Rented Heart, by Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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.
Prostitution (Rent Boy)
If there’s one thing Garrett Leigh does really well, it’s tugging at our heartstrings. I don’t know how she does it, but she writes some of the most emotionally honest MC’s in M/M romance and she does it so well, we don’t feel manipulated or compelled to feel a certain way. There is very little angst for angst sake. Instead, it feels real and raw but always… hopeful in a way. Because even when she lets the MC’s struggle, you always know better times are on the horizon. You absolutely know the payoff will all be worth it in the end.
Rented Heart gives us exactly that: two MC’s who are both lonely, both struggling and both drawn to each other– initially for the great sex (and there is a lot of great sex in this book!) but also for the companionship they provide one another. Liam is the reluctant CEO of a company he founded with his late husband. His self-imposed solitary life is beginning to wear on him, so when a gorgeous, young man approaches him outside of a club, he impulsively decides to go home with him. Zac is a former junkie and longtime rent boy. Spotting Liam by himself, he figures he’s found at least one customer that night and, hey, at least he’s handsome. But when the connection between them feels like something more than a simple transaction, both men find themselves wondering where the line between customer and friend will be drawn.
What I really loved about this book was how nice the MC’s were towards each other. Although I’m a big fan of a great enemies-to-lovers story, I think kindness is underrated in romance. Perhaps some authors feel that it adds nothing of value or that it diminishes tension, but Leigh still manages to create a very compelling romance between two men who are genuinely good to one another. Anger doesn’t need to be the only reason why people are attracted to one another and good people don’t need to be boring.
I also loved how the burgeoning relationship between Liam and Zac impacted their ‘business transactions’. When it’s becoming clear that they both see themselves as more than a john and a rent boy, the language and the nature of their relationship needs to change too –
“Don’t. Don’t call yourself a whore and tell me you’re a fucking scumbag, Zac, because I won’t believe it. If you are what you say you are, then so am I.”
There was nothing dirty about Liam—except the good kind of dirty—and the shame in his gaze broke Zac’s heart. He fumbled in his pocket and held out the roll of notes Liam had given him that morning. “You’re not a john.”
Liam pushed the money back. “Then you’ll never be my whore.”
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Rented Heart. This is classic Garrett Leigh – sexy, emotional, sweet, hopeful and utterly compelling. Now, if she makes her next book about Jamie, I will be a very happy person indeed!
Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. 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.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.