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

Review: ‘Invitation to the Blues’ by Roan Parrish

38510053Published March 28th 2018
220 pages

Eight months ago Jude Lucen fled his partner, his career, and a hospital in Boston after a suicide attempt. Now back in Philadelphia, he feels like a complete failure. Piano has always been his passion and his only escape. Without it, he has nothing. Well, nothing except a pathetic crush on the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Faron Locklear came to Philly looking for a fresh start and has thrown himself into tattooing at Small Change. He’s only met Jude a few times, but something about the red-haired man with the haunted eyes calls to him. Faron is blown away by Jude’s talent. What he isn’t expecting is the electricity he feels the first time they kiss—and the way Jude’s needs in bed speak directly to his own deepest desires.

Jude and Faron fall fast and hard, but Jude has spent a lifetime learning that he can’t be what the people he loves need. So when the opportunity arises to renew his career in Boston, he thinks he has to choose: music, or Faron? Only by taking a huge risk—and finally believing he’s worthy of love just as he is—can he have the chance for both.

THIS BOOK. THIS SERIES. THIS AUTHOR. Everything is just so good. So so so SO good. With every book I read from Roan Parrish, I get more and more blown away by her way with words. She just gets better and better. This book was absolutely stunning.

We met Jude and Faron in the first book of this series, ‘Small Change’, but I do feel like this book stands pretty well on its own if you haven’t read that (although I highly recommend that you do anyway, because it’s one of my favourite M/F books of all time). There are characters who pop up from the first book, but this is most definitely entirely Jude’s story. And god, is it heartbreakingly gorgeous.

I will say that it’s not always the easiest story to read. Not because of the writing, that is flawless, but the subject matter is pretty heavy. Jude is seriously depressed. There’s no sugar-coating it, he is not in a good place. He’s coming back from a suicide attempt, feeling worthless and hopeless, feeling like a failure and undeserving of love. Like he’s not worth the effort. He’s having to deal with his manipulative ex and the loss of the music career that was his whole life. It’s difficult to be inside his head, seeing how badly he’s hurting and not being able to reassure him.

But that’s where Faron comes in. These two were so completely meant to be. Faron is captivating and compassionate and so completely in tune with what Jude needs. He doesn’t see him as damaged or broken, he sees the beauty and strength and passion inside of him that Jude can’t see himself. It’s one of those romances where neither of the people involved are perfect, but they are truly perfect for one another. Faron brings Jude back to life, brings him back out into the world, brings him the all-encompassing, unconditional love and understanding he’s always needed.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety myself, this was quite a therapeutic read for me; watching someone battling demons like mine let someone in to love them as they are. I saw a lot of myself in Jude, so him getting his happy ending was quite overwhelming in the best kind of way.

Essentially, this was a powerful romance full of everything I’ve come to adore from Roan. Poetic writing, gorgeous characters with deep connections, delicious descriptions of food (and some not so pleasant ones, but still just as vivid) and, of course, a wonderful canine companion. I felt completely wrung out by the end, but also like a little broken part inside of me had been healed. It was simply beautiful.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Dream’ by Garrett Leigh

36423334Published January 23rd 2018
240 pages

When unrequited love leaves Dylan Hart sleepless and nursing his wounds, instinct draws him to the one place he’s found mindless respite in the past—Lovato’s. It’s a place for every fantasy — for crazy-hot encounters — where a night of insane NSA sex brings relief to Dylan’s fragile feelings.

It should be a perfect escape, and for one magical night it seems that way, but then worlds collide, and reality bites when his hookup desperately needs a friend. Surely Dylan can’t trust his instincts when friendship has bruised his heart so badly before?

The deck is stacked against former ballet dancer Angelo Giordano ever finding real love. At least visiting Lovato’s offers respite from a life defined by illness; a glimmer of light in the dull grey of his so-called life without dance. But then he encounters Dylan — a glorious ray of the brightest sunshine — who makes his heart pound once more with purpose.

Angelo’s mind is blown by this man, but the disease that ended his career won’t let him bask in new love. He’s drowning, and Dylan can’t save him while insecurities swamp them both. The only way to make it means confronting their demons.

If Dylan can turn his back on the past, and Angelo can face his uncertain future, maybe they can chase their dreams together.

It’s a new Garrett Leigh release! My favourite kind. And oh my lord….HOT. DAMN. In every sense of those words. It’s packed with everything Garrett is best at; angst and hurt and grit, but also a real sense of comfort and healing. The perpetual ray of sunshine that is Dylan from ‘What Matters’ returns, and meets the heart-breakingly tortured soul that is Angelo.

And boy, do they meet in spectacular fashion. There’s no messing around, it’s straight in with a smokin’ hot encounter in a dark, grungy sex club. Entirely anonymous, blindfold included, but there’s an immediate connection. Angelo is so drawn to Dylan, captured by this angelically beautiful man completely at his mercy, and Dylan falls apart beneath his powerful touch. There’s certainly never a doubt about their chemistry.

