House of CardsRating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Calum has just run from his life, including his home, his tattoo shop, and his relationship. Nothing was in his name and he leaves with nothing, except the memories of a manipulative and controlling ex. Calum gets on the first train heading out of town and finds himself in the small town of Porthkennack. With no phone and no money, Calum has no idea what he is going to do.

It’s been four years since Calum has seen Brix Lusmoore. The two became friends when Calum worked with Brix years ago when he was just starting out as a tattoo artist. There was always a vibe between them that went deeper than friendship, but one day Brix just up and left without a word. When Brix sees Calum huddled outside of the train station, their friendship picks up right where it left off, as does the attraction that still simmers between them.

Calum lands in a safe spot staying with Brix and working in his tattoo shop and tries to out run the damage done by his ex. Calum still wants Brix, but Calum’s self esteem is almost on empty and Brix has secrets of his own, ones that he thinks will push Calum away for good.

A good Garrett Leigh book is a good thing indeed. I have read a lot of this author’s work and her style appeals to me as her books often have a somber atmosphere to them. House of Cards has the same appeal, while also remaining authentic to its location as Leigh’s books are written in an authentic British style, but still makes it easy for a non-Brit like myself to follow along.

The book is character driven and features two interesting men. Calum is introduced first as he runs out on his life after he’s finally fed up with his current relationship. For four years he let a man treat him badly and control his life. He can’t even figure out how he let it happen and he knows it’s time that he will never get back, along with the parts of his self esteem that have been crushed. It’s fate that brings Brix back into his life and you can just go along with the chance second meeting.

Now Brix was a great character and we meet him for the first time as he is rescuing chickens that are going to be slaughtered and finds them homes. I mean the man rescues chickens! Brix is a nurturer and caretaker and his tattoo shop employs a collection of people he has taken under his wing. But Brix has a past and one hell of a painful secret that he can’t even tell Calum and he’s suffered alone for the past four years.

This is a slow, very slow burn romance with a friends-to-lovers angle as well. There are many reasons that the pace fits the relationship as Calum has to get himself together and Brix has to let Calum in. The men have great chemistry as friends, but the romantic chemistry came a little too late in the book for me. It’s there, but it’s simmering way below the surface for much of the book and we also had to rely on being told brief moments of their prior friendship.

In addition to the relationship between the men, there were the supporting characters that worked at Brix’s tattoo shop. They all were interesting and they all had a story to tell, yet we are told time and again how all of their stories were private. One character will be getting his own book under this Porthkennack series at a later date, but without knowing about the rest, too many seeds were planted for me without knowing if they would ever grow into anything. There is also a side story involving Brix’s family who have been known throughout Porthkennack for generations. Brix’s father, as well as his brother, have different storylines and at one point further along into the book, the story began to wander for me under the weight of the supporting characters.

This book works as a stand alone and I have not read the other in the series. The town of Porthkennack is the connection as the books are written by different authors, and Leigh does a wonderful job with a sense of place and setting the scene for the coastal town. If you like Garrett Leigh’s books, you will find a winner here with two guys who certainly have issues to overcome, but ultimately are solid and are better together than they are apart. And chickens–don’t forget there are chickens!

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