Unfit to Print by K.J. Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Vikas Adam

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When crusading lawyer Vikram Pandey sets out in search of a missing youth, his investigations take him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address. He expects to find a disgraceful array of sordid bookshops. He doesn’t expect one of them to be run by the long-lost friend whose disappearance and presumed death he’s been mourning for 13 years.

Gil Lawless became a Holywell Street bookseller for his own reasons, and he’s damned if he’s going to apologize or listen to moralizing from anyone. Not even Vikram; not even if the once-beloved boy has grown into a man who makes his mouth water.

Now the upright lawyer and the illicit bookseller need to work together to track down the missing youth. And on the way, they may even learn if there’s more than just memory and old affection binding them together…

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – A-

If you like the sound of an historical romance in which one of the principal characters makes his living by selling pornographic literature and the other is an uptight lawyer, then you need look no further. In Unfit to Print, K.J. Charles has crafted a romantic, witty and socially observant story in which two long-lost friends reunite to solve a mystery while they ponder morality and sexuality, and try to work out how – and even if – they can ever again be what they once were to each other.

Gilbert Lawless is surprised – to say the least – when he’s asked to attend his half-brother’s funeral. Matthew Laws was a complete git who wanted nothing to do with his illegitimate, half-breed mulatto brother and had sixteen-year-old Gil cast onto the streets before their father’s body was cold. Even more surprising is the discovery that the sanctimonious bastard had amassed a truly amazing amount of porn during his lifetime. Gil – who owns a small bookshop in Holywell Street (which was the centre of the pornography trade at this point in time) and both writes and sells erotic fiction – has never seen anything like it, which, considering his line of work, is saying something!

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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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.

Five Years Gone by Marie Force (audiobook) – Narrated by Andi Arndt and Joe Arden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The most brazen terrorist attack in history. A country bent on revenge. A love affair cut short. A heart that never truly heals.

I knew on the day of the attack that our lives were changed forever. What I didn’t know then was that I’d never see John again after he deployed. One day he was living with me, sleeping next to me, making plans with me. The next day he was gone.

That was five years ago. The world has moved on from that awful day, but I’m stuck in my own personal hell, waiting for a man who may be dead for all I know. At my sister’s wedding, I meet Eric, the brother of the groom, and my heart comes alive once again.

The world is riveted by the capture of the terrorist mastermind, brought down by US Special Forces in a daring raid. Now I am trapped between hoping I’ll hear from John and fearing what’ll become of my new life with Eric if I do.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Five Years Gone is the heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting story of a young woman whose life is ripped apart when the man she loves says goodbye one day and then disappears without trace. I tend to be a fan of angsty stories, so this one sounded right up my alley; and for a lot of the time it was – although a few things about the set-up didn’t quite convince, and there were a couple of times early on when I felt the story was stretched rather thin and needed to move on. I’ll say now that there are obvious (and presumably deliberate) parallels to 9/11 and its aftermath in the novel, but Ms. Force doesn’t belabour the point and there is nothing at all in the story which is gratuitous or insensitive.

Ava Lucas is twenty-one when she meets John West, a Naval officer stationed in San Diego where she’s just finished college. They literally bump into each other one night at a bar and hit it off straight away – and for two years, they’re blissfully happy together… until the day that a terrorist attack on an American cruise liner – The Star of the High Seas – kills four thousand people and John is immediately deployed.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Beginner’s Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #1) by Kate Clayborn (audiobook) – Narrated by Will Damron and Carly Robins

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Kit Averin is anything but a gambler. A scientist with a quiet, steady job at a university, Kit’s focus has always been maintaining the acceptable status quo. Being a sudden millionaire doesn’t change that, with one exception: the fixer-upper she plans to buy, her first and only real home. It’s more than enough to keep her busy, until an unsettlingly handsome, charming, and determined corporate recruiter shows up in her lab – and manages to work his way into her heart….

Ben Tucker is surprised to find that the scientist he wants for Beaumont Materials is a young woman – and a beautiful, sharp-witted one at that. Talking her into a big-money position with his firm is harder than he expects, but he’s willing to put in the time, especially when sticking around for the summer gives him a chance to reconnect with his dad. But the longer he stays, the more questions he has about his own future – and who might be in it.

