Title: Before You Break
Series: Secrets: Book One
Authors: K.C. Wells and Parker Williams
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 13 hours and 21 minutes
Category: Contemporary, BDSM
At a Glance: There are a lot of emotional moments and angst that Joel Leslie’s narration really bring home. With his trademark skill and ability with accents, he does a great job covering the range of voices and, as a good audio performance should do, adds a bonus to quality source material.
Reviewed By: Jovan
Blurb: Six years ago, Ellis walked into his first briefing as the newest member of London’s specialist firearms unit. He was partnered with Wayne, and they became fast friends. When Wayne begins to notice changes – Ellis’s erratic temper, the effects of sleep deprivation – he knows he has to act before Ellis reaches his breaking point.
He invites Ellis to the opening of the new BDSM club, Secrets, where Wayne has a membership. His purpose? He wants Ellis to glimpse the lifestyle before Wayne approaches him with a proposition. He wants to take Ellis in hand, to control his life because he wants his friend back, and he figures this is the only way to do it.
There are a few issues, however. Ellis is straight. Stubborn. And sexy. Wayne knows he has to put his own feelings aside to be what Ellis needs. What surprises the hell out of him is finding out what Ellis actually requires.
Review: Before You Break caught my eye with its premise of Wayne, a dominant gay man deciding that the best way to help his best friend, Ellis, from his downward spiral is to “take him in hand” by contracting with Ellis in a BDSM relationship as his submissive, even though Ellis is not familiar with the lifestyle. Ellis willingly lets Wayne guide, protect and basically submits to Wayne’s judgement during their partnership in the Special Ops unit of the police force and as friends; thus, when after a year of increasingly erratic, temperamental and team-endangering behavior threatens Ellis’s career, Wayne decides that if Ellis refuses to take care of himself, then he should step in and help him before it’s too late.
Given that Ellis is completely unfamiliar with BDSM and sees submission as not being treated as a “real man”, Wayne’s offer is definitely not eagerly accepted, but as his world begins imploding and he learns more about what Wayne wants to do to help, Ellis very reluctantly agrees. Beyond Ellis’s initial views on BDSM, accepting Wayne as his Dom and letting Wayne help him is almost derailed at every attempt because the root of Ellis problems and deteriorating state lies in his abysmal family relationship that he tries to hide from Wayne. As Wayne’s control gives Ellis the space to breathe and reflect, he slowly comes to understand more about who he is, what his childhood cost him and what he wants, but as the dangers of their jobs impact their relationship, Ellis has to decide if he can place his full trust and heart in Wayne’s hands.
Ellis is a man who has been conditioned to believe he has to be the sole rock and provider; he cannot say no because he has a compulsive need to prove that he can be counted on to take care of others and shoulder their burdens. However, this comes at the cost of his mental state as constant late-night demands to babysit from his sister, always taking his coworkers’ extra shifts, and his demanding father and their tumultuous relationship have left him adrift and a rapidly depleting shell that is dangerously short-tempered and unfocused and one mistake away from jeopardizing his career or his life.
As a Dom, Wayne’s natural inclination to observe, support and lead has made him the guiding hand of their unit, and it makes him acutely aware of all the changes Ellis’s personality, behavior and temperament have undergone and how close he is to completely losing his best friend. Having also noticed how often Ellis has looked to him for guidance and how easily his presence calms him, Wayne decides the best way to help save Ellis and get him back on track is to bring that guidance and protection to all aspects of his life.
I was very curious as to how the premise would play out in the story, and was glad to see that the authors did not make the process from introducing Ellis to BDSM to getting him to the contracting stage with Wayne simple and straightforward. I liked how the authors incorporated Jarod and Eli from their Collars and Cuffs series to provide a safe space for Ellis to work out his confusion and questions; although, their incorporation is front-loaded and seems a little long and distracting, because the glimpses of Wayne and Ellis’s situation are intriguing and make the reader want to get to their story.
I also enjoyed the fact that the book was not filled with scenes that presented BDSM as a form of therapy or a way to avoid dealing with your inner demons. The BDSM relationship between Wayne and Ellis is all about taking care of Ellis, and is only possible through the bonds of trust and friendship they have cemented over the years, and his awareness to the fact that he has been relying on Wayne as a source of strength, protection and support throughout their friendship. The way their initial contract plays out, particularly with its focus on breaking down all the mental barriers Ellis has erected to survive in order to heal is done very well, as it makes this the primary focus of their contract and realistically and slowly builds the potential for a romantic relationship between the MCs later on.
There are a lot of emotional moments and angst that Joel Leslie’s narration really bring home. Ellis’s self-loathing and desperation, Wayne’s compassionate, unyielding support, as well as his moments of doubt and pain are all delivered with Leslie’s trademark skill and ability with accents. He does a great job covering the range of voices and, as a good audio performance should do, adds a bonus to quality source material. Before You Break is a great story and great listen.
You can buy Before You Break here:
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