Restless Spirits (Spirits #1) by Jordan L. Hawk (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work.

A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner. The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed. Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns. For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives but their very souls.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B

Restless Spirits is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s Spirits trilogy set in New York at the end of the nineteenth century. The novels chart the development of a romantic relationship between a most unlikely couple as they battle malevolent ghosts and evil spirits; and in this opening instalment scientist Henry Strauss and medium Vincent Night are pitted against each other in a contest of modern scientific ideas versus traditional myth and mediumship.

After his father’s death a decade earlier, Henry Strauss and his grieving mother were duped by a medium who promised them he could communicate with the late Mr. Strauss. Young, handsome and charming, Isaac Woodsend wormed his way into the household and stole everything he could lay his hands on – including Henry’s sixteen-year-old innocence and heart. His family ruined, his mother driven to an early grave, Henry vowed never to trust a medium again, and set his mind to devising a machine that would enable the dead to contact the living without the need for a human intermediary. As the novel opens, Henry has put the finishing touches to his Electro-Séance and has finally proven that it works; he is anxious to present his findings to the Psychical Society and hopes to finally achieve his long-held ambition of acceptance into their ranks and of getting the necessary funding to have his work mass produced.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Pretty Pretty Boys (Hazard & Somerset #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

After Emery Hazard loses his job as a detective in Saint Louis, he heads back to his hometown–and to the local police force there. Home, though, brings no happy memories, and the ghosts of old pain are very much alive in Wahredua. Hazard’s new partner, John-Henry Somerset, had been one of the worst tormentors, and Hazard still wonders what Somerset’s role was in the death of Jeff Langham, Hazard’s first boyfriend.

When a severely burned body is discovered, Hazard finds himself drawn deeper into the case than he expects. Determining the identity of the dead man proves impossible, and solving the murder grows more and more unlikely. But as the city’s only gay police officer, Hazard is placed at the center of a growing battle between powerful political forces. To his surprise, Hazard finds an unlikely ally in his partner, the former bully. And as they spend more time together, something starts to happen between them, something that Hazard can’t–and doesn’t want–to explain.

The discovery of a second mutilated corpse, though, reveals clues that the two murders are linked, and as Hazard gets closer to answers, he uncovers a conspiracy of murder and betrayal that goes deeper–and closer to home–than he could ever expect.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – A-

Pretty Pretty Boys is the first book in Gregory Ashe’s six-book series about Missouri-based detectives Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset. I really enjoyed the story, which boasts a well-crafted, intricate mystery and combines it with the difficult, angsty relationship between the two men, who have known each other since boyhood and whose shared history is a complicated one. I’ll say right now though, that while there are romantic elements to the book, they’re low-key and mostly confined to some really delicious sexual tension between the leads, so if an HEA or HFN in every book is a must, I’m afraid you won’t find it here. We’re talking slow burn, with an emphasis on the slooooooooow – although reviews of later books lead me to believe that the guys get there eventually. Each instalment in the series takes place across a fairly short time-span, and the whole series only spans a few months, so it makes sense that the romantic side of things would take a few books to get going. Even though the wait is frustrating…

Anyway. For reasons listeners are not (yet) privy to, Detective Emery Hazard has been forced to quit his post in St. Louis. He’s offered the choice between being demoted to a desk job or keeping his shield and going somewhere else – and chooses the latter option, deciding to return to his home town of Wahredua – which he remembers as a dismal backwater – intent on finally discovering what drove his first boyfriend to commit suicide some fifteen years earlier. The place doesn’t hold many happy memories for him. The only openly gay kid in a small, insular town, he was tormented at school by a group of three boys, and he still bears the scars – both physical and emotional – of that bullying, so returning to Wahredua brings back all those memories and more. He knows one of his three persecutors is dead, and he soon discovers another is a wreck of a man… which leaves him wondering what happened to the third, the town’s golden-boy; the drop-dead gorgeous, charming and popular John-Henry Somerset.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Unspeakable (Deadly Secrets #4) by Elisabeth Naughton

This title may be purchased from Amazon

All his siblings have moved on from their troubling pasts, but Rusty McClane can’t leave his behind. Not even when his freedom is in jeopardy.

Legal investigator Harper Blake can sense a bad boy. She’s drawn to them—like she is to her mysterious and brooding new client. The police believe that Rusty is involved with the case of a missing underage girl. Harper’s job is to find evidence to defend him. But is her sexy suspect a predator…or something else?

If Rusty is guilty of anything, it’s of stirring something primitive in Harper. The closer they get, the harder it is to believe the worst of him.

But in an underworld filled with sex trafficking, kidnapping, and murder, Harper will need to be cautious about whom she trusts. Because Rusty isn’t the only one with secrets.

Rating: B-

Unspeakable is book four in Elisabeth Naughton’s Deadly Secrets series featuring the adoptive McClane siblings, and although I haven’t read the other books, it works pretty well as a standalone.  There are, of course, some recurring characters and past events referred to, but the author gives enough information about them to satisfy the newbie without getting bogged down in too much extraneous detail.  I did, however, read a few reviews of the other books after I’d read this one, and discovered that Unspeakable’s hero – Russell (Rusty) McClane – was a bit of an arsehole in the others, so I did miss out on that whole bad-boy-redeemed thing.  On the plus side, however, not knowing much about him meant that the first chapters of the book, where the author paints him as something of a questionable character, kept me guessing for a while – even though it was obvious he was the hero the minute the heroine started lusting after him.

Rusty has always thought of himself as the black sheep of the family, the really awful things he’d done in the past making feel as though he doesn’t belong among this group of honest, good-hearted people who love him.  He can normally handle family parties, but this particular day he just wants to be somewhere else, to avoid the questions about the bandages on his hands and the lies he’ll have to tell in response, hating himself for the deception and cringing at the obvious pride his parents take in him.  In the middle of the party, however, things look set to come crashing down around his ears when two detectives show up at the McClane house intent on asking Rusty some questions about a young girl last seen at the local strip club where she’d worked – and where she’d been seen in Rusty’s company.

Ex-cop-turned-investigator Harper Blake knows a bad boy when she sees one, and Russell McClane most definitely pings her evil receptors.  Her boss, lawyer Andrew Renwick, is an old friend of the McClane family, and he’s been asked to do a little digging around on Rusty’s behalf, to see what the police might be using to build a case against him in case Rusty is charged and Renwick has to mount a defence.  Renwick tells Harper that at least eight girls working at strip joints in the area have disappeared over the past few weeks and months, and that McClane is known to have visited the same places, enquiring about their youngest employees.  Harper can’t put her finger on it, but she knows immediately that something is off about McClane.  Is he just some sicko bastard who preys on teenaged girls, or is something else going on?  Either way, she’s determined to find out.

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

What I’ve Done (Morgan Dane #4) by Melinda Leigh

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

Rating: B+

What I’ve Done is the fourth book in the author’s series of novels that feature former prosecutor-turned-defence attorney Morgan Dane and the men of Sharp Investigations, Lincoln Sharp and Lance Kruger, her former high school boyfriend, with whom she is again romantically involved. I haven’t read the previous three books, but this one works well as a standalone; there are a few references to prior events, but these are quickly and simply explained and I didn’t feel as though I was missing any of the information I needed to make sense of – and enjoy – this story.

Morgan is asked to take on the case of a young woman named Haley Powell who has been accused of stabbing a man to death.  She woke up covered in blood in a strange bed in a strange house with no recollection of where she was or how she got there; feeling completely disoriented she got up and looked around, saw blood everywhere and found the body of the young man she vaguely remembers hooking up with the night before lying outside the back door.  She’s taken into custody and is pretty much completely out of it – she’s been without medication for her Addison’s disease for longer than is advisable and its flare up is only making it harder for her to function.

