My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Garrett Leigh kept me awake until half one this morning with this book. I started reading it around 10pm, thought I’d just get a few chapters in and then could not actually put it down until I’d made sure that Paolo and Luis were going to be okay.
I mean, it’s a romance, so I knew they’d be okay eventually, but oh my gawd the tensions throughout this book were immense.
Not between them, they’re just utterly perfect for each other, the way they just meld together is a joy, fraught as it is with all the extra complications that come from who they are as individuals.
And this is why Garrett’s writing is my book drug of choice.
She crafts characters and settings which feel like you’re just sneaking a peak into real peoples’ lives who she knows and who just said yeah, go for it Garrett, write our story when she puts forth an idea for her next release.
Nothing is easy about this book, Luis spent six years in prison for a pretty shitty crime, he’s not an innocent man by any stretch. But he’s also not a bad man, family pressure gave him a life he wouldn’t have chosen and he was happy to do his time.
Now he’s out and life is confusing and oh how my heart hurt for Luis. He’s not the man his reputation painted him and his six years inside have markedly changed him, both mentally and physically.
Paolo’s grandfather Toni’s caff (because that’s how you pronounce a London greasy spoon 😉 ) gives him his first sense of peace in years and the man running it, his first spark of attraction in just as long.
I loved their relationship development. From wary work colleagues, through to friends, into intimacy and the wonderful emotionally vulnerability of falling in love, but with this overpowering sense of foreboding threatening everything.
Because Luis might have turned his back on his former life, but that’s not a decision he’s allowed to make on his own and my heart was racing so much as the narrative sped along to the eventual conclusion – hence why I was still reading at 1.30am.
The big major drama plot surprised me in one way, but – and there’ll be no spoilers here – also didn’t at all. Because this book’s main driving thread through everything is about family, about loyalty, about making decisions on the knife’s edge.
The Epilogue is just all ends up wonderful and I really, really wish that Toni’s Cafe did exist in a tucked away corner of a South London High Street, filled with builders and locals alike, passing hipsters with annoying mustaches wanting beans on toast with the smell of fried bacon and Italian tomato sauce on a Sunday.
I think I’d like to spend hours there just watching Paolo and Luis work together, seamlessly blending love and found-family into a Happy Ever After that feels utterly grounded in truth.
Now I can’t wait to see if there will be more, and who is the focus of the next Darkened Skies novel, because there’s one candidate here who I think would be a fascinating character to explore and a great redemption narrative to work.
#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review