When Harry Met Harry by Sydney Smyth (audiobook) – Narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Malcolm Young

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ever since their chance encounter as seatmates on the plane ride from hell, Harry “Harrison” Fields and Harry “Henry” Lee have had a love-hate relationship. But every time their paths have crossed over the years, they’ve grown to like each other more and more, even developing an unlikely friendship.

Now, Harrison is a fun-loving music teacher who wears his heart on his sleeve, and Henry is a hard-driving business man who’s still striving to get out of his father’s shadow.

As they go through life’s inevitable heartaches and losses, their friendship only deepens. Sure, there’s always been a simmering attraction between them, but nothing worth threatening their friendship over…until one of them takes things too far. But when a valuable friendship hangs in the balance, is a chance at romance worth the price?

Rating: Narration – B+/D+ ; Content – C

Before I get into this review, I have to say this.

PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST STOP PUTTING SNIPPETS OF MUSIC BETWEEN CHAPTERS. IT’S NOT CUTE, IT’S NOT SOOTHING – IT’S ANNOYING AS HELL!

Right. So.

I stumbled across When Harry Met Harry a few weeks ago when I was looking through the Coming Soon titles at Audible, and the obvious reference in the title to what is probably my favourite Rom-Com ever immediately caught my eye. Plus – Teddy Hamilton.

Harrison Fields and Henry Lee meet for the first time at an airport in Singapore when aspiring actor Harrison is going back to the US after spending a few months travelling the world, and workaholic Henry is going to the US to pursue a business opportunity he hopes will enable him to break out from beneath his real estate magnate father’s shadow. A mix up with tickets means that Henry ends up sitting next to Harrison for the whole of the eighteen-hour flight and neither is particularly impressed with the other. Harrison thinks Henry is starchy and cynical; Henry thinks Harrison is overly optimistic and tends to overshare. At some point in the few conversations they have, Henry says he doesn’t believe in love, and also states his conviction that gay men can never be friends because the sex thing always gets in the way. After arriving, they say polite goodbyes and go their separate ways.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Immortal City (The Sacred Dark #2) by May Peterson


This title may be purchased from Amazon

I don’t remember you…

Reborn as an immortal with miraculous healing powers, Ari remembers nothing of his past life. His entire world now consists of the cold mountainside city of Serenity. Ruled with an iron fist. Violent.

Lonely.

I may never remember you…

Regaining the memories of who he once was seems an impossible dream, until Ari encounters Hei, a mortal come to Serenity for his own mysterious purposes. From the moment Hei literally falls into his arms, Ari is drawn to him in ways he cannot understand. Every word, every look, every touch pulls them closer together.

But I’m with you now…

As their bond deepens, so does the need to learn the truth of their past. Together they journey to find an ancient immortal who can give them what they both want: a history more entwined than Ari could have ever imagined, but which Hei has always known.

It’s the reason they will risk the world as they know it to reclaim who they used to be—and what they could be once again.

Rating: C+

I read and reviewed May Peterson’s début novel Lord of the Last Heartbeat last year, and although I liked the concept behind the story, the world it was set in, and the main characters, I found the author’s overly florid writing-style difficult to navigate; the words got in the way of the story to the extent that it was almost impossible, at times, to work out what was happening, and the language was so overblown and dense that it was hard to picture the events in my mind’s eye.

So why did I pick up The Immortal City, book two in The Sacred Dark series?  I was intrigued by the premise – an immortal being with no memories dreams of being able to regain them – and I wanted to see if perhaps the author had reined in the flowery prose and made it easier to actually understand her story without having to re-read two sentences out of every three in an attempt to make sense of what was going on.

Well, there was some success on that score because I did find The Immortal City to be more accessible than the previous book in that I found the story easier to follow; and incidentally it’s not connected to Lord of the Last Heartbeat by setting or characters (other than a couple of brief mentions of Vermagna and a “great lord of bear-souls” there), so I don’t think I missed out on anything by not being able to precisely recall the events of that book.

This one is told entirely from the point of view of Ari, a young man who, when he died, was reborn as a dove-spirit with numerous magical gifts including supernatural strength, immortality and the ability to heal others’ wounds.  Oh, and he’s got wings and can fly.  He also knows that he must have sold his memories to the powerful Lord Umber, who rules over the city of Serenity where Ari resides – but he doesn’t know why he sold them, or remember anything about his past life.  He doesn’t even know how long he’s been in Serenity, but of late, he’s been thinking more and more about the possibility of regaining his memories – not that he has the faintest idea how to go about it or if it’s even possible.  When a beautiful young man – Hei – literally falls into his arms, Ari is inexplicably drawn to him, and becomes even more preoccupied with the idea of finding out about his past.  When Ari and Hei are together it feels somehow right – but when Umber takes an interest in Hei, Ari realises that there’s more to Hei’s sudden appearance in his life than random chance, and the two are drawn into an epic battle for Serenity.

