Title: Slide (Roads #1)
Author: Garrett Leigh
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Cover Artist: G.D. Leigh
Amazon: Amazon.com Slide (Roads #1)
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Summary Review: An incredible first novel by a new author that tore at my heartstrings.
Blurb: Don’t look back. Don’t you ever look back…
Shy tattoo artist Ash has a troubled past. Years of neglect, drug abuse, and life on the streets have taken their toll, and sometimes it seems the deep, unspoken bond with his lover is the only balm for wounds he doesn’t quite understand.
Chicago paramedic Pete is warmth, love, and strength—things Ash never knew he could have, and never even knew he wanted until Pete showed him. But fate is a cruel, cruel mistress, and when nightmares collide with the present, their tentatively built world comes crashing down.
Traumatic events in Pete’s work life distance him from home, and he doesn’t realize until it’s too late that Ash has slipped away. Betrayal, secrets, and lies unfold, and when a devastating coincidence takes hold, Pete must fight with all he has to save the love of his life.
Review: I was floored that this was the first novel by Garrett Leigh. While, Slide may have a few minor flaws here and there, this was an extremely well constructed story with just the right amount of heat and angst along with a gripping story line to boot. The written blurb does not begin to do justice to the depth of woundedness that exists inside Ash. While his time on the street is admittedly glossed over, it is the abuse that he suffered while there that slowly trickles out in this incredibly moving story, leaving you just a bit breathless by the end of the novel.
Ash has literally made an art of living on the street by the time he is found by Ellie, drawing sketches on the sidewalks in Philadelphia. Coming from a wealthy family and a being a persistent little bee, Ellie finally convinces Ash to come home with her where her family takes him in and helps him return to what they consider a normal existence.
But you see Ash is more than broken inside, he is a raw bundle of fear and guilt, with a self-esteem so low that he can barely cope with Ellie much less a job or finding a place to live. Not a problem, as Ellie plows right on ahead and introduces him to Pete who has been looking for a roommate. Managing to get his work seen by an Ink artist, Ash is able to apprentice and land himself a job in a successful tattoo parlor and things seem to begin to turn around for him.
Ash begins to feel more and more settled when he is around Pete and before long, he is sleeping in his bed, but sex is not necessarily problematic. With phenomenal patience, Pete slowly coaxes Ash into a more intimate relationship that is fraught with panic attacks and recurring nightmares for Ash. However, Ash is soothed, calmed when he is with Pete and so the two fall into a rhythm of sorts. A tentative yet loving relationship that stutters along until Pete’s schedule as a paramedic keeps him away more and more and Ash steadily becomes unglued. Gradually, the love these men have for each other is heavily burdened by a serious lack of communication as well as the demons that haunt Ash relentlessly.
As Ash devolves, Pete loses his patience and one night after mistakenly thinking that Ash has gone back to his street habit of using, Pete storms out, only to return to an empty apartment. As a month goes by with no word from Ash, Pete goes in search of him only to find he is not with Ellie as he had thought all along. Ash was gone and Pete is afraid he may not find him before it is too late.
What I have just described above is the mere tip of an involved and dramatic story that is told in two parts by both Ash and Pete as narrators. I loved the distinctly different views from these two men. Never have I experienced such well defined characters as Pete and Ash. Not only did they have profoundly different voices, but to see the same events unfold through both their viewpoints was really stunning. Pete, the second narrator, was not simply “retelling” the story, he added depth and nuance to previously seen events. And because his was a more sound and well reasoned voice, we really got to experience the dark and twisted way in which Ash often perceived things. The only light in Ash’s life was Pete and when Pete seemed to reject Ash, he simply shut down and folded into himself, almost becoming catatonic in many respects.
As the narration changed hands, more and more of the horror that was Ash’s life in foster care began to surface. Author Garrett Leigh cleverly allowed Pete’s horrified reactions to be the barometer of how deeply Ash was tortured and abused. Piece by piece this story began to take on the aspect of a runaway train in all its grim detail. Ash was that train, Pete was merely a passenger and when the train derailed Pete was forced to watch the wreck, watch Ash spiral down and out of control. The question was not did Pete love Ash, that was a given. No, the question was how much did he love him. By forcing Pete to acknowledge that he could not “save or heal” Ash, the author maintained the realism behind this story and, in doing so, breathed even more life into her two main characters.
While already a longer novel (274 pages), I found that the lack of details about Ash’s life on the street began to jar just a bit. At first, it was difficult to understand the strange gaps in what might be called his cultural frame of reference. For instance, movies and books he seemed to completely have missed. A distinct lack of education yet no mention of how he finally manages to attend the local community college without a GED. Then there was the gap between the time he meets Ellie, manages to apprentice in Philadelphia and then land a job in a fairly prestigious ink shop. I felt like I missed out on experiences that shaped the person Ash had become by the time he met Pete.
I think, however, the most unbelievable element in this novel was that both men declared they were bisexual. Now before you worry–there are no real interactions or on page sex, there is one brief mention of a date that ended with sex but not in detail. Then just their continual claim that they both found women okay but unappealing–in other words, they preferred men. First, the odds of both of them being bisexual? That I simply did not buy. Secondly, Pete, in particular, was so knowledgeable and comfortable with a man in his bed that I had a hard time believing he had ever been interested in women. This was one key aspect that simply did not ring true for me and, in fact, detracted from an otherwise excellent story.
Overall, I must say that as a freshman endeavor, Slide by Garrett Leigh was very impressive. The story was riveting, the characters believable and the love element really beautiful. I would most assuredly say that Garrett Leigh is an author to watch. With her first novel, she has established herself as a gifted storyteller. Slide is an exciting novel by a new author whom I think we will be hearing a great deal about in the future.