Her Every Wish (Worth Saga #1.5) by Courtney Milan (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

her every wish audio

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Crash has never let the circumstances of his birth, or his lack of a last name, bother him. His associations may be unsavory, but money, friends, and infamy open far more interesting doors than respect ever could. His sole regret? Once lovely, sweet Daisy Whitlaw learned the truth about how he made his fortune, she cut him off.

Daisy’s father is dead, her mother is in ill health, and her available funds have dwindled to a memory. When the local parish announces a charity bequest to help young people start a trade, it’s her last chance. So what if the grants are intended for men? If she’s good enough, she might bluff her way into a future.

When Crash offers to show her how to swagger with confidence, she knows he is up to no good. But with her life in the balance, she’s desperate enough to risk the one thing she hasn’t yet lost: her heart.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

As was the case with Once Upon a Marquess, the book in Courtney Milan’s new Worth Saga that precedes this novella, reactions to Her Every Wis have been mixed. That said, I found it to be more cohesive in many ways than the novel. Because of the shorter format, the storyline is simpler and less complex – not that there aren’t complexities, because there are – but with fewer characters and fewer obvious foibles, there is more room to concentrate on the relationship between the protagonists, something I felt lacking in the previous story.

Daisy Whitlaw appeared in Marquess as a friend of the heroine, Judith. Daisy’s father was a successful tradesman, but after his death, Daisy and her invalid mother have found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. In an attempt to better provide for them both, Daisy enters a competition offering a prize of fifty pounds to the person (not the man, as she points out more than once) with the best idea for setting up a new business. Daisy knows her proposal is sound, yet when the day comes to announce the shortlist of ten, she is nonetheless astonished to find herself one of the ten. On discovering that ‘D. Whitlaw’ is a woman, the other entrants – all men – are disgusted. Daisy is insulted and ridiculed, her confidence deserts her and she starts to question her wisdom in having entered the competition in the first place.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

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Forevermore (Darkest London #7) by Kristen Callihan

forevermore 2
This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Isolated and alone, Sin Evernight is one of the most powerful supernatural creatures in heaven and on earth. As an angel of vengeance, he hunts down the darkest evil, but when his long-lost friend, Layla Starling, needs him, he vows to become her protector. Even though she will be horrified by the man he has become.

Now a famous singer and the toast of London, Layla believes that Sin is only here to guard her from rabid fans and ardent suitors. However, the truth is far more sinister. Desperate to avoid losing Layla a second time, Sin will face a test of all his powers to defeat an unstoppable foe – and win an eternity with the woman he loves.

Rating:A-

I’m not a great reader of paranormals, but all the buzz and good reviews I’d seen for Firelight the first book in Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series tempted me to read it; and once I did, I was totally hooked and have eagerly devoured all the subsequent instalments. Forevermore is the seventh and final chapter of the series; and because it pulls together a number of the seeds sown in the earlier novels and features several recurring characters, it’s not a book that will stand well on its own. That said, fans of the series are sure to enjoy it, as it contains all the elements which have made all the other titles such compelling reads; great characters, steamy love scenes, complex stories, lots of action and plenty of angst.

St. John (pronounced Sinjin – yes, it’s one of those weird pronunciation things we Brits so love!) Evernight is the younger brother of the three Ellis sisters, Miranda, Daisy and Poppy, whose stories were told in the first three books in the series. The sisters are all Elementals, able to control fire, earth and water respectively, but Sin, as the son of a powerful Elemental and a demi-god of chaos, is even more formidable than they are, and is able to control all the elements plus a lot more besides. In Soulbound, readers discovered that Sin had been manipulated into becoming a blood-slave of the seductive and evil queen of the fae, and that his sisters, not realising he was enslaved, had disowned him. But Sin’s being bound to Queen Mab allowed him, ultimately, to destroy her, and to assume even greater powers when he became an all-powerful being who is tasked with delivering the souls of evil-doers for final judgment.

