Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: 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.
Review: Restraint. It is a brilliant word when used by an author, and Garrett Leigh more than understands employing it when writing her gut wrenching novels. Heart is the epitome of restraint. Because of that, subtle nuances about both main characters that normally might have be lost to harsher descriptions of Dex’s life were saved, and added such depth and texture to an already impressive novel.
Dex is owned, used, abused and starved. A second-class citizen by virtue of birth, this gypsy nomad is handed off at a young age to his “Uncle” Braden, sold to be his and any other man’s whore and lackey. Pieces of Dex’s soul understandably shut down in order to survive and when he stumbles upon Seb one night, those parts—those dreams within him—fan into flame and he experiences their sweetness. It is almost his undoing. For you see, Dex knows in his heart he can never be worthy of any kind of nice life, for he is nothing better than a whore to be used and tossed aside. A thing to be abused, and he waits on death like a man who is years older.
If there is one thing that Dex has attached himself to, it is the old nags that are kept by Braden. Half starved, much like himself, one of Dex’s many jobs is keeping the stables clean and so he cares for the creatures and gives them the love he is afraid to share with anyone else. When a series of events, including witnessing a murder, throws Dex into chaos, he runs, leaving behind his horses and his life. But he is always on borrowed time, and no one knows that better than he. Circumstances bring Seb back into Dex’s life and love blossoms, but Braden is still out there, and Dex is still his whore, his property. How can he possibly think of a life with Seb when the man has no idea about Dex’s past, or the fact that his future is limited?
When an author is able to put just the hint of a sordid abusive life on page and deal more thoroughly with the aftermath and how it affects the character, the story becomes incredibly rich and full. Dex was fascinating not because of his abuse but because he survived it. His survival was the focus, his introduction into a world that he felt would never be his, which he could never deserve. He was so heavily flawed and in need, and it took more than Seb to save him. This was the real genius of Garrett Leigh’s story, and it was in the final chapters, where she changes the point of view and we see Dex not through his internal filter but through that of Seb’s, that her strength as a writer was made clear. We got the full brunt of both men’s frustrations and fears and needs, and it made this story so very real and just that much better!
Heart by Garrett Leigh is an incredible novel, full of pathos and tension, and sweet tenderness and healing. The story never pandered to the idea that a person can easily or swiftly recover from a life of abuse, but it pointed the way to the idea that with love and much patience, therapy and education, even the most wounded can live free.
You can buy Heart here: