Riven (Riven #1) by Roan Parrish (audiobook) – Narrated by Iggy Toma and Chris Chambers

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Theo Decker might be the lead singer of Riven, but he hates being a rock star. The paparazzi, the endless tours, being recognized everywhere he goes – it all makes him squirm. The only thing he doesn’t hate is the music. Feeling an audience’s energy as they lose themselves in Riven’s music is a rush unlike anything else…until he meets Caleb Blake Whitman. Caleb is rough and damaged, yet his fingers on his guitar are pure poetry. And his hands on Theo? They’re all he can think about. But Caleb’s no groupie – and one night with him won’t be enough.

Just when Caleb is accepting his new life as a loner, Theo Decker slinks into it and turns his world upside down. Theo’s sexy and brilliant and addictively vulnerable, and all Caleb wants is another hit. And another. That’s how he knows Theo’s trouble. Caleb can’t even handle performing these days. How the hell is he going to survive an affair with a tabloid superstar? But after Caleb sees the man behind the rock star, he begins to wonder if Theo might be his chance at a future he thought he’d lost forever.

Rating: Narration – B+/B- : Content – B

I picked up Riven mostly because I’d recently read and loved its follow up, Rend, but also because I’d so enjoyed Iggy Toma’s performance in Heart of the Steal, which Ms. Parrish co-authored with Avon Gale, and was keen to listen to more of his work. Riven is a poignant, beautifully written story about two men drawn together by their love of music; and the way the author writes about music and how it works and what it means to both characters is vividly descriptive. The prose is often lyrical – very appropriately so given the subject matter – and while on the surface this might seem like a fairly simple love story, the themes running through it are anything but, as one character battles addiction and the other must leave behind a past filled with indifference and rejection and learn to live for himself if he’s to find true happiness.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Advertisements

Dukes Are Forever (London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy series #5) by Bec McMaster

This title may be purchased from Amazon

A compromising situation forced him into marriage. But has his wife been working for the enemy all along?

In a steam-fuelled world where vampires once ruled the aristocracy, a dangerous conspiracy threatens to topple the queen, and the Duke of Malloryn knows his nemesis has finally returned to enact his plans of revenge.

Malloryn can trust no one, and when incriminating photographs surface—of an enemy agent stealing a kiss from his wife—he is forced to question just why his wife, Adele, trapped him into marriage.

Is she an innocent pawn caught up in a madman’s games, or is she a double agent working against him?

The only way to discover the truth is to seduce her himself…

Adele Hamilton may have agreed to a loveless marriage in order to protect herself, but that doesn’t stop her heart from yearning for more.

Her husband promised her a cold marriage bed. He swore he’d never touch her. But suddenly he’s engaged in a campaign of seduction—and the only way to keep her wits about her is to fight fire with fire.

The ruthless beauty has locked her heart away, but can she deny the passion that flares between them? And when the truth emerges, will she be the only thing that can save Malloryn’s life?

Or the weapon his enemy will wield against him?

Rating: A

This final instalment in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy series proved to be everything I was hoping for.  They’ve been among the most consistently enjoyable and entertaining books I’ve read over the past couple of years, and they’ve only got better as the series has progressed, delivering fast-paced, action-packed and intricately constructed stories featuring strong, engaging characters and intense, steamy romances which deliver immensely satisfying HEAs readers can believe will last because of the strong emotional connections the author develops  between all her heroes and heroines.

Dukes Are Forever sees the final showdown between the Duke of Malloryn and his arch-enemy, Lord Balfour, a confrontation that’s been brewing throughout the whole series.  Readers have been there every step of the way as Malloryn and his hand-picked Company of Rogues have discovered the existence of a new, deadlier form of vampire, a virus engineered to kill blue-bloods, and a group of discontent former Echelon set on destroying London and on bringing down the Queen.  Ms. McMaster has woven the threads of her story together incredibly well, taking our heroes from a position of… not quite weakness, but of knowing that their faceless enemy was always one step ahead – to one of strength as they’ve gradually put together the pieces of the puzzle, united in their determination to protect the city and the Queen, and to end Balfour, no matter what the cost to themselves.

The sense of brotherhood the author has created between the CoR – a disparate group of blue bloods, verwulfen, humans and mecs, all with specialist skills (many of them deadly) – is one of the things that has really stood out for me throughout this series.  There’s never any doubt that this team has been forged in fire and that those bonds are unbreakable; they’d do anything for one another and genuinely care for each other, not that they’d ever say such a thing, showing instead how much they care and how well they know each other through their affectionate teasing and witty banter.  And unlike so many series, there’s never a doubt that the Rogues dodge in and out of all the books for any reason other than that they’re necessary to the plot; there are no “just for the sake of it” cameos here!

