Captive Hearts (Deviant Hearts, Book 1) by A.E. Ryecart #Audiobook #DuoReview #MMRomance #LGBT #Contemporary #Angst #Abuse

Erryn and Marc review ‘Captive Hearts (Deviant Hearts Book 1)’ by A.E. Ryecart. This book was released  on February 23, 2018, and is 308 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Dan Calley.  It was released on October 18, 2019 and is 7 hrs and 6 mins long. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Why Erryn read this book: The synopsis had me intrigued.

Why Marc read this book: I wanted to read a story by this author for a while now and this beautiful looking audiobook was the perfect opportunity 🙂

“Too young, too blond, too skinny. Billy Grace was everything my head told me I didn’t want. Too bad my heart had other ideas.”

When Dashiell Slater uses his fists to stop a vicious assault, the last thing he expects is to be offered a job as reward for being a Good Samaritan. Out of work and short of cash, all he has to do is chauffeur Billy around. It’s easy money, so saying yes should be a no-brainer. And if the offer’s not quite legal, so what? Dashiell’s smart and savvy and knows how the world works. But there are strings attached, and Dashiell doesn’t want to get entangled. He’s ready to say no and walk away…until he sees the fear, despair, and fathomless sadness in Billy’s jade-green eyes.

“He was everything I wanted, but couldn’t have. What was the use in dreaming when I was already bought and paid for, the property of another man?”

Billy’s life is a daily round of fear and abuse. One wrong word or one wrong look can mean a beating, or worse. Dashiell’s everything Billy’s heart craves – a man who’ll love and protect him and who’ll keep him safe and catch him when he falls. But Billy can’t have what he yearns for, because, to give in to his heart means breaking a promise he’s vowed to keep at all costs.

A soul-searing kiss, a whispered promise, and the chance of a future together is there for the taking. But life is never that simple, and danger surrounds them at every turn. Imprisoned by devotion, duty, and obligation, Billy’s heart is captive, but can falling for Dashiell finally set it free?

Buy Links: Audible  | Amazon  | Add to Goodreads 

Erryn’s Review:

This is one tough listen.  Seriously.  I’ll give a trigger warning because the violence is, frankly, violent.  And although mostly behind closed doors, there is a bit that is on the page.  In other words, this book is not for the faint of heart or those for whom abuse is a trigger.  If you’re not one of those people, this book has a lot to offer.

It’s gritty.  Really gritty.  I’m a fan of realism and this book delves deep into the psyche of several different men.  Dashiell is the character we’re introduced to first.  He’s out for a night on the town with his buddies when he comes upon an assault going on in a bathroom.  He doesn’t hesitate, just wades in with both fists.  The man he’s saved?  A waif named Billy Grace.  When Billy’s boyfriend offers Dashiell the job of bodyguarding Billy, he agrees.  The money’s good, to be sure, but he’s also intrigued by this young man.  What’s his story?  Why is he with an older man with thinning hair and a paunch?  Not that opposites don’t attract, but Billy is ethereal while Frankie is bordering on vulgar and, given the amount of money he’s offering for his lover’s protection, a very wealthy man.

Billy might be old enough to take care of himself, but in some ways he’s naïve.  He treats Dashiell like the hired help he is and it takes him a long time to realize the older man is kind.  Dashiell might have started out doing the minding for the money, but the men quickly find they have a lot in common.  They bond, although Dashiell wants to feed Billy while the younger man knows he can’t put on an ounce or there will be hell to pay.  Actually, there’s hell to pay on a regular basis.  But Billy puts up with the abuse because he feels he has no choice.  Once I found out why, I felt tremendous empathy.  He’s in a no-win situation.  Would I be willing to put up with what he does?  I’d like to think not, but sometimes we have to make tough choices.

As I said, the abuse is unrelenting as the story unfolds.  There is a lot going on in this book and I wasn’t always sure who were the good guys and who were the bad ones.  Life is like that sometimes.  Billy learns he can trust Dashiell, but the question is whether he can break free from the ties that are binding him to the horrible Frankie.  The book is a romance, so at least that much was guaranteed.  Did my heart break getting there?  It might have.

Dan Calley narrated this book and I was glad.  He also narrated the Jack Pyke series ‘Don’t’ and he does a superb job for those as well.  His deep London accent and gruff voice take some getting used to, but he does really well with these gritty stories.

This book is the first in a series and I’m desperately hoping the others will come to audio as well.  Enjoyable if difficult listen.

