An Heiress to Remember (Gilded Age Girls Club #3) by Maya Rodale (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlotte North


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Can a scandalized heiress…

Beatrice Goodwin left Manhattan a duchess and has returned a divorcée, ready to seize control of her fate and the family business. Goodwin’s Department Store, once the pinnacle of fashion, has fallen from favor thanks to Dalton’s, its glamorous competitor across the street. But this rivalry has a distinctly personal edge….

And a self-made tycoon…

For Wes Dalton, Beatrice has always been the one – the one who broke his young heart by marrying a duke, and now, the one whose cherished store he plans to buy, just so he can destroy it. It’s the perfect revenge against a family who believed he’d never be good enough for their daughter – until Beatrice’s return complicates everything….

Find happily ever after at last?

While Goodwin’s and Dalton’s duel to be the finest store in Gilded Age Manhattan, Beatrice and Wes succumb to a desire that has only deepened with time. Adversaries by day, lovers by night, both will soon have to decide which is sweeter: winning the battle or thoroughly losing their hearts….

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C+

An Heiress to Remember, book three in Maya Rodale’s Gilded Age Girls Club series, is a second-chance, antagonists-to-lovers romance set in vibrant, bustling turn-of-the-century New York City. The story of young lovers torn asunder who reunite later in life is a familiar one, but while it’s fairly well done, the main story here is really that of a woman coming fully into her own, and sometimes the love story feels as though it’s been put into the back seat.

Eighteen-year-old department store heiress Beatrice Goodwin has fallen in love with her father’s protégé, Wes Dalton, son of an Irish immigrant family, but when we first meet them, she’s about to say goodbye. Her family is pressuring her to marry an English duke; Wes urges Beatrice to reject the duke’s offer and run away with him instead – but Beatrice is terribly torn. She loves Wes, but where will she be if she disobeys her parents? How can she refuse to do the thing she’s been brought up to do – make a prestigious marriage and do her duty to her family?

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Off Plan (Whispering Key#1) by May Archer (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Dean

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

I came to Whispering Key for a job. That was all. To show the world Mason Bloom could be more than a small-town doctor living a medium-sized life.

Private doctor on a swanky island with a posh resort? Check.

But from the moment I set foot on this island, nothing went according to plan.

I didn’t expect to find the resort falling apart. I didn’t expect the people here to be so charming and crazy and welcoming and real. I didn’t expect legends about shipwrecks and buried treasure. And I definitely didn’t expect Fenn Reardon, the island’s incredibly attractive, incredibly infuriating, incredibly male resident tour guide, to become the one person I can’t live without.

Thirty-five’s a bit late for me to realize I’m not straight, though, right? And I have big dreams that won’t fit on Whispering Key, anyway – dreams that do not include tying myself to a tiny island stuck in the past or to a man who refuses to think about the future.

My head’s telling me I have to leave Whispering Key…My heart’s telling me there might be treasure on this island after all.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

May Archer’s Whispering Key series is loosely linked to her Love in O’Leary books by virtue of the fact that one of the principals in Off Plan, Dr. Mason Bloom, is the younger brother of Micah from The Secret (book three). Off Plan introduces a new set of characters and a new location, and although I had some issues with the narration and some aspects of the story were a bit repetitive, I enjoyed it and will probably listen to future books when they appear.

In an attempt to get away from the “perfectly okay” sort of life he’s drifted into after being dumped by his fiancée, Dr. Mason Bloom accepts a job as private doctor at an exclusive, five-star resort in the Florida Keys. A three year contract running his own practice, his med school loans paid off, the chance to network amongst the elite clientele – it’s a great opportunity and in spite of his brother Micah’s scepticism, Mason is determined to make the most of it. The trouble starts when the guy appointed to pick him up from the airport immediately rubs him the wrong way, and continues when Mason discovers that the five-star resort he’d been expecting is actually the run-down Five Star Hotel, and that the ‘exclusive’ resort is still a pipe dream.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Hat Trick (Fake Boyfriend #5) by Eden Finley (audiobook) – Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Soren

You know what’s not fun? Going on a Fiji vacation with four other couples. Especially when recently single. What’s even worse is when a past hook-up arrives unannounced. Not only do we have a history, but he’s 10 years younger and a famous rock star. Most importantly, he’s my friend’s little brother. Being trapped on an island with Jet Jackson is going to be sweet torture because all I want is another chance. I just don’t think he’s going to give it to me.

