Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Londra Laine. LIVING ON THE INSIDE pairs two young-ish men who’ve had pretty intense lives, to-date. Micah is an ex-con trying to turn his life around and re-establish a relationship with his teen son, while Adrien is fighting inner demons of inadequacy after surviving an abusive relationship. Can they find the trust to make it work?
Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the $25 GC giveaway!
About the Book:
Micah Grayson lives in his baby mama’s guesthouse. It’s unconventional and awkward, but he’s happy for a chance to reconnect with his teenage son. He doesn’t have time for other distractions—no matter how sexy, independent, and compassionate that distraction might be. Besides, he’s not good enough for more than a fling—no one would ever take him home to meet their parents.
Adrien Darling has book smarts, but no street savvy—at least that’s what his family says. And after a heart-breaking betrayal by the man meant to love and protect him, Adrien believes them. But then a gorgeous guy with a defeated look in his eyes walks into Adrien’s coffee shop and makes him want to take a chance.
After years of living on the outside as two misfits looking in, both men are afraid to reach for more. But in each other’s arms, Micah and Adrien find out what it’s like to live on the inside. As their tender bond grows and blossoms, old insecurities bubble to the surface. Will their commitment crumble under the pressure? Or will the two find the strength to fight for each other.
***Please be aware that this book contains a flashback of and several references to domestic abuse that may be triggering to some readers.***
How about a little taste?
“Is that what we are?” Micah asked quietly. “Friends?”
“Yeah,” Adrien answered. “I hope so.”
Then he was surrounded by Micah’s body. Adrien hesitated for a moment before returning the other man’s embrace, locking his arms around Micah’s torso. A few seconds into the hug all the reasons why he needed to pull away from Micah—now—raced through his mind. But he couldn’t make himself do it.
Adrien had been fighting his attraction, but the man had slipped past Adrien’s defenses. Micah’s earnest joy at making progress with his son. His trust in Adrien as he shared his insecurities. His nonjudgmental attitude. Their growing friendship. All those things made him feel strong and needed. Adrien wanted more of that feeling. He leaned into Micah.
Micah sighed as he squeezed Adrien tighter, and Adrien’s body sagged against him, the fight against his attraction to Micah leaving his body. He tucked his head into the crook of Micah’s shoulder, and gave in to defeat, breathing in the salty sweet scent of Micah’s skin, running his palms up the man’s back.
The scent and feel of Micah was heady, and Adrien’s head swam as he let his eyelids flutter shut, let his lips graze the exposed skin between Micah’s neck and shoulder. Micah tensed against him and his breath hitched, making Adrien wonder if he’d gone too far. But then Micah’s palm slid up Adrien’s neck, cupping his nape, grazing a thumb along his hairline.
Micah moved his other hand lower, resting it right above Adrien’s ass, his fingers lightly grazing the swell below Adrien’s hips.
“Adrien,” Micah grated out. Adrien pulled back, slowly opening his eyes. Micah licked his lips, his eyes skimming Adrien’s mouth, and then he leaned forward.
Adrien met him halfway, their lips connecting in a kiss. The light brush became a firm press then flared, hot and wet, as Adrien ran the tip of his tongue against the seam of Micah’s lips. Micah submitted to Adrien’s silent request, parting his lips to give Adrien access to his tongue and mouth.
Then a loud honk made them jerk apart as a car sped past them, headlights bright and blinding. Their chests heaved, and Adrien took in Micah’s disheveled hair and damp lips and wondered if he looked nearly as enticing to Micah.
Adrien’s gaze skittered away, and he grimaced, embarrassment replacing the intense need he’d felt moments ago. What was he doing? He knew better than this. He’d been down this road before. He couldn’t get involved with an employee again.
Then a terrible thought occurred to him. What if Micah felt like he had to hook up with Adrien? Had Adrien pressured him in some way? Shit. Negative thoughts tumbled through his mind, making him dizzy. He had to nip this in the bud.
