Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
What a wonderful book! I have been a fan of L.A. Witt since I happened upon Nine Tenths of the Law a couple of years ago. Witt always has an entertaining story to tell and to tell very well. Her ability to create an angst-ridden story that takes readers on a journey of pain and sadness right alongside the MCs and make you like it is second to none. I will admit, I like a good angsty story with ups and downs, and I like it even more when the author makes it realistic, interesting, and believable. From Out in the Cold is all of that.
When life dealt Neil Dalton a bad hand, he did his best to limp through. Suffering from a deep loss, Neil is working on finding a new normal. With therapy as his only support, his road to healing has been slow and painful. He wants nothing more than to be able to open up to his family and to garner their love and support, but when he came out to his parents years ago, they made it clear that they loved him, but wouldn’t acknowledge his sexuality. And in order to talk to his family about the struggles he’s facing, he would have to bring up that part of his life. Yet the need to be with his family, especially at Christmas, outweighs the stress factor, barely. So for over a year, Neil has been walking a lonely path and doing his best to find himself again.
Jeremy Kelley has seen and experienced a lot during his three tours of duty in the Middle East. His time overseas damaged his psyche and forced him to face the fact that he would not be able to handle another tour, so when his time was up he left the Army intent on joining the family business and working for his father. When his vengeful ex outs him to his parents and his parents disown him, Jeremy has no thoughts beyond finding Neil, his childhood best friend whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to in five years.
Neil is shocked to find a broken Jeremy sitting on the steps of his apartment building. Five years have gone by since the drunken night they spent together. Inexperience and tension drove them from each other back then, but when Jeremy needs a place to stay and start over, Neil doesn’t hesitate to offer.
For Neil, fighting a still strong attraction to Jeremy only adds to a mix of avoiding personal questions and stress over visiting his family for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Inviting Jeremy to spend the Christmas holiday with him and his parents, Neil at least has someone he can look to for a little bit of solace. Attempting to avoid his problems and putting on a happy face for his family, Neil struggles to make it through the holidays. His only relief comes in the form of Jeremy. Jeremy has his own family problems and suffocating past, but couldn’t imagine not supporting Neil and helping him through his own obstacles including his family situation.
As their bond strengthens, Neil and Jeremy struggle with growing feelings for each other. Neither can stand the thought of losing their friendship again, and both are damaged from the past, but the feelings won’t go away just because they want them to. Are they too broken to fit together? And if they give in, can they still remain friends?
From Out in the Cold is a tragic and touching story of two men who struggle against obstacles bigger than most people can imagine, but find in each other safety, comfort, and support. Witt has combined loss and tragedy to give readers a story of trust, friendship, healing, and love. Neil and Jeremy are two men who have suffered greatly, but that commonality forms a bond between them, and creates a support system of two.
I absolutely adore Neil and Jeremy – a relationship that looks to be doomed from the start. No matter whether they are meant to be together or not, so many things work against them. But I love their strength. Not only are they each broken severely in different ways, but despite the obstacles they’ve faced, they remain strong-willed. And, man, are they stubborn. The progression of both Neil and Jeremy is one of my favorite aspects of this story – from broken to mending. Their renewed friendship and intimate relationship does not automatically heal them. Their healing begins with the love and support they receive from each other, but even at the end of the story, they are still walking through the healing process.
This is a story of friends-to-lovers, which is one of my very favorite tropes. It’s one of the best things about Neil and Jeremy in this book. They haven’t spoken in years, and both of their lives have taken such different directions and they’ve suffered so greatly in different, horrific ways, yet at their core, they still know one another and are still willing to love and support each other no matter what. That is the basis of the eventual intimate relationship that they build upon.
In this story, Witt delves into the mind of PTSD – the triggers, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the steps to controlling it. It’s not easy subject matter. This author gives readers different views on PTSD. Neil’s trauma comes from witnessing an assault, Jeremy’s from war, the things he saw and the things he was forced to do. The tragedies that both men have suffered are life-altering. A lot of tears were shed in the reading of this book, but it was totally worth it.
Family dynamics are a big part of this story. Not only do both Neil and Jeremy crave love and acceptance from their parents, but they need their parents as part of their support system. Mistakes, idiocies, naivety, prejudice, and bigotry set the stage for hurt – some unintentional, some intentional. The damage created by both families is painful and has lasting effects, but the healing that begins when things come out in the open is such a beautiful part of this story. Again, have some Kleenex close by.
Cold has so many different meanings in this book, both literal and figurative. In the settings of Chicago, Omaha, and Madison County, the author describes a cold that is tangible. As a reader, I could almost feel the bitter cold of Neil and Jeremy’s surroundings as I was reading. Figuratively, their painful pasts set them apart from the other people around them – leaves them out in the cold. But the safety and support they gain from one another, gives them warmth, a hope for healing.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m kind of in love with this book. The characters, the subject matter, the families, the growing relationship between Neil and Jeremy – it all makes for such an angst-filled, tragically beautiful tale. In my opinion, it is a must read. I highly, highly recommend From Out in the Cold by L.A. Witt.
I also love this cover by Valerie Tibbs. Such beautiful depictions of Neil and Jeremy and the bridge that holds a special meaning to them. Great cover.