Title: Living Out Loud
Authors: Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn
Publisher: Self-Published/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 250 Pages
At a Glance: I recommend this one if you’re not looking for a story quite as deep as the blurb suggests. I was somewhat disappointed, but hopefully others won’t be.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Ben Emerson has lived by his minister father’s rules most of his life. Born into an ultra-conservative church community, he’s finally brave enough to break free and move to San Francisco. Distancing himself certainly helps create a new mindset, but living as an openly gay man takes some getting used to. When he reaches out to Xavier, a childhood friend who lives in the city, Ben isn’t sure how he’ll respond given their thorny history. Ben hopes the familiar connection will help him right some wrongs as well as provide the solace he’s been craving.
Xavier Ramos is who he is, and he doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. Whether it’s eyeliner, nail polish, tattoos or his love of hooking up, he uses his body as a form of self-expression but doesn’t let anyone get too close. When Ben reenters his life, Xavier helps him experience the city and feel comfortable in his own skin. Seeing the world through Ben’s eyes, he begins to wonder if he’s also not living as freely as he thought.
When Xavier challenges Ben’s beliefs about sex, it becomes explosive—for both of them. Xavier breaks apart Ben’s sheltered world and shows him what it’s like to live out loud. The more time they spend together, the more Xavier begins to long for Ben in a different way—one that both surprises and scares him. But real life doesn’t fade into the background, so when Ben’s past comes knocking, old habits are hard to break. Testing the foundation of their deepening connection will take a trust that will either bind them…or tear them apart.
Review: First things first…That coverrrr. Amirite? O.M.G. So hot. I had NO problem with that as my visual for Xavier. Second, the blurb is really well-crafted and intriguing. There is definitely a deadly cover/blurb combo going on here—grabbing this one was a no-brainer for me! That being said, I’ll also be up front and say that I liked the book—actually, after sitting on it for a bit, I realized I liked it even more than I initially thought—but I didn’t love it. There were things that worked very well, and there were moments where I just really wanted more.
Usually I start with the things that I especially liked about a book, but I want to change it up this time…I’m going to get the things that didn’t work as well for me out of the way so that I can end with the things that I loved. Though, I don’t even know how to put this first thing… I’m totally gonna get a reputation as a prude. But, here goes…There was just too damn much sex in the book. There. I said it. Haha. But, you guys, there was. I get that part of the premise was Ben’s sexual awakening or whatever, but there didn’t need to be that much sexin’. Also, the terms ‘heavy balls’ and ‘full balls’, and the visuals that go along with them, lose their sexiness when overused, which I felt like they were here. Ok, that basically does it for the teeny, tiny complaints portion of the review. Now, let’s talk about the good stuff. 😀
One of the great things about Living Out Loud was the characters. Both MCs were likeable and well-developed for the most part. It took me a minute more to like Xavier as much as I liked Ben, but once I really got him, I liked him so much. With Ben it was easier because he wore his heart on his sleeve. We knew from the beginning what his roots were and what he thought he needed to do to be happy. And, we knew how terrible he felt about how things ended the last time he saw Xavier, which was back in his home town of Spring Haven, when they were fourteen years old, and Xavier kissed him.
We learn, through slowly getting to know Xavier, how that first kiss shaped who he is now. We see how he keeps people at arm’s length. How he doesn’t let everyone see the gentle soul he really is; he guards that part of himself. He hooks up with practically a different guy every night, making sure he shows them the post-bang kit before he politely shows them the door, but never lets anyone get close, never lets anyone kiss him. Until Ben shows up in San Francisco.
And, it’s no wonder Ben wanted to get the hell out of Spring Haven; his family was awful. After treating him like who he is isn’t ok, and sending him to conversion therapy, his parents still expected him to come home and help with the family business. They pretty much tell him that they will love him as long as he tries very, very hard not to be gay. Well, as Xavier would say, ‘Fuck that.’ Ben moves to San Francisco, desperately wanting to feel like someone new. Someone who was actually ‘him’. And, once he reconnects with Xavier, he decides that part of this learning to be his true self, and accept himself, should include Xavier teaching him how to be freer with sex.
As their sexual exploration intensifies, of course so do their feelings. I really loved how things grew emotionally between them. Ben always had a hidden crush on Xavier, and now, here he is, still the same kind, easygoing person he’s always been, only now a million times hotter. Obviously, he’s going to quickly start falling for him. For Xavier, it takes a bit of time for the sting of Ben’s boyhood rejection to go away, but pretty soon he realizes his feelings for Ben have burst back up to the surface. Ben was the first person who knew he was gay, the first person he kissed, and his best friend. It’s always been easy to let him in.
I love Xavier’s conviction. That he’s living his truth—living out loud—and desperately wants Ben to feel that freedom, too. And, I love how they get there together. And, I really like that the authors left it open to Ben keeping his faith. He clearly missed some things he got out of the church, but knew that his parents’ version of God wasn’t the correct one, so it was lovely when Xavier’s friends suggested their church to Ben.
Oh! One more thing I loved before I wrap up… Penny! Xavier’s boss at the record shop. Penny is completely amazing. I totally loved the friendship between she and Xavier; their hilarious banter and obvious fondness for each other was perfection.
Overall, I liked it. In fact, I was intrigued the entire time. It just wasn’t quite the story I thought it was going to be when I picked it up. I recommend this one if you’re not looking for a story quite as deep as the blurb suggests. I was somewhat disappointed, but hopefully others won’t be.
You can buy Living Out Loud here: