Rating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel


Calum has just run from his life, including his home, his tattoo shop, and his relationship. Nothing was in his name and Calum left with nothing, except traumatic 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 Porth Ewan. With no phone and no money, Calum has no idea what he is going to do.

It’s been eight 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 left London 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. But things are different now for them both, and not for the better.

Calum lands in a safe spot staying with Brix and working in Brix’s tattoo shop, as he tries to out run the damage done by his ex. But Brix has his own damage that has been done to him. 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.

House of Cards was originally published in 2016 as part of the Porthkennack shared world series. Leigh has now re-released and revised the story and it is no longer part of a shared world. I read the first version and had a real fondness for Brix and Calum and, of course, the chickens that Brix saves. I was intrigued to see that this book had been revised and edited and was I interested in reconnecting with Brix and Calum after so many years. The book is still set in 2016 and the author does explain the specifics a little in the note in the beginning of the book.

The book remains character driven and featuring these 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 years, he was with a man who treated him badly and controlled his life. Calum 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.

Brix is a great character for me and we meet him for the first time as he is rescuing chickens that are going to be slaughtered and he finds them homes. 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 years.

This is a slow burn romance, with a friends-to-lovers angle as well, and I got more of a sense now of the prior friendship between Brix and Calum. 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, which overflows into a romantic chemistry and their feelings simmer all the way through the book, but Brix has reason to believe that it is impossible for him to have a relationship. Brix’s secret is talked about in the author’s note and, since this book is many years old already, it’s not exactly a spoiler, but I am not going to disclose it here.

In addition to the relationship between the men, there were the supporting characters that worked at Brix’s tattoo shop. In the previous version, I commented that while these characters were interesting, we were told too many times that their stories were private and they all remained too elusive. Here, we get more of their stories, but now I felt like I was coming into a story already in progress. Also, this book is now connected to Leigh’s Rebel Kings MC series, with cameos from Cam and Rubi, and I’m not so sure how well that worked for me. There is something here with the side characters that doesn’t fully come together for me. There is also a side story involving Brix’s family who have been known throughout the town for generations. Brix’s father, aunt, and brother have storylines touched on, but somehow they felt somewhat disconnected from Brix.

There is a wonderful sense of place in this coastal town and Brix’s descriptions of life there set the mood. Since the book was set in 2016 and republished now, a scene of them in present day would have added to the story for me. The highlight here is simply Brix and Calum. They have issues to overcome, but they are wholeheartedly better together and it was great seeing them again.