Author: Garrett Leigh
Narrator: Dan Calley
Length: 5 hours, 42 minutes
Reviewed by Sammy
LAMBDA Finalist 2017
Ex-surfer-turned-businessman Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. Grief and loneliness keep him a solitary figure, and he likes it that way. There’s no room in his broken heart for anything else.
Rentboy Zac Payne left London and most of his demons behind, but he still only knows one way to make a living. When he spots Liam in a club one night, it seems he’s found his mark. But Liam proves nicer — and their connection far deeper — than he’d bargained for.
Their arrangement quickly becomes too complicated for Zac, who has other things on his mind: namely his BFF and wayward flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie the world, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.
Besides, Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life, too caught up in his own head to think much beyond the crazy heat he and Zac share. But when trouble comes to Zac’s door, putting his life in danger, Liam must set his grief and anger aside to pick up the pieces
Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh follows the story of one recovering addict/hooker’s journey from the pit of poverty and struggle to the arms of a man who has lost the love of his life and the joy of living. Zac has been on the streets for way too long and yet he knows little else or feels he deserves anything more. But if he is going to make it and keep the roof over his head come winter then he has to find some more regular johns to make money. When he spots the gorgeous blond outside the club he decides to give him a go and from that moment on Zac will finally find the one thing that has always eluded him—the desire to be something more than the hooker he knows he is.
Liam spots the pretty man across the street and is intrigued. Even the booze he has already ingested isn’t enough to keep the dull pain of his loss in check but still he can’t believe he agrees to go home with a prostitute. But there’s something about Zac that will stay with Liam well beyond that one night and regardless of his mind screaming at him not to see the guy again, Liam does just that. Not only is the sex additive but everything about Zac appeals to Liam—now if only he could be sure that Zac wants to be with him for something other than the money he makes.
Rented Heart is a beautiful hurt/comfort trope—a second chance love story between two men who both have already lost too much in their lives. With beautiful moments of intimacy and even better sections where Liam and Zac learn about each other, this novel steals my breath away. It is raw, unfiltered and emotional and I loved every moment.
Dan Calley’s rich variety of English dialects only added to an already luscious story by Garrett Leigh. With a nice pace for the non-dialogue passages, Mr. Calley’s real talent shined through as he voiced the various characters of the story. I do think the timbre of both Zac and Liam is a bit too similar—particularly in the beginning narration. Because they were both low and similar, it made it difficult to determine who was speaking when because the voices sometimes sounded the same. I was also surprised at the lack of differentiation in their accents—I had imagined Liam might have sounded more posh than Zac but still the intensity in Liam’s tone set his voice apart just enough.
I do believe the strength of Mr. Calley’s ability to infuse emotions into the various scenes of intimacy between Liam and Zac really stood out. This narrator can make you feel the hesitancy and then the almost nonchalant capitulation in both Liam and Zac as they question their actions. It all has to do with the masterful way Calley uses pausing and pacing to create tension and highlight important moments in the story. I think author Garrett Leigh really found an excellent narrator to bring their novel to life.
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