Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new contemporary M/M romance novella from Louise Lyons. ON THE OUTSIDE recounts the developing love between two former cell mates, now that they’re out of prison.
Catch the excerpt, my review and enter to win a book and $5 gc below.
About the book:
When Craig Ferguson is released from prison after a year’s sentence for fighting, he returns home to his father and brother, and the family business. Throwing himself back into the life he left, with family, work, and women, Craig tries to forget his time on the inside, but there’s one thing he just can’t get out of his mind.
Cell mate, Rocky Kirk, still has six months of his sentence to go, and after a year together in a tiny cell, Craig misses him more than he cares to admit. He does his best to forget, but when Rocky is released, and arrives on Craig’s doorstep, homeless and hurt, everything that happened between them comes flooding back.
Craig’s family takes in Rocky, now known as Kirk, and gives him a home and a job, but he’s reluctant to join in with their partying, and never seems entirely comfortable in their home. A few months later Kirk announces he has to leave, and when Craig presses him for an explanation, Kirk blurts out that his unwanted feelings for his friend are hurting him too much to stay. His admission changes everything, but Craig’s uncertainty, and fears of his father discovering their secret, threatens to ruin anything that could develop between them.
How about a little taste?
I turned away from him, barged past Dad, and took the stairs two at a time. The bathroom door shook in its frame when I kicked it shut behind me. My temper rapidly subsided, and I risked a peek at myself in the mirror above the sink. The color in my face faded, leaving me pale and wild-eyed, breathing hard. What the hell just happened?
I replayed the scene in my head, starting with the almost-kiss between Stuart and Catherine. Was there something between them? Was it really nothing? Was I pissed off because she was supposed to be dating me, or was I actually hurt? I didn’t feel hurt. It didn’t seem that important anymore. She probably wouldn’t want to see me again after my outburst and I wasn’t convinced I minded all that much. What the fuck did that say about us? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was only angry with myself, mostly because when I’d finally got what I wanted, I didn’t want it that much anymore.
“Craig?” A gentle tap came on the door. Kirk.
My rapid heartrate escalated, and I scowled at my reflection. “Leave me alone.”
“Come on, that hand needs looking at.”
Sighing, I sat on the edge of the bath. “Come in.”
Kirk slipped into the room and closed the door behind him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just fucking brilliant.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“You know what I mean. Do you think there’s anything going on with her and Stuart?”
“How the fuck should I know? It looked like it, didn’t it?” I shrugged and blew my breath out hard. “I don’t fucking care anyway.”
“I thought you liked her.”
“Yeah, well. Maybe I should have stuck with the one-nighters.”
“You don’t mean that. I thought you wanted a relationship.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.” I didn’t want to think about it anymore either. My hand stung like a bastard, and I noticed for the first time that blood was dripping all over the tiles under my feet. Before I could move, Kirk grabbed a folded towel, placed it on my knee and laid my hand on it, palm down.
“There’s a lot of glass in there.”
“You reckon you can get it out?”
“I’ll try.” He found tweezers and tissues in the bathroom cabinet, and dropped to his knees at my feet. Some of the droplets of blood soaked into his jeans and I grimaced.
“You’re getting blood on you.”
“It’ll wash.” He dabbed carefully at the back of my hand, and the tissues turned red. “This looks bad. You might need stitches.”
“I’ll be all right.” I clenched my teeth as he plucked out the first glass splinter and looked around for somewhere to put it. I reached for Dad’s can of shaving foam and flipped off the lid. “Put them in there.”
Kirk dropped each tiny piece of glass into the lid, and I counted eighteen pieces before Dad spoke from outside the door.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?”
“No. Thanks. Kirk’s fixing it.”
“Right. Good.” His feet thudded on the stairs as he returned to the football match.
“I’m missing the match.”
Kirk looked up at me and grinned, his brown eyes twinkling. “You’d rather bleed to death than miss the football?”
“I think I got it all.”
“The glass. I think I got it all out.” I dropped my gaze as he dabbed at the myriad tiny wounds with the wad of tissue. “Does it feel like there’s anything still in there?”
“I think I saw some bandages in the cabinet.” Kirk got up and rifled through the cupboard. I stayed where I was until he kneeled down again and placed a dressing on the back of my hand. “Hold that there a minute.”
“Were you a paramedic in a previous life?”
“I did a first aid course a few years ago. I can remember most of it.” He wrapped a bandage around my hand, binding the dressing in place and making a surprisingly neat job of it. When it was done he stayed where he was, and I realized he was holding my bandaged hand in both of his and stroking my palm with one thumb. A few strands of hair had escaped the knot on the back of his head, and I had a sudden urge to tuck them behind his ear. I held my breath, staring at the top of his bent head. The only sound in the room was his breathing, and the intermittent drip from the bath tap that had needed fixing for a while.
“Thanks.” The word came out croaky, my mouth so dry I could barely speak at all.
“No problem.” Kirk jerked away, dropping my hand as if it had burnt him. Snatching up the wad of tissues, he tossed them into the toilet, and used the bloody towel to mop the floor. I stayed where I was until he opened the door and left me alone. His bedroom door opened and closed, and I made my way downstairs. I felt less concerned about my likely imminent break-up with Catherine, than I was about the moment in the bathroom.
What the hell happened? Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Did he still think about what happened between us and try not to? Jerk off and try not to remember me fucking him? Did he feel anything when he held my hand and stroked my palm, then jumped away? Jesus Christ. My heart hammered, and this time when I told myself it didn’t mean anything, and that I just kept remembering the person I’d been close to on the inside, it didn’t work.
Craig and Kirk were cell mates in prison for a year. During that time they developed an escalating level of physical intimacy, which included sex. Craig is released six month ahead of Kirk, and struggles little on his re-entry to society. His father owns his own construction company, and Craig returns home to live with his father and younger brother, Stuart. They want Craig to go out and party on the weekends, bringing home a different gal every time, as they do. Craig would much rather find a steady girl, and struggles with the memory of his intimacy with Kirk.
Then Kirk turns up on his doorstep–friendless, homeless, and penniless. Craig’s dad accepts Craig’s recommendation to conditionally hire Kirk, and even gives him the spare room in their home until he can save up for his own flat. It seems as if everything is going well, weeks go by and Kirk fits right in, except Kirk doesn’t like to go out pulling for women. Craig meets a gal he really likes, and the friendship with Kirk suffers. Even when Craig is single, things with Kirk are strained. That is, until Kirk reveals his complete crush on Craig.
I really understood Craig’s confusion. He’s always considered himself straight, and his “bent” time in the pokey, well, that was circumstances, wasn’t it? If so, why has Craig struggled to exclude Kirk from his thoughts, and fantasies? Craig admits to himself and Kirk that he must be bisexual, and they decide to see if they can make a go of it, under cover, though. They spend some sexytime holidays, but it’s not enough, and the only way to make it work is for Craig to come out–and that is not a pleasant prospect, or experience. I kinds wanted to kick Craig in the wobbly bits, for a few moments. Good thing Stuart is a level-headed brother; his support was fantastic!
The book ends with an HEA, one given a bit of time to develop, which I appreciate. The book is about half romance, half making life work after prison. Seeing the reality side of it–the unfairness of hiring and housing practices, which are prejudiced against ex-cons, was enlightening, and poignant. It made reconciliation with Craig and his father so very important. I was glad his father didn’t allow his initial prejudice to make life harder for Craig or Kirk.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the author:
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of 8, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late 20s.
Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.
Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.
Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.