Broken Pieces, Riley Hart
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Ménage, Angst, Psychological, Contemporary
Length: 339 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
For a second, Mateo let himself wonder what it would be like to be Josiah. He didn’t know the kid’s story besides the fact that his parents were dead, but there was something so fucking innocent about him. And Mateo wanted that. Wanted to protect it.
Broken Pieces is written in three parts – Part 1 – Josiah and Mateo. Part 2 – Josiah and Tristan. Part 3, a converging of the three men.
Part 1 – Josiah Evans is sixteen, he lives with Molly and William and he likes it there. Of all the foster homes, this is the one that is the nicest and the most likely to give him stability. Then, seventeen year old Mateo Sanchez is taken into their care, and Josiah is certain this is the end of a good thing. Mateo is like all the boys who have bullied and harassed him before. Mateo has attitude, he is a Mexican gang member, has a scar on his neck, and is angry. Soon, though, Josiah appeals to the protective side of Mateo, and Mateo is a driven, protective teenager –
“You don’t need to be like me, kid. I won’t let anyone fuck with you. Not while I’m here.”
Maybe…just maybe taking care of this kid would absolve him from some of his sins.
Mateo is inexorably drawn more and more to Josiah. Josiah’s softness, naiveté and innocence – in spite of losing his parents, in spite of multiple foster homes, in spite of being bullied, in spite of initially being scared of Mateo, Josiah is genuinely kind. Mateo has never known anyone like him. Where Mateo comes from you cannot trust a soul, especially the ones who tell you ‘we are family.’ Speaking of family, Mateo should be making his way back to Javier, his uncle and acting gang leader, now Mateo’s father is in jail. He is supposed to be Javier’s 2IC, but he can’t, he likes the normalcy of the house he is in. That he gets to be with Josiah at this place. That he isn’t always puking his guts up over something he has done to someone else that doesn’t sit well with him. The year they spend at Molly and William’s is the best they have ever experienced. Josiah teaches Mateo to play his beloved chess and it is something they continue doing together. Once Josiah declares he likes boys, Mateo won’t ever say it but so does he, once he gets under Mateo’s skin, it’s game over. They sneak into bed with one another of a night and hope they never get caught. They fall. However, like everything in their young lives, there is something just waiting to boil over. Mateo turns eighteen, can’t get a job, resorting to what he knows best – selling drugs. He is thrown out of the foster house and he makes a decision to walk away from Josiah – he’s no good for Josiah anyway. But Josiah follows. They live together in a rundown apartment in a seedy neighbourhood with Mateo protecting Josiah every way he can. But Mateo is hiding from his past as well, which catches up. In the end Mateo has no choice but to send Josiah away with some (unknown to Josiah) strings-attached cash to get Josiah started on what he knows is his dream of obtaining his GED, living in San Francisco, feeding the birds and working at a café on Fisherman’s Wharf. Only Josiah’s dreams always included his Mateo. But Mateo won’t be going.
In part 2 there is the progression from first love to the realities of life. Josiah lives like a monk. He rarely says two words to people, let alone have physical contact, and he shaves his beautiful hair that Mateo used to love to run his hands through – if Mateo can’t be there he will take something away that Mateo loved. No one can touch Josiah’s hair…except Mateo, and he isn’t there. Every day, without fail, Josiah walks in the morning and feeds the birds, and he works in a café on Fisherman’s Wharf. He has everything…but Mateo. He visibly does all the things he told Mateo he was going to do in hopes of Mateo coming to San Francisco and finding him. Mateo made him a chess piece. Josiah carries the chess piece in his pocket every day and holds it regularly to remind himself of who he loves, who he craves, what he lost. Two, three, four, five, six years pass and he is still in love with Mateo. He’s been with no other person in his life. Won’t let a soul in. Then along comes cynical, jaded, and powerful thirty one year old attorney, Tristan Croft. He sees this young man frenetically feeding the birds one morning on Fisherman’s Wharf when he goes to get his depressed and agoraphobic mother a scone. For some reason, that is very un-Tristan-like, he is drawn to the sad, jumpy young man feeding those birds. A brief conversation, more like a lecture about ‘never apologising for things,’ ensues.
After that, it is one of life’s mysterious connections – Tristan turns up mornings ‘for a walk’ and Josiah walks with him.
But when Tristan put one foot in front of the other, walking down the walkway in front of the water, Josiah stepped in beside him.
They didn’t talk. Just walked. And somehow his thoughts weren’t as loud on that walk. Somehow, the air and ocean, or maybe even the birds, made him feel free, even if only for a little while.
At first they don’t speak, just walk, but then they get into a Q&A where both parties have a right of veto if one touches on subjects the other doesn’t want to discuss. Both men have subjects they veto and both men instinctively know not to go certain places with the other. After a while, Josiah finds himself without somewhere to live and Tristan steps in – rather gallantly – to help. They have learned much about each other over months of morning walks. Tristan is another deeply scarred man who is drawn to Josiah’s sweet nature. Where Mateo did everything to protect a younger Josiah from the mean streets, Tristan wants to do similar by helping Josiah go to college, have a secure place to live, where no one will take advantage of him while he gets on track and has power over his own life. Tristan knows only too well, painfully so, how people use and abuse you. But Tristan won’t love him, he won’t allow love into his life, he will never say the words that he believes gives power over to others –
“Don’t let people have that kind of power over you. I’ve seen what power does. When people love so much they put someone else above themselves. Or equal to themselves. All it does is hand power to them. Keep that for yourself. No one else deserves it.”