Jet

You know what’s not fun? Escaping one guy who broke my heart only to run into another. Being on the road for three years has left me exhausted. The last thing I want is for Caleb “Soren” Sorensen to try for round two. I can’t fight my draw to him. I’ve never been able to. I’m suddenly back to being the naïve kid who stupidly lusted after a hockey player. All I can think is if I let Soren get close, I’ll walk away from this vacation with a double broken heart.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

Hat Trick is the fifth (and final) novel in Eden Finley’s Fake Boyfriend series, and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out who the central couple would be. As has been the case with the other books in the set, Hat Trick is a light-hearted, low-angst, sexy story with plenty of humour and sharp banter, a couple of likeable principals and engaging secondary cast (in this case, formed mostly of the couples from the previous books). Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma return to narrate, and deliver their customary strong performances; they’re what drew me to this series in the first place, and although I might have had the odd niggle here and there, they haven’t disappointed.

Hockey player Caleb Sorenson – Soren to his friends – can’t think of anything worse than being stuck on a luxury vacation with your closest friends when those friends are ALL (sickeningly), happily coupled up, especially after breaking up with the long-term boyfriend he risked coming out for. But oh, wait – things could be worse, and rapidly become so when another guest arrives, Jet Jackson, younger brother of Matt (book two, Trick Play) who is now, at twenty-three, famous as the lead singer of up-and-coming band Radioactive… and the guy Soren hooked up with three years earlier without knowing he was his best friends’ little brother. So, um, yeah. Awkward.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Risk Assessment (Cabrini Law #1) by Parker St. John (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

All they have left is their pride.

Elliot Smith was once a hotshot attorney, but those days are long gone. A midlife crisis of conscience has left him with shattered confidence, abandoned by his former friends and scraping by at a legal aid clinic. When a smoking hot bad boy rescues him from the side of the road, Elliot is sure he doesn’t stand a chance.

After a misspent youth boosting cars, Lucas Kelly runs his own garage and is finally getting his life back on track. He isn’t about to risk everything by daring to hope for something more, especially not with a man so far above his pay grade.

The heat between them is enough to have them questioning everything they thought they knew about themselves. But is explosive chemistry enough to keep them together when Elliot’s career threatens to drive them apart?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C

Risk Assessment is book one in new-to-me author Parker St. John’s Cabrini Law series, featuring members of the team who work for a legal aid clinic somewhere in Oregon. It’s relatively short, coming in at just over five and a half hours, and the story is nothing I haven’t heard or read before, but it was an undemanding listen and Kirt Graves’ accomplished narration made the time pass pleasantly enough.

Elliot Smith was a highly successful corporate lawyer with a salary and lifestyle to match until, on his fortieth birthday he realised he’d had enough of representing sleazy real-estate defrauders and feeling like he didn’t recognise himself anymore. So he pulled a Jerry Maguire, left his job and old life behind and went to work for a non-profit legal aid firm. He’s been with the Cabrini Law Clinic for around a year, and while he works long hours for a lot less pay, the work itself is generally much more rewarding. On the downside, he’s the wrong side of forty and still single, having split up with his boyfriend of five years (who was cheating on him) and has no social life or friends beyond the office.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Oz (Finding Home #1) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

What happens when temporary becomes forever?

Oz Gallagher does not do relationships well. Bored and jobless after another disastrous hook up, he decides to leave London for a temporary job in the wilds of Cornwall. Surely managing a stately home on a country estate will be easier than navigating the detritus of his relationships at home. Six months there will alleviate a bit of his wanderlust and then he can come back to London as footloose and fancy free as the day he left it.

However, when he gets there, he finds a house in danger of crumbling to the ground and a man who is completely unlike anyone he’s ever met. An earl belonging to a family whose roots go back hundreds of years, Silas is the living embodiment of duty and sacrifice. Two things that Oz has never wanted. He’s also warm and funny and he draws Oz to him like a magnet.

Oz banks on the fact that they’re from two very different worlds to stop himself falling for Silas. But what will he do when he realizes that these differences are actually part of the pull to one another? Will falling in love be enough to make him stop moving at last and realize that he’s finally home?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B-

Oz, the first book in Lily Morton’s Coming Home series, is loosely linked to her previous Mixed Messages trilogy but works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you’re familiar with the author’s work, you’ll find exactly the sort of thing you’ve come to expect; characters who could snark for England, plenty of steam, a wonderful ‘family’ of secondary characters and a lovely HEA.  I have to be honest, though.  While I enjoyed Oz, it’s far from my favourite of Ms. Morton’s books, and even though it’s got all the ingredients that made the Mixed Messages books real winners, something about it fell a bit flat.  The humour isn’t as funny, the wit isn’t as biting, the conflict is very slight and there’s ultimately not much of a story here.

