A Gathering Storm (Porthkennack #2) by Joanna Chambers (audiobook) – Narrated by Simon Goldhill

a gathering storm

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When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother. In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick—who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men—is loath to agree.

Until Fate steps in to lend a hand. Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal. A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

It’s taken a while for Joanna Chambers’ 2017 historical romance, A Gathering Storm, to make it into audio, but I remember enjoying the story back when I read it, so, despite the fact that the narrator is new-to-me, I decided to give the audiobook version a listen. The book is part of the multi-author Porthkennack series, all set in and around the Cornish seaside town of the same name, but it’s a standalone, so it’s not necessary to have read any of the other books in order to enjoy it.

The story begins on the night of a terrible electrical storm, when Sir Edward Fitzwilliam (known as ‘Ward’) is aboard ship, crossing the Irish Sea from Dublin to Anglesey. The storm is at its height when Ward experiences something very strange – he hears the voice of his twin brother George calling out to him and assuring him that all will be well. Realising later that this must have been the exact moment of George’s death and believing he’d received a communication from ‘beyond the veil’. Ward dedicates himself to recreating the conditions that allowed it to happen, in spite of the disapproval and dismissal of the wider scientific community of which he is – or had been – a respected member.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Thief in the Night by KJ Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by James Joseph & Ryan Laughton

a thief in the night

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Toby never meant to be a highway robber, but needs must. He didn’t plan to impersonate a top London valet either, but when the chance comes to present himself as the earl of Arvon’s new gentleman’s gentleman, he grabs it. Unfortunately, the earl is the man he seduced and robbed on the road to get here. Oops.

Miles, Lord Arvon, is not impressed. But he’s faced with a tumbledown home and lost family fortune, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Toby—shameless, practical, and definitely desperate—may be just the man he needs.

To steal back a priceless bracelet, that is. What else were you thinking?

Narration – A/B; Content – B+

In KJ Charles’ 2021 novel The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, we were introduced to Robin and Marianne, two siblings who conned their way into society with a view to their both making very advantageous marriages. Brief mention was made of the fact that they had grown up with an older half/step sibling named Toby who just up and left them one day and whom they haven’t seen since. In A Thief in the Night, we get to meet Toby, who, like his brother and sister, lives by his wits, with one eye (metaphorically) always looking over his shoulder, and the other always on the main chance.

The story opens at an inn where Toby, while waiting for the drink he’s ordered to arrive, is keeping an eye on the attractive man of military bearing sitting by the fire. His clothing is travel-stained, but looks to be that of a man of means, so Toby nonchalantly walks over and strikes up a conversation. After exchanging names (Toby doesn’t give his real one, of course), they get to talking, and Toby learns that his companion, Miles Carteret, has recently returned from fighting on the Penunsula and is on his way home. Toby is quick to recognise the signs of interest, and to make his own interest clear; before long, they’re out back, exchanging greedy touches and frantic kisses and Toby is on his knees. After putting themselves to rights, they had back inside where Miles dozes off – and Toby helps himself to his watch and pocket book and scarpers.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dead Serious (Crawshanks Guide to the Recently Departed #1) by Vawn Cassidy (audiobook)- Narrated by Joel Leslie

dead serious

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In the business of unfinished business…

Tristan Everett has always preferred the company of the dead because they usually don’t talk back. Being a somewhat awkward introvert working as a pathologist at the Hackney Public Mortuary suits him just fine. That is, until a freak accident with a rogue ice cube and suddenly he can see ghosts. No longer content to just lie on the table and let him figure out how they died, they’re now peering over his shoulder critiquing his work and confessing their most lascivious sins before skipping off merrily into the afterlife.

Just when he thought his life couldn’t get any weirder, sassy drag queen, Dusty Le Frey, is wheeled in with a toe tag and she’s not prepared to go quietly into the light. Not only is she furious at the prospect of spending eternity in last season’s gold lame, she’s determined that he help her solve her murder.

Suddenly Tristan finds himself thrown into a world of sequins and fake eyelashes, and worse still, he may have developed a bit of a crush on Scotland Yard’s brand new drool-worthy detective, Inspector Danny Hayes, who’s been assigned to Dusty’s murder. Oh, and as the icing on top of a really crappy cake, the killer now wants him dead too…

All he ever wanted was a simple life but suddenly he’s juggling work, a deliciously sexy detective, a stubborn ghost and a relentless murderer… and things have just gotten dead serious…

Rating: Narration  – B+; Content – D+

I was intrigued by the blurb for Dead Serious, which promised a mystery featuring a socially awkward pathologist trying to find a murderer and a romance between said pathologist and the gorgeous detective assigned to the case. The twist in the story is that the pathologist can see ghosts and is being haunted by the spirit of the murder victim, a sassy drag-queen by the name of Dusty Le Frey; it sounded like fun, and with Joel Leslie narrating, I knew I was in a safe pair of hands, so to speak.

Tristan Everett is a pathologist at the Hackney Public Mortuary in East London, and while cutting open dead bodies is probably not everyone’s idea of a good time, he likes his job and is good at it. Being a bit of an introvert, Tristan kind of prefers the company of the dead anyway – at least he doesn’t have to make idle conversation with them. He’s been persuaded to go to a leaving do at a local pub, where he catches sight of the hottest guy he’s ever seen – but before they can do much more than nod and smile at each other, Tristan somehow manages to get an ice cube lodged in his throat and, unable to breathe, chokes and passes out. When he comes to, he’s on the floor of the pub with Mr. Hottie crouching over him; feeling like an idiot, Tristan is duly wheeled away by the attending paramedics, and doesn’t think he’ll ever see his dream guy again.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dead Draw (Perfect Play #1) by Layla Reyne (audiobook) – Narrated by Christian Leatherman

dead draw
This title may be purchased from Amazon

When a marriage of convenience is the only play left…

Special Agent Emmitt Marshall knows how to:
Wear a cowboy hat.
Hack anything.
Win at chess.
Fall in love with emotionally unavailable men.
He even knows the perfect play to catch the terrorists who killed his mentor.

Special Agent Levi Bishop doesn’t know how to:
Move on after his wife’s death.
Help his grieving son.
Pay off his mountain of debt.
Fix the mess some cowboy cyber agent made of his case.
The same cowboy who proposes a marriage of convenience to stop a common enemy.

Marsh is either the answer to Levi’s prayers—or a handsome nightmare in a Stetson.
Levi doesn’t know.
But both men do know their cases and lives are at a dead draw.
There’s only one play left…
I do.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

I’ve said before that Layla Reyne’s books can be hit or miss for me, so I was pleased to find that Dead Draw, the first book in her new Perfect Play series, was mostly a hit. It’s fast paced, with plenty of action and a steamy central romance, and although loosely tied to the Fog City series, and one of the principals appeared as a secondary character in her standalone novel, What We May Be, there are no overlapping story threads, so a new listener could start here with no problems.

Special Agent Emmett Marshall, a legal attaché with the FBI, has been working to bring down the group of terrorists responsible for the death of his best friend and mentor some three years earlier, but a serious mis-step sees him screwing up an FBI operation in the US. His intention had been to try to flush out the people funding the terrorists, but instead, he ends up sending them to ground and completely blowing eighteen months of hard graft put in by Special Agent Levi Bishop and his team, who have been hot on the trail of a group of people traffickers.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Unforgiven (Deep Ops #5) by Rebecca Zanetti (audiobook) – Narrated by Roger Wayne

unforgiven zanetti

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Run: Gemma Falls never expected to use her game theory expertise to outrun a killer. But for years, that skill is all that kept her one step ahead of a deadly stalker. When Gemma gets the chance to teach at DC University, she hopes she and her young daughter have found a safe harbor. The only flaw is the arrogant philosophy professor who’s always underfoot giving unwanted advice—in his sexy British accent . . .

Hide: Jethro Hanson has blood on his hands. He’s working within ivy-covered university halls now, but he knows that his work with the Deep Ops team and the deadly acts he once committed for the sake of Queen and country place him beyond forgiveness—until he meets Gemma . . .

Seek: Soon, the passion between them stuns them both. But when Jethro discovers a threat is fast overtaking her, he must choose between the redemption he seeks—and releasing the ever-present killer inside . . .

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B-

I’ve listened to and reviewed the four full-length books in Rebecca Zanetti’s Deep Ops romantic suspense series, and I’d been hoping the former MI6 operator, Jethro Hanson (who first appeared in book three, Broken) would get a book of his own. The overarching plotline of the series – the hunt for the serial killer who had seemingly come back from the dead to haunt Angus Force – was completed in book four, Driven, so this one could be listened to as a standalone in terms of the plot, but the relationships between the recurring characters have all been previously established, so you’d miss out on that by starting here. The Deep Ops team has a great found family vibe, a sense of camaraderie born of familiarity and trust that comes through really strongly as they banter back and forth and tease each other, and it’s one of my favourite aspects of the series.

Gemma Falls and her four-year-old daughter Trudy have been on the run from her abusive ex since before Trudy was born. She’s currently in DC, staying in her friend Serena’s house while she’s away on a temporary research job, and has also temporarily taken over Serena’s teaching load at the university until her friend returns. She wants to fly under the radar as far as is possible, so isn’t very welcoming to another friend and colleague of Serena’s, Dr. Jethro Hanson, when he comes by the office to welcome her and offer to show her around campus next morning. She refuses with cold politeness.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cold Silence (Cold Justice: Most Wanted #1) by Toni Anderson (audiobook) – Narrated by Eric G. Dove

cold silence

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Shane Livingstone is frustrated when an injury sidelines him during an operation to catch a sadistic killer. A killer who auctions off vicious ways to torture his victims and screens the events for money on the dark web. When a teammate dies during the op, a devastated Shane vows to track down the monster responsible—but to do so he’ll need access to specialized skills he doesn’t possess.

A bloody game of cat and mouse….

As a white-hat hacker at Alex Parker’s security firm, Yael Brooks knows how to track predators through the darkest recesses of cyberspace. She can’t say no to Shane’s request…even though she fears her own secrets may put her at risk.

With a serial killer who makes it personal….

Shane and Yael must work together as a team if they hope to stop this psychopath. As they begin to grow closer, Shane demands Yael’s complete trust, but trust is the one thing Yael is reluctant to give. As the chase intensifies and more people die, it becomes obvious that the killer knows exactly who Yael is and plans to make both her and Shane pay the ultimate price for getting in his way.

Rating:  Narration – B; Content – B

Toni Anderson adds another ‘arm’ to her long-running Cold Justice series with Cold Silence, book one in her her new Cold Justice: Most Wantedseries which features the field agents of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

In this story, the HRT is part of a large task force hunting a sadistic serial killer calling themselves Evi1Geni-us who kills their victims via a kind of ‘choose your own murder’ event. During a live-stream, the very select few who are wealthy (and depraved) enough to be able to afford the buy-in, are able to bid on a variety of methods of torture and manners of death and watch while their choices are carried out.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fractured Souls (Fallen Messengers #1) by Ava Marie Salinger (audiobook) – Narrated by Alex Kydd

fractured souls

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When Cassius Black moves to San Francisco for a fresh start, the angel’s hopes of staying below the radar of the supernatural organizations that oversee the otherworldly and magic users in the city are dashed when he stumbles across a dead body in the sewers. His grim discovery soon puts him in the sights of the Argonaut Agency and Francis Strickland, the bureau director who knows his darkest secrets.

Morgan King and his team of Argonaut agents have been on the hunt all summer for the culprits behind a series of gruesome killings that have rocked the city. Killings that bear sinister hallmarks of human sacrificial rituals where the victims’ souls have been stolen. When Fate puts Cassius in Morgan’s path, he realizes the angel everyone likes to call The Devil may very well be the only person who can help them track down the murderers.

Morgan and Cassius soon find themselves crossing paths with a mysterious warlock whose actions evoke disturbing echoes of an incident from Cassius’s past. Cassius and Morgan must work together to defeat their common enemy and save the city from destruction, all while fighting their growing attraction.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B

Fractured Soulsis the first book in Ava Marie Salinger’s Fallen Messengers urban fantasy series in which angels and demons fell to Earth some five hundred years ago. The world the author has created is fascinating, the worldbuilding is really good, and the plot is fast-paced and action packed, but the storytelling is hampered by the introduction of too many characters at once (making it hard to keep track of who is who and who they all work for), and the romance is underdeveloped.

Like all the Fallen, Cassius Black, the most feared angel of them all, has no idea of who he was before. For years, he’s been doing his best to live under the radar and avoid interaction with the various magical and supernatural organisations that have been nothing but trouble for him in the past. Recently re-located from London to San Francisco, Cassius has taken on the job of looking for a missing cat and finds much more than he bargained for when he stumbles across said cat – a demon cat – down in the sewers, hiding from a huge Lucifugous demon that’s snacking on some human remains. After dispatching the demon, Cassius is able to see the disturbing signs of some sort of black magic ritual involving the dead man – clearly the Lucifugous didn’t kill the human. But if he didn’t – who did?

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All the Duke I Need (Desperately Seeking Duke #3) by Caroline Linden (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

all the duke i need

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She’s a duchess in all but name
Philippa Kirkpatrick has been raised at Carlyle Castle by her doting guardian, the Duchess of Carlyle. Preoccupied with the succession of the dukedom and the duke’s health, the duchess has left the estate in Philippa’s hands—and Philippa is determined not to let her down.

He’s not a duke at all . . .

The arrival of a new estate steward should be a relief, but instead it threatens to upend everything. William Montclair is handsome, brash, and scandalously bold. The horrified duchess wants to sack him on sight. Philippa is just as shocked . . . but also, somehow, charmed.

But could he be her hero?

Carlyle cannot be her home forever, but Philippa is determined to leave it in good hands. She means to teach Will how to run the estate properly and love Carlyle as she does. The more time she spends with Will, though, the more she likes him . . . trusts him . . . even loves him. Unfortunately, she’s also more and more certain that Will is keeping secrets that could break her heart.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Caroline Linden’s All the Duke I Need features a lovely, well-developed romance between two likeable and engaging characters – but as the finale of a series in which the overarching plot has focused on the search for the heir to a dukedom, it pains me to say that it falls somewhat short. There are a number of plot points that are rushed or which don’t make much sense, and some important questions that remain unanswered by the end. The author has said that she’s writing an epilogue that should answer them all, but I still feel cheated; if the story requires more chapters to finish it properly, then those chapters should have been included in THIS book – not as an optional extra. With all that said – don’t let it put you off listening; the narration is very good, and the romance reaches a satisfying conclusion with the two leads nicely set up for a future together. I would just have liked more of an overall sense of completeness by the end.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Criminal Intentions S1E2: Junk Shop Blues by Cole McCade (audiobook) – Narrated by Curt Bonnem

junk shop blues

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A murdered night club mogul unlocks a web of infidelity and deceit. The most likely suspect? The daughter of the richest family in Baltimore, if only Detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon can piece the evidence together. The clues just aren’t lining up—but Malcolm can’t tell if he’s missing a piece of the puzzle or completely missing the mark. The McAllister case still haunts him. So many dead. So many he couldn’t save. It’s throwing him off his game.And the only one who really understands is his strange, coldly aloof partner.

A partner he can never see the same way, after a moment of intimacy that haunts him as much as the voices of the dead.

Seong-Jae Yoon is struggling in his own way. He can’t solve the case when he can’t trust Malcolm, and he can’t trust Malcolm when the grizzled old wolf is growing increasingly erratic, increasingly dangerous. What disturbs Seong-Jae is how much he needs to trust Malcolm. He doesn’t get that close. He doesn’t get that involved.

But he may have no choice, if they want to stop a powerful killer from slipping away.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

I was completely hooked into Cole McCade’s long-running Criminal Intentions romantic suspense series by the time I’d reached the end of the first chapter of book one, so was chomping at the bit to get stuck into the next one! The Cardigans introduced listeners to two very different protagonists – detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon – and set up what looks set to be a very slow burn romance as well as telling a tense and exciting story of the investigation into the string of murders that brings them together.

Junk Shop Blues opens about a week since the pair started working with each other – and things aren’t going well. Neither of them is dealing well with the emotional fallout of the Macallister case, and neither of them is prepared to open up or attempt to process it with the person most able to really understand what they’re going through – each other. Malcolm is distracted and snappish and more irascible than usual, and Seong-Jae has no idea why – which, in turn, annoys him and makes him irritable, too. But the world – and crime – doesn’t stop just because they’re unaccountably pissed with each other, and they’re quickly assigned a new case – a murder at a luxury hotel.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Thirst for You (Beyond the Cove #2) by Jaclyn Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

thirst for you

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Forty-year-old Zachariah Taylor owns a successful bar, Zach’s Bar and Grill, in the quiet town of Riverside Falls and loves the life he’s built for himself. But as his siblings move on and find their forever partners in life, he’s starting to feel less and less needed – not to mention old. Suddenly, he’s finding it even harder to ignore the younger man who has pursued him for years, but the 12 years separating them is something Zach can’t seem to overlook.

Twenty-eight-year-old Drew Belford has been in love with the stubborn Zach Taylor for seven years. Drew, however, is just as strong-minded and refuses to let Zach use their age difference as an excuse to disregard the attraction burning between them.

When Drew begins to get unsettling messages from an unknown person, Zach feels helpless in a way he’s never felt before. The thought of anyone hurting Drew unleashes years’ worth of pent-up desire Zach has had for the younger man. Is his thirst for Drew enough to protect him from the danger lurking in the shadows, or will the threat of the unknown be enough to douse the spark of love between them – and silence Drew forever?

Rating:  Narration – B+; Content – C+

Thirst for You is the second book in Jaclyn Quinn’s Beyond the Cove series, and my first book by this author; it’s an age-gap/best friend’s brother contemporary romance with a suspense sub-plot that is effectively threaded throughout the main storyline, and I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything by not listening to the first book, so it works just fine as a standalone.

Forty-year-old Zach Taylor owns a successful bar in the quiet town of Riverside Falls where he’s built a life he loves amid family and friends. Over the past few years, however, he’s watched his siblings and his friends gradually coupling up, and can’t help thinking that maybe that part of life has passed him by. He’s had a few girlfriends and boyfriends over the years, but nothing has stuck; in fact, his previous girlfriend Lisa is now dating his best friend, Grant Belford, whose brother Drew works at the bar. Zach has known Drew for years, but now, he has to keep reminding himself not to notice that Drew has grown into a very attractive man – and that, as his best friend’s little brother, he’s firmly off limits.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.