When I was organising my reading list for October, I spotted this book by Garrett Leigh, she is a new author and I loved the cover and the synopsis drew me in straight away, everything about it screamed READ THIS BOOK! And Oh. Boy. Am I glad I did! This is a fabulous book, an excellent read and what a pleasure it is to find a new author… I couldn’t put it down until it was finished, I loved every moment of my journey with Ash and Pete.
Ash had been living on the streets from the age of 15 surviving by drawing comic book and pavement art, losing himself in his passion and seeking oblivion through alcohol and drugs had been the only things to sustain him, a life he was rescued from by the only person who had actually cared about him his whole life… Ellie. She encouraged him to move into a shelter and then complete a tattoo artist apprenticeship before dragging his arse from Philadelphia to Chicago when she moved back home… and it is this point that the story really begins, Ash’s life prior to his life in Chicago is drip fed in parts, which I won’t go into, but it all becomes clear at the end of the book.
When I started reading this book, I was hit immediately by Ash’s voice, there was such a haunted feeling to it, an apathy, as though he was there but not really, kind of dazed and distanced from the tale he was telling, a complete contrast to the optimism of Pete. Garret Leigh’s characterisation of these two characters was excellent and you can’t help but fall in love with these two men, Ash is a boy so badly damaged he doesn’t know how to love, so lost that every day is a struggle and a new experience but Pete envelopes him with loving care and kindness, patiently giving him the room to grow. Their love is soul deep and they are both overwhelmed by an emotion that neither had experienced before… and Garrett Leigh conveyed that perfectly. But it’s not all sadness there is also a camaraderie and and sense of fun that builds as their relationship does that left me smiling and laughing at just how far our boy had come.
Ash had survived living on the streets but he was finding it hard to adjust to life, five years of being oblivious to what we all take for grated now meant that everyday was a learning curve in a world he is unfamiliar with, not having had the life experiences that enable us to function as “normal” human beings, and at the same time trying to deal with his insecurities, with no feeling of self worth. So moving into an apartment and dealing with a room mate is a daunting task… even more so when sleep evades him through nightmares, panic attacks and feelings of claustrophobia.
Pete is a paramedic and works long hours which is both physically and mentally exhausting and despite hardly being home, it doesn’t take him long to realise Ash is troubled, not surprising really as Ash, not used to living with someone and seeing himself as a freak, tiptoes around the apartment and a life that for him is an everyday challenge. But somehow Pete see’s his vulnerability, he has an empathy for Ash he doesn’t truly understand but wants nothing more than to comfort him. The connection between them is subtle, yet profound and all of a sudden you are slammed in the chest by just how much Pete’s intuitive understanding of Ash impacts, there were no powerful displays of emotion, or an endless torture of sexual tension it was just a natural progression and the chemistry between them was undeniable, Pete brought a serenity to Ash that was powerful in itself… and I just cried and my heart swelled with how much love and emotion there was between these two characters.
For a moment, I forgot everything I’d ever done before, as if he was the first man I’d ever touched. Pete was so strong, but as I moved down his body with my fingers and tongue, I was more aware than ever that he was just a man, like me, and he was as fragile as I was.
Living with Ash wasn’t easy and his behaviour a significant indicator there was more to his past than he was letting on. I wanted Pete to push him on it, to ask the difficult questions, but knowing Pete’s phobia’s and fears, the one aspect of his job that gave him nightmares I can understand why he let itslide. That reason and their long working hours and Pete’s unsociable working hours had them seeing less of each other, falling into complacency and lost in his own crazy madness at work, with circumstances conspiring against them, Pete took his eye of the ball for a moment and missed the triggers that had sent Ash spiralling out of control… and he handled it badly, which did piss me off!
We get a glimpse of Ash’s terror… not the details but it is intimated enough to understand his fears and anxieties. It’s not a raw and gritty tale that rips your heart out, Garrett Leigh’s style is much more subtle she still manages to convey all the heartache in such a way that you are lulled into a false sense of security and before you know it your chest is aching and your heart bleeding at what a young life has endured and filled with hope at the love that helps heal him and gives him hope for a future.
Without going into detail for fear of spoiling the story, I would personally have liked the end elaborated more, it was tidied up nicely in an epilogue so I was satisfied but there was so much substance to the main part of the book and I would have liked to have seen how the end impacted and pushed the boundaries of their relationship. There are some great secondary characters, namely Ellie the tenacious red head, Ash’s best friend and saviour and Maggie, Pete’s Mother… I loved them!
I am incredibly excited about this author and I can’t wait for the next book in the series, I have some unanswered questions and things not addressed that I am hoping we will see in book two… can’t wait!!!