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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Strays, Garrett Leigh Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre: romance, LGBTQIA One of the reasons I enjoy m/m romance so much is that it tends to be incredibly emotional, real romantic, tender love, wonderfully angsty and the plots are complex but not overcomplicated, no added unnecessary bits but just words central the the story. I hate those padded out romances, where you feel words, plots, characters get thrown in just to add to the word-count. I first came across Garret Leigh with the wonderful Misfits, book one to this series. So when I saw this one – well of course I had to read it ;-) Oddly looking back Cass wasn’t such a main character in that story, and yet he feels so familiar. I adore him here, he’s got the knack of seeing what people need, who they really are, he doesn’t have preconceived notions based on their history but lets everyone have a fresh start. He and Nero share a similar issue which could make getting work difficult, but he took a chance on Nero despite his past, and Nero’s been a little in love with him since. Of course Cass can see it and in his gentle way he’s made it clear he’s happy with Tom and Jake (Misfits) yet in a way that doesn’t embarrass Nero. He relies on Nero for the practical side of the kitchen, from designing right from the off to what kind of food and the menus for it. Along with Nero I found I’m a bit in love with Cass too.... Cass sees Lenny, right when he’s reached rock bottom. Haunted for months by a stalker who’s not only followed him constantly but has invaded his workplace and his home. The police can’t help, give him a stack of leaflets but without witnesses, evidence and a name they can’t do much. Lenny has had enough, you feel his fear, and reading his story I could understand how people give in when they’re that low, decide life isn’t worth it. Before this he was a bright happy guy, intelligent, loved to dance, friendly, very outgoing, and almost flamboyant. He was happy with himself, now he’s like a wraith. Cass steps in just at the right time, places him with Nero, in the flat above Pippa’s and working in the kitchens under Nero. His only instructions to Nero? Keep him safe...or words to that effect. Nero has no idea what has happened to Lenny, but knows if Cass placed him there its for a reason, but he’s not overjoyed at having help in the kitchen who has no experience, and having his flat invaded too. Its tiny, one bed so Lenny gets the sofa. I love Nero, can’t recall much of him from book one ( one day when i do a back to back read – that way everything marries up nicely while its fresh in my mind) but he’s a real stoic grump type character. Everyone respects him for his brilliance in the kitchen but he’s not the guy you joke around with. Man of very few words that’s Nero. They get along OK, Lenny trying valiantly to keep his head down, not get in the way, and its soon clear to Nero just how scared Lenny is. He begins to get glimpses of who Lenny was before, in unguarded moments when he tells Nero things from his past, lets little bits of info slip out and they start to learn about each other. As Lenny trusts him more he ends up telling him everything, and of course he wants Nero to trust him in return, be as open as he is now they’ve got so close, become lovers, but Nero hasn’t had the best experiences when he’s let out his past before and just can’t bring back those nightmares again. I so felt for both of them, such sad stories, such lovely people.
~~4.5 stars- Interesting Concept and Good Characters~~ Strays is the second standalone novel in the Urban Soul series. This book gripped me right at the start with the introduction of Lenny dealing with his stalker. It was an interesting paradox because it was an easy read in the way it flowed and moved efficiently through the plot, but there were plenty of emotions and past hurt carried by the main characters that made it an “angsty” read. I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting my e-reader down. The writing style and flow made this a quick read for me. I think the voices and dialogue reflected the characters’ personalities well and it was easy to distinguish the speaker/narrator. The conflicts the characters faced were interesting and the stalker element injected excitement into the plotline. I especially enjoyed the tie in to cooking and restaurants. The way it was used to develop the characters individually as well as their relationship was a bit different and very clever. I really liked the concept of everyone having their place, and their contributions being celebrated. Nero and Lenny’s romance was solid and a bit of a slow burn. With it being the first time Nero was with a man (he’s bisexual), the prolonged development made sense and allowed the characters and relationship to advance between the two men. Nero and Lenny both struggled with pain and heartbreak in their lives. It takes longer to get Nero’s full story, but I actually liked the slow, emotional reveal. His character was firmly established by the time he tells Lenny the details and it kept his past from shaping how I saw his role in helping Lenny get his life back after the stalking. Even laden painful histories, the story never felt weighted down with angst and heartbreak. Instead, it leaned more toward finding love and peace after you’ve been hurt and lost trust. There were steady changes in the characters as the relationship developed, both individually and as a couple falling in love. While their journey was emotional and the characters well-developed, I didn’t feel as connected to the characters or story as I’d expected. I’m not sure if it was that I read it so quickly or maybe the author’s writing style that created that distance. That said, I did enjoy Strays and will certainly read more from this author and look for other books in the series. *Reviewed for Alpha Book Club*