Rating: 3.75 stars
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Daniel Russo spent years building his business, making a fortune and becoming a success in his field. He almost lost it all when one of his employees, Cosmo Stern, made a critical mistake, but fortunately, Daniel was able to pull things back from the brink of disaster. Now that Daniel has sold his company, he is enjoying taking temporary contract jobs where he can go in and work with companies in need. However, he is shocked when he walks into his latest job to find none other than Cosmo as one of the employees.
Cosmo was young and up and coming when he worked for Daniel. He can admit to having had a bit of a crush on Daniel — that is, until Daniel fired him unfairly. Cosmo is not happy to see Daniel show up now as his new boss, and he even considers quitting to avoid having to deal with him, but Cosmo refuses to get pushed out of a job once again.
Things are tense and awkward between the men, as both are barely able to cover their dislike and hostility towards one another. But as they spend more time together, things begin to thaw, particularly after they spend a few days together as part of a corporate team building event. Eventually, the cautious friendship begins to take a turn toward attraction. Cosmo has never been with a man before; in fact, he has never considered himself anything but straight. Yet he can’t deny the attraction he feels for Cosmo and the two begin to explore the connection between them.
Cosmo has been burned in the past by a man who strung him along, keeping him hidden while pretending to be straight and living another life. He refuses to ever go back into the closet or let another man try to hide him. And Daniel understands that, but coming out at his age is not easy either, and while he is making steps toward slowly coming out, he is not ready to jump completely all at once. Daniel and Cosmo have fallen for each other and there is something real growing between them. But with Cosmo’s painful past and Daniel’s uncertainty about how is moving forward in the future, the men may find things are too difficult to truly work between them.
Out of the Shadows is the third book in Ali Ryecart’s Silver Foxes series. The books all feature age gap romances with an older hero, and the characters are friends and show up in each other’s books. However, the stories stand alone and as long as you don’t mind some new-to-you side characters, I think you can jump in at any point in the series.
This story has two main conflicts that roughly divide up the book. The first portion focuses on the enemies-to-lovers theme as Cosmo and Daniel unexpectedly end up working together. Daniel has been brought in to help get Cosmo’s company back on track, and they work fairly closely as part of the same team. There is a lot of hostility here, as Daniel remembers Cosmo as the young, cocky upstart whose irresponsible actions almost lost him his business, while Cosmo sees Daniel as the arrogant man who fired him without ever giving him a chance to explain. So there is sort of a slow burn here as the first half of the book or so focuses on these guys moving past their hatred of one another to become friendly, and ultimately act on their attraction to one another. I did feel like this went on a little long, particularly because the key issue of their original conflict is never explored. I kept waiting for the point where the men would talk about what happened in the past, but while it is set up as this huge issue that caused the men to hate each other, it is then never discussed again. This is particularly frustrating because the story suggests that Cosmo didn’t actually mess up, that he was given bad information and that Daniel refused to even listen to him or consider his side of it. So it seemed a glaring hole in the story here for the men to reconcile without ever once discussing what happened, or to show the larger issues (Daniel jumping to conclusions, trust problems between them, etc) ever getting addressed.
The second half of the story focuses on their developing romantic relationship. Once the guys decide to get together, they fall pretty fast and I enjoyed them as a couple. Cosmo’s spirit and playfulness is a nice match for Daniel’s more restrained side. The story really focuses nicely on the coming out journey, as Daniel is older and just coming to understand and accept his sexuality later in life. While Daniel is slowly coming out, he still has a lot of stress and anxiety about it all. However, Cosmo has been burned badly by a guy who strung him along and treated him poorly, so he has his own fears and insecurities about the situation. Ryecart does a really nice job here exploring both of their points of view and showing where these guys are coming from and how they are struggling. While the story does eventually come down to one of these men needing to be the one to make the move to resolve the conflict, I appreciated that there is a well developed exploration of the situation on both sides. I did find I had some trouble with the timeline here, as some times it seemed like they had been together months, and others weeks, and the passage of time was unclear. I also found it strange that the fact that Daniel is Cosmo’s boss never comes up until the very end after they have been together for a while at work. While Daniel technically doesn’t work for Cosmos’ company, he is acting as his direct supervisor and it seemed strange that this is sort of a non-issue.
One of the nice elements of this series is the found family vibe, and I enjoyed seeing these three couples interact and revisiting with old friends. As I said, you can read this story as a standalone, but I liked seeing these characters again. Freddie and James both play a larger role as close friends/confidants. I also really liked Daniel’s former fiance, Geraldine. So often in romances we see the ex be the bad guy, so I loved that Geraldine is a source of friendship and support to Daniel (and a kick in the pants when needed). So there is a nice supporting cast here that rounds out the book well.
If you enjoy an age gap story, particularly featuring some older, silver fox heroes, this is an entertaining series and one worth checking out.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jay; I appreciated hearing where the story worked while also being informed of shortcomings.