From the beginning – and from his appearances in the earlier London Steampunk series – I’ve been intrigued by Malloryn.  Handsome, coolly controlled and uber-confident (and sexy as hell!), he’s one of those heroes who keeps everything locked away and buried deep inside – not because he doesn’t feel, but because he feels deeply and is protecting himself from again experiencing the deep hurt he suffered in his youth.  He’s become my favourite hero of the series (I suspected he would be – I’ve got a thing for the volcanic-fire-beneath-layers-of-ice type),  and the relationship the author has built between him and the Rogues is just wonderful; they annoy him and tease the hell out of him and ground him and stop him getting too big for his boots (! – you’ll get that one once you’ve read the book!) and the moment he finally admits to himself that they’re at his side because they want to be there for him and not just because they’re duty bound is one of the real highlights of the story.

This wouldn’t be a Bec McMaster book without a steamy romance and wow, does she deliver on that score.  When I first learned that Malloryn had been trapped into offering marriage to a young woman he clearly had no interest in, I thought maybe she’d remain a peripheral character, or that perhaps something would happen to prevent the match.  Because we only see her through Malloryn’s eyes, we believe Adele Hamilton to be a cold, selfish schemer who was out to catch herself a powerful husband and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.  But then the author starts to drop clever hints that perhaps there’s more to it than meets the eye, and those hints are strengthened in a climactic (and seriously hot!) scene towards the end of You Only Love Twice, when Adele saves Malloryn’s life at considerable risk to her own and they show they’re not quite as indifferent to each other as they’d have others – and themselves – believe.  And then during the course of this book, we learn more about what prompted Adele to act as she did; she’s not proud of it and daily feels guilty at having forced a genuinely good man into something he clearly didn’t want, but her reasons, when they are revealed fully, are completely understandable and encompass more than just herself and her own safety.

As Dukes are Forever opens, we discover Adele is being pursued by a gentleman other than her husband, a man who has links to the Rising Sons, the organisation of former Echelon who want to restore the old hierarchy wherein blue bloods ruled the roost and all the other species are kept firmly in their – much lower – stations.  When presented with evidence of Adele’s association with this man, Malloryn realises he has to take steps to work out whether she’s actively working against him – not that she’s in a position to know anything about his work with the Rogues – or if she’s being duped and used as a way to get to him.  This leads to the waging of a merry war between them – only this one is a war of seduction, one in which Malloryn would seem to have the upper hand… until Adele shows she knows how to fight fire with fire, and proves as adept at taking apart her husband’s icy veneer as he is at getting past her defences.  The chemistry between them is hot enough to blister paint and their ultimate compatibility is reinforced by the way we’re shown how similar they are; both very guarded and self-possessed, having built up layers and layers of walls around their emotions for good reasons  – and I just loved watching them stripping away those layers and becoming vulnerable to each other.

I’ve said as much about the plot as I’m going to, but if you’ve been following the series, I think you’ll already have an idea of what’s in store, and if not, then go and get a copy of Kiss of Steel and make a start – you’ve got ten excellent novels to experience!  I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent in the London Steampunk world and while I’m going to miss it and these fabulous characters, I’m nonetheless incredibly grateful to have been on this wonderful journey.  Dukes are Forever is a wonderfully rousing and eminently fitting finish to the series, and I loved every minute of it.

Driven to Distraction (Road to Love #1) by Lori Foster (audiobook) – Narrated by John Lane

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When desire gets this hot, you’d better buckle up…

Mary Daniels doesn’t let anything get in the way of her job acquiring rare artifacts for her wealthy boss. But this particular obstacle – huge, hard-muscled, unashamedly masculine – is impossible to ignore. Stuck in a cramped car with Brodie Crews for hours en route to their new assignment, Mary feels her carefully crafted persona – and her trademark self-control – is slipping, and she won’t allow it.

Brodie can’t imagine what secret in Mary’s past has left her so buttoned-up, though he’d dearly love to find out. Maybe then she’d trust him enough to explore their explosive chemistry. But he needs this job, so he’ll play by her rules and bide his time…until an enemy determined to outwit them strikes and he needs to get close – in every way – to protect her. Otherwise they could lose much more than a precious collectible. They could lose it all.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

Lori Foster’s Driven to Distraction is the first book in her Road to Love series which features the two Crews brothers – Brodie and Jack – who run a high-end transport and courier service. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill affair overall; we’ve got a buttoned-up heroine meeting a laid-back, super-hot hero who is determined to unbutton her, but the plot is sparse, the pacing drags in the middle and there are just too many tired clichés in evidence for this to be a truly riveting listen.

