The Protector (Games People Play #4) by HelenKay Dimon (audiobook) – Narrated by Jeremy York

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Salvation, Pennsylvania. The commune located in the small town was advertised as a modern Utopia: a place to live, share, and learn with other like-minded young people. Cate Pendleton’s sister was one of them. Now she’s dead – and Cate won’t rest until she finds out who killed her. Stonewalled at every turn, she approaches a DC Fixer for help and ends up with Damon Knox, a mysterious man with a secretive past. But Cate soon discovers that she not only needs Damon, she wants him, which isn’t good – for the attraction brewing between them will only lead to complications that can turn into danger….

Damon has tried to erase the hellish memories and the evil that happened in Salvation ever since he left a long time ago. Still, he can’t turn his back on Cate. As Damon works with Cate to uncover her sister’s killer, he finds himself drawn to her more and more. But how will she feel about him when she learns about his connection to the place?

Joining forces to uncover the truth, they must stay one step ahead of a cunning killer who’s bent on not being exposed.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B-

The Protector is the fourth full-length novel in HelenKay Dimon’s series of romantic suspense tales, Games People Play. The other three aren’t available in audio (yet?) but fortunately, while there are some characters who recur in each book, each story is self-contained, so there’s no need to be familiar with the earlier instalments in order to be able to follow this one. It might help to have a rough idea of the premise – the hero of each story is a member of a mysterious group that operates under the radar (and sometimes outside the law) in order to fix the seemingly unfixable – but the author includes enough basic information about the enigmatic Wren and his organisation for the newbie to be able to work it out easily enough. Jeremy York is another of those narrators I’ve been aware of for some time but haven’t yet listened to, so as I’ve read some of the earlier books, this seemed like a good opportunity to give him a try.

Cate Pendleton has been trying for years to find the truth about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death at a place known as Salvation, a commune in South Pennsylvania that advertises itself as the ideal place to live, work, share and learn among other like-minded people. But Cate suspects it to be something more sinister, and past events involving the place would seem to bear that out. Around fourteen years earlier, an FBI investigation into Salvation ended in violence, and Cate is convinced the place is more akin to a cult than a harmless Utopian community. Having come to dead end after dead end, Cate has only one place left to turn for help in her search for the truth about her sister, and reaches out to Wren in the hope that he’ll be able to help her to get the answers she’s looking for.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1) by Layla Reyne (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

You can download this title from Audible via Amazon

It’s a good thing assistant US attorney Dominic Price co-owns a brewery. He could use a cold one. Nic’s star witness has just been kidnapped, his joint operation with the FBI is in jeopardy, his father’s shady past is catching up with him, and the hot new special agent in San Francisco is the kind of distraction best handled with a stiff drink.

Kidnap and rescue expert Cameron Byrne has his own ideas about how to handle Nic, but his skills are currently needed elsewhere. The by-the-book FBI agent goes deep undercover as a member of an infamous heist crew in order to save Nic’s witness, break up the crew, and close the case before anyone else gets hurt. Nic in particular.

Things heat up when Cam falls for Nic, and the witness falls for Cam. As the crew’s suspicions grow, Cam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and how far into his own dark past he’s willing to dive – to get everyone out alive.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – C

I’ve been looking forward to this latest book from Layla Reyne for months. I loved her Agents Irish and Whiskey series of fast-paced, steamy romantic suspense novels, and was over the moon when she announced that she’d be writing a spin-off series featuring two of the major secondary characters from those books – Special Agent Cameron Byrne, one of the FBI’s top K&R (kidnap and rescue) specialists and Assistant US Attorney Nic Price. Imperial Stout is book one in the Trouble Brewing series (as well as his day job as a legal eagle, Nic co-owns a craft brewery) and I was looking forward to more of the same; a fast-paced, tightly plotted and complex story and two fully rounded, engaging characters I could root for. Sadly, however, Imperial Stout doesn’t deliver on any of those things. There’s an attempt to follow a similar pattern as the I&W books, in that there’s one thread that looks set to run through the whole series, accompanied by a self-contained plot that is wrapped up by the end of each book; but while the long-running thread is certainly intriguing, the self-contained plot is pretty lacklustre, the villain is a caricature and the large suspensions of disbelief required on the part of the listener in order to make it work are just too much.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fade to Black (Krewe of Hunters #24) by Heather Graham (audiobook) – Narrated by Luke Daniels

fade to black

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Where dreams go to die…

Starring in a cult TV show was a blessing for Marnie Davante, especially now that her former fame could support her future dream of starting a children’s theater. So she’ll work the convention circuit. But then a costar is brazenly murdered in front of her. With a killer who vanishes into thin air with seemingly inhuman skill, and strange events plaguing Marnie, she feels she can’t even trust her own senses.

Although his dear departed parents were famous actors, PI Bryan McFadden is about as far from Hollywood as you can get. The former military man is reluctant to get involved in such a bizarre case, but it quickly becomes obvious that Marnie is in grave danger, and he is compelled to help. It’s unclear if the killer is an obsessed fan or something more sinister. Could the show’s cast be cursed? How can Bryan keep Marnie safe when it becomes apparent there’s a force determined to make this her final curtain call?

Rating: Narration – B : Content – D+

While Fade to Black is billed as (wait for it!) twenty-fourth in Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series, there is (fortunately) no need to have read or listened to any of the others, as the novel is basically a standalone. I’ve been on a bit of a romantic suspense kick lately and the synopsis – a story of murder involving cast members of a cult TV show – sounded interesting, so I requested a review copy, hoping for a suspenseful, steamy listen with complex characters and some high-stakes action.

Sigh. You guessed it. I got pretty much the opposite. No romance to speak of – just a couple of very short, almost fade to black (see what I did there? :P) sex scenes – stereotypical characters and a plot as exciting as watching grass grow. Fortunately however, the narration by Luke Daniels was engaging enough to keep me listening, although I really wish he’d been given better material to work with.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Murder in Mayfair (Atlas Catesby #1) by D.M. Quincy (audiobook) – Narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

In 1810, Atlas Catesby, a brilliant adventurer and youngest son of a baron, is anxious to resume his world travels after a carriage accident left him injured in London. But his plans are derailed when, passing through a country village, he discovers a helpless woman being auctioned off to the highest bidder–by her husband.

In order to save her from being violated by another potential buyer, Atlas purchases the lady, Lilliana, on the spot to set her free. But Lilliana, desperate to be with her young sons and knowing the laws of England give a father all parental rights, refuses to be rescued–until weeks later when her husband is murdered and Atlas is the only one who can help clear her name of the crime.

Fortunately, Atlas is a master at solving complicated puzzles, both with games and the intricacies of human motivation, and finds himself uniquely suited to the task, despite the personal peril it may put him in. But soon Altas learns the dead man had many secrets–and more than a few enemies willing to kill to keep them quiet–in Murder in Mayfair, the first in a new historical mystery series by D. M. Quincy.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – C

D.M. Quincy’s Murder in Mayfair is the first in a series of Regency Era historical mysteries featuring gentleman traveller, Atlas Catesby. The blurb and some reviewers have suggested it will appeal to fans of Georgette Heyer or of C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr novels, but that’s misleading. The writing is solid, but doesn’t possess the wit or sharp observational humour of Heyer – who certainly didn’t pepper her prose with Americanisms – and the plotting doesn’t come close to the complexity of a St. Cyr mystery, not to mention that Atlas Catesby is no Viscount Devlin.

Atlas – the youngest son of a baron – spends most of his time travelling the world, but an injury to his foot has seen him lingering in England for longer than he normally likes, and he’s finding his patience sorely tested. He and his good friend the Earl of Charlton have stopped for refreshment at a country inn when a commotion in the yard draws Atlas’ attention. A jeering crowd surrounds a stocky man and a much younger – and rather striking – woman, and Atlas is outraged to hear the man – identified by the innkeeper as a Mr. Warwick – announce that his wife is for sale to the highest bidder.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Defenseless (Somerton Security #1) by Elizabeth Dyer (audiobook) – Narrated by Aiden Snow

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When ex-marine Georgia Bennett left the military for high-end private security, it was supposed to soften her snarky attitude. Instead, her short fuse just earned her a punishment of an assignment: protect smart-ass tech genius and Department of Defense contractor Parker Livingston. It should have been easy – only no one warned Georgia that Parker was one seriously drop-dead-gorgeous geek.

