A Lila Review: Out of Nowhere (Middle of Somewhere #2) by Roan Parrish

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5               ★★★★★

Out of NowhereThe only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

 Colin Mulligan’s story runs concurrently with book one in the series. As we know, he’s an ace when cars are involved, but everything else in his life is a puzzle. When the story starts, we get immediately immersed into Colin’s rage and self-hate. We get to experience, first hand, how he deals with it and the extremes he gets into in order to find some peace. In that first scene, we get exactly who Colin is and what he things about himself.

After spending some time with his best friend, Colin finds himself in a local club looking for a hook-up. He first crossed paths with Rafe at the club, but goes with a different man instead. Even so, Rafe is there when Colin needed him even if he didn’t appreciate the help. The following day, Rafe founds a way to see Colin again and from that moment on, the road to their future starts.

From this point on, the reader gets to experience the ups and downs of Colin’s and Rafe’s relationship, the daily troubles, and how they deal with everything changing around them. They get to interact with a multitude of characters that would shape their path and change how they see their life worth.

This is a complicated story with complex characters, but in the end, we get a resolution that fits their growth. The MCs have a lovely relationship with a strong HFN and a positive outlook for their future. Yes, it’s filled with angst, hurt, pain, and many other dark aspects, but the MCs’ journey compensate for all their suffering.

 Out of Nowhere has everything I like about a book. Dark and damaged characters, trials and tribulations, amazing chemistry and sex scenes, and the opportunity to see how hard the MCs work for their happiness. Plus, mentorship and charity programs. What else is to ask for? Older characters! Colin is thirty-six.

 Disclaimer thought, I may, or may not have cried a little reading this book.

 Well? Okay, going back to the beginning. I’m glad I survived book #1, In the Middle of Somewhere, which I rated 3.5 stars after considering a DNF. In that book, we met Colin through his younger brother’s eyes. And we get a little peek at Rafe. Neither is to say that Colin’s and Daniel’s relationship was not an easy one, but we learned from both books, that Colin was Daniel’s hero when they were younger.

 The majority of Colin’s darkness comes from hating his brother, not for being gay, as Daniel see it, but of envy at Daniel’s courage. Colin’s self-hate absorbs all his time and thoughts, and it only gets worse when he acts on his desires. He pushes his physical boundaries with demanding exercise sessions, lack of sleep, and alcohol to numb his feelings.

 His hopelessness makes him vulnerable to others, and he hates himself even more because of it.  He welcomes pain as a relief from life, no matter where it comes from. Until Rafe, literally, saves him. From their first encounter, we get to see Rafe’s need to help and Colin’s uneasiness. They recognized each other’s potential and want to do better for the other. Slowly, they started a relationship that tested them many times and only the tentative strings of their relationship kept them from falling apart.

I loved how Colin integrated himself into Rafe’s life and social work, even when his constant panic attacks threaten him at every turn. We see the internal and physical changes in Colin as the story progresses and have a chance to understand the man he had become over the years. The events told by Daniel during the first book, make a difference when told by Colin and we get to experience how this affected them and their family.

 With love and understanding, Rafe gives Colin the strength he needs to come back to life. He’s forceful when he needs to, but he is the reason Colin take the first steps to recovery. He has his own problems, and we get to see them almost destroy him, but having Colin on his side and depending on him allowed Rafe to let go and be rescued in return.

 Between all this pain, hurt, and angst, there’s a group of great supporting characters that would steal your heart if you let them. They are the perfect antidote to all the moodiness in this story. And for those who loved book #1, there’s a lot more Daniel and Rex to fill your greedy hearts.

Great cover by AngstyG. It shows an important moment in the story. Plus, the darkness represents Colin’s inner troubles and Rafe’s past perfectly.

 Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon | ARe

 Book Details:

 ebook, 274 pages
Published: February 29, 2016, by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781634769037
Edition Language: English

 Series:  Middle of Somewhere
Book #1: In the Middle of Somewhere
Book #2: Out of Nowhere

A MelanieM Review: Changing Tide by D.P. Denman

Standard

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Changing Tide coverPhotographer David sails into Vancouver Island harbor looking to shoot Orca whales for a photograph book he has in mind and not much else.  David’s 30 ft sailboat, Wanderer, is all the home he wants or needs. Then David hires Capt. Jack Lewis’ charter boat for a  whale watching trip and everything changes.  David’s anguished past has kept him from any sort of permanence, whether it is of a location or of the heart.  David’s recent history is that of transience, always on the road or water as the case maybe.  It’s his way of protecting himself and his heart from any additional pain and commitment.   But meeting Jack Lewis and getting a taste of a relationship is making inroads into his heart and scaring him senseless.

When Jack Lewis looked into the eyes of the man who wanted to charter his boat, he was lost.  David is gorgeous, mysterious, but the pain Jack also sees reflected back to him makes him want to take David into his arms and never let him go. Jack has had his fill of casual sexual relationships and hookups, especially in the case of Emerson, a young man who trades sex for status and perhaps money.   David is everything that Emerson is not, David is older, fascinating, and as a freelance  photojournalist, independent.  Before he is aware that it is happening, Jack is falling for David and soon wants much more than perhaps David is capable of giving.

The unexpected relationship between Jack and David moves into dangerous waters as Emerson’s emotions and jealously spiral out of control  combine with David’s fears of commitment and permanence. The emotions build until an explosion born of unresolved relationships and expectations shatter the bonds that holds all the men together.

Sometimes when you read a book, all the good elements you find in a story will be overwhelmed by the issues and outright problem  areas also to be found at that same time.  Unfortunately, that is the case with Changing Tide by D.P. Denman.  In fact there are so many issues to be found within this story that I am going to start with the aspects I liked and enjoyed the most.

I loved the location.  Denman does Vancouver Island proud by portraying the climate, landscape and natural marvels in such a way that I wanted to grab a plane, then charter a boat myself to see the wonders that Vancouver Island and the surrounding seas have to offer.  This includes the majesty, and magic of whale watching.  Even if I was not a naturalist, the passages where Jack spoke in awe of his experiences with Orcas would have reached me emotionally.  Here is an excerpt:

“So tell me about these killer whales,” he shifted the conversation in a not so subtle new direction.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of them over the years.”

“Quite a few. We’re getting to be old friends,” Jack smiled into his mug.

“Does any particular sighting stand out or do they all just flow together?”

“Some stand out, usually because of people’s reaction. A lot of them burst into tears at the sight of an orca.”

“Scared?”

“Amazed. It can be a bit awe-inspiring if you’re not used to it. Hell, it can be awe inspiring even if you are.”

“Nothing like Sea World, huh?”

“Not even a little. They don’t look like much when you see them out of context.

They’re just another fin in a tank.” The look on his face and the tone in his voice reflected the same awe he tried to describe.

That describes in a nutshell some of the highlights and problems with this story.  It starts out well but somewhere around the middle it goes awry. Orcas are pretty amazing no matter how or where you see them (in my opinion) but he is saying that they are just another fin in a tank in captivity while his “voice is reflecting” awe?  Something got lost there.  And the following description of the encounter displays the same missed opportunity by the author.  Its almost right but something in the writing is out of kilter.

“I was out in my old boat, a 30-footer. I killed the engine a few yards out of the straight, right in the middle of the water so we wouldn’t miss anything. Half the group was on the aft deck. A few of us were crouched at the bow and I saw this fin come up out of the water a few yards away. I knew it was going to be close so we called everyone up to the bow. The next thing I know I’m watching this animal as big as a semi come up from the deep almost right under us. The bastard broke the surface close enough to look me in the eye and suddenly all I could see was killer whale.”

An experienced captain is in a 30 ft boat with passengers.  A huge orca’s fin breaks the surface of the water only a few yards away.  And he calls the people over to the side? That makes no sense, and ruins Jack’s credibility as a native and experienced boat captain.  But that is probably my mildest complaint with this story.  We are still getting some wonderful descriptions of how it feels to be on the water, and in Denman’s hand, I defy anyone not to want to make Vancouver Island a vacation destination for any future travel plans.

The author also appears to be familiar with sailboats and her description of David’s small living area aboard the Wanderer felt authentic enough to make me a little claustrophobic.  The same goes for Jack’s gorgeous house that faces the Sound.  I would love to see that one too.  Actually I would love to live there.  From the descriptions of the views seen from inside the bedroom, that would have me moving in a heartbeat.

But this is not a travelogue, nor a real estate brochure.  Nor even a finished product. And that brings me back to the issues and problem areas I spoke of earlier.

First would be the editing and format.  My copy starts out with the first chapter mislabeled as the Epilogue.  Now aside from the fact that an epilogue is found at the back of the book, an epilogue usually shows some sort of closure for the main characters or aspect of the story and this is not a epilogue in any way.  It is merely a mislabeled chapter 1, not even a prologue.   These items (and others) were easily corrected problems and I am flummoxed that they were left in.  I hope it is due to a lack of experience and assistance but the book as received is not something I would expect a reader to pay money for.  It is not polished in any way other than a nice cover.

