Saturday, April 22, 2017

ARC Review: See My Words (Spectrum Nights, #2) by Melanie Hansen

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.

Jewel's rating:

**NOTE: See My Words cannot be read as a stand alone.**

See My Words picks up right where Pieces of Me left off with Scott having just been attacked in the parking lot of Spectrum Nights, which completely derails his commitment to the MC2 underwear campaign.

In many ways, See My Words was more angsty than Pieces of Me was. And there was a period of the book that I didn't particularly enjoy, I admit. Scott and Rylan were stuck in a cycle that wasn't healthy for either of them, but they kept going anyway. It unsettled me more than I like, but I see why the story unfolded the way it did.

Scott is a complicated guy and he would let his insecurities take over and he would try to push Rylan away. Repeatedly. Rylan, though, saw right through him and would call Scott on his bullshit. I loved that about Rylan, but you can't force someone to like themselves. And they would go round and round...I found that unsettling and a little exhausting, even as I recognized that there could be no simple fix.

But a lifetime of conditioning telling you that you've got nothing going for you but your looks and that you're otherwise worthless takes its toll, you know? And the pressures of working at Spectrum Nights and having to be "on" all the time and having to perpetuate a certain (very superficial) image...yeah, not a healthy environment. At all.

So it broke my heart into little bitty pieces when I would see Scott try, time after time, to sabotage his relationship with Rylan, because he didn't feel worth being loved at all and he sure didn't trust it.

I trusted, though, that the author would take these characters where they needed to go in order to find their happy -- and she did. I found the ending more than satisfying and well worth the journey these men took to get there. And yes, the ending was definitely an HEA. A well earned, hard fought, HEA.

See My Words is a story of second chances. And nothing comes easy. Nothing. It's about learning that you do have worth. That you don't have to settle for what someone else tells you. It's about learning how to give as well as take and, above all, your past does not define who you are.

There were two supporting characters I found that I absolutely loved. One of them was Minh, Scott's best friend who is also a drag queen, Ms. Teena Teeze. Minh and Scott have been friends for five years - ever since they met when they were both living on the streets. Minh triggered Scott's protective instincts and they've been together ever since. Teena was a force of nature. She was so happy that Rylan wasn't letting Scott get away with anything.

The other secondary character I loved was Chris, who for a while at least, was interested in Rylan. I didn't want to like Chris, at all. He's older, 41, and a successful photojournalist, like Rylan aspires to be. I didn't want to like him, at all, because he wanted Rylan. But Chris was an immensely likable guy and he won me over.

Another thing I really loved about See My Words was that the story is so sex positive. There is no shaming those who use sex as a means to survive and sex, in general, was treated like a very positive thing. I loved that not everything had to fit into socially acceptable, heteronormative boxes.

I would recommend this series. Angst and all. The writing is amazing, and even when the angst rose to unsettling levels, I still needed to see these boys through to the end.

ARC of See My Words was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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