An Heiress to Remember (Gilded Age Girls Club #3) by Maya Rodale (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlotte North


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Can a scandalized heiress…

Beatrice Goodwin left Manhattan a duchess and has returned a divorcée, ready to seize control of her fate and the family business. Goodwin’s Department Store, once the pinnacle of fashion, has fallen from favor thanks to Dalton’s, its glamorous competitor across the street. But this rivalry has a distinctly personal edge….

And a self-made tycoon…

For Wes Dalton, Beatrice has always been the one – the one who broke his young heart by marrying a duke, and now, the one whose cherished store he plans to buy, just so he can destroy it. It’s the perfect revenge against a family who believed he’d never be good enough for their daughter – until Beatrice’s return complicates everything….

Find happily ever after at last?

While Goodwin’s and Dalton’s duel to be the finest store in Gilded Age Manhattan, Beatrice and Wes succumb to a desire that has only deepened with time. Adversaries by day, lovers by night, both will soon have to decide which is sweeter: winning the battle or thoroughly losing their hearts….

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C+

An Heiress to Remember, book three in Maya Rodale’s Gilded Age Girls Club series, is a second-chance, antagonists-to-lovers romance set in vibrant, bustling turn-of-the-century New York City. The story of young lovers torn asunder who reunite later in life is a familiar one, but while it’s fairly well done, the main story here is really that of a woman coming fully into her own, and sometimes the love story feels as though it’s been put into the back seat.

Eighteen-year-old department store heiress Beatrice Goodwin has fallen in love with her father’s protégé, Wes Dalton, son of an Irish immigrant family, but when we first meet them, she’s about to say goodbye. Her family is pressuring her to marry an English duke; Wes urges Beatrice to reject the duke’s offer and run away with him instead – but Beatrice is terribly torn. She loves Wes, but where will she be if she disobeys her parents? How can she refuse to do the thing she’s been brought up to do – make a prestigious marriage and do her duty to her family?

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Off Plan (Whispering Key#1) by May Archer (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Dean

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

I came to Whispering Key for a job. That was all. To show the world Mason Bloom could be more than a small-town doctor living a medium-sized life.

Private doctor on a swanky island with a posh resort? Check.

But from the moment I set foot on this island, nothing went according to plan.

I didn’t expect to find the resort falling apart. I didn’t expect the people here to be so charming and crazy and welcoming and real. I didn’t expect legends about shipwrecks and buried treasure. And I definitely didn’t expect Fenn Reardon, the island’s incredibly attractive, incredibly infuriating, incredibly male resident tour guide, to become the one person I can’t live without.

Thirty-five’s a bit late for me to realize I’m not straight, though, right? And I have big dreams that won’t fit on Whispering Key, anyway – dreams that do not include tying myself to a tiny island stuck in the past or to a man who refuses to think about the future.

My head’s telling me I have to leave Whispering Key…My heart’s telling me there might be treasure on this island after all.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

May Archer’s Whispering Key series is loosely linked to her Love in O’Leary books by virtue of the fact that one of the principals in Off Plan, Dr. Mason Bloom, is the younger brother of Micah from The Secret (book three). Off Plan introduces a new set of characters and a new location, and although I had some issues with the narration and some aspects of the story were a bit repetitive, I enjoyed it and will probably listen to future books when they appear.

In an attempt to get away from the “perfectly okay” sort of life he’s drifted into after being dumped by his fiancée, Dr. Mason Bloom accepts a job as private doctor at an exclusive, five-star resort in the Florida Keys. A three year contract running his own practice, his med school loans paid off, the chance to network amongst the elite clientele – it’s a great opportunity and in spite of his brother Micah’s scepticism, Mason is determined to make the most of it. The trouble starts when the guy appointed to pick him up from the airport immediately rubs him the wrong way, and continues when Mason discovers that the five-star resort he’d been expecting is actually the run-down Five Star Hotel, and that the ‘exclusive’ resort is still a pipe dream.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Any Given Lifetime by Leta Blake (audiobook) – Narrated by John Solo

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He’ll love him in any lifetime.

Neil isn’t a ghost, but he feels like one. Reincarnated with all his memories from his prior life, he spent 20 years trapped in a child’s body, wanting nothing more than to grow up and reclaim the love of his life.

