Arctic Fire by Keira Andrews (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

arctic fire

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When two strangers are trapped in a blizzard, heat rises.

Haunted by what he lost in Afghanistan, Captain Jack Turner is at a crossroads. While the last place he wants to go is the Arctic, at least the routine mission gets him out from behind his new desk. But he starts off on the wrong foot with the Canadian Ranger guiding him across the forbidding and dangerous land, and Jack would rather be anywhere than sharing a tent with Sergeant Kin Carsen.

The Arctic is in Kin’s blood, and he can’t seem to leave the tundra behind. He wishes he could live openly as a gay man, but the North isn’t as accepting as the rest of Canada. Although he’s lonely, he loves his responsibility as a Ranger, patrolling the vast land he knows so well. But he’s on unfamiliar ground with Jack, and when they’re stranded alone by a blizzard, unexpected desire begins to burn. Soon they’re in a struggle to survive, and all these strangers have is each other.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

Keira Andrews’ Arctic Fire is a novella-length story (the audio clocks in at just under three hours) set in the Arctic Bay area of Nunavut (the northernmost territory of Canada). The author manages to pack in a surprising amount of character detail and a solid emotional punch for such a small page-count, and although the romance does happen quickly (over just a couple of days), it’s got the feel of a slow-burn. The descriptions of the desolate, starkly beautiful landscape and the intense cold are really evocative, making the setting stand out and almost feel like a character in itself.

Recently returned from Afghanistan, Captain Jack Turner is struggling to adjust to life stateside following the loss of someone close to him while on his last tour, as well as to deal with the burnout and nightmares that continue to haunt him after his experiences in the desert. His CO has noticed his general distraction and thinks it will be good for Jack to get back in the field, so he sends him on a five-day trip to the Arctic Tundra on a fact-finding mission relating to the Navy’s plans to establish a refuelling station around the now-abandoned former mining town of Nanisivik. Jack is not exactly thrilled at being sent to a small town in the back of beyond with nothing much to do, sub-zero temperatures… and no booze allowed. At least there’s no sand.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch

seducing the sorcerer

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Homeless and jobless, Fenn Todd has nearly run out of hope. All he has left is his longing for horses and the strength of his own two hands. But when he’s cheated into accepting a very ugly sackcloth horse, he’s catapulted into a world of magic, politics and desire.

Fenn’s invited to stay at the black tower, home of the most terrifying man in the realm: Morgrim, the court sorcerer. Morgrim has a reputation as a scheming villain, but he seems surprisingly charming—and sexy—and Fenn falls hard for him.

However, nothing is as it seems and everyone at the tower is lying about something. Beset by evil hexes, violent political intrigue and a horse that eats eiderdowns, Fenn must make the hardest choices of his life.

Can a plain man like Fenn ever find true love with a scheming sorcerer?

Rating: A-

Lee Welch’s original and inventive fantasy romance Salt Magic, Skin Magic was one of my favourite books of 2018.  Like most of those who read it, I was excited to read the work of such a gifted new author, and I’ve been eager for more of it ever since.  In Seducing the Sorcerer, Ms. Welch once again combines a slow-burn romance with mystery and political intrigue, strong world-building and an interesting magic system, to create something altogether fresh and innovative.

Forty-six-year-old Fenn Todd is down on his luck and barely managing to keep body and soul together.  After losing everything that really mattered to him more than twenty years earlier, he’s had neither home nor job since and ekes out a meagre living travelling around, doing casual work and odd jobs whenever and wherever he can get them.

When the book opens, he’s just woken up hungover and hungry, but he’s got no food or money left, so he’s going to have to find work if he wants to eat. After some time spent trudging through bone-dry fields, he arrives at Rolling Hills Farm, where the farmer offers him a meal and some coin in return for digging a new cesspit.  But when the farmer leaves, a younger man – the farmer’s nephew – offers Fenn a horse instead of the money.  Fenn can’t  quell he hope and longing he feels, even as he knows he’s being had, knows if something seems too good to be true it usually is, but… a horse of his own? Even an old, broken down one he’ll likely have to take to the knacker’s yard… even if he only gets to care for it for a short while? In spite of his misgivings, Fenn agrees to the deal.

