Coddiwomple by S.E. Harmon (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick Hudson

coddiwomple

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

As a wildlife photographer, Journey “JJ” Sutton never stays in one place too long. The world is his classroom, and he’s living his dream. His only regret is that he had to sacrifice the love of his life to do it. But as the saying goes, you can never go home again. That’s until there’s a family emergency, and he has to…well, go home again. His easy breezy lifestyle gets complicated fast. It certainly doesn’t help that his ex-fiancé has bought the house next door.

After an unstable childhood, Cameron Foster loves small-town life. He has everything he needs in his vet practice, his friends, and his animals. Despite what numerous exes seem to think, he’s not still in love with Journey. And so what if they add “benefits” to their friendship? As long as he keeps his heart out of the equation, everything should be fine.

Too bad Journey’s not onboard with that plan. With summer ending, he has to convince Cameron that this is more than just a fling. This time around, he knows what he wants. He wants a second chance. He wants forever. Most of all, he wants Cameron’s heart.

Journey may have put away his passport, but things are just getting interesting.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B-

I confess that I initially thought Coddiwomple was a made-up word, but it turns out it isn’t! It means “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”, and it’s the perfect title for this second chance romance in which a globetrotting photographer comes back to the home town – and the man – he left years before only to discover that life has a way of bringing you back to where you’re supposed to be.

For well over a decade, Journey Sutton – usually known as JJ – has travelled the world, making a name for himself (and a good living) as a wildlife photographer. It’s what he’d always dreamed of; living an unencumbered life away from the small Florida town of Coral Cove and the family responsibilities that had been dumped on him at a young age, following the death of his mother and his father’s descent into alcoholism – and he has no regrets. Well, maybe one. The man he left behind. The man he’d planned to marry.

Cameron Foster likes his life as a small-town veterinarian, although his love life hasn’t been quite as successful. After a childhood and adolescence spent moving from place to place as his father collected and discarded wives (!) Cameron was finally able to put down roots and gain some stability when he went to live with his stepmother Rosy. Falling in love and planning to make a life with the man he loved was just the icing on the cake – until it wasn’t, and JJ left town to follow his dream.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Right Behind Her (Bree Taggert #4) by Melinda Leigh (audiobook) – Narrated by Christina Traister

right behind her

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Twenty-seven years ago, Sheriff Bree Taggert’s father killed her mother, then himself. Now Bree and her younger brother, Adam, find human bones on the grounds of their abandoned family farm. The remains are those of a man and a woman, both murdered in the same horrible way.

When the investigation determines the murders occurred thirty years ago, Bree’s dead father becomes a suspect, forcing Bree to revisit the brutal night she’s spent most of her life trying to forget. The only other suspect is an unlikely squatter on the Taggert farm who claims to know secrets about Bree’s past. When he mysteriously disappears and Bree’s niece is kidnapped, the cold case heats up.

Bree has stoked the rage of a murderer who’ll do anything to keep his identity – and motives – a secret. To protect everyone she loves, Bree must confront a killer.

Rating: Narration – C+; Content- B

Right Behind Her is the fourth book in Melinda Leigh’s series of romantic suspense novels featuring Bree Taggert, a former homicide detective who is now sheriff of Grey’s Hollow in upstate New York. While each one comprises a self-contained mystery plot, these books really do need to be read in order, so as to be able to follow and understand Bree’s journey from hard-nosed cop who never wanted to see her home town again to a woman making a life and a family there. In the first book, Cross Her Heart, Bree returned to Grey’s Hollow after the murder of her younger sister and realised she needed to stay in order to look after her niece Kayla (eight) and nephew Luke (sixteen) – even though she didn’t have the faintest idea about raising kids. As the series has progressed, we’ve seen her slowly settling into her new roles – professional and personal – although her path has been strewn with realistic obstacles, both internal and external, from dealing with the aftermath of the corruption she uncovered in the sheriff’s department to the continuing fall-out of her own personal trauma – her father was a violent man who killed her mother and then himself when Bree was just eight years old, and it’s clear that she has never really processed or dealt with it. It’s also left her very cautious about forming relationships – which means she’s spent the last couple of books keeping her love interest – investigator and K9 handler Matt Flynn – at a distance, while he begins to worry that she may never be ready or able to commit to him emotionally.

