Review: Rare (Roads #2) by Garrett Leigh

Paramedic Pete Adams lived through the year from hell watching his lover, Ash, fall apart, and the precarious balance between work and home is becoming more strained. His heart is always home, with Ash, but the dark side to his job is weighing him down.

Tattoo artist Ash Fagin is recovering from a nervous breakdown triggered by revelations about his traumatic childhood. His battle with mental illness is far from over, but with Pete by his side, he's feeling good again, so good he doesn’t notice something missing until it walks right into his living room.

Ash believes he’s had enough coincidence in his life, but when a voice from the past comes looking for him, it takes the devastating injuries of the one he loves most to convince him to let a ghost become the family he never knew he wanted.
OK – I’m going in.

Goddammitalltohell Garrett Leigh! That was intense. This is the most brutally beautiful series I have ever read.

Rare, the continuation of the story of Pete and Ash from Slide, is heartbreaking, heartwarming and the best possible end to a series that I don’t want to ever end. Ever. If you haven’t read any of this series, please do yourself a favor and read it stat. It starts with Slide, continues with the free short, Marked and now we are onto Rare and the final installment, the 2nd free short, Freed.

Pete is an overworked EMT and Ash is a tattoo artist with an incredibly heartbreaking and damaging past. Rare is easily just as strong as Slide. Their characters remain the same, but I can already see the growth that Pete and Ash have gone through and continue on with. They went through hell and back in Slide. Ash’s breakdown literally did just that, it broke him down and with help that he so desperately needed yet refused to accept previously, he is being built back up. It’s raw and it’s painful, but after completely falling in love with Ash in Slide I can’t help but be happy for and proud of all that he’s accomplished.

As much as things have changed, too much has stayed the same. Pete is still overworked and the job is really weighing heavily on him. They have a balance they have struck at home, but it is far from rock solid, neither of them are whole right now and they do their best, but they have such a long way to go to be happy and healthy together.

I have read a few reviews have mentioned the big coincidence with Ash and the girl from Philadelphia. I get that. For me though, I’d rather have a coincidence than filler. The meetings and resolutions had to happen and I am totally fine with how they did, it let me focus on Ash and Pete more than a mystery and that’s what I wanted.

What is so wonderfully frustrating about this series is all the reasons for the trouble Pete and Ash have. Remembering that these are two very young men still, they don’t have problems because of stupid and/or immature decisions either have made. The world has handed them a pile of shit and they are supposed to be able to make lemonade. Yeah, a mixed and wrong metaphor, but it fits because that’s how messed up their whole situation is.

I’m not going to go into spoilery details about what happened to these guys in Rare, you have to read it and appreciate the unknown going in. I do want to tell you how impressive and how incredibly well written these characters are. I don’t think I’ve ever read about two people more meant to be together as Pete and Ash. I’m not told this by the author, I can see and feel it in every action and conversation between them.

This book is written in the same style as Slide and Garrett Leigh does is so well. One half of the book is told in Pete’s voice and the other half in Ash’s. While this could easily be disconcerting to a reader it works here so well. I could get into both of their heads and hearts and because both of them are men of few words, getting perspective from both of them makes the story all the better. Like Ash said:

“My relationship with Pete was about us, not words.”

The journey these two go through is all about strength and faith. They are young, but have lived through a lot and are really mature for their ages, mostly because neither of them have had a choice, childhood was never much of an option for either of them and they are smart enough to know that love isn’t enough. I think my absolute favorite thing about their relationship is their love for each other never wavers and they both knew it was the one constant truth in their lives. The question of “does he love me?” never happens, it doesn’t have to and I saw that throughout both Slide and Rare. But, as I said, love isn’t enough in reality and they both know it. The question is, can they get through everything that happens and come through it together on the other side? That is the journey that is so amazing to read. They would never give up on each other, but they may give up on themselves. Can they trust themselves to be strong enough for the other?

“Strength,” Pete said. “And faith. Love isn’t always enough, and we’ve let each other down as far as trust is concerned. When things go wrong, you have to have faith that you’re strong enough to pull through. We have that, even if we don’t always know it, and it’s what keeps us together when life gets tough.”

Both Pete and Ash grow and change a lot in this series, their characters stay true to the ones I fell in love with when I read Slide the first time. That was something that really struck me when I finished reading and had time to cogitate everything. Their characters read like real people, they were different at the end, but all the things that made Pete “Pete” and Ash “Ash” were still there. I remember trying to articulate this point and the words just weren’t happening for me and I was messaging back and forth with Isaac over on GR and, as Isaac so often does, he nailed it. He said to me (and I hope you don’t mind me quoting you Issac):

“The growth in this series was amazing. So often sequels featuring the same couples just plod on and turn into indulgent hogwash.”

Exactly! That’s what I wanted to say. There was no plodding or indulgent hogwash anywhere near this series. The characters grew and it was amazing to read. The epilogue, told in Pete’s words was the perfect ending and incredibly bittersweet for me. I didn’t want it to end, but like I said before, it couldn’t have ended better. Pete has become quite wise by this point,

“My life had taught me that moments like these were the rarest thing, and that each day could be your last. You couldn’t change the past or control your future, but you could make the most of your present.”

I really can’t recommend this series enough. I also highly recommend reading with a friend, you’ll want to have someone there to hold your hand and gush with about all the subtle, quiet moments that make these characters so memorable.

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