After a good meal and a hard day’s work, Fenn goes to receive his payment – hoping against hope that the offer of a horse wasn’t a cruel trick… and can’t help the rush of disappointment that swamps him when he’s presented with an “ugly, horse-shaped scarecrow” made of a bundle of old sacks, with “a tail like a tube and a raw edge of fringe stuck up for a mane.”  Feeling as angry with himself for hoping as with the farmer’s nephew for tricking him, Fenn refuses to show his humiliation, hoists the bundle of rags onto his shoulders and carries it away with the sound of the laughter of the lads at the farm ringing in his ears.  If nothing else, he reasons, the wad of sacking will at least provide something softer than the ground to bed down on that night.

He’s just dropping off, thinking about how he’d have cared for a real horse – how he’d have rubbed it down, given it a good scratch, found it something to eat – when he feels something moving underneath him.  At first he thinks it’s the ground shaking, but then he realises the sacking horse is moving, filling out and getting to its feet, a bright blue rune shining on its chest.  It’s inelegant, wall-eyed, gormless and hoofless… but it’s definitely a horse.  Of sorts.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Nothing But Good by Kess McKinley (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

nothing but good

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Special Agent Jefferson Haines puts the “order” in law and order. Meal kits. Gray suits. Consistent reps at the gym. But all his routines are thrown into chaos when he’s called in to catch a serial killer whose MO is the stuff of urban legend: the Smiley Face Killer.

Dripping paint. Wicked slashes for eyes. The taunting curl of a smiling mouth. After years evading capture, the serial killer is back again. As Jefferson races to stop the next attack, the investigation leads to the one man he thought he’d never see again, Fred “Finny” Ashley.

Finny has his own theories about the killer. And they’re pretty good. Maybe too good. Now, with his career on the line, Jefferson has to figure out if his onetime best friend is the culprit or the next victim.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Kess McKinley’s début novel Nothing but Good is a well-constructed and enjoyable mystery/procedural in which a tightly controlled, buttoned-up FBI agent investigating a number of serial murders encounters an unexpected complication in the form of the former best friend on whom he’d had a huge crush. I read this one when it came out back in May, and when I saw that Kirt Graves was narrating the audio version, I decided to revisit it.

Special Agent Jefferson Haynes and his partner, Special Agent Caroline Pelley, are called in when the body of a young man is pulled out of the water in Boston Harbour, another victim of the “Smiley Face Killer”, so-called because he leaves a very distinct calling card which, in this case, is a huge painted smiley face on the wall just by where the body was found. The SFK has killed a number of young men – all of them found in bodies of water – over the last decade, but has so far eluded capture.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Playing it Safe (Sydney Smoke #7) by Amy Andrews

playing it safe

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

Rating: B-

I haven’t read anything by Amy Andrews before, but the blurb for Playing it Safe – her first m/m romance and the seventh book in her Sydney Smoke series set in the world of Australian Rugby Union – caught my eye.  It’s an enjoyable, well-written and steamy read, and although it’s nothing I haven’t read before, the author’s lively style and ability to create strong and engaging characters is a decent compensation for the unoriginality of the storyline.

Donovan Bane has known he was gay since he was about fifteen, but with his sights set on a career in professional rugby, he ignored the part of him that was attracted to guys – because gay men don’t play rugby.  After a youthful fumble with his best friend Annie resulted in pregnancy, Donovan and Annie married, but divorced a few years later, and she and his now fourteen-year-old daughter Miri live in New Zealand. The divorce was an amicable break-up, and Annie is, to this day, the only person who knows the truth about Donovan’s sexuality – and he wants to keep it that way, intending to remain firmly in the closet until he retires in about five years’ time.  He’s lived a very solitary life for years, and even though the loneliness is beginning to really get to him, he just isn’t prepared to subject himself, his loved ones and his team to the intrusive media scrutiny, the internet trolls and the hateful slurs that would inevitably result if he were to come out;  and nor does he want to be some kind of trailblazer or poster boy for gay athletes.  He’s living his dream – playing professional rugby at the highest level – he can wait a bit longer to have an actual life.