“Micah, about what just happened—”
“Our kiss?” Micah moved closer to him.
Adrien’s eyes wandered, unable to meet Micah’s. “Yeah, the kiss. I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to—I’m sorry.” He shook his head and Micah stopped the motion by gripping Adrien’s chin between his forefinger and thumb. He lifted Adrien’s face to his.
“I’m not sorry.” Micah’s voice was quiet in the night.
Micah is nearly thirty and recently released from prison for drug offenses. He’s moved into his ex’s guesthouse so he can be close to their son, Caleb. Micah had gotten his childhood best friend, Rhina, pregnant when they were in high school, but he realized in prison that he’s really gay–not that he’s “out” about that. Right now he only wants a job so he can pay his way and maybe contribute child support. Rhina wants him to find true happiness, and is an awesome mom and support to Micah, but he’s been looking for a job nearly three weeks now, and his spirits are low.
Adrien is an out gay black man in his late twenties, but he’s owned his own coffee shop for five years. A year ago his abusive ex was killed in a car wreck, and Adrien isn’t sad. They’d been engaged for a year that had turned hellish by the end. Not a small man, Adrien is ashamed that he let his lover physically and emotionally abuse him–and his family’s criticisms cement Adrien’s low self-esteem where his personal decisions are concerned. Still, Adrien’s dad struggled to land a job when he was released from prison back when Adrien was a teen, and he sees the same hunger in Micah, so he offers him a job. It doesn’t hurt that Micah is gorgeous and seems to play for his team. But, Adrien has dated employees before an it always went bad–so this time he’s absolutely, positively not going to fall for the tall, sexy, broken man who works extra hard and desperately wants to be a hero to his son.
Okay, this is a little bit of a slow-ish burn. The pacing is good, and we see how Adrien and Micah both grow into a friendship with deep attraction as Adrien trains Micah to be a stellar barista over the course of a couple of months. Their attraction simmers, but both men set it aside for weeks on end because of their own insecurities. Adrien helps counsel Micah about how to deal with Caleb, and their relationship begins to grow from bratty teen pissing on his loser dad to a bit more of a closeness. The joy Micah exudes is catnip to lonely Adrien, and they start having movie nights–for company–about this time. Their mutual isolation leads to some explorations, and a quiet companionship. But they are still both wary, and Adrien’s family is concerned about him falling for the wrong guy again. Moving into the holiday season, they decide to go public with what seems to be a growing romance, but there’s more complications when the families get involved.
I really loved the tenderness and tentative nature of this romance. Each man has deep scars, and they are willing to take it very slow so they don’t mess up what’s good in their lives. Micah’s family are estranged–but had been most of his life. He was a late-in-life child and pretty much left to fend for himself. He desperately wants to be on the inside of a family–and Adrien is the first person who makes him feel important and needed. But it’s strained by keeping their relationship secret–and Micah must decide if he’s willing to potentially upset Rhina and Caleb by coming out. Adrien’s been in survival mode, until he and Micah connect–and though his family sees the good changes, they are still concerned. There were suspicions that he had been abused by his ex, but Adrien kept it all inside and the super-protective natures of his family are engaged. This leads to some tough confrontations, and a bit of heartbreak. I liked how they worked this out–and how the support of their families was pivotal to their reconciliation and eventual happiness. It’s a happy ending, and there are some yummy sexytimes to enjoy in their journey.
Interested? You can find LIVING ON THE INSIDE on Goodreads and Amazon.
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Londra has loved reading since she figured out how to do it. She writes to give her guys the happy ending she wishes everyone––no matter their race, religion, gender, or orientation––could experience in real life.
Londra makes money as a communications manager. She is a former journalist, a runner and a mezzo soprano. In 2010, she moved from her native California to New York City where she lived in Harlem for nearly eight years. In early 2018 she relocated to Seattle with her spouse.
Catch up with Londra on her Facebook, twitter, Goodreads and Queer Romance Ink.