Erryn’s Rating:

10/10 Points of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars

Marc’s Review:

This audiobook really surprised me. It was much darker than I anticipated, but really pulled me in. It’s a dark story about two guys who find forbidden love and try to hide this fact from the abusive crime boss, who considers one of the MCs his possession.

Dashiell Slater rescues a mysterious, young man from a violent, sexual attack. He is a very likable character from the start – quiet, strong, independent and smart. I think he can tell from the very beginning that there is something wrong with Billy. He seems almost more afraid of his own boyfriend then the men who viciously attacked him and seems very good at acting in a way that would please the man and not letting anyone else in. But Dashiell has seen Billy’s vulerable side and even though he does not know the young man, he wants to protect him. Ironically, it’s Billy’s boyfriend, a rich, older guy and the very person Billy seems most afraid of, who ends up offering Dashiell the opportunity to do just that and become Billy’s bodyguard.

It does not take long for Dashiell to find out that Billy is almost constantly abused by his boyfriend, who turns out to be a London crime boss. The man acts like he owns Billy and verbally and physically abuses him constantly – and Billy takes it all. Dashiell doesn’t know why, but he feels a strange connection to the young man and wants to save him. He does not understand why Billy allows the abuse to happen or is so reluctant to start something with Dashiell, even when they both realize the attraction is mutual. I liked that when we find out the reason, it is nothing huge and dramatic, but something that still makes sense and is very important and personal to Billy. Of course that makes it even more difficult for Dashiell to protect him.

The two MCs have amazing chemistry and when they do eventuelly decide to follow their feelings, even though it is dangerous with Billy ‘belonging’ to a very posessive man, their feelings are very sweet and their sex is hot. It was great to imagine them – they seemed to fit together so well. The moments they had alone seemed frantic and stolen and they made the most of them. The constant tension and threat of discovery was well developed and effective and we really got to see into the MCs heads through the dual narration. For me the story is almost as much a psychological character study as a romance – and does both very well.

There are many interesting dynamics between characters. Dashiell is very brave and bold with the crime boss. He is not afraid of him and dares to say things to him that no one else would say. The crime boss is fascinated by this and wants to use Dashiell, as a strong and unafraid weapon in his arsenal. But it is always a very thin line. If Dashiell becomes too brave, steps too much out of his ‘station’ as employe, he becomes a problem for him. The crime boss has a very different relationship with Billy. He has found Billy’s weak spot and wants to fully own him and do what he wants. He has offered Billy something he does not feel like he can refuse. He uses this power to control and abuse him, without Billy being able to say no. Billy has learned to analyze the crime boss and his mood and to act in a way to minimize the abuse he has to endure. And then Billy and Dashiell are very different again, when they are together. They somehow can see beyond the walls they have each built and understand each other and feel a connection. They just work.

I have already mentioned the book is very dark, due to the emotional and physical abuse Billy endures. We see some of it, but most of it happens off page. However, readers will ‘see’ the direct results of the abuse physically and understand how devastating the psychological effects of the abuse are. It is hard to see someone who does not believe there is an alternative endure cruel things that no person should have to endure. Through the physical effects Dashiell sees of the abuse and the emotional effects Billy feels, the abuse becomes very real. It is not easy, but it is an important issue that is highlighted here in a very authentic way. However, we don’t actually see a lot of the crime boss and the shady things he does, we don’t see much of the action that we know takes place off the page and in some parts, especially the finale, some confrontations are a bit anti-climactic. I anticipated the end to play out differently, but I do believe that the focus on characters was a good decision. Even when characters blur the line between good or bad, they are interesting to follow and the MCs remain likeable throughout the story, even with their faults, because we always know what they think and that they are the good guys.

The audiobook narrator managed to add a new dimension the characters and their thoughts and his accent was sexy. I loved that this book takes place in the UK and that this can be felt in the story and the audio. As a non native, I always need to concentrate more on a British accent, but the narrator does a great job with this dark story and I am very glad I listened to it. Especially with darker themes that always makes it easier for me. 

Marc’s Rating:

8/10 Points of Gold (80% Recommended) – Compares to 4/5 Stars

Website | Goodreads | Twitter @aeryecart

A born and bred Londoner, she may have moved to someplace more leafy but the city is still very much part of her DNA, which is why her books are set in and around present-day London, providing a thrilling, metropolitan backdrop to the main action.

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