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

About a Rogue (Desperately Seeking Duke #1) by Caroline Linden (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

It’s no love match….

Bianca Tate is horrified when her sister, Cathy, is obliged to accept an offer of marriage from Maximilian St. James, notorious rake. Defiantly, she helps Cathy elope with her true love and takes her sister’s place at the altar.

It’s not even the match that was made….

Perched on the lowest branch of his family tree, Max has relied on charm and cunning to survive. But an unexpected stroke of luck gives him an outside chance at a dukedom – and which Tate sister he weds hardly seems to matter.

But could it be the perfect match?

Married or not, Bianca is determined to protect her family’s prosperous ceramics business, even when Max shows an affinity for it – not to mention a dangerous ability to intrigue and tempt Bianca herself. And when Max realizes how beautiful and intelligent and desirable Bianca is, he’ll have to prove he’s no rogue, but the passionately devoted husband she craves….

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Caroline Linden is one of my favourite historical romance authors, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting About a Rogue, the first book in her new Desperately Seeking Duke series, in which the ‘candidates’ for a ducal title are encouraged to show themselves worthy of such lofty status while the legalities as to which of them is the rightful heir are all sorted out. With the always reliable Beverly A. Crick back at the microphone, I settled in for an entertaining and enjoyable listen.

As the story begins, the elderly Duchess of Carlyle – whose son, the current duke, is in uncertain health – has summoned their closest male relations to Carlyle Castle to inform them that one of them – most likely Captain St. James – is the heir apparent to title and the other – Mr. Maximilian St. James – the heir presumptive. Wasting no time, she informs them that she expects them both to start living in a way that befits their new status and suggests they get married as a step towards respectability. She is particularly concerned with Max, who has a reputation for loose-living and frequenting London’s many gaming hells, but makes the same offer to both men. She will give them five hundred pounds each:

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Hazard and Somerset: Off Duty Volume 2 by Gregory Ashe

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Hazard and Somerset: Off Duty Volume 2 is a collection of short stories. It includes the following:

John-Henry Somerset: Sold!
Somers enters a charity bachelor’s auction without telling his boyfriend. This story takes place before The Rational Faculty.

Pretty and Pink and Perfect
Hazard plans a toddler’s birthday party. This story takes place before The Rational Faculty.

Pride Slays Thanksgiving
Hazard and Somers prepare for their first Thanksgiving as a couple. This story takes place before Police Brutality.

Santa: A Cultural Hegemony
Hazard is volun-told to dress up as Santa. This story takes place before Transactional Dynamics.

Valentine’s in Six Beats
Hazard executes his do-over for Valentine’s. This story takes place before Wayward.

Emery’s Birthday Scavenger Hunt
Somers plans the perfect birthday for Hazard . . . or so he thinks. This story takes place before The Keeper of Bees.

Hazard and Somerset: Off Duty
A series of six vignettes featuring Hazard and Somers on a Caribbean vacation. This story takes place after The Keeper of Bees.

Rating: A

This is the second set of short stories featuring Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset in their off-time. Most of them have been available to subscribers to the author’s mailing list, but the final set of vignettes, Hazard and Somerset: Off Duty are new, and take place after the events of The Keeper of Bees, the final book in the Union of Swords series.

The first of the stories takes place between Criminal Past at the end of the first series and The Rational Faculty, and they follow the guys through the timeframe of the series, each one usually taking place between books – and they’re full of classic Hazard and Somers banter and snark as well as showing them at their most couple-y and loving. We’ve got Hazard obsessing over the perfect birthday party for Evie, (he is SUCH a great Dad!), Somers up against Nico in a bachelor auction, and my personal favourite, a wonderful Valentine’s Day Do-Over in which Hazard pulls out all the stops to make the day as special and romantic for Somers as possible.

It’s always a pleasure to read about Hazard and Somers in situations where they’re not being shot at, beaten up or having a major relationship crisis; these stories provide wonderful glimpses into their ‘ordinary’ daily lives and give us – and them – a bit of respite from the chaos and danger that they invariably attract in the full-length novels. Plus, there’s a real sense that the author has fun writing these and it also showcases just how well he knows (and loves) these characters.

