Mr Uptight by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

mr uptight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jude:

What do you do when you wake up with a hangover and find yourself in bed with your best friend’s younger brother?

Who happens to be your new brother-in-law?

The man who drives you crazy.

The man who always skated by on fast-talk, good looks, and a bright smile.

The one who makes you want to break all the rules.

You hire him as your assistant, of course.

And pray you can keep your sanity.

And your hands off him.

Mason:

How do you prove you’ve changed?

That you’re no longer the party boy who always needed rescuing from his own mistakes – and boy you’ve made some big ones.

But no one needs to know your secrets.

You take a job with the one man who doesn’t trust you.

Who’s waiting for you to screw up.

You try and forget that one explosive night together.

Except you can’t.

And to your shock…neither can he.

What do you do when the one man you can’t imagine living with is the one you can’t live without?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Reading the synopsis for Mr. Uptight, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s one of those “oops, the guy I had wild monkey sex will all last night is my frenemy/best friend’s little brother/new boss” rom-coms – and to an extent, you’d be right. But while the story certainly does start out with one of those typically awkward morning-afters, it doesn’t take the cutesy, kooky path and instead opens out into a deeply emotional story about two men who don’t (think they) like each other very much learning to reassess their opinions of both each other and themselves.

Jude Staubman and his best friend’s brother Mason have never really got on. For years, Mason was the annoying little brother, and then he grew into the annoying little brother who continually needed extricating from his latest fuck-up – and even bailing out of jail on one occasion! He’s an irresponsible party-boy who gets by on his good looks, quick wit and charm; in short, he’s everything the sensible, serious-minded Jude isn’t… which makes the stupid crush Jude has had on him for years even more stupid. So waking up – naked – in bed with Mason the morning after his sister’s wedding is something Jude wants to pretend never happened. Along with whatever they got up to the night before.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

An Echo in the Sorrow (Soulbound #6) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

an echo in the sorrow

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Forgiveness is a hollow prayer you only hear in your dreams.

Patrick Collins has spent years handling cases as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency, even as his secret standing in the preternatural world has changed. He should have confessed to his role as co-leader of the New York City god pack when he and Jonothon de Vere took up the mantle months ago, but he didn’t. Now, that split loyalty will cost him at a time when he can least afford it.

Outmaneuvered, framed for murder, and targeted by the Dominion Sect, Patrick has to face a past full of lies to regain his freedom. Revealing the truth means he’ll need to give up the life that has defined him. Everything he’s fought to build with his pack is at stake, and losing them isn’t a price Patrick is willing to pay, but some choices aren’t his to make.

Jono knows they can’t cede any more territory if they want to win the god pack civil war spilling into the streets of New York City. But the souls of werecreatures are free for the taking when demons come to town and angels sing a warning no one can ignore. When Jono’s worst fear comes to life, and he loses the one person he can’t live without, the only option left is to fight.

Facing down the demons of their past and the ones in their present, Patrick and Jono will learn the hard way that some sins never wash away clean.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Note: The Soulbound series features a number of overarching plotlines, so this book is unlikely to make much sense unless you’re familiar with at least some of the previous entries in the series. There are likely to be spoilers for those in this review.

Following their battle royale against a zombie army in Paris, An Echo in the Sorrow finds Patrick and Jono back in New York and facing danger much closer to home. There are two major plotlines running throughout the Soulbound series, one related to the growing tensions between the New York City god pack and the rival god pack led by Patrick and Jono, and the other to the ever-present threat posed by the Dominion Sect, a cult dedicated to destroying the veil between worlds and literally unleashing hell upon Earth.

An Echo in the Sorrow focuses on the first of those storylines as the corrupt New York City god pack led by Estelle Walker and Youssef Khan steps up its campaign to destroy Patrick and Jono and all the were-creature packs that have placed themselves under their protection. Estelle and Youssef don’t care what they have to do or who they have to kill in order to maintain control; Patrick and Jono suspect that they may have allowed demons into their souls, just as they discovered had happened in the London god pack, but even if they haven’t gone that far, they have certainly allied themselves with agents of evil, from the Krossed Knights, hunters of anything supernatural, to the Great Marquis of Hell – and possibly the Dominion Sect itself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mine Till Midnight (Hathaways #1) by Lisa Kleypas (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

mine till midnight

Their lives defy convention . . .

When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

Their desire consumes them both . . .

Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his ‘uncivilized’ Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship – but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. Can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honoured arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .

Rating: Narration – A; Content – C+

Mine Till Midnight is book one in Lisa Kleypas’s series about the Hathaway family; it was published in 2007 and an audio recording – with Rosalyn Landor at the microphone – was released in 2009. That version was never available worldwide however; only one or two of the series was actually available in the UK before now (the same is true of the earlier and perennially popular (pun intended!) Wallflower series.) Last year, I noticed first two or three titles in the Hathaways series appearing at Audible UK and immediately assumed that they were reissues of the 2009 recordings – but they’re not; they’re brand new recordings.

The five Hathaway siblings were not born to wealth and privilege. Instead, they were thrust into the upper echelons of society when Leo – the only male sibling – inherited a viscountcy from a distant relative, although unfortunately, the title comes with only a modest fortune. Leo has been in a downward spiral for the last year or so, since the death of the young woman he planned to marry, which is how come we first meet our heroine Amelia – the oldest of the four female Hathaways – as she is planning to drag Leo out of Jenner’s (the club owned by Sebastian St. Vincent). She’s accompanied by her adoptive brother Merripen – a Rom (here’s one change from the original – “Gypsy” has been changed to “Rom”) – and they pull up outside the club in time to witness an altercation between some obviously drunk patrons who are vying for the attentions of a prostitute. Before things can get nasty, the fight is broken up by another man – a younger one with dark hair, gleaming hazel eyes and the face of an angel who, for all he is dressed like a gentleman, obviously isn’t one. He’s Cam Rohan (also a Rom), the club’s manager – and just looking at him is enough to take Amelia’s breath away. But she quickly squashes the ripples of nerves and heat that run through her to focus on her reason for being there, irritated when Rohan waves off her concern for her brother as nothing to do with him. It’s only when Merripen speaks to him in their own language that he at last agrees to allow them inside to search for Leo, and on learning that Leo has left the club for a nearby brothel, and of Amelia’s intention to seek him out there, Cam arranges transportation and accompanies them to retrieve the errant viscount.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Spotlight (Famous #2) by Eden Finley (audiobook) – Narrated by Iggy Toma

spotlight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ryder

When I quit the biggest boy band on the planet, I was supposed to get my life back.

It’s not that I wanted to leave the spotlight. I felt like I had to for my daughter. Her picture shouldn’t be splashed all over the tabloids. I thought I could do this parenting thing on my own, but it’s obvious I need help. I just didn’t expect to find it in the form of a gorgeous guy I meet by chance. I can put my attraction aside for my daughter’s sake. I’ve put my whole life on hold for her.

If only he wasn’t so tempting.

Lyric

Working as a nanny is my backup to my backup plan. My first plan is fame, but something always holds me back. When I randomly run into Ryder Kennedy and end up becoming his daughter’s nanny, I figure it’ll be a short-term thing. But then Ryder finds out I can sing. He wasn’t ready to give up music, and now he’s found a new way to have it: through me. He wants to produce my demo and make me a star. He says I was born to be in the spotlight, but I think I was born to run from it.

It doesn’t help that each day I’m with him and his daughter, the deeper I fall into fantasies of being part of their family. And not just as the nanny.

Rating: Narration – A: Content – B+

Spotlight is the second book in Eden Finley’s Famous series, which tells the stories of the members of the world’s biggest Boy Band after it breaks up. The story has a number of things in common with book one, Pop Star – a closeted lead character, a realistic portrayal of the workings of the music business and the way so much of the media treats celebrities – but those similarities didn’t outweigh the rest of the story or make me feel as though I was listening to the same book all over again.

When Ryder Kennedy left Eleven, it wasn’t because of personality clashes or creative differences – it was because he wanted to be a proper father to his young daughter, Kaylee. Two years later, and with Kaylee now four-going-on-five, Ryder has his hands full working as a producer as well as being a single parent of the rather precocious child he’s trying desperately to keep well away from the public eye.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

The Spare by Miranda Dubner (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

The Spare

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

“I’m publicly bisexual now, I’ll make all the musical theatre references I please. I’ll belt Cole Porter songs prancing on top of this bar if I want to.” (His Royal Highness Prince Edward Nicholas William Desmond, second son of Her Majesty Queen Victoria II of England and the Commonwealth)

Eddie Kensington had certain responsibilities, up until two weeks ago. Dress well, smile in public, uphold the family honor. Be straight. Never talk about being bisexual, or being in love with his bodyguard, Isaac Cole, for nearly 10 years. Protecting his mother and siblings from yet more tabloid scandal in the wake of his parents’ high-profile divorce was always more important. 

