Dangerous Promise (The Protector #1) by Megan Hart (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Nina Bronson used to be all human – until the experimental surgeries and internal technology that saved her life and enhanced her as a soldier also forced her to leave the army for private service. Now she and her peers are facing slow, painful deaths unless their technology is upgraded, and the one man keeping those upgrades illegal and unavailable is an obnoxious billionaire. A man too gorgeous for his own good.

A man she’s supposed to guard with her life.

Ewan Donahue is the public voice speaking out against the enhancement procedures of injured soldiers. But when his lobbying leads to death threats, he needs someone to protect him around the clock. He doesn’t want to rely on an enhanced soldier – Nina’s tech goes against everything he stands for. But he really doesn’t want her to be beautiful like she is. Doesn’t want her to suffer like she will. Doesn’t want to succumb to the searing desire he feels for her. As a series of attacks on his life send them to a remote cabin, their close proximity brings them together in ways they never imagined. They know they must prevent the need simmering between them, resist each other at all costs. But when tensions are high and danger is close, passion burns hottest of all….

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B+

Megan Hart’s The Protector trilogy is set in the near future, in a world which has suffered a Second Cold War, massive environmental damage following an abortive attempt to colonise the moon and the near destruction of the planet’s computer infrastructure when an unknown hacker wiped out around ninety percent of the world’s servers and back-up data, deleting bank accounts, personal data and causing untold chaos. It’s a world that is recognisable (and eerily plausible!) yet subtly different from our own, and the author does a fabulous job in Dangerous Promise  of balancing the need for backstory and world-building with the plot and the romance in the story.

I’ll say now that this is a trilogy in which all three books need to be read or listened to in order to experience the complete story and reach the HEA; fortunately, at time of writing, all three books are available so you’ll be able to jump straight in to the whole thing without having to wait months for the next instalment.

Nina Bronson is one of fifteen former soldiers who underwent experimental surgery after being severely injured. In fact, she was dead for seven minutes – and was brought back to life by the implantation of newly invented nano-technology in her brain, technology which gives her greater strength and stamina and the ability to control her physical and emotional reactions and bodily functions. But not long after these procedures were carried out, the program which created it was shut down and laws were passed forbidding any future research or experimentation on the tech, meaning that Nina and her fellow ‘enhanced’ are the only ones like them in existence, and that as the tech eventually degrades, so will they.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.


Why Kill the Innocent (Sebastian St. Cyr #13) by C.S. Harris

This title may be purchased from Amazon

London, 1814. As a cruel winter holds the city in its icy grip, the bloody body of a beautiful young musician is found half-buried in a snowdrift. Jane Ambrose’s ties to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne, panic the palace, which moves quickly to shut down any investigation into the death of the talented pianist. But Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife Hero refuse to allow Jane’s murderer to escape justice.

Untangling the secrets of Jane’s world leads Sebastian into a maze of dangerous treachery where each player has his or her own unsavory agenda and no one can be trusted. As the Thames freezes over and the people of London pour onto the ice for a Frost Fair, Sebastian and Hero find their investigation circling back to the palace and building to a chilling crescendo of deceit and death . . .

Rating: A

C.S. Harris has maintained a consistently high standard throughout her long-running Sebastian St. Cyr series of historical mysteries, but the last two or three books, in particular, have been outstanding – which is quite remarkable when one considers that this latest instalment, Why Kill the Innocent, is number thirteen.  The individual mysteries are extremely well-constructed and set against a superbly researched and realised historical background; and so far, each one has been self-contained, so that each book could be read as a standalone.  Notice I used the word could – because actually, this isn’t a series I would recommend dipping in and out of or reading out of order, because there are overarching plot threads that run from book to book you really don’t want to miss out on.  But unlike the other books in the series, the previous one – Where the Dead Lie –  left some aspects of the mystery unsolved and readers wondering whether the main villain of the was ever going to be made to pay for his crimes.  As we’re at book thirteen of a fifteen-book series, I’m guessing the answer is yes, but we’re going to have to wait a little while longer to see it!

Why Kill the Innocent is set in the winter of 1814, which is on record as being one of the coldest ever experienced in England.  On her way back from a charitable visit in the East End, Sebastian’s wife Hero stumbles – literally – on a body lying in the street, and is surprised to recognise the dead woman as Jane Ambrose, a talented musician who taught piano to a number of the children of the nobility – including Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Regent and Heir Presumptive to the throne.   It’s immediately obvious that Jane was murdered – she died from a blow to the head – and that the lack of blood around her indicates she was killed elsewhere. Hero immediately sends for her husband and for Henry Lovejoy, the magistrate from Bow Street who has aided Sebastian on a number of investigations and has become a friend; all of them know that once the news of Jane’s death is made public, the palace machinery will move fast to prevent any scandal being attached to the princess by covering up the truth and preventing any further investigation into the matter.  Or trying to – because Sebastian isn’t about to allow the brutal murder of a young woman to go unnoticed or her murderer to evade justice.

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

Marry in Scandal (Marriage of Convenience #2) by Anne Gracie

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Shy young heiress, Lady Lily Rutherford, is in no hurry to marry. She dreams of true love and a real courtship. But when disaster strikes, she finds herself facing a scandal-forced marriage to her rescuer, Edward Galbraith, a well known rake.

Despite his reputation Lily is drawn to the handsome Galbraith. In the gamble of her life, she agrees to marry him, hoping to turn a convenient marriage into a love match.

As heir to a title, Galbraith knows he must wed, so a convenient marriage suits him perfectly. But there is a darkness in his past, and secrets he refuses to share with his tender-hearted young bride. All Lily’s efforts to get close to him fall on stony ground, and in desperation she retreats to his childhood home–the place he’s avoided for nearly a decade.

Must Lily reconcile herself to a marriage without love? Or will Galbraith realize that this warm-hearted, loving girl is the key to healing the wounds of his past–and his heart?

Rating: B

Readers first met Lily Rutherford, heroine of Marry in Scandal (the second book in Anne Gracie’s Marriage of Convenience series), in Marry in Haste, where she was introduced as one of the two somewhat unruly sisters of its hero, Cal, Earl of Ashendon.  Now eighteen years old, Lily, her sister, Rose and their niece, Georgiana (who is of an age with them) are all partaking of the London season under the chaperonage of their dragon of an Aunt Augusta, who orders them about, and bullies them (or tries to) into doing whatever she wants them to.

Being the quieter of the three, Lily is usually the main target for Aunt Augusta’s lectures and disparaging comments, many of which relate to the fact that Lily has never been able to learn to read or write, and was regarded by their late father as stupid.  Lily’s ‘shortcoming’ is not widely known however, and given she is an heiress, their aunt holds out hope that there may be a man out there who is desperate enough to marry her.  All Lily wants is someone who will love and care for her, and whom she can love and care for in return, yet Aunt Agatha insists on thrusting the trio of young ladies into the paths of the sorts of cold, ennui-laden, self-important gentlemen they dislike – and Lily’s refusal to attend the opera so she can meet a duke and two of his friends all but sends the older lady into apoplexy.

It’s unusual for Lily to stand up to their aunt so strongly, but she refuses to be cowed on this occasion. Agatha always makes her feel fat (naturally, Lily isn’t fat, but lusciously curved) and stupid, and she wants to escape from her aunt’s censure for a few hours; and besides, she has agreed to attend another event because she has promised to meet an old schoolmate there.  Sadly for Lily however, her promise almost proves her undoing.  At the function, she is introduced to the handsome and charming Victor Nixon – who proceeds to slip Lily a mickey, construct a weak excuse to get her outside and then bundle her into a carriage that immediately takes off at speed.  Drugged, bound and confused, Lily doesn’t know what’s happening until she hears her captor and his companion bandying around words like ‘bride’ and ‘heiress’ – and realises they must be heading to Gretna Green.

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

Counting on a Countess (London Underground #2) by Eva Leigh

This title may be purchased from Amazon

For a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience–it’s strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority–she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods–but she’s desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison and an attentive, love-struck spouse could destroy everything.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.

Rating: C+

I’ve been looking forward to Counting on a Countess, the second book in Eva Leigh’s London Underground series, which features a set of clever, independent heroines in unusual circumstances who have to make their livings in a somewhat unorthodox manner.  I’m a fan of Ms. Leigh’s; she’s a great storyteller and she creates memorable, strong heroes and heroines – and the promise of the story of a marriage-of-convenience between an earl and a smuggler captured my imagination straight away.  I began reading with high expectations, which were met up until around the seventy percent mark when things suddenly fell apart and the heroine went from one I liked to one I disliked intensely.  She never really redeems herself and as a result, what I’d confidently expected to be a high-grade read turned into a disappointing one.