Mary Daniels has an unusual job working for Therman Ritter, a wealthy collector who sends her all over the country to pick up the various unique, valuable – and sometimes not completely legal – items he buys at auction. These trips are frequently last minute and can sometimes take Mary into some dodgy locations, so she is usually accompanied by a driver. As the story begins, she’s making her way to the office of the Mustang Courier Transport Service, which is the new firm her boss has decided to use to ferry Mary to wherever she needs to go.

When she arrives, the first thing she sees is a gorgeous, half-naked man working under the hood of a car while he’s ogled and (to Mary’s disgust) fondled by the young woman who’s practically draped herself over him. (Was she was looking for his torque-wrench?!) Mary isn’t impressed; the man is too casual and arrogant and flirtatious – and nowhere near as charming as he thinks he is… but of course, he turns out to be the guy her boss wants to be her driver.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Navy SEAL to the Rescue (Aegis Security #1) Tawny Weber

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Rescued by the alpha SEAL

Injured in the line of duty, navy SEAL Travis “Hawk” Hawkins retreats to paradise. But R & R takes a turn when he runs smack into a beautiful blonde who just witnessed a murder. Travis offers to help, only to find himself equally taunted and titillated by irresistible Lila Adrian.

Can the wounded warrior protect Lila and take down a deadly crime ring?

Rating: C+

Navy SEAL to the Rescue is the first book in a new series from Harlequin ‘regular’ Tawny Weber, marking her move from the now defunct Blaze line to Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  It’s a fairly predictable story that makes use of classic character-types and tropes, and yet I enjoyed it (for the most part) for what it was, a quick, sexy and undemanding read  – although the final section of the story goes in a direction I wasn’t keen on and the HEA is rather rushed.

Lila Adrian is determined to make her own way in life, out from under the shadow of her exacting father and perfect brother, who have always been dismissive of her opinions and ambitions.  To this end, she’s started her own business called At Your Service, of which she’s brains, brawn and chief headhunter, finding specialist staff who are the perfect fit for all sorts for wealthy clients.  She’s in Costa Rica in order to make an offer of employment to a chef whose food so impressed a rich, honeymooning couple that they want him to work for them exclusively, and is about to enter the disappointingly run-down restaurant at which he now works when she is temporarily side-tracked by the sight of the most gorgeous man she’s ever seen emerging from the ocean.

Travis Hawkins is in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca for some R&R following the knee-injury that ended his Navy career.  He’s completely adrift and has absolutely no idea who he is outside of his job and no plans for what he’s going to do with the rest of his life.  He definitely likes the look of the petite, curvy blonde eyeing him up, but he’s not in Puerto Viejo to hook up with random women – he has life and shit to sort out.

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

The Duke that I Marry (Spinster Heiresses #3) by Cathy Maxwell (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Once upon a time there were three young ladies who, despite their fortunes, had been on the marriage mart a bit too long. They were known as “the Spinster Heiresses”….

Is it wrong for a woman to want more?

Not if she is a Spinster Heiress. They do not settle. Any young miss would be very lucky to find herself promised to a man like the duke of Camberly. However, Miss Willa Reverly has watched her friends marry for love. Camberly may be the prize of the season, but she will not be “sold” to any man. She wants his devotion or she wants nothing at all.

When is a marriage of convenience inconvenient?

Newly named to the ducal title, Matthew Addison is determined to discover the secrets behind Mayfield, the bankrupt estate he has inherited. He doesn’t have time to coddle a headstrong heiress who is determined to ditch him over something as silly as “love”. Little does he know that his questions will place her in jeopardy. Now, he must do what he must to save them both.

Could it be that in running from danger, they might be racing headlong into a truly unexpected fate: falling in love?

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C

The Duke That I Marry is the final book in Cathy Maxwell’s trilogy of Spinster Heiresses novels, which features a group of three friends, all of them with massive dowries. In the first book, we were introduced to Leonie, Cassandra and Willa as they passed the time at all the various events to which they were endlessly invited by playing a game in which they scored points for attracting the notice of the Ton’s most eligible bachelor, the young, incredibly handsome (and incredibly broke) Matthew Addison, Duke of Camberly.