After a short prologue which introduces the principals as children, the story proper opens with Sin pursuing an unknown entity through the darkened streets of London. It’s a being he has never encountered before and which he had discovered hunched over a freshly killed human body. Nothing is familiar about the creature, not the way it moves, or the way it smells – and certainly not the way it suddenly transforms upon capture, into a flock of birds, an ability that is extremely rare, even in Ms Callihan’s twilight world of shifters, angels, GIMs and demons.

Not long after this chase, Sin is reunited with his childhood friend, Layla Starling, a talented singer who has been gracing the stages of some of the worlds’ greatest opera houses. But something terrible is happening to her; she wakes from sleep covered in blood with no memory of who she is or what she is, her senses are heightened and she is scared she has become some kind of monster. On top of this, she can no longer sing, so she cancels all her engagements and heads back to London, intent on hiding herself away at her guardian’s house.

Layla’s guardian is Augustus, whom readers will recall is known as “Father” within the SOS and who helped Sin to free himself from Mab’s control. He is Sin’s mentor and has asked him to act as Layla’s bodyguard, knowing that she is being hunted by Damnation, the most powerful of all the demons. But first Layla must be told the truth about her origins, about the ‘other’ world of which she is part and about the fate from which Augustus is trying to save her. But when she learns who and what she is, will she be able to accept it? And complicating matters for her still further is Sin, strong and beautiful, his image the one she has carried with her always, the reason she has rejected all the marriage proposals to have come her way… and who has closed himself off to her, the boy she had once known all but disappeared.

Sin is as much in love with Layla as he ever was, but the years of his enslavement have profoundly affected him. Mab’s evil manipulations and machinations have left a dark stain on his soul, have left him without the family he longs for and filled him with self-loathing. All he knows of pleasure has been twisted into something sordid and he can’t bear the thought of tainting Layla by even the merest touch. Yet when he does touch her, he experiences something else, something that doesn’t speak of pain and humiliation and he begins to think that perhaps, if he can trust Layla with the truth about himself, she won’t reject him.

The author has introduced and continued numerous plot-threads throughout each novel, some of which are resolved by the end and some of which are carried forward to the next story. As Forevermore is the last in the series, it picks up a lot of these threads, which means that it’s a busy book – but somehow, it doesn’t feel TOO busy. It’s fast-paced, there is lots going on and there are several different PoVs, but the storylines are easy to follow and the balance between romance and action is just about right. As the showdown between good and evil looms ever closer, she knits those threads tightly together to bring the whole thing to a dramatic but gratifying conclusion.

I’ll readily admit to loving a good dollop of angst in whatever I read, so one of the things I’ve loved about this series is the high-stakes element given to the romances. Each couple faces a seemingly hopeless situation that threatens their futures together, and while that is also true of the relationship between Sin and Layla, the real rip-out-your-heart-and-stomp-on-it moments I so adore are actually found in the secondary plotlines. The truth about the relationship between the angel Augustus and the demon Lena is bitter-sweet and gorgeous in a heart-breaking way. Readers will recall that Lena has done many questionable things, not least of which was arranging the kidnap and torture of Jack Talent in Winterblaze. Yet she and Augustus share some of the most incredibly beautiful and poignant moments in the story, and I don’t mind admitting that I may have shed a tear or two. The same is true of the small sub-plot featuring Archer and Miranda, who remain one of my favourite couples of the whole series.

Forevermore is by no means perfect. Sin’s progression from a man who dislikes being touched and whose only sexual experiences have made him feel unclean to one who is able to enter into a loving relationship and consummate it without a problem is rather fast – mind you, he’s an angel of judgement, so perhaps that’s normal! It was a bit of a stretch to be able to believe that Miranda, Daisy and Poppy couldn’t have worked out that Sin wasn’t with Mab of his own free will. And as I’ve found to be the case in the other books, the final resolution and all-round trouncing of the evil-doer comes a bit too easily. But when all’s said and done, those weren’t major issues and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story one little bit. Forevermore ends on a high – literally – and brings the Darkest London series to a resounding and satisfying close. I was emotionally worn out but happy when I finished it.