This whole book was a constant contrast of light and dark, Dylan with his sunny attitude and Angelo shrouded in dark clouds and mystery. I really like that Dylan had such a normal job, nothing glamorous or sexy, and he really loved it. That whole environment suited him more than I expected it to, and it really emphasised his inherent need to help people. He’s slowly trying to bring that bright spirit of his into Angelo’s world, but Angelo has these walls around him, boxing him in and weighing heavily on his shoulders, and it’s a real battle for them to get any kind of emotional intimacy.

The physical stuff, though? That they can do. There’s such a raw magnetism between the two of them. And the way Angelo transforms in the club is so damn sexy. It’s like he finally gets to be the man who he is deep down, all the pressure lifts off his shoulders so he can stand taller and command everything. He’s understated, he doesn’t need to be brash about it, the power just oozes out of him. But once they leave he starts to crumble, his body can’t hold him up anymore. It was genuinely painful to read how Angelo was at war with himself, physically and mentally, and it’s no wonder he feels so hopeless.

But once they start to get better at that whole communication thing, it finally gives them the opportunity to show a bit of affection and get closer. Dylan is so wonderful at taking care of Angelo, who’s so vulnerable that it broke my heart, and Angelo comes to crave that soothing comfort he provides. He feels like “Dylan’s touch brought him back to life”, and it’s such a fleeting thought for him, but it holds so much truth. And it’s obvious at the time that it’s going to continue to be even more true for them further down the line.

It does get quite heavy at times, being in Angelo’s head. He’s so despondent, forever asking himself why someone like Dylan would want him. He really can’t see it. Angelo’s self-esteem has been demolished by his illness, so he just can’t see anything good about the person he’s become because of it. In his head, he’s just this total mess, and he believes Dylan deserves the whole fucking world, so he’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop; tearing my heart into pieces the whole time because he has so much to give and it killed me that he couldn’t see it.

As deep and dark as this book may get, it’s also real and charming and Dylan keeps injecting these rays of light. As does Rhys, I love Rhys! He’s exactly what Dylan and Angelo needed, swooping in at the right moment to help them fix things. He’s level-headed and easy-going, the calm in their storm, and I’m very much looking forward to his book. I was also very taken with the sexy doctor that Angelo had the good fortune to meet, and a little birdie told me that was the gorgeous Marc from ‘Between Ghosts’! Who is also getting his own book, ‘Soul To Keep’, that comes out in April (that I have been lucky enough to read already and oh holy wow it’s incredible). Yay for wonderful intertwining worlds!

Somehow Garrett manages to get me every time with her little twists. I should learn to expect them by now, but I never see them coming. Just when things are looking up for the lovely boys, when you’re finally starting to believe they’re on the right track, communicating and being mature and falling in love…enter stage left DRAMA THAT HAS MY HEART IN MY THROAT. But all that hurt is always followed by the most wonderful comfort, and the scene in this book where Angelo and Dylan are stretching together, healing together, made my heart so full. Seeing Angelo more positive and in control, recognising his own progress and using it to help Dylan, it was beautiful. These two really felt made for each other.

The epilogue was everything I needed, it was damn near fluff for Garrett (fluff in a sex club, who knew?). Dylan and Angelo are not the same contrast of light and dark anymore; they’re keeping each other in the light. They endured the pain of the journey and came out the other side believing in their future together, and that loveliness mended all the little pieces of my heart that had been shattered throughout this story. I adored it.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Relay’ by Layla Reyne

35918522Published January 8th 2018
237 pages

Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.

I love me a sports romance. I don’t even need to know a whole lot about the sport involved, I just always really enjoy them. Which is helpful in this case, because I can’t say I know anything about the world of professional swimming. But this book was full of all the things I love about sports romance; mainly passionate, fit, competitive, talented athletes. It’s hard to go wrong with those.

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Best of 2017!

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I managed to hit the 300 book mark this year, which is a little bit crazy. A lengthy commute to and from work every day has helped me out in that regard. And reading that many romance novels has made it a struggle to narrow it down into a handy little list, so this isn’t all that short, but that can only be a good thing! This post will be about 2017 releases, I’ll try and get a post up about the pre-2017 releases that I read this year soon, because there’s some seriously incredible books that need a mention. So let’s get into it!

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My Week in Holiday Romances! (#4)

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This is going up a little later than I’d have liked it to, I finished the last of these books almost a week ago, but Christmas got busy and my laptop was abandoned for a few days. But here we are! This will be the last of my holiday romance reviews this year, but what a season it’s been. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. These three books were a wonderful way to end it, and if you’re still looking for festive reads to finish off your year, there’s a couple in here I’d definitely recommend.

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