The last thing Parker needs is a bodyguard, especially not one with killer curves and a sassy mouth who tempts him to do something incredibly stupid. He’s too busy investigating whoever is turning his technology against him and threatening his team of covert operatives. But when an assassin sends Georgia and Parker running for their lives, it might just be the explosive sexual chemistry and the trust that’s building between them that saves their necks. Because the only thing more dangerous than the combination of Parker’s intellect and Georgia’s aim is their steadfast desire to protect each other, no matter the cost.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B-

I recently read Elizabeth Dyer’s, Relentless, which is her second novel and also the second book in her Somerton Security series, which features the exploits of the members of a private-security-firm-cum off-the-book black ops unit headed up by former Delta Force operative, Ethan Somerton. I enjoyed the story and the writing and liked the manly bickering that went on between Ethan and Parker Livingston, his genius tech guru, so I decided to backtrack to the first book in the series, in which Parker is the hero. Given Aiden Snow is a narrator who has been on my radar for a while (but to whom I haven’t yet listened), I opted to pick up the audio of Defenseless rather than to read it. It’s the author’s début novel, but while it’s not without its problems (there are pacing issues and it’s a bit introspection heavy in places) it’s an enjoyable story and I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more of her books.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Mermaid Murders (The Art of Murder #1) by Josh Lanyon (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Special Agent Jason West is seconded from the FBI Art Crime Team to temporarily partner with disgraced, legendary “manhunter” Sam Kennedy when it appears that Kennedy’s most famous case, the capture and conviction of a serial killer known as The Huntsman, may actually have been a disastrous failure.

For The Huntsman is still out there… and the killing has begun again.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B+

Note: I have no idea what’s with that cover. Fingers crossed the author/publisher can find a more appealing one someday.

The first book in the author’s The Art of Murder series, The Mermaid Murders pairs up hard-boiled Senior Special Agent Sam Kennedy of the FBI Behavioural Analysis Unit with one of the bureau’s rising stars, Jason West, who has been seconded from the Art Crimes Team and instructed to assist Kennedy with his latest case, ostensibly because Jason is familiar with the area in which the crime has been committed.  It’s not that simple however;  Sam Kennedy might be something of a legend in the bureau, but his often abrasive manner and single-minded focus hasn’t earned him many friends over the years, and following a very public disagreement with a state governor, he’s  in the dog-house and the higher-ups want someone keeping tabs on him.  So this new partnership is far from a match made in heaven; Kennedy doesn’t want a partner – especially one he doesn’t know or know if he can trust, and makes it clear from the off that he knows Jason has been assigned to babysit him.  But Jason isn’t easily cowed; he’s just as pissed that he’s been sent to ‘handle’ Kennedy and insists right back that he’s part of the investigation and isn’t going to be pushed aside.

“I’ve been asked to try and make sure you don’t step in it again, sure, but I’m not here to hold your cape, Batman.”

More than a decade earlier, Sam was responsible for the apprehension of a serial killer who preyed on teenaged girls in Kingsfield, a small town in Worcester County, New England.  At the time, it was a regular holiday destination for Jason’s family and he had actually been close friends with the first victim, Honey Corrigan.  But now, more than a decade later, it seems the killer has struck again; another girl dead, a small, carved mermaid charm found by the body.  Is this the work of a copycat?  Or did Sam get the wrong man all those years ago?  Given that he’s currently under a cloud, his superiors are twitchy in case the killer is still out there and the wrong man is in prison – but Sam knows that’s not the case.  The right guy is behind bars, but there’s no evidence to support the theory of a copycat or disciple either, which leaves the investigation… where?

The Mermaid Murders boasts an intriguing mystery with plenty of twists and turns, and the author  captures the somewhat insular and suspicious attitude of the local population very well, which lends the story a slight air of menace.  It also introduces a couple of compelling protagonists in Sam Kennedy and Jason West; Sam is large, imposing, taciturn and doesn’t suffer fools. He takes his job seriously, has an enviable record of solving cases and, in spite of the current snafu, is clearly very well respected.  Because the story is told entirely in Jason’s PoV, we never get into Sam’s head which means he remains somewhat frustratingly enigmatic, but it’s clear there’s a lot going on beneath that immovable exterior.  Jason is a dozen years younger (Sam’s mid-forties), he’s smart, he’s intuitive and loves his job in Art Crimes:

“It’s just that…people keep killing other people. That’s the worst of humanity. Art is the other side of the coin. It represents the best of humanity. And what I’m here for is to try and protect that…legacy.”

After a few days, Jason is surprised to discover that even though he doesn’t much like Sam Kennedy, he’s strongly attracted to him.  He has no idea about Kennedy’s sexual preferences but even if he did, Jason doesn’t make a habit of going to bed with people he doesn’t like, so it’s academic and utterly ridiculous. Until it isn’t.  When Sam makes a move, Jason is surprised by the intensity of his reactions to the man and can’t resist, no matter that he knows it’s a bad idea. As this story is setting up a series, the relationship between the pair is basically confined to a couple of explosive sexual encounters, but the author also subtly conveys the changing nature of Jason’s feelings towards Sam, and shows that while Sam is outwardly all about the job and compartmentalising his life, he’s capable of affection and tenderness, even though it’s brief and not overt.  When the book ends, Sam and Jason have agreed to keep in touch, and maybe go on an actual date… but whether they manage that remains to be seen.

Kale Williams is a new-to-me narrator, and I enjoyed his performance overall, although it took me a while to get used to his characterisation of Sam.  It’s not that it’s bad; actually it’s quite a good interpretation of the character, because he’s blunt and very rarely expresses emotion, so the somewhat monotonous (as in a same pitch, not boring!) delivery works.  It’s more that Mr. Williams adopts a kind of whisper/speech delivery for his dialogue in order to sustain the lower pitch (I’m guessing); as I said above, it’s not horrible, it just took me a chapter or two to get used to.  Otherwise it’s a very strong performance – the pacing is spot on and the character differentiation is good so there’s never any confusion as to who is speaking, and he does a good job with the action/set pieces, injecting the right degree of anticipation or fear or whatever else is required into his voice.  I’ll certainly be listening to more books in the series.

Infamous (Famous #2) by Jenny Holiday (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Fell

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

All that up-and-coming musician Jesse Jamison has ever wanted is to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a gossip website nearly catches him kissing someone who isn’t his famous girlfriend – and also isn’t a girl – he considers the near miss a wake-up call. There’s a lot riding on his image as the super-straight rocker, and if he wants to realize his dreams, he’ll need to toe the line. Luckily, he’s into women too. Problem solved.

After a decade pretending to be his ex’s roommate, pediatrician Hunter Wyatt is done hiding. He might not know how to date in the Grindr world, how to make friends in a strange city, or whether his new job in Toronto is a mistake. But he does know that no one is worth the closet. Not even the world’s sexiest rock star.

As Jesse’s charity work at Hunter’s hospital brings the two closer together, a bromance develops. Soon, Hunter is all Jesse can think about. But when it comes down to a choice between Hunter and his career, he’s not sure he’s brave enough to follow his heart.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – A

Rock Star romances really aren’t my bag and that, together with the unappealing front cover of this one, would have been enough to make me pass on Jenny Holiday’s Infamous without a second glance. BUT. One of my fellow AAR reviewers absolutely raved about the book when it came out towards the end of 2017, so when I stumbled across it at Audible, I thought I’d give it a go. And I’m SO glad I did, because it’s wonderful; sweet, sexy and gorgeously romantic, featuring two strongly drawn, attractive principals, a colourful secondary cast and the sort of HEA that is guaranteed to give the listener a serious case of the warm fuzzies and all the feels. Narrator Michael Fell is new-to-me, so I’ll admit to a little trepidation, but I needn’t have worried – he delivers a strong performance that was sufficiently engaging as to enable me to get past the few minor problems.

All Jesse Jamison has ever wanted to do is make music. Well, that and be on the front cover of Rolling Stone – and he and his band, Jesse and the Joyride are steadily making a name for themselves. Unfortunately however, while Jesse is hot, charismatic and extremely talented, he’s also something of a loose cannon, and his latest PR disaster – being photographed kissing someone other than his popular supermodel girlfriend – is the last straw for his manager, who promptly dumps Jesse and the band. Jesse has just boarded the train that will take him home to Toronto from Montréal, where he’s been visiting his sister and his nephew, when he sees the photo online and gets the bad news. He promptly decides to commiserate by consuming as much of the refreshment cart’s alcohol as possible, and invites the attractive man with whom he’s been chatting to join him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.