The Guy In The Alley by Cara Dee - Review and Excerpt

Cara Dee is one of the few authors who can make a story feel so real. Her characters are not just make believe, but like normal human beings with lives outside of pages. The Guy In The Alley is a spinoff from The Guy In The Window but can be read as a standalone.

"We knew everything and nothing about each other. And we both sucked at talking about what mattered."

From the blurb:

MM Romance • Standalone • Hurt/Comfort • Age Gap • Blue-Collar Romance • Found Family

Get comfortable for a love story that promises Chicago grit, sizzling heat, a playful rivalry between a White Sox diehard and a Cubs fan, and an autistic boy’s dream to see the ocean.   

There was nothing like starting the new year with a snowstorm and trying to keep a sinking ship afloat in the middle of Chicago. Trace Kalecki had grown up at the Dearborn Clover, an Irish sports bar that’d been in his family since the late 1800s. He loved the place. He lived and breathed the Clover, from its staff and the sports memorabilia on the walls to the creatively named items on the menu and the soup kitchen they hosted twice a week. But the business was a damn headache too.

One night, when he was wrestling garbage bags out to the dumpsters in the alley, he heard a broken plea for help.

Ben O’Cleary was mostly hoping the snowstorm was going to finish him off once and for all. He was cold, hungry, drowning in defeat, and now wounded, too. Wasn’t it just great? Almost fifty years old, and he couldn’t take care of himself, much less his son and his old ma. Ashamed and shattered, he asked a young man for help, and…maybe that was the start of something new?

That guy, Trace…? He had an offer for Ben.


The Guy In The Alley is a stand-alone spinoff following The Guy in the Window. While the main characters from the first book do cross over briefly, it’s not necessary to read it to get the full enjoyment of The Guy in the Alley.

Disclaimer: No fans of the White Sox, Cubs, Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Preds, Cleveland, Canucks, Minnesota, St. Louis, or Green Bay were seriously injured in the making of this book. Probably no Yoopers either.

Autumn's Review:

This book is written extremely well. Cara never has shied away from characters with disabilities and just enough angst to keep me hooked.

Trace and Ben are a perfect pair, with age gap in the mix. Unlike the game series, this isn't a kinky book, but one of heartfelt emotions and overcoming past relationships.

Miki J's review:

Another beautiful story by Cara Dee !!! I really could not put this book down - I loved how the story flowed, told from POV's of 2 MC's .....and the chapters were interspersed with thoughts and reactions from other MC's. This is just a beautiful hurt/comfort story of two guys trying to make things work .... very emotional at times certainly feel the despair and angst ...and then the truly uplifting moments that certainly struck a chord. I must admit, I did chortle at their teasing (even though I don't follow baseball...Cubs or Soxs !!!) and the banter between them was a joy to read. And when it all falls into place, it really does fall into place !!!

Heather's Review:

This book walks the line between angsty and sweet, with a delicious age gap, disability rep of a side character and a ton of banter.  This book is emotional and doesn't shy away from struggle - homelessness, joblessness, hunger... but it also gives us hope in the form of giving back, taking a chance and building on trust...

It is a beautiful, standalone read and one I highly recommend.

The Guy In The Alley is currently available as an e-book in wide release.

The Guy in the Alley by Cara Dee

Genre: MM Romance/Contemporary
Series: Standalone Spinoff of The Guy in the Window
Release Day: Friday, May 24th, 2024

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Other Retailers:

Standalone | Hurt/Comfort | Age Gap | Blue-Collar Romance | Found Family



I released the bags and instantly turned to the opening of the alley, where I spotted a dark form hunched against the wall.

“Please help me,” he rasped.

A dozen scenarios ran through me at the speed of light—a thought that prompted my next move. In a hot second, I’d retrieved my flashlight, and I directed the beam at his head.

“Show me your hands,” I said, approaching slowly. “I can help you, but you gotta show me you’re cooperative.”

He flinched and ducked his head, and I noticed he was clutching his side. Gun? Wound? Was he injured or just a good actor?

My training and experience had kicked in the moment I’d heard the man’s voice, so I registered every movement and trait. His jeans were wet but not dirty, he was significantly older than me, taller too, white, plenty of silver in his short hair, he was breathing heavily, down jacket—good condition but not new.

“Are you hurt?” I asked.

He sucked in a breath and nodded, and he lifted one of his hands. “Please help me. They took my car.”

Was the car a bigger issue than whatever injury he’d sustained?

When I was only some six feet away, I lowered the light to the side of his stomach he wouldn’t let go of, and I saw the tear in the fabric. His fingertips were bloody too.

“I’ll call 9-1-1,” I said.

“No!” he choked out.

I stopped reaching for my phone and hitched my brows. Suspicion rose, though surprise did not.

“If you could just—” he coughed. “Fuck. I’d like to inspect the damage myself.” He heaved a breath, and I lifted the flashlight a little. Enough to get the outer circle of the glow to catch his face. His expression was pinched with pain. “Could I please use the b-bathroom?”

Yes, he could. “Sure.”

I went with my gut feeling and quickly pocketed my flashlight. Then I closed the distance between us and took charge. He winced and recoiled as I gripped his arm to guide him to the kitchen entrance, which reminded me. He must’ve seen me sweating the garbage route in order to assume I worked here.

“Do you need me to call someone?” I asked. “A spouse? Shelter? 3-1-1?”

He breathed through clenched teeth and shook his head.

Fair enough.

I helped him up the stoop and let out a short whistle when Tonya walked through the hallway.

