Criminal Intentions S1E3 – The Man With the Glass Eye by Cole McCade (audiobook) – Narrated by Curt Bonnem

the man with the glass eye

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Multiple execution-style murders hint at a mob hit, but when Malcolm and Seong-Jae follow the clues, the last thing they expect is a host of very familiar—and very dead—faces. They say dead men tell no tales, but if Malcolm and Seong-Jae can’t even trust the words of the living, they’ll never catch a hit man dead set on burying every trace of an underworld secret . . . along with a few more bodies.

But it’s not just the cold bodies on their minds when a little undercover work sends them to a nightclub once owned by none other than Marion Garvey. Forced to play at being lovers, neither man can ignore the distraction of the very warm body in his arms. To Malcolm, Seong-Jae remains as aloof as ever . . . but what’s really smoldering under that icy mask?

Rating:  Narration – A-; Content – B+

I listened to and reviewed the first two audiobooks in Cole McCade’s addictive Criminal Intentions series when they came out in 2022, but didn’t get around to reviewing the third for some reason – so I thought that with the rest of the series due to release in audio over the next few months, I’d rectify that! A quick recap; Criminal Intentions is a long running series featuring the same central couple (there are twenty-nine books so far with more to come), and is divided up into three ‘seasons’ of thirteen books each. In this first season, each book comprises one case for homicide detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon, but there’s also an overarching plot across the series, so I really would suggest starting with book one – The Cardigans – if you’re intrigued by this premise. The central romance, the characterisation and character exploration develop throughout, and the scope of the series as a whole means that the author has time to really delve deeply into what makes Malcolm and Seong-Jae tick, to explore how their backgrounds have made them into the people they are today, and also to develop the important recurring characters so that they, too, become people we care about and want to keep tabs on.

As the two leads are homicide detectives, it’s not surprising that there are some disturbing scenes to be found here, and these stories can go to some dark places when considering the motivations of the killers. The first chapter in each book usually depicts the murder to be solved from the PoV of the victim or killer; the author includes a list of warnings at the beginning of each book which can be read using the “Look Inside” feature at Amazon if you want to check anything out.

Okay, so on to the actual book.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Inevitable Disclosure (Valor and Doyle #4) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

inevitable disclosure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Quaid is adrift in MPU. With his partner on extended leave, he’s alone and unsure if he wants to continue working on missing persons cases now that his sister’s case is closed. When the missing teen he’s been seeking for a week turns up dead, it’s the icing on the cake.

Maybe it’s time to explore a different career path.

Aslan and his partner, Torin, take over Quaid’s case, but Quaid can’t help but get involved. He wants justice for the girl. Justice for her grieving family.

Is homicide the career change he’s been looking for?

The trio makes a solid team, and their banter takes the edge off a serious case. Working alongside Aslan again is fantastic. They have found a balance that works, but for as comfortable as they have become as a couple, for as inevitable as their future together seems, something’s missing.

Aslan is ready to take the next step in their relationship, but Quaid needs certain feelings to be disclosed first.

Do actions speak louder than words? Or is there magic in saying I love you?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Note: This is a same-couple series in which the relationship development is ongoing, and there are references to events in earlier books in this review.

Nicky James hits it out of the park again with Inevitable Disclosure, book four in her superb series of romantic mysteries featuring detectives Aslan Doyle and Quaid Valor, who, in this story, end up working together to investigate the murder of a teenaged girl.

With his partner, Eden, on extended leave while she cares for her sick daughter, Quaid has been working solo on the case of seventeen-year-old Saphira Nottingham, who went missing from the parental home after a row with her boyfriend. Saphira has a history of storming off whenever she doesn’t get her own way and has always turned up within the next twenty-four hours or so, but she’s been missing for six days now, and Quaid is starting to think the worst. His suspicions are confirmed when he receives a call telling him that the body of a young woman has been found floating in the creek south of Centennial Park, and he suggests to Aslan that they should both take a ride out there. If the body is Saphira’s and her death wasn’t accidental, then chances are Aslan and his partner Torin Fox will begin a homicide investigation.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

To Love and Protect by Romeo Alexander

to love and protect

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Marcus Felps loves being a US Marshal. It suits the former military man perfectly. The predictability and logic help him try to bring order and justice to the world, which is just how he likes it. Even if he does come across as grumpy and more than a little tense.