“Love equals power? So, you’ll never love because you never want to hand over the power?” The thought made Josiah kind of sad. It was so…cynical, and so true.
Tristan sighed, making his reply obvious. “Veto.”
He also won’t ask Josiah to have sex with him. Oh, he wants to be with him, but he won’t take advantage. Never that –
“Tell me you know you don’t have to do this.”
At that, Josiah’s head snapped upward again. “What? Why-“
“Just tell me.”
“I know I don’t have to do this. I want to. I want you.”
Tristan moaned. His cock jerked.
And a physical relationship begins. While Josiah has always looked for love, a part of him still wants it to be Teo’s love. It suits Josiah and Tristan to live together and have sex – Tristan doesn’t have to give his heart, although we know it’s happening, and Josiah can still love Teo all these years later. Josiah and Tristan fall into a very close relationship. It is now more meaningful when they have sex. Josiah eventually unpacks and Tristan eventually moves Josiah into his bedroom. And soon Josiah can tell Tristan that he ‘loves him,’ knows Tristan loves him back, but Tristan can’t say the words, they always get caught in his throat. Tristan knows that Josiah has a past love who has never left Josiah’s thoughts. He is a veto topic for the most part. He knows he carries the queen around on him all the time. He gets Josiah a wooden bird. Now Josiah has the queen and the bird, and he treasures them both.
In Part 3, Josiah has just graduated college, and Josiah and Tristan are in a rhythm in their relationship. It is nine years post Mateo. But suddenly Mateo is back and ironically he is at Fisherman’s Wharf, where he knew Josiah would be. He told him his dreams and Mateo knew Josiah would stick with those dreams. Josiah is with Tristan when he sees Mateo and Tristan knows, just knows, who it is that Josiah has seen. Tristan has a war of feelings as he loves Josiah, still can’t say it, and doesn’t want to share – he’s a strong-willed male. But he also can’t give Josiah everything he needs. He knows that. He hates it, but it’s a fact. This is where the ménage comes into play. The third part of the book is my favourite part as a lot more is revealed about Tristan emotionally. The sex is not over the top but it is powerful and red hot when it happens. The three of them are explosive. Initially there are jealousies that you know through inner thoughts and having multiple character POV. But along with that is a grudging respect from both Tristan and Mateo for one another. Josiah wants Teo, and Tristan lets him go to him, but that in itself becomes problematic. The third part is all about the broken pieces of the title binding together. I loved it. I love ménage, but this is a different ménage than many in the genre and it works well. That Josiah is who he is connects them very tentatively at first. But the initial grudging respect Tristan and Mateo have grows as they learn what each other has done to protect the important people in their respective lives. It helps solidify their feelings for each other in the ménage. Attraction is also there. And they do have a window of opportunity to get to know one another. They can also share the guilt they each have with one another because they instinctually understand. And believe me, there is so much guilt in Mateo and Tristan. Josiah brings the best out in them and eases them. They fit as a poly relationship without Riley Hart forcing anything.
I loved this book for several reasons. I actually felt like it was a book of three parts, three necessary parts of a whole. While the events are so dramatic, I do love a good dramatic book. Characters. If I can become involved in the characters, which I did, that is nine tenths of a book for me. Josiah could so easily have annoyed me – nine years he waited and waited and waited, So not healthy. But this is fiction, and there is a part of me that is egotistical enough to love that concept…or do I have a tiny acorn of romance actually inside of me; where I think it is a beautiful thing to have someone love that damn much? Huh. Who knows? But love it I did. I do love scarred and broken and psychologically complex characters in my reading when they are done right, and here they are. Tristan has had such a traumatic childhood into young adulthood – his behaviour rang true for me. Mateo as well – both men suffer from stress related anxieties that manifest themselves in different ways. Josiah always wanted to be loved and belong, and there is nothing wrong with that if you find the right person or people. He is calming to these two incredibly protective men in his life – who never feel they are good enough for things that were always out of their control. The road they chose is interesting. But here’s the thing, life can mimic a bloody big chess board where you are moved around by others, by events, and come into contact with other pieces on the board, some of them ruin your game plan, some of them strenghten it.
Broken Pieces is passionate, intense, emotional, OTT, drama filled… and I loved the ride. I woke up for three mornings with a desire to grab my Kindle, and reach into Josiah’s, Mateo’s, and Tristan’s story, and god help anyone who got in my way. If you appreciate angst, a sexy ménage, drama, scarred characters, unbelievably believable love that never dies, head straight to the passion-filled Broken Pieces. I now await their next story coming later in 2014. Oh.Yes.
“I do. I love you Tristan. I don’t understand it. How I can love you both so much. How you both are so connected to me. But you are. I love you,” he said again, his lips pressing to Tristan’s chest.
Tristan’s fingers went to his pulse, but Josiah separated his hands. Turned his head so his ear lay over Tristan’s heart. “I’ll count them for you.”
He squeezed his eyes shut. Jesus, he loved Josiah, but still the words lodged in his throat…. He may not be able to say it, but he loved him enough to do anything for him, the way Mateo had.