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.

No one, and I mean no one, is more disappointed to see those three meager hearts up there than I. I don't even have words to explain how excited I was to read this book. I'm actually a bit ashamed of myself having been downright obnoxious about getting to the inbox every time I saw an email from Ninestar. Apologies, corns.


However, I want to make this crystal clear. The reason I didn't LOOOOVE this book is very specific to me and should be taken with a bucket of salt. 

As I've said before I work in the mental health field and this book has prominent mental health themes, something I tend to shy away from in my pleasure reads. The disorder Scott struggles with I see often. Even now I'm struggling with myself NOT to lapse into clinical speak. Suffice to say, he has a serious and persistent mental illness that isn't treated and is running his and Rylan's lives. 

I do genuinely believe Rylan and Scott are soul mates and there is an HEA. If any two people can make it I wholeheartedly hope it's them. Rylan may be the only one that can truly see Scott's words for what they actually mean. However, their relationship is unhealthy; it's imbalanced, co-dependent and toxic. The more the narrative unfolded the more I found myself reading on eggshells waiting for whatever self-sabotaging tactic Scott was going to deploy next which filled me in equal parts with dread and sorrow. The dramatics are copious but that's part and parcel of the disorder and Hansen's crafting of it is superb. In case it isn't already obvious, I started reading this like a clinician rather than a romance reader. All I saw was the mental illness, all I heard was the mental illness and all I could think about was how much Scott needed help, above and beyond what Rylan's love can provide.

Everything about Scott's characterization is remarkable and Rylan is still as loveable as ever. I'm not sure if Hansen has a mental health background but this story sure reads like it. If not, she did her research. Everything from his background to his actions is on point. Truly, it's a remarkable accomplishment and I tip my hat to her but reading it exhausted me. I need to downshift out of the mental health gig in my off time and I found that to be an impossibility with this read.

This story is very much relationship driven. Scott and Rylan are front and center. They fight and make up again and again and again but when they're good, they're great with the banter and their connection plain to see. I just wish there had been more of that to balance out the read. The unfortunate thing is I can't divorce myself from my job entirely and this felt very long. I think it could've been tightened, but I can't tell if that's me or an actuality.

This sex is frequent, but I found I couldn't enjoy it entirely because I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. A word of caution for those who balk when protags have sex with someone other than their love interest, I wouldn't characterize Scott and Rylan as polyamorous but they both have healthy sexual appetites and embrace their sexualities so when the opportunity to have a threesome presents itself, they go with it. 

Minh gives some brief snippets of levity and continued to be a fantastic secondary character. I also liked Chris and the trajectory Rylan's career took. I found the scenes on trans sex workers informative without being preachy and I appreciated the focus being on them having their own voice rather than having their voice be interpreted, and possibly watered down or whitewashed, for the masses. The Native American aspects involving spirituality and connection tothe earth as well as the scenic aspects of Arizona were both were my favorite parts. This will probably sound hokey but go big or go home, right? I was proud of Scott at the end. I know how hard that decision was for him to make but it was the right one and I think it bodes well for he and Rylan.

I've no doubt many will be moved by this read and that's largely due to Hansen's writing style being both evocative and emotive. I think what is most striking and memorable about it for me is how realistic it is from the dialogue to the emotions to the story arc. All of the people as well as their actions and emotions read authentic. However, as much as I respect the writing style and believe what Hansen has done with this conclusion is both brilliant and poignant, I will not be rereading it. Then again, I'll always have Pieces of Me and from now until forever it will be one of my favorite reads. 

A review copy was provided.

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