Haley’s late father was a cop who was shot in the line of duty over two decades earlier, and his partner, Lincoln Sharp, vowed he’d look after his best friend’s wife and daughter.  Elizabeth and Haley moved away from Scarlet Falls some time ago, but have recently returned – and it’s to Sharp that Elizabeth turns for help.  He brings in Morgan, who quickly realises that Haley has been framed – but with the evidence against her seemingly overwhelming and the local media whipping public opinion into a frenzy proving it is going to be an uphill struggle.

I liked the way the story unfolds for the reader just as it does for Haley; we know what she knows to start with and our knowledge of what happened grows along with Morgan’s as she and the guys gradually put the pieces of the puzzle together.  I was also impressed with the way the author portrayed the “trial by media” aspect of the story, creating a real sense of menace out of the mob mentality displayed by so many of the townsfolk who had convicted Haley of murder while knowing nothing of the truth, and who extended their hatred to Morgan and the team simply for doing their jobs.

Morgan, Lance and Sharp are engaging, fully-rounded characters who obviously like and respect each other a great deal, and while the romantic aspect is low key (Morgan and Lance are an established couple who are obviously in it for the long haul) their relationship is so well founded that it was easy to see that they care for each other deeply and that while Lance obviously wants to keep Morgan safe, he’s not one of those men who misguidedly tries to cut her out of the loop; he knows she’s smart, tough and capable and trusts her to know what she can handle.

What I’ve Done is a tense, tightly-plotted thriller that kept me guessing up until just about the last minute and eagerly turning the pages.  I’m looking forward to the next in the series, and am going to try to catch up with the earlier books before Secrets Never Die comes out next Spring.

Kill Game (Seven of Spades #1) by Cordelia Kingsbridge (audiobook) – Narrated by Wyatt Baker

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Homicide detective Levi Abrams is barely holding his life together. He’s reeling from the fallout of a fatal shooting, and his relationship with his boyfriend is crumbling. The last thing he’s prepared for is a serial killer stalking the streets of Las Vegas. Or how he keeps getting thrown into the path of annoyingly charming bounty hunter Dominic Russo.

Dominic likes his life free of complications. That means no tangling with cops-especially prickly, uptight detectives. But when he stumbles across one of the Seven of Spades’s horrifying crime scenes, he can’t let go, despite Levi’s warnings to stay away.

The Seven of Spades is ruthless and always two moves ahead. Worst of all, they’ve taken a dangerously personal interest in Levi and Dominic. Forced to trust each other, the two men race to discover the killer’s identity, revealing hidden truths along the way and sparking a bond neither man expected. But that may not be enough to protect them.

This killer likes to play games, and the deck is not stacked in Levi and Dominic’s favor.

Rating: Narration – B- : Content – A-

It’s not often that I get gushy about my reading and/or listening material but… OMG, Cordelia Kingsbridge’s Seven of Spades series is one of the best things I’ve read all year!! This is romantic suspense at its very best; superbly-conceived, twisty-turny, high-stakes plots featuring two utterly compelling, flawed, complex central characters with off-the-charts chemistry and a superbly developed romance that isn’t all hearts and flowers, but which more than adequately proves the old adage about what doesn’t kill you making you stronger.

So far only book one, Kill Game, is available in audio – the series is five books in all; 1-4 are out, with the fifth due to follow next Spring – but I’m hoping the other books will become available in due course. The stories really are terrific and Wyatt Baker – a new to me narrator – acquits himself fairly well, although I there are some aspects of his performance I felt could have been stronger.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run #4) by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux (audiobook) – Narrated by Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Baltimore is a city in alarming distress. Rising violence is fanning the flames of public outrage, and all law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are catching blame. Thus the FBI’s latest ideas to improve public relations: a municipal softball league and workshops for community leaders. But the new commitments just mean more time Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have to spend apart when they’re happily exploring how to be more than by-the-book partners.

Then the latest spate of crime explodes in their faces – literally – throwing the city, the Bureau, and Ty and Zane’s volatile partnership both in and out of the office into chaos. They’re hip-deep in trouble, trying to track down bombers and bank robbers in the dark with very few clues, and the only way to reach the light at the end of the tunnel together requires Ty and Zane to close their eyes and trust each other to the fiery end.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B+

Divide & Conquer, book four in the Cut & Run series, sees Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett back on land and at their desks after their not-so-relaxing Christmas cruise – and Baltimore in the middle of utter chaos. A series of riots, lootings, robberies and bombings has the police and FBI baffled and having to deal with an increasingly angry and fearful public. Ty and Zane are quietly spending as much of their free time together as they can but are careful to keep their relationship under the radar given the bureau’s rigid non-fraternization policy. The trouble is, it’s getting more and more difficult to hide what they are to one another and they’re both forever looking over their shoulders and second-guessing their actions whenever they’re around each other. Complicating things still further is Ty’s declaration of love at the end of the last book; he’s all in, but Zane has made no attempt to broach the matter since, and while Ty hadn’t expected a reciprocal declaration and knows that Zane cares for him deeply, the latter’s refusal or inability to say the words is causing a bit of uncertainty between them.

Still, they’re in a committed relationship and are at last able to spend time together just being a couple. Until, that is, the mysterious bomber – who seems to have been targeting law enforcement, firefighters and other public servants – steps things up and Ty and Zane (not at all surprisingly) find themselves in the middle of it and end up making targets of themselves. Being Ty and Zane, they don’t give a fuck, but their boss immediately pulls them in and off active duty as a protective measure, telling them that instead they’re going to be the faces of the bureau’s latest PR drive. Like the other law enforcement agencies and public servants, the FBI been getting a pretty bad press because of their lack of progress in identifying those responsible for the city-wide unrest, and they need to restore the public’s faith somewhat. Because Ty and Zane are competent, personable and pretty (!), they’re going to be giving lectures and talks, doing meet and greets – and in Ty’s case, getting involved with the cross-agency softball league that’s being set up as a way of fostering public goodwill.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Ruairi Carter

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been all but unemployable since his disgrace during the War. Now he scrapes a living working for a rich eccentric who believes in magic. Saul knows it’s a lot of nonsense…except that he begins to find himself in increasingly strange and frightening situations. And at every turn he runs into the sardonic, mysterious Randolph Glyde.

Randolph is the last of an ancient line of arcanists, commanding deep secrets and extraordinary powers as he struggles to fulfill his family duties in a war-torn world. He knows there’s something odd going on with the haunted-looking man who keeps turning up in all the wrong places. The only question for Randolph is whether Saul is victim or villain.

Saul hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time. But as the supernatural threat grows, along with the desire between them, he’ll need to believe in evasive, enraging, devastatingly attractive Randolph. Because he may be the only man who can save Saul’s life – or his soul.

Rating: Narration – B- : Content – A-

Spectred Isle was one of my favourite books of 2017 and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to experiencing it again in audio format. The story is a captivating romantic adventure yarn set in England in 1923, wherein a small group of arcanists and ghost-hunters are England’s last line of defence against supernatural threat. Ms. Charles’ makes wonderful use of folklore, ancient myth and magical rites as she sets about pulling readers and listeners into the world she has created, one in which a war as terrible as the one being fought between 1914 and 1918 by men and machines was fought concurrently by forces of the occult.

The War Beneath, as that war is known amongst those who took part in it, was every bit as savage as the one going on in the trenches of Northern France, possibly moreso, as the opposing governments recruited as many occultists and arcanists as they could and set them to unleashing their very specialised form of warfare on the enemy. With both sides fairly evenly matched, the veil between the supernatural and the human worlds was irrevocably damaged; and with so many of the combatants dead, it now falls to just a handful of men and women to track down and repel the various creatures and malignant entities that are passing through the veil with increasing frequency.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.