Auggie has come to Wroxall College looking for a fresh start. He figures he’ll put events from the past behind him and spend some time working on his social media brand. Auggie has an enormous following online, and with just a little more managing, he should be in line for some big endorsements that will take things to the next level. But first, he has to make it through his freshmen year of college.
Theo is a grad student and teacher at Wroxall. He recently lost his husband in a terrible car accident. Emotionally, Theo is still raw from the loss and he is mostly just getting by.
When Theo and Auggie each get caught up in an encounter with the wrong man, they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a murder. Neither man understands what is happening, nor how they became involved, but both are being implicated. As Auggie and Theo learn more, they realize they are both in some serious danger from crooked cops and drug dealers who are all looking for answers. Not able to trust the police, the men have no choice but to rely on each other. But people are looking for answers Auggie and Theo can’t provide, and if they aren’t careful, their lives will be on the line as well.
They Told Me I Was Everything was originally released a chapter a day through author Gregory Ashe’s newsletter as a serial story. It has now been published in novel format, so nothing new if you have read the original, but a great way to get it all in one book. And for new readers, now is your chance! I intended to read this when it was first coming out in Ashe’s newsletter, but I couldn’t keep up with it, so I was really excited to see that he was publishing it in book form.
So you can probably tell I was being super vague on the mystery side of things here. That’s because part of the fun of this story is watching all the pieces come together through Auggie and Theo’s eyes. They seem to be on two different tracks until things converge and we see how their stories connect. Neither man has any idea how they ended up in the middle of this mess, as it all seems incredibly random. It is only as the story develops that we realize how all the pieces come together and connect. So this story is almost a mystery within a mystery, figuring out both how and why Auggie and Theo are caught up in the murder, and then learning who is behind the killing and why. I think Ashe does a nice job building this dual suspense, particularly with regard to Auggie and Theo. I could feel their fear and confusion as they struggled to understand what was happening. The murder mystery isn’t quite as high octane as some of Ashe’s other works, but I still found it really engaging as the whole plot unfolds and the pieces come together.
As always, Ashe does a nice job balancing the character development and the action, and Auggie and Theo are particularly interesting characters. Auggie is a social media star, and he is totally caught up in building his online brand. He is constantly taking pictures and documenting his life for public consumption. Many of his actions and public behavior are carefully calculated to be on brand (including not discussing his attraction to men), but that leaves him feeling hollow. There is this dichotomy between Internet Auggie and real Auggie that leaves him feeling like he is not really seen. It is a nice contrast with Theo, who is fairly anti-technology with no social media at all, and doesn’t really understand anything about Auggie’s online life. It also adds some fun elements to the investigation, as Auggie is extremely social media savvy and is able to get a lot of information by scouring Instagram pics and navigating online. Theo is still emotionally dealing with the fall out from his accident and still kind of hollow and self destructive (too much drinking, too many pills). But there is a nice connection between the men as Auggie brings some light and joy to Theo, and Theo is one of the few people with whom Auggie can be his true self.
They start off as student and teacher, but soon become friends (almost despite Theo’s attempts to push Auggie away). It’s clear there is some attraction between them, but Theo is in no way ready for anything romantic or sexual at this point. So this story really establishes the connection and dynamic between Auggie and Theo, but they are not in any way in a relationship at this point beyond friendship. (If you are a regular Ashe reader, you will not be shocked that these guys get put through the ringer before they settle into a solid relationship together.) I feel like we leave the men in a good place, but don’t expect an HEA or HFN right now. Fortunately, there is more to come pretty quickly, as Ashe is starting up the installments for book 2 in his newsletter today. You can sign up on his website here https://bit.ly/qstories to get installments sent right to your email.
Oh, one more note for Hazard and Somerset fans. The story takes place in 2013 in the same town, and we do get a cameo here. You definitely don’t need to have read that series to enjoy this book, as the story totally stands alone, but if you have read those books, I think seeing life in town years before will be interesting.
So this was a fun first installment of this series. The mystery develops in an engaging way and I enjoyed the start of the relationship between Auggie and Theo. There are a lot of secrets and backstory these men have yet to reveal, and I am really looking forward to seeing how things unfold for them in future books.