The final set of stories is new and given the note on which The Keeper of Bees ended was just what I wanted to read next. But be warned, Mr. Ashe drops one helluva bombshell – one I did NOT see coming – at the end of the last one! So now it’s just a case of waiting to see how the guys handle this latest upheaval in their lives in their next series – Hazard and Somerset: Arrows in the Hand. I can’t wait.

His Horizon (His #1) by Con Riley

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Jude’s drowning in guilt when he can’t save his family business single-handed. The last person he expects to throw a lifeline is Rob, a rival chef who once beat him to first place in a cooking contest.

Two chefs working together won’t be easy. Not when Rob is everything Jude isn’t—popular, extroverted, and a one-time hook-up. What’s worse is that Rob wears his heart on his sleeve while Jude’s still in the closet.

Jude’s dilemma doesn’t end there. Rob’s rescue package comes with conditions that mean sharing everything from the profits to Jude’s sleeping quarters. Sleeping with the enemy will either be a disaster or signal a much brighter future, but only if Jude can meet Rob’s final condition and love him in the open.

Rating: B

This is the first book I’ve read by British author Con Riley; she’s been recommended to me a few times by friends with similar tastes, and as His Horizon is the first in a new series, it seemed like a good place to start.  It’s a charming character-driven romance in which a chef and his former rival end up working together to save the family business – but don’t go into it expecting a full-on enemies-to-lovers story. Despite the what the blurb says about sleeping with the enemy, that isn’t the vibe here at all; in fact most of the rivalry has already happened by the time the novel begins.  Once you’ve adjusted your expectations though, you’ll find a sweet, low-angst and emotional story about acceptance, grief and coming to terms with loss.

Jude Anstey was on his way to winning a prestigious television cooking competition when he received the terrible news that his parents had been lost at sea and were presumed dead.  He dropped everything and left to search for them, ending up as chef and crew on a luxury yacht which followed a similar route and enabled Jude to ask questions and even search for wreckage along the way   When His Horizon begins, Jude is returning home to Cornwall, dejected, frustrated and burdened by guilt, in order to help his sister Louise through the summer tourist season at The Anchor, the pub his parents had run for years.

He’s surprised when his key won’t fit in the lock, but as he’s returned in the very early hours of the morning (without letting anyone know), he decides against knocking on the door and waking Louise, and instead takes himself to the boathouse intending to sleep there.  Here, there’s another surprise in store; this time, the sight of Rob Martin – who was his main competition on the cooking show (and who went on to win it) – asleep in the bed that had been Jude’s as a kid.

Later that morning when he enters the pub, Jude is confused and angry at all the changes he sees – this isn’t the place he called home.  But after learning the reason for it – that Porthperrin’s  tourist industry has been devastated following a terrible storm – he understands why a radical re-think was needed in order to stop the business from going under, and why, when Rob reached out after winning the competition, Louise decided to accept his offer of a partnership. Together they’ve worked hard to get The Anchor ready to open as a boutique hotel complete with fine dining from “Britain’s best new chef.”

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

The Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon #4) by Mimi Matthews (audiobook) – Narrated by Alex Wyndham

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She needed to be seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a monthlong holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He wanted to be heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?

Rating – Narration: B; Content- C

The Winter Companion is the fourth and final book in Mimi Matthews’ Parish Orphans of Devon series, which follows four young men who formed strong bonds of friendship as boys and who remain close friends in adulthood. This story takes place over the Christmas period and during a ‘family’ reunion as Justin, Tom and Alex (heroes of books 1-3) and their wives gather to celebrate the festive season at Justin’s North Devon home, which is where the fourth member of their group, Neville Cross, lives and works with the animals on the estate while also training to take over from Justin’s steward when he retires.

Unlike the other men – Justin went into the army, Tom moved to London and became a lawyer and Alex left England to make a living gambling and grifting – Neville never left Devon and doesn’t believe he ever will. An accident when he was younger left him with a brain injury which has affected his ability to transfer his thoughts into words. His thought processes and mental capacities are unaffected, but his difficulty in finding the right words – a situation which worsens whenever he’s nervous – has caused many to believe him to be lacking in intelligence. His friends know differently of course, but Neville is very self-conscious about it and prefers to have as little contact with other people as possible, instead spending most of his time with the horses and other animals in his care.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Enticing of Miss Standish (Cinderella Spinsters #3) by Julia Justiss


This title may be purchased from Amazon

A meeting of minds…

But a most unsuitable match!