Having failed to marry either Leonie or Cassandra, Camberly at last offered for Willa and then retreated to his country estate, partly to avoid the gossip surrounding the termination of his rather scandalous affair with a married woman and partly so he could get a firm grip on the management of his estate and finances.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Deep Deception (Deep #2) by Z.A. Maxfield (audiobook) – Narrated by Caleb Dickinson

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

He’ll give up everything for his immortal lover…except his humanity.

Leave a note and slip away to Paris alone, Adin thought. It’ll prove to his vampire lover he doesn’t need 24/7 supervision, Adin thought. Instead Adin lands in a surreal situation that isn’t going to endear him to Donte – at all.

As he awaits an old foe, Ned Harwiche III, for a prearranged meeting, Adin is head butted, tossed into the back of a car…then gets the chance to acquire an artifact Harwiche had been bidding on.

Adin jumps at it, if only as payback for all the dirty tricks Harwiche has pulled over the years. To his horror the “artifact” turns out to be an adolescent boy named Bran.

Sickened, Adin vows to help the boy out, but like Donte – like a lot of the world Adin never knew existed – Bran isn’t at all what he seems to be.

While Donte and Adin negotiate the meaning of the word forever, Bran is running out of time. Especially when tragedy and betrayal pit Adin’s long-cherished beliefs against Donte’s love.

Rating: Narration – C+ : Content – C

There are spoilers for the first book in the Deep series, Deep Desire, in this review.

When five-hundred-year-old vampire Donte Fedeltà and his human lover Adin Tredeger embarked upon a relationship at the end of Deep Desire, it was clear that the road to Happily Ever After wasn’t going to be an easy one, not least because of Adin’s emphatic refusal to allow Donte to turn him (into a vampire) so that they can be together for all time. For Adin,

“It’s [life is] my journey. And without its beginning, its middle and its end, I’m not ever going to be the man I was born to be.”

– and he is content to be with Donte for the time allotted to him. However, this isn’t the only issue causing friction between them in Deep Deception. Adin is fed up with Donte continually treating him as though he needs constant supervision. He accepts that the supernatural world he is discovering contains previously un-thought-of dangers, and he’d hoped, after months of self-defence classes and constant lecturing, that Donte would realise he doesn’t need to be so protective… but after yet another spat, Adin decides he needs some breathing space, and slips away to Paris to attend an auction, leaving his lover a note –

“I’ll be back but you’re going to have to get used to letting me come and go.”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1) by Jenn Burke

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Dying isn’t what it used to be.

Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.

His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.

As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.

Rating: A-

For some reason, I’ve been gravitating towards paranormal romances lately, most often ones featuring characters involved in law enforcement, which was the immediate appeal of Jenn Burke’s Not Dead Yet.  It’s the first in a new series in which one of the protagonists is, as the title suggests, Not Dead.  Although he’s Not Alive either, which is certainly a unique twist and not something I’ve come across before.  Not Dead Yet is a hugely enjoyable read featuring two well-rounded principals, an intriguing mystery, and a slow-burn romance; I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but it turned out to be a winner and I’m definitely on board for the rest of the series.

In 1933, Wes Cooper was shot and killed by his lover, Michael.  But Michael’s sister was a witch and, unable to accept what her brother had done, cast a spell to bring Wes back to life – but not only did it resurrect him, it made him immortal, something that’s changed his life in lots of small ways as well as the one  big one.  Wes will never age physically and because of this, he never – well, almost never – embarks upon close friendships or relationships, knowing there’s only so long he can use the excuse of having good genes to explain away his unchanging appearance.  He’s had to move around and change his identity every ten years or so in order to stop people wondering about him, and his only real friends have been the generations of witches from the family who brought him back from the dead.  Even so, he’s flesh and blood; he lives in the world as we know it, but he also retains a link to the otherplane, the place where the dead go before moving on, and where some of them linger, usually in hopes of concluding unfinished business.

Wes uses his ability to slip between the planes of existence to earn a living, sneaking into people’s private spaces as a ghost to recover items for interested parties – heirlooms they want back, contracts they shouldn’t have signed and even information they can use for blackmail.  He’s treading a fine line; technically he’s committing theft, although he prefers to think of it as ‘retrieval’, but because of the nature of what he does, he has a very strictly defined set of business practices designed to protect him and his identity; clients come to him via a sophisticated set of referrals and anonymous messages, and he never meets directly with any of them.  And their targets are usually shady types, people who’ve done things that are not-so-nice, making them dangerous to be around.

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