Title ~ Heart
Author ~ Garrett Leigh
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 27th October 2014
Genre ~ M/M Contemorary Romance
Cornish pastry chef Seb Wright dreads the summer tourist season. The cash injection to his artisan fudge pantry is more than welcome, the extra work, less so. Then one summer, a shadowy Good Samaritan catches his eye. Irish Traveller Dex is bewitching, a beautiful sullen enigma who turns Seb's world upside down until he disappears in the night, vanishing like a mystical summer rain.
Twelve months later Dex is in the midst of a dark storm. A slave to his master, 'Uncle' Braden, he spends his days cleaning caravans and his nights working in Braden's other businesses. His short summer with Seb seems a lifetime ago. Lost in the savage violence of the murky underworld, he doesn't dare dream he'll ever find his way back, until one night, a brutal crime opens the door for a chance escape. A new life beckons, old faces emerge, and immersed in the heady vibe of London’s East End, new love begins to heal his fractured heart.
It’s been twelve months since Garrett Leigh appeared here on SSBR as a debut author, completely WOWING me with her first book Slide. She’s packed a lot into this last year and her novels are truly outstanding, there is a familiarity for me to her writing and from the very first page, this book stole my heart. This is without doubt Garrett Leigh’s finest work to date! The prose is beautiful, the words ebb and flow effortlessly and tore at my very soul, I was moved to tears by the sheer magnitude of the raw emotion contained within the pages of this book… It hurts, as in, real pain in your chest and ugly tears hurt… but, at the same time there is so much joy to be had through the experience, It’s filled with hope, understanding, compassion and… my god, the courage and strength of Dex, who throughout it all remains such a sensitive and sweet boy, prevailing, despite all he endures. This is my book, I think Garrett Leigh wrote this just for me… it’s all mine, honestly, I’m not kidding, I almost don’t want to share it’s perfection, I want to keep Seb and Dex all to myself and enjoy them over and over again. Stand with them through the bad times, fight to the death if I have to, to protect Dex and bask in the sublimeness of what can be realised when you truly have heart…
This book is told from both characters perspectives, the main body of the book is Dex’s tale to tell. But brilliantly Garrett Leigh opens and closes with a peek into Seb’s head and I was completely engrossed from the there on in, he’s a character I could totally empathise with. His life is consumed by his passion. As a chef, it comes with the territory, and having worked in the hospitality industry all my life, it’s something I could totally relate to. There is little or no time for any quality of life and running your own business makes it doubly hard. I could feel the loneliness it brings, that loss within him and the yearning for something more, but pushing aside your own needs as something else to deal with later.
So when his thoughts, normally more in tune with what the next day requires of him, turn to the anticipation of seeing the small blond haired vagrant, for a late night butty and a packet of hula hoops, his life seems to become bright, welcome company in the daily drudgery his life has for so long become attuned to.
It becomes immediately apparent just how Seb’s caring and compassionate nature is drawn to Dex, his vulnerability and how lost he is, trying to hold onto his dignity. Seb wants to help him, whilst at the same time leave him with some semblance of pride. He doesn’t see a vagrant, he see’s beneath the dirt and the tatty clothes, to the beauty of the lost boy hiding beneath those layers, proud, resilient, but above all surviving.
I’ve always been a bleeding heart, and I wanted to wrap my arms so tight around Dex and just hug him, and I was as desperate, and at the same time as anxious as Seb to know this fragile waif’s story. I wanted to protect him for no other reason than I could feel his pain.
Dex ran his fingers through Seb’s hair and found a perfect curl. He wanted to stick his finger in it to see if it held him tight… tight enough to stay here forever, but he didn’t. The night was fading away, and their time together had come to an end.
Dex’s life is one of desolation and hopelessness, forced into prostitution by his Master ‘Uncle Braden’ the man he’s been in the ‘care’ of since the age of thirteen, and I use that term lightly, because the man is a bastard, with no humanity in him whatsoever. Purely and simply he is evil incarnate, not giving a flying fuck about Dex, apart from the money to be made from him. The man turned my stomach, and, my god, Dex just about broke my heart… It’s any wonder he survived at all. I cried so hard for Dex, especially as the only memory that keeps him going is that of the kind and gentle man who showed him he’s not a worthless dog to be beaten, abused and fucked! I wanted to wail at the injustice of it all and Dex’s quiet acceptance of his fate… where death, is a brighter proposition than living. Yet it’s human instinct to survive even if that survival means living in fear.
The gravity of what he’d done hit him like a kick in the chest. He shook and tears streamed in hot tracks down his face. The lorry rumbled to life, and only the fist in his mouth muffled his scream.
Garrett Leigh ripped a hole in my chest for this boy. No friends, no family that want him, no life, so lonely he doesn’t even recognise the emotion. Broken, yet there is a light in his soul that can’t be extinguished… no matter the pain and torment. He’s lost, yet his internal compass keeps him moving, he should be bitter and angry, yet despite his existence, there is an innocence and purity to him. Which is something Rick recognises in him when he offers him the job as a pot wash after escaping the nefarious Braden.
When you work in the hospitality industry the long antisocial hours dictate that the people you work with become more than colleagues, or even friends, there is a sense of family and Dex is welcomed into the fold by Rick and Brandie. As secondary characters these two were complete stars, I loved them both, and despite living in London they had not lost the warmth of their northern roots. They’re also not daft, and they recognise the scared boy, who just needs a break as well as a lot of kindness and compassion. Intuitive in that they don’t make grand gestures but rather subtleties, knowing that Dex would neither want nor accept pity.
As fate would have it Seb ends up being the new pastry chef in Ricks restaurant. Yes, I know… all very convenient, but heck I love that! My heart was melting like Seb’s chocolate, because these two are MEANT to be together, it’s destiny, it just had to happen, and oh lord was I smiling from ear to ear. Not only for Dex who’s scared shitless at the appearance of the man of his dreams, but also for Seb because Dex had been a constant in his memory ever since their one night of exquisite unadulterated passion eighteen months earlier.
“…I know him. I know he has a freckle behind his ear and a tiny scar on his belly. I know him, because I promised him I’d never forget him.”
The Seb we meet in London is far more carefree and happy in comparison to the downtrodden character we met in Padstow. There is more passion and vibrancy to him… and I loved how he didn’t show the slightest bit of apprehension in telling our Dex how he felt for him. I tell you, watching this relationship grow was a bittersweet experience, in that I loved Sebs patience and compassion for the man who holds his heart and much like Rick and Brandie he gently coaxes Dex to take baby steps in a bustlingly large city which is totally alien to him, everything is unfamiliar… for Dex it’s like stepping into the unknown, and as a dirty pikey… the previously forbidden. Seeing Dex draw courage and strength from Seb, to actually become part of the human race was just beautiful to watch but at the same time so sad to see what little or no knowledge he has of the simple things in life, and I don’t just mean the comforts we take for granted, no, this is the mundane everyday things needed to function in the world… His ignorance of life, love, comfort, affection… all another blow to my already battered heart.
“…I couldn’t be your boyfriend. I don’t know how”
Through out the book I was constantly apprehensive with the underlying threat to Dex. For him, in every shadow lurks the fear of being found, trying to make himself as small and as inconspicuous as possible, avoiding conversation and especially eye contact… he is someone that has absolutely no expectations in life, other than the surety that one day… Braden will eventually catch up with him.
This book is called Heart, a perfect title in my opinion. There are characters in this book with big hearts… that slowly bleed warmth into Dex, making him feel alive, dare to hope, to believe. There are some, I would gladly pick up a knife and stab through the heart, well, that would be if they even had one! As for me, my heart broke countless times and like Dex was put back together with love, and not just the love shared between Seb and Dex but the subtle displays of love from those, who like me felt the pain of this lost boy. It shows how resilient a heart that has never experienced even the smallest touch of kindness, has instead been suffocated, yet has somehow remained miraculously untainted by evil. Has endured and sacrificed, felt pain rather than pleasure… Yet still, that tiny glow of warmth within surrounded by so much cold never gives up hope… that is true HEART.
Highly recommended… there is true beauty within!!!
Buy it here
Meet Garrett Leigh
Garrett Leigh lives in a small commuter town just north of London with her husband, two kids, a dog with half a brain, and a cat with a chip on her shoulder. She's twenty-nine, and now she's reached that milestone, she intends to stay there for the foreseeable future. Garrett has been writing just about her whole life, but it's been about three years since she decided to take it seriously. According to Mr. Garrett, it was either give the men in her head a voice or have herself committed.
Angst. She can't write a word without it. She's tried, she really has, but her protagonists will always always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you've got yourself a Garrett special.
When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.
Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors under the pseudonym G.D Leigh.
Cover art enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Garrett will be gifting two lucky reader an ebook of Heart, all you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.