Erryn reviews ‘Kiss Me Again’ by Garrett Leigh. The ebook was published June 7, 2019 and is 234 pages. The audiobook was narrated by Dan Calley. It was released February 27, 2020 and is 5 hrs and 41 mins long. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I had heard about it when it first came out and was intrigued. When I saw Dan Calley was narrating the book, I leapt at the chance.
Tree surgeon Aidan Drummond is content with his own company. He works alone and lives alone, and it doesn’t occur to him to want anything else, until a life-changing accident lands him in hospital. Then, a glimpse of the beautiful boy in the opposite bed changes everything.
Ludo Giordano is trapped on the ward with a bunch of old men. His mind plays tricks on him, keeping him awake. Then, late one night, a new face brings a welcome distraction. Their unlikely friendship is addictive and, like most things in Ludo’s life, temporary.
Back in the real world, Aidan’s monochrome existence is no longer enough. He craves the color Ludo brought him, and when a chance meeting brings them back together, before long, they’re inseparable again.
But bliss comes with complications. Aidan is on the road to recovery, but Ludo has been unwell his entire life, and that’s not going to change. Aidan can kiss him as much as he likes, but if he can’t help Ludo when he needs him most, they don’t stand a chance.
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I’m always hesitant to read books with main characters who have a mental illness. I’ve read some truly horrific books where the inaccuracies piled up, and nothing was authentic. Where the characters were defined solely by their illness and that wasn’t even portrayed accurately. I’ve read stories where the only options are apparently suicide or a total cure. A total cure would be great, but often not realistic. If someone is suffering from depression that is treated early and is transitory, that’s one thing. If a character has severe PTSD, it’s not going to turn around because they fall in love.
As someone with diagnosed bipolar, I am truly appreciative of authors who do the research and accurately portray the illness. I understand each person’s experience is different, and mine won’t mirror each character’s, but there is an authenticity that can ring true when the author has done the work.
Garrett Leigh had obviously done the work from her book Kiss Me Again. I loved this book. The story was great, but the characters pulled me in and held my attention.
Aidan lives a simple life. He’s a tree surgeon who spends his days amongst the trees he loves. He’ll head to the pub for a pint, but other than that, he’s a solitary soul. Man, could I relate to that. Doing something I love and then coming home to be alone at the end of the day. He seemed quite content with his life until it all went sideways. An serious accident lands him in the hospital where he’s incapable of doing anything except enduing the pain, and wanting to get out as soon as he can. He’s facing a huge uphill battle to return to some semblance of normalcy – if it’s even possible – but he has his faculties about him, so that’s something.
Ludo is in the hospital because they need to fix a previous physical injury. The doctor is also monitoring his meds, ensuing compliance. Ludo doesn’t like the side effects, so he’s not always taking the dosage he needs. I can understand that. Drugs meant to stabilize the mind can have side effects that, in that moment, feel worse than the illness. Plus, when you’re feeling better, your mind tells you that you no longer need the drugs. Society also often sends that message. If you just have a better attitude, you won’t need the meds. Ludo is lucky he has a good team behind him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have setbacks.
While the two men are in the hospital, they cross paths. Ludo is, ironically, the more lucid of the two and he takes it upon himself to help the cute man who can’t do anything for himself. The nurses aren’t pleased, but Aiden finds this younger man fascinating. He’s appreciative of someone who knows how things work, since he’s never spent time in the hospital. One day, though Ludo is gone. Aidan figures he’ll never see the man again and it seems like that’s that.
Of course they do cross paths again, only it’s a few months later. Ludo is fairly stable on his meds, and Aidan is on his way to recovery. Once they make the connection, things move from there. This is a slow burn book, as it needs to be. Aidan worries about upsetting Ludo and is willing to take all the time in the world. He just wants to spend time with the younger man. As for Ludo, he has his mind to contend with:
Deja-vu often haunts me. Keeps me awake at night. Takes my days with doubt. But I like it with Aidan. It’s as if there are whole parts of our friendship that might come back to me later. Like shoring up my stash of medication for a rainy day.
I don’t need space. But that’s not true. A valium and a top-up dose of him hasn’t changed the fact I’m frightened of how much I like him. “I’m sorry,” I say instead.
“It’s okay,” he says. “You don’t owe me your time. I was just worried in case you needed me.”
I start to say that I don’t need him – that I can’t need anyone ever, but that’s a lie too, because I do need him. I needed this. The quiet conversation that doesn’t have to make sense. “Sometimes…sometimes I get a bit lost in my own head. I’m scared of things I like in case I lose them.”
I understand that battle. When things are going well, you wonder if it’ll end or if this will be the new normal. You wonder if maybe this time it’ll work out. You wonder if you can be stable enough to have a normal relationship.
This book offered no easy solutions, which I appreciated. It was a journey of exploration where Aidan is taking time to get to know Ludo, and Ludo is learning how to let someone in. He’s been alone for a long time and isn’t used to getting help from anyone except his medical team. Allowing Aidan to see him when he’s manic is a huge deal. Accepting Aidan’s help is something he probably never envisioned doing. But sometimes we meet the right person at the right time and everything falls into place. Even those of us with a mental illness deserve love and happiness.
On that note, I want to move to the narrator, Dan Calley. I’ve listened to a number of Dan’s books and I have to say I’m enjoying his performances. He has a deep and resonant voice that works for these men. He differentiates the characters perfectly and gives each a slightly different accent. For some listeners the differentiation may be too subtle, but it worked for me. Plus, I love Brits.
This book was the real deal for me. I was pulled into Ludo and Aiden’s worlds quickly and my attention was held. I’m glad I listened and I look forward to more from both Ms. Leigh and Mr. Calley.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.
Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.
When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.
Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.