Title: What remains
Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 4, 2016
Page Count: 278
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Web designer Jodi Peters is a solitary creature. Lunch twice a week with his ex-girlfriend-turned-BFF and the occasional messy venture to a dodgy gay bar is all the company he needs, right?
Then one night he stumbles across newly divorced firefighter Rupert O’Neil. Rupert is lost and lonely, but just about the sweetest bloke Jodi has ever known. Add in the heady current between them, and Jodi can’t help falling hard in love. He offers Rupert a home within the walls of his cosy Tottenham flat—a sanctuary to nurture their own brand of family—and for four blissful years, life is never sweeter.
Until a cruel twist of fate snatches it all away. A moment of distraction leaves Jodi fighting for a life he can’t remember and shatters Rupert’s heart. Jodi doesn’t know him—or want to. With little left of the man he adores, Rupert must cling to what remains of his shaky faith and pray that Jodi can learn to love him again.
What a gorgeous book. As a psychologist in a brain injury hospital, I see patients suffering the effects of brain injury on a daily basis. I was really looking forward to reading this book from this author because I was hoping to see a more realistic depiction of TBI/ABI within the context of a romance novel. I was very impressed with how the author handled it and although some things were a bit far-fetched, the majority was spot on. Kudos author.
The story is told in flashbacks alternating with the present time. I think the non-linear story-telling worked well here, because as a reader, I got to see the intensity of Jodi and Rupert’s love for each other slowly. While the “current” situation as it is presented is pretty dire, the flashbacks were a soothing balm to my soul, making me hope that they will find a way back from the shitty situation they were thrown into.
The writing was spectacular, as always with this author, and the dialogue felt very current and realistic. Simple romances are my weakness and even though there is nothing simple or common about the plot, Jodi and Rupert shared a very ordinary life –the kind that makes you believe love and happiness is at your fingertips and easy to achieve.
So, the brain injury. Brain injury is a lot more common that you would think. It can happen so very easily, it’s stupid really. I think there is more awareness of it in the last 10-15 years, and growing, but in general, we don’t “recognize” people with brain injury as easily as one would a person with an obvious physical disability or a learning disability. Jodi came out of his coma in post-traumatic amnesia with strong personality changes. All that is very typical of TBI. The 5-year memory gap was a rarity indeed although it can happen. I appreciated the thorough depiction of the rehab, physical and otherwise, that Jodi had to do, along with the timeline in which everything unfolded. Bravo for accuracy on those things author.
I also loved how Rupert dealt with Jodi’s changes. Rupert essentially lost his partner after the accident. Jodi was alive and well but he was a different person. The personality changes he experienced were so excellently portrayed. Jodi went from a funny, hard-working neat-freak, to a grouchy, angry slob who could not motivate himself to complete basic personal care. It was absolutely devastating to see how Rupert managed to remain patient and understanding of all of this and how he accepted his changed role from partner to carer. The slowly budding romance that started anew was also beautiful to read. It’s truly a wonderful hurt/comfort story, very well-written, with a HEA that will make you feel hopeful about love that conquers all.
My personal niggles? Personality changes tend to be permanent. And even though patients tend to come out of post-traumatic amnesia and can make new memories again, they don’t slowly become the person they once were the same as one regains use of a broken limb. I am not sure how much was creative license, but when I hit the part of the book where Jodi starts to recover mentally, I remembered I was reading a romance novel. It was not very realistic and although it made for an amazing, romantic read, there were misrepresentations.
But, this is not a textbook on brain injury. It’s a romance novel borrowing a real-life situation of the more extreme side of the spectrum and spinning a hell of a tale from it. I loved Jodi and Rupert together, pre and post TBI. You have to give this a shot if you enjoy hurt/comfort reads because it is one of the very well-crafted ones.