Author: Hudson Lin
Book: Inside Darkness
Page/Word Count: 269, 71K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Contemporary Romance, Drama
Release Date: June 11, 2018
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
After a decade as an aid worker, Cameron Donnelly returns home jaded, tired, and with more than just a minor case of PTSD. Plagued by recurring nightmares but refusing to admit he has a problem, Cam quickly spirals into an alcohol-infused depression, and everyone around him is at a loss for how to help.
Journalist Tyler Ang met Cam on a reporting assignment in Kenya, and their first encounters were rife with hostility and sexual tension. Back in New York, their paths continually cross, and each time, Cam’s brokenness reminds Ty more and more of his own difficult childhood. Letting Cam in goes against Ty’s instinct to live life autonomously, but the damaged aid worker manages to sneak past his guard.
Their relationship is all sharp corners and rough edges, and just as they’re figuring out how to fit together, a life-threatening accident puts it all in jeopardy. If they want a future together, both will have to set aside their egos and learn to carry each other’s burdens.
4✨s – I’ve been sitting on this review for a little while, trying to put order to my thoughts about Inside Darkness. From the blurb, we know it’s not going to be an easy ride, and yet somehow I managed not to realize how truly difficult a journey it would be.
Cam is a dedicated aid worker in some of the most unforgiving places. He pushes himself until his nightmares become so huge, they take over his life. He thinks that by returning to the states, he can regroup, heal, and return to the field. It’s on one such assignment that he meets Tyler, an aspiring journalist intent on furthering his career. To say that their chemistry is angsty and volatile isn’t doing it justice, and what better way to hash that out than with sex? It happens fairly quickly for them, but it didn’t give them a deeper or more meaningful connection. In some ways, I think that ease allowed them to maintain their emotional distance.
At least until they were back in the states where Cam is spiraling out of control. Cam’s battle for his sanity is raw and gritty and heartbreaking, and as much as I wanted to get to an HEA, I couldn’t see how that would happen unless the author throttled back all that grit and flipped this to a love conquers all trope. That terrified me more because I was deep in the trenches, choking up, angry, and wallowing in all the feels. I wanted to root for them so badly, but Cam crossed the line so many times that I kept questioning why Tyler was bothering. Then I would ask myself why I was continuing and had to set the book down.
Normally a one sitting reader, it took me almost a week of starts and stops to get through this book, but I couldn’t give up until I got to the end, which was more of an HFN and ‘we’re working on it’ than a magical cure-all and that did my heart good. Not sure I’d jump into a sequel if that’s what the author planned, because this was a hard one, but where we leave them gives me enough hope and that’s enough (for me).
3.5✨s – Hurt/Comfort reads are always a favorite of mine and this was an unusual, rather fascinating presentation of the trope. It takes the reader deeply into Cam’s struggles with alternating views from Ty’s perspective. Cam is dedicated to his job in the field, to the detriment of his psyche, keeping tight control over his thoughts and actions in hostile countries. He thinks returning to the States will allow his dark thoughts and bad dreams to disappear, also allowing him to be out again. Tyler Ang is a journalist struggling to advance his career in the face of subtle racism at his job. His initial meetings with Cam are coincidental, first out in the field as a reporter, then at a party and bumping into each other on the street. Sex occurs fairly quickly but both resist the sense of deeper connection they’re feeling. Especially Ty, as his life is focused on his goals and in overcoming his past. He has no space for commitment.
Cam is frequently angry, drunk and volatile, hard to like as a character when rejecting every overture from Ty, his sister Izzy and others to get help for his self-destructive behavior, until he has no choice. He offers a window into the plight of aid workers in desperate countries, the level of dedication their vocation demands and the dangers. Ty barely understands why his concern for Cam persists when their undefined relationship is prickly and sometimes even hostile. I wouldn’t call this slow burn because they have sex quickly, rather a very slow emotional development, not really resolved until near the end of the story. The reasons for Ty and Cam’s attraction and connection can be hard to parse when their interactions become abrasive but the author subtly weaves in their more tender emotions.
The novel was absorbing and intense, sometimes difficult to read, but felt quite true to life for the situation presented. I did get lots of “feels” and tension agonizing over Cam’s behavior, wishing Ty could accept his own feelings to communicate them better and wanting to smack everyone in Cam’s clueless family. The ending is a bit more than an HFN but not quite an HEA. I would recommend this particularly if you’re interested in diverse characters as Ty is Asian-American coping with casual racism and passive ignorance, people assuming his “otherness” because of his appearance. I always enjoy finding a new author and Hudson Lin will be one to watch.
About Hudson Lin:
Hudson Lin was raised by conservative immigrant parents and grew up straddling two cultures with often-times conflicting perspectives on life. Instead of conforming to either, she has sought to find a third way that brings together the positive elements of both.
Having spent much of her life on the outside looking in, Hudson likes to write about outsiders who fight to carve out their place in society, and overcome everyday challenges to find love and happily ever afters.
When not engrossed in a story, Hudson knits, drinks tea, and works the nine-to-five in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.
Where to find Hudson Lin:
To celebrate the release of Inside Darkness, Hudson is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 16, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!