Clashing Hearts (Hometown Jasper #1) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

clashing hearts

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Easton

There is nothing I hate more than when some big-city outsider stirs trouble in my peaceful little town. When Mr. Arrogance himself waltzes in and thinks he can slap a price tag on my land, he doesn’t know what he has coming. I’m not just a hick cowboy who’s going to bend to his good looks and charmless personality. No, sir.

I don’t care how smart he looks in his fancy suits, all he cares about is money.

I just wish I’d known who he was before I kissed him.

Lachlan

The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in a small town with a plethora of quirky people. If the stubborn cowboy doesn’t see sense soon, I don’t know what I’ll do. Failure is not an option. I was sent to make a deal, and I’m not leaving until it’s done.

I don’t care how hot he looks in his low hanging denim, boots, and hat, he wouldn’t see a good opportunity if it smacked him in the face.

I just wish I could get the taste of him off my tongue.

Rating:  Narration – B+: Content – B

Like many long-time/frequent/avid audiobook listeners, I tend to be a narrator-driven purchaser. On the whole, that’s proved to be a good thing for me, as I’ve discovered lots of new authors and books through glomming narrators like Greg Tremblay, Iggy Toma, Kale Williams and Nick J. Russo, all of whom have pointed me towards books I might otherwise have missed or not taken a chance on. I hadn’t come across Nicky James until I saw books from her latest series – Hometown Jasper – in an Audible list of new releases several months back; I liked the city-slicker-meets-country-boy premise of book one, and with Nick J. Russo as the narrator, I decided to give it a try.

Clashing Hearts is an opposites-attract, enemies-to-lovers affair in which the two leads really are enemies (for a good reason) and not just a little bit antipathetic towards each other – and I enjoyed listening to city-dweller Lachlan gradually falling under the spell of both his Canadian cowboy and the great outdoors.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Unguarded (Vino & Veritas #10) by Jay Hogan (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong & Iggy Toma

unguarded

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

I fled Boston and my cheating jerk of an ex with $300 and a lip gloss in my pocket. Waking up the next day in Burlington, Vermont, with a crick in my back and a frozen ass wasn’t exactly in the plan. If there was one. Which there wasn’t. Story of my life.

Three hours later and I’ve been hired as temporary help in the local veterinary and grooming clinic, which is kind of impressive since I know zip about animals and even less about grooming. But one thing I do know – I’m crushing hard on the sexy, absentminded vet for whom I work.

My life is a hot mess. The last thing I need is another relationship. Emmett pushes all my buttons, but he isn’t out. He’s overwhelmed with a business to run and a son to look after and the kind of domestic life I never thought I wanted.

I should walk away.

But Emmett believes in me, and I might just be starting to believe in myself. As different as we are, is it possible we’re exactly what the other needs?

Rating: Narration – A/B; Content – A-

Unguarded is my favourite (and the best so far) of the Vino and Veritas series – a warm, sexy and emotionally satisfying romance between a small-town veterinary surgeon and a snarky ex-pat Kiwi in which Jay Hogan once again demonstrates her talent for creating complex, relatable characters and finding the right balance between light and dark elements in her stories. It’s only been a couple of months since I read the book, but having two of my all-time favourite narrators on board for the audio meant I wasn’t going to waste any time before experiencing it again.

The book opens with Tai Samuels freezing his butt off as he’s trying to sleep in his crappy car, when he’s seen by the local police and told to move on. After catching his long-term boyfriend cheating on him with a pair of twinks earlier that evening, Tai stormed out with nothing but the clothes on his back and a few hundred dollars in his wallet, and drove. It’s not the first time his ex has cheated on him – and Tai curses himself for his stupidity in having forgiven him – but enough is enough and he got in his car and left Boston behind as fast as he could. Which is how he’s ended up in Vermont in clothes more suitable for clubbing than a New England winter.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Running From My Heart (Rock Bottom #3) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Pauley

running from my heart

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Holding onto the past can hurt more than letting it go

People say six years is long enough to mourn the death of his husband but for Ross Miller, the pain is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. He’s left his glittering Hollywood life behind, yet guilt still dogs his steps, no matter how far he runs. Trapped by his past and needing to escape his well-meaning friends, he rents a cabin in the secluded Adirondack mountains. A reclusive man moves in next door and piques Ross’s interest, but his persistent attempts at friendship are rebuffed. That doesn’t stop him because the one rule Ross Miller has always lived by is to never take no for an answer.

Novelist Arden Wainwright has given up. He can’t pretend a happiness he knows he’ll never find again. Solitary days turn into years, and he remains frozen, unable to take a breath. At his wit’s end, he retreats to the mountains, but it does little to stir his creativity. He continues to hide from life and avoids his overly nosy neighbor, who insists on planting himself at Arden’s doorstep at every turn. Making friends is the last thing Arden wants, but annoying or not, he can’t get the damn man out of his mind.

Finding peace in their isolated surroundings, the two lonely men forge an unlikely friendship where they realize they’re more alike than different and better together than apart. With Ross’s help, Arden begins to rebuild the shattered pieces of his life, while Arden gives Ross the strength to face his fears and find his way home. When love comes calling you can choose to hide from hurt, loss, and pain, but if you take a chance and open the door, you might discover that running from your heart is the last thing you’ll want to do.

Rating: Narration: B; Content – A-

Running From My Heart is a beautifully written, deeply emotional story about love and loss and grief, about standing still and moving on and letting go and second chances; and while the characters have suffered traumatic, life-changing experiences, it’s an uplifting story full of love and hope that shows new beginnings are possible even when it seems as though life has nothing more to offer.

Note: This is the third book in the author’s Rock Bottom series, but it can be listened to as a standalone.

Movie director Ross Miller lost his husband Dominic, an actor, in a freak surfing accident some six years previously. It devastated him, but the face he presents to the world is one of a man getting on with his life; he’s outgoing, upbeat, funny, and has a steady string of bed partners – maybe for one night, maybe a few, but never more – but in truth, he’s just hiding his pain behind a veneer of normality that fools pretty much every one (even himself, most of the time) into believing he’s perfectly fine and happy.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Up Close and Personal (Auckland Med #3) by Jay Hogan (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

up close and personal

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Detective Mark Knight has a serious problem – one that comes in the form of Auckland Med’s brand-new forensic pathologist. Six feet of delicious blond-haired, scary smart, stern, and disapproving hotness – Dr. Edward R. Newton.

The man is miles out of Mark’s league – completely opposite in almost every way and shockingly immune to Mark’s flirtations. Mark should just let him go. But the alluring doctor has taken residence in Mark’s brain and is messing with his life’s plan – in particular Mark’s determination to skirt attachments and all the self-absorbed drama that goes with them.

Mark has spent two years watching his friends drop like flies to the white picket virus, only to suddenly find himself hankering for a hammer and some white paint. Edward, however, doesn’t want a bar of Mark’s roguish charm.

But it’s not like Mark can avoid the sexy pathologist – death brings them together on a regular basis. So, when a string of murders threatens both their lives and sends them into hiding, something has to give.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C+

This third instalment in Jay Hogan’s Auckland Med series has a bit of a romantic suspense vibe going on, as the two leads – one a detective, one a pathologist – become embroiled in a murder investigation that poses a threat to their lives. I enjoyed Up Close and Personal when I read it on release in early 2020; the frenemies-to-lovers romance is a sexy slow-burn and the leads are likeable guys who actually *gasp* talk to each other about what’s happening between them, but I’m sorry to say there were things that just didn’t hold up this time around – mainly I think because I’m more apt to spot certain weaknesses in audio than I am in print.