But when he meets Beckett Stanton – a new hire in the finance department at the Smoke – the prospect of waiting another five years before Donovan can have the sort of relationship he’s long denied himself suddenly becomes even more unattractive than before.

Why hasn’t there been some kind of sign from the universe that today would be the day he’d see a man that made the whole world tilt on its axis?

Beck is out and proud, he knows who he is and what he wants, he’s fun and flirty and comfortable in his own skin in a way that Donovan can only envy.  When Beck first meets Donovan, he senses the other man’s interest, but also senses that any acknowledgement of that interest in public is a big no-no.  He’s pretty sure that Donovan is queer but not out, and after a bad experience with a closeted guy in the past, has vowed never again to become involved with someone who isn’t prepared to fully own himself and his truth. Yet there’s something about Donovan that tempts Beck to break his own rules.  He’s not up for investing in a relationship with someone who isn’t interested in honesty, but maybe if Donovan is open to something sexual only?  That could definitely work.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance

Concrete Evidence (Evidence #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella and Greg Tremblay

Concrete Evidence 2021

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She wants revenge. He wants her.

Blackballed from underwater archaeology after accusations of artifact trafficking, Erica Kesling has a new job and a new life on the other side of the country and is working to clear her name. She’s closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge. But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content- B-

I’ve read/listened to and reviewed most of the books in Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense Evidence series, and they’re among my favourites in the genre – sexy, intelligent and fast-paced with well-drawn, interesting characters and storylines that sometimes feel as though they’re taken from tomorrow’s headlines! The first book – Concrete Evidence – is one of the few books in the series I haven’t read, and I’d intended to listen to the audio at some point, but after AudioGals reviewed it back in 2014 and said that the narration wasn’t very good, I instead put the book on the TBR pile of doom.

Unfortunately, the book is still there – so I was delighted when I saw a newly recorded audiobook version crop up at Audible, narrated by Nicol Zanzarella – who has narrated all the other Evidence books – and Greg Tremblay (whose work on the author’s Flashpoint series sent me down a Tremblay/Boudreaux shaped rabbit hole I still haven’t emerged from!). For anyone wondering, the author’s website indicates that she has made a few small revisions and added an epilogue previously only available as bonus material.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All Note Long (Perfect Harmony #3) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Brad King

all note long

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Giving true love a spin…

Michelin Moses is a country music star on the rise. With a hit single under his Texas-sized belt buckle and a sold-out concert tour underway, his childhood dreams of making it big are finally coming true. But there’s one thing missing – a promise to his dying mother that he’d find it – him – when the time was right. With a little luck, he won’t have to wait too long….

Lucky Ramirez is a hunky boy toy who dances at The Broom Closet, one of West Hollywood’s hottest gay bars. He loves what he does, and he’s good at it – almost as good as he is at playing dumb when he spots Michelin Moses at the bar. What happens next is off the charts – and keeps Michelin coming back for more. He’s just not sure it’s the right move for his career. But if Lucky gets his way, Michelin will get Lucky – and no matter how the media spins it, neither of them will be faking it….

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Another deep dive into my Audible library to find titles I own but haven’t yet listened to turned up All Note Long, the third and final book in Annabeth Albert’s Perfect Harmony series, which is centred around characters involved with a TV singing/talent show. I reviewed book one, Treble Maker, when it came out in audio a couple of years back; I enjoyed it and picked up the other two books in the series, but unlike those – which feature characters who were contestants on the show – All Note Long focuses on country music star Michelin Moses, who was one of the judges and mentors.

Michelin (and right from that start, I had trouble with the name – I kept thinking of tyres!) was a pop star before he changed tack and moved into country music. Being gay in the country scene is a no-no, and he’s deeply in the closet, convinced coming out will mean the end of his career. When the story begins, he’s at a birthday celebration for one of his mentees, even though he knows his publicist and label would have kittens if they knew he’d met up with them at a gay bar. It’s a new experience for him, and he finds himself completely fascinated by one of the go-go dancers, a beautiful young Latinx guy who goes by Lucky. Michelin can’t help looking – even though he knows he shouldn’t – and decides to leave quietly soon afterwards, but he mistakes the way to the exit and ends up wandering the corridors backstage, where he bumps into Lucky, who notices he’s rather flustered and offers to get him some water.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

TBR Challenge: Marked by Fire by Mia West

marked by fireThis title may be purchased from Amazon

Eighteen-year-old Arthur burns for two things: a warrior’s ink, and Bedwyr, his older brother’s shieldmate.