She turned to me, her surprise following.

“Can you get me a first aid kit, hon?”

“Yeah, of course.” She scurried off.

The staff bathroom was right here in the hallway, so it wasn’t a long walk. I flicked on the lights, then ushered him to sit down on the toilet.

He sucked in a sharp breath and scrunched his face.

He had a small scar on his stubbly chin.

His jacket seemed dry enough, but he needed to get out of those jeans. They were wet all the way up to his thighs.

“Do you live far away, sir?” I pushed down his jacket, revealing an old hoodie underneath. That, too, had been torn by what I could assume was a stab wound. “Are you homeless? Doubled up somewhere?”

A small pocketknife fell from his jacket. No surprise there.

“They took my car.” He let out a whimper, and it took me aback to see tears rolling down from the crow’s-feet in the corners of his eyes.

The man was in serious pain, though I suspected that car was, in fact, a bigger loss to him.

“Did you live in that?” I asked quietly.

He drew an unsteady breath and mustered a small nod.


I dropped the jacket on the floor and side-eyed the shower. Which was more a storage for cleaning supplies and buckets. But we’d let people wash up here before, especially in the winter when it was vital to keep their heat up.

“Trace, here’s the kit.” Tonya returned with our kit from the kitchen.

“Thanks. Marisol isn’t working tonight, is she?” I went for the man’s hoodie next.

“No, afraid not. You need a nurse?”

I nodded. “Can you get me Jamaal?”

At least he’d almost been a corpsman when he’d decided to quit the Navy dream. His older brothers were all military, but he’d discovered it wasn’t a life for him. Together, we should be able to help this guy get patched up.

Tonya stalked out again, and I made quick work of shedding my own coat and gloves before I got the man to lose his hoodie. And…that revealed two more shirts underneath. Sounded about right for someone living in their car.

Oh, this could be a long night for me.

I scratched my forehead and cursed my folks. They’d made me this way. They’d made me give a fuck. Fucking assholes.


“Protect the business first, son. Without it, we can’t help others or ourselves. Then we open the doors to those in need.”

I had a long list of shelters, organizations, and emergency housing that came in handy every week, but at this hour… Fuck, they’d all be full—or there’d be an opening down in fucking Dolton, and they’d close before this guy could get there.

By the time Jamaal arrived on the scene, I’d gotten the man to shed the last shirt, and in another time and place, I would’ve appreciated the view a lot more. Now, not so much. He was fucking shaking.

I gave Jamaal the little information I had while I grabbed a stack of towels. The largest would have to function as a blanket for now, and I draped it around the man’s shoulders.

In the meantime, Jamaal went down on one knee to inspect the damage and open the aid kit.

“What’s your name?” Jamaal asked.

“Ben—ah, fuck.” He groaned in pain and dug his fingers into his thighs.

I stuck to the background, ready to assist, but it looked as if dressing like a Russian doll had protected him. The wound wasn’t deep, and it appeared to be a clean cut. Jamaal borrowed my flashlight to make sure, and then he poured a generous amount of wound cleanser.

Ben wasn’t talkative. When we asked him what’d happened, he just repeated that “they took my car” and added, “I don’t know, four of them—they took it. They fought me off and took it.”

“You sure you don’t want me to call someone, man?” I asked. “You should at least report the crime and—”

“No,” he gritted out as Jamaal applied antiseptic cream. “What’s the point? I don’t have insurance.”

Of course he didn’t. Insurance wasn’t exactly a priority in his case.

I was just rambling bullshit. I was asking all the questions that the authorities believed mattered or should be asked for whatever reason. The reality looked a lot different, and the 311 system was nothing but a glorified audiobook that read shit off the government website. High on promises, low on action. More often than not, they dispatched you to 911 if something needed to be done. AKA, sending the cops.

I handed Jamaal the lidocaine next.

At least the bleeding had slowed down.

“If you pop a fever, you need to go to a hospital,” he told Ben. “Or if the wound changes color and gets infected. We’re not fuckin’ around with sepsis, okay?”

Judging by the sight of Ben’s torso, this wasn’t his first run-in with sharp objects. His form was equal parts cut and stocky; he had muscle definition and some padding. And a handful of scars where his chest hair didn’t grow.

All right, time for me to be useful again.

“If you’re willing to stick around a couple hours, I have a dryer upstairs for those jeans,” I said. “We’ll get some food in you too.”

Ben sniffled and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I—I-I don’t—” He clenched his jaw and wouldn’t make eye contact, a sight I’d encountered way too many times.

About Cara

I’m often awkwardly silent or, if the topic interests me, a chronic rambler. In other words, I can discuss writing forever and ever. Fiction, in particular. The love story—while a huge draw and constantly present—is secondary for me, because there’s so much more to writing romance fiction than just making two (or more) people fall in love and have hot sex. 

There’s a world to build, characters to develop, interests to create, and a topic or two to research thoroughly. 

Every book is a challenge for me, an opportunity to learn something new, and a puzzle to piece together. I want my characters to come to life, and the only way I know to do that is to give them substance—passions, history, goals, quirks, and strong opinions—and to let them evolve.

I want my men and women to be relatable. That means allowing room for everyday problems and, for lack of a better word, flaws. My characters will never be perfect.

Wait…this was supposed to be about me, not my writing.

I'm a writey person who loves to write. Always wanderlusting, twitterpating, kinking, cooking, baking, and geeking. There’s time for hockey and family, too. But mostly, I just love to write. 

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