Of course, life isn’t always neat and tidy.

Marcus’ world is turned upside down when he’s charged with the safety of Adrian Morgan, a reluctant addition to the government’s list of protected witnesses. Adrian is the only key witness the US government has to bring down a massive, international crime family.

However, Adrian seems designed to drive Marcus crazy. The man is flighty, impulsive, loud and way too cheerful. In fact, he’s everything Marcus is not. But he has a secret past hidden behind his wide grin and obnoxious jokes.

The two men have to find a way to live with one another while Marcus tries to keep Adrian alive against all the odds. However, the shaky peace cannot last, and Adrian and Marcus are thrown from frying pan to freezer and back into the pan again. Amid the bullets, car chases and betrayal, the two men have to face brutal mercenaries as well as the realization that there is more between them than just irritation and growing respect.

And if they live long enough, they might even find the best thing they’ve ever known in their lives…in each other.

Rating: B+

This is only the second book I’ve read by Romeo Alexander, and to be honest, the first one was just average, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy To Love and Protect as much as I did. But I’m always on the look out for good romantic suspense so I decided to give it try, and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be a great read; an entertaining, well-paced story featuring three-dimensional characters, a well-developed central relationship and some tense and exciting action scenes. At first, To Love and Protect seems like your common-or-garden bodyguard romance; a stoic US marshall is assigned to protect the fast-talking former lover of a mob boss who, in his five years as arm candy, has amassed enough information to bring down a high-profile crime family. It’s a familiar storyline, but what puts this story above the run-of-the-mill is the characterisation – of the protectee especially – and the way the romance is paced and developed.

Marshall Marcus Felps isn’t wildly impressed when he’s assigned to round-the-clock protection of Adrian Morgan, the ex-boyfriend of Oliver Vettic, heir to the Vettic criminal empire. He’s even less impressed when he finally meets Adrian, who seems determined to annoy him at all costs. He’s like a bratty, overgrown kid; he never stops talking, he’s too impulsive, too flippant, too flamboyant and just… too much, but it’s Marcus’ job to keep him safe, and he’s going to do it. To Adrian’s dismay, Marcus is exactly the sort of boring jobsworth he’d expected him to be and Adrian is everything Marcus had been dreading – an inveterate smart-arse who seems to take nothing seriously – but during the months they spend living in suburban Virginia, Marcus comes to realise that there’s much more to Adrian than he originally thought. Sure, the guy is incredibly annoying and seems to enjoy pushing Marcus’ buttons, but there’s a quick mind and ready wit behind the pretty face, together with something else that suggests certain shared experiences, and Marcus is surprised to find he’s slowly coming to actually like him.

The first quarter or so of the book is basically Marcus and Adrian living together and getting to know each other, and it’s nicely done. Marcus is your classic big, taciturn, doesn’t-do-emotions-or-relationships romantic suspense hero (plus, he’s straight), and Adrian is the total opposite. I admit I worried he’d be one of those curl-tossing, foot-stamping ‘You can’t tell me what to do!’ types who delights in giving their bodyguard the slip so often found in this genre, but happily, he isn’t. He does chafe at his confinement, but recognises it’s necessary for his own safety, and while he does sometimes push at his boundaries, he doesn’t actually step over them. He’s got an agenda, too, and isn’t going to do anything that could jepoardize it.

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

The Jackal’s House (Lancaster’s Luck #2) by Anna Butler (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

the jackal's house

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy? Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case. Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed.

What begins as tricks and pranks escalate to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

The Jackal’s House is book two in Anna Butler’s Lancaster’s Luck steampunk trilogy featuring aeronaut-turned-coffee-house-owner Rafe Lancaster and his lover, Ned Winter, renowned Aegyptologist and heir to the head of Britain’s most powerful political House. All the things I enjoyed about book one (The Gilded Scarab) – the fabulous worldbuilding and Rafe’s distinctive voice and wonderful sense of irony among them – are all very much in evidence, together with a compelling mystery, well-realised setting and some likeable (and not-so-likeable) well drawn secondary characters.

