Rhys St. George knows he has made plenty of mistakes in his life. His overbearing and cruel father demands nothing but obedience and, as the oldest son, Rhys has always borne the brunt of his attention. Rhys learned at his father’s side to always be in control, to stay steps ahead of everyone else, and to make sure to manage every situation to his advantage. Which also means Rhys isn’t always the easiest man to deal with and he is used to getting what he wants. What most people don’t realize, however, is that one of the things Rhys wants most of all is for his younger brother to live a happy life free from their father’s overbearing presence. That means Rhys has made plenty of hidden sacrifices to appease his father so he stays focused on Rhys and out of Sebastian’s life. Now, however, Rhys is tired of having his life controlled by his father and has moved to Myers Bluff where Sebastian lives. Rhys wants things to change, but he has no idea how to even begin.
Beckett Thatcher is struggling to make ends meet as a server, while his lack of funds has him putting aside dreams of opening a restaurant of his own. When Rhys dines at one of Beckett’s tables one day, Beckett can’t help but notice the polished, handsome, and powerful man — even more so when Rhys leaves Beckett an enormous tip. When Rhys returns and asks Beckett out for lunch, Beckett knows he is out of his element. Rhys lives in a rarified world where money is so plentiful as to be almost meaningless and Beckett feels like he is out of place in Rhys’ life. It is clear Rhys is used to getting exactly what he wants, when he wants it, and Beckett certainly isn’t going to line up to be another person to do Rhys’ bidding. But he also finds that Rhys is surprisingly willing to adapt and compromise where Beckett is concerned.
The two men should never work together, yet somehow they do. As Beckett gets to know Rhys better, he learns more about his family drama, his traumatic past with his ex-boyfriend, and the control his father still exerts over him. It is hard for Beckett to really understand this world of wealth and privilege, or the control Rhys’ father manages to have over his life. But what he does know is that Rhys is sweet and loving to him and he is opening his heart up to Beckett in way he never expected. And Rhys finds himself just the right amount of off balance with Beckett, a man who wants nothing from Rhys but his love and companionship, a far cry from his past partners who only see dollar signs. The men are falling hard for one another, and they are beginning to dream of a future together. But Rhys’ father is not willing to let his son go just yet. He is rich, powerful, and determined to see Rhys by his side — whatever the cost.
A Matter of Fact is the third book in Kate Hawthorne’s fabulous Two Truths and a Lie series (or as I personally think of it — The Redemption of Rhys St. George). Redeeming a villain in a romance novel is not an easy task; when readers start off hating a character, it is hard to move that dial and create someone we can love and care about. There is such a delicate balance here between making the character enough of a villain to make the redemption meaningful, but not so awful that you can’t forgive him. We need to discover things that show the character in a new light, while at the same time not having him undergo a complete personality transplant. And the redemption needs to be believable, rooted in the story and the character. And I have to say, Hawthorne really nails it completely here with Rhys. This book, and this series, has one of the best redemption journeys I have ever read and I absolutely loved this story.
What Hawthorne does so well is give us a wonderful romance in this third book that is a meaningful story unto itself, but at the same time, rooting the redemption arc across the series. In the first book, A Real Good Lie, Rhys is the pure villain. We know he broke Callahan’s heart, we see him treat both Callahan and Jace terribly, and we have no other knowledge beyond this couple’s POV. The second book, A Cold Hard Truth, starts out much the same, with Sebastian and Rhys very much at odds. Sebastian only sees what Rhys is willing to show him, and Rhys has kept so much hidden. But what works so well is that in the second half of the book, we start to see behind the curtain to realize there is something more going on than we have known from our limited point of view. We start to get those hints that while Rhys looks cold and uncaring, and often downright cruel, many of his actions are calculated to protect his brother. So by the time we get to Rhys’ story here, as readers we know there is more going on than what we first believed. While Rhys is far from selfless in every regard, and he often makes bad choices (or downright terrible ones), in many cases his heart is in the right place. So many of his actions are motivated to bear the brunt of his father’s wrath, clean up other’s mistakes, or cause trouble so the spotlight stays away from Sebastian and his life. What I love is that Rhys isn’t this perfect, misunderstood angel. He still handles things poorly a lot of the time, he makes plenty of bad decisions, and he has no real idea how to be a friend or a boyfriend. But we can see that there is a heart under there, one he is desperate to share with Beckett, and it just creates such a lovely redemption arc for his journey.
Beckett is the perfect partner for Rhys because he doesn’t care a bit for his money. In fact, Rhys’ obscene wealth is almost a detriment in Beckett’s eyes. Suddenly, Rhys has to be more than his wallet; he has to compromise and open up and be the man Beckett needs, not just the one who can buy him fancy things. There are some lovely (and heart-wrenching) moments when Rhys can’t help but wonder what Beckett could possibly see in him if not his money. He has so little sense of his own self worth and isn’t sure how to just step back and be himself. When Beckett not only accepts him, but loves Rhys for who he is, it just opens him up in such a great way.
There are some really nice moments here throughout their relationship. I love how Beckett’s instinct is to say no to Rhys spending money on him, but he comes to realize that he needs to compromise too, that Rhys can’t be the only one who has to change his behavior, and that sometimes Beckett needs to graciously accept what Rhys wants to give. I also really appreciate how Beckett becomes such a strong advocate for Rhys. Even as Sebastian comes to realize how much Rhys has done for him, how much he has given up, he still is used to just letting Rhys solve things when they have a problem. And there is this amazing moment when Rhys finds himself swallowed up by his father once again and Sebastian reassures Beckett that Rhys will figure it out. And Beckett just loses his shit and points out that Rhys shouldn’t have to and that it is time for someone to stand up and take care of Rhys the way he takes care of others. It is such a great scene because it shows how much Beckett understands this twisted family dynamic, but also that he is unequivocally in Rhys’ corner and, for the first time, Rhys isn’t alone.
So clearly I am gushing here, but I just loved this story. Beckett and Rhys are romantic and sweet and sexy. The book pulls together threads from across the series and really brings the full story all together in such a satisfying way. And we get such a lovely redemption arc for this prickly man with a sweet underbelly who is just overjoyed with the love he has found. This has turned out to be my favorite series from Hawthorne and this is my favorite book of hers I have read. Definitely check out all three books so you can follow this journey of family and friends finding love and connecting in unexpected ways.