Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Length: 10 hours, 4 minutes
Leo can’t focus on his business meeting. His eyes are locked on the new server at the restaurant, but the server, Alex, won’t meet his gaze. Leo has not looked at any man this way for two years. Since the death of his lover and submissive, Leo has been focused on running the successful BDSM club, Collars and Cuffs. But, shy Alex may be just the challenge Leo needs to start living again.
Just having finished school, Alex is working and trying to save money to move out of his family home. His parents barely notice him, his brother is always in his stuff, and coming out is not an option. The icy blue eyes of Leo draw him in, but Alex has never had a relationship and he is completely inexperienced with all aspects of dating. He can’t understand why Leo continually sits in his section in the restaurant and is completely shocked when the older man asks him out.
Leo knows Alex is hesitant about dating him and does everything to make Alex comfortable. That includes keeping his partnership in the club and the fact that Leo is a Dom under wraps for a while. When the men wind up in Leo’s bedroom, Alex starts to discover things about himself he was never aware of. Before the men can start a relationship and explore their feelings however, Leo’s secret is exposed, and Alex finds himself way over head.
I have read several books by K.C. Wells and what I have come to expect from this author is to be quickly immersed in the setting she has created with well crafted and interesting characters. This is exactly what happened with Leo and Alex’s story. While they are both in different places in their life, they both have growing to do. Leo is a good guy and a well respected and sought after Dom. Although, there are a lot of subs who would jump at the chance to be with him, he has not gotten over the death of his partner. When he sees Alex, he begins to feel alive again. But, sensing Alex’s inexperience he moves very slowly. Alex has a bit more going on with him. He has never been on a date and is so nervous at the very thought of a relationship. His parents are not supportive and his brother is all about what works for him. Alex has never had any kind of emotional support growing up and he has found it hard to rise above.
While the story deals with BDSM, it is on the lighter side. Where Leo is a Master Dom, Alex is not even aware of most of the elements of the lifestyle. There is a realistic buildup to Alex, who is just so nervous and freaked out due to his inexperience, becoming familiar with the lifestyle and Leo walks him through a sort of awakening. This is also the largest area of conflict for the men as Leo was waiting for the right time to open up to Alex. And, for as accomplished as Leo is in the BDSM world, it’s his personal communication skills that he needs to work on.
There were a few areas that stopped this from being an all out perfect read for me. There was a lot of author name dropping and there were several references to characters and scenes from other books. While I was familiar with most of them, it shifted the focus off of this book. And, if a reader was not familiar with the books mentioned, it could have disrupted the flow of the story more. I acknowledge this is a personal preference, but having this called out is just not my preference. Alex’s brother is a pivotal secondary character, but he was not as three dimensional as the rest of the characters. While his actions are a catalyst and also showed how insecure Alex was, Alex made way too many allowances for him. He is really only shown just waiting for Alex to come home no matter what the time, and there must have been a lock on Alex’s bedroom door, yeah? The family aspect did not work as well for me as the relationship between Alex and Leo. Lastly, the epilogue was interrupted with the set-up for the next book. While I understand that this is a series, the characters were having an important conversation to round out their story and they were interrupted to advance the story line for the next book. For me, it was not the best placed moment for that.
The majority of Alex and Leo’s evolving relationship was primarily handled in the bedroom and those scenes were nicely written indeed. Their journey certainly held my attention all the way through with jealousies, conflict, and tension and I would easily recommend their story.
The performance of the narrator on this audio version was quite simply excellent. Having not read the print version of this book, I would say that the delivery most likely increased how much I enjoyed the story. The voices of each character were distinct and it was always clear who was speaking. While at times the voice of a secondary character did not always sound the same in each scene, it was a minor distraction. When there was a change of POV within a chapter, there was a moment of fade to black and the transition was clear and there was no interruption in the flow of the story. There were areas where Alex was writing in a journal or texting with a friend and the change in tone and inflection were spot on for the type of dialog taking place. The intimate scenes were equally well spoken, realistic, and pretty smokin’ hot. The only area that was lacking for me was the accent. The story takes place in England and neither the narrator nor the voices of the characters were English, which then diminished the setting of the book. But, skipping over that, I would highly recommend the audio version of the story of Alex and Leo.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.