It’s the summer of 1900 and all Rafe wants to do is make the best coffee in Londinium, spend as much time as he can with the man he loves and keep as far away from house politics as is humanly possible. As a younger son of one of the minor Houses (in this universe, Britain is ruled, under the monarch, by the eight Convocation Houses) Rafe doesn’t have too much trouble doing that; he’s always been something of the black sheep of House Stravaigor, and is happy to keep it that way.

But when he receives an unexpected visit from the Stravaigor himself, it becomes clear that however much Rafe wants to escape the tangled webs of intrigue woven by the Houses, he’s not going to be able to. The Stravaigor is pleasant and surprisingly good-humoured, which only makes Rafe more suspicious as to his motives; and he’s surprised when in the end, all the Stravaigor asks is for him to maintain his friendship with Ned which, given Ned’s status as heir to House Gallowglass, could prove valuable to House Stravaigor. Rafe isn’t pleased that his relationship with Ned is seen as something to be exploited, and his relief at being asked for so little is tempered by the knowledge that that is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books #1) by K.J. Charles

the secret lives of country gentlemen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Abandoned by his father, Gareth Inglis grew up lonely, prickly, and used to disappointment. Still, he longs for a connection. When he meets a charming stranger, he falls head over heels—until everything goes wrong and he’s left alone again.

Then Gareth’s father dies, turning the shabby London clerk into Sir Gareth, with a grand house on the remote Romney Marsh and a family he doesn’t know. The Marsh is another world, a strange, empty place notorious for its ruthless gangs of smugglers. And one of them is dangerously familiar…

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. When the new baronet—his old lover—agrees to testify against Joss’s sister, Joss acts fast to stop him. Their reunion is anything but happy, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. Soon, all Joss and Gareth want is the chance to be together. But the bleak, bare Marsh holds deadly secrets. And when Gareth finds himself threatened from every side, the gentleman and the smuggler must trust one another not just with their hearts but also with their lives.

Rating: A-

I’ve yet to meet a book by K.J. Charles that I haven’t at the very least liked – or more usually, loved – and her latest title, The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen is no exception. The story is set in and around Romney Marsh in Kent – a fairly desolate part of the country even today and one that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, was something of a smuggler’s paradise due to its topography, location and isolation. TSLoCG is a fabulous mix of frenemies-to-lovers romance and mystery boasting a wonderfully evoked setting, lots of interesting historical detail and plenty of the wry humour and sharp observation that I so enjoy about the author’s work.

After the death of his wife, Sir Hugo Inglis sent his six-year-old son Gareth to live in London with his uncle. It very much a case of out of sight, out of mind for Sir Hugo, who married again and ignored his son’s pleas to be brought home. Gareth grew up without love and affection, knowing he was unwanted from the moment Henry Inglis made it very clear to his bereaved, exiled nephew that he had taken him in on sufferance and because he was being paid to. Gareth eventually studied law and has worked as his uncle’s clerk for several years, when, completely out of the blue, Inglis dismisses him for no reason. Just two days later, Gareth learns that his father is dead and that he has inherited the baronetcy, his house in Romney Marsh in Kent and a fairly respectable sum of money.

Going through his father’s books and papers, Gareth finds himself intrigued by his collection of books on natural history, maps of the local area and the collection of notebooks in which Sir Hugo made copious notes about the local birds, wildlife, flora and fauna and his particular interest in insects. Gareth has always been interested in natural history and at first thinks that by reading the notebooks, he might learn something about his father… but there’s nothing by way of personal reflection or insight to be found. Still, his own interest is piqued and he begins to explore his surroundings, starting in his own garden and then going further afield and onto the marshes. Out late one night, he stumbles across a string of ponies laden with packs and barrels; realising immediately what this means, he steps back out of sight, but can’t help overhearing voices raised in argument and then seeing a man pull off the cloth covering his companion’s face. Gareth is surprised to recognise the young woman, but before he can think much about it, she barks a command and the train moves on. The next day, Gareth thoughtlessly mentions this in front of his half-sister Cecilia’s beau, a revenue officer; the young woman is arrested and brought for trial, and Gareth, despite not really wanting to rock any boats, is called to give evidence against her.

