Author: S.A. McAuley
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
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 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.
In many ways, Jesse Solomona is a ticking time bomb. Whether it be the herculean sized helping of anger, fear and quilt that he carries with him that is waiting to explode, his alcoholism that allows him to escape the life he both hates and fears losing control over or his sexuality that he refuses to examine too closely for fear he sees the truth about himself and his preferences, Jesse is poised on the edge of a cliff and barely holding on. Then Chuck Dunn comes into town and into the closely knit group of Kensington boys that Jesse loves so very much and every lie Jesse has been telling himself gets blown clear out of the water. Jesse wants Chuck—and despite Chuck’s knowing better and having left another man because of his refusal to come out of the closet, much like Jesse, Chuck wants Jesse right back. So begins their clandestine affair that will force Jesse to either make serious changes in his life or lose the man he is almost certain he loves. The only question that remains is will Jesse lose it all when he finally can bring himself to admit the truth?
Touching upon such themes as spousal abuse, alcoholism and even teen suicide, Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley is a sweeping coming out tour de force that manages to be both sweetly romantic and harshly realistic simultaneously. These characters are genuinely in pain and carry such incredible past trauma on their souls that it is a miracle they survive the hard work needed to become somewhat whole again. For Jesse, there is considerable guilt heaped with lies and subterfuge about his sister and her past. With an abusive husband and a dead father who repeatedly abused her, as well, she turned to her younger brother for help. With their mother remarried to Jesse’s dad and finally happy, both step-siblings opted to keep things hidden from their mother—this would prove to be a near fatal error and create such fear and guilt in Jesse that he turns to alcohol in order to forget. When that is added to his belief that bisexuality is not real and therefore his occasional dalliances with men can’t really mean anything, you have one screwed up man who is a walking disaster—a disaster that Chuck is drawn to despite his misgivings about dating yet another closeted guy. For Chuck a pair of cold hearted and unfeeling parents did their job to drive him away permanently. The fact that they can still hurt him with their lack of interest in his life or well-being is something that angers Chuck more than ever. But Jesse soothes all that—and the two men begin down a road that cannot possibly end well—nor does it.
So much pain and strife happens in this novel and yet there is such hope and renewal. The author carefully creates characters who, when they finally must grapple with the mess their lives have become, rise to the occasion with much help—both professional in terms of therapy and in friendships that survive despite all the secrets needing to be revealed. I really love Jesse—he is the quintessential wounded hero and a lovely gentle bear of a man who spent way too much time making sure everyone was happy except for him. It was indeed hard to watch his life implode but joyous to see it reboot. Chuck was just the perfect man for Jesse—both tender and a true friend but not a pushover—standing up and leaving when he needed to regardless of how much it crushed him to walk away.
I really enjoyed Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley. It was a brilliant romance that was hard fought and bittersweet, at times. But in the end, theirs was a love that managed to survive the roughest of starts and a near death and will carry Jesse and Chuck into a brighter future with each other.
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