Successful underwear model Scott Ashworth is lucky—his attack at the hands of an unknown assailant will leave no visible scars. His professional goals are still within reach, and best of all, his stepbrother Rylan Mahoney is back in his life, their teenage infatuation at last getting the chance to deepen into something more.
Thrown together by the circumstances of Scott’s injury, Rylan’s long-dormant feelings for him are quickly rekindled, though he’s haunted by the memory of Scott’s disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan pushes Scott for the truth, a firm believer in the maxim that secrets lose their power once they’re shared—but resurrecting old demons almost always comes with a price.
Before Scott knows it, his life is spiraling out of control, his toxic insecurities welling up to threaten the fragile relationship he’s building with Rylan. Learning to let go of the past and believe in himself will be Scott’s greatest challenge, or else he risks losing Rylan forever this time.
So, I anticipated this book like BURNING. The previous book, Pieces of You started a little slowly for me but ended on a huge bang, the latter half of it flying by until I could not wait for more. Needless to say, I jumped ALL OVER this one when I had a chance.
There were things I really loved about this book. Both Rylan and Scott are complex characters that Hansen seems to really know and care about. It’s obvious she’s thought through where they are coming from now based on their histories. And, in particular, finally getting to see Scott’s story and what happened in the years he was gone was really satisfying (if very sad). Rylan’s no judgment, sex positive, affirmative position (which we see from the latter half of book one) is exactly what Scott needs.
All of which play into this really beautiful ending. What Hansen gives both men in the end, particularly Scott is so satisfying and really touched me. I appreciated that Scott needed to take the time to figure out his shit so that he could call out Rylan for his; mostly because Rylan seems so together when foiled with Scott throughout the book, but his behavior is very codependent.
My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. The first half dragged quite a bit, which was a bummer when the latter half of Pieces of Me had me on the edge of my seat for more. Frankly, there was so much sex I felt a bit desensitized to it, and it felt like it was getting in the way of the story and the character arcs. I mean, I love a sexy story so I would never say not to have it. But it felt like too much and it bogged the story down.
On a personal note: about 90% of the time when the term “bitch” or “little bitch” was used in this novel I cringed. I know I have a particular issue with the word, but partly because the context within dialogue in usage was particularly misogynistic and derogatory, which surprised me, particularly from Rylan. I’m a firm believer in imperfect, human, real characters, so if this is Hansen’s vision for these men, that’s okay. Jude’s little soapbox moment is just to point out that there are uses for this word that can perpetuate some really negative and hurtful things.
I do recommend this book. I would read it with Pieces of Me so you have the streamlined story — perhaps without the long break I had, the momentum will work a bit better. I do very much look forward to reading more of the author’s work.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.