As an adult, Neil finds there’s more than lost time separating them. Joshua has built a beautiful life since Neil’s death, and how exactly is Neil supposed to introduce himself? As Joshua’s long-dead lover in a new body? Heartbroken and hopeless, Neil takes refuge in his work, developing microscopic robots called nanites that can produce medical miracles.

When Joshua meets a young scientist working on a medical project, his soul senses something his rational mind can’t believe. Has Neil truly come back to him after 20 years? And if the impossible is real, can they be together at long last?

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A

Leta Blake’s Any Given Lifetime has been on my radar for a while, and I even have the ebook – but I haven’t managed to read it yet, so I eagerly pounced on the new audio version. I knew, based on the synopsis, that it was likely to be an unusual and emotional listen, and it certainly was; it’s one of the most affecting and unique romances I’ve ever come across.

The book opens in January 2012, and we meet twenty-two year old Joshua Stouder who, just a month earlier, lost the man he loved when he was killed in a road accident. Joshua has just found out that Neil has left him a massive fortune and a position at the head of the board of the Neil Russell Foundation for Advanced Nanite Research, the company he’d requested be set up after his death to continue his research into new medical technology. Joshua had had no idea how wealthy Neil really was; they had been together for only nine months before Neil was killed and were very much in love, even though they hadn’t even had a physical relationship (something Joshua now bitterly regrets and blames on his conservative upbringing, terming himself a skittish country boy stewing in internalised homophobia).

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Milo (Finding Home #2) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Once upon a time, a brave knight rescued a young man. Unfortunately, he then spent the next few years bossing the young man around and treating him like a child.  Milo has been burying himself at Chi an Mor, hiding from the wreckage of his once promising career and running from a bad relationship that destroyed what little confidence he had. Niall, his big brother’s best friend, has been there for him that entire time. An arrogant and funny man, Niall couldn’t be any more different from the shy and occasionally stuttering Milo, which has never stopped Milo from crushing wildly on the man who saved him.

However, just as Milo makes the decision to move on from his hopeless crush, he and Niall are thrown into close contact, and for the first time ever, Niall seems to be returning his interest. But it can never work. How can it when Milo always needs rescuing?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Milo is the second book in Lily Morton’s Finding Home series, and in it, listeners return to the gorgeous Cornwall setting of Chi an Mor, the country estate belonging to Silas, Earl of Ashworth. We met Milo Ramsey and Niall Fawcett first of all in the previous book, Oz, when Niall interviewed Oz Gallagher for the job of Collections Manager at the house, where Milo has worked as an art conservator for the past few years. He’s a decade or so younger than Niall, but the pair have known each other for most of their lives; Milo’s older brother Gideon is Niall’s best friend (they were at school together) and they’ve also been occasional fuck-buddies for years – a discovery that left a smitten, seventeen-year-old Milo heartbroken after he found them in bed together.

The novel opens with a prologue set five years before the story proper, with Milo in the kitchen of the flat he shares with his boyfriend Thomas. Milo has just dropped a bottle of wine and is terrified of Thomas’ reaction; with good reason it turns out, as the other man wastes no time in getting nasty, telling Milo how useless he is, criticising his appearance and making fun of the stammer he’s struggled with since childhood and which tends to worsen when he’s upset or nervous. In the midst of Thomas’ cruel tirade, another voice bursts in and furiously demands to know “What the fuck is going on in here?” It’s Niall – who immediately tells Milo to pack up his stuff and then whisks him away to Cornwall and Chi an Mor, where Milo gradually starts to recover, returning to physical health and gradually making new friendships and becoming comfortable in his new surroundings. Mentally, however, his ex really did a number on him; his self-confidence, which was never strong owing to his stammer, is still seriously dented.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Road Home by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux and Michael Ferraiuolo


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

David Coleman has made some mistakes, and he’ll be living with the consequences for the rest of his life. He’s made decisions that have left him estranged from his once tight-knit family. Even now, when David is clean and sober, working his way through medical school with a promising future ahead, his parents refuse to forgive or forget.

When he gets some grim news about his father, David realizes he’s running out of time to make amends. As he comes home for the holidays and his sister’s wedding, he knows it’s going to be tense, but he’s desperate to prove they’re wrong about him. And since they won’t take his word for it, he’s bringing reinforcements.