Though the warlord’s son is beyond his reach, a Saxon incursion finally brings Arthur’s chance at the tattoo that will brand him a fighter.

But when he abandons his training in the heat of battle, his reckless ambition costs Bedwyr his sword hand.

Once, Bedwyr trusted in two things: he was a warrior, and the presumed heir of Uthyr.

Now, reeling from injury and sent away by his father, he’s lost everything. The last person he wants to see is the cub who ignited his disastrous instinct to protect.

Especially when he arrives with Bedwyr’s armor and a dangerously hopeful scheme to restore him to his rightful place.

Rating: B-

I really had to wrack my brains to recall if I already had a book that would fit this month’s prompt of “unusual”, and I was coming up with a big blank – until I found Mia West’s Marked by Fire, book one in her Sons of Britain series, and decided that an m/m romance set in sixth century Wales definitely fit the bill!

Ms. West has mined Arthurian legends and given them a new slant, so that while the characters are mostly familiar, they don’t always fit the roles we may be used to seeing them in – for instance, Arthur isn’t the son of Uther Pendragon (or Uthyr, the Pen y Ddraig) and Bedwyr, who is often related to the sidelines in the myths, has a central role – and given there are so many legends and so many variations on them, I had no problem with that.  This is certainly not the Camelot of chivalric legend and the Lady of the Lake; no, this is the Dark Ages, mere decades since the Romans departed Britain, and life is tough and brutal.  The author does an excellent job capturing the feel of the period – it’s dark and gritty and very real – and of setting up the network of relationships that will populate her version of the story.

Eighteen-year-old Arthur ap Matthias is restless, hotheaded and eager to prove himself in battle and impress not only his leader, Uthyr, but also Uthyr’s son Bedwyr, who Arthur has watched and longed for from afar for years.  His chance comes when a small band of Saxons is spotted advancing into Cymru, but he fails to heed instructions and his recklessness has dire consequences – and in trying to defend him Bedwyr loses a hand.  His survival is in doubt, but Matthias – who is the village healer – is able to save him. (The author doesn’t sugarcoat the treatment he undergoes, so there are some scenes that might not be for the squeamish!). Arthur is distraught and desperate to beg Bedwyr’s forgiveness, but Bedwyr point blank refuses to see him.  Of course he’s furious with Arthur for costing him his sword hand, but he’s fearful, too – what use is a warrior who cannot fight?  Bedwyr’s worst fears come true when his father banishes him to a small shepherd’s hut outside the village.

Uthyr summons Arthur and makes it clear he expects Arthur to pay a price for causing Bedwyr’s injury.  Arthur at first thinks Uthyr is going to take his own right hand, and is shocked when Uthyr tells him to take his and Bedwyr’s armour to the hut and that he’s going to retrain Bedwyr to fight with his left hand – and that he must not, under any circumstances, tell Bedwyr that Uthyr sent him.  Relieved and pleased to have a chance to make amends, but worried Bedwyr will refuse to see him, Arthur nonetheless sets out for the hut, determined to do whatever it takes.

Bedwyr has pretty much given up and succumbed to self-pity when Arthur turns up, and he wants nothing to do with him.  But Arthur is stubborn and determined, and – begrudgingly – Bedwyr starts to acknowledge him and then to take an interest in what he’s come there to do.  A tentative friendship forms, and as the days pass, Bedwyr begins to pull himself out of his funk and to become the man – and warrior – he has always been meant to be, while Arthur’s remorse and desire to do right by Bedwyr engenders a new maturity and self-control.  And as Bedwyr comes to know Arthur as a man and not just as his best friend’s foolhardy younger brother, he takes his first step towards accepting the truth of his desires.  (Although the fact he has a bit of a crush on Matthias at the beginning of the book made his growing interest in Arthur a bit… ick?  I had to blank that out!)