When lady’s companion Sara Standish meets Cameron Fitzallen, he has his jacket off, mending mill machinery. He is manly, capable – though it’s most improper for him to set her heart aflutter! He is a mill owner – trade – after all. They share the same aim to help impoverished children, but in the eyes of the Ton, she must not mix with him. That doesn’t stop her craving his company, or his touch…

Rating: B

Julia Justiss’ Cinderella Spinsters series comes to a close with The Enticing of Miss Standish, which takes place against the backdrop of the cotton mills and the societal changes being wrought by the industrial revolution.  It’s a well-researched story packed with information about the manufacturing industries operating in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it takes an insightful look at the unfairness of the class system and displays an understanding of the magnitude of the task facing those wishing to improve the lives of the ordinary people – and especially the children – who worked in the factories and mills that were powering the nation’s prosperity.  It’s easy to see that Ms. Justiss has done comprehensive research in order to incorporate these elements seamlessly into her story – but on the downside, they tend to overshadow the romance which, while lovely, isn’t as prominent as I’d have liked.

Of the three Cinderella Spinsters, only one remains unwed.  The well-bred, pretty-behaved, but rather dull and ordinary  Miss Sara Standish, is being constantly urged by her well-meaning mother and aunt to find a suitable husband and settle down into marriage, but a life comprising afternoon calls, shopping trips, routs and soirées, meeting the same people over and over again, has never been the life she’d envisaged for herself.  She and her friends Emma and Olivia (heroines of the two previous books) had planned to set up house together and pursue their political activities; members of Lady Lyndlington’s Ladies’ Committee and devoted to the cause of social and political reform, they intended to spend their time working to promote change and improve the lot of country’s inhabitants.  But now Emma and Olivia are wed and blissfully happy, Sara’s dreams of independent living must be shelved – although she is still determined to continue her work for the various causes she supports, the closest to her heart of which is children’s welfare and education.  When the book opens, Sara’s mother and aunt are not at all pleased to learn of Sara’s plan to act as a kind of assistant to the Marchioness of Trent, a fellow member of the Ladies’ Committee, and to accompany her to her Derbyshire estate, where Lady Trent will host members of the Parliamentary Committee appointed to oversee factory inspections in the wake of the recently passed Factory Act.

Sara’s relatives can hardly object to her association with a marchioness, and a couple of weeks later finds her accompanying Lady Trent and members of the committee on a visit to Hughes Cotton Works.  It’s here that she first meets the mill’s manager, Cameron Fitzallen, but they don’t get off to the best of starts.

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

Broken (Deep Ops #3) by Rebecca Zanetti (audiobook) – Narrated by Roger Wayne

This title may be downloaded from Audible.

Dangerous:

Former Navy SEAL Clarence Wolfe’s unit was taken out with a land mine. Injured and devastated, he hasn’t been quite right since. Worse, the tragedy was no accident. All Wolfe wants now is to take down the man responsible. In the meantime, he’s good with being the muscle for the Deep Ops team – and leading a steamy no-strings-attached personal life. Until one intriguing woman changes everything…

Determined:

Reporter Dana Mulberry is on a mission to avenge the death of a fellow journalist. She’s finally hot on a trail – right to a sex club – where she runs into…Wolfe? It seems both their leads have led to the same spot. To keep from blowing their covers, they’ll have to at least pretend to have a little fun. Trouble is, they genuinely like each other. And that’s way too risky for Wolfe, especially when, to his surprise, Dana agrees….

Complicated:

Drawn to each other in ways they can’t understand, Wolfe and Dana keep it professional – until they’re shot at one night. And when their adventures land them both at the heart of corruption in DC – and at odds in their missions – they’ll have to dig deeper than ever to succeed in their quests – and with each other….

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Rebecca Zanetti’s Deep Ops series featuring the members of a small, out-on-a-limb branch of the Homeland Defence Department continues with Broken, the third full-length novel in the set. Each book in the series is a (mostly) self-contained story but there’s also an overarching plot concerning the search by Angus Force – the head of the group – for the serial killer he supposedly shot and killed five years earlier. Everyone but him believes the man to be dead, and Force’s obsession with proving otherwise is what essentially derailed his FBI career and saw him sidelined into setting up a rag-taggle group of agents who get their hands dirty when the Bureau can’t afford to. Force’s plotline gains a little traction here – and I believe his story is next up in the series – but Broken is firmly focused on the somewhat eccentric former SEAL Clarence Wolfe and investigative reporter, Dana Mulberry, who found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time in the last book, Fallen, when she was kidnapped, and then rescued by Wolfe. There was a definite zing of attraction between the pair in that book, and in this one, they team up when they discover they’re both hunting the same bad guy – albeit for different reasons.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Keeper of Bees (Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords #5) by Gregory Ashe


This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Emery Hazard has pretty much everything under control. He and his fiancé, John-Henry Somerset, are more in love than ever, despite the stress of wedding preparations hanging over them. His business as a private investigator is growing. He’s even enjoying time with his growing circle of friends. The only major problem on the horizon is whether or not he and Somers will be dancing at the wedding reception.