When Right Behind Her opens, Bree and her younger brother Adam – who was just a baby when their parents died – are paying a visit to their former family home, which Adam (now a very successful artist) has recently purchased. It’s hard for Bree, but she wants to be there for her brother, who is clearly looking for some sort of connection to a past he has no memory of. Privately, Bree thinks it’s better that way. As they’re leaving, Bree hears sounds coming from the nearby barn; she identifies herself and enters cautiously, only to be attacked by whoever is inside. The man runs, but Bree manages to subdue him, and once backup arrives and she hands him off, she realises the backpack he was carrying is missing. She, her deputies and Adam start looking for it, but find more than they bargained for when Bree finds the backpack – and Adam finds some old bones. Human remains that are later shown to be those of a man and a woman who were murdered around thirty years before. And the man had clearly been tortured.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Friend in the Fire (Auden & O’Callaghan Mysteries #2) by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Garrett Kiesel

a friend in the fire

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After solving the mystery behind the death of his former friend in July, ex-Army Sam Auden has been aimlessly wandering the country. Everything had gone sideways in New York City, so when his phone rings three months later, the caller is the last person Sam expected to be asking for help.

Confidential informant Rufus O’Callaghan has been struggling. His NYPD contact was murdered over the summer, and the man Rufus is head over heels for was driven away by his own undiagnosed trauma. But when he receives an anonymous letter that promises information on his mother, life goes from dark to dangerous in the blink of an eye.

Sam and Rufus must dig into Rufus’s rough and turbulent past in order to solve a series of contemporary murders connected to his mother. And if the two can’t expose who the killer is in time, they will most certainly become his next targets.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content- B+

When we last saw Rufus O’Callaghan and Sam Auden at the end of Gregory Ashe and C.S Poe’s A Friend in the Dark, they had a blazing row which ended with Sam walking out of Rufus’ apartment and his life. Well, as A Friend in the Fire is book two in the Auden and O’Callaghan series, it will come as no surprise that they’re destined to meet again, but after a bitter argument and three months apart, it’s going to take a while for them to trust each other again.

After Sam left, he went back to his somewhat nomadic lifestyle, and when we catch up with him, he’s pitched up in a back-of-beyond town with an impossible-to-pronounce name (!) in deepest Missouri. He hasn’t heard from Rufus once in the past three months (Rufus never gave Sam his number, so Sam can’t reach out) – so the last thing Sam expects is a call from a panicked-sounding Rufus asking for help.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Survival Instinct (Cerberus Tactical K9 series #1) by Fiona Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by James Cavenaugh

survival instinct

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Military training won’t help when the enemy is a force of nature….
All Major Dani Addams wanted when she started up that trail was to mourn and honor her fallen friend. She has no way of knowing the weather is about to turn on her in the worst possible way – or that she’s about to meet a man who will change her entire life.

Ex-SEAL Trip Williams and his K9 Valor were brought in to rescue a film crew that got caught in the storm. He isn’t expecting Dani. But once he finds her, he will keep her safe…even if he has to disobey direct orders and fight Mother Nature herself.
All Dani and Trip have to do to get to happily ever after is weather the storm. Should be simple, right? If only….

Rating: Narration – C+; Content – D

In one of our recent Currently Playing chats behind the scenes at AudioGals, I mentioned that I’d just listened to Fiona Quinn’s Survival Instinct and what a disappointment it was. Kaetrin responded that she’d listened to it as well and had enjoyed it – and as life would be very boring if we all liked the same things, I suggested we expand my initial review to include her thoughts and comments, as her views might resonate with some listeners and mine with others. So here’s our first ever joint review!

Caz: I’m sorry if I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Fiona Quinn’s Survival Instinct – book one in her Cerberus Tactical K9 series – turned out to be yet another in a sadly long line of romantic suspense stories that are neither romantic nor suspenseful. I’ve listened to and enjoyed a few books by this author, but basing my decision to pick this one upon past listens was a bad one in this instance, because after a strong start, it went rapidly downhill and never recovered.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cop Out (Toronto Tales #1) by KC Burn (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

cop out

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Detective Kurt O’Donnell is used to digging up other people’s secrets, but when he discovers his slain partner was married to another man, it shakes him. Determined to do the right thing, Kurt offers the mourning Davy his assistance. Helping Davy through his grief helps Kurt deal with the guilt that his partner didn’t trust him enough to tell him the truth, and somewhere along the way Davy stops being an obligation and becomes a friend, the closest friend Kurt has ever had.

