Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.
Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.
Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.
House of Cards, like the other books in this series, takes place in a village called Porthkennack, in Cornwall. While the setting is the same town, all of the novels work perfectly as stand alone. I've grown to really like this charming seaside town and it's eclectic inhabitants.
Garrett Leigh writes broken characters like no one else. And the way that her characters always help each other heal (without succumbing to magic-dick syndrome) just does me right. I love her characters, their chemistry and the angst! Delicious, delicious angst -- it is a very important food group, after all.
And I love that her characters don't feel overdone. They're real people with real problems. Maybe not always every day problems, but I've never had trouble identifying with the characters she's created. Plus, when I finish one of her books, I always end up thinking about it for some time -- and at random times, too. They stay with me, you know? And, to me, that is a mark of an excellent book.
Calum Hardy and Brix Lusmoore are both a bit broken by life and circumstance, and I loved how they complimented and helped each other in the story. Calum is fresh out of an abusive relationship where he was left with nothing, including self-worth and Brix, well, he was harder to figure, because Brix seems so put together. And, for the most part he is. Brix carries the weight of his secret alone and he feels that this is way it should be.
But I've got to tell you, if it weren't for Calum reminding Brix of what it's like to really feel alive, I don't know how long Brix would have bothered to try. He spends his time helping others, but he never ever lets anyone in to help him, and he needs it most of all.
Finding Calum on a bench at the train station in an out of the way town near Porthkennack was not something Brix expected. Not that Calum ever expected to see Brix again, either. It was pure happenstance that brought them together. With neither of them knowing that finding each other was exactly what they needed.
Brix collects strays. He's a nurturer and rescuer. He keeps chickens, that are rescues, from going to the slaughterhouse and he takes in people, too, that need a safe place to be. He runs a tattoo shop in town where the other artists definitely have stories and pasts, some of whom I'd dearly love to read more about. Calum fits right in and no one even looks sideways at him. I appreciated that. Calum needed that safe space where he could just be.
Brix may have rescued Calum, but Calum rescued him right back and Brix didn't even realize he needed it. They were friends, first and foremost and though Brix kept some things close to his chest, Calum was steadfast in his friendship making sure that Brix knew he didn't have to go it alone anymore. And I liked how organically their relationship developed. They don't jump right into bed - for reasons that I am not going to spoil - and their bond just grew stronger for it.
The writing is strong, as I've come to expect with this author, too. In fact, the only thing I would have liked more would have been to get to know Calum more. What we do learn about him I loved, but I wanted more. Where he came from. How he got involved with that abusive SOB, etc. But I think House of Cards is more about Brix and him not just coming to terms with his circumstances, but learning that he still deserves to live and love. And he's not magically 100% ok by the end of the story, but he makes so much progress and I have no doubt he will get where he needs to be. And Calum will be right there beside him.
The steam level is pretty light and Garrett Leigh keeps us waiting a good long time. Slow burn is the name of this game. And I loved it. When Brix and Calum do end up in bed, their sexual tension is palpable. The story ends on a strong HFN and I'm pretty confident that both Brix and Calum are solid.
I truly enjoyed House of Cards and would definitely recommend it.
ARC of House of Cards was generously provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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