When the story begins, Dr. Edward Newton, the (relatively) newly installed pathologist at Auckland Med., has arrived at a remote location where he’s tasked with inspecting a body that’s been washed ashore on a nearby beach. Because the weather is atrocious, the body is being temporarily housed in a tent on site – and Edward’s heart sinks when he enters to begin his examination and discovers that the lead detective on the investigation is Mark Knight, who, in all of the three months they’ve known each other, has never passed up an opportunity to flirt with him – and has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to do a lot more than flirt. As usual, Edward ignores or rebuffs the detective’s innuendo and gets on with the job at hand – while wondering why, given Mark is not his type by a long chalk, he is nonetheless attracted to him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The List (Second Chances #1) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Denis Lambert

the list

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Oops. He did it again.
Elliot Hansen has a terrible habit of falling in love with every man he dates.
His friends have had enough and make a list of Elliot’s perfect man.
That V…
Those abs….
Shouldn’t a boyfriend be more than the sum of his parts?
But when sexy detective Winston Rogers bursts into his bedroom to arrest a burglar, Elliot knows he wouldn’t mind checking one or two things off that list with him.

What if you had it all?
Five years after the death of his husband, Winston Rogers is single and determined to stay that way.
He throws himself into his job—the more dangerous the assignment, the better.
He can’t face another risk to his heart.
But then a routine arrest in his neighbor’s bedroom leaves Win searching for more than evidence as the man’s sweet smile and vulnerable eyes strike a chord inside him Win had thought gone forever.

Why not enjoy each other with no strings attached? Win and Elliot decide to make their own list.
Rule #1: Strictly friends with benefits.
Rule #2: No doing anything stupid like falling in love.
Rule #3….
See Elliot and Win ignore Rules #1 and #2.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

The List is the first book in Felice Stevens’ new series, Second Chances, featuring Elliot, Spencer, Wolf and Chess, four men who have been friends since college, and who, in the fifteen years since they met, have become more than best friends – they’re family. The List is Elliot’s story, and it’ll be followed by Chess’ book and then… well, I have my suspicions 😉

Elliot Hansen has an unfortunate habit of falling in love with pretty much every man he dates. After his most recent break-up – with a guy who’d moved in with him, conned money out of him to start a business (which went nowhere) and then dumped him – his friends once again urge him to be more careful (read: less gullible), to try to protect himself a little more and not to assume every guy he goes out with wants the same things he does. They suggest he should stop looking to fall in love, that he should play the field and have some fun – but that’s not really Elliot’s style. All he wants – all he’s ever wanted, really – is to love and be loved. But he decides to maybe give ‘having fun’ a try – which is when Spencer jokingly writes a list of the things that would make Elliot’s perfect man… only the things he comes up with (hung like a horse, perfect abs, great ass) aren’t the things Elliot is looking for at all. Later, and more than a little annoyed at his friends’ not-so-gentle teasing, he crosses out all Spencer’s suggestions and adds some of his own – picnics, walks on the beach, long drives and days out at the zoo and local wineries.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Featherbed (Vino and Veritas #1) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves and Alexander Cendese

featherbed

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When a bookworm on borrowed time meets a younger free-spirited chicken farmer, sparks and feathers fly….

Harrison Phillip Fletcher III isn’t supposed to be here. Not in Burlington, Vermont, not running Vino & Veritas, a quaint inclusive bookstore and wine bar, and definitely not still alive, at 42. Also not supposed to be here? An unexpected delivery of chickens.

Finn Barnes knows chickens. The burly organic farmer knows all about rare breed poultry, but dealing with a hot older bookseller is an entirely different matter. City-slicker types like Harrison never end up staying in Vermont for the long-term.

They should steer clear of each other. But the flare of attraction is mutual. And somehow amid book discussions and farm tours, they discover plenty in common. Now they’re stealing kisses in Finn’s barn, sneaking out like teens, and burning up the sheets.

What starts as a fling brings very real feelings for two lonely souls, but a future together seems as unlikely as chickens in a bookstore. Feathers may be flying, but learning to trust takes time neither may have. Can they take a leap of faith together before it’s too late?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

The Vino and Veritas series is one of four new series of contemporary romances set in the world created by Sarina Bowen in her True North books. Each of the series is multi-authored, and the books are all standalones; although some characters do cross over between books, the stories in each are self-contained, so you can dip in and out without missing anything important. The V&V books are all queer romances – mostly m/m, but there are some f/f ones, too – and there’s a fabulous line-up of authors, some of whom are personal favourites. One of them – Annabeth Albert – kicks things off with Featherbed, a sweet, sexy, low-angst romance that, for all its cuteness and strong characterisation, needed a bit more oomph.

