Heel by K.M. Neuhold
“I’ve never thought of calling a man Daddy before, but I can’t think of a word that fits Vale better. He’s my Daddy, and I’m his pup.”
Broken and bruised, there’s nothing I won’t do to protect Adrian. I picked him up and made him whole before, and I’ll do it again. Adrian is a sweet pup with a smile full of sunshine and a heart made for love. A sweet pup needs a gentle hand, and that’s exactly what I intend to give him.
There’s nothing quite like slipping an expensive pair of high heels onto Adrian’s feet and watching him light up. If he wants a fairytale, I’ll happily be his Prince Charming.
CW: This review (and the book) contains mentions of domestic abuse, so if this is something you find difficult, please don’t read any further.
I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but when I saw this book at a release blitz over at my friend Addison Albright’s blog, I instantly fell in love. It’s so cuuuuute! 😍 I downloaded a sample and loved it, so I bought the book and I do not regret it.
This is a puppy play romance with very light BDSM elements about Adrian and Vale, containing many of the things I love to read about: age gap (Adrian is 25, Vale is 40), the power dynamics of BDSM without most of the props (except for puppy related props), a flamboyant character (Adrian), and a caring, soft-hearted dom (Vale).
It also contains two fabulous characters. The story starts with Adrian at the hospital with a broken wrist, because his current partner and dom, Nathan, has hurt him. Adrian returns home despite the objections of his friend who works at the hospital, because it was the first time Nathan was violent. The situation escalates when Nathan gets home that evening and more violence ensues. Adrian realizes that it wasn’t a one-time experience and he runs out of the house—without shoes—to get away. He calls the friend from the hospital and he and his partner pick Adrian up and let him stay in their house.
As the story unfolds, we learn that even though Nathan was never physically violent toward Adrian before that night, he’s been verbally abusive for most of the six years they’ve been together, and Adrian displays signs of being abused. Despite this, he tries his hardest to keep a hold of his sunny personality, which is different from how a lot of other domestic abuse victim characters I’ve read handle the situation. And I’m not saying that to minimize anyone’s reaction to being abused (either book character or real person) but it was an interesting take on the subject I haven’t encountered before.
“I won’t hide, and I won’t cower. I’ve been through worse than this, and I can make it through this too.
I’m going to be just fine, I resolve as if thinking it can make it so. If anyone is stubborn enough to pull it off, it’s me.”
Vale, the other MC, calls Aidan “Sunshine” and that’s the most appropriate endearment I’ve read, I think.
“I read somewhere once that if you keep smiling, you can trick your brain into being happy. It worked when I was living on the street, and it’s going to work now if it kills me.”
And this is how Adrian approaches his life after Nathan. He tries so hard to be his normal, sunny self and for most part, he succeeds. Then there are the moments in between, the moments when he can’t help but to react to situations in the way he’s learned to react around Nathan over the years, and those moments break my heart.
Vale is a puppy trainer (yes, people-puppies, not dog-puppies) and he’s know Adrian for seven years. Vale helped Adrian off the streets when he was 18 and living in his car, gave him a home, and helped him get on his feet. He agreed to train Adrian to be a puppy (in a non-sexual way) because that’s something Adrian had wanted for years. Overall, Vale was Adrian’s super hero.
Adrian has had a crush on Vale ever since, but at the time Vale felt that the age difference was too great for something to happen between them (when Adrian was only 18 and he was in his 30s). When Vale finds out what has happened to Adrian, he immediately steps up and helps, and he’s just what Adrian needs. Adrian’s crush on Vale has never faded, and the reader learns that Vale likes Adrian back, but he fears that Adrian only wants him because he’s grateful.
That is not the case, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now 🙂
Adrian and Vale both help each other to grow. Vale helps Adrian get over the abuse, to grow and find happiness. Adrian in turn brings life and happiness into Vale’s lonely existence, because despite having trained countless of puppies over the years, he’s never had a puppy of his own. Even though Vale is the dom caretaker, Adrian is equally important for him and his growth.
Arguments can be made that the relationship happens too fast, that Vale is just a rebound for Adrian, but I don’t feel that way at all. They’ve known each other for seven years, it’s clear that Nathan feels threatened by Vale, and Adrian liked Vale from the start – all this tells us that it’s not a rebound. If anything, Nathan was a rebound for Vale, for a relationship Adrian wanted with Vale but never got.
It’s a very sweet story with two great characters whose love for each other jumps off the page. Adrian is a ray of sunshine, and I love how the author gave him puppy-like characteristics even when he’s not in his puppy-gear. He wiggles and scrambles and bounces, and it endears him to me even more. Vale is a big teddy bear in a dom package with a big heart. They are just the kind of characters I love.
If I have to complain about something, it’s that after they have sex for the first time, there are a bit too many sex scenes for my taste, but since I think most romance books have too many sex scenes, that’s probably just me 🙂
This book is the second in a series, but it can be read as standalone. I haven’t read the first book and had no trouble following the plot.
I warmly recommend Heel. I dare you not to fall in love with Adrian! 🙂
“[…]he’s standing completely nude by the sink, doing his best to wrap his cast.
“Only a few more days,” I say, taking the cling wrap from him to help get it on correctly.
“I can’t wait. I’ve been making a list on two-handed things I want to do like play the piano and juggle.”
“Do you know how to do either of those things?” I ask with a half-smile.
“No, but I’m a very fast learner,” he assures me in a sultry voice that makes me think we’re not talking about playing the piano anymore.”