Review: ‘Soul to Keep’ by Garrett Leigh

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Published April 2nd 2018
239 pages

Recovering addict Jamie Yorke has returned to England from California. With no home or family to speak of, he sticks a pin in a map and finds a small town in the Derbyshire Peak District. Matlock Bath is a quiet place—he just needs to get there, keep his head down, and stay clean. Simple, right? Until a chance meeting on the flight home alters the course of his so-called life forever.

Ex-Army medic Marc Ramsey is recovering from life-changing combat injuries while pulling nights as a trauma specialist at the local hospital. Keeping busy is a habit he can’t quit, but when Jamie—so wild and beautiful—bursts into his life, working himself into the ground isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

Marc falls hard, but chaos lurks behind Jamie’s fragile facade. He’s winning his battle against addiction, but another old foe is slowly consuming him. Both men have weathered many storms, but the path to the peace they deserve might prove the roughest ride yet.

It’s a Garrett Leigh release! *throws confetti around* I actually got my hands on this a few months ago and I’m so excited that it’s finally out in the world and I get to talk about it. I’ve even read it twice, it’s a truly special book. It does work just fine as a standalone, but I know I really felt the benefit of re-reading Rented Heart (where we first meet Jamie) and Between Ghosts (where we first meet Marc) first. And both of those books are utterly gorgeous too so I’d highly recommend those in any case.

Jamie was a troublesome one in Rented Heart. He made it very difficult to fall in love with him. He was in the dark depths of addiction and he didn’t want to climb out of them, so it was always quite painful to read about him. When we meet him again in Soul To Keep, he’s heading back to the UK from California where he’s been clean and sober for a year. But even though he’s not using, he’s still carrying the heavy burden of his addiction on his shoulders so his head isn’t a happy place to be.

Marc has quite literally been through the wars since we’ve seen him last (aside from his very brief cameo in Dream), so he’s still trying to navigate civilian life whilst adjusting to his new physical limitations. He’s got his own burdens to bear. But when he meets Jamie, it’s like fate. The universe thrusting them together, the stars aligning and all that stuff. There’s no denying the pull between these two.

At first, a lot of their budding relationship is based in Marc’s inherent need to mother people. He wants to look after Jamie, make him feel safe and cared for and appreciated like everyone else in his life. But Jamie is so resistant to being helped, not wanting to inflict himself on anybody. He’s forever running from the good things in his life before he can ruin them, convinced that he’s poison. It’s painful to watch him recognise the strength in everybody else, what they’ve been through and overcome, but not see it about himself. It was always going to be a battle for these two to make it together, but I never doubted that they would.

Jamie is fighting himself constantly, warring with the way his brain works. It’s so heartbreaking. Everything about him is so raw, so tortured. Garrett really does write these broken souls so powerfully. But she also always manages to give them the person they really need the most, and Marc is just that for Jamie. He’s this fortress of strength and safety that Jamie can take shelter in, so kind and gentle it soothed my soul. He was a balm for my own anxieties, never mind Jamie’s.

I really loved how brutally honest Marc and Jamie were when they talked to each other. Their communication wasn’t perfect, they didn’t open up every time, but when they did they didn’t hold back. They were always so open to the way each other thought. It was so satisfying to read, I never found myself frustrated with them or willing them to have a certain conversation. They always managed to work through things themselves and I absolutely adored that about them.

As always with a Garrett Leigh book, there was a good ol’ dramatic twist that has your heart in your throat, and this one damn near killed me. But what I liked about it was seeing how Jamie handled things, showing just how far he’d come. I was so bloody proud of him I could have cried. But seriously Garrett, don’t ever scare me like that again.

It seriously warmed my heart to get to visit Nat and Connor from Between Ghosts and see them still going strong. Nat is as surly as ever and Connor just as sharp. I really like the potential of Connor and Jamie’s friendship, they’re both such intelligent minds and have such intense feelings for their military men, they’re more alike than they first appear. It comforts me that Jamie will get to have that kind of friend in his life.

This book is right up there with my favourites from Garrett. It’s powerful and emotional and watching the characters grow together and heal has helped heal a part of me too. Marc and Jamie have had to weather so many storms, but they find what they truly deserve in each other. Yet another stunning book from an absolutely wonderful author.

5/5 stars

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