What begins as a chilly rebuff soon heats up into an attraction neither Kit nor Ben can deny – and finding themselves lucky in love might just be priceless…

Rating: Narration – B+: Content – B+

Kate Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime series is a trilogy about three friends who, on impulse, buy a lottery ticket and end up winning the jackpot. The books published so far – Beginner’s Luck and Luck of the Draw (the final book, Best of Luck, will be released in November) – have been highly recommended, and that, together with the combined appeal of two experienced narrators who have both received praise at AudioGals decided me on giving this one a try. I’m glad I did; Beginner’s Luck is an enjoyable, sexy romance between complex, well-defined characters who grow as individuals throughout the story; there’s a small but fully-rounded secondary cast and the various relationships – friendship and familial – are skilfully drawn.

Ekaterina – Kit – Averin is pretty happy with her life. She has a job she enjoys at the local university, good friends she loves… and although she wishes she was able to see a bit more of her older brother Alex, a globe-trotting photographer, life is good. After the lottery win, she decides to use some of her money to obtain something she’s always desperately wanted, but never really had – a home. Her mother left when Kit was a baby and her father was – is – addicted to alcohol and gambling, so her childhood wasn’t particularly stable. Alex, who is her half-brother, was only five at the time her mother left, but he took on the responsibility of caring for Kit and pretty much raised her. Now, Kit craves stability and wants to make herself a home; she falls in love with an old house in need of a lot of TLC and refurbishment and buys it.

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.

Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3) by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux (audiobook) – Narrated by Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they’re assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring-an out-and-proud married couple-on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they’d rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is. Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game that is their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, they realize there’s more to being partners than watching each other’s backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty’s life, he and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B

The books in the Cut & Run series I’ve listened to so far have been a lot of fun. They’re fast-paced, and the plotlines are frequently implausible, but then no more so than those found in the myriad of police procedural/FBI/CIA/CSI and other alphabet soup TV shows that abound, so I can generally just roll my eyes when things get a little bit too daft and move on. And what makes that so easy to do is the fact that the two central characters are just so damn addictive. FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are a couple of big, tough, alpha males who drive each other nuts, up the wall and to blows almost as frequently as they end up screwing each other’s brains out; they’ve both been around the block more than a few times and are carrying shedloads of emotional baggage (Ty from his time in the marines, Zane as the result of a past filled with tragedy and addiction); they’re intelligent, funny, sexy, perfect for each other – and brilliant at evasion and not saying what they mean, especially when it comes to the nature of their growing feelings for one another.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Duchess by Design (Gilded Age Girls Club #1) by Maya Rodale (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlotte North

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

In Gilded Age Manhattan, anything can happen…

Seeking a wealthy American bride who can save his family’s estate, Brandon Fiennes, the duke of Kingston, is a rogue determined to do the right thing. But his search for an heiress goes deliciously awry when an enchanting seamstress tumbles into his arms instead.

…and true love is always in fashion.

Miss Adeline Black aspires to be a fashionable dressmaker – not a duchess – and not even an impossibly seductive duke will distract her. But Kingston makes an offer she can’t refuse: join him at society events to display her gowns and advise him on which heiresses are duchess material. It’s the perfect plan – as long as they resist temptation, avoid a scandal, and above all, do not lose their hearts.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Duchess by Design is the first entry in Maya Rodale’s new Gilded Age Girls Club series of historical romances, set – not surprisingly – in New York’s Gilded Age at the end of the nineteenth century. While the premise – an impoverished duke who needs to marry money falls for a penniless woman instead – is a well-worn one, Ms. Rodale gives it a fresh coat of paint while also encompassing the many changes in society that were happening at the time and providing a solution to the central dilemma that is completely and absolutely right for this story.

Brandon Fiennes, Duke of Kingston, inherited a pile of debts along with his title, and is now faced with the time-honoured method of restoring the family finances, his crumbling estates, his tenant’s livelihoods and providing a dowry for his sisters. He must marry an heiress. On the advice of his cousin, Freddie, Lord Hewitt, Kingston travels to New York where his title will gain him an entrée in to the highest society and thus present him with his choice of current crop of Dollar Princesses – heiresses whose families have made huge sums of money from railways, manufacturing, real-estate and so on. It might not be what he wants for himself, but it’s the only way he can provide for all those who depend on him; even if he can’t marry for love, it will at least mean that his sisters will have the chance to do so.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.