Hunter Scott will do anything for his childhood best friend, but he never thought that would include posing as his boyfriend. Except David’s family has always respected Hunter. Maybe if they see that David is good enough for Hunter to love, they’ll realize he’s good enough for them, too.

But as Hunter and David lean on each other through snowstorms, family drama, and visits from personal demons, maybe this relationship isn’t as much of a performance as it was meant to be.

Rating: Narration: A – Content: A-

Sometimes the ideal book pops into my head for TBR Challenge prompts, and sometimes… it doesn’t.  This was one of those times;  I had a few books on my list, but I wasn’t really feeling any of them.  Then, a few days after my last (unsuccessful) search for something suitable, I picked up a new audiobook without having let the title sink in or reading the synopsis  – I like the author’s work and the narrators are two of my all-time favourites – and realised it would fit!  This is the first time I’ve fulfilled a TBR prompt by listening to a book rather than reading it, but as I tend to read/listen 50:50 these days, I figured it would be allowed 😉

L.A. Witt’s The Road Home is a tender, poignant and sensual romance that combines a number of familiar tropes to produce a story that transcends all of them.  The author tackles some difficult issues – PTSD, addiction, living with chronic illness, the stigma of being HIV positive – incorporating them fully into the story and handling them in a respectful and sensitive manner, but never loses sight of the fact that this is, first and foremost, a romance.

David Coleman and Hunter Scott have known each other for most of their lives, and were even high-school sweethearts at one point, but after a catastrophic break-up in college, ended up deciding they were better as friends.  That friendship has endured through Hunter’s deployments and the addiction that nearly took David’s life, and now, in their thirties, they both seem to have their lives on-track.  David has been clean for seven years and is in his second year of medical school, and Hunter is steadily climbing the ranks in the Navy.

David is practically estranged from his family, who lost all faith in him after he became addicted to meth.  His parents (begrudgingly) accept his sexuality, but his mother in particular rarely misses an opportunity to remind him of ‘everything he put them through’ when he was an addict, and David knows that his parents and brother are just waiting for him to relapse; the fact that he’s been through hell and emerged stronger, that he has the strength to remain sober, and that he got into one of the best medical schools in the country counts for nothing with them; all they see is a fuck-up who will never change.  And even worse, as far as his family is concerned, is the fact that David used to work in the porn industry –in front of the camera – and although he’s apologised profusely for disappointing them and scaring them over his addiction and the fact that he is HIV positive, the porn is something he refuses, point blank, to apologise for.  He’s not ashamed of it and sees no reason why he should be.  But when he receives the news that his father is terminally ill and that this Christmas may well be his last, David decides to have one last try at patching things up. His family doesn’t think much of him, but they do respect Hunter, so David asks Hunter if he’ll accompany him home for Christmas (and to his sister’s New Year wedding) – and pretend to be his boyfriend.  After all, if someone like Hunter thinks David is ‘good enough’, then surely his parents will… maybe not change their minds exactly, but ease off a bit and accept him back into the fold.

Hunter has been the best of friends to David, ready to help however he can and literally helping to save his life more than once.  Despite their breakup, he’s always been in love with David, but hasn’t pushed for anything more, believing it’s better to have David in his life as a friend than not to have him at all.  He knows how toxic David’s family is and privately thinks he’s probably better off without that kind of negativity in his life, but he also knows how important it is to David to at least try to end their estrangement, and he agrees to the plan.

For good reason, they decide to drive from Los Angeles to Washington, even though December is probably not the best time to be driving any distance in the Midwest.  Their plan to arrive the day before Christmas Eve is scuppered when the weather takes a turn for the worse and it becomes dangerous for them to proceed.  In true romance-novel fashion, There Is Only One Bed at the crappy motel they end up at, and one thing leads to another, which leads to … their agreeing it was a mistake that they should go back to how things were before. Which is, of course, impossible.

The Road Home is so much more than the sum of its tropes.  It’s a story about family being more than blood-ties and about learning when to hold on and when to let go.  David and Hunter are beautifully realised characters; they’re flawed and damaged, and their strength and willingness to fight every day to be who and what they want to be is admirable.  Their romance is sensual and passionate and is underpinned by an undeniable emotional connection and sizzling chemistry, a slow-burn which feels completely right for the tone of the story.

