Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Tired of the London rat race and the heartbreak that comes with it, photographer Jas Manning returns to Porthkennack, the Cornish seaside town where he spent every childhood summer on his father’s farm. Resigned to year-round rain, wind, and homemade jam, he’s sorely unprepared for the impact that artsy carpenter Kim Penrose has on his heart.
Kim’s free-loving reputation precedes him, and he’s as generous with his inked-up body as he is with his time. The sex is hot, the easy friendship even better, and Jas’s time with him building his family’s new farmhouse canteen is everything Jas was missing in his empty city life.
But Kim’s carefree existence isn’t as simple as it appears. He’s worked hard to vanquish his demons and build his dreams, but the devil on his shoulder is ruthless, and when it comes to call, their happy bubble bursts like it was never there at all. The canteen opening looms, but Kim is gone in more ways than one, and it’s down to Jas to shore up Kim’s soul and convince him that he deserves his place in Jas’s heart.
Kim Penrose makes his first appearance in House of Cards (Porthkennack#4) where Kim and Lena, his gf, with their open relationship and “all that free love and stuff” worked in Brix Luxmoore’s tattoo shop. A damaged soul, even in that story Kim made quite an impression. So much so that you wanted to know more about him, his breakup with Lena, and see him get a love that would last.
In Junkyard Heart, a perfect title and expression for the tumult of emotions inside of this fragile, addicted man, we get Kim, his story, and Jas Manning, a photographer who will be the one to understand and love him if he can first gently work through the obstacles and mini minefields that lays in the path to a relationship and love.
Understanding Kim in many ways is like traveling a labyrinth, Kim’s an addict who’s worked hard on his recovery. Issues of trust, honesty, and the ability to understand Kim is essential in the path forward. Plus it works both ways, Kim has to trust Jas too with his heart. Garrett Leigh understands these men and the author’s ability to write them in such a way that they breathe, and are such viable human beings that can cut into your heart with their situations and pain is credit to her skills. There’s no huge drama that unfolds here other than that of two men trying to work out how to mesh their lives into each others because it’s exactly what feels right and true.
Which brings me to the one element that threw me here. That is Lena, also known as “Red”, Kim’s former partner/gf who left him for a woman she’s now serious about. She returns and there’s a brief M/M/F sex scene which on one level I got because of the characters bisexuality and her importance to Kim. But it never flowed for me. Instead for some reason it felt jarring and intrusive, the exact opposite of what the author intended. Another mention later in the story had the exact same effect….like a bucket of cold water on the men, it froze the narrative if only for a moment and not in a good way.
Junkyard Heart is another strong story in the Porthkennack series. I adore this entire collection and each addition makes this old Welsh village a more alive and complete place in my mind and heart. I certainly recommend it, plus the one I mentioned House of Cards. Start with that and get to know intimately this small village and it’s incredible group of characters.
C0ver art by G.D. Leigh is wonderful and perfect for the character.