Quickie Reviews #2

Here are another couple of Quickie Reviews; books I’ve read or listened to recently but haven’t written full-length reviews for.


Among the Living (PsyCop #1) by Jordan Castillo Price

Rating: B-

An entertaining novella, first in a series featuring the rather endearingly shambolic PsyCop, Victor Bayne. The author sets up her world – in which “stiff” (non-psychic) cops are paired up with a psi – very well, and clearly shows there’s a downside to having psychic gifts. Victor and his new partner, Lisa Gutierrez, are assigned to investigate a murder in which the victim is artfully arranged on a bed, surrounded by glass/mirror fragments. Victor, a level five medium is concerned when he can’t sense the dead person – usually their ghosts hang around to bitch about being dead – so this is odd. We’re also introduced to Victor’s love interest, Jacob Marks (another “NP” – non-psychic) and his partner, Caroline who is the human equivalent of a lie detector, and the four of them set about solving the mystery and finding the killer.

Because this is a novella, certain aspects are rushed – like the relationship between Victor and Jacob, who, in the books first pages, hook up at a party, but hopefully there’ll be more development in future books.

Victor is an engaging narrator and I’ll be checking out more of the books in the series.

ETA: I recently picked up the audio version of this in a Whispersync deal, and Gomez Pugh does a terrific job with the narration.  Great character differentiation and a terrific portrayal of Victor – I’m definitely going to pick up more of this series in audio.


The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham

No Rating

This was actually a very rare DNF for me, so I will not be rating the book; I didn’t finish reading it because I didn’t care for the BDSM element of the story. I’m no prude, I read books with explicit sex scenes on a regular basis, but I just can’t equate pain with sexual pleasure and I was unable to sympathise with the hero as a result. (And as a hero-centric reader, that’s pretty much the death knell for any book for me.) What I read was well-written and I would be interested in reading more from this author, but the BDSM scenes – though very few – turned my stomach. I also didn’t care for the cheating fairly late on in the story (I skimmed through to the end after I stopped reading); there’s a scene in which the heroine discovers the hero on his knees, stripped to the waist, and obviously aroused while being whipped by another woman.  YMMV of course, but in my mind, that’s infidelity and although I can deal with it in a romance under certain circumstances, this wasn’t one of them.  I don’t have many dealbreakers when it comes to what I read, but two in one story torpedoed this one.


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My Once and Future Duke (Wagers of Sin #1) by Caroline Linden (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

What happens at the infamous Vega Club…

Sophie Campbell is determined to be mistress of her own fate. Surviving on her skill at cards, she never risks what she can’t afford to lose. Yet when the Duke of Ware proposes a scandalous wager that’s too extravagant to refuse, she can’t resist. If she wins, she’ll get 5,000 pounds, enough to secure her independence forever.

Stays at the Vega Club…

Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, tells himself he’s at the Vega Club merely to save his reckless brother from losing everything, but he knows it’s a lie. He can’t keep his eyes off Sophie, and to get her he breaks his ironclad rule against gambling. If he wins, he wants her – for a week.

Until now.

A week with Jack could ruin what’s left of Sophie’s reputation. It might even cost her her heart. But when it comes to love, all bets are off….

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – A-

Better late than never, so they say, and I’m pleased to agree with that when it comes to the release of this first book in Caroline Linden’s Wagers of Sin series. My Once and Future Duke was released in print at the end of February and I’m happy to report that the audio version – narrated by the ever-reliable Beverley A. Crick – was worth the wait.

In the prologue, we’re introduced to the three heroines of the series – Sophie, Eliza and Georgiana – when Sophie is sent to school by her grandfather, Viscount Makepeace, who wants nothing to do with her. He disowned Sophie’s father when he married an opera singer, and Sophie has lived all her life abroad as the family travelled frequently to her mother’s engagements. When her voice began to fail, Sophie’s father did what he could to support his family by gambling; having some knowledge of mathematics, probabilities and odds, he didn’t do too badly and Sophie learned many card games from him – and from the lads in the stables, she learned dicing, how to calculate odds, when to be cautious and when to take a risk. Sophie’s parents died when she was twelve and she was left to the care of the viscount, who made it clear that his financial support would stop when she was eighteen, so she has devised a plan which will secure her future – but it’s risky and means she will have to live on the edge of respectability.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Long Way Home by Z.A. Maxfield (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ever since the accident that cost him his job on the Seattle police force, Kevin Quinn has been living with psychic abilities he refers to as the ‘gift that keeps on taking’. His attempts to use his talents to help the police have been met with limited success. Yet, when teenage boys start going missing from the beach cities of Southern California, Kevin gets on a plane.

Connor Dougal has every reason to believe all psychics are fakes and charlatans. He’s still numb from the disappearance of his first love, a boy who went missing 10 years earlier. Everything he aspires to is a direct result of that tragedy, even the acquisition of his detective shield. The irony of having to babysit Kevin Quinn is not lost on him.

These two suspicious men must develop trust and respect for one another to solve the case and, on the way, maybe fall in love.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B-

Z.A. Maxfield is a new-to-me author, and I was intrigued by the synopsis for The Long Way Home, a romantic mystery featuring an ex-cop who gained some sort of psychic ability following a serious car accident, and the detective assigned to babysit him when he is called in to consult on a particularly disturbing case.

Kevin Quinn liked his job and his life, but after the accident – in which he lost the sight in one eye – he started to realise that something else had changed as well, and that he could somehow sense feelings and emotions by touching inanimate objects. For the past five years, he’s hidden himself away on a ranch in Wyoming with only his faithful dog for company, has a friends-with-benefits relationship with the local vet, and is fortunate enough to be able to make a decent living as a romantic novelist (under a pseudonym of course.) 😉

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

When a Duke Loves a Woman (Sins for All Seasons #2) by Lorraine Heath (audiobook) – Narrated by Kate Reading


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Gillie Trewlove knows what a stranger’s kindness can mean, having been abandoned on a doorstep as a baby and raised by the woman who found her there. So, when suddenly faced with a soul in need at her door – or the alleyway by her tavern – Gillie doesn’t hesitate. But he’s no infant. He’s a grievously injured, distractingly handsome gentleman who doesn’t belong in Whitechapel, much less recuperating in Gillie’s bed….

Being left at the altar is humiliating; being rescued from thugs by a woman – albeit a brave and beautiful one – is the pièce de résistance to the duke of Thornley’s extraordinarily bad day. After nursing him back from the brink, Gillie agrees to help him comb London’s darker corners for his wayward bride. But every moment together is edged with desire and has Thorne rethinking his choice of wife. Yet Gillie knows the aristocracy would never accept a duchess born in sin. Thorne, however, is determined to prove to her that no obstacle is insurmountable when a duke loves a woman.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B-

The first two books in the author’s Sins for All Seasons series – Beyond Scandal and Desire and When a Duke Loves a Woman – have been released simultaneously as audiobooks, and as I read and reviewed the first book earlier this year, I opted to review the second in audio. It’s a low-angst, low-conflict Cinderella story which is well written, boasts a couple of engaging central characters and a romance that feels very mature – but ultimately, it lacks the emotional punch I’ve found in other books I’ve read by this author, and I came away from it feeling a little disappointed.

Antony Coventry, Duke of Thornley, is some way into his cups when he decides to make his way to Whitechapel, the last known destination of the woman who jilted him at the altar that morning. While there, Thornley – Thorne – falls foul of a bunch of footpads who rob him and beat him quite badly. He just about recalls hearing a low, melodious voice yelling at the men to leave him alone and moves in and out of consciousness as his rescuer, gets him to her flat, has the doctor called, and then takes care of him until he is well enough to be able to return home.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo (Victorian Rebels #6) by Kerrigan Byrne (audiobook) – Narrated by Derek Perkins

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls-for the passionate women who dare to love them . . .

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival-and salvation-lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul . . .

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

Rating: Narration – A : Content – C+

I’ve read and/or listened to all the books in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series, and I hate to say it, but I think it’s running – has run – out of steam. The first two or three were very good – The Highwayman (book one) continues to be my favourite of the series, with The Hunter a close second – but books four to six have been distinctly lacklustre, and I think that had it not been for the fact that Derek Perkins is one of my favourite narrators and I’ll always jump at the chance to listen to him performing an historical romance novel, I might well have given up on it by now.

When I started The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo (and don’t get me started on the penchant for derivative titles in HR these days!), I thought – at first – that at last, here was a return to the gripping storytelling of The Highwayman, but after a very strong opening and first few chapters, things start to fizzle out; the rest of the plot is tissue-paper thin, the central relationship is almost completely recycled from book one, the principals are bland and underdeveloped and there are large chunks in the middle of the book where nothing much happens.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Full Package (Big Rock #4) by Lauren Blakely (audiobook) – Narrated by Sebastian York

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

I’ve been told I have quite a gift. Hey, I don’t just mean in my pants. I’ve got a big brain, too, and a huge heart of gold. And I like to use all my gifts to the fullest, the package included.

Life is smooth sailing…until I find myself stuck between a rock and a sexy roommate, which makes for one very hard…place. Because scoring an apartment in this city is harder than finding true love. So even if I have to shack up with my buddy’s smoking-hot and incredibly amazing little sister, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

I can resist Josie. I’m disciplined, I’m focused, and I keep my hands to myself, even in the mere 500 square feet we share. Until the one night she insists on sliding under the covers with me. It’ll help her sleep after what happened that day, she says.

Spoiler – neither one of us sleeps.

Did I mention she’s also one of my best friends? That she’s brilliant, beautiful, and a total firecracker? Guess that makes her the full package, too. What’s a man stuck in a hard place to do?

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

Full Package is fairly typical Lauren Blakely fayre, a flirty, fun rom-com featuring a couple of attractive central characters with great chemistry, plenty of hot sex and very little angst. It fits into the Big Rock universe, following on from Well Hung; and the heroine Josie Hammer is the sister of Nick from Mister O.

Josie runs a successful ‘boutique’ bakery in NYC and urgently needs a new flatmate as the friend she’s been sharing with up till now is leaving; Chase Summers is a hard-working ER doctor who is having trouble finding a place to live in the city since returning from a stint abroad with Doctors Without Borders.  Chase and his brother Max have known Nick and Jodie for years and they often hang out together; Chase and Josie are good mates, who share common interests and a sense of humour so… yeah, the solution to their problems is fairly obvious.

Chase moves in and everything is peachy.  Sort of.  Because the searing attraction that’s building between him and Josie is becoming harder and harder to resist – but neither of them wants to risk doing anything to jeopardise their friendship, which is what always happens when friends hook up.  But… maybe, just maybe there’s a way they can have both – all the toe-curlingly hot sex AND stay friends after this thing between them burns out.  The trouble is that the more time Chase spends with Josie, the more convinced he becomes that she’s the one… and she’s made it clear ‘forever’ isn’t on the table.

I picked up the audio book of this because I’d had a few mediocre listens on the trot and I knew Sebastian York wouldn’t disappoint.  He’s extremely good in these light-hearted, guy-PoV contemporary romances, bringing just the right degree of confident, uber sexiness to the narrative while also being able to convey the character’s inner emotions and vulnerabilities.  Chase is a great character, a thoroughly decent, dedicated and compassionate man who – it’s clear early on – has carried a torch for Josie for years, and Josie is a good foil for him, successful in her work life and not afraid to ask for what she wants when it comes to the bedroom.  They make a great couple and the build-up of sexual tension between them us superbly done, but once they hit the sheets, I confess the whole thing started to deflate.  The sex scenes are raunchy and hot and well written, but all the thinking at cross purposes – “this isn’t going to last so we have to stop before things go bad so we can still be friends” – got very wearing very quickly, and the last couple of hours were a bit of a slog.  I’ve listened to several books by this author (when I’m in the mood for sexy fluff), so I know they tend to be fairly low angst and that’s fine  –  not everything needs to be high-drama all the time – and a simple, sexy story about two people falling in love is sometimes just what the doctor ordered (!), but when the one stumbling block in the romance could be solved by having a simple conversation, it ends up feeling contrived and becomes extremely frustrating.

Sebastian York is, as I’ve said, a great choice of narrator for this sort of story; his deep, almost-drawl is a great fit for Ms. Blakely’s brand of sexy, self-aware heroes, and he has a nice way with the flirty banter and laid-back humour.  His female voices are okay – there’s a significant difference between Chase and Josie so there’s no confusion as to who is speaking – and he differentiates subtly but appropriately between the other men in the story.

I got what I expected and wanted from this audiobook – a bit of brain candy and to listen to a good narrator after a few disappointments.  Job done.

A Match Made in Bed (Spinster Heiresses #2) by Cathy Maxwell (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Miss Cassandra Holwell is too tall, too bookish, and too smart – but she does have money and a father who wants a grand title for her. Cassandra hasn’t felt a desire to marry until she meets the sinfully handsome Duke of Camberly, who captures her imagination…until Soren York, Earl of Dewsberry and her family’s sworn enemy, steps in the way.

The Holwells ruined Soren’s family, and he’s lived on the knife’s edge trying to resurrect their fortunes…until he considers marrying the Holwell heiress. Not only would her dowry give him the funds he needs, he has secretly had an eye on the independent-minded bluestocking since they both first realized the differences between men and women.

She likes to read; he has no patience for books. She knows little of sex; he is a man of the world and willing to school her. Her family destroyed his; his offer of marriage may be her only salvation.

Now Cassandra and Soren must learn to love each other for who they are, not what they are – and the lessons are becoming an exercise in absolute pleasure.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B-

In A Match Made in Bed, the second instalment of Cathy Maxwell’s Spinster Heiresses series, attention turns to Miss Cassandra Holwell, the tall, bookish daughter of a rather bombastic MP. Like her two friends – heroines of the other books in the series – Cass has been ‘out’ for several seasons and even though she is heiress to a great fortune, remains unmarried.

Soren York, Earl of Dewsberry, wants to marry an heiress and he needs to do it quickly – but more specifically, he wants to marry Cassandra Holwell, whom he’s known and liked since childhood. He hopes to propose to her while they’re both attending the Duke of Camberley’s house party, but two things seem destined to foil his plans. One – Cass seems to be deliberately avoiding him; and two, the long-standing feud between the Yorks and the Holwells means her father is unlikely to approve the match. Still, Soren is convinced that if he can just talk to her, he’ll be able to persuade her; after all she’s been on the marriage mart for three seasons and needs a husband as much as he needs a wife.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.