Title: Strays (Urban Soul #2)
Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Fox Love Press
Release Date: March 27, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 249
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.
Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.
Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.
Strays takes place in the Urban Soul universe, with Cass, Tom and Jake from Misfits playing an important role in the events of Strays. I’m sort of on-the-fence about if this can be read as a stand-alone book, but you’ll definitely want to read Misfits in either case to get Cass / Tom / Jake’s story and the Urban Soul restaurant background.
Garrett Leigh does a marvelous job of creating flawed characters and Nero and Lenny are no exception. Nero is dark and intense and passionate, and determined to continue balancing on “the precipice of madness [he] walked along each day.” Lenny is an artistic soul forced to hide in the shadows, terrified of the outside world for a very good reason. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but Lenny and Nero slowly begin to rely upon one another and along the way, these two strays learn they fit together.
“Happy wasn’t a place Nero believed was for him, but with Lenny sharing the load of his demons, he was as close as he’d ever been. He felt alive instead of lost in the constant search for oblivion.”
We get both Lenny and Nero’s POV, and there’s some angst along the way thanks to a stalker subplot, and a few sex scenes that are both steamy and deeply tender, but this story grabs you from page one and cradles you all the way to the well-deserved ending. I also loved the behind-the-scenes of getting a restaurant up and running, from Nero’s menu to Lenny’s creative vision. I highly recommend Strays and give it 4.75 stars rounded up to 5.
Lenny dragged his thumb over Nero’s checkbone. “You’re different, even since I last saw you.” “I’m different because you saw me, Lenny.”