Then there is the issues of characterization.  My mildest complaint again is that the author shows little continuity starting with the fact that two of her characters have last names and one of her main characters, David, does not.  Either all of them should have complete names or leave it on first names only for everyone in the book.  There’s Crystal, David, Kathy, Cindy and Brett.  Then there is Jack Lewis and Emerson Reid.  Yes, it’s a small issue but descriptive of the bigger ones to be found with the characters and the narrative.

David is probably the only character I enjoyed as he also seemed the most fleshed out.  His back history combined with his present situation seemed realistic   He earns our sympathy and affection.  Then there are all the others, primarily Jack and Emerson.  It seemed as though the author had two personas for each of them and couldn’t decide on which was the one they wanted to use.  So Denman used both.  Jack is an enabling jerk, a selfish and lazy, he is shallow and self deceiving. Jack is also thoughtful, respectful of others, and too kind for his own good. And for me Jack is also finally unlikable.  Then there is Emerson, a 23 year old of murky background and obvious mental and emotional issues.  No one knows Emerson’s true back history so the idea is planted that he is both a gold digger as well as someone also so emotionally unstable that he lives in a fantasy world.  Every one appears to know that something is really wrong with Emerson but no one suggests that he gets help.

Then Denman combines these two somewhat distasteful personas into a convoluted relationship and the story bogs down under its own issues.  At times Jack is supposedly so sexually attracted to Emerson that he can’t stay away, having sex with him even after declaring his affections lie elsewhere.  At other times Jack is treating Emerson like an annoying vagrant dog, petting him, giving out scraps then shutting the door on him.  The author’s treatment of Emerson is no better.  Emerson screeches like a “drama queen”, begs, pouts, shouts , lies and acts hurt.  The reader is left unsure as to what they should be feeling about Emerson.  Should it be pity or irritation or something more? And it’s not like these are realistic, layered characterizations but rather small distinct shallow ones that are constantly deviating from one scene to the next, as slippery as a fish out of water.  And these two characters have the same scene over and over again throughout the story.  This is a typical exchange between the two men:

Emerson pushed the door closed, wrapped arms around him and tried to kiss him. He grabbed his arms and pulled him right back off.

“We need to talk.”

“We can talk later. Fucking first,” Emerson tried to squirm out of his grip.

“This isn’t one of those visits,” his tone got Emerson’s attention.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, exactly. I just think you and I have reached a point where it’s time to end this.”

Emerson blinked back at him and the eager expression slid to a pensive scowl. “What?”

“It’s obvious you want something I’m not willing to give so I think it’s better if we stop seeing each other.”

“Who says I want something else?”

At some point you move on.”

“Why?” Emerson looked stricken.

“Because that’s how it works. Come on, Em, you know I’ve wanted out of this for a while. It’s just time,” he reached out to caress his arm and Emerson pulled out of reach.

“We don’t fit.”

29 Changing Tide DP Denman

“We’ve been fitting just fine until now,” he snapped, stricken turning to anger. “It’s because of him, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jack. That tall drink of whore you were with the other night.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with him. Besides, you and I have never been exclusive. Just because someone else shows up doesn’t mean I have to choose between you.”

Emerson reached out to slap him and he caught his wrist before the hand made contact.

“That’s not news to you so don’t pretend it’s any kind of insult.” “Let go of me,” Emerson snatched his hand back.

“It doesn’t matter,” he shook his head. “The point is we’ve been at this too long. Casual doesn’t last forever, right?

Now this scene goes on for another page or two. More dialog of exactly the same thing until Jack finally leaves  but not before telling Emerson that he likes him and touching his cheek in a lover like manner, totally negating everything that Jack said prior.  Talk about mixed messages and not just from Jack, but the author too.   Then take this sad, irritating, and confused scene and repeat it in some form numerous times throughout the story.  I said in some form because sometimes Jack stays and they have sex, then the same dialog picks up from there. There is no growth shown, no real change in how the men act or feel, just a repetition of the above back and forth argument and enabling behavior.  Trust me when I said the exasperation sets in around the halfway point and never actually goes away.

And in between this never ending argument and emotional stalemate, Jack and David are trying to have a relationship that comes with its own issues as well.

So in between lovely descriptive scenes of Vancouver Island and water, the reader is forced to wade through pages of confused characterizations, dense dialog and what might have been a terrific little plot in another author’s hands.  However, in Changing Tide the negatives ends up overpowering all the positive aspects. The writing is uneven, the narrative dense and repetitive and the format is rough and unprofessional.

And that’s so sad and unnecessary.

Given an editor, great or otherwise, with a ruthless, objective idea on how to write fiction, this story and this review might have been all together different.  As it, I have to tell you to give it a pass.

Book Details:

I have none.  Although the author’s website states that it will be released October 4th, although I am told it is scheduled for the 11th for publication, book facts such as page numbers, word counts, ISBN numbers are all missing.