His growing attraction to Davy complicates matters, leaving Kurt struggling to reevaluate his sexuality. Then a sensual encounter neither man is ready for confuses them further. To be with Davy, Kurt must face the prospect of coming out, but his job and his relationship with his Catholic family are on the line. Can he risk destroying his life for the uncertain possibility of a relationship with a newly widowed man?

Rating:  Narration – B-; Content – B

I’ve had this audiobook in my Audible library for a while; I’m making a concerted effort to listen to titles I bought a while back and haven’t got around to listening to yet!

K.C. Burn’s Cop Out (book one in her Toronto Tales series) is a fairly well done gay awakening/coming out story featuring detective Kurt O’Donnell, whose work-partner Ben is killed in the line at the beginning of the book. Kurt is injured, too, although not too badly, and when he attends Ben’s funeral he begins to learn that he hadn’t know the man he’d worked with for three years at all. Kurt had no idea Ben was gay and had been living with his partner for years; he has no problem with it, he’s just surprised and a more than a little upset that Ben had never told him. Hurting himself, and struggling to deal with survivor’s guilt, Kurt goes to pay his respects to Ben’s partner Davy, and is shocked to discover that the man is in a pretty bad way, so overwhelmed by grief that he’s not taking care of himself at all.

Kurt learns that Davy has no one – no friends or family other than a sister going through a high-risk pregnancy – who can be there for him and he decides to do whatever he can to help. He quickly realises that Ben being so far in the closet has deeply affected the way Davy thinks and acts in some of the simplest situations – such as when he assumes Kurt will worry over the delivery guy thinking they’re a couple. Kurt gets into the habit of going over to Davy’s every day until they both go back to work, but even then, they see each other a few times a week.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Flight (Texas Murder Files #2) by Laura Griffin (audiobook) – Narrated by Teri Clark Linden

flight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When former forensic photographer Miranda Rhoads moves to the seaside town of Lost Beach, she decides to make her living as a wildlife photographer, putting crime scenes behind her. But her plans are quickly upended when she comes across a couple sleeping in a canoe, entwined in an embrace. Looking closer, she realizes the man and woman aren’t asleep – they’ve been murdered.

Detective Joel Breda sets out to find answers – not only about the unidentified victims in the marshy death scene but also about the aloof and beautiful photographer who seems to know more about his investigation than he does.

As they begin to unravel the motivation of a merciless serial killer, Miranda and Joel must race against the clock to make an arrest before the killer finds them first.

Rating:  Narration – C+; Content – B-

Flight is book two in Laura Griffin’s Texas Murder Files series; I read book one, Hidden, when it came out last year but the two are only connected tangentially (the heroines are sisters) so Flight works perfectly well as a standalone. I’ve enjoyed a number of books by this author, but – and I had this issue with the previous book in the series as well – the balance between the two elements of the story is unequal and the plot is developed at the expense of the romance. Fortunately, the plot in Flight is interesting and well-developed enough to have held my interest, and as usual, Ms. Griffin provides lots of interesting background about forensics and police procedures.

Blaming herself when a mistake by one of her team led to the collapse of the case against a child-murderer, CSI Miranda Rhoads – a specialist in forensic photography – quit her job, took up a teaching position in San Antonio and moved to the Texas seaside town of Lost Beach hoping to regroup and centre herself again. She likes the slower pace and the quiet, and is (sort of) making a living as a nature photographer – which is why she’s out on the marshes at the crack of dawn waiting for the perfect shot when she finds a canoe tethered in the reeds… containing the dead bodies of a young couple, their arms entwined as though in sleep, a feather held in one of the young woman’s hands.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Near You by Mary Burton (audiobook) – Narrated by Melissa Moran

near you

This title may be dowloaded from Audible via Amazon

Forensic psychologist and single mother Ann Bailey has joined forces with Montana Highway Patrol officer Bryce McCabe. An expert in untangling the motives of depraved minds, Ann is tasked to help solve the mystery of two murdered women doused with gasoline and set aflame.

It’s not hard for Ann to be reminded of the charismatic Elijah Weston, who served a decade in prison for arson – a crime that nearly cost Ann her life. Elijah may have been exonerated, but the connection to these rage killings is impossible for Ann to ignore. One of the victims has been identified as an obsessed Elijah groupie. Elijah has obsessions, too. Ever since Ann returned to town, he can’t take his eyes off her. And as a mother with a secret, she’s the perfect victim for an infatuated psychopath.

The deeper Ann and Bryce’s investigation goes, the nearer they get to each other and to danger. After another murder hits close to home, Ann fears a clue is hidden in her own past. Only one thing terrifies her more than the reveal of her long-held secret. It’s that the secret itself has put Ann into a killer’s line of fire.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B

Mary Burton’s Near You is the sequel to last year’s Burn You Twice, and it continues the story of two women who were best friends in college and who survived an arson attack that almost killed them both. The previous book focused on Joan Mason, who moved away from Missoula and became a detective in Philly; in Near You, the focus switches to her friend Ann Bailey, who remained in Montana, married her college boyfriend, and continued to live there with her husband and their son – until the devastating events of Burn You Twice ripped her family apart.

There are spoilers for Burn You Twice in this review.

Sergeant Bryce McCabe of the Montana Highway Patrol is enjoying a rare day off at home at his ranch when he receives a call from the local sheriff asking for his help investigating a particularly gruesome homicide. He arrives at the scene to find the charred remains of a woman who is later revealed to have been stabbed several times before having the skin of her face removed, and then doused with gasoline and set alight – exactly as in the case of the victim of an identical murder around a month earlier. Shortly after Bryce’s arrival, Joan Mason – who has taken the position of death investigator for the medical examiner – arrives and makes the same connection; it’s she who suggests they involve Dr. Ann Bailey, a professor of forensic psychology at the University of Montana, whose expertise in the field could be invaluable in getting into the mind of the killer. In the absence of much by way of physical evidence, Bryce is inclined to agree.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Variable Onset by Layla Reyne (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

variable onset

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When the serial killer known as Dr. Fear seemingly reemerges after a cooling-off period, Special Agent Lincoln Monroe wants on the case. He knows his research on the calculating criminal, who targets couples and uses their worst fears to kill them, could prove invaluable. But nothing can prepare Lincoln for the agent waiting for him in Apex, Virginia: a brash and cocky former student. Carter Warren is everything Lincoln is not, and somehow everything he wants. And they’ll be going undercover. As newlyweds.

For Carter, seeing Lincoln again—and flustered to boot—pokes his raging bear of a crush something fierce. He thinks posing as lovers will provide the perfect bait for Dr. Fear. But pretending to be married forces them to confront fears of their own…like giving in to the very real chemistry between them.

With evidence pointing to the possibility of a copycat killer, Lincoln and Carter will have to race to separate truth from fiction. But when another couple goes missing, finding the killer will test every ounce of their training, skills and the strength of their bond like never before.

Rating – Narration: C+; Content – B+

I have a somewhat hot/cold relationship with Layla Reyne’s books. They can be a bit hit and miss for me, but I keep coming back to them because despite their flaws, they’re pretty entertaining. The author can create intensely likeable and compelling characters, and she’s great at constructing fast-paced action sequences and interesting plotlines, but at times those plots have been overly complicated and a bit frenetic, so much so that they’ve overshadowed the romance and left little space for character and relationship development. I loved her début Agents Irish and Whiskey series, but was less convinced by its spin-off, Trouble Brewing (even though I really liked the central characters) – so I was pleased when her standalone romantic suspense novel Variable Onset marked a welcome return to form.

The plot revolves around the hunt for an elusive serial killer known as Dr. Fear, who has been killing for many years but has so far evaded capture. Dr. Fear targets couples, kidnapping them and then torturing them by confronting them with their deepest fears until they beg for death – and acts in cycles, killing several victims and then going to ground for years before starting up