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.
It’s not a big secret that I’m a lover of all things Garrett Leigh. There’s much to admire about her writing and I’m slowly absorbing her previously released publications. Although I know what to expect by now, every time I open a fresh Garrett Leigh Special I’m taken on a new discovery. Fearless. Her words are bold, her boys are courageous, and stories have the heart of a lion. If you prefer to avoid angst in your books, her books are not for you. But I love a cutting story that pulls you to the edge before love descends and soothes you. It’s a rush when you are on a peak of pain then pushed into a cascade of pure love. Every time I anticipate it and every time she surprises me. Rented Heart is a painstakingly beautiful story about second chances, not with a relationship lost and recovered but with life lost and restored.
This is definitely one of Leigh’s lighter stories and if you are new to her work, I suggest starting here. Both Liam and Zac have suffered greatly but they are attempting to recover from the upheaval that set them adrift. Liam was chugging along, living a charmed life. He had everything he dared to dream and was…happy. Until it was all ripped away in tragedy. His husband and the light of his life was killed….and the life he knew disappeared in a blink. His entire existence became managing his grief. Forced to pick up the reigns of their business and pretend he was getting better, the years slipped by. I know a women who lost her husband unexpectedly and she told me how much it changed her. Of course, everything was different but one of the hardest things was the inability to make eye contact with everyone she knew. They either skirted their gaze when she tried to meet it or looked at her with such pity that she couldn’t bear to do simple things like grocery shop because of…the weight of the stares. She suddenly lost her identity and became the “widow“. She didn’t know how to BE anymore. I think this is what happened to Liam. He lost his husband but he also lost himself. Then he met Zac and their spark ignited his will again. However, Zac is battling his own demons and doesn’t make it easy on Liam. He’s going to have to fight. Maybe that’s exactly what he needs.
There’s the impressive writing, the elegant prose, the striking reality and the outstanding characters but…it’s the connection that astonishes me here. They are so different and vulnerable in their own ways and neither are looking for more than a quick bit of bliss…but that doesn’t stop Garrett from commanding their attachment. Zac’s life is far from easy but it’s miles apart from where he was. His best friend hasn’t found the strength or desire to leave the life of smack behind him. He’s still at the mercy of the quick and fleeting fix and it’s pulling Zac down more than he can admit to himself. He loves Jamie but Jamie is not in any position to love him back while he’s under the spell of the drugs holding him hostage. Zac has very little self-worth. He believes his assets consist of what he can do with his body and he doesn’t deserve a life with Liam. That he will taint Liam. What he doesn’t realize is, he does mark Liam but in a way that restores and returns Liam to the life he deserted. They have one hell of a ride and I felt lucky to tag along.
Rent boys means prostitution. Addicts (here) mean drugs and the familiar counterparts to addiction. Mourning of a spouse and the impact it has on your existence. But also prepare for the admirable ability to look past the shields and not take everything at face value. Money can buy comforts but not contentment. Ohh, and a decent age gap but it’s so insignificant I almost forgot to tell you.
Garrett Leigh fans might be acquainted with Zac and Liam already but if you’re not…please do. Soul to Keep is next and I would encourage you to experience them in proper order. And if you’re not (yet) a GL fan, there’s no time like the present. I’ll hold your hand and standby with hugs in case you need them.