Kit Ellingsworth, Earl of Blakemoor, has been drifting since the end of his military service. The only thing that keeps his nightmares at bay are his long-held dreams of building a pleasure garden, somewhere that will make people happy and will also provide employment for veterans and their families. But he knows it’ll have to remain a dream as he’ll never have the funds to make it a reality.

Until, that is, Kit is informed that his former commanding officer Lord Somerby has bequeathed him a large sum of money in his will – but there is one stipulation.  Kit must marry within thirty days of being advised of the bequest.  Surprised, but determined to fulfil the terms, Kit thinks it won’t be difficult to find a bride.  After all, he’s young, handsome, charming and titled – but the weeks fly by and he’s almost down to the wire without having found a single young lady he wants to wed.  Until, that is, he nearly bumps into a lovely red-headed woman at a ball – and feels an almost unprecedented pull of attraction that makes him think she might just be the one.

Tamsyn Pearce has come to London in desperation.  After the deaths of her parents years earlier,  she took it upon herself to provide for the local village of Newcome which, owing to high taxation and fishing restrictions, was suffering serious privation. For the past eight years, she has run a successful smuggling operation, but her uncle’s plans to sell the family home, Chei Owr, mean the operation is under threat.  Tamsyn’s purpose in London is therefore twofold – to find a fence to sell the brandy and lace from the last run, and to find a husband with enough money to purchase Chei Owr.  Her ideal husband will be content to live in town while she goes back to Cornwall; even better, he’ll be unobservant and maybe even a bit dim.

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

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies #1) by K.J. Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Cornell Collins

This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon.

A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell.

Exiled to China for 20 years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude…and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it – they’re both going to die.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – A-

Last year, when K.J. Charles announced that many of her backlist titles were going to appear in audio format, I may just have jumped for joy. I’ve listened to and reviewed almost all of those titles now and had been anxiously awaiting the release of her A Charm of Magpies series which, luckily for listeners, was released in one fell swoop at the end of January. There are three books in the main series – The Magpie Lord, A Case of Possession and Flight of Magpies as well as two books that are set in the same universe, Rag and Bone and Jackdaw, AND the audios also include the short stories that come between the Magpies books, which was a lovely surprise. (Now all we need are the audios of The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh and the short stories from the Society of Gentlemen series, and I’ll be an extremely happy bunny!)

Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, has recently returned to England from China, where he’s lived for the past twenty years. Exiled by his cruel, dissolute father, with nothing more than the clothes on his back and a manservant – Merrick, to whom the old Lord Crane made it clear he’d be happy if his son were to disappear overboard on the way – Lucien survived the voyage, and endured horror and privation as he struggled to survive. Twenty years on, Lucien has made his fortune as a trader, and even though he is now Earl Crane – following the deaths of his father and brother, both of whom were hated and reviled in the village near the Crane country estate of Piper – he doesn’t intend to stay in England, having come home only to assume the title and sign paperwork before heading back to Shanghai.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard (audiobook) – Narrated by Michelle Ford

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When English accountant Daniel Elliott dies in a car accident one rainy night, his widow, Grace, is overcome with grief… and panic. Daniel was controlling and their marriage loveless, but he always took care of the sheltered Grace. Or so she thought. She soon discovers Daniel kept secrets: an alias, mob ties, a list of numbers, a mysterious beach house in Florida… and a girlfriend who looks like Grace.

Swallowing her fear, she flies to Miami to claim the house Daniel left her. But the price of her curiosity is peril. Underworld figures stalk her. The other woman has left a damning trail of evidence pointing her way. And handsome, troubled FBI agent Jack West has crossed precarious paths with Grace before. He could be her savior or her damnation. All she knows for certain is that she longs to be in his arms.

With little to go on and danger at every turn, Grace must depend on Jack to help her navigate the criminal world of south Florida, and find the truth behind the Ring of Lies.

Rating: Narration – C+ : Content – C

I’ll admit that I picked up Ring of Lies mainly because it’s narrated by Michelle Ford, someone whose work I’ve listened to and enjoyed on several occasions. The story synopsis tells of a woman who, after the death of her husband, gradually discovers that he wasn’t the man she’d believed him to be – not an uncommon plotline, but one with potential for plenty of drama and twists if handled well. Unfortunately, however, that isn’t the case here; the plot is thoroughly predictable, the pacing is pedestrian and I’d figured out probably the most important piece of information within the first hour, while it took the hero and his FBI buddies almost the entirety of the book’s eight-and-a-half-hour running time to do the same.

Grace and Daniel Elliott had their ups and downs throughout their ten-year-marriage, just like other couples, and when Daniel is killed in a car crash, Grace is devastated. In the days leading up to his funeral, Grace has tried desperately to get in touch with her sister Catherine, her only living relative, to let her know what’s happened, but Catherine is not answering her phone and doesn’t return Grace’s calls. Worried about her sister as well as grieving for her husband, Grace is exhausted by the day of the funeral, noticing little other than the fairly small gathering and a man she doesn’t recognise standing on the peripheries. When the ceremony comes to an end, the last thing she expects is for the man to grab her and demand she turns over the computer files Daniel kept for him and to imply that Daniel was involved in something sinister. Confused and somewhat afraid, Grace tells him she has no idea what he’s talking about and, after a cryptic comment about Catherine, he leaves.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Murder at Half Moon Gate (Wrexford & Sloane #2) by Andrea Penrose

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When Lord Wrexford discovers the body of a gifted inventor in a dark London alley, he promptly alerts the watchman and lets the authorities handle the matter. But Wrexford soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when the inventor’s widow begs for his assistance, claiming the crime was not a random robbery. It seems her husband’s designs for a revolutionary steam-powered engine went missing the night of his death. The plans could be worth a fortune . . . and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Joining Wrexford in his investigation is Charlotte Sloane, who uses the pseudonym A. J. Quill to publish her scathing political cartoons. Her extensive network of informants is critical for her work, but she doesn’t mind tapping that same web of spies to track down an elusive killer. Each suspect—from ambitious assistants to rich investors, and even the inventor’s widow—is entwined in a maze of secrets and lies that leads Wrexford and Sloane down London’s most perilous stews and darkest alleyways.

With danger lurking at every turn, the potent combination of Wrexford’s analytical mind and Sloane’s exacting intuition begins to unravel the twisted motivations behind the inventor’s death. But they are up against a cunning and deadly foe—a killer ready to strike again before they can recover the inventor’s priceless designs . . .

Rating: B+

Murder at Half Moon Gate is the second book in Andrea Penrose’s series of historical mysteries featuring the scandalous but scientifically-minded Earl of Wrexford and Mrs. Charlotte Sloane, otherwise known as A.J. Quill, London’s premier satirical cartoonist.  In Murder on Black Swan Lane, Wrexford was accused of the murder of the prominent clergyman with whom he had been carrying on a very public dispute.  Further infuriated by A.J. Quill’s uncannily accurate drawings and scathing commentaries, Wrexford determined to find the man and get him to stop his lampooning – only to discover that he was a she, carrying on the work of her late husband.  The earl and the satirist eventually teamed up to find the real murderer and exonerate Wrexford, and during the course of the book forged an unlikely but strong working partnership in which Charlotte’s intuition and observational skills proved the perfect complement to Wrexford’s highly logical scientific approach.

This book begins a few months after the previous one concluded, and although Wrexford and Charlotte have seen each other once or twice over that period, both expect their forged-from-necessity friendship to fade away given the fact that they move in very different social circles.  Even so, neither of them is quite ready to let go of the unusual and strong connection that has developed between them – when the murder of a prominent inventor brings Wrexford back to Charlotte’s door.

On his way back from an evening’s carouse in the company of his friend, Kit Sheffield, Wrexford, who is somewhat the worse for wear, literally stumbles across a dead body in a dank alley.  Closer inspection reveals the man was brutally attacked, his neck broken, his face cut – and unusually, his clothing slashed and rent as well.  With nothing to suggest anything other than an attack by footpads, the earl is relieved to hand the investigation over to the authorities.  But the next morning, he receives a visit from a beautiful woman who introduces herself as Mrs. Isobel Ashton and tells Wrexford that her husband was the murdered man he found the previous night.  She proceeds to explain that Ashton had been an inventor on the verge of an important breakthrough – and Wrexford, a chemist of some renown, recalls that he had exchanged some correspondence with the man, who needed some assistance with the chemical composition of the iron he was using in his new steam engine.

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