Oz Gallagher doesn’t exactly have a great track record – any track record, really – with relationships, but even so, finding his boyfriend balls-deep in another bloke in their bed is something he could have done without.  Over a drink in the local pub, Oz’s best mate Shaun shows him an ad for a House and Collections Manager at the Earl of Ashworth’s property in Cornwall and encourages Oz to apply – he’s got degrees in Fine Art, History of Art and nothing to lose, after all.  Oz is surprised, to say the least, to get an interview, and turns up at the swanky London hotel amid all the besuited posh types who are obviously after the job as well.  Feeling completely out of place and knowing he’s got no chance against all these chinless wonders, Oz thinks ‘fuck it’ and gives the worst interview ever:

“So, Oz, I see that you have a first class degree in Fine Art and History of Art… And can you say that you’ve used this in a productive manner?”

I shrug and smile earnestly. “It’s allowed me to work on Bernie’s Antique stall on Camden Market.”

And later:

 “The position you’re interviewing for is that of the house manager at Ashworth House. Can you tell me what you think that entails?”

I shrug and smile winsomely. “I imagine it’s like being a tour manager, but with less drugs and hookers.”

… and of course, he gets the job.

Silas, the Earl of Ashworth, was left with huge debts when his father died, but wants to see if he can turn things around before he thinks about offloading the place to the National Trust.  The house  – whose Cornish name is Chi an Mor – is his home, and even though his childhood wasn’t particularly happy (if you’ve read or listened to Risk Taker, you’ll already know what a complete and utter bastard his father was) –  the place is in Silas’ blood and he can’t envisage himself anywhere else.  His plan is to generate income by opening the house to visitors for part of the year, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get it ready to open on time. His thriving veterinary practice keeps him going financially on a personal level, but he can’t work there and oversee the renovations, and his former house manager – who had been sharing his bed – has recently quit.

Oz arrives to find the situation worse than he’d expected.  The car park is still a field, the visitors centre is an empty shell and the workmen…  are down the pub.  With gusto, gumption and grit worthy of Mary Poppins, Oz deals with the lazy builders, sorts out Silas’ staffing problems, gets everything running like clockwork and even faces off against Silas’ shitty ex for an encore.  He’s just that good.

Lily Morton builds a lovely friendship between Oz and Silas to start with, Oz caring for Silas in simple but important ways (like sitting up late to make sure he eats when he’s been out on calls all day), the two of them talking and getting to know each other.  Silas is bisexual and freely admits to having had a lot of relationships, but none has lasted very long; he loves Cornwall and doesn’t want to leave, and his previous partners haven’t wanted to be there long term.  He’s down-to-earth and lovely and lonely, and I loved watching him demolish every one of Oz’s preconceptions of what a member of the aristocracy would be like. There’s a strong pull of attraction between them from the start, but with both men having had bad experiences of boss/employee relationships, they agree that acting on that attraction would be a very bad idea… until, of course, it becomes impossible not to. 😉

Silas and Oz are good for each other in the best of ways, each finding something in the other they’d never thought to have.  The only real conflict in the story comes from the fact that Oz is convinced he’s not good enough; an Irish boy from a Tottenham council estate and an Earl don’t make sense and he can never really fit into Silas’ upper-crust life (impressions only reinforced by Silas’ bitchy mother). But Silas is clever enough to know exactly what Oz is thinking and is prepared to wait for the penny to drop – that penny being that he’s as in love with Silas as Silas is with him and that they’re each other’s person – each other’s home.

Oz is funny and sexy, with great secondary characters and wonderfully descriptive prose, but the story loses momentum after Oz and Silas become a couple.  There’s no real drama (and I’m not talking about over-the-top melodrama, just… something to propel the story forward) and no real tension as a result – and that’s fine; low-angst stories can be great, but I just wanted a bit more from this one.  And Oz the character… well, he’s witty, gorgeous, warm, capable and caring; he’s a good cook, he’s a brilliant manager, he’s got an answer for everyone and a plan for everything – in short, he’s more than a bit too good to be true, and that got to be wearing after a while.