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Chasing Lady Amelia Keeping Up With the Cavendishes #2) by Maya Rodale

chasing lady amelia cover

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Terribly Improper

Lady Amelia is fed up with being a proper lady and wishes to explore London, so one night she escapes . . . and finds herself in the company of one Alistair Finlay-Jones. He’s been ordered by his uncle to wed one of the American girls. How lucky, then, that one of them stumbles right into his arms!

Totally Scandalous

Alistair and Amelia have one perfect day to explore London, from Astley’s Amphitheater to Vauxhall Gardens. Inevitably they end up falling in love and making love. If anyone finds out, she will be ruined, but he will win everything he’s ever wanted.

Very Romantic

When Amelia finds out Alistair has been ordered to marry her, he must woo her and win back the angry American girl. But with the threat of scandals, plural, looming . . . will he ever catch up to the woman he loves?

Rating:B-

Maya Rodale is one of the authors I turn to when I want brain candy; a well-written, frothy, light-hearted read that doesn’t get too bogged down in angst, has a fair bit of humour and attractive characters. And she certainly delivers all that in Chasing Lady Amelia the second book in her Keeping Up With the Cavendishes series, featuring four American siblings who are thrust into the midst of English society when James Cavendish unexpectedly inherits a dukedom.

James has three sisters; bespectacled Claire, who is something of a bluestocking, Bridget, whose story is told in the previous book, Lady Bridget’s Diary, and who is very, very keen to become a proper English Lady – and Amelia. Who isn’t. In fact, Amelia has no patience whatsoever with the restrictive mores of English society or with the equally restrictive clothing she is forced to wear. I admit here to heaving a big sigh at the prospect of reading about yet another stereotypically “fresh” American heroine who is so much more lively and independent of mind and spirit than her stodgy, stuck-up English counterparts.

Fortunately, Ms. Rodale is a good enough writer to be able to make Amelia a more engaging character than she probably sounds from that description, but she still displays a degree of immaturity that is annoying rather than endearing. Such as when, in the middle of a ball, she decides her shoes are pinching her feet so much that she must, she absolutely MUST take them off right this minute. So she does. And sticks them in a plant pot. But that is just the start of her troubles, because the moment she’s divested herself of her shoes, she is invited to dance. Of course a young lady with no shoes on is nothing short of scandalous, so to avoid revealing it, she fakes a faint, which ends up having a domino effect involving her prospective dance partner, a buxom countess, a footman and a tray of champagne.

Shortly after this, enter our hero, one Alastair Finlay-Jones, despised nephew of and heir to Baron Wrotham. Alastair is Anglo-Indian, something which is mentioned but is never explored and seems to have no real purpose other than to show that, like Amelia, he can only ever exist on the fringes of good society – and has recently returned to England following an absence of almost six-and-a-half-years. Summoned by his uncle, he is told in no uncertain terms to marry one of the newly arrived American heiresses. Alastair, who has no other family and longs for his uncle’s approval, finds it difficult to say no because of the guilt he still feels over the death of his cousin – so he doesn’t, well, say no.

As luck would have it, one of those very heiresses has – almost literally – fallen into Alastair’s lap. While wending his way home from an evening at his club the night before, he was accosted by a young lady who seemed to be somewhat the worse for wear. As she was unable to tell him where she lived, Alastair took her to his flat after she passed out, and it’s only after he sees the scandal sheets the next morning that he realises who the lady is. Things could be worse; she’s pretty, she’s young and she’s got a hefty dowry, but Alastair knows a man of little fortune or reputation such as he isn’t going to stand a chance with her once he is just one of a crowd of men seeking her hand. But if he doesn’t let on that he knows who she is, maybe he will have the chance to gain the advantage; if they can spend some time together then when she meets him again in a ballroom, she will recognise him and, hopefully, they will have some happy, shared memories that will single him out from everyone else.

The first half of the story takes place over roughly a twelve-hour period as Amelia and Alastair embark on a once-in-a-lifetime day out, which reminded me somewhat of the plot of Roman Holiday (even down to the scandalous hair cut!), in which Audrey Hepburn’s princess spends a day out-of-time with handsome reporter, Gregory Peck. Ms. Rodale writes the evolving relationship between her protagonists very convincingly so that, in spite of the short time-frame, the romance doesn’t feel rushed, although I did have to give a sideways glance to the fact that things turn physical shortly before they part. I know Amelia is supposed to be free-spirited and reckless, but one would have thought, given her brother is a horse-breeder and she’s grown up around animals, she’s have given a thought to possible consequences.

Anyway, following that magical day, things start to fall apart. Realising that Alastair had known who she was all along, Amelia feels hurt and betrayed and wants nothing to do with him. Thus, it’s down to our hero to do a bit of grovelling and to prove to Amelia that in spite of the lie, he’s true of heart and that he has no intention of compromising her into marriage. And then his brain thinks dumb things in a last minute attempt to inject some unnecessary angst and I could have smacked him.

Apart from that, Alastair is the best thing about the book. He’s funny, charming and self-deprecating; his guilt at having caused his cousin’s death (which he didn’t, really) is perhaps rather overdone though, and his last minute volte-face really is a switch too far. He’s said to be a reprobate, although I saw nothing in him that one doesn’t find in all of the young gentleman heroes in historical romances; he’s not averse to the odd wager or card game, likes women and enjoys a drink with his mates – all things which usually earn back-slaps, not censure!

Amelia becomes more likeable as the book progresses, but although I did understand her desire to get out from under the weight of expectation, she never really rises above your stock-in-trade rebellious heroine. Perhaps “it’s not you, it’s me”; she’s not an unattractive character, but she never really took on a life of her own in my imagination and wasn’t someone I found myself wanting to know more about or spend time with.

Chasing Lady Amelia is, as I said at the outset, exactly the sort of book I expect from this author, and it’s the type of thing she does very, very well. I’m sure it will prove too insubstantial for some tastes and there’s no doubt that she once again plays fast and loose with historical accuracy and social convention; but fans of hers are sure to enjoy it and it’s certainly worth consideration by anyone who is in the mood for an angst-free (mostly) piece of well-written fluff.

Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall

beauty highland beast

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Dair is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.

When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Dair’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.

Although Dair does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Dair let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

Rating:C+

I’m always up for a good fairy-story retelling, and having heard good things about this author, I picked up Beauty and the Highland Beast with reasonably high expectations. I can’t, however, say that they were met, because while the writing is very good and the tension that leads to the dramatic finale is skilfully built, the characterisation of the two leads is inconsistent and the romance is underdeveloped.

Alasdair Og Sinclair, the son of the chief of the Clan Sinclair has a formidable reputation as a leader of men, a skilful strategist and as a man with a good head for business. Using his talents in all those fields, he has made his clan a fortune and proved that he will be a worthy chief when his time comes. But tragedy strikes when he is tasked with escorting his cousin Jeanne to a French convent. At Berwick, they are captured by a group of English soldiers who are bent upon revenge on Dair for his engagement and plundering of their ships. His crew is murdered, Dair is tortured and savagely beaten and Jeanne is abused, raped and killed in front of him, leaving him a broken man. One of his captors helps him to escape and to return home, but Dair is so badly injured in body and mind that his survival is in doubt and he is believed to be mad. The Sinclair orders the local healer be brought to attend his son, but she knows there is little she can do. She tends to Dair as best she can, cleaning and dressing his wounds, but knows there is nothing she can do about his mental state. Fearing for her life should she anger the chief, she suggests that as a virgin was – indirectly – the cause of Dair’s state, then only a virgin will be able to heal him.

Padraig Sinclair sets out immediately to find his son a virgin bride, and, knowing that The Fearsome McLeod is blessed with a dozen daughters, pays a visit to his stronghold with a view to securing the hand of one of the McLeod ladies for his son. Of the four or five of the ladies of marriageable age, it seems that the one best suited to the task is clumsy, scarred Fia, who spends most of her time healing wounded animals. She is quiet, a bit odd and is often almost invisible amongst her bevy of beautiful sisters, but she agrees to travel to Carraig Brigh to see if she can do anything to help, believing she is going there as a healer and not as a potential bride.

Dair is immediately rude and dismissive of Fia, but she sees past his injuries and dishevelled appearance to the angry and lost soul beneath and finds she wants to help him, regardless of his unpleasantness. She realises that what needs is the simple comfort to be found in the presence and understanding of another person, something she is able and willing to provide. Fia blossoms at Carraig Brigh, gaining confidence in her healing skills and discovering a previously unsuspected backbone of steel which enables her to stand up for herself when necessary. But this is one of the inconsistencies I mentioned; the change from the timid, clumsy and unremarked daughter to the young woman who captivates practically all of the men of the Clan Sinclair happens almost immediately, and it’s as though she’s become a different person. The same is true of Dair, who is supposedly full of anger, tortured by his memories and plagued by guilt, and yet after one night of Fia soothing his agitated dreams by singing to him, much of that anger and guilt seems to disappear. It’s a very difficult balance to strike when a character in a book is traumatised; the trauma has to be believable if it is going to put the character into the dark place required by the story, but if the author goes too far, then the cure/redemption is not credible. The problem here is not that Dair’s return from the edge of madness is not possible, it’s that it happens very quickly and without much effort on his part or Fia’s.

The story proceeds as expected, but the romance between Fia and Dair is poorly developed and ultimately disappointing. I never felt a strong attraction or deep emotional connection between them, and in fact, they don’t spend a great deal of time together; instead, there is a lot of filler about Fia’s ferocious cat and her activities as a healer. As I write this review, I am struggling to recall anything memorable about either the romance or the leads. Fia is kind and understanding and Dair is … grumpy, which doesn’t really qualify him for the Beastly epithet as per the book’s title. I admit, however, that he made more of an impression on me later in the story, when events force him to assume leadership of the Clan and he gets the opportunity to really show what he is made of. That said, however, the change from supposed madman to decisive leader is another transition that happens far too quickly.

The pacing of the book is uneven, with the first two-thirds being rather slow and the final third suddenly ramping up the tension and the action. This section is the best thing about the book; the author takes things in a darker direction and does a good job of showing what a perilous thing it was to be a woman and a healer at this point in history.

Beauty and the Highland Beast had the potential to be a much more engaging novel than it actually is, but it suffers because too much time is devoted to peripheries at the expense of character development and interaction. Dair isn’t much of a beast; his horrific experiences are certainly enough to have unbalanced anyone, but not enough time is spent on exploring his mental state and showing him gradually responding to Fia’s persistence and gentle care. Fia is set out to be the unattractive, shy sister who is unlikely to marry; yet suddenly she’s charming the birds from the trees and men are falling over themselves for a bit of ointment and a bandage! Nothing is made of how she must feel at being sidelined by her family (albeit unintentionally) and all in all, she’s fairly nondescript. There are better retellings of Beauty and the Beast out there, so I’d encourage you to seek out one of those instead.

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr #1) by C.S Harris (audiobook) – Narrated by Davina Porter

what angels fear audio

This title may be purchased from Audible.

It’s 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III’s England. Then a beautiful young woman is found savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol found at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man-Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is one I’ve meant to get around to reading for ages. I like historical mysteries, especially when there’s an intelligent, handsome, damaged hero on offer, so these sounded like they’d hit the spot. There are eleven books in the series now, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to catch up with them all in print, so I did what I usually do in this situation and turned to the audiobook version instead. Narrator Davina Porter is someone I’ve listened to before and enjoyed, so I knew I was going to be in safe hands – so to speak.

This first book in the series introduces our hero, a former soldier whose wartime experiences continue to haunt his dreams and his waking moments. Now Viscount Devlin, he is the heir to the Earl of Hendon, Chancellor of the Exchequer, confidante of the Prime Minister and thus an extremely important figure in the government of the day. Father and son do not have an especially cordial relationship for a number of reasons, some of which are strongly hinted at in this story and which I am sure will play out in future books. Since his return, Sebastian has been reckless and has acquired himself a reputation as a bit of a ladies man, both of which annoy his father, who wants him to settle down and take a seat in Parliament.

As the story is a mystery, I’m not going to say much about the plot, save that it begins when a young woman – a beautiful actress named Rachel York – is discovered to have been raped and brutally murdered in the Lady Chapel of St. Matthew’s of the Fields church. Lying beside the body is a pistol that bears the insignia of Viscount Devlin, making him the prime suspect, and naturally the chief magistrate, Sir Henry Lovejoy wants to bring him in for questioning. A misadventure sees Sebastian having to run for his life and then determining that he needs to discover the identity of the killer in order to prove his innocence; while the authorites think he’s their man, they won’t bother to look at alternatives. With the help of a street-urchin named Tom, his friend, ex-army surgeon Paul Gibson and his former lover, actress Kat Boleyn, Sebastian utilises the skills gained as a spy during the war in order to interrogate witnesses, find clues and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

As the first in a series, there is a fair bit of setting up to be done, but C.S. Harris manages to do that without holding up the progress of the story or indulging in huge info-dumps. The story is well-paced and deliciously complex, weaving the murder investigation through a tapestry rich with historical detail and political intrigue. There’s sex, blackmail, grave-robbing and espionage, and the author does a splendid job of recreating the dingier, seedier side of Regency London, although I did have to remind myself at times that the book is set in 1811 rather than the 1840s or later, because some of the descriptions reminded me more of the London of Dickens or the Whitechapel murders. That said, Ms. Harris still succeeds in drawing an evocative picture that puts the reader/listener firmly on those dank, smelly streets, and gives her story a very strong sense of place.

On a negative note, which can also perhaps be attributed to the fact that this is the first in a series, the characterisation could have been a bit stronger, especially of Sebastian himself. The story is told in the third person (thankfully!) so we’re not in his head the whole time, but I would have appreciated a little more insight into his thought processes. His father and utterly awful sister are also somewhat underdeveloped, but again, I’m hoping that perhaps that will be rectified as the series progresses. As I’ve already said, the reasons behind Sebastian’s strained relationship with Hendon become clear, so I’m keen to see where that plotline takes us. I’m afraid I didn’t care much for Sebastian’s love-interest, though. Six years earlier, Sebastian fell head-over-heels with Kat Boleyn, a beautiful Irish actress, and wanted to marry her. Knowing she wasn’t a suitable bride for the son of an earl, Kat refused and broke Sebastian’s heart, continuing her stage career and having several wealthy protectors along the way. The couple resume a physical relationship in this book, and it’s clear that they both still care for each other, but I didn’t like that Kat had her own agenda which led to her keeping secrets from Sebastian which could have aided him in his search for the killer. She does help him in other ways, it’s true, but the fact that she hides information in order to protect someone else didn’t sit well with me.

I’m not a great reader of mysteries, so even in books where the identity of the killer is fairly obvious, I don’t always see it (!), but here I’d be surprised if even veteran mystery fans had worked it out! It’s not that it doesn’t make sense or that there are no clues as to his identity, but they’re well hidden, and I can’t quite work out whether to think they should have been just a teeny bit more obvious or to applaud the author for keeping things so well under wraps. The author’s style is very readable and although there are the seemingly obligatory smattering of Americanisms and a few anachronisms in the language, the story is strong enough for those to be fairly easily overcome.

Davina Porter’s narration is well-paced and expressive, and she differentiates effectively between all the characters. Her voice falls naturally into the contralto range, so she doesn’t have to lower the pitch overly much to portray the male characters, although sometimes there isn’t a lot of difference in register between the men and the women. Kat Boleyn, for example, is performed at more or less the same pitch as Sebastian, but is easy to identify because of the Irish lilt in her voice. It’s a good and nuanced performance overall, and fortunately she’s been retained to narrate the other books in the series, so I expect to be proceeding to the next book fairly soon.

Earls Just Want to Have Fun (Covent Garden Cubs #1) by Shana Galen (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

Earls just want audio

This title is available to purchase from Audible.

Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker – and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before – a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.

Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton, but Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead Dane is drawn into her dangerous world, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

A few months back, I listened to and reviewed The Rogue You Know, the second book in Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series. At that point, I’d heard narrator Beverley A. Crick only one other time and had been sufficiently impressed by her performance to want to listen to her again. I’ve since listened to her a few more times, and as I’d enjoyed both story and performance in Rogue, I decided to back-track and pick up its predecessor, Earls Just Want to Have Fun.

The book is a kind of mix of Cinderella and Pygmalion, as our Eliza – in this case, a street-urchin by the name of Marlowe – gets to see how the other half lives after she is abducted by the investigator hired to trace the whereabouts of a girl who went missing some fifteen years earlier. It’s an enjoyable and well-written story that has more depth than its overly-cutesy song-title appellation might suggest.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mister O. by Lauren Blakely (audiobook) – Narrated by Sebastian York

Mister O

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Just call me Mister O. Because your pleasure is my superpower.

Making a woman feel “oh god that’s good” is the name of the game, and if a man can’t get the job done, he should get the hell out of the bedroom. I’m talking toe-curling, mind-blowing, sheet-grabbing ecstasy. Like I provide every time.

I suppose that makes me a superhero of pleasure, and my mission is to always deliver.

Sure, I’ve got an addiction to giving, but step right up, and you’ll also find a man with a hot exterior, a kickass job, a razor-sharp wit, and a heart of gold. Yeah, life is good…. And then I’m thrown for a loop when a certain woman asks me to teach her everything about how to win a man. The only problem? She’s my best friend’s sister, but she’s far too tempting to resist – especially when I learn that sweet, sexy Harper has a dirty mind, too, and wants to put it to good use. What could possibly go wrong as I give the woman I’ve secretly wanted some no-strings-attached lessons in seduction?

No one will know, even if we send a few dirty sexts. Okay, a few hundred. Or if the zipper on her dress gets stuck. Not on that! Or if she gives me those f–k-me eyes on the train in front of her whole family.

The trouble is the more nights I spend with her in bed, the more days I want to spend with her out of bed. And for the first time ever, I’m not only thinking about how to make a woman cry out in pleasure – I’m thinking about how to keep her in my arms for a long time to come.

Looks like the real adventures of Mister Orgasm have only just begun…

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Anyone who knows me or reads my reviews regularly will know that I’m not really one for Contemporary romance. I freely admit to sneaking in the odd Harlequin Presents now and again, but I’m not into tattooed bikers, hockey players (or anything sport-related), Navy SEALs, firefighters, lawyers… and being British, I don’t get the appeal of small-town America. With all that said, though, I’m not averse to sampling something different occasionally, and when I was scrolling through Audible’s new releases pages recently, this caught my eye. Not only was the title one that made me grin and click to find out more, I’ve heard a lot of good things about narrator Sebastian York, so I decided to give it a go.

As one would expect from something called Mister O., it’s a very sexy book. It’s also very funny and, because the story is told entirely from the male point of view, refreshingly different. Add in a superb performance from Mr. York, and you’ve got a thoroughly entertaining listen.

Nick Hammer is twenty-nine, single, successful and knows how lucky he is to have landed his ideal gig. A few years back, his online comic strip – The Adventures of Mister Orgasm – was picked up by a television network and is now a hugely popular late night TV show. Once a weedy nerd with pencil and paper forever in hand, Nick is now a seriously hot nerd; glasses, great hair, toned body – he’s all that and a bag of chips. And fortunately for the women he dates, he is just as dedicated to the pursuit of female pleasure as his fictional creation.

It would have been easy for Nick to be an arrogant arsehole, but he isn’t. He’s genuinely aware of how lucky he’s been in his life; he’s charming and self-deprecating, and while he loves women, he’s a one-woman-at-a-time kinda guy, describing himself as a serial monogamist. He has, however, been single for a few months now, ever since the last woman he was with – a romance writer – jetted off to Italy to research her new book. There’s someone he’s seriously interested in, but – and I don’t know if this is a genuine guy thing or just a romance novel convention – she’s his best friend’s little sister and therefore strictly off-limits.

Harper Holiday has known Nick for years and they are great friends who get each other in a way many other people don’t. A few months back, something changed between them when the two of them decided to wind up her brother and make him think that they were getting it on. That prank involved a bit of touching and groping, and Harper hasn’t been able to forget the look and feel of Nick’s hard body and warm skin under her hands. But she knows she’s not his type, and is content with his friendship. Mostly.

Harper is a great character. She’s vibrant, funny and insightful, but when it comes to men, she’s hopeless. She’s a magician, and makes her living by performing at children’s parties and events, but while she loves her job, it’s also quite a lonely one. Most of her time is spent with kids and parents, so she doesn’t have many opportunities to interact with single men. When Nick witnesses her getting tongue-tied around a guy she likes, and realises that she has absolutely no idea when a man is interested in her, he’s stunned. Harper is the girl of his dreams (with alarming frequency) – how can she not know how attractive she is?

Things start to ramp up between them when Harper shyly asks Nick for dating advice. Naturally, he’s appalled at the thought of teaching her how to be with another man, but when he realises how alone she feels and how important it is to her, he can’t say no.

There’s no question where this is headed – it’s a romance novel after all! Flirty texting, dirty sexting, multiple Os on multiple surfaces… it’s all here; and it’s hot and sexy and sweet and filthy and incredibly honest. But it also becomes about much more than just sex and I really enjoyed listening to Nick’s thought processes as lust turns to love.

In addition to the humour and the male PoV, another thing the story has going for it is that it’s wonderfully free of contrived angst and drama. There’s a point towards the end when I wondered if things might be headed that way but Nick and Harper are intelligent adults who actually TALK to each other, so thankfully, it doesn’t go there.

Sebastian York is a narrator I’ve been aware of for some time, but because he narrates mostly Contemporary and New Adult romances, I’ve never listened to him before. Boy, have I been missing out! He has a lovely, deep baritone that can quite easily send shivers down the spine and his manner of delivery and comic timing are perfect. This is a first person narrative and he totally inhabits the character of Nick Hammer, bringing him to life in all his deadpan, honest and sexy glory. Mr. York’s female voices are very good, too, a slight hike in pitch and softening of tone working well to portray Harper and the various female secondary characters, all of whom are very clearly differentiated. The sex scenes are frequent – I have no idea what the sex-scene/page-count ratio is, but it’s pretty high! – but they’re very well written and narrated with self-assurance and absolute conviction.

Mister O. turned out to be one of those impulse decisions that paid off, supplying me with eight hours of funny, sexy entertainment. If you like your audiobooks on the steamy side, then you should definitely check it out.