Review: Heart by Garett Leigh

Cornish pastry chef Seb Wright dreads the summer tourist season. The cash injection to his artisan fudge pantry is more than welcome, the extra work, less so. Then one summer, a shadowy Good Samaritan catches his eye. Irish Traveller Dex is bewitching, a beautiful sullen enigma who turns Seb's world upside down until he disappears in the night, vanishing like a mystical summer rain.

Twelve months later Dex is in the midst of a dark storm. A slave to his master, 'Uncle' Braden, he spends his days cleaning caravans and his nights working in Braden's other businesses. His short summer with Seb seems a lifetime ago. Lost in the savage violence of the murky underworld, he doesn't dare dream he'll ever find his way back, until one night, a brutal crime opens the door for a chance escape. A new life beckons, old faces emerge, and immersed in the heady vibe of London’s East End, new love begins to heal his fractured heart.

Garrett Leigh will always break your heart. But, she will be cobble it back together and give you the best kind of hope for the characters you’ve fallen in love with in whichever story of hers you’re reading.

The first story of Garrett’s I ever read was Gypsy Rain. I fell for her words hard then and the bittersweet ending was perfect. Heart is the extended and contemporary version of Gypsy Rain. It really translated well to a contemporary story and the characters kept the personalities that made them so memorable in Gypsy Rain.

The beginning sucked me right in. The story of Dex and his life just plain hurt. He was a simple man living an impossibly harsh life. When he gets his chance to escape he risks everything and makes a break for it. Looking at his life though, he really had nothing to lose. His biggest regret was leaving the horses he cared for behind. He had a definite kinship with them. They were as undervalued as he was and without him their outlook was bleak. His sorrow at leaving them sums him up so well, humans have never been good to him, but the animals show him the appreciation and love he should have always received.

Fate finally smiles on Dex when he meets and starts to work for Rick and his wife in their restaurant. He’s got no past here, but he really has no clue how to live a life outside of the camp run by his “Uncle” Braden. He keeps his dead down, asks for nothing and slowly begins to settle in. Everything gets thrown out of whack when Seb shows up to be the new pastry chef at the restaurant. Seb has always been the magical memory that Dex kept tucked away, his mental escape that belonged solely to him. Having Seb back in his reality really threw Dex for a loop. Seb on the other hand, couldn’t have been happier. Dex is the man he hasn’t been able to forget since the first moment he saw him.

The middle of the book is pretty quiet. It makes sense for Dex and Seb though. Anything that would have moved more quickly would not have read well for Dex. It wouldn’t have been believable. His world is really pretty small and the life he’s living now is new to him. He spends a lot of time ‘absorbing’ his surroundings and Seb spends a lot of time introducing him to the world a little at a time. It was heartening to read Dex develop a sense of pride and value in himself. It was quiet and slow, just like the story at this point, but it worked.

It wouldn’t be a Garrett Leigh book without just one more dose of devastating heartbreak. Turns out Uncle Braden isn’t don’t with Dex yet and his evil wasn’t limited to just what Dex experienced. What followed was brutal, sad and frustrating as hell. Being that Dex has always lived off the grid, he wasn’t easy to find, but he had Seb who believed in him no matter what.

The aches and pains aren’t over yet though. Dex is recovering physically, but he and Seb need to find their balance again. Now it’s Seb who is having a hard time getting comfortable in his skin. He’s lost Dex twice now and has learned about his horrific life before the restaurant. It’s a tough part of this read to reconcile and Seb says it best with,

“They never talked about it. Ever. Not since Seb brought Dex home from the hospital. Dex because, well, who really knew with Dex? He didn’t talk much about anything unless he was drunk. And Seb? He didn’t know how.”

I was actually a little frustrated up until this point. How could this end if they don’t talk? But, when Seb himself admits his frustration about the same thing, it made me realize that this is just how this works for them. Anything else would have been wrong for Dex. Just because I don’t get it, doesn’t mean it’s not right for Seb and Dex. We aren’t really along for the ride as Dex heals with the help of a professional. We’re on the sidelines with Seb. It’s frustrating as hell, but there is really no better way to get into Seb’s head. In reality, he already knows too much, knowing more of Dex’s reality isn’t going to help anything.

Seb knows Dex though. He knows he can’t take away the past, but he can offer up a future for them. I loved the ending. There really wasn’t any better happy ending for both of them. The journey there was tough, but these guys earned every last bit of their happy.

Learn more about Heart and Garrett Leigh over on Goodreads.

**a copy of this book was provided for an honest review**

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