In Joel Leslie, Lily Morton has found the perfect narrator for her particular brand of sexy snark.  He’s an incredibly talented performer and it was obvious to me within the first five minutes of their very first collaboration, Rule Breaker, that I was listening to a narrator who completely ‘got’ his author and her characters. His comic timing is superb, he has a wide repertoire of character ‘voices’ and accents, and  isn’t afraid to go big in the more emotional moments – especially the sex scenes, which should probably come (!) with a bucket of ice.  All those things are true in Oz; timing, characterisation, differentiation and pacing, it’s all superb, but something about his performance here didn’t wow me as much the others he’s given so far in books by this author.  I’m not 100% sure why that was, but I suspect it’s because I wasn’t wild about the accent he adopts for Oz (To clarify, it’s not bad or inaccurate, I just… didn’t care for it). Mr. Leslie’s vocal characterisations are terrific and every character sounds different and is easy to identify; he set himself a huge challenge  in sustaining a completely different accent for the vast majority of the story, but towards the end, it starts to slip, especially when it ‘bleeds over’ into some of Silas’ dialogue, which makes him sound odd given he doesn’t have an accent earlier in the book.

BUT.  I suspect that for many (most?) listeners that won’t be an issue – it’s just that accents are ‘my thing’ and I tend to be pretty exacting about them.  Joel Leslie is one of my favourite narrators, and so my expectations are very high; and I suppose what I’m saying is that here, he’s merely very good as opposed to outstanding!

Oz it isn’t going to make my list of Lily Morton favourites, but it’s a sweet, hot, fun listen and Joel Leslie does a great job. If you’re in the market for minimal angst, hot sex and a dirty-talking earl, you need look no further!

The Bachelor by (Duke Dynasty #2) by Sabrina Jeffries (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Lady Gwyn Drake has long protected her family’s reputation by hiding an imprudent affair from her youth. But when her former suitor appears at Armitage Hall, manhandling the heiress and threatening to go public with her secrets, it’s Gwyn who needs protecting. Her twin brother, Thorn, hires Joshua Wolfe, the estate’s gamekeeper, to keep her safe in London during her debut. As a war hero, Joshua feels obligated to fulfill the assignment he has accepted. But as a man, it’s torment to be so very close to the beauty he’s fought to ignore….

With handsome Joshua monitoring her every move, Gwyn would prefer to forget both the past and the parade of money-seeking bachelors at her coming out. But Joshua is unmoved by her attempts at flirtation, and the threat of blackmail still hangs over her. With danger closing in, Gwyn must decide which is the greater risk: deflecting a scoundrel’s attempts to sabotage her – or revealing her whole heart to the rugged bodyguard she can’t resist….

Rating: Narration – B; Content – D

The Bachelor is book two in Sabrina Jeffries’ Duke’s Dynasty series, which features the offspring of a duchess who was married three times, to three different dukes. I’d planned to review book one, Project Duchess, when it came out last year, but problems with my review copy meant I wasn’t able to finish it. I believe there are overarching plotlines relating to a mystery begun in book one, but those don’t come into play here until fairly late on and don’t have any real bearing on the central storyline or romance.

I’ve read and listened to a number of books by this author and have enjoyed them, but unfortunately, I can’t say the same of The Bachelor, which is short on plot, shorter on romantic chemistry and long on boredom.

The heroine of this book is Lady Gwyn Drake, twin sister of the Duke of Thornstock and the only female of the duchess’ five children. Gwyn and her brother have spent most of their lives in Berlin and returned to England only recently; she is thirty-years-old and doesn’t expect to marry, but as the sister of a newly-minted duke, is preparing to make her début in London society. When the book opens, she has agreed to meet with a former… er… acquaintance, Lionel Malet, in response to the letter he sent demanding money to keep quiet about the secrets which could ruin her good name. It’s not explicitly stated at this stage what those secrets are, but it’s easy to guess.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

I Love the Earl (The Truth About the Duke #0.5) by Caroline Linden (audiobook) – Narrated by Gildart Jackson

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A single lady in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a suitor

Margaret de Lacey has accepted her unmarried state with dignity, if not delight. She had no suitors when she was young and starry-eyed, though regrettably poor, and it’s unlikely any man will court her now that she’s older, wiser, and still just as penniless. Until, that is, her brother unexpectedly inherits the dukedom of Durham and settles an enormous dowry on her, making her the most eligible heiress in town.

No gentleman in London is more in need of a wealthy bride than Rhys Corwen, Earl of Dowling. He contrives an introduction to Margaret because of her dowry, but she swiftly sets him right: no fortune hunter will win her heart or her hand. Far from put off, Rhys is intrigued. Interested. Entranced. And soon the only thing he needs more than Margaret’s fortune…is her love.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Although the full-length novels in Caroline Linden’s The Truth About the Duke series came out in audio book format a few years ago, the prequel novella, I Love the Earl, has only just been released. Novellas are a bit hit and miss for me in general, but I’m a big fan of Caroline Linden’s and was pleased to see that Gildart Jackson had returned to complete the series, so I snapped this up for review.

The Truth About the Duke series features the three sons of the powerful Duke of Durham and their search for the blackmailer who threatens to expose a bigamous marriage that will render them all illegitimate. In I Love the Earl, we meet Durham when he’s merely Francis de Lacey, a businessman living with his spinster sister, Margaret. In her youth, Margaret dreamed of love, marriage and children, but now aged thirty, she’s made peace with the fact that she’s destined to remain a spinster and keep house for her brother.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Semper Fi by Keira Andrews (audiobook) – Narrated by John Solo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The war is over. The battle for love has just begun.

As Marines, Cal and Jim depended on each other to survive bloodshed and despair in the Pacific. Relieved to put the horrors of war behind him, Jim went home to his apple orchard and a quiet life with his wife and children. Knowing Jim could never return his forbidden feelings, Cal hoped time and an ocean between them would dull the yearning for his best friend.

But when Jim’s wife dies, Cal returns to help. He doesn’t know a thing about apple farming – or children – but he’s determined to be there for Jim, even as the painful torch he carries blazes back to life. Jim is grateful for his friend’s support as he struggles with buried emotions and dark wartime memories. Then Jim begins to see Cal in a new light, and their relationship deepens in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – A-

Semper Fi is an historical romance set in the 1940s, which tells the story of two guys who become close friends during their time with the marines in WW2 and of how they make a life together afterwards. The romance is a gently moving slow burn, and the author has clearly done extensive research into the locations and military operations she describes, and also does a really good job of creating a strong sense of camaraderie among the characters and portraying the “hurry up and wait” nature of military life. (In her author’s note in the print edition of the book, she credits her late father and his extensive collection of books about WW2 for their help in her endeavours.) This is one of those stories that begins slowly and gradually draws you in via a combination of interesting background, engaging characters and poignant love story so that it becomes impossible to put down after a while; it’s not a short audiobook, clocking in at just under twelve hours, but it was well worth the time I spent with it.

It’s 1942, and recruits Jim Bennett and Cal Cunningham meet on the train as they, and hundreds of other men, are travelling to start basic training in the Marine Corps. Cal is instantly struck by the blonde, blue-eyed and wholesome farm-boy from upstate New York and they strike up a conversation, during which Jim tells Cal he’s married with a young daughter, Sophie, back home on the family apple orchard with his wife, Ann. Cal, who is queer, has joined the marines mostly to get away from his privileged, pushy family, and while can’t deny he’s a bit disappointed at that news, he pushes those feelings aside and over the following weeks and months, the two men become firm friends. Their friendship unfolds gradually, each chapter beginning with a foray into the past, showing them as they get through their training – their drill instructor decides Cal is to be his latest whipping-boy, but Cal is tough and stubborn, and never allows the man to break his spirit – and taking us with them and their unit when they’re deployed to the Pacific Islands. The conditions are horrible, they watch their friends and comrades die around them, but through it all, maintain a deep and abiding friendship which is, on Cal’s part at least, tinged with longing and the sadness that he’s fallen for a man who can never feel the same way.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirsten Potter and Brittany Pressley

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Nobody does the gothic/spooky suspense chiller quite like Simone St. James, and although I’ve missed her last couple of releases, I made a point of picking up The Sun Down Motel, which follows two different timelines as two different women find themselves caught up in the search for the truth about the events which took place in and around a creepy motel in Fell, New York, in the early 1980s.

It’s 1982, and after a fight with her mother, Viviane Delaney – Viv – leaves her Illinois home and heads for New York City, but an uncomfortable hitch-hiking experience sees her ending up in the small upstate town of Fell. Entering the foyer of the motel she’d seen from the road, Viv encounters the owner, who is complaining that her night clerk has just quit – and then makes Viv an offer; she can stay there for free if she’ll cover the overnight shift. With nowhere else to go, Viv agrees – and ends up staying in Fell and working the late shift at the Sun Down for more than just a single night. Being practically alone in such an out of the way place during the night would be enough to spook anyone, but it’s not long before Viv starts to realise that maybe her feelings of unease may be down to something more. Doors upstairs randomly opening and closing, the smell of cigarette smoke in the office for no reason, phone calls with no-one at the other end – and then visions of a young woman and a little boy – all convince Viv that the hotel must be haunted, but just as unnerving are some of the live guests who pass through, from the smarmy travelling salesman who signs the guest register with different names to low-level drug dealers, the couple having an affair and the woman who comes there to drink herself stupid a few times a week.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Quickie Reviews #5

I always mean to do these more regularly but… you know, life. Anyway, like many people right now, I’ve got a bit of extra time on my hands, so I’ve pulled together short reviews of a bunch of books and audiobooks I’ve read and listened to over the past few months but haven’t written full-length reviews for. If you’re looking for a read or listen to keep you company over the next few weeks, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here.


Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

Gio Valeri is a big-city police officer who’s been transferred to the small outback town of Richmond with his professional reputation in tatters. His transfer is a punishment, and Gio just wants to keep his head down and survive the next two years. No more mistakes. No more complications.

Except Gio isn’t counting on Jason Quinn.

Jason Quinn, officer in charge of Richmond Station, is a single dad struggling with balancing the demands of shift work with the challenges of raising his son. The last thing he needs is a new senior constable with a history of destroying other people’s careers. But, like it or not, Jason has to work with Gio.

In a remote two-man station hours away from the next town, Gio and Jason have to learn to trust and rely on each another. Close quarters and a growing attraction mean that the lines between professional and personal are blurring. And even in Richmond, being a copper can be dangerous enough without risking their hearts as well.

Rating: B

With two cops as leads, I’d thought this might be more of a mystery/suspense story, but it isn’t; rather it’s a fish-out-of-water tale as a disgraced big city cop relocates to a small rural community and discovers that policing there is very different to the sort of thing he’s used to. Lisa Henry evokes the small town/back of beyond atmosphere really well – although this town isn’t at all small really; Jason and Gio’s “beat” covers a massive area, but it doesn’t boast all that many inhabitants.

Amid the series of vignettes as to the various disputes the pair are called upon to work through is the relationship that gradually grows between them. They get off to a rocky start because of what Jason has heard about Gio’s reason for relocating (that he was an informant who got another officer dismissed from his job), but as they work together and get to know each other, Jason starts to wonder if that’s the whole story. (Of course, it isn’t).

Jason is a widower with a ten-year-old son, and is only just realising that he really needs to make proper childcare arrangements. Before, his two neighbours – a young couple with kids of their own – would always pick up the slack and were happy to help out when Jason had to answer a call at night or worked long shifts – but now they’ve moved away, he’s struggling to reconcile the demands of the job with his job as a father.

The slower pacing works and I enjoyed the book overall, although I would have liked a stronger romance. There’s a definite attraction between Jason (who is bi) and Gio, but a few pages before the end, Jason tells Gio he’s still in love with his dead wife (and he’s still wearing his wedding ring), which was unexpected and seemed a really odd move; and although they’re still together six months down the line (shown in the epilogue) it felt to me as though there was more to be said about their relationship. There are no ILYs – which is fine when I feel that the characters are committed to each other – and I don’t necessarily need the mushy stuff, but their emotional connection wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for by the end.

Even so, I’m giving this four stars because I really did like the story and the characters. I’m going to pick up the next book soon.


Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes

Narrated by Nick J. Russo

Nick Jorgensen is a quirky genius. He’s made a fortune in the competitive high-tech field with his quick mind and attention to detail. He believes in hard work and trusting his gut. And he believes in karma. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People are difficult, but numbers never lie. In the disastrous wake of a broken engagement to an investor’s daughter, Nick is more certain than ever he isn’t relationship material.

Wes Conrad owns a thriving winery in Napa Valley. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcome departure from his former career as a high-rolling businessman. Wes’s laid-back nature is laced with a fierceness that appeals to Nick. In spite of his best intention to steer clear of complications, Nick can’t fight his growing attraction to the sexy older man who seems to understand him. Even the broken parts he doesn’t get himself.

However, when Wes’s past collides with Nick’s present, both men will have to have to decide if they’re ready to lean into the ultimate fall.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Nick is a tech genius who doesn’t do well in social situations and frequently comes across as an arsehole; Wes is more than a decade older and considerably more chilled than Nick, but seems to just ‘get’ him – even the parts of himself Nick doesn’t fully understand. I liked the way their relationship developed; laid-back Wes is a great foil for Nick, who is sometimes driven to the point of obsession and oblivious to everything around him. There’s plenty of hot sex, but there’s an emotional connection, too -Nick has never clicked with anyone the way he has with Wes, and realises that for the first time ever, he’s developing feelings for someone that go beyond work or friendship.

The conflict comes fairly late in the book and although it seems a little contrived, it does actually fit with Nick’s character – he gets worked up and anxious easily and does tend to blurt the first thing that comes into his head, and the ‘black moment’ works because of it.

Nick J. Russo narrates and does a great job!


Setting the Hook by Andrew Grey

Narrated by Greg Tremblay

William Westmoreland escapes his unfulfilling Rhode Island existence by traveling to Florida twice a year and chartering Mike Jansen’s fishing boat to take him out on the Gulf. The crystal-blue water and tropical scenery isn’t the only view William enjoys, but he’s never made his move. A vacation romance just isn’t on his horizon.

Mike started his Apalachicola charter fishing service as a way to care for his daughter and mother, putting their safety and security ahead of the needs of his own heart. Denying his attraction becomes harder with each of William’s visits.

William and Mike’s latest fishing excursion starts with a beautiful day, but a hurricane’s erratic course changes everything, stranding William. As the wind and rain rage outside, the passion the two men have been trying to resist for years crashes over them. In the storm’s wake, it leaves both men yearning to prolong what they have found. But real life pulls William back to his obligations. Can they find a way to reduce the distance between them and discover a place where their souls can meet? The journey will require rough sailing, but the bright future at the end might be worth the choppy seas.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B

Sweet character-driven romance between a workaholic businessman, groomed by his parents to take over the family engineering firm, and the owner of the boat he charters a couple of times a year to go fishing.

A bad storm following William’s latest fishing trip leaves him stranded in Florida for a few days; Mike invites him to stay with him (he lives with his mother and ten-year-old daughter) and the nacent attraction they’ve both been feeling for years now becomes impossible to ignore or resist.

They’re from very different worlds, but no matter how strong the emotions growing between them, Mike’s life is in Florida and William’s is in Rhode Island. Yet the months apart after William’s last visit only prove to both of them that there’s something between them worth exploring, and both men have to decide how much they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to be together.

It’s nto going to win any prizes for originality, but Setting the Hook is an enjoyable story featuring likeable characters, and of course, Greg Tremblay’s narration was flawless.


Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely.

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Rating: B

Lovely and just what I needed right now.

Charlie Sutton is just twenty-five but is now the owner of the 2.58 million acre Sutton Station in the Northern Territory, Australia. He loves what he does, even though he knows he’s likely to spend his life alone; he’s gay and closeted, his late father having insisted that “no fairy” was ever going to be able to run Sutton Station and that it needed a “real man”. Yes, his father was an arsehole, but those words struck so deep that Charlie – although he’s doing a terrific job – can’t seem to see beyond them.

Enter Travis Craig, an agronomy student from Texas who has come to Sutton to see how things are done as part of an exchange programme. Travis is handsome, confident and, as quickly becomes clear to Charlie and his staff, knows his way around horses and cattle; he settles in quickly, becoming part of the team and establishing friendships with the others, but Charlie tells himself he must keep his distance.

There’s not a lot of angst in this one (a bit of very plausible drama in the second half worked well to ramp up the tension) and it’s mostly the story of Charlie learning to let go of his father’s bigotry and be his own man, and finally allowing himself to believe it’s possible for him to live his life with a loving partner by his side.

There are some great secondary characters (I loved Ma, who rules the kitchen with a rod of iron… or spatula, whatever) and the author’s descriptions of the Outback setting, the “red dirt”, the night skies, the sunsets are fabulous.

If you’re looking for a simple, well-written story that will transport you somewhere else for a few hours, this could be just what you’re after.


The Prince and his Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

Being a fierce predator – not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature – the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. 

As prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromising dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. 

The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard…

Grimmwolf

When the king of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. 

Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. 

When Owin was tasked with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B-

I wanted something short and sweet and this definitely fit the bill. The prince of the ocelot shifters has to team up with his bodyguard, a wolf shifter, to fulfil a quest set him by the king of all shifters… of course, they spar like cat and dog (!) and shenanigans ensure.

It’s not deep and the worldbuilding is minimal, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, especially in audio where Greg Boudreaux demonstrates once again that he’s a master of comic timing (and just about everything else when it comes to narration!)

Quick, fun and sexy – just what I was looking for, and I’ll probably pick up more audios in the series as they become available.


Sergeant Delicious by Annabeth Albert

Soon to be ex-marine Xavier has a bright future as a firefighter. But stationed far from home, he’s lonely and homesick for more than just his favorite foods. Thinking ahead to his homecoming, he responds to an ad seeking a date for a special gourmet dinner, but he doesn’t anticipate an immediate connection with the intriguing foodie who placed the ad.

Food writer Damien is looking for his big break, and reviewing an uber-exclusive secret restaurant may be exactly what he needs if he can score a date to go with him. He doesn’t expect to enjoy corresponding with Xavier quite so much, nor is he prepared for his powerful surge of lust for the hot marine.

However, Damien’s had more than his share of bad luck when it comes to romance, but Xavier is determined to win Damien over. Course-by-course, they fall deeper into like. When they finally give into their passion, sparks fly. But is it a flash in the pan or the recipe for lasting love?

Rating: B-

A sweet and sexy short story previously published in a charity anthology, Sergeant Delicious begins with soon-to-be demobbed Xavier answering an ad from “fun foodie guy” (a food writer) who wants someone to go with him to an upmarket dinner on Valentine’s day. The first part of this short story/novella shows the pair getting to know each other a bit via email, which makes the attraction they experience when they meet more believable. Both men are likeable and down-to-earth, and one of the things I really appreciate about novellas when they’re done well, is that the shorter page count doesn’t leave room for silly misunderstandings and other distracting plot points; and this is one of those that’s done well. The author doesn’t allow Damien’s hang-ups to get in the way (in fact, making good use of them! *wink*) and devotes all her page time to building the relationship between the leads.

A quick, fun (and did I mention sexy?) read.


Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price

Narrated by Gomez Pugh

There’s a new drug on the streets called Kick. The side effects are so brutal, most folks only try it once…unless they’re psychic. Then they do it until it kills them.

Psychic medium Victor Bayne is well acquainted with pharmaceuticals, from the Auracel that blocks his ghosts to the Seconal that offers him a blissful nights’ sleep. But he’s managed to steer clear of street drugs…so far.

Jacob Marks has a medicine cabinet filled with every over-the-counter remedy known to man, but none of them are doing much for his mood—and his long, fruitless days of combing through records at The Clinic are taking a heavy toll.
But their lackluster investigation does have one silver lining: a front row seat at The Clinic when the first Kick overdose comes in. And as scary as the drug might be, if it truly does augment psychic ability, the appeal is not lost on Vic.

Because the very first hit never killed anyone.

Where did Kick come from? Why is it so addictive? And why is everyone at The Clinic acting so darn shady? That’s what Vic intends to find out. And if he’s lucky, he can also expose a shadowy figure from Camp Hell.

Unfortunately, the demons of his pill addiction might prove just as deadly as his long-buried history. He thought he’d managed to ditch that pernicious habit. But what if it was only lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best time to rear its ugly head?

Rating: Narration: A; Content A-

Gah, I love this series so much, and it seems to get better and better! So much going on here besides the actual plot, about the investigation into a deadly psyactive drug (Kick) that is killing psychics. I’m loving Vic’s character growth, especially over the last few books as he’s finally realising what it’s like to work with people who respect him and is really gaining in confidence as a result. He still can’t quite believe it, and is still as endearingly self-deprecatingly shambolic as ever, but we – and Jacob of course – see it and appreciate it. And I like that we get to see Jacob’s more vulnerable side; he’s one of those people who, by virtue of his good looks, imposing physique, intelligence and charisma has come up against little in his life that he hasn’t been able to deal with, but that’s changing, and although he’s still very much the Jacob we all know and love, that extra dimension to him is great to see.

Vic and Jacob’s relationship continues to grow and their love for each other to deepen; they get to work with Zig and Carolyn again, and we get some closure for one of the characters who’s been around since book one; Jackie, the ghost who spasmodically haunted Vic’s old appartment. Her story is a tragic one, and the author does an amazing job in the scenes where Vic and Jacob find out the truth of what happened to her and then help her to move on – they’re incredibly poignant and Gomez Pugh is simply brilliant in them and captures every single drop of emotion.

On the subject of Mr. Pugh – his portrayal of Vic is so absolutely perfect that it’s easy to forget sometimes just how good he is at the rest of it. He can produce an amazing variety of character voices for what is, after eleven books, a large secondary cast, many of whom have appeared in several books throughout the series, and his inventiveness (and consistency) is remarkable.

And – whoa, that ending! When’s the next book out?!