Strays, by Garrett Leigh
Series: Urban Soul, Book 2
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: March 27, 2017
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.
Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.
Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.
Gay & Bisexual Characters
Content Warnings For:
If it feels like every new book Garrett Leigh releases is better than the last, it’s because it is, or at least I think so. She writes about things I find interesting and people I care about, and when the books are in a series such as Urban Soul, she always leaves me hungry for more.
Lenny and Nero are both really likable characters. Lenny’s colorful and friendly manner is a lovely contrast to Nero’s growly, matter of fact demeanor. I really liked these two together and my heart grew every time they expressed missing the other. I was endeared by how quickly they bonded and how wrong it felt for them to be apart any time thereafter.
Between the two of them it wasn’t hard to see how the demons they were having to face would hinder their ability to trust. That’s what I think really makes the hurt/comfort trope work for me. When they both need saving and it isn’t all one person relying on the other. My heart broke for them but I was so happy they found each other because it would be difficult for someone who hadn’t experienced hurt like they had to fully understand. These two definitely needed each other and I adored every moment seeing their relationship blossom.
There were a lot of cute and funny moments too. Nero’s internal thoughts about his attraction to Lenny in the beginning had me laughing.
“Nero hung up and stared at his phone screen, wondering why Lenny’s voice twisted his insides so much. He’d started walking again while they’d talked, but he drifted to a stop now, feeling somehow…lighter? What the actual fuck? Nero was used to trudging through life under a cloud of temper and sarcasm, his only shield between him and a world that had fucked him over more times than he could count, not spinning giddily because of the way a bloke he hardly knew said his name.”
Gah! I love when a crush says my name, and I adored that it gave troubled, cynical, bitter Nero butterflies. There’s something about seeing a stoic guy let his guard down that gets me every time.
Okay, enough gushing.
As with Misfits and because I love to eat, I’m very much enjoying the restaurant theme. I love the food and menu creation, the branding design and launch of each new space. All of the talk of posh cuisine inspired me to get cooking, too. I always thought it’d be cool to open my own restaurant. It sounds like a lot of hard work but I bet the results are very rewarding.
Something else that I really liked were the cameos by Cass, Tom and Jake from Misfits (book 1). I do have some concerns for Cass but I have my fingers crossed that they’re unfounded. Either way, I hope we find out more in the next book. I do like how this is becoming an ensemble cast, all of their lives entwined by way of the restaurants. I’m excited to get to know even more of these characters and I’m anxious to know what happens next so I think I’ll pour another glass of wine and whip up some munchies to tide me over while I wait.
I highly recommend this series. Strays is a delicious read on it’s own but do yourself a favor and start with Misfits. You won’t be disappointed!
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.
Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.
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, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.
Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.
You can purchase STRAYS from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.