When Mitchell Martin shows up in his office, though, everything changes. The year before, Mitchell was abducted and tortured by a sadistic killer known only as the Keeper of Bees. Now Mitchell is convinced that the Keeper has come back, and he wants to hire Hazard to protect him.

While Hazard works to keep Mitchell safe, Somers must adjust to changes at work. A spate of new hires has disrupted the Wahredua Police Department, and Somers finds himself locked in a struggle to determine how the department will grow and evolve, with long-term consequences that will affect the town for years to come.

Then a woman is found murdered, and she has been staged and posed in a way that is eerily similar to the Keeper of Bee’s former victims. As Hazard and Somers race to prevent more deaths, Hazard fears they are already too late; the Keeper of Bees has been ahead of them the whole time.

Rating: A-

Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset have become two of my all-time favourite fictional characters, and in the Union of Swords series, they’ve been thoroughly put through the wringer.  What with Hazard’s increasingly problematic mental health, old resentments, relationship issues, career adjustments, family problems AND the emergence of an incredibly clever serial killer who seems to always be one step ahead, the guys have had a hell of a lot on their plate.  But they’ve also forged new friendships, made a life as a family unit and even when things have got really tough, have never given up on each other; when things were at their most difficult (in Transactional Dynamics and Wayward) and they were on the outs, I never believed they were anything but completely devoted to each other and that they’d make it through the dark times.

But all good things must come to an end, so they say, and here we are, at the final instalment in what has been an absolutely compelling and engrossing series.

Fellow Gregory Ashe fan Em Wittmann and I devoured The Keeper of Bees and got together to discuss it in a joint review over at All About Romance.

A Vigil in the Mourning (Soulbound #4) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon</a.

The devil you know is never the one you should trust.

Special Agent Patrick Collins is dispatched to Chicago, chasing a lead on the Morrigan’s staff for the joint task force. Needing a cover for his presence in the Windy City, Patrick is ordered to investigate a politician running for mayor. In the lead up to Election Day, not everything is what it seems in a city where playing to win means appeasing the gods first and the electorate second.

But Chicago brings its own set of problems outside the case: a standoffish local god pack, a missing immortal, and Patrick’s twin sister. Fighting Hannah and the Dominion Sect provides Patrick with a sinister reminder that some blood ties can never be cut.

Left behind in New York City, Jonothon de Vere finds himself targeted by hunters who will go through anyone to kill him – including the packs under his protection. With a bounty on his head, Jono is forced to make a choice that Patrick would never approve of. Doing so risks breaking the trust he’s built with the man he loves, but not acting will give the rival New York City god pack leverage Jono can’t afford to give up.

When Patrick and Jono reunite in Chicago, Patrick must confront the fraying of a relationship he’s come to rely on for his own sanity. But fixing their personal problems will have to wait – because Niflheim is clawing at the shores of Lake Michigan and the dead are hungry.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Note: As this is a series where the books need to be listened to in order, there will be spoilers for previous instalments in this review.

Book four in Hailey Turner’s innovative Soulbound series picks up not long after A Crown of Iron and Silver left off. The whereabouts of the Morrígan’s staff is still unknown, and the leaders of the New York City god pack continue not only to neglect their responsibilities to those under their protection but in some cases to actively harm them, leading more and more of the city’s werecreatures to seek help from the rival pack founded by Jono de Vere and his partner Patrick Collins. A Vigil in the Mourning is a compelling addition to this inventive and unusual urban fantasy series, and it raises the stakes considerably for our heroes and their friends and allies. The potential for a showdown of epic proportions has been building throughout the series, and A Vigil in the Mourning brings it another step closer.

It’s a case of “same shit, different day” for Special Agent Patrick Collins of the Supernatural Operations Agency when he’s summoned to a meeting with the SOA director and is instead met by one of his closest friends, the seer Marek Taylor. Through Marek, the fates tell Patrick he must go to Chicago in order to save the life of the Allfather – Odin – and that the Æsir (the gods of the principal pantheon in Norse religion) will be waiting for him there. Which is just peachy. Because more gods dictating to him and interfering in his life is just what Patrick needs.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.