Review: The River Leith by Leta Blake

Memory is everything.

After an injury in the ring, amateur boxer Leith Wenz wakes to discover his most recent memories are three years out of date. Unmoored and struggling to face his new reality, Leith must cope anew with painful revelations about his family. His brother is there to support him, but it’s the unfamiliar face of Zach, a man introduced as his best friend, that provides the calm he craves. Until Zach’s presence begins to stir up feelings Leith can’t explain.

For Zach, being forgotten by his lover is excruciating. He carefully hides the truth from Leith to protect them both from additional pain. His bottled-up turmoil finds release through vlogging, where he confesses his fears and grief to the faceless Internet. But after Leith begins to open up to him, Zach's choices may come back to haunt him.

Ultimately, Leith must ask his heart the questions memory can no longer answer.

An amnesiac amateur boxer who loses the last three years of his memories? And we're talking forgetting major memories like having a lover or that he was gay. 


And guess what? So was this story!

Now do I think everyone will love it? No, I do not. It touches some tough topics, some that are deal breakers for sensitive readers. But I think this story has heart and should be tried.

Also, if you're coming into this thinking you're getting another Training Season, don't. This book is nothing like it. Do expect a tale of two damaged men trying to muddle through real life and mistakes when an unexpected nightmare becomes a reality.

This story was angst filled but not so much you will need to curl up in a ball and weep. It was more of wearing perplexed faces while lightly moaning about the feelz...or maybe that was just me. Leith and Zach...they stomped on my heart a little but it's still beating.

Leith, the NYC amateur boxer that has his whole life ahead of him, a loving boyfriend, a loving older brother and great friends. Leith didn't have a cookie cutter life, in fact, his childhood was rough with an alcoholic father and depressive mother. Add in he's an ex-con and makes for an interesting life resume. But his Southern boyfriend, Zach makes it all better. Then an illegal move during a boxing match changed his life and the lives of those who love him forever.

Both main characters face a difficult road after the accident, Leith is an amnesiac and has a quick temper. Zach has to be regulated to best friend status because those three years Leith is missing also includes coming out of the closet and having a boyfriend. The struggle of Zach trying to protect Leith makes my throat close just typing about it. (Picture coming out of the closet twice.) Man, the author can dose you with the angst. And it was oh so good.

The setting? I have to gush about the setting because it read super authentic. New York City done right!!!  And the book showcased boroughs other than Manhattan!! I'm sure there are other readers who get excited when a setting is their hometown and actually read like the author has been there. Thank you!

Who saved this story? Leith. The story is told from his POV. Being in his head, experiencing relearning himself and his reactions-oh...that was the frosting on my angst cake. Loved him to pieces. I ached when he ached. I believed his reactions and enjoyed being inside his head. I think he was more fleshed out than Zach. Not saying Zach is a villain but sometimes he came off selfish then Leith would come back, do something that changed my perspective and I got over any anger towards Zach (mostly).
And if we never got to read Zach's thoughts through his vlogging, I'd have rated this book lower. The vlog adds more depth to Zach and lets the reader experience his pain before, during and after Leith's incident. It helped me understand the kind of person he was and why he reacted the way he did. I also loved the two texting each other in the first half. Man, that was romantic as hell. I read these two fall back in love all over again.  I think the texts were my favorite part. I believed their bond, even with Leith not knowing who Zach was...their bond is undeniable.

Overall, this was a kind of deep, second chance romance with characters that read like real people, faced real couple problems and left me kind of happy. It's bittersweet and a few parts weren't easy to read. But I rather read about main characters that work for a happy ending than about a perfect couple where life drops sugar turds of perfectness.

Why do I recommend? This is not medical term heavy--don't worry about the story being bogged down with terms and diagnoses. This story focused more on the damage, how a couple weathered the storm, how they test their bonds and how they persevere -not overcome with a fairy tale ending. Is this a HEA? I'd like to think so. I think these two will be in it for the long run. I know I will have these two in my head for a while which makes for the better types of main characters in my book.

I drank from the river Leith and I'm feeling a little banged up but overall...great.

P.S. Sometimes music plays in my head while reading (I should get it checked out, I know.) But two songs came to mind so much, so I'll share:

Lauryn Hill - "When It Hurts So Bad"
Justin Timberlake - "Amnesia" (go figure, right? The song is dope, though.)

An ARC provided for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. I love this review SRAL. I'm definitely going to give this book a go.