A former lawyer, Harrison Fletcher has left the bustle of New York and relocated to Burlington in Vermont where he’s about to open his new venture – a combined bookstore and wine bar he’s named Vino and Veritas. Part of his reason for moving is to because he wants to make mother happy; ever since she retired from her job as a librarian, she’s been at something of a loose end and he knows that owning a bookstore has long been a dream of hers. But he knows he needed a change, too, especially as he thinks he won’t have much more time to spend with her; both his father and his grandfather died before reaching the age of forty-three, and with his forty-second birthday approaching, Harrison can feel the ticking of the countdown clock. Still, even though it’s a move he wanted to make, it’s been something of a culture shock – something brought home even more strongly when one of the deliveries he’s expecting for the bookstore half of V and V turns out to be a box of chickens rather than a box of books.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Devilry (King University #2) by Marley Valentine (audiobook) – Narrated by Cooper North and Aiden Snow

devilry

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Attending King University was at the top of my bucket list. Falling in love with my professor wasn’t. 

Earning a full scholarship to King University was my hard-earned ticket out of hell. I’m happy to be away from the small town I grew up in and all the equally small-minded people who live there.

King was going to be my safe haven. A place where I could leave the old me behind and finally grow into the young man my family had desperately tried to hide away.

Diving head first into new experiences, new friends, and parties, I didn’t expect to run straight into the one thing I wasn’t ready for.

His arms are welcoming, his body is addictive and his lips are heaven. Cole Huxley is everything I could fall in love with, except for one problem…I never wanted to fall for my professor.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C

Having enjoyed Marley Valentine’s Without You, I was pleased to learn another of her books would be making it into audio format, and seeing that Devilry also had two excellent narrators attached, I eagerly requested a review copy. Caveat Emptor, I suppose, because while Cooper North and Aiden Snow are great, I’m really struggling to remember much about the actual story. Which is, quite possibly, because there isn’t very much of it, and what there IS is stretched very thinly for an almost ten hour audiobook.

Elijah Williams comes from a small town in Texas filled with small-minded people – including his ultra conservative parents – and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. He’s been the subject of his father’s criticism all his life, but when, aged sixteen, Elijah was discovered making out with another boy, things went from bad to worse. His father – the local pastor – pretty much disowned him and hasn’t spoken to him since. Two years later, Elijah has earned a scholarship to the prestigious King University in Washington DC, and hopes at last to be able to live honestly and on his own terms.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Urie

playing the palace

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After having his heart trampled on by his cheating ex, Carter Ogden is afraid love just isn’t in the cards for him. He still holds out hope in a tiny corner of his heart, but even in his wildest dreams he never thought he’d meet the Crown Prince of England, much less do a lot more with him. Yes, growing up he’d fantasized about the handsome, openly gay Prince Edgar, but who hadn’t? When they meet by chance at an event Carter’s boss is organizing, Carter’s sure he imagined all that sizzling chemistry. Or was it mutual?

This unlikely but meant-to-be romance sets off media fireworks on both sides of the Atlantic. With everyone having an opinion on their relationship and the intense pressure of being constantly in the spotlight, Carter finds ferocious obstacles to his happily ever after, including the tenacious disapproval of the queen of England. Carter and Price Edgar fight for a happy ending to equal their glorious international beginning. It’s a match made on Valentine’s Day and in tabloid heaven.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – D+

When I read the synopsis of Playing the Palace a few months back, my immediate reaction was a big, fat NOPE. (Any author who uses the term “Crown Prince” to describe the heir to the British throne and doesn’t bother to discover that while the term CAN be applied to the heir apparent to a monarch, the term is NOT used in the UK where the male heir to the throne is the Prince of Wales – gets an immediate no from me). I even put the book on my “No Way José” shelf on Goodreads! BUT. The offer of a review copy of the audiobook came my way and as, at the time, I was completely out of review copies, I thought I’d give it a try. Just to see if it could possibly be as bad as I expected.

Long story short: It is.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Teach Me (There’s Something About Marysburg #1) by Olivia Dade (audiobook) – Narrated by Kelsey Navarro

teach me

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Their lesson plans didn’t include love. But that’s about to change….