I definitely ran the gamut of emotions while listening to this.  The sheer awfulness of David’s family (apart from his sister) has to be read/listened to to be believed (seriously, they made me so angry!) but kudos to the author for making them into characters rather than caricatures.  This is a romance, so the story ends with an HEA for David and Hunter, but it’s also a bittersweet reminder that not everything in life is fixable and that sometimes, the thing you want isn’t always the thing you need.

Greg Boudreaux and Michael Ferraiuolo are, as I said earlier, two of my very favourite narrators, and are legends in the world of m/m romance narration, so having both of them working together again was a dream come true!  The story is narrated from both Hunter’s (Mr. Boudreaux) and David’s (Mr. Ferraiuolo) points of view in alternating chapters, so both narrators get to portray almost all the characters, and have achieved a remarkable consistency when it comes to the supporting cast. (A common complaint about dual narrations is that a character as performed by one narrator sounds too different to their portrayal by the other, but that isn’t the case here.) The same is true of the leads; in both performances, Hunter’s voice is pitched lower than David’s so the listener is never confused as to which character is speaking  regardless of who is narrating that particular portion of the story.  But the absolute best thing about these narrators is that not only are they both as technically accomplished as they come, they’re also incredibly good vocal actors – which, in a book like this, is vital. Their ability to perfectly judge every emotional nuance means that the listener is right there with the characters, experiencing their joy and sadness, passion and heartbreak alongside them.  Both performances are exceptionally good, elevating the author’s words to a new level and bringing the story and characters to full, vibrant life.

The Road Home deals with some difficult issues and isn’t always an easy listen, but I enjoyed every minute of it.   Moving, intense, sad and passionate, it’s a wonderful story about true love and second chances – and the fantastic narration makes it a must for fans of romance audiobooks.

First Comes Scandal (Rokesby/Bridgerton #4) by Julia Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

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She was given two choices . . .

Georgiana Bridgerton isn’t against the idea of marriage. She’d just thought she’d have some say in the matter. But with her reputation hanging by a thread after she’s abducted for her dowry, Georgie is given two options: live out her life as a spinster or marry the rogue who has ruined her life.

Enter Option #3

As the fourth son of an earl, Nicholas Rokesby is prepared to chart his own course. He has a life in Edinburgh, where he’s close to completing his medical studies, and he has no time – or interest – to find a wife. But when he discovers that Georgie Bridgerton – his literal girl-next-door – is facing ruin, he knows what he must do.

A Marriage of Convenience

It might not have been the most romantic of proposals, but Nicholas never thought she’d say no. Georgie doesn’t want to be anyone’s sacrifice, and besides, they could never think of each other as anything more than childhood friends . . . could they?

But as they embark upon their unorthodox courtship they discover a new twist to the age-old rhyme. First comes scandal, then comes marriage. But after that comes love . . .

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

Julia Quinn’s Rokesby-Bridgerton / Bridgerton Prequels series (honestly, the series name seems to change with each book published!) continues with book four, First Comes Scandal, a funny, sweet friends-to-lovers story in which the youngest Rokesby son, Nicholas, finds his HEA with the elder Bridgerton sister, Georgiana. The series has been a bit of a mixed bag; I liked the first two books, but the third, The Other Miss Bridgerton, was a bit of a disappointment, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. After the first couple of chapters, I thought I’d be able to report that it was something of an improvement – until it got bogged down around the end of the first half and never regained its initial momentum.

Nicholas Rokesby, who is studying medicine in Edinburgh, is rather alarmed to receive a summons from his father Lord Manston asking him to return home immediately. Fearing tragedy and disaster, Nicholas embarks on the five day journey to Kent – only to find out that he’s travelled all that way, in the middle of the term and right before his exams, because Georgiana Bridgerton – who is his father’s goddaughter as well as one of Nicholas’ oldest friends – is in a fix and he wants Nicholas to get her out of it.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Triangluation (Borealis Investigations #2) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlie David


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After a recent case with a treacherous client, North and Shaw are ready to go back to work building Borealis Investigations. They’re also ready to go back to dodging their feelings for each other, with neither man ready to deal with the powerful emotions the Matty Fennmore case stirred up.

