The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor (audiobook) – Narrated by Ariyam Kassam

the other man

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Heir to his father’s Mumbai business empire, Ved Mehra has money, looks, and status. He is also living as a closeted gay man. Thirty-eight, lonely, still reeling from a breakup, and under pressure from his exasperated mother, Ved agrees to an arranged marriage. He regrettably now faces a doomed future with the perfectly lovely Disha Kapoor.

Then Ved’s world is turned upside down when he meets Carlos Silva, an American on a business trip in India.

As preparations for his wedding get into full swing, Ved finds himself drawn into a relationship he could never have imagined – and ready to take a bold step. Ved is ready to embrace who he is and declare his true feelings regardless of family expectations and staunch traditions. But with his engagement party just days away, and with so much at risk, Ved will have to fight for what he wants – if it’s not too late to get it.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Farhad J. Dadyburjor’s The Other Man is one of those audiobooks I picked up on a whim – I hadn’t heard of the author (I’ve since learned he’s been an entertainment and lifestyle journalist for over twenty years) and was similarly in the dark about the narrator, but the premise of the story appealed – and I’m pleased to report that this is one of those times when a gamble paid off, because I enjoyed the story very much and Ariyan Kassam’s narration is excellent.

Ved (pronounced to my Western ears as “Wade”) Mehra seems to have it all. At thirty-eight, he’s handsome, well-off and high-status; he runs his father’s multi-million electronics corporation and as the Mehra’s only child, will one day inherit it. On the surface, he has everything a man would want – but that’s only an illusion. Life as a gay man in a very conservative society where homosexuality is still illegal (the book is set around the time when the law against homosexuality was eventually repealed – which wasn’t until 2018) is difficult and often disheartening; Ved can’t live openly and honestly, yet he can’t face the idea of coming out to his parents, knowing what a dreadful disappointment it would be to them to discover he isn’t the perfect Indian son. He had thought, a few years back, that he’d found someone to share his life with (albeit in secret), until Akshay announced he was bowing to the inevitable and going ahead with the marriage that had been arranged for him. The break-up was four years ago, and Ved has never found anyone else he wanted to spend time with, instead filling the void with endless work and having meaningless hook-ups when he wants sex.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Missing Page (Page & Sommers #2) by Cat Sebastian

the missing page

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When James learns that an uncle he hasn’t heard from in ages has left him something in his will, he figures that the least he can do is head down to Cornwall for a weekend to honor the old man’s parting wishes. He finds the family home filled with half-remembered guests and unwanted memories, but more troubling is that his uncle has tasked his heirs with uncovering the truth behind a woman’s disappearance twenty years earlier.

Leo doesn’t like any of it. He’s just returned from one of his less pleasant missions and maybe he’s slightly paranoid about James’s safety, but he’s of the opinion that rich people aren’t to be trusted where wills are concerned. So he does what any sensible spy would do and infiltrates the house party.

Together they unravel a mystery that exposes long-standing family secrets and threatens to involve James more than either of them would like.

Rating: B

The Missing Page is the second book to feature country doctor James Sommers and spy Leo Page, whom we first met in Hither, Page, a cosy mystery  (sort of – true cosies aren’t supposed to include sex or swearing and there’s a little bit of both here!) set in a sleepy English village a few years after the end of World War II.  That book came out in 2019, so we’ve had a bit of a wait for this sequel, but it was worth it; The Missing Page is a charming, clever and none-too serious riff on the classic Country House Mystery in which we learn more about James’ past when he visits the childhood home to which he hasn’t returned in twenty years.

By the time the book begins, Leo has been ‘lodging’ in James’ house in Wychcomb St. Mary for over a year, and they’ve settled into a kind of domesticity neither had ever thought to have, although Leo’s job as a government agent takes him away fairly often.  James is eagerly awaiting Leo’s return from his most recent mission – but shortly before he’s due back, James receives a letter advising him of the death of his uncle, Rupert Bellamy, and asking him to be present at the reading of the will at the family home in Cornwall.   James spent many summers at Blackthorn as a child following the death of his parents, but was whisked away following a family tragedy in 1927 and was never invited back.

James is greeted by his cousin Martha, who had kept house for their uncle for as long as James can remember, and finds Rupert’s surviving daughter, James’ cousin Camilla, her husband Sir Anthony – a Harley Street doctor – and their daughter Lilah, whom he’s surprised to recognise as a famous actress, already gathered together, as well as a woman he doesn’t know at all, who is introduced as Madame Fournier.  The bequests are surprisingly small, until the very end, when the family solicitor reads the final appendix stating that the bulk of the estate will go to whoever can discover what really happened to Rupert’s other daughter Rose on 1st August 1927.  Rose is widely believed to have drowned that day, although there were lots of other rumours in circulation – she took her own life, she ran off with the chauffeur or the vicar, she was murdered  – among them, but Rose’s body was never found and nothing conclusive was ever discovered.

When Leo – exhausted after a very long journey – returns to Wychcomb St. Mary to find James gone, he pays a visit to their friends, former spies Cora and Edith, hoping that perhaps he’ll find James there.  When the ladies tell him where James has gone and why, Leo becomes concerned, especially at learning James had been present on the day that Rose Bellamy is thought to have died, worried at what memories being back there might stir up. Leo wastes no time in following James to Cornwall, determined to do whatever he can to help.

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

Limelight (Vino and Veritas #15) by E. Davies (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

limelight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Save the bees, ride a rock star.

Formerly famous…and planning to keep it that way.

After my band kicked me out, I ran away to Vermont, changed my name, and kept my head down. So far, it’s working and nobody knows who I am. Or who I was. Until I see geeky poet Caleb stumbling through his first open mic night and I can’t help rescuing him. He’s as sweet as the honey my bees make and sexy enough to make me rethink so many things. But I can’t tell him my secret, or I’ll lose the anonymous life I worked so hard to build.

Everyone warns me he’s too good to be true.

I can’t believe a gorgeous, successful winemaker like Tag is into shy, geeky little accountant me. But he helps me blossom and believe in my talent, and works his way into my heart and my bed…not necessarily in that order. I’m falling for a man for the first time, and now I know what the missing number in my equation has always been.

When lies are revealed, though, someone’s going to get stung….

Rating: Narration – A; Content – D+

It’s no secret around here that I’ll listen to Greg Boudreaux read just about anything. He’s the main reason I picked up Limelight (the fifteenth book in the multi-authored Vino and Veritas series) – and having listened to and read several of the other books in the set, I believed the story in this one should at least be fairly decent. Oh, how wrong I was. Limelight is six-and-a-half hours of no story, ridiculously contrived (minimal) conflict, overblown and sentimental dialogue and instalove – and if I hadn’t been listening to it for review, I’d have DNF’d well before the halfway mark.

The story – such as it is – is this. Some years before it begins, Tag Campbell – aka the artist formerly known as Titus Taylor – was a member of a world famous, hugely successful rock band. But when creative differences led to his bandmates forcing him out (in a very public, unprofessional and hurtful way), he ran away to Vermont, changed his name, kept his head down, and for the past few years, has run a small farm near Burlington where he keeps bees and makes mead which he sells to, among other places, the Vino and Veritas wine bar. He’s just made a delivery there one evening and is about to head out when his eye is caught by a head of bright blond curls and the young man they belong to as he steps up to the microphone on stage.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

TBR Challenge: Lights. Camera. Murder. (Silver Screen #1) by C.S. Poe

lights, camera, murder

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Private investigator Rory Byrne, has gained a reputation as someone the elite of New York City can trust to solve their problems quickly and quietly. So when a hotshot television producer hires him to recover a stolen script, Rory isn’t surprised that he’ll need to go undercover on the set of a historical drama. He has his hands full trying to investigate a skeptical and agitated crew while they work around the clock on The Bowery, a new show which promises to shake up the television industry.

To make a delicate situation even more complicated, the production is led by out-and-proud Marion Roosevelt and Rory is downright smitten with the handsome and talented actor. But every member of the crew and cast is a suspect in the theft. And as Rory investigates, Marion’s behavior grows increasingly suspicious. Then the murders start.

If Rory is to find the thief before The Bowery is cancelled, he’ll have to share his identity with the one man on set he can’t trust—Marion Roosevelt.

Grade: B

Lights. Camera. Murder. originally appeared in the Footsteps in the Dark anthology from 2019 (along with stories from Josh Lanyon, Dal Maclean, S.C. Wynne, Z.A. Maxfield and others) – and as I’ve had good experiences with C.S. Poe’s work lately, I thought I’d give this novella a go for the January “quickie” prompt.  I enjoyed the story, and was pleased to learn that the author is writing a sequel/series set in the same world with the same lead characters.

PI Rory Byrne has gained a reputation as the go-to guy for people who need their problems solved quickly and quietly.  He’s very good at what he does and is something of a workaholic – which accounts for his string of ex-boyfriends, most of whom left when they got fed up with playing second fiddle to his job.

The story opens with Rory being hired by a ‘hot shot’ (in Rory-speak, that’s “Royal Pain in the Ass”) television producer to investigate the theft of a script.  John Anderson is the producer of a new TV show being filmed in Queens called The Bowery – an historical drama set in turn-of-the-century New York centred around an Irish gang leader who is in a committed same-sex relationship.  Anderson is planning on branching out and has written a pilot for what he says is a bigger, edgier and better show than The Bowery – but it’s gone missing and he’s sure it’s been stolen.  The job is a bit out of Rory’s usual line – it’s on a live film set, likely an inside job, there are literally hundreds of suspects (basically the entire cast and crew) – and he only has a few days to solve the case.

So Rory goes undercover as a PA (production assistant) and immediately, all the tensions – both on and off set – hierarchies and petty politics that come with working in such a high-pressure, high-profile environment become apparent.  The key PA is an arsehole, the Production Manager clearly doesn’t like the on-set production crew, there’s obvious hostility between the director and lead actor Marion Roosevelt… nobody’s talking, everybody’s nervous – and then in the midst of it all, one of the crew is murdered.

Lights, Camera, Murder  is a well-crafted and engaging read, despite its small page-count.  The mystery is intriguing, with enough twists, turns and red herrings to keep it interesting without going over the top, and although the secondary characters are drawn with broad strokes they have depth and individuality.  Rory is the PoV character, so he’s the one we get to know the best, and he’s hard-bitten in a very noir-ish kind of way (I admit that when I first saw the cover, I though the story was set in the 1950s); he’s in his forties and has been there, done that several times, and the one constant in his life is his cat Gary (a total scene-stealer).  He isn’t too worried about his poor track record with relationships, although meeting Marion makes him start to wonder if maybe it’s time he made some changes and stopped getting in his own way.

Marion is almost twenty years younger than Rory, he’s gorgeous, charming, super-talented, sweet and savvy; he’s landed the role of a lifetime in The Bowery and feels passionately about the opportunity it’s given him to deliver a positive portrayal of a strong queer character in love.  Sparks fly between him and Rory from the moment they meet and their romance gets off to a promising start.  I confess though, that had this been a standalone and not the start of a series, I might have found it a bit rushed.

The writing flows smoothly and Ms. Poe does a great job when it comes to describing the day-to-day working of a bustling movie set.  I always enjoy her wry humour – and she gets extra brownie points for Gary the cat, whose utter “cat-ness” clearly signals someone Who Knows Cats.

Lights, Camera, Murder is an entertaining whodunit with a touch of romance, and although short, it reaches a satisfying conclusion and feels ‘complete’.  I’m looking forward to reading what the author has in store for Rory and Marion next.

White Trash Warlock (Adam Binder #1) by David R. Slayton (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael David Axtell

white trash warlock

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Not all magicians go to schools of magic.

Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.

Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.

It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings…including his first love.

Rating: Narration: B+; Content ; A-

David R. Slayton’s White Trash Warlock was recommended to me a while back (by Gregory Ashe, no less) so when I saw it in the Audible Plus catalogue, I pounced on it  – and I’m so glad I did, because I was completely glued to it for the entire nine-and-a-bit hours of its run-time.  The story is inventive, the central character is flawed, complex and captivating (just how I like ‘em!) and the narration is really good, so it was a win all round.

Adam Binder has low-level psychic and magical abilities that are often more of a burden than a gift.  Aged just twenty, he lives with his Great-Aunt Sue in Guthrie, Oklahoma and is estranged from the rest of his family; his father left when he was young, his mother doesn’t seem to care and he hasn’t seen his brother Robert (now a doctor in Denver) since Robert had him committed to an institution at thirteen because Adam was hearing voices.  Adam got out as soon as he turned eighteen and now spends much of his time tracking down and destroying dangerous magical artefacts and trying to find their creator, a warlock he suspects may be his father.

Given their estrangement, Robert is the last person Adam expects to hear from – even less does he expect a request for help.  Robert’s wife Annie has begun behaving extremely erratically and Robert has seen things in her behaviour that suggest to him that whatever is wrong with her may be something supernatural.  He asks Adam to come to Denver to do what he can to help; Adam is reluctant but he goes.  Whatever is wrong, Annie doesn’t deserve it – and also, he has a lead that points to the artefacts he’s been searching for originating from somewhere in Denver.

The reunion between the brothers – and Adam and their mother – is uneasy at best, but when Adam sees Annie, he realises she’s possessed by some sort of spirit entity.  A visit to the hospital where Robert works reveals a connection between it and the spirit – while he’s looking around, the spirit tries to kill Adam, and when a couple of cops inadvertently get in the way and one of them is killed,  Adam manages to save the life of the other by giving him a strand of his own life-force, making it impossible for the Reaper to claim him and unwittingly creating a bond between himself and the young police officer.

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

A Touch of Fever (Arcane Hearts #1) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Zachary Johnson

a touch of fever

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jackson Pryde was never great at wielding magic. Instead, he works as an artificer, crafting enchanted devices in the Black Market, a shadowy bazaar of wonders. But Xander Wright, the mouthy, pretentious mage next door, hates all the hammering in Jackson’s workshop.

When a chance assignment forces them to team up, they discover a terrifying predicament. Something is driving members of the magical community into murderous rages. Jackson and Xander must combine might and magic to find the source of the Fever and stop it. Can they put aside their differences long enough to end the Fever, or will they succumb to its bloodthirsty curse?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Nazri Noor has penned a number of urban fantasy series, but this is the first book of his to appear on my radar. I confess though, that the main draw was Zachary Johnson’s name listed as the narrator; I’ve only listened to him once before (in Emma Scott’s Someday, Someday, which he co-narrated with Greg Tremblay) but liked his work enough to want to listen to him again, and when this title was offered for review, I grabbed the opportunity.

A Touch of Fever is a fun romp through an interesting fantastical world inhabited by (among others) imps, merfolk, enchanters, dragons, sylphs, fae and a scene-stealing gryphon, combined with a murder mystery and a childhood friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance between (says the blurb) a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer. Arcane Hearts is an ongoing series (book four is due for release at the end of January) and this story ends on a firm HFN; this is so far the only one of the set available in audio, but I hope the others will follow.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dearest Milton James by N.R. Walker (audiobook) – Narrated by Glen Lloyd

dearest milton james

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Malachi Keogh finds himself in a job he neither wanted nor asked for when his father, boss of Sydney’s postal service, sends him to the end of the business line, a.k.a. the Dead Letter Office. Malachi expects it to be tedious and boring, but instead discovers a warehouse with a quirky bunch of misfit co-workers, including a stoic and nerdy boss, Julian Pollard.

Malachi’s intrigued by Julian at first, and he soon learns there’s more to the man than his boring clothes of beige, tan, and brown; a far cry from Malachi’s hot pink, lilac, and electric blue. Where Julian is calm and ordered, Malachi is chaos personified, but despite their outward differences, there’s an immediate chemistry between them that sends Malachi’s head – and heart – into a spin.

To keep his father happy, Malachi needs to keep this job. He also needs to solve the mystery of the pile of old letters that sits in Julian’s office and maybe get to the bottom of what makes Julian tick. Like everything that goes through the mail center, only time will tell if Malachi has found his intended destination or if he’ll find himself returned to sender.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Dearest Milton James is a charming and delightfully frothy contemporary romance in which the two leads fall in love while tracking down the author of a series of ‘lost’ letters written fifty years earlier. It’s an easy, undemanding listen, with a lot of humour and a lot of heart, and new-to-me narrator Glen Lloyd (a native Aussie, I believe) delivers an animated and engaging performance.

When the story begins, Malachi Keogh has been pretty much dragged by his father – the boss of Sydney’s postal service – into the office of Julian Pollard, head of the Mail Redistribution Centre, (which, despite being re-named a while back, is still colloquially known as “the Dead Letter Office”) – the place where all the city’s undeliverable mail ends up. Malachi has just been fired (again) – this time, because he stood up for a colleague who was being discriminated against – so his exasperated father pulls a few strings and gets Malachi this job with the warning that he’d better stick at it.

You can read the rest of this reveiw at AudioGals.

If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis

if you love something

This title may be purchased from Amazon

As executive chef at one of the hottest restaurants in DC, DeShawn Franklin has almost everything he’s ever wanted. He’s well-known, his restaurant is Michelin starred and he can write his own ticket anywhere he wants. Until his grandmother calls him home and drops two bombshells:

1) She has cancer and she’s not seeking treatment.

2) She’s willing half her estate to DeShawn’s ex-husband, Malik.

Make that three bombshells. 

3) That whole divorce thing? It didn’t quite go through. DeShawn and Malik are still married.

And when DeShawn’s shady uncle contests Grandma’s will, there’s only one path back to justice: play it like he and Malik have reconciled. They need to act like a married couple just long enough to dispense with the lawsuit.

Once DeShawn is back in Malik’s orbit, it’s not hard to remember why they parted. All the reasons he walked away remain—but so do all the reasons he fell in love in the first place.

Rating: B-

I’ve been meaning to read one of Jayce Ellis’ m/m romances for a while, so I was happy to pick up her latest – If You Love Something – for review. It’s an easy, sexy/sweet, low-angst read – nothing spectacular or outstanding, but the engaging writing and likeable characters kept me reading and were enough for me to be able to offer a recommendation.

Michelin-starred chef DeShawn Franklin is living his dream as Executive Chef at a trendy Washington DC restaurant.  He’s something of a local celebrity and is at the top of his profession, although the fact that as EC, he doesn’t get to cook all that often isn’t something he’d banked on, and nor are the continual requests (read: orders) from management for him to film TV segments and make public appearances.  It is what it is though, and he goes along with it with (mostly) good grace.  But a call from his beloved grandmother telling him she isn’t going to seek treatment for her cancer suddenly turns his world upside down.  He drops everything and rushes to her side – where she informs him that she’s leaving him her house – the home DeShawn grew up in – in her will, and all her liquid assets will go to Malik, DeShawn’s ex-husband.  DeShawn knows his grandmother was very fond of Malik and has stayed in touch with him, but those bequests mean she’s leaving nothing to her son, DeShawn’s uncle Robert – which Robert isn’t going to be pleased about.

As if all this news isn’t enough of a bombshell, there’s one more important thing DeShawn needs to know in order to be prepared for the trouble Robert will inevitably stir up.  Although he and Malik filed for divorce seven years before, there was a problem with the paperwork and the divorce never actually went through.  He and Malik are still married.

After the (not)divorce, Malik Franklin returned home to help run his struggling family restaurant alongside his brother James and sister Sheila.  He’s never told his family about his marriage to DeShawn, mostly because it was over before he came out to them as gay, and coming out was difficult enough, without having to explain his marriage – and why he wasn’t married any longer.  He’s never really got over DeShawn and tells himself that letting him go all those years ago was the right thing to do.  Back then, DeShawn was a talented sous chef with big ambitions and bigger dreams, and when things started to take off for him, Malik realised he could never be the husband DeShawn needed, especially as he wasn’t ready to come out.

“I couldn’t let him give up his future to deal with my present.  He deserved so much more.  And the only way I could give it to him was to let him go”.

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

Crash Site (Fiona Carver #2) by Rachel Grant

crash site

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Fiona Carver has landed a dream assignment: conducting an archaeological inventory of Ruby Island, a privately owned, pristine gem in the Caribbean. Two months in paradise exploring and mapping a lush rainforest, vast caves, and a seventeenth-century star fort and following up on legends of hidden Spanish gold. Add a simmering reunion with wildlife photographer Dean Slater and it’s enough to take Fiona’s breath away. But the sparkle fades when Dean’s arrival is met with sudden, terrifying danger.

Reunited and determined to see the project through, Fiona and Dean find themselves in a swirl of intrigue as they delve into the complex history of the unspoiled refuge, now a tropical haven for billionaires and their secrets. But the work isn’t easy, as someone appears determined to kill the project—by any means necessary.

As betrayal casts tropical storm clouds over Ruby Island and treasured friendships dissolve into distrust, one thing becomes clear: Fiona and Dean are trapped in a dangerous paradise.

Rating: B

The second in Rachel Grant’s Fiona Carver series, Crash Site is the sequel to 2021’s Dangerous Ground, and it picks up around nine months after the events of the first book.  Although the mystery/suspense plot here is self-contained, the central relationship between the two leads was left unresolved at the end of Dangerous Ground, so I’d advise anyone interested in this one to read that first.  And that being the case, there are spoilers for the previous book in this review.

Naval Archaeologist Fiona Carver has landed herself a dream job on the gorgeous, privately owned (and fictional) Ruby Island in the Caribbean where, together with two other archaeologists, she has been employed to conduct an archaeological inventory of the island and its seventeenth century fort –which comes complete with legends of hidden Spanish gold.  Fiona has known its wealthy owner Jude Reynolds (the island has been owned by his family for generations) for over a decade, from when they met as fellow students at archaeological field school – although they’re not exactly friends; she went on a date with him back then but he behaved like a complete tosser and she hasn’t seen him since.  But the Ruby Island job was just too good to pass up – especially as Jude’s wealth means there will be no budget worries, and he genuinely cares about the work.  He also seems to be working hard to convince Fiona that he’s not the same selfish, entitled brat he was back then – but Fiona isn’t sure how to feel about that.  Sure, Jude is handsome and rich, he’s interested in her and understands her work… but she’s hung-up on someone else.

Wildlife photographer Dean Slater had been on the remote Alaskan island of Chiksook trying to find out what happened to his missing brother Dylan when he and Fiona found themselves stranded in a hostile environment and forced to rely on each other in order to survive (Dangerous Ground). The adrenaline-fuelled days they spent together engendered a real trust and closeness between them, and fed the flames of the mutual attraction that had sparked between them from their first meeting – although a basic incompatibility in their approach to sex and relationships seemed destined to separate them.  Dean is unwilling to risk experiencing the hurt and devastation he felt on the death of his beloved wife from a brain tumor a decade earlier and made it very clear that he doesn’t do relationships, while Fiona has never been one for NSA sex or short-lived flings. It’s clear by the end of the book that they’re head-over-heels for one another, but Dean is adamant that he’s not about to break his no relationships rule and they part, both of them obviously unhappy and not expecting to see each other again.

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

When First I Met My King/The Dragon’s Tale (The Arthur Quartet 1&2) by Harper Fox (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

These titles may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon:

Book 1Book 2

When First I Met My King:

Once upon a time, there was a winter that wouldn’t end. And all that stands between the people of White Meadows and starvation is a young man called Lance.

Lance is 16 years old, and for all his courage and hunting skills, he’s running out of fight. His family has been wiped out in a border raid, and he’s drowning in loneliness. When strangers arrive at White Meadows, all Lance can think of is using his last strength to drive them away. But these men have come in peace, not to burn and destroy. Among them is a hot-headed, utterly charming prince-in-training named Arthur.

For Lance, Arthur’s arrival is like the return of the sun. The prince has everything – learning, battle skills, a splendid destiny. But as the days unfold in the remote northern settlement in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall, it soon becomes clear that Arthur needs Lance, too.

The Dragon’s Tale:

Lance has finally gained his freedom to join his beloved king. It is the depth of a northern winter, but his heart and his blood are warm with joy as he sets off to the fort of Din Guardi on the coast, where Arthur is locked in negotiation with the ancient powers of the realm – warlords who could help him defend the whole country against the Saxon invaders, if only he can unite them. But Lance knows such unity may not be possible – or even for the ultimate good of the kingdom. And although his delight at being with Art is boundless, there are other, darker forces at work in the wild dune lands.

A deep and delicate balance has been disturbed, and the fort is under siege by a creature out of legend, a monster that ravages villages and leaves a trail of bodies and burned fields in its wake. The darkest nights of winter are approaching. Arthur, with unendurable weights to bear on shoulders too young for them, only has Lance to befriend him and shield him from the bitterness of battlefield experience and loss. As their bond grows, Lance must find a way to heal the breach between the old world and the new before it devours the man he loves.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Harper Fox sets her re-imagining of the Arthurian legends – The Arthur Quartet – firmly in Dark Ages Britain, in a divided land slowly emerging from centuries of Roman occupation, one in which the ‘new religion’ of Christianity is challenging the old ways and polytheistic traditions of the Druids and the Celts. She places Lancelot – Lance – at the centre of the tale, relating most events from his perspective and skilfully weaving together his backstory with the familiar elements of the legend – Excalibur, Camelot, Merlin, the Round Table, knights, dragons, magic – and laying the foundations of (what I hope will be) an epic romance between him and Arthur.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.