Up until two weeks ago, when he was outed by the press. Now he’s in the midst of an unscheduled identity crisis, and his entire family seems to be joining in. His estranged father shows up. His sister flirts with the reporter hired to write their grandmother’s biography. His older brother is more reluctant than ever to take up public-facing duties, and Her Majesty is considering going out on a date. Keeping calm and carrying on becomes impossible when Eddie learns Isaac might return his decidedly inconvenient feelings. 

For any one of them to steal a happily ever after, the Kensingtons will have to decide what they really hold dear–the legacy they were born into, or the dreams they kept for themselves.

Rating: Narration – A+; Content- B+

The Spare is an entertaining mix of romance and sweeping family drama set in an AU in which Queen Victoria II sits upon the British throne – the first ever divorced monarch – and which features multiple storylines for her and her three children, Arthur, Prince of Wales, Edward (the titular “Spare”) and Alexandra. I read the book last year and enjoyed it, but although it contains one primary romance that reaches its HEA and other romantic threads throughout, I’d suggest anyone contemplating listening to this – and it’s well worth a listen – should think Downton Abbey rather than His Royal SecretThe book blurb is somewhat misleading in this respect.

When the novel begins, HRH Edward Nicholas William Desmond Kensington, second son of Queen Victoria II, is making his first public appearance in the UK since he was publicly outed when old photographs – taken while he was at university – of him cuddled up to another man were splashed across the UK tabloids. His family is aware of his bisexuality, but he’s kept it under wraps everywhere else mostly for their sake; his mother’s divorce some years before mired them all in enough scandal to last a lifetime, and Eddie was hoping he’d be able to pick his own moment to make an announcement. But it was not to be and now the fallout has to be dealt with.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Prairie Bride (Dodge City Brides #1) by Julianne Maclean (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlotte North

Prairie Bride

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

A loveless marriage of convenience on the Kansas prairie turns out to be far more than she bargained for….

He’s part of the west 

Briggs Brigman has been burned once before, and the last thing he needs is a beautiful wife who will spend hours in front of the mirror, primping herself. He knows how hard the prairie can be on a woman, and all he wants is a stalwart bride who won’t complain about hauling water from the creek….

She’s a city girl with no idea what she’s in for….

All Sarah MacFarland wants is to escape her fearful life in Boston and start fresh with a new identity. Answering an advertisement for a mail order bride seems like the perfect solution, until she meets her soon-to-be husband – a ruggedly handsome, strapping farmer who leaves her breathless on their wedding night. But is it possible that two tormented souls can find happiness, when all they know is betrayal, and when trust is the only way out of a tumultuous past that simply won’t stay buried? 

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C

The mail order bride trope is a common one in Western Historical Romance, but up until now, I haven’t actually read or listened to one. When Julianne Maclean’s Prairie Bride – book one in her Dodge City Brides series – showed up with the excellent Charlotte North listed as the narrator, I decided it was time to give one a go.

Even though I have no direct experience with this trope, I’ve been around Romancelandia long enough to have been able to make a reasonable guess as to what the story would be about – and I was pretty much spot on. A young woman running from her past travels from the city to the back of beyond to marry a man she’s never seen, doesn’t expect quite the primitive standard of her new home but decides to make the best of it, falls for her husband (who is, fortunately, hot as hell) her past catches up with her, drama ensues – The End.

If by that you infer that the story is predictable – then you’re inferring correctly.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Somebody to Love (Tyler Jamison #1) by April Wilson (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding and Jack DuPont

somebody to love

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chicago homicide detective Tyler Jamison has accepted the fact that he was born defective. Women just don’t do it for him, and he can’t contemplate any other option. So, loneliness it is.

Ian Alexander has met the man of his dreams, but the guy’s in complete denial of his sexuality. Ian’s not giving up on Tyler, though. Tyler’s a domineering, controlling force of nature…just what Ian has always craved in his bed.

When a serial killer sets his sights on Ian, Tyler will do anything to protect the much younger man. For the first time in his life, Tyler has experienced desire, and it’s for another man. How much will it take for him to become the man he was meant to be?

