Nate’s life is an utter train wreck, one he generally blames on his father. As a result, Nate is finishing up his second stint in rehab and it looks as likely to stick as well as the first. He’s hell bent on his own destruction until he finds a picture of his mother. The mother he never knew because she walked away a few days after he was born. Discovering her picture sends Nate halfway around the world with a reckless and ill-formed plan to meet his half siblings. But when he arrives, he finds himself tangled up in lies of his own making and ends up taking a job as a ranch hand to learn more about the mother who abandoned him.
Liam doesn’t think much of the man he’s taking on to help with lambing season. Nate claims to want the experience for a movie he’s filming, but Liam finds him rather useless. Nate is certainly charming though and his brother’s kids seem to like him, so that’s a bonus. Plus, Liam can’t deny his attraction to the man. Life as a rancher isn’t easy, but despite his lack of skill, Nate brings a surprising amount of fun to the hard and exhausting work. When Nate’s lies finally catch up to him, he may end up losing the family he’s always wanted.
Outside Looking In is part of the Browerton University series, but I’d say this was a tangential connection at best. I’ve never read the other books in the series and I had no problem following the story here. The writing is decent and the book has a fairly strong pace that gave it a natural flow, which I appreciated. There’s also a fairly strong secondary cast. Mark, Liam’s elder brother, feels fully formed and I enjoyed the interplay between him, Liam, and Nate. In a lot of books it feels as though the “B” cast ends up flat and lifeless when in comparison to the main characters, but that doesn’t happen here and it was a nice surprise. There are a couple stock characters and they read as rather melodramatic, but they aren’t given a ton a page time either.
The plot to Outside Looking In is rather bonkers. I mean, it’s not completely implausible, but it’s not exactly believable. I can’t talk much about the specifics because doing so will give away some of the details, but I felt on the whole the story depends too much on coincidence. Too many of Nate’s actions feel forced or wedged into place to make the plot work and, as a result, it ends up as overwrought and, at times, absurd.
The biggest issue with Outside Looking In is Nate. He’s an unlikeable character. From the start, he tends to blame the rest of the world for his problems and tells lies to everyone he meets. He treats people as disposable and for far too much of the book he failed to take responsibility for his own actions. Even after he gets a measure of redemption, I never felt that he truly took ownership of his behavior. People tended to forgive him far too easily and too quickly. I walked away from the book not having believed that Nate had learned much at all.
Outside Looking In is fairly well written, but it tends to stumble when it comes to the serious stuff. One of the MCs isn’t likable and suffered from a lack of personal growth. The plot is overly reliant on happenstance and unbelievable occurrence. Outside Looking In wasn’t all bad, but it had more potential than what it actually achieved.