Book Review – Heartscape by Garrett Leigh


Release Date: March 22, 2021
Buy Link | Goodreads | Vino & Veritas Series Page
Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Blurb:
From award-winning author Garrett Leigh comes a gorgeous new romance in the True North world! Think: great food, burly men and good times. Beards are optional but encouraged.

I’m not the obvious choice to run Burlington’s coolest wine bar—quiet, brooding, clueless about tannin content, and always one wrong turn away from another downward spiral.

But no one seems to mind that I’m a wreck. Besides me. I just focus on getting through each shift until the night a beautiful stranger appears, looking as lost and damaged as I feel.

When a mutual friend calls in a favor, the sexy newcomer winds up crashing on my couch. I don’t know if it’s his melodic Cornish accent, or his ocean blue eyes, or the rock-hard body with the mysterious scars, but I get the feeling whatever happened to him runs far deeper than those wounds.

Having Jax in my home makes my chest warm. Makes me shiver. Makes me want more. But I’ve got a pile of baggage and I don’t want to be a burden on anyone let alone a man who seems to have enough demons of his own.

Our chemistry is off the charts. His arms feel like home. The last thing I want is to screw this up. Is it wrong to hope we can heal each other? Or will one of us die trying?

HEARTSCAPE is a heartfelt MM friends-to-lovers romance in the True North world, with a brooding bartender, a rugged outdoorsman, sweet angst and lots of Shipley cider. Triggers: contains mentions of depression, suicidal ideation and PTSD recovery.

Review

When I pick up a Garrett Leigh book I know I’m in for a wonderfully angsty ride with a HEA, and this story totally met my expectations and more. I loved Tanner and Jax’s story, and as an added bonus of this being a shared world, getting a glimpse of characters from a previous Vino & Veritas book.

I liked both men, and that they each had experiences from their past that they needed to work through. I thought Tanner’s PTSD was handled realistically, and I love that he runs a bar, yet knows nothing about wine. I liked how his and Jax’s relationship progressed as they got to know each other, and despite their physical attraction they both give each other the space they need, although trusting each other and themselves enough talk about their experiences comes later, which made a lot of sense. They’re very sweet together, and it’s obvious they fit.

I liked Gabe and Eve, and the brothers’ relationship, and how they’re in a much better place at the end of the story than at the beginning. I liked Molly too, but wished she’d kicked her loser boyfriend to the curb sooner.

The storyline as well as the characters kept me hooked, and I particularly loved the angsty scenes towards the end of the book. These guys had to go through hell and fight for their HEA, and although I trusted the author to get them there, the last few chapters had me turning pages to make sure, and threw a fabulous curve ball that took the story in a direction I hadn’t expected.

I enjoyed the sweet catch up six months later too.

5 out of 5 stars.

Excerpt
Jax kisses me. In my wildest dreams I’m expecting it, but it still catches me off guard. His lips are soft, but demanding, and there’s nothing I don’t want to give him.

So I kiss him back.

I slide my hands under his layers of winter clothing and pull him close, and we kiss and kiss and kiss as if it isn’t the first time we’ve done it.

His lips feel like home.

His soft touch dances along my jaw.

I want to kiss him forever, but we run out of air.

Startled, I draw back and instantly find myself lost in Jax’s blazing stare. His gaze usually calms me—it really is like the deepest, bluest ocean. But right now, his eyes are stormy and hot. I want to dive back in headfirst, and for once what I want makes sense.

And it’s right here. I don’t need words. I stand, cup a hand around the back of his neck, and kiss him again. Jax makes another low sound, and the fact that he’s spent the night in my bed to babysit me stops mattering. Shadows fade. Heat draws us ever closer, and it’s easy to pretend we spent all night doing this. I can’t contemplate that it has to end.

But it does end.

Jax pulls back with a rueful smile, cheeks flushed, breathing hard. “I have to go. I promised Jerry I wouldn’t be late again.”

The mention of Jerry jars something in my brain enough to form a sentence that has nothing to do with how fast my heart is beating. “How did last night go?”

“Okay, I think.” Jax steps away. “Dude talked so much I stopped listening, but the apartment was all right. I can move in whenever I want.”

I should be happy for him. I am happy for him. He didn’t deserve to lose all his things in the hostel fire, and it sucks he had to take help from a stranger when he needed so badly to depend on himself. But I’m still dazed from his kiss. I say the first thing that comes into my head. Raw. No filter. “I’m gonna miss you.”

He gives me a soft grin. “I’ll miss you too.”

Then he leaves, and the reality that it might be the last time we do this hits me like a train. Jerry’s buddy’s apartment is probably outside of the city, closer to where Jax needs to be for his work. It isn’t a million miles away—nothing in Vermont ever is—but it’s not waking up to find Jax in my bed. It’s not drinking his weird tea together or eating dinner on the couch with him. It’s not opening my eyes every morning to feel the comforting hum of his presence.

It’s not being there to let him know, every day, that he fucking matters.

So tell him now.

I lurch from my bed and snag a T-shirt from the clean laundry pile I haven’t even thought about putting away. My shoes are by the front door. I stamp into them and fish my keys from the dish. Then I make a run for it down the stairs and out into the morning gloom.

The sidewalk is icy from the plummeting temperatures that are starting to move in from the mountains. But I’m a Vermonter; I know how to handle that shit. I dash to the parking lot where Jax is waiting for Jerry, his broad back to me as he contemplates the ground.

I grab his arm. “You don’t have to leave.”

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at https://annebarwell.wordpress.com
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