A Collars & Cuffs story Since the death of his submissive lover two years ago, Leo hasn't been living--merely existing. He focuses on making Collars & Cuffs, a BDSM club in Manchester's gay village, successful. That changes the night he and his business partner have their weekly meeting at Severinos. Leo can't keep his eyes off the new server. The shy man seems determined to avoid Leo's gaze, but that's like a red rag to a bull. Leo loves a challenge. Alex Daniels works at Severinos to scrape together the money to move out on his own. He struggles with coming out, but he's drawn to Leo, the gorgeous guy with the icy-blue eyes who's been eating in his area nearly every night. Leo won't let Alex's hesitance get in the way. He even keeps him away from the club so as not to scare him. And as for telling Alex that Leo is a dom? Not a good idea. One date becomes two, but date two leads to Leo's bedroom...and Alex discovers things about himself he never realized and never wanted anyone to see.
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Overall I enjoyed this story a lot. Nick Russo is one of the better readers out there, which is part of the reason why I picked this.
I won't say much about the plot because you get what you see in the summary. There are enough twists and turns to make it interesting throughout the whole story, but not too much to overdo it on the drama. I shan't comment on the BDSM part of it because I'm not in the livestyle myself. I can tell, however, that it's a much healther depiction of a BDSM relationship that other works of fiction on the market. *cough*50Shades*cough*
Something I gratefully noticed: No weird euphemisms for or during sex scenes. I could do with less of the "tumescend" and "burgeoining" but at least all body parts are called by their proper (sexy) names and there are no analogies to fire hoses, natural phenomena, etc.
I do have a few problems with this story though. Not bad enough that it made me stop listening, so that's a good sign, but: Right at the beginning, the author (rightfully) engages in a bit of criticism against "50 Shades" of which I highly approve. All the more baffling then, that the Dom character, Leo, then goes and is a manipulative prick in the first chapters of the story. His behaviour is bordering on stalking, he abuses his power as club owner/dom/master over a club member who's a sub to get personal, private information about a man on whom he's been crushing for a while and has been on exactly one date. Let's not forget to mention that, at the end of that date, he coerces Alex to kiss him in the car even though Alex is scared that anyone might see and tell his parents. (Spoiler: A totally justified fear because someone DOES see and then try to blackmail him, which is where we get to the part where Leo abuses his power over Alex' friend to gain personal information. If I remember correctly, Leo never even apologises to Alex for making him kiss him despite Alex' hesitation ...................)
There are a few more small incidents like that where Leo, because he believes he has the right to make these decisions for the shy, introvert Alex, just acts on behalf of Alex. It's always justified, after the fact, when we learn from Alex that he, after initial hesitation and reluctance is grateful that Leo took charge.
It gets better once their relationship develops more. Alex becomes more confident and they have proper conversations about their relationship and everything it entails.
I am able to overlook the whole part where sex is equated with penetration and that one remains a virigin until they've either had someone else's penis inside their body (but mouths don't count, of course ...*eyeroll*) or has put their own penis into another person's body (again, mouths excluded). Still, someone kill the concept of virginity and how you need to have someone's penis inside your body (or put yours into theirs) to "get rid of" or "lose" it. There are enough authors out there who know better already, and Wells would do well to learn from there. (Or maybe she has. The book's from 2013 after all. Maybe in one of the more recent works there's a change there.)
Last but not least, if I hadn't looked up the author I never would have believed that this was written by a Brit. It's entirely possible that K.C. Wells had to have this changed so an American audience will understand everything, but to someone who expects a story that's well and truly settled in a Britsh context, it's jarring when there are an overwhelming amount of Americanisms and general absence of British slang, etc. Nick J. Russo might not be the best choice to read this but I can't even be upset about this because until I was at least half an hour in, I didn't even realise that this was supposed to be set in the UK. As it is, I'm better off pretending that this is an American town called Manchester that's trying hard to copy it's British pal (and failing miserably).
All in all I'm more than ready to give some of the other novels in this series a go, despite my misgivings about this one.