'Strays' is the second book in Garrett Leigh's 'Urban Soul' series and while it was very different from the first book it was every bit as good. You could probably read either of these books as stand-alones but seriously? Do you want to miss out on any of the yumminess that is 'Urban Soul'? No, trust me you don't.
Nero is Urban Soul's main chef and he's Cass's best friend. He's been with the company for years and when Cass calls him and ask him to take on an apprentice, saying no isn't even a consideration in his eyes. What he doesn't count on is his apprentice being a beautiful young man that stirs feelings in him that he'd long ago abandoned.
Lenny's scared and he quickly realizes that when he's with Nero, he feels safe. These men are drawn to each other but for their own reasons they're also hesitant to act on their mutual attraction.
Because of his past Nero's sure that love and happiness are not for him. He doesn't deserve them. Lenny's running and hiding from a stalker and he's living under a dark cloud that leaves him too afraid of hoping for anything.
It takes time and being together constantly to wear away at the barriers these two men are hiding behind. When Lenny's circumstances change he starts to reach out and try to build something with Nero but Nero's walls are high and they're solid. Lenny's got his work cut out for him...
"What do you want me to say?"
"I don't care, but don't ever say nothing, Nero. Silence is too loud."
Still talking and opening up doesn't seem to be in the cards with Nero and Lenny is left wondering how they'll ever be able to make things work and how could he possibly leave when Nero keeps asking him to stay...
"...Because as addictive as the warmth of Nero's embrace had become, what did it mean if his arms were those of a stranger?"
It's a slow burn between these two and sometimes it feels like one step forward and ten steps back but little by little Lenny starts to break through and Nero slowly realizes that he needs to open up and share some of himself with Lenny. If he wants them to have a future together...
"I get that, 'cause I feel the same in reverse, I s'pose. I'd forgotten how to see colour before you came along and trashed my living room. You even brightened up my food."
Hey, come on now that's some poetry right there coming from a chef. Plus once you get reading this book you realize it's a very Nero statement.
In a nutshell these two men have embedded themselves in my heart. I loved them. Every moment spent in their world felt real. There was love and warmth and laughter but there were also moments of heartache, frustration, anger and uncertainty.
In the background of all this we are given moments of Tom, Cass and Jake. It was so awesome to have these three back even the little bit that we got was enough to make me smile and just like in the end of 'Misfits' we were gifted with another Urban Soul restaurant this one was called 'The Stray Tiger' and it specializes in pizza...seriously PIZZA!!! I feel like I'm being teased here because damn! gourmet pizza is totally one of my favorite food groups and I love tigers...they're a close second...ok, third to dragons and panthers...I want to go eat at an Urban Soul restaurant really these places sound incredible so...who wants to join me?
An ARC of "Strays" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.