I hope everyone’s week is going well!
Recently I read the second installment in the Love Beyond Words series, Outspoken, by Raina Ash, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you all!
Last year I received the first book in this wonderful series, Nonverbal, as an ARC courtesy of BookSirens and Raina Ash and I was BLOWN AWAY! I immediately started following Raina on every platform I had so I could stay up to date with her new releases, including her awesome newsletter. So, when BookSirens alerted me that Raina Ash had posted Outspoken for review, I literally ran to my computer so I could jump on that ARC.
First things first, check out my review of Nonverbal here: Clickety-click
Now, let’s get to my book 2 review!
Publication Date: March 22, 2023
He’s been infatuated with his best friend’s sister since the day they met…
Too bad she was too wasted at that party to remember him.
Six years later, Amber is fresh out of rehab and trying to make her life work sober. She’s barely coping, her college professor hates her, and she’s certainly not prepared for the attraction simmering between her and her brother’s best friend.
Miguel is exactly the kind of guy she’d normally avoid: loyal, family-oriented, intense. He’s known to move too fast and fall too hard in every single relationship. He’d give her the world, but she knows it’s better to push him away.
They’re opposites and completely wrong for each other. Doesn’t he see that? Giving in to their feelings would complicate both of their lives.
Miguel has a sick mother and a delinquent nephew to care for, and there’s one thing he wants that Amber can never offer. Some sacrifices are simply too great, and she refuses to be the one to take away his dreams.
If only they didn’t have such a problem staying away from each other…
Outspoken is the second book in the Love Beyond Words series. This found family romance features a protective cinnamon roll hero who falls first and a resilient takes-no-BS heroine who is his complete opposite.
Expect plenty of soulmate kisses, lovable family members, romance under the stars, and an emotionally complex story that will linger in your heart for days.
Content Warning: Strong language, drug use / addiction, and discussions about suicidal ideation.
What I liked about the book:
1. I appreciated the helpful callbacks to Nonverbal in this sequel. They reminded me of some of the things I had forgotten about in the year between reading the books and helped to get me back into the mindset of these peoples’ lives.
Further, these callbacks served to introduce the reader to Paige and Brody from book 1 in the event they hadn’t read it, and they were done very well. No unnecessary information, just enough to get the idea of what has happened and everyone’s personality. This was perfect for allowing Outspoken to be a standalone.
2. I loved how flawed both of our MCs were! Miguel was super clingy and told everyone Amber’s baggage, while Amber was flighty and battling various addictions.
These two definitely had some moments that I wasn’t sure if they were going to come back from, but isn’t it the imperfections that make us love them more??
3. I loved the new characters we met! All of Miguel’s family were awesome, but especially his mother and Angel.
His mother was the perfect amount of sassy and wise. She definitely had the lines that had me cracking up the hardest!
Angel you could just tell was a beautiful but tortured soul. His love and respect towards Miguel’s mother showed how compassionate he could be and how much he hurt for adults who didn’t think badly of him. I also loved his relationship with Amber and how they were able to connect. I didn’t love his treatment of Miguel, but hey, the kid was that: a kid.
If we get another book in this series, I hands down want it to be Angel a couple years in the future!!! I think he would make for such an interesting MMC and I would like to meet the person that can go toe to toe with him!
4. I absolutely loved the big bro/little sis dynamic that Miguel and Paige developed. They are both so genuine and I loved that the author made them friends instead of making them standoffish towards one-another like I’ve seen similar set ups in other books play out for characters.
5. While I frequently got frustrated with decisions Amber made, I 100% felt seen. Amber’s anxiety and coping mechanisms were perfection. Her spiraling thoughts, her wanting to just shut her brain off for a couple minutes with the use of recreational drugs, and then the ultimate understanding that she would feel worse after doing that and the “darkness” would never truly go away because of drug use, resonated on a whole different level with me.
During my first couple years in Big 4 public accounting, I worked my ass off. I worked my ass off to prove to my superiors that I was smart enough to be there even though I came from a state school as opposed to all of them coming from the same private school. I worked my ass off to prove to my peers that even though I was the only woman I not only deserved to be there, but was even better than all my male peers. I worked my ass off to prove that dedication and long hours made me worth investing in. Unfortunately, all of this is bullshit and shouldn’t have ever had to be proven nor did it make a dent in the age-old women-in-the-workplace ideals some hold tight to, but it also led to a very serious problem with alcohol.
How to describe me during this period: 24. Top performer. Closet alcoholic.
I remember many nights of having a meltdown, screaming and crying, while still checking excel formulas for an audit that would end up getting extended anyways. I remember vividly lining up a row of shots (whiskey, of course), and placing them on the side of my computer as “motivation” to get through the night. Motivation that after just a couple more checks of the excel, I could drink my stress away for a couple hours, let that darkness and anxiety subside, before having to repeat the same process again the next day. And this was my life for about 3 years.
Using a lot of the same mechanisms that Amber used (coloring, writing, breathing exercises, etc.), I was able to overcome my hurdle just as Amber did hers. In a lot of ways, this book was a very personal experience for me and allowed me to see the growth not just in Amber, but in myself and to recognize all the hard work that goes into getting yourself out of the deepest depths of your own darkness. Like Amber said, it will never simply “go away”, but we learn to cope and live with it, to where its not quite as dark as it once was.
I love having gone on this journey with Amber and I love how well and accurate Raina Ash handled this sensitive topic. Beautifully done.
What could have been better:
1. I thought the whole professor/camgirl thing was a little out of left field and every time it got brought up it just delayed the pace in my opinion. For me, if the professor had been less reluctant to change his ways and Amber actually won in some sort of case against him, that would have been more victorious and a more gratifying win for me than it currently exists.
I now am in need of an Angel-centric story!
Thank you to BookSirens and Raina Ash for the free copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are voluntary and my own.
Want to check out what else our girl Raina is working on? Hop on over to her social media accounts using the below:
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