Rating: Narration: A-; Content: C

April Wilson’s Somebody to Love is very much a book of two halves. It starts out as a (sort of) mystery/suspense story a with Detective Tyler Jamison investigating the murder of three gay men, all killed in the same manner and therefore believed to have been killed by the same person. During the course of the investigation, Tyler meets Ian Alexander; Tyler is deeply, deeply closeted but is strongly attracted to Ian in a way he’s never been to anyone.

The first half of the story (more or less) is taken up with the hunt for the killer – although to be honest, it’s not much of a hunt – during which Ian does some very TSTL things (like asking around at the gay club the victims were known to frequent and skipping out on the police protection he’s been given in order to do so), which of course, bring out Tyler’s growly, protective side. The perpetrator is arrested by the half-way point, but this is no intricate, twisty mystery – it’s all very simplistic and obviously just a plot device to get Tyler and Ian together.

Once the serial killer plot is dispensed with, the second half of the book focuses on the romance. It’s okay but nothing special, although I did like the way Tyler’s coming out was handled; he’s forty-four (to ian’s twenty-eight) and has spent his life trying to bury the part of him that liked men, even dating (and sleeping with) women. He never found the sort of connection he was looking for, but refused to admit why, and had eventually resigned himself to being alone. I can imagine that for someone so strongly entrenched in their ways, coming to the realisation – or at last admitting the truth – would be incredibly difficult and the way things finally come to a head for Tyler is well done. Ian has some issues relating to his childhood, but they seem somewhat superficial, as if they’ve been added simply in an attempt to make him interesting. The romance as a whole is pretty run of the mill stuff.

The best thing about this audiobook is the narration. I’m not familiar with Jack DuPont, but he delivers a strong performance all round – pacing, characterisation and differentiation were all good, as were his female voices. I’m a big fan of J.F. Harding (his name on this was why I picked it up in the first place) – and of course he was excellent in every respect. Interestingly though, both men have very similar types of voices – deep and slightly husky – and actually sound alike, so I wondered why two narrators were used. Jack DuPont reads the chapters from Tyler’s PoV and J.F. Harding those from Ian’s; both men portray the other character very well (JFH’s portrayal of Tyler was perfect) and quite honestly, either of them could have carried the book on his own.

The author sets up the drama for the next book towards the end of this one – I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up as once again, the plot seems fairly contrived and based on someone doing something really stupid it’s hard to believe they would have done.

Somebody to Love isn’t the worst audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but it’s far from the best. The excellent narration kept me listening even though the worst of the eye-rolling parts, but the story is disjointed and clichéd, and the characters are bland and barely two-dimensional. It passed the time and the terrific performances meant it passed mostly pleasantly, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to this one again.

The Same Breath (The Lamb and the Lion #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Teancum Leon, who goes by Tean, is a wildlife veterinarian. His life has settled into a holding pattern: He loves his job, he hates first dates, and he only occasionally has to deal with his neighbor Mrs. Wish’s cat-related disasters.

All of that changes, though, when a man appears in his office, asking for help to find his brother. Jem is convinced that something bad has happened to Benny, and he thinks Tean might be able to help. Tean isn’t sure, but he’s willing to try. After all, Jem is charming and sweet and surprisingly vulnerable. Oh. And hot.

Then things get strange: Phone calls with no one on the other end of the line; surveillance footage that shows what might be an abduction; a truck that tries to run Tean and Jem off the road. As Tean and Jem investigate, they realize that Benny might have stumbled onto a conspiracy and that someone is willing to kill to keep the truth from coming out.

But not everything is as it seems, and Tean suspects that Jem has been keeping secrets of his own.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Gregory Ashe’s latest series – The Lamb and the Lion – introduces listeners to another of his wonderfully imperfect but perfect odd-couple pairings in the form of an uptight, existentialist wildlife veterinarian and a damaged freewheeling con-man who, in book one of the series – The Same Breath – team up in order to solve a murder. All the hallmarks of Mr. Ashe’s work are here: complex, flawed principals you can’t help falling in love with (even when you want to bang their heads together!), clever, twisty plots with a heavy dose of gritty realism, sparkling, often laugh-out-loud dialogue, and an intensely powerful connection between the leads that permeates the story. I read the book back in September when it came out, (I chose it as one of my Best of 2020) and have been waiting on tenterhooks for it to come to audio. Having J.F. Harding narrating this series is the icing on the cake; he did an outstanding job with They Told Me I Was Everything and I can tell you right now, that he absolutely nails this one, too.

A vet with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Teancum – Tean – Leon lives a quiet life of work, walks with his dog Scipio and the occasional distress call from his elderly neighbour about her ever growing clowder (yes, really!) of cats. He’s in his mid-thirties, he’s smart and dedicated to his job – but he’s also deeply insecure and struggling to break free from – or learn to live with – the conditioning instilled by his Mormon upbringing, and he’s got a deeply fatalistic outlook that manifests in his tendency to spout random facts and figures (if you want to know the likelihood of bear attacks or the frequency of whale song, he’s your guy!) or ponder the finer points of nihilistic philosophy. He’s a glass-half-empty kinda guy most of the time, but he’s endearing with a dry sense of humour… and he’s dreadfully lonely.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Promise (Lost in New York #2) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

A promise made:

When Ezra Green sits next to Monroe Friedman in their high school English class, friendship blooms into first love, and even Ezra moving to California won’t keep them apart. Ezra promises Roe that once he finishes college, he’ll come home and the two will be together. In the meantime they’ll write and keep in touch. Nothing has to change.

A promise broken:

After months of unanswered letters, Roe makes one final attempt to contact Ezra with disastrous results. Ezra will never be his and he needs to move on.

Now, more than 20 years later, Ezra has come home. He doesn’t know why Roe stopped writing, but he’s determined to find out. But Roe won’t talk to him and Ezra doesn’t understand why. After all, Roe is the one who cut off contact. Isn’t he?

The promise of what is meant to be:

When Roe’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, the past becomes the present, and Ezra comes up with a plan. Pretending to be together to make an old lady happy should be no big deal, but after an unexpected explosive night together, decades-old secrets and lies are exposed, shattering Roe’s control and Ezra’s heart. Is first love only a dream and a promise merely words, or are Ezra and Roe meant to last a lifetime?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Having very much enjoyed Fool for Love, book one in Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series, I quickly jumped into book two, The Promise, a second-chance romance featuring Monroe Friedman, who runs the support group where Nate and Presley met in book one. We catch up with them briefly, and some of the other secondary characters have featured in other books by this author, but The Promise works perfectly well as a standalone.

Monroe – Roe – and Ezra Green were childhood sweethearts who were separated when Ezra’s parents moved their family from New York City to California when Ezra was seventeen. The guys were very much in love and knew they wanted to spend their lives together, so they promised each other that they would stay in touch, that Ezra would come back to New York after college, and then they’d begin their lives together. Things went okay at first and they exchanged letters regularly, but when, after a few months, Ezra stopped answering Roe’s letters, Roe scraped together the money to call him, only to be told that Ezra wasn’t interested in him anymore and that he’d started seeing other people. Needless to say, Roe was heartbroken at the discovery that the promises that meant so much to him meant nothing to Ezra.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Love is a Stranger (More Heat Than the Sun #1) by John Wiltshire (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Ex-SAS soldier Ben Rider falls in love with his enigmatic married boss Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, but Nikolas is living a lie. A lie so profound that when the shadows are lifted, Ben realises he’s in love with a very dangerous stranger. Ben has to choose between Nikolas and safety, but sometimes danger comes in a very seductive package.

Rating: Narration: A; Content – B

John Wiltshire’s More Heat Than the Sun series is yet another of those that’s been on my radar for AGES and which I haven’t yet got around to reading. It consists of eight books (and I believe a ninth is in progress) featuring the same central couple, and the books follow them through a period of around a decade as they become caught up in all sorts of perilous adventures and other shenanigans while navigating their complicated relationship. Having read the synopses for all the books, it sounds a bit like a British version of the Cut and Run series – the plots are fast-paced and often bonkers, the characters are damaged and complex, the love story is epic and in the end, it’s all going to add up to many hours of supremely enjoyable hokum. That sort of thing is right up my alley, and when you add narration by Gary Furlong into the mix, it’s fair to say that my reaction, when offered this title for review, was “GIMME!!” (Although I was rather more polite than that!)

Former SAS officer Ben Rider now works for the sooper-sekrit Black Ops division of British Intelligence headed up by the enigmatic and urbane Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, a Danish diplomat who is married to a minor royal. Right off the bat we discover that Ben and Nikolas have been fucking for four years on and off, and at first, this threw me a bit – it was like walking into the middle of a story. But stick with it – I quickly realised that while these two know each other physically, that’s pretty much ALL they know of each other. Love is a Stranger explores the development of the emotional side of their relationship and how it evolves as they come to really know each other.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.