Everything is getting back to normal when their secretary asks for help: her girlfriend’s boss has gone missing. Shep Collins runs a halfway house for LGBTQ kids and is a prominent figure in St. Louis’s gay community. When he disappears, however, dark truths begin to emerge about Shep’s past: his string of failed relationships, a problem with disappearing money, and his work, years before, as one of the foremost proponents of conversion therapy.

When Shep’s body turns up at the halfway house, the search for a missing person becomes the search for a murderer. As North and Shaw probe for answers, they find that they are not the only ones who have come looking for the truth about Shep Collins.

Their investigation puts them at odds with the police who are working the same case, and in that conflict, North and Shaw find threads leading back to the West End Slasher – the serial killer who almost took Shaw’s life in an alley, seven years before.

As the web of an ancient conspiracy comes to light, Shaw is driven to find answers, and North faces what might be his last chance to tell Shaw how he really feels.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Triangulation is book two in Gregory Ashe’s Borealis Investigations series featuring St. Louis based PIs North McKinney and Shaw Aldrich, two guys who have known each other since college and have secretly pined for each other for just as long. The story picks up a couple of months after the events of book one, Orientation, and I’d advise anyone thinking of picking up Triangulation go to back and listen to that first, as it provides context for the relationship between the two leads and kicks off the series’ overarching plotline concerning Shaw’s search for the serial killer dubbed the West End Slasher, who murdered his boyfriend and left him critically injured some eight years before.

(Note: There are spoilers for Orientation in this review.)

Triangulation opens with Pari – North and Shaw’s office assistant (who seems to spend all her time haranguing them and never appears to do a stroke of work) – attempting to persuade them to look into the disappearance of Shep Collins, an LGBTQ youth worker and prominent figure in the St. Louis gay community. Pari’s girlfriend Chuck works with Collins at the local halfway house, and is concerned because he hasn’t been seen for a few days. North isn’t keen on the idea, especially after he learns that Collins used to administer conversion therapy to gay teenaged boys – but Chuck is really worried, and insists that Collins is a changed man; he’s out and married, the kids he works with love him and he sees his work with them as a way of atoning for what he did in the past. North still doesn’t want to take the case, but Shaw does, and after one of those typically North and Shaw circuitous not-conversations, they tell Chuck and Pari they’ll take the case.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Hat Trick (Fake Boyfriend #5) by Eden Finley (audiobook) – Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma

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Soren

You know what’s not fun? Going on a Fiji vacation with four other couples. Especially when recently single. What’s even worse is when a past hook-up arrives unannounced. Not only do we have a history, but he’s 10 years younger and a famous rock star. Most importantly, he’s my friend’s little brother. Being trapped on an island with Jet Jackson is going to be sweet torture because all I want is another chance. I just don’t think he’s going to give it to me.

Jet

You know what’s not fun? Escaping one guy who broke my heart only to run into another. Being on the road for three years has left me exhausted. The last thing I want is for Caleb “Soren” Sorensen to try for round two. I can’t fight my draw to him. I’ve never been able to. I’m suddenly back to being the naïve kid who stupidly lusted after a hockey player. All I can think is if I let Soren get close, I’ll walk away from this vacation with a double broken heart.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

Hat Trick is the fifth (and final) novel in Eden Finley’s Fake Boyfriend series, and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out who the central couple would be. As has been the case with the other books in the set, Hat Trick is a light-hearted, low-angst, sexy story with plenty of humour and sharp banter, a couple of likeable principals and engaging secondary cast (in this case, formed mostly of the couples from the previous books). Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma return to narrate, and deliver their customary strong performances; they’re what drew me to this series in the first place, and although I might have had the odd niggle here and there, they haven’t disappointed.

Hockey player Caleb Sorenson – Soren to his friends – can’t think of anything worse than being stuck on a luxury vacation with your closest friends when those friends are ALL (sickeningly), happily coupled up, especially after breaking up with the long-term boyfriend he risked coming out for. But oh, wait – things could be worse, and rapidly become so when another guest arrives, Jet Jackson, younger brother of Matt (book two, Trick Play) who is now, at twenty-three, famous as the lead singer of up-and-coming band Radioactive… and the guy Soren hooked up with three years earlier without knowing he was his best friends’ little brother. So, um, yeah. Awkward.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Blue on Blue (Bitter Legacy #3) by Dal Maclean (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong


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After three years working as a private investigator, newly reinstated Detective Inspector Will Foster still holds himself responsible for the death of an officer under his command. But he’s returned to the Met bent on redeeming himself and that means bringing down gangland boss Joey Clarkson.