Marked by Fire is a well-paced and enjoyable story with a strong setting and engaging, flawed characters who are both trying to learn from their mistakes and have undergone considerable growth by the end.  The romance between Arthur and Bedwyr is a slow-burn, and I enjoyed their progress from awkwardness to dawning friendship, playfulness and trust as their attraction to one another strengthens.  They have strong chemistry and the love scenes are nicely steamy, but I’d like there to have been a little more depth to their relationship overall.  That said, their story continues in book two (Bound by Blood); this one ends on an HFN (with a final scene that is a bit of a cliffhanger) so there is clearly more to come and I’m intrigued enough to want to know what happens next, so I’ll be reading that at some point.

Beautiful Mistakes (Second Chances #3) by Felice Stevens

beautiful mistakes

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Desire: What Wolf struggles with from the moment he sees Spencer Hawkins the first day of college.

Fear: Not a word in Wolf’s vocabulary except when it comes to facing his feelings for Spencer.

Lust: What he gives in to that changes everything between them. And his life forever.

Denial: Something Wolf is all too familiar with—denying who he is and who he wants. It’s better this way, even if it’s tearing him and his friendship apart.

Hide: What Spencer does best. He hides from everyone, especially himself and the crazy attraction to Wolf he can’t shake.

Walls: Spencer throws them up to protect himself from all the hurts life heaps on him—his mother’s death, his father’s indifference, and the men who share his bed and walk away.

Betrayal: Not by just anyone. By Wolf. The one man he can’t forget. Or forgive.
Want: Spencer wants to live in the moment, but he can’t stop thinking about that night. And it doesn’t help that he and Wolf keep knocking heads…and locking lips.

Love: What those two idiots need to realize is happening between them. What started out as their ugliest regret could end up being the most beautiful mistake they ever made.

Rating: B

I’ve been eager to read this story from pretty much the first moment Garrett Wolf and Spencer Hawkins were introduced in The List, book one in Felice Stevens’ Second Chances series.  Spencer and Wolf – along with their best friends Elliot and Chess – have known each other since college, but the minute they appeared, it was clear that there was something going on between them that wasn’t covered by the term ‘friendship’. The chemistry zinging between them was electric, and theirs seemed to be a relationship based on teasing and sniping that was obviously a cover for something else.  But by the time Beautiful Mistakes begins, what  had started out as mostly good-natured banter has turned into something else,  verbal digs and jibes that are hurtful and sometimes downright nasty, and it was difficult to see how Spencer and Wolf could possibly pull back from that.  In this final book in the series, the author reveals their heartrending backstories and the truth behind their deepening antagonism in a story that sees them both facing the possibility of losing what has been one of the defining relationships of their lives – and each other.

Spencer is the life-and-soul of the party.  He’s always upbeat and ready with a cheeky comeback, and he’s a big believer in ‘the more, the merrier’ when it comes to his seemingly endless parade of bed-partners.  He works as a fashion consultant for a high-end store, and the show he’s organising for the talented young designer he’s discovered promises to be a real career high point. But his trademark insouciance and carefree attitude mask a deep hurt and a secret he’s never shared, even with his closest friends.

Wolf is Spencer’s polar opposite in almost every way.  Quiet and introspective, tightly controlled and serious to a fault, he’s always been a workaholic, even as a student, driven by his need to right the wrongs of the world as a kind of penance for the actions of his father.  Like Spencer, he’s concealing something from his friends, a past he’s been trying to leave behind for almost all of his life, and which is leading him down a path that threatens to consume him utterly.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Portrait of a Scotsman (League of Extraordinary Women #3) by Evie Dunmore

portrait of a scotsman

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?

London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted just three things in life:

1. Acclaim as an artist
2. A noble cause
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman

Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions . . .

When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting his political plans in motion. Driven by an old desire for revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.

But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything – as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Rating: B

Evie Dunmore’s series about a group of young women activists in late Victorian Britain continues with Hattie’s story, Portrait of a Scotsman.  Like the previous two novels in the set, this one is extremely well written and strongly characterised; the lack of agency of well-bred young ladies of the period is again critically examined, and the very genuine struggles they face in trying to reconcile rigidly traditional upbringings with their own emerging sense of self and a desire for something more are articulated with a great deal of insight.  If you enjoyed the author’s previous work, chances are you’ll enjoy this, too; all the things you’ll have come to expect of her books – strong heroines and heroes who actively support them and understand their worth, themes of female empowerment and sexy, well-written romances are to be found here.  BUT.  In spite of all that, I have mixed feelings about this novel as a whole – mostly because I wasn’t wild about the heroine and I really disliked the ending.

Hattie Greenfield is studying art at Oxford University, but is frustrated at not being taken seriously – even by her professors, who are condescending to all the female students.  She longs to create more meaningful work and paint more challenging subjects – and hopes to gain some inspiration from the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.  To this end, she arranges to join a tour to view John Everett Millais’ famous painting of Ophelia, which is currently in the collection belonging to one Mr. Blackstone – a man with a reputation so black society has dubbed him “Beelzebub”, and who happens to be one of her father’s business rivals – but when she arrives at the gallery at the appointed time, she’s concerned to discover that either she’s late for the tour, or that nobody else has arrived.  While she’s waiting to view the painting, a man enters the room – a darkly attractive man with hard grey eyes and unruly black hair – who offers to give her the whole tour… and promptly kisses her instead.

Lucian Blackstone (whom we met briefly in A Rogue of One’s Own) is a self-made man with a reputation for cold-blooded ruthlessness in his business dealings.  Born into a Scottish mining community, he’s survived real hardship and suffering, but has pulled himself up from nothing to become a captain of industry and amass a fortune along the way.  He never forgets where he came from though, and is determined to do whatever he can to improve the lots of the people who work for him.  But while he’s very wealthy, he has little real power or influence, and he needs both if he’s going to be able to bring about the changes he wants to effect; so in order to make himself more… acceptable to society, he has begun the attempt to rehabilitate his fearsome reputation.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t met with much success so far, but his brief meeting with Greenfield’s daughter has given him the germ of an idea as to what his next move should be.  And while there are a number of well-bred young ladies in society who would suit his purpose, he’s rather surprised to find there’s really only one of them he wants.

It’s not a spoiler – it’s in the blurb – to say that it’s not long before Hattie and Blackstone are married, and even though Hattie is wildly attracted to her new husband, it’s far from the sort of marriage she had envisioned for herself.  She’d wanted to find a true life-partner, someone who would share his time – and himself – with her, someone she deeply loved and who would love her the same way, and I liked that about her, that she wants love and affection and family and doesn’t see that desire as somehow ‘lesser’ – while at the same time being determined to attain her independence and be herself.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Isn’t It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club #4) by Lyssa Kay Adams (audiobook) – Narrated by Andrew Eiden

isn't it bromantic

This title may be downloaded from Audible

He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance – both on and off the page.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more.

The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love – and this time they’re not operating solo, joining forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbours, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. But just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes. Now the book club face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – B

Isn’t it Bromantic?, the fourth book in Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club series is my favourite of the set so far. (I admit I missed book three, but I listened to and reviewed the first two). The series premise – a group of guys read romance novels in order to try to more fully understand and appreciate the women in their lives – is a lot of fun and provides the opportunity for some inside jokes and meta commentary about the genre. Up until this book though, I haven’t felt as though the author has quite hit her stride; while the first two instalments had some interesting and original plotlines and a couple of thoroughly likeable heroes, I found the heroines hard to like (especially Liv in Undercover Bromance) and there were some glaring plot holes that rather took me out of the stories. I’m pleased to say, however, that Isn’t It Bromantic? is a step up from those books; the hero is adorable, the heroine is more likeable and the story feels much more cohesive – at least, it does until around the ninety percent mark, when the author shoves in a last-minute suspense plot that feels a bit jarring. But by then I was sufficiently invested in the characters and their HEA to want to find out how it all played out.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.