Monday, September 12, 2016

Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh

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.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Wow. This is a raw, emotional ride and one of the sexiest books I’ve read recently. Garrett Leigh adds some much needed gritty realism and some Norfolk sea air to the classic Pretty Woman storyline to create a moving and unforgettable romance.

Rentboy Zac has moved to Norfolk from London. He has a roof over his head and is finally free from the violence and drugs that made life almost impossible in the city. He finally has some control over his own life.

The characterisation in this story is powerful. There is nothing pretty about Zac’s life. Despite his fresh start in Norfolk, he is a recovering addict struggling to make safe choices while managing to pay his rent. Let down by everyone in his life at a very young age, he has learned to expect nothing and trust no one. I really loved this character. I loved his simple pleasures and his total confusion when someone finally considers his needs. The author captures Zac’s fragile pride and prickly defensive reactions perfectly, creating a hardened but very vulnerable young man I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Instead of the usual CEO figure in the Pretty Woman story, we have Liam. The grieving widower prides himself on his ethical business, on treating his employees as family. I loved his internal conflict as he struggled between his attraction to Zac and his liberal values. If anyone is snobbish about class boundaries it is the rentboy, not the CEO.

The chemistry between Liam and Zac is smoking hot. Steamy sex and powerful emotions tangle when these two men come together, and the result is a very special connection between two beautiful men. This very British fairy tale may be a little too gritty for Hollywood, but I absolutely love it.

I really enjoyed this book, it was a quick read for me.

Liam is lonely after the death of his husband, so when Zac offers himself up for a price Liam can't refuse. Liam is a good guy who refuses to define Zac by the job that he does.

Zac is just trying to keep a roof over his and his friend’s head and being a rentboy is the only way he knows.

When they start getting to know each other, they realise that they could have something special.

There are a few turns for the worst in this book, they mainly surround drug use.

It was a good book from start to finish.

I am usually not into the whole rentboy thing, but having read books by this author before I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did. Great chemistry, great secondary characters, great story. This author just has a way with writing that makes you love a story even when you think you won’t.

Characters: Well written
Sex: Yes
Religious: No
Would I recommend to others: Yes
More than one book in the series: No
Genre: M/M
Would I read more by this author: Yes

4.5 Hope-filled Stars.

The only book I'd read previously by this author was What Remains, and I found Rented Heart to have the same consistent writing style, which had me checking out Leigh's backlist. Character-development-centric, the story's focus is on the emotions felt by the characters in everyday situations, not the bells and whistles that usually hide a lacking premise beneath the bed.

If I had to choose one word to describe both the author and the novel – Solid.

The absence of shock-value writing was a breath of fresh air. The fact that all the characters maintained their personality traits and behaved in the manner in which they were created had my trust in the author growing. The mentality and maturity was consistent with the character's age, profession, education, and background. The logic and rational, human-nature-based actions and reactions will have me buying more by Garrett Leigh.

Liam is a lonely widower, an introvert who has closed himself off from everyone but his family and two dogs. Zac walks into his life and Liam feels a need to get close to someone for the first time in over a year, only to discover it was for pay. The struggle Liam displayed felt realistic, wondering whether Zac was in it for the money or because of Liam himself. Liam's inner monologue was definitely needed, and didn't drag the story down. It showed the reader Liam's struggle between acceptance and guilt and shame, while worrying for Zac and wishing to take care of him.

Zac is a hooker trying to survive, knowing that vices are what keeps him and his mate exactly where they are. A runaway from the fostercare system, Zac uses his body to pay the rent. One thing that did bother me was the fact that once Zac got clean and rented his own place, and was no longer wasting money on vices, why didn't he get a day-job while supplementing his income with his regular johns a few times a week? But the realism was the mentality Zac was stuck in, one his best friend helped anchor Zac to. Jamie, Zac's BFF and roommate, showed the darker side – the side Zac had lived six months prior. The fist of addiction strangling the will to survive out of the addict.

I applaud the author for not glossing over this subject matter, while also not forcing it in the reader's face. It wasn't made light, with cutesy giggling hookers, who had bad pasts but never showed any growth, I've read in the past by different authors. It was gritty and raw, realistic, but there was always an element of hope infusing the storyline.

Liam and Zac's palpable tension and chemistry was through the roof. As the reader, I became invested in the outcome of their relationship, wishing the best for all the characters written on the pages. Lifelike, Liam and Zac were written in a way that they felt like real people to me.

Recommended to MM Romance fans who enjoy a novel featuring character development.

I'm going to go check out Garrett Leigh's backlist now.

This is the fourth book of Leigh’s I’ve read and the fourth one I’ve given five stars to. Rented Heart is similar to the others in that Leigh is able to hook me within mere pages by creating compelling yet realistic characters who I find myself invested in almost immediately. Other than being M/M romances, that’s where the stories’ similarities end as none have had even remotely similar storylines, making each an exciting journey in its own right. And Rented Heart is no exception because seeing Liam and Zac through one another’s eyes – as neither sees himself clearly – made this a book I set aside other tasks so that I could immerse myself into it fully.

Liam and Zac have one of the more interesting first encounters I’ve ever read as Liam’s intoxicated state is largely responsible for his inhibitions being lowered just enough that he can not only entertain Zac’s sales pitch, but also rationalize purchasing Zac’s services. As a rentboy, Zac offers Liam some much needed human contact that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about possibly hurting the man’s feelings afterwards, but that doesn’t prevent Liam from feeling guilty about being finally being with someone after his husband’s death. While Zac is relieved to be with Liam as he’s actually attracted to the man and enjoys that Liam can be a bit enthusiastic in the bedroom without inflicting harm, neither he nor Liam anticipated feeling more, feeling anything, or just outright feeling about someone else. Even as Zac worries that his fascination with Liam is one-sided, Liam finds himself unable to keep Zac banished from his thoughts and seeks the young man out for another round, and then again, and then again, and then again, until it becomes clear that there’s more to their relationship than being john and tom. And as each man faces troubles in his life, the relationship that they’re forging becomes more important as they find solace in being themselves with one another, free from the expectations being placed on them by those people in their everyday lives. But when Zac’s friend, Jamie, brings trouble home to Zac, Liam finds himself faced yet again with possibly of having to say goodbye to someone he loves – even if he’s only just realized the depth of his feelings for the rentboy.

I both loved and hated how Zac had a hard time understanding that at times, Liam just wanted to spend time with him – that despite how they met, Liam wanted more from their arrangement than just sex. I hated it because it quickly became apparent that Zac had had very few, in any, people in his life who wanted to spend time with him solely for the pleasure of his company. Yet for this very same reason, I loved it because as Liam taught Zac that there was more to the young man than his occupation, Liam’s emotional scars from the loss of his husband began to heal. I enjoyed how Leigh showed what each man was dealing with in their lives because it not only enriched the characters, but made it easier to see why they were open to more of a relationship. Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that even though Zac is a rentboy and he and Liam met because of it, and even though the reader is treated to several deliciously steamy scenes, sex is not the focus or driving force behind the story. Rented Heart is a story of healing, of finding love when and where it’s least expected, and learning to give love another chance, complete with the story and character depth I’ve come to associate with Garrett Leigh. This is another stellar read and I cannot wait to see what the author releases next.

Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. Her protagonists will always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you’ve got yourself a Garrett special.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.

Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors. For cover art info, please visit

Connect with Garrett

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Blog  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Rented Heart (Rented Heart #1) by Garrett Leigh to read and review.

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