Title: An Unlocked Heart (Collars and Cuffs #1)
Author: K.C. Wells and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC
Release Date: January 22nd 2015
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Length: 10 hrs and 4 mins
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.92 stars out of 5
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.
Twenty-two year old Alex Daniels has moved back home after the completion of his University degree. He doesn’t like living at home because he has no privacy, feels he has to hide he’s gay from his parents and eighteen year old brother, and is working at a restaurant job in order to save as much money as possible to move out and get his own flat.
Thirty-seven Leo Hart is a Dom who co-owns a BDSM club and is drawn to the painfully shy man he sees at his favorite restaurant one night. His best friend, and partner, Thomas and restaurant owner Sev encourage his attraction as this is the first time he’s been drawn to a man since Leo’s former lover and sub of six years was killed by a drunk driver two years ago.
The two men seem made for each other: Leo is a Dom and Alex is naturally submissive who’s very interested in getting to know Leo and about BDSM. The two, who have been leading unhappy and lonely lives, fall in love and heal each other.
Sounds great, right? It does, doesn’t it? UNFORTUNATELY, I HATED MOST OF THIS STORY.
Now, before I begin ranting please understand this is only my opinion. I am definitely in the minority with this. There are many reviews from people who absolutely loved this novel, including one you can find on this very site here: An Unlocked Heart.
Now that being said let me tell you why I spent most of this story with resting Bitch Face. And kids? There is profanity and spoilers ahead – so if either bother you – turn back now.
Alex is TWENTY-TWO. He behaves more like he is fourteen. No, I’m not kidding. He is terrified of his parents finding out he’s gay. I was terrified right along with him! I was thinking and worrying, “Is he going to be beaten (thrown out? killed?) when his parents find out? Why is he so very terrified?” And when you finally get to when he is forced to tell them?
“Leo, I’m scared.” Alex’s eyes were so large and round.
“I know.” Leo tried to keep his tone peaceful and soothing, but he knew inside Alex was a mass of nerves. “Do you think your parents are even the slightest bit homophobic? Is that it?” Alex shook his head. Well, that was one blessing, at any rate. “Then what’s your main concern?”
Alex glanced down at their intertwined hands. “I’m already a failure in their eyes,” he said, his voice trembling. “I don’t want to give them any more reasons to look down on me.”
HE’S A 22 YEAR OLD UNIVERSITY GRADUATE – HOW IS HE A FAILURE?!
Alex behaves as though he is in constant fear, living with his horribly abusive family who treats him terribly. Yet, he was allowed to move home after university, is allowed to come and go without a by-your-leave, has food on the table, and has his own room. He isn’t beaten, not a hair on his head, he isn’t constantly told he needs to pack his shit soon and leave, or that’s he’s unwanted, no…what happens is he is confronted all the time with a mother who doesn’t really care about her children and a younger brother who’s constantly coming into his room without permission.
I seriously hated Alex’s shit of a brother and bitch of a mother. Those two. I swear every single scene they were in I wanted to strangle someone. Also, with all the complaining Alex does about no privacy, to the point where he password protects his computer and padlocks his dresser, can someone please explain to me why he never locks his fucking bedroom door? Did it not lock? If not and you go to the trouble of buying a padlock for your dresser, why not buy a lock for your goddamn door?
OH! So first his fuckhead of a brother tries to blackmail Alex into buying him a new computer for his silence when the brother finds out Alex is gay, forcing him to come out. Then later his bitch of a mother sets the police on Leo after his douche bag brother spills the beans about Alex being in a D/s relationship. HE’S A 22 YEAR OLD GROWN ASS MAN WHO NEVER STANDS UP FOR HIMSELF.
May I just say that for a BDSM novel it’s actually on the sort of lite side of actual BDSM? It saddens me we lose most of the initial learning period between Alex and Leo becoming Sub and Dominant, only learning about snatches of it through the diary that Leo gives Alex to jot down his thoughts in during the initiation time. The “scenes” that are there are pretty tame and I kept waiting for it to ratchet up. It didn’t. Leo annoyed me because I didn’t buy him as a Dom who’d been dominating others for nearly twenty years. Also, the overuse of the word BOY. I have absolutely no problem with the use of “boy” in a D/s relationship, particularly in a scene, but it is greatly overused here. One reader actually counted and it was used 356 times. For reals. 356 times. I can’t even.
Then there was Pietro who is supposed to be Alex’s best friend. Yet every single confidence Alex tells him, Pietro literally runs and tells either Thomas, Leo, or Pietro’s Dom, Miles. I mean, in one way it was good because Alex and Leo communicated about as well as two rocks, but on the other hand I was like, “Hey! Can’t you keep your freaking mouth shut?”
Even I’ll admit the next thing is stupid of me, but it annoyed me to no end that Alex’s online name was MaybeGay. Every time I heard it I was all, “What’s ‘maybe’ about it? You love cock. You are definitely gay. Change your handle for the love of Pete!”
My biggest rage though is brought about by THE MISCOMMUNICATION. Ohmigod. Would someone please save me from unnecessary miscommunication bullshit?? There was SO much made up stupid miscommunication between Alex and his family and also between Alex and Leo. I mean – isn’t one of the cornerstones of any relationship, and especially a BDSM relationship, COMMUNICATION? I can’t even express how stupid most of the miscommunication that happens was to me. It was so…I just can’t.
Finally there is the narration. While Nick J Russo does a good job, I actually had no idea this was an English novel, set in an English city, with English characters until they were talking about “Manchester” one scene. Then I checked. Yep. It’s English. You wouldn’t be able to tell from the narration – which uses all American accents for all the characters.
In conclusion, I spent more than half of this story either screaming, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” or “THIS IS BULLSHIT!”
And yet, I enjoyed some of it. I enjoyed the relationship between Leo and Alex when they did communicate with one another. I enjoyed the friendships Alex and Leo had with their friends (mostly). I enjoyed the narration (for the most part). It’s just all the rest that tanked this for me. So…there. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.
However, I will say this again, I am very much in the minority with this. Almost EVERYONE else I know loved this story. LOVED IT.