Rented Heart – Garrett Leigh
Ex-surfer-turned-businessman Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. Grief and loneliness keep him a solitary figure, and he likes it that way. There’s no room in his broken heart for anything else.
Rentboy Zac Payne left London and most of his demons behind, but he still only knows one way to make a living. When he spots Liam in a club one night, it seems he’s found his mark. But Liam proves nicer—and their connection far deeper—than he’d bargained for.
Their arrangement quickly becomes too complicated for Zac, who has other things on his mind: namely his BFF and wayward flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie the world, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.
Besides, Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life, too caught up in his own head to think much beyond the crazy heat he and Zac share. But when trouble comes to Zac’s door, putting his life in danger, Liam must set his grief and anger aside to pick up the pieces of Zac’s shattered heart and his own.
I am the type of romance reader who would all but demand exclusivity between the intended couple the moment they started noticing each other. I have no patience for love triangles unless its heading towards poly which is the only acceptable conclusion for me.
However, if your MC’s a rentboy, it could get pretty… tricky.
Fortunately, Rented Heart made the process almost painless. I don’t know what sorcery Garrett Leigh did but I somehow didn’t mind Zac hustling and even sleeping with his friend, Jamie while already having feels for Liam. So yes, trigger warning here, Zac had sex with other people.
This is a short book clocking in at around 5 hours plus. Dan Calley is the narrator as usual. I’m becoming a fan of how he’s bringing the author’s books to life. Realistic dialogues are one of the things I enjoyed the most about her books and Calley always delivered them in such a way that felt like you’re listening in on actual conversations.
The story did a good depicting the grim realities of of Zac’s world without diminishing the blossoming romance between him and Liam. Their meetings were bright spots that stood in contrast with the struggle to keep roof over head and help a friend in dire need. Although, it did feel too insta given that they didn’t even spend that much time with each other in the first parts of the story.
Still, it was quite an emotional rollercoaster. There’s fear that it would be over soon and the very real possibility of losing a best friend to addiction. There’s grief and hurt aplenty and comfort wholeheartedly given. There’s roadtrips, doggy cuddles and more cuddles.
There is also, trouble you could see coming from a mile away the moment Jamie came in the apartment with his stash. Wished it went another way.
Happily, Jamie redeemed himself. Zac and Liam acknowledged the rom-comness of their situation, shipped Jamie to California and lived the Pretty Woman dream.
Vivian Ward would be proud.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
For angsty stories with lots of heart, Garrett Leigh is your girl. Read reviews of her books here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Redemption – Garrett Leigh
Reformed gangster Luis falls hard for his boss. When friendship turns to love, it’s up to Paolo to convince him second chances are worth the pain.
Luis Pope is back on the street after a six year stretch in prison, but life on the outside seems just out of reach, especially when the whole neighbourhood knows his face for all the wrong reasons.
Paolo’s temper makes it hard to keep staff, and he knows Luis’s rep all too well. But his nonno believes in redemption, and Luis isn’t the tough guy Paolo remembers. Prison has left its mark, inside and out, and all the kindness in the world can’t fix the three inch scar on Luis’s skull.
And it can’t keep ghosts locked up. Luis’s the best worker Paolo’s ever had, and Luis’s happier than he’s ever been. But his old life doesn’t want to stay in the past. Trouble comes to call, and when it makes him an offer he can’t refuse, keeping Paolo safe hurts the most.
Redemption is an angsty, standalone MM romance novel, with second chances, found family, friends-to-lovers, and buckets of hurt/comfort themed loveliness.
Right from the time I read the blurb, I immediately had a good feeling about this.
There were FEELS indeed!
I was rooting for Luis from the start. He knew he made mistakes. He paid his dues and just wanted a fresh start. He just needed somebody to take a chance on an ex-con who doesn’t even have a coat for the winter.
Paolo wouldn’t have given him that chance. Even if he badly needed help at the cafe he’s running single-handedly. Even if he had a crush on the Luis Pope since they were schoolmates. He heard all about the notorious Pope brothers. But his nonno convinced him to give Luis a job. If Paolo doesn’t give him a chance, who would?
At first, Luis was relegated to busing tables and washing dishes. As the story progressed, he revealed other useful skills that made him invaluable. I loved how he smoothly stepped up and stepped in the role of cook when Paolo needed to care for his nonna.
The two men slowly learned to trust each other. I loved how their friendship developed. Paolo is a hot-blooded Italian you can’t argue with. He is annoyed about everything. He curses and grumbles a lot. Conveniently, Luis has a damaged ear so he doesn’t hear most of it. What he hears, he can sass back in his cool, quiet Luis manner.
The story did a good job portraying their relationship. It wasn’t perfect. Luis frequently withheld information to protect Paolo from his gangster brother. Paolo has a quick temper. But you can see how these two flawed men brought out the good in each other.
However, Luis thinks he’s not good enough. He can’t even get away from his manipulative brother who wants him back as a mule. He would do everything to keep Paolo safe, including going back to the life he already left behind. But he’s not giving up without a fight, not if he can help it.
Luis is wracked by anxiety. He also has an ear injury that was a result of being whacked with a pipe while in prison. This wasn’t the main focus but this held real consequences for him and was put to good use in the story. The injury was crucial in that seemingly made-in-passing, split-second decision that could have put him back in the box. This particular scene stuck with me for some reason. It was so minor I didn’t realize its significance until I was done reading.
This is an angsty read and hurt-comfort at its best. The character portraits were raw and real. I’m a lazy reader and sometimes when you get dramatic stories, the sentences feel heavy which makes reading a chore. Here the writing had that certain quality of delivering emotional punches yet still easy to read. There’s a sense of foreboding that keeps you turning the pages. Which is why I nearly finished this in one sitting.
Redemption is another top-notched Garrett Leigh creation. A moving story about second chances and do overs. Where choices had to be made even if you had no choice. And a simple bacon sandwich could mean the world.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Garrett Leigh is an auto-buy author for most MM readers. Read reviews of her books here and find out why.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
The Edge Of The World – Garrett Leigh
Shay Maloney is living his dream—on tour with his pirate/folk-rock band. But you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’re from, and that’s where moody filmmaker and researcher Ollie Pietruska comes in.
The band’s management persuades Shay to let a television company film a documentary about his roots beyond his adoptive Irish family, and Ollie comes into his life knowing more about Shay than Shay’s ever known about himself.
But while Ollie holds the key to Shay’s past, he’s also hiding deep scars. Even as the hardships of the tour bring them closer, Ollie’s demons threaten the blossoming romance. They might both reach the breaking point before Ollie realises he’s been standing on the edge of the world for too long, and it’s Shay who holds the key to his future.
A friends-to-lovers, rock star, road-tripping romance, with a guaranteed happily-ever-after
Given my obsession with music, I thought I would be all over this. Sadly, The Edge of the World was not engaging my attention as I would like it to. I tried to hang on for as long as I could but there’s no hook to keep me going.
A book about an indie pirate-folk band should be riveting stuff. And I am curious about life on the road for musicians. Turns out the everyday life on tour was tedium and boredom.
I suppose MCs Shay and Ollie were your typical troubled but likable Garrett Leigh leads but I wasn’t drawn to them. I didn’t dislike them or anything, it’s just that they’re forgettable. In addition, none of the other personalities stood out.
I also didn’t feel the connection between Shay and Ollie. They weren’t communicating properly. Both were mostly pining and speculating about the other. Ollie was too closed-mouth for his own good. There were also cryptic hints of his issues being dropped here and there, but I wasn’t intrigued enough to care.
One reason I stuck for as long as I could was narrator Dan Calley. I really like the way he voiced the conversations. His reading style matched the author’s prose perfectly. I think that’s why he narrates most of her books.
I feel bad about DNFing a book that’s right up my alley but when it’s becoming a chore, I think it’s time to throw in the towel. This could be very well be a Me problem. Many readers enjoyed this and I think it’s best to find out for yourself. Especially if you’re into angsty tales of genius musicians and ninja filmmakers.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Garrett Leigh books here.
2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book
Falling for My Roommmate – Garrett Leigh
Falling for his roommate gives ex footballer Micah the second chance he deserves, and what could be better than loving your best friend?
I’m a broke ex-football player with a bum leg and PTSD. Last summer, I had two choices: the streets, or find a cheap room to rent in the city. I chose the second option, which landed me with a brand-new problem, cos I hadn’t banked on my roommate becoming my best friend. Or that before long I’d find myself head over heels in love with him. Trouble is, even if Sam likes me back, I ain’t fit to be no one’s boyfriend. I don’t know how. All I do is wade through every precious moment and hope that he doesn’t regret the day he ever met me.
I’m a gay book nerd with no business falling in love with hunky athletes. Micah is the dictionary definition of beautiful, inside and out, he just doesn’t know it. And he definitely doesn’t know I’m ridiculously in love with him. The embarrassing kind of love.
He’s all I can think about.
But it’s not as simple as loving someone who doesn’t love me back. Micah is damaged goods—at least, that’s how he’d put it. The world has chewed him up and spat him out, and he thinks he deserved it. That he’s still the battered mess he was a year ago.
I want to shake him, and shout in his face that he’s not. To force the truth on him and make him believe in himself the way I do. But I can’t save Micah. One day, perhaps he’ll realise that he already saved himself.
Trust Garrett Leigh to create a raw, emotionally gripping story out of the simple premise of falling in love with a roommate.
Micah and Sam are roommates and best friends. After mutually pining for each other and some sassing from nosy friends, they finally had the courage to confess their feelings and kiss.
You think it would end happily there.
After the kiss came miscommunications and insecurities. If these are your pet peeves, they could get pretty annoying.
Sam is Micah’s own personal ray of sunshine. I liked how they played off each other and how domestic they are. They’re practically like an old married couple with their household routines down pat. I enjoyed their banters. My favorite part were the trips to the library and cuddling in the corners.
But this is not just about romance. It’s so much more.
Most of the Garrett Leigh’s books I’ve read featured characters with mental illness and how this affects their lives and relationships.
My heart went out to Micah. He made poor choices in the past and now had to live with the consequences. He has PTSD, depression and a bum leg. He might have sunk back to his gloomy moods but I appreciated that he knew when to ask for help. All he wanted was to live a normal life with Sam.
Sam, himself, was not perfect. He was quick to make negative assumptions that hurt Micah. Their relationship basically revolves around Micah and his issues and I loved how he really tried to be there for Micah 101% of the time.
I also appreciated how the story underscored the importance of proper and consistent mental health care. It painted an accurate picture of what happens when we stop taking meds, even if not on purpose. And as expected with this author, she handled the issue with much respect and sensitivity.
The story also talked about the aftermath of a public outing by a footballer. Sad to say that the media treated gay footballers horribly. Tabloid columns splashed lurid headlines. Paparazzi preyed on their every move. No wonder Micah is going mad just thinking about how it could affect him and Sam. Especially on the heels of another public outing that had gone down disastrously.
Narrator Dan Calley did a great job bringing this book to life. The spot-on voice acting coupled with a variety of authentic accents made the conversations sound very natural.
Falling for My Roommate ran through a variety emotions that strongly resonated with me. The characters are flawed yet they made me root hard for them. There’s a lot of angst, some humor, some sweeter moments. The ending was full of hope and promise. All in all, it is a beautiful book that’s a pleasure to read/listen to.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Review of Garrett Leigh books here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits