Lady Claire is All That (Keeping Up With the Cavendishes #3) by Maya Rodale (audiobook) – narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

In the third installment of Maya Rodale’s captivating, witty series, a marquess finds his fair lady – but must figure out how to keep her.

Her brains…

Claire Cavendish is in search of a duke but not for the usual reasons. The man she seeks is a mathematician; the man she unwittingly finds is Lord Fox: dynamic, athletic, and as bored by the equations Claire adores as she is by the social whirl upon which he thrives. As attractive as Fox is, he’s of no use to Claire…or is he?

Plus his brawn…

Fox’s male pride has been bruised ever since his fiancée jilted him. One way to recover: win a bet that he can transform Lady Claire, society’s roughest diamond, into its most prized jewel. But Claire has other ideas – shockingly steamy ones.

Equals a study in seduction.

By Claire’s calculations Fox is the perfect man to satisfy her sensual curiosity. In Fox’s estimation Claire is the perfect woman to prove his mastery of the ton. But the one thing neither of them counted on is love.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Anyone familiar with Maya Rodale’s current Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series can’t fail to have noticed that the plots of the previous books in the series (Lady Bridget’s Diary and Chasing Lady Amelia) have been loosely based on famous films**. The plot of Lady Claire Is All That, the third instalment, is no exception, deriving a storyline from the 90s movie She’s All That, which in turn borrowed its plot from Pygmalion.

The basic premise is that of high-school jock – in this case an incredibly handsome, ridiculously wealthy, hugely popular marquess – meets and falls for high-school geek – here, a new-to-London American lady who is obsessed with mathematics and widely thought to be rather odd. It’s a fun, fluffy listen for the most part, but amid the froth, Ms. Rodale manages to make some pertinent points about sexism and feminism, and to include some moments of insight and introspection on the parts of both hero and heroine as they come to realise they need to make some major re-evaluations of their sense of self and plans for the future.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Wild Wicked Scot (Highland Grooms #1) by Julia London (audiobook) – Narrated by Derek Perkins

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Born into riches and groomed in English luxury, Margot Armstrong didn’t belong in a Scottish chieftain’s devil-may-care world. Three years ago she fled their marriage of convenience and hasn’t looked back – except to relive the moments spent in wild, rugged Arran McKenzie’s passionate embrace. But as their respective countries’ fragile unity threatens to unravel, Margot must return to her husband to uncover his role in the treachery before her family can be accused of it.

Red-haired, green-eyed Margot was Arran’s beautiful bride. Her loss has haunted him, but her return threatens everything he has gained. As the Highland mists carry whispers of an English plot to seize McKenzie territory, he must outmaneuver her in games of espionage – and seduction. But even as their secrets tangle together, there’s nothing to prevent love from capturing them both and leading them straight into danger.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

I confess straight out that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of books with the word “Scot” or “Highlander” in the title as the majority of those I’ve read have seemed to have identical plots and characters. So reviewing Wild Wicked Scot, the first in Julia London’s new Highland Grooms series wasn’t an automatic choice for me – until I saw Derek Perkins listed as the narrator. I’ve listened to him several times before and he always delivers a solid, entertaining performance, so with him at the helm, I settled in to enjoy at least the narration – and discovered that, taken as a whole, the listen exceeded my expectations.

Lady Margot Armstrong, the daughter of the Earl of Norwood , is nearly eighteen, beautiful, flighty – and rather spoiled. She enjoys the attentions of the well-mannered, courtly young gentlemen around her and fully expects she will eventually marry one of them and continue living in the style to which she is accustomed. Until one night when, completely out of the blue, her father introduces her to Laird Arran Mackenzie and announces that they are to be married.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Dollmaker (Forgotten Files #2) by Mary Burton (audiobook) – Narrated by Christina Traister

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Dr. Tessa McGowan had never seen anything quite like it. But the mutilated bodies on her exam table tell a stunningly macabre tale: someone with a twisted mind is kidnapping women and altering their faces to resemble real, life-size dolls. As a forensic pathologist, it’s her job to aid the agent leading the case – even if that agent is her estranged husband.

Twelve years ago an unspeakable tragedy destroyed Dakota Sharp’s world. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, he’s devoted himself to capturing killers. His only regret is that it cost him Tessa. Now, as the Dollmaker case brings them together – and raises his suspicions that he’s crossed paths with this deranged psychopath before – they may just have their second chance. But it seems Dakota’s not the only one who wants to make Tessa his own…

She may be the Dollmaker’s next target, but Tessa has no intention of winding up as another toy on his shelf. Can she and Dakota stop this ghastly killer before his next deadly playdate?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

The Dollmaker is the second book in Mary Burton’s The Forgotten Files series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone. It’s my first time listening to a book by this author, and it definitely won’t be my last, as the mystery is tightly-plotted and suspenseful and the main characters, while perhaps somewhat stereotypical, are nonetheless well-drawn and likeable. The mystery element of the book is very much to the fore, although there is also a second-chance romance between Agent Dakota Sharp of the Virginia State Police and his estranged wife, pathologist Dr. Tessa McGowan, brewing in the background.

While attending the funeral of his step-father, Roger, to whom he wasn’t close, Dakota Sharp is approached by Douglas Knox, the former local police chief who investigated the death of Sharp’s half-sister, Kara, some twelve years ago. The cause of death was an overdose, but Roger was never convinced of that and spent the last decade or so trying to prove she was murdered. Knox now tells Sharp that there may have been more to Kara’s death and offers to send him his case files. Sharp is sceptical, but, to humour the old man, accepts the offer and asks a colleague to look over them, feeling he’s too close to events to do so himself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence (anthology) by Julia Quinn, Laura Lee Guhrke, Elizabeth Boyle and Stefanie Sloane (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux’s Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings…

“Something Old”
Julia Quinn’s prologue introduces her heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for Four Weddings and a Sixpence.

“Something New”
In Stefanie Sloane’s unforgettable story, an ever-vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday. But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

“Something Borrowed”
Elizabeth Boyle tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed. Now she’ll need to borrow one to convince them she’s found her true love.

“Something Blue”
In Laura Lee Guhrke’s story, unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

“… and a Sixpence in Her Shoe”
Julia Quinn finishes with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin-until it led all of her friends to true love. But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!

Rating: Narration – A- ; Content – C-/C/B+/B

I’m not a big fan of anthologies or novellas in general, because I find there are few authors who really understand how to use the shorter form to greatest effect, and I most often come away from them feeling a bit disappointed. And anthologies tend to be uneven; there will usually be one really good story and the others will be of lesser, variable quality. So why did I listen to this one? A look at the narrator’s name will answer that question. Mary Jane Wells can make even average material enjoyable to listen to, and while two of the stories here do fall into the average category, the other two – from Julia Quinn and Laura Lee Guhrke – definitely transcend that qualification. Each story in Four Weddings and a Sixpence features one of a group of four friends who, while at school, find an old sixpence in a mattress and, based on the words of the old rhyme:

Something old, something new

Something borrowed, something blue… and a silver sixpence for your shoe

– decide to keep the sixpence on the chance that it may lead them to true love.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3) by Julia Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball – or that Prince Charming would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other – except perhaps this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

Rating: Narration – A+; Content – B+

An Offer From a Gentleman – or The Bridgertons do Cinderella – is the third in Julia Quinn’s perennially popular series of books following the lives and loves of the eight alphabetically named Bridgerton siblings.

Benedict is the second eldest and has spent most of his life being referred to simply as “A Bridgerton” or “number two” and he’s fed up with it. Nobody – other than his family (and sometimes not even them!) – sees him as an individual, a man worthy of attention on his own account, until he meets a lovely masked woman in a silver gown at a masquerade, who sees him – Benedict – and his life changes instantly.

Our Cinders is Miss Sophie Beckett, the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood. Sophie has never been publicly acknowledged by the earl, although he has always provided for her; and while society whispers about the truth of her parentage, Sophie is known simply to be the earl’s ward. But her life changes dramatically after he remarries, and takes a real turn for the worse after his death when her stepmother grudgingly agrees to allow Sophie to remain living in her former home in return for an increased allowance under the terms of the earl’s will.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Danger of Desire (Sinful Suitors #3) by Sabrina Jeffries (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

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This title is available to download from Audible.

To root out the card cheat responsible for her brother’s death, Miss Delia Trevor spends her evenings dancing her way through high society balls, and her late nights disguised as a young man gambling her way through London’s gaming hells. Then one night, handsome Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, a notorious member of St. George’s Club, recognizes her. When he threatens to reveal her secret, she’s determined to keep him from ruining her plans, even if it means playing a cat-and-mouse game with the enigmatic rakehell.

Warren knows the danger of her game, and he refuses to watch her lose everything while gaining justice for her late brother. But when she starts to delve beneath his carefully crafted facade, can he keep her at arm’s length while still protecting her? Or will their hot desires explode into a love that transcends the secrets of their pasts?

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

The Danger of Desire is the third in Sabrina Jeffries’ current Sinful Suitors series, and while not as strong as the previous book (The Study of Seduction), it’s nonetheless an enjoyable and sensual tale of an unlikely couple struggling to keep their secrets in the face of an unexpected and almost overwhelming attraction.

Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford is widely known to be a rogue of the first order. His reputation as a womaniser is well-deserved, and he is usually to be found traipsing around the stews of London every night, patronising the brothels and drinking establishments until the early hours. He’s also cousin to Clarissa, Countess of Blakeborough and, like her husband, Edwin, is a member of the St. George’s Club, a gentlemen’s club much like all the others, except that its members have banded together with the aim of protecting their female relatives from fortune hunters and other unscrupulous men. When Clarissa asks Warren to ask around about her friend, Miss Delia Trevor, he initially suspects her of matchmaking. But when she explains that Delia has been behaving oddly of late, Warren realises Clarissa’s request originates from concern for her friend and agrees to see what he can find out.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

King of Wall Street by Louise Bay (audiobook) – Narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York

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This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

The king of Wall Street is brought to his knees by an ambitious bombshell.

I keep my two worlds separate. At work, I’m King of Wall Street. The heaviest hitters in Manhattan come to me to make money. They do whatever I say because I’m always right. I’m shrewd. Exacting. Some say ruthless. At home, I’m a single dad trying to keep his 14-year-old daughter a kid for as long as possible. If my daughter does what I say, somewhere there’s a snowball surviving in hell. And nothing I say is ever right.

When Harper Jayne starts as a junior researcher at my firm, the barriers between my worlds begin to dissolve. She’s the most infuriating woman I’ve ever worked with. I don’t like the way she bends over the photocopier – it makes my mouth water. I hate the way she’s so eager to do a good job – it makes my dick twitch. And I can’t stand the way she wears her hair up exposing her long neck. It makes me want to strip her naked, bend her over my desk, and trail my tongue all over her body. If my two worlds are going to collide, Harper Jayne will have to learn that I don’t just rule the boardroom. I’m in charge of the bedroom, too.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I picked up this audiobook for two reasons.One – Sebastian York is one of the narrators and I could listen to him read the phone book; and two – one of my fellow AudioGals pointed out that the story is a little different to the current crop of sexy, business/co-worker contemporary romances out there, which made it sound like it was worth a listen.

And it was.  The storyline is fairly familiar to start with. Max King is the owner of a highly successful New York consulting firm, and Harper Jayne has wanted nothing more than to work for him since she was at business school.  She’s twenty-five and has recently landed that dream job as a junior researcher at the firm, but to her dismay Max – who is seriously gorgeous  – is a complete arsehole.  He pretty much ignores her and ripped her most recent report to pieces – and hasn’t even bothered to read her revised version.

The thing is, however, is that Max is completely smitten with Harper and for a man who has spent most of his adult life keeping his work life and his personal life completely separate, that’s a massive problem.  But even though he can’t deny the strength of his attraction to her, as long as he keeps his distance, he’ll be able to ignore it until it goes away.  And given that his days are devoted to work, and he spends most of the rest of his time at the Connecticut home he now shares with his daughter, Amanda, keeping his distance shouldn’t be too difficult.  Until, that is, he bumps into Harper at the gym in the basement of the building where he has his New York apartment, and realises she’s his downstairs neighbour.

This is a romance – we know where it’s going.  But what adds extra layers of interest to the storyline and depth to the characters is Max’s life away from the office, as the loving father of a fourteen year-old daughter and his relationship with his sisters; and Harper’s daddy issues, which, she can’t see until quite late in the book, have more or less dictated many of her life-decisions in spite of her desire not to have anything to do with him.  Harper’s difficult relationship with her estranged father causes a few of the speed-bumps on the way to true love, but fortunately, the misunderstandings aren’t dragged out for too long, and Max shows himself repeatedly to be a really good guy.  Harper is perhaps a bit quick to jump to conclusions towards the end, but it’s understandable given her background.

This is a relatively short audiobook – under eight hours – but they flew by courtesy of an engaging story and equally engaging narration from Sebastian York – to whom I’ve listened a few times, now – and Andi Arndt, who I’ve not listened to before, but whom my colleages at AG generally rate highly.  Both narrators do a great job, narrating alternate chapters from Harper’s and then Max’s PoV.  Over the past year, Mr. York seems to have become THE go-to narrator for contemporary romance, and it’s easy to hear why.  He’s fantastic at portraying those confident, intelligent, sexy heroes who know what they want, especially once they’ve set eyes on the heroine 😉  His female voices are good, too – a softening of tone and a very slight lift in pitch works well, and he does a good job in differentiating between Max’s sisters and daughter, and Harper and her friend, Grace.  Andi Arndt is his perfect narrator match; I don’t listen to a lot of books performed by two narrators, and I can imagine there’s nothing worse than one being really good and the other not –but that’s not an issue here on any level.  Ms. Arndt performs the male characters in the story with a drop in pitch and adds a slightly gruff note to her tone, which makes Max sound every bit as sexy as he does when performed by Mr. York.  Both narrators are equally good when things get steamy, performing with confidence and conviction, although I freely admit there’s something a bit knee-weakening about Sebastian York’s sexy growl 😉

All in all, King of Wall Street is an enjoyable listen with an engaging story, likeable characters, plenty of steam, and excellent narration.  I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more audiobooks narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, who are a great team.