Note: This ARC was provided by Riptide Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
“I can’t make sense of this shit for you, but not understanding it isn’t a reason for you to be alone for the rest of your life. If you really see something with this…bloke, take it, roll with it. Don’t rent your heart out for nothing when I reckon you’ve both been through enough to deserve a hell of a lot more.”
Just when I think Garrett Leigh couldn’t possibly top her previous novel, she goes and writes Rented Heart. After the first time I read something she wrote—Between Ghosts—I knew I had to read more of her work. The second book—What Remains—reinforced what I suspected before: that Garrett Leigh was one hell of a gifted author. And now, my heart hasn’t returned to its original state, still squeezing tightly in my chest, after having finished reading this third novel of hers. I know I need to work my way through her back list, but if even half of it is as astoundingly good as any of the three aforementioned titles, then saying I’m in for a treat would be the understatement of the century. There’s an undeniable rawness and a brutal honesty to her writing. Her stories, at least the ones I’ve read so far, have her characters that are far from perfect, but given the choice to take them or leave them, you stay on, wanting to get to know them and witness how they hurdle whatever challenges they’re facing. In her latest work, Garrett Leigh masterfully does that again.
Twenty-three-year-old Zac Payne’s move from bustling London to more sedate Norfolk has meant fewer people he can mark. There was a reason for the move, even if it meant a hit to his finances. All he needs is enough to make sure he and his best friend continue to keep a roof over their heads and to be able to live on the basics. When Zac spies thirty-four-year-old Liam Mallaney lingering outside of a gay club, he knows who he wants—and whom he hopes will agree to paying—in his bed. While Liam has never been propositioned nor been with a hooker before, he just wants a physical—sexual—distraction, one that he needs far more than he’d care to admit. But then, one paid encounter leads to another, and curiosity breeds something neither one was prepared for: care. This isn’t about love. Liam has already had that and lost it with the death of his husband; Zac knows there are no happily-ever-afters for hookers like him. Theirs could well be a disaster waiting to happen, or worse, especially when it begins to foster hope which may end in heartbreak.
Prostitutes or escorts falling for their johns or clients is nothing new in the realm of fiction, having been shown in various media. Some get their happily ending, especially the overly optimistic, flowery versions. I much prefer the grittier tales, those that remind you that there’s nothing glamorous about selling one’s body. It’s about survival and simply trying to make it day to day. Zac is a rentboy whose primary—and what felt like sole—motivation for hooking is to money. His sexual encounters with those who agree to pay him aren’t overly satisfying, that is, until he has sex with Liam, a widower still in mourning even as he’s made overt efforts to move on with his life. They’re both broken and, more often than not, flounder in the light of their respective realities. But at their core, they’re both good men who are looking for the one thing they didn’t they deserved or could have again. Emotional and riveting, Rented Heart is Zac and Liam’s story, one shared with Zac’s best friend and Liam’s family, and one I highly recommend. Five-plus stars. ♥
Release Date: 12 September 2016
Date Read: 12 September 2016
Learn more about Garrett Leigh.