Seb Wright has always worked hard. From a young age, he has helped out in the family fudge shop and he’s now the owner. But the work is seasonal and it’s too quiet in the winter and too busy during the summer tourist season. As the season changes, Seb meets Dex, a Traveller, who is too thin, but beautiful all the same. Seb offers Dex a respite from the storm as Dex helps clean the shop and the men sense the chemistry arcing between them. But Seb only has Dex in his bed for one night until Dex completely disappears.
It’s been a year since Dex was wrapped in Seb’s arms and some days that memory is the only thing that can get him through each hour. He’s a slave to the man he knows as “Uncle Braden,” and Dex has no choice but to go where Braden tells him and to let those paying doing whatever they want. The hunger and the abuse are all Dex knows and he doesn’t think he will ever be able to get away. Until…one night when he sees his chance and he runs. Dex has no idea where he’s going or what he’ll do when he gets there, but London offers him opportunity, a job, and the man that belongs to the face that has haunted his thoughts for the past year.
This book is kinda brutal without even being that explicit and Dex is a character that will stay with you for a long time. When we first meet him, we don’t know his full story upfront and the more details that come to light, the more Dex will get under your skin. It’s a dark night when he comes across Seb, but all of Dex’s nights and days are dark. He remembers being a young kid with his family, but now all he knows is life with Braden and a life of forced prostitution.
Seb is alone as well. He has family, but he doesn’t see them much and his life is all about the fudge shop until he sees Dex. A tentative friendship grows, but Seb knows nothing about Dex, only that he is completely drawn to him and then Dex is gone.
It’s not until Dex leaves that we find out what his life is like and it’s rough to watch. Dex is completely under the control of Braden and his men, his living conditions are deplorable, he’s starved, and the abuse is vicious. Dex doesn’t remember what it’s like to live a life free from abuse and never thinks about trying to leave. When he sees his chance, he takes off. It’s through circumstances that he finds Seb again and it’s inevitable that the men will be together. They work together, they build a friendship, they are tender and intimate with each other, and they start to build a life, but Dex can’t hide the way he thought he could.
This book is highly character driven and it all revolves around the two men and their own stories and then their story together. I would have liked more to connect how Dex came to be with Braden and perhaps some more on Braden himself to round out the story. Heart was released in 2014 and Seb and Dex made an appearance in her recent release, Whisper, which prompted me to want to go back and read their story. I would have also liked to see more detail of how they got from the end of Heart to the happiest of ever afters to where they were in Whisper.
Garrett Leigh writes my brand of angst and it’s not too heavy handed, for me at least. The book does edge into some darker territory, but Heart is Garrett Leigh doing what she does best.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.