers. Can he make David see he doesn’t have to keep living his life…Looking In?
***Possible trigger warning - This book contains scenes of abuse and self-harm***
First thing I'll say about Looking In by Michael Bailey is that I'm shocked this is a debut novel. He writes with a confident ease. The common first time author errors are almost non-existent. I would have assumed he'd been writing for years. So, let that calm your "oh dear a new author" worries.
This book is so realistically written it almost reads like a biography. Adam is a former Marine who's homecoming is bittersweet when it's announced his nephew has been diagnosed with leukemia. Now, to know Adam is to know how huge his heart is, how strong his arm are and will embrace, love, and protect you. And to know how bright and shiny his personality is. He's unique and you instantly love him. When he decided he will make his nephew's time in the hospital as fun as possible you feel that determination... and so enters David.
Adam was born for this man. That's the bare bones of it. David is an uber geek and in that aspect he felt like a kindred spirit for me. But David is broken. Shattered by a past that he has no control over. Without giving spoilers I'll simply say, David is a child abuse survivor. I won't say more but its molded him into the depressed, untrusting person he is.
When Adam sweeps into his life to make his nephew's life better, he's making David's life better too.
Angst? yes. Emotional? Yes. Hopeful, beautiful, and unforgettable? Absolutely. This debut novel was a breath-stealing surprise that I will not soon forget. I highly recommend this book.
I popped open the fridge and pulled out a beer for myself and popped the cap off. "Beer? Pop?"
He chewed on his bottom lip, debating his course. I found the act endearing. Before he could answer, I pulled a second beer out, twisted off the cap and handed it to him, leaning in to give him a kiss.
I could seriously get used to the taste of his lips.
I leaned against the counter and watched him take a tentative first sip from his bottle. Shyly, he said, "Thank you for coming over."
I grinned despite myself. "I really did miss you."
Shy David was an adorable David. "You've been busy. I get it. And, anyway, it's not like we haven't talked or gone out."
"No, it's not, but it also hasn't been…right."
He tilted his head. "What do you mean?"
I thought a moment, thinking through what I wanted to say. "Everything's just been so…rushed since Lucas's diagnosis. I haven't had time to concentrate on things the way I want to. And I don't think I've been fair to you."
He seemed surprised by this admission. He took a long pull from his beer, and I could see the wheels turning in his head. "You haven't been unfair to me."
"I feel that I have. You deserve to feel like you're not being put on the back burner.”
“I don't. Adam, your nephew’s going through chemo. Your number one priority should be your family."
"I know. And they are. But…" And I trailed off, words that I wanted to say lodged in my throat. I swore earlier that I wasn't going to force him into anything he wasn't ready for, and that went for sexually or the relationship. I still wasn't sure what he'd be comfortable with, and the last thing I wanted to do was scare him.
It was my turn to feel embarrassed. If there's one thing that the military drills out of you, it's how to express your feelings. It's seen as being unmanly. But I wanted to show a different side to David. He deserved to see my vulnerable side. "But I want you to be a priority too."
I heard his sharp intake of air just before he raised the bottle to his lips. I watched him drink. Finally, he said, "I don't have to be."
With that sentence, I knew what I was dealing with. No one had made him a priority. He didn't feel as if he should be a priority. If I ever met the people who put him through the meat grinder, I swore I'd break their neck. No one should feel unimportant.
I set my bottle on the counter and approached him slowly. Gently taking his bottle from him, I set it on the counter next to mine and turned back to him. He tried to look away, but I put a finger on his chin and turned his head so he had no choice but to look at me. Placing both hands on each of his arms, I said, "I want you to be."
He turned from me, pulling himself from my hold. "I don't understand why. Why is this so important to you?"
"Because you are important to me. David, if someone had told me a month ago that I'd walk into a comic shop, I'd have laughed my ass off. If they had told me I'd meet you there, I'd have called them a liar. You are important to me. I know it scares you. You have every right, and I'm not asking you to change how you feel. All I'm asking is that you believe me."
"You don't know how I feel."
"No, you're right. I don't. But I think I have a pretty damn good idea. Be honest with me, you thought I was going to leave after what happened on the couch."
His body went rigid and his head dipped. He didn't have to say a word. His body language told me everything I needed to know. I approached him from behind and rested my hands on his shoulders. I allowed them to glide down his chest, and gently pulled him to me, his back to my front. "I'm not," I whispered into his ear.
I felt his chest expand and he drew in a deep breath. He was trying to keep himself composed when that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted those walls to come down, to see me for who I was, and us for what we could be.
"You can't say that."
"Why not? It's the truth."
"No, it's not. People leave."
”Yes, Some do, I said. "But I'm not one them. I know myself, and I know that when something is as important to me as you are, I don't walk away. It’s not in me. I know it's a lot to ask. I really do. But I also know that we could have something fantastic here."
"Just the sex, right?" The sense of dejection in his voice sent a crack into my heart. I turned him to face me, and I saw the tears sliding down his cheeks. I didn't know he'd been crying and the fact that he was shattered my heart further. I pulled him to me wrapping my arms around him and held him close.
"No, not just sex. Us. I think we could be…are fantastic together."
He rested his forehead on my shoulder and sobbed. I could only venture a guess as to why because he wasn't very forthcoming. Instead, I combed my fingers through his hair and gently kissed his neck and shoulder, all the while holding him tightly against me. If he had a difficult time in believing, I could believe for the both of us, and I hoped that by sheer force of will, that sense of belief would seep into his body from mine.
The oven alarm finally sounded and he pulled away. As he wiped his eyes, he said, "Sorry."
About the Author
Michael Bailey is the oldest of three, from the Glass Capital of the world, Toledo Ohio.
Don’t laugh too hard.
He’s dreamed of writing since he was eleven years old when he wrote a truly awful Choose-You-Own-Adventure. It sold exactly zero copies. His mother may have a copy lying around somewhere. Mothers keep that kind of thing.
Through junior high and high school, he wrote a number of short stories, one actually published in the first (and only) issue of his high school’s literary magazine.
Life took control shortly thereafter, as it often does, and the dream of writing was put on hold. Then, in November of 2016, he took a leap of faith, and began writing his first novel as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) competition. The goal of the competition is to write a 50,000-word novel in a thirty-day period.
However, on the advice of a friend, he “pushed through”. And so, in September of 2017, his first novel will be published.
Michael is offering one person a $10.00 Amazon gift card
Enter the rafflecopter below.
Contest will end September 14th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway