Thorn in His Side by Helen Juliet (audiobook) – Narrated by Kieran Flitton

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

The last thing beautiful, inexperienced Joshua Bellamy wants is an arranged marriage with the terrifying Darius Legrand. But if Joshua wants to save himself and his family from being thrown onto the streets by Darius’s father, he has no choice.

However, when Darius goes to extreme lengths to rescue Joshua from near-death, Joshua has to wonder if there’s more to his beastly husband than he previously thought.

Darius Legrand, a former captain, is used to being manipulated by his cruel father, but when Joshua is dragged into the feud between their families, he decides something has to change.

Protecting Joshua is one thing, but Darius knows that falling in love can’t be an option. Someone so young and beautiful could never give his heart to an older, ill-tempered brute like Darius.

Joshua is determined to bring joy to Darius’s life again, and Darius refuses to let Joshua hide his sweetness from the world any longer. Over time, it becomes clear that despite their differences, their hearts are drawing closer together.

But can happiness ever be possible for a rose and a thorn, when Darius’s father will go to any lengths to see his deadly game through?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – D+

Helen Juliet’s A Thorn in His Side is an m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it’s a bit of a mess right from the start.  To begin with, the setting is confusing.  I did read the synopsis before opting to review it and the setting wasn’t mentioned, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting it to be a fantasy or some sort of AU historical (AU because there’s no problem with a gay marriage) – but no, it’s 21st century Kent.   But this version of 21st century Kent, not too far from Folkestone is somewhere remote and off the grid with no mobile signal or internet.  Um.  Okay. But the hero is an adult, and rich enough to live in a castle… he can’t pick up the landline to Virgin, BT or Sky?   Anyway, he’s our Beast figure.  Darius Legrand  is a heavily scarred, thirty-seven-year-old military veteran who lives in the aforementioned  castle in the wilds of Kent, has plenty of money of his own (an inheritance from his late mother) and who is, for some reason I couldn’t understand, terrified of his father – who comes and goes as he pleases – and puts up no fight whatsoever against his nefarious schemes.

Beauty is Joshua Bellamy (BELL-amy – geddit?) the twenty-one year old, totally gorgeous son of a business associate of Victor Legrand’s and when his father suffers some disastrous losses, Joshua agrees to marry Darius in order to prevent their being made destitute; Darius marries Joshua because… er… his dad told him to?  Joshua is slightly built and worries he’s not very ‘manly’ – he’s also like the worst kind of simpering romance heroine who cries a lot, indulges in weepy hand-wringing and thinks of her incredible beauty as something of a curse.  Oh, and he’s a virgin.

So we’ve got the scarred veteran who thinks there’s no way such a beautiful young man could possibly be interested in him, and the beautiful young man who, after being a bit scared of his new husband, starts to discover a softer side to him while also wondering if such a piece of hunky hawtness could possibly fancy a l’il femmy guy like him.

And then there’s the baddie.  Victor Legrand is… well comparing him to a pantomime villain is, frankly, an insult to pantomime villains everywhere.  He seems to be present in the story for no other reason than to be the evilest evil that ever evilled.

It’s very rare for me to DNF a book or audiobook I’ve agreed to review, but I gave up at around 70%, which I consider to be enough of a sample to justify my comments.  I only stuck with it that long because I wanted to give new-to-me narrator Kieran Flitton a fair crack of the whip.  His performance is easily the best thing about this audiobook, and I would definitely listen to him again, although – hopefully – in better material.  His voice is attractive, his diction is clear and easy to understand and while his pacing is perhaps the teeniest bit on the slow side, it wasn’t really an issue.  His character differentiation is good and his vocal characterisations suit the characters with Darius speaking in deeper, resonant tones while Joshua’s voice is higher pitched and he’s more softly spoken.  Some of his European (?) accents are a bit dodgy, and there were some pronunciation issues which should have been picked up;  “monsieur” (it’s “m’sieu”);  Folkestone (it’s “st’n” not “stone” at the end)  and the pronunciation of Darius as “Daah-rius” while it might have been correct (although I’m not sure), was extremely irritating.  Where Mr. Flitton really excels is in the quieter moments and intimate scenes between Darius and Joshua, and the love scenes are extremely well done (Shane East – look out, you’ve got some serious competition in the sexy Brit department!)

As is obvious, I can’t recommend Thorn in His Side; the idea was a good one, but the execution is severely lacking.  I recently enjoyed a couple of the audiobooks in the Pine Cove series by Ms. Juliet’s alter-ego, H.J. Welch and had hoped for more of the same, but what I found instead was a story that moved slower than a snail through molasses and smelled far more of elderly cheese than roses.

 

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