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens’s high school, she’s determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose’s beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who’s never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher – and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons – about trust, about vulnerability, about her past – to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

Rating: Narration – B Content – B

Book one in Olivia Dade’s There’s Something About Marysburg series, Teach Me is a sweet, uncomplicated, low-drama romance between rival history teachers, both of whom are divorced and in their forties. I enjoyed the story – and the performance by new-to-me narrator Kelsey Navarro – although I can’t say it bowled me over like last year’s Spoiler Alert did.

Rose Owens has been teaching for more than twenty years, and despite the constant frustrations that come with the job (too much admin, school politics etc.) she loves it and is utterly dedicated to helping her students be the best they can be. She’s especially proud of her success in recruiting students to the AP program (and here I have to say that all the talk of AP students and Honors students lost me – the UK system is completely different – but I think I got the gist of it) who might not ordinarily have gone on to study history at a higher level. Just before the beginning of the new school year, she learns that a number of the classes she’d expected to be teaching have been assigned to someone else (a new – male – teacher), and she’s devastated at the news as well as intensely worried about the survival of the AP program, as the change in her teaching groups will mean that not as many students are likely to follow her from Honors into AP next year. But Rose absolutely refuses to let anyone see how upset she is; she’s long since learned to keep her feelings to herself and present a calm, friendly and slightly aloof demeanour to the world.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Never Say Never (Lost in New York #3) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

never say never

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

One taste leaves them wanting more…

INGREDIENTS:
Francisco “Frisco” Martinelli. Hot and spicy. Beautiful on the outside, dark and damaged on the inside. Handle with extreme caution.
Salvatore “Torre” Rossi. Sweet with a kick of spice. Gentle at first, can become swiftly and irrevocably addictive to the heart.

A RECIPE FOR ROMANCE
One snobby food critic who doesn’t believe in love
One down-to-earth food blogger who does
Add a touch of suspicious brother
A heaping serving of best friend who’s been waiting for this to happen

Blend with secret identities, past hurts, and judgments.
Stir in equal portions of desperate longing, desire, fear, and snarky humor.
Set over open flame, step back, and wait for sparks to fly.
Serve as is for an explosive love story that will leave you with a full heart and a ridiculously happy smile at the end.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B+

Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series comes to a close with Never Say Never, in which snarky restaurant critic and unapologetic manwhore Francisco – Frisco – Martinelli, best friend of Pressley from book one, Fool for Love, finds his HEA in a most unexpected quarter. It’s an angsty enemies-to-lovers (sort of) story featuring two men who have been burned by love – but while one of them is moving forward and getting on with his life, the other is stuck in an emotional limbo, unable – or refusing – to see how locking away the hurt and pain of a decades-old betrayal has changed the direction of his life and continues to inform his decisions. The mechanics of the basic premise are perhaps a little wobbly, but it’s worth getting past that in order to enjoy the rest of the story, which is a beautifully written and deeply felt romance.

Frisco is a food critic for Ultimate NYC, a glossy, up-market magazine “for the uber rich who can afford to Uber everywhere.” He tells it like it is and doesn’t hold back on his opinions, and his scathing reviews can make or break a reputation. For the last couple of years, he and Salvatore Grant, writer of the popular food blog New York for Real New Yorkers have been engaged in an online feud; Grant accuses Frisco of being an elitist, “a pompous, arrogant food snob”, pointing out that the restaurants he visits are way beyond the budget of most New Yorkers and that he favours the chic and the overpriced over the things that really matter – the food and the people who produce it. Grant’s blogs haven’t gone unnoticed by Frisco’s managing editor, who decides it’s time for him to broaden his horizons and visit some of the less exclusive places in the city. Which is how Frisco finds himself in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn one evening, fully prepared to hate it – but is (somewhat reluctantly) impressed by the quality of the food, which has obviously been lovingly prepared from the freshest ingredients, the ambiance and the service. Especially the service provided by his waiter for the evening, a gorgeous guy with dark curls, a generous mouth and eyes the colour of the finest chocolate.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.