Scott Ashworth is a beautiful man and the hottest club host on the Phoenix gay scene. He takes what he wants, does what he wants, and does whom he wants. It’s a good life, but the journey to local popularity and fame wasn’t an easy one. For all that Scott’s looks are a blessing, at the same time they’re a curse—the source of his alcoholic mother’s inexplicable hatred.
Rylan Mahoney dreams of photojournalistic glory. He’s in Phoenix looking for the story of a lifetime, but the project isn’t coming to fruition. Needing rent money, he accepts a gig at Phoenix Pride hawking lewd lollipops and edible condoms…all while wearing gold lamé hot pants and a matching bow tie. When Rylan’s house keys and street clothes go missing after his shift, he’s desperate, until a stranger in a convertible stops to help.
The man is absolute sex on legs, and Rylan is jolted when he recognizes him—his stepbrother Scott Ashworth, long missing but suddenly larger than life. Scott is affluent and successful now, light years away from his hardscrabble days living with Rylan in a double-wide trailer deep in the heart of the Florida Panhandle.
Reunited after six years apart, Scott and Rylan are determined to put their past behind them, but fate may have other ideas and leave their future in jeopardy yet again.
Word count: 90,400
Warning: Underage sexual interaction, mentions of abuse, cliffhanger ending. - As mentioned on publisher's website.
Scott Ashworth and Rylan Mahoney meet when they are 17 when Rylan's father, Bob, who is a long distance truck driver, rather impulsively marries Scott's mother, Heather. Pieces of Me is the beginning of Scott and Rylan's story. The first half of the book covers a few months of their senior year in high school and the second half covers just a couple of days six years later, and we do get a cliffhanger.
Pieces of Me is not a light story. There is on page verbal abuse and Scott gets put down by everyone because of his mother, and many assume he is just like her. It's not really an easy read. Scott's mother is an abusive alcoholic who blames Scott for ruining her life because she got pregnant when she was 16. Yeah, clearly Scott's fault. Scott also looks just like his father, whom Heather also hates for getting her pregnant (it wasn't rape, but she refuses to take any responsibility, at all). Heather is bitter and has the reputation (well earned) of being a drunk and a slut who will sleep with pretty much anyone. She has 4 other children younger than Scott, all by different fathers. It seems that Scott is the only one she actually hates, though.
When Rylan moves in, he and Scott have to share a room. Awkward for 2 teenage boys, to be sure, but there is no real alternative. They don't share a bed, though, at least not at first. No, they become friends first, with Rylan the only one that sees behind the mask that Scott projects. And, later, as Scott admits to himself and then to Rylan, that he's attracted to boys as well as girls, they explore something more, together.
I really admired Rylan throughout Pieces of Me. Showing up to a new school, determined to be out. Befriending another outcast (not talking about Scott, here), showing everyone that he isn't afraid to be himself. And even when the bullies decided to try to take him down, he still stood tall and refused to let them get to him. Rylan is tenacious as hell. And Scott, looks out for him, too, showing that maybe he does care, after all.
Scott tries to come off as aloof and uncaring and most people don't bother looking past his beautiful outer shell, anyway, and he's been told over and over for his whole life that his looks are all he has. That he has literally nothing else going for him. And predictably, he believes it. Scott is more vulnerable than he lets on, though. He may act like the words don't cut, but they do and he bleeds. But Scott still hangs around with the very people that think he's nothing. He knows they are using him and he uses them, in return. Scott's entire existence just broke my heart over and over again. And what little self-worth he managed to build up because of Rylan's unwavering faith, comes crashing down the night of Scott's 18th birthday, when Heather decides to crush him even more, causing Scott to leave and he never comes back.
Fast forward six years. Rylan has graduated college with a photojournalism degree and he's working on a project that means a lot to him. It's turning out to be more difficult than he anticipated, though, and he is forced to look for temporary employment when his money runs out. Little did he know that the temporary employment at a vendor booth at Pride would lead him back to Scott.
Scott, while definitely more successful, still feels like he has nothing to offer anyone except sex and his looks. He works at a high end gay club in Phoenix where he hosts VIP's and has a huge following on Instagram, but still, no one knows him. Not really. That mask Scott used to wear is now so practiced, he can't seem to take it off at all, even for Rylan. But Rylan is still perceptive and when Scott tries to put the moves on Rylan, rather than just getting to know him again, Rylan pushes him away, telling Scott that they should be friends. And Scott, who knows he still cannot hide anything from Rylan, wants to try. Rylan was the only one who ever understood him and was the only one really even tried.
Do they make it past their past? Do we find out how Scott ended up in Phoenix? We'll just have to wait and see (hopefully, not too long...).
ARC of Pieces of Me was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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