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

Radio Static by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

radio static

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two single dads. Two headstrong teenagers. One dead body.

A cabin in the middle of nowhere, nature all around, peace and serenity. It was supposed to be a vacation to help Nova reconnect with his son.

But he didn’t expect to fall for his neighbor in the cabin across the lake.

He didn’t expect an erratic and unusual broadcast on a radio station no longer in existence.

And he definitely didn’t expect a dead body in the water.

Mercy likes his mysteries to stay within the pages of his novels. When strange things start to happen at his summer cabin, he and his daughter team up with the man and his son on the other side of the lake to get to the bottom of it. A little amateur sleuthing won’t hurt anyone, right?

Someone out there knows the truth.
Who is the man on the radio?
What does he know?
Mercy and Nova are determined to solve the mystery, but are they willing to risk life and limb for answers? Because someone doesn’t want their secrets revealed.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Nicky James has become one of my favourite authors over the past couple of years, her well-structured stories featuring complex, well-drawn characters and – usually – mid-to-high levels of angst – have made her a must read. Radio Static is a standalone romantic mystery (originally published in 2021) in which two single dads in their forties (together with their teenaged son and daughter) become embroiled in the mystery surrounding a decades-old disappearance. This is very much an amateur sleuth story in which the characters sometimes do things that made me facepalm, but which Jessica Fletcher and her ilk of cosy TV detectives would probably do without batting an eyelid! So it’s worth bearing that that in mind before jumping in – these guys aren’t Valor and Doyle with guns, badges and all their experience of detective work to call on.

Nova Charrette and his sixteen-year-old son, Cooper, are on their way to the remote cabin his family has owned for years by the lake near the small town of Drysdale. Nova hasn’t been there for around twenty-five years, since he was eighteen, but has decided that its remote location with its range of activities (swimming, fishing, hiking etc.) and lack of wifi and mobile connectivity is just the place for him to spend a bit of time reconnecting with Cooper – who lives with his mother – before it’s too late and Cooper heads off to college. Cooper isn’t impressed when Nova tells him there’s no wifi or 4g, and scoffs at the idea that a month without Spotify and Netflix is going to be “fun”. Trying to rally him, Nova suggests he try to find the local music station on the jeep’s radio, but all he can find is a bunch of static – until suddenly, the radio crackles to life and they hear a rough, gravelly voice rambling about the murder, thirty years before, of a young woman named Vivian Malone, and how it’s been covered up. Nova vaguely remembers hearing about Vivian’s disappearance when he was a teen, but nothing more – and wonders if what they’d heard was a talk show or a true crime podcast.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Subway Slayings (Memento Mori #2) by C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

subway slayings

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Detective Everett Larkin of New York City’s Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave since catching the serial killer responsible for what the media has dubbed the “Death Mask Murders.” But Larkin hasn’t forgotten that another memento—another death—is waiting to be found.

Summer brings the grisly discovery of human remains in the subway system, but the clues point to one of Larkin’s already-open cases, so he resumes active duty. And when a postmortem photograph, akin to those taken during the Victorian Era, is located at the scene, Larkin requests aid from the most qualified man he knows: Detective Ira Doyle of the Forensic Artists Unit.

An unsolved case that suffered from tunnel vision, as well as the deconstruction of death portraits, leads Larkin and Doyle down a rabbit hole more complex than the tunnels beneath Manhattan. And if this investigation isn’t enough, both are struggling with how to address the growing intimacy between them. Because sometimes, love is more grave than murder.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

C.S. Poe’s Subway Slayings was one of my favourite books of last year, a wonderful combination of clever, tightly-plotted mystery and gorgeous slow-burn romance that gave me a book hangover of the very best kind – and now I get to experience the story all over again with the added benefit of a superlative performance from Kale Williams.

Detective Everett Larkin of the Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave to recover from the broken arm he sustained while apprehending the ‘Death Mask Killer’ at the end of Madison Square Murders. It’s the nineteenth of May and exactly fifty-nine days later (Larkin is nothing if not precise!) and one day before he is due to return to work, he’s called to the Fifty-Seventh Street subway station where a dead body has been found, stuffed in a blue IKEA tote bag, inside a utility closet on the platform. He’s a little confused though, as this is clearly a recent death and is surely a case for Homicide rather than Cold Cases – but the reason becomes clear when the CSU hands him an evidence bag containing a photograph of a teenaged girl slumped on one of the platform benches. The girl is wearing clothes that appear to date from the eighties or nineties and she looks to be asleep – or drunk or stoned – and there’s a message scrawled across the back: “Deliver me to Detective Larkin.”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The God Prince (Earthborn #2) by Marian Perera

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Ranjit Blake, captain of the guard, protects his people by killing whoever threatens them. Even if the danger is Prince Sheruke, a half-human earth elemental. Sheruke can’t be harmed when he becomes a landslide or a lava flow, but Ranj tricks him into taking his human form. And at point-blank range, Ranj shoots him in the head.

Ranj immediately wishes he’d saved the bullet for himself, because Sheruke has a secret—he’s invulnerable in either form. That leaves Ranj no choice but to surrender and offer to serve Sheruke. In any capacity he desires.

Sheruke may have stone eyes and disfiguring scars, but his power and charisma make up for those—and there’s never been a human he couldn’t tame. Not even Ranj. But as the reckless gunslinger gives in to temptation, Sheruke wants even more of him. And the danger level is off the charts. Because if Ranj ever discovers Sheruke’s other secret, the one which could destroy even a Prince, Ranj will have to choose between the safety of his people and the life of the Prince who has fallen for him.

Rating: B

The God Prince is the second book in the Earthborn series. I haven’t read book one, and would say that there’s enough information contained in this book for the story to make sense. BUT. I see from reading reviews of the previous book, that not reading it means I’ve missed out on some details about the background to the world in which the book is set (one hundred years ago, a cruise ship from our world was lost in fog and went through a portal to another realm and the survivors settled there) so if that would bother you, then perhaps you would be better off going back to read The Beast Prince first.

Some thirty years before this story begins, the murderously insane Queen Beneath the Earth gave birth to a number of sons, who immediately clawed their way out of the earth in order to escape her and then scattered in various directions, to both get as far away from her as possible and to avoid each other. These Earthborn Princes now rule over the various townships of Avalon – some of them more ably and fairly than others – and are jealously possessive of what they regard as theirs. They spend most of their time in human form, but can also become mud, lava, sand, rock, anything that is ‘of the earth’ in the blink of an eye – and in their earth forms they’re invincible.

Ranjit Blake, Captain of the Guard in Solstice Harbor, has come to New Canton to visit his sister Sobha, and is surprised, on arrival, to see a number of townsfolk hard at work repairing damage to the town walls. Given that the town’s patron is an Earthborn Prince who is capable of making such repairs thanks to his ability to manipulate rock and stone, they shouldn’t have to do this themselves. His sister tells him that Prince Sheruke left town a few days earlier and that he was so angry when he did, that he smashed through the wall after someone had angered him, and that they’re still waiting for him to return. Then Sobha, somewhat reluctantly, tells him the identity of the human who had angered Sheruke so greatly – Peter, Ranj’s friend and former lover. Ranj immediately goes to see Peter, who doesn’t know what he did wrong to make Sheruke – never before known to raise a hand in anger – beat him and then storm off, but given that he angered their Prince, the denizens of New Canton want nothing to do with him and he’s become a pariah. Ranj is furious when he finds out what’s happened to his friend and is determined to do something about it. He decides to kill the Prince and he hatches a plan whereby he and Peter will find Sheruke and ensure he’s in his human form so that Ranj can shoot him. But his hastily conceived and ill thought-out plan goes awry when even a bullet to Sheruke’s head doesn’t do the trick. Fully expecting the Prince to kill him for the attempt on his life, Ranj braces himself for a killing blow – but it doesn’t come. Sheruke spares his life – on condition that Ranj serves him in whatever capacity he desires.

Prince Sheruke prides himself on being an enlightened and benevolent ruler. Unlike some of his brothers, who rule their people with fear and a rod of iron, he believes the people should be allowed to govern themselves and suggested the creation of a Council, which is now responsible for running New Canton. Sheruke continues to accept the town’s tribute to him as its protector, but doesn’t interfere in the day to day business of running it. But he’s keeping a secret, one that unnerves him greatly. Not only is he now invincible in his human form as well as in his earth one, his powers are increasing – and he’s started to notice other changes, too. He can’t remember lashing out at Peter and smashing through the wall or why he did it, food has lost all its taste, and he’s begun to dislike the fine clothes he’s often given as part of the town tribute. Then Ranj starts to notice certain inconsistencies as well, words and figures of speech which sound out of place and which Sheruke denies saying, actions he cannot remember… could the Prince be going mad? And if he is, who will be able stop him should he turn his anger on the people of New Canton?

I enjoyed The God Prince despite a few reservations. The author carefully ekes out the information about what is happening to Sheruke to create an intriguing mystery, but while the world building is pretty good, and the big showdown at the end is very well done, the romance between Sheruke and Ranjit is underdeveloped. Even though the author clearly knows how to build sexual tension – there are a couple of scenes where the sizzling heat between the pair could have melted my Kindle! – I never felt there was much of an emotional connection there. They spend plenty of on-page time together, they talk and banter and Ranj, although he’s effectively a servant, doesn’t take any crap while also knowing when not to push things too far. I liked that aspect of their relationship and could see an unlikely friendship developing between them, but I never really understood why Ranj fell for Sheruke and vice versa. There’s attraction there, for sure;  Sheruke quickly recognises that he’s attracted to Ranj, but doesn’t, to Ranj’s surprise, push for sex despite their status as master and servant.  In fact, he holds back, partly because Ranj is so clearly not interested and partly becuase he’s conscious of the scars running down one side of his body (inflicted by the Queen during his escape.)  The author does a good job of showing Sheruke’s feelings for Ranj growing and changing, but Ranj spends a lot of time in denial and even once the relationship has turned sexual, continues to deny there are any feelings there on his part.  There just isn’t enough real progression from ‘I’m attracted to you and want to jump your bones’ to ‘I love you’.

Still, The God Prince is an entertaining and well-written fantasy tale, even if the romance isn’t quite what I’d hoped for. I’m not sure if there will be more m/m entries in the series, but I’d certainly read them if there are.

Dealing in Death (Death and the Devil #2.5) by L.J. Hayward (audiobook) – Narrated by Rowan Scott


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

This audiobook is narrated from the point of view of Ethan Blade—assassin extraordinaire, cold-blooded killer, heartless monster, and . . . retiree?

I’ve spent my whole life dealing in death, efficiently eliminating targets while fighting to preserve a sense of self and morality, to avoid becoming as detached and ruthless as my siblings. I thought I had succeeded. Then I met Jack Reardon—contrary, handsome, forgiving, and far too good for the likes of me—and my life was tipped upside down. When he asked me to move in with him, he didn’t specify that I had to quit my job, but I wanted to—for myself, not for him. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

My old instincts—“Ethan Blade”—are soon tempted out of retirement by a job offer I can’t afford to refuse and by an old hook-up of Jack’s he’d be a fool to refuse. While falling prey to my own temptation, Jack struggles with his. Which is precisely when the true danger exposes itself—one of my siblings with no such sense of self or morality. Only pain. And he is prepared to rain it down on me and Jack, unless I can square the Ethan Blade I want to be with the one I need to be, in time to save us both.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

The “extended novella” Dealing in Death revisits the events of Why the Devil Stalks Death from Ethan’s PoV, which means we get to see what he was doing while he was away from Jack, learn more about him as an individual and get his perspective on his feelings for Jack and their relationship. It’s impossible to say much about this book without reference to earlier books in the series, so please be aware there are spoilers in this review.

We learned a lot about Ethan’s past in the previous book – the existence of the Cabal, his relationships with his remaining ‘siblings’, how he was brutalised by Two (who is obsessed with him) and that he made his first kill when he was just fourteen – but there’s a lot more to the story than what we saw in WtDSD, and even though I already knew how things turned out, I still enjoyed the hell out of this ‘extra’. And of course, in audio format, there’s the extra bonus of getting to listen to a whole six-hours of Rowan Scott’s sexy AF Ethan voice 😉

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

My 2022 in Books and Audio

What was I listening to and reading in 2022?  My Goodreads stats show I managed 238 books overall (just over my Reading Challenge target of 225) which was split almost equally between print and audio – 52.2% ebook, 47.8% audio – and around two-thirds of my reading/listening last year was ARCs/ALCs.  (Returning to work as a teacher and continuing my freelance work as an audio proofer had a slight impact on my overall total, which is a little bit less than last year.)

Of that total there are 77 5 star books, 123 4 star books – by far the biggest category – 30 3 star books, 2 2 star books and 1 DNF.

The 5 star bracket includes those titles I rate at 4.5 but round-up (which I equate to A-); the 4 star bracket (B) includes the 4.5 star grades I don’t round up (B+) and the 3.5 star ones I do round up (B-), the 3 stars are C+/C/C- and so on.  Of the 77 5 star ratings, around 34-35 are straight A grades in terms of the story (in the case of audiobooks, sometimes a 4 star review will get bumped up because the narration is so fabulous), so the rest are A minuses or audiobooks where A and B grades combined to rate a higher overall total.

The books that made my Best of 2022 list at All About Romance:

Nicky James and C.S. Poe are at the top of their game right now; Rachel Reid gave Shane and Ilya the perfect send-off and I was really pleased to be able to include a début author (Jess Everlee) on the list, with her late-Victorian era queer romance. Jay Hogan has long been a must-read author, Charlie Adhara got her new Monster Hunt series off to a great start and of course no Best of the Year list of mine would be complete without at least one book by Gregory Ashe! (Although I really don’t like that cover…)

Some of favourite audiobooks of the year at AudioGals are the audio versions of some of the above titles:

The other titles I rated most highly are complete (or ongoing) series:

Another series I binged in 2022 was Cole McCade’s Criminal Intentions. Books 1-3 came out in audio (superbly narrated by Curt Bonnem- reviews of books 1& 2 HERE), and I was very quickly hooked to the fabulous combinations of dark, twisty mystery/procedurals and the super slow burn romance between the two leads. But with no sign of any more books being released in audio, I switched to print and steadily worked my way through the rest of Season One and am almost finished Season Two. I gather that the author decided to put the series on hiatus last year after some very ugly online bullying (honestly – have these people nothing better to do than to badger and berate an author because he’s not writing his books the way they want them written??) – but that he was planning to put out the remaining ten books this year. I don’t know for sure if that’s happening, but I really hope so; I love Mal and Seong-Jae and want to know how it all pans out for them.

From my didn’t-quite-make-it (the “also rans”) list:

In audio, these were the titles where I gave an A grade for narration and a B+ for the story:

I also had a lot of fun listening to Meghan Maslow’s Starfig Investigations series (narrated by the wonderful Greg Boudreaux) – a light-hearted adventure romp with a romance between a wizard and a dragon shifter, finishing up with Eden Winter’s excellent Diversion series and with the latest PsyCop story, Subtle Bodies in which Gomez Pugh continues to completely embody the character of Victor Bayne. Nazri Noor’s Fantasy/Urban Fantasy is a recent discovery – he has excellent narrators (I’ve listened to Greg Boudreaux and Zachary Johnson so far) and is very prolific, so I’ve got some catching up to do in 2023!

Other books I’m looking forward to – I’ve already read (and loved) KJ Charles’ The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (out in March) so I’m eager to read the second book in her Doomsday duology, which is out this autumn. With any luck, she’ll get stuck on whatever she’s writing next and will just write a different book while she gets unstuck! (Sorry, KJ – not that I’m wishing writer’s block on you!) There’s one more book (that I know of, maybe more) to come in Nicky James’ Valor and Doyle series plus C.S. Poe’s Broadway Butchery (May), which is absolutely one of my most anticipated books of the year. I’d love to get book four in the Magic & Steam series, too, but maybe I’m just being greedy…

Thanks for your company – here and at Goodreads (and AAR and AG) – over the past year, and for chatting about books and audiobooks with me! I’ll be back in this spot next year to see how 2023 went!