Published December 4th 2017
Tired of the London rat race and the heartbreak that comes with it, photographer Jas Manning returns to Porthkennack, the Cornish seaside town where he spent every childhood summer on his father’s farm. Resigned to year-round rain, wind, and homemade jam, he’s sorely unprepared for the impact that artsy carpenter Kim Penrose has on his heart.
Kim’s free-loving reputation precedes him, and he’s as generous with his inked-up body as he is with his time. The sex is hot, the easy friendship even better, and Jas’s time with him building his family’s new farmhouse canteen is everything Jas was missing in his empty city life.
But Kim’s carefree existence isn’t as simple as it appears. He’s worked hard to vanquish his demons and build his dreams, but the devil on his shoulder is ruthless, and when it comes to call, their happy bubble bursts like it was never there at all. The canteen opening looms, but Kim is gone in more ways than one, and it’s down to Jas to shore up Kim’s soul and convince him that he deserves his place in Jas’s heart.
I love Garrett Leigh. She’s my fave. I’ve never not loved something she’s written, and it’s not surprising that I loved this too. It’s her usual blend of gorgeous men who are beautifully tortured, but whose darknesses are lifted by the intense way they fall for one another. It’s a heart-wrenching but uplifting story, these two men becoming each other’s safe place.
Jas has had his heart broken and stamped on and is getting as far away as he can from his past and his ex, seeking shelter in Porthkennack, where he finds Kim. Kim we met in Garrett’s last Porthkennack novel ‘House of Cards’, and here we find that he’s carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders, dealing with his alcoholism and depression. He has such an easy smile and kind heart that he can fool anyone into believing he doesn’t have a care in the world, but those closest to him know there’s more lurking beneath the surface. I loved how candid Kim was about his troubles, how he never shied from them, and his wonderful support network of friends from Blood Rush were a pleasure to see again.
Jas and Kim had that perfect, instant chemistry. They fall in love hard and fast without meaning to, trying and not always succeeding in letting each other shoulder some of the weight they carry, needing to volunteer to help rather than wait to be asked. Kim’s ex-flame Lena still being present added a really interesting dynamic to his and Jas’s relationship. Kim and Lena were an item in ‘House of Cards’, naturally coming to an end, but the way they care for each other runs deep. She’s Kim’s haven, his rock when he’s been at his lowest, and it’s understandable that Jas would be intimidated by that. She’s mostly stayed around because she feels a responsibility to keep Kim safe, but she can see the powerful bond forming between the two men and feels now is the time to move on and leave Kim in someone else’s loving hands.
Kim and Jas just fit together, and the sex was hot as hell. But it also had moments of agonising tenderness, especially in the scene where Lena was involved. Garrett handled that with such care, it could have easily been really weird, but the connection between Kim and Lena made it all make sense, even to Jas. I really loved how her presence as an observer allowed Jas to connect to Kim in a way he hadn’t before. It was gorgeous.
Throughout the book you can feel the darkness growing in Kim, subtly but surely. You know some big breaking moment is coming, because that’s Garrett’s way, she can’t let them just be happy. So even though I fell in love with this story right away and wanted to hide away in the book and never put it down, I also wanted to hide from it, in fear of my own heart as well as Jas’ and Kim’s. When that moment came my insides were in pieces with panic and worry because I cared so damn much about these guys.
But those dark points brought with them some wonderful aftercare and healing moments that were some of my favourites in the whole book. One of my favourite things in the world is when two lovers shower together in a non-sexual but very intimate way, and that scene was everything I’ve ever wanted and never gotten before. There’s so much to be said for the simple act of washing someone else’s hair, soothing them, caring for them. So tender and soft and affectionate and ugh, just beautiful.
The ‘6 months later’ at the end of this book was just stunning. Everything’s not magically perfect, it’s clearly a steady climb with the potential for stumbles, but they’ve grown together so remarkably. I felt so proud of Kim and his outlook on life and his addiction. Finding help for himself and helping others. Jas is still feeling like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he’s doing more than he could ever know. I still felt that love between them so strongly, that aching need for each other and the shelter they provide, and I have real faith in their happily ever after.
It was superb. Garrett, you nailed it yet again.