Will’s prepared to put in long hours and make sacrifices for his work, even if it comes at a cost to his nascent romance with international model, Tom Gray. After all, Tom has a history of wandering but crime is a constant in London. And Will has committed himself to the Met.

But when a murder in a Soho walkup leads Will into the world of corruption, he finds himself forced to investigate his own friends and colleagues. Now the place he turned for redemption seems to be built upon lies and betrayal. And someone is more than willing to resort to murder to keep it that way.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Sometimes you read or listen to a book you intend to review and then sit staring at the screen wondering how the hell you can possibly encapsulate what you just experienced in a review and do the book justice. This is one of those times, because Blue on Blue, the third instalment in Dal Maclean’s incredible Bitter Legacy trilogy just… blew me away. In fact, every book in this series of complex, gripping, superbly written and expertly narrated romantic mystery/procedural/suspense novels has done that, and the series as a whole is easily one of the very finest of its kind.

Note: Blue on Blue is the third book in a trilogy and doesn’t really work as a standalone. There are spoilers for the earlier books in this review.

Newly returned to the Metropolitan Police, Detective Inspector Will Foster is doing the job he loves and has, for the past nine months, been living with the love of his life, Tom Grey, postgraduate student and part-time model. (Their story leading up to this point is told, from Tom’s PoV, in Object of Desire). Blue on Blue, which is told from Will’s PoV, opens with Will and his colleagues attending the funeral of an officer who was shot in the line of duty and then, somewhat incongruously, moving on to the party being held to celebrate the engagement of DI James Henderson to Ben Morgan (Bitter Legacy). He’s on his own – Tom is in LA on a modelling job and Will is finding their separation a bit tough, especially as he’s started to receive anonymous texts containing photographs of Tom with another man – obviously another model – in moments of relaxed intimacy. On edge at the party, Will is almost relieved to get a shout – a young woman has been found dead in a Soho walk-up, and the South Kensington MIT (Murder Inverstigation Team) is still on rotation so it’s Will’s case.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off Adam, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – C

Isobel Starling’s Apple Boy is book one in a series of fantasy romantic adventures entitled The Quiet Work, set in the fictitious land of The Empire of Osia. In this story, a lordling and a farm boy set out on a journey, and end up uncovering a political conspiracy and discovering something about themselves that will change them forever. The story is quite interesting, but the pacing is slow until near the end, and I felt the whole thing could have been shortened by a third and none of the important plotlines would have been lost. I’ll also warn prospective listeners that the book ends on a cliffhanger – although it seems that the next one will feature different characters in main roles.

Our PoV character in Apple Boy is Winter Aeling, son of the Duke of Thorn, who, for reasons not yet explained, has arrived in the small town of Mallowick with only the clothes on his back and no way of getting home unless he can earn some money to pay for transportation. He gets work at an orchard run by the despotic farmer Col Sewell, where his eye is immediately caught by Sewell’s handsome son, Adam. Also catching his eye is the ring the farmer wears, which not only bears Winter’s own family crest, but also contains a magical Star-fall stone. Over the next few days, Win manages to spend some time with Adam – enough to recognise that he likely shares Win’s sexual preferences – but can’t allow his attraction to the other man to prevent him from leaving the farm to travel to the capital city of Serein in order to speak to the Great Council there. When he leaves – having managed to swipe the Star-fall – Adam insists on going with him, and Win then explains why it’s so important for him to get to Serein and how he came to be in Mallowick. Win had been aboard ship on his way to visit his uncle Ivon when he discovered that the ship – the Trojan Star – was carrying slaves. Appalled, Win refused to stay silent and foolishly confronted the captain about it with the result that both he and his valet were thrown overboard – and only Win survived. So now, he wants to inform the Great Council about the slaves, in the hope that perhaps its powerful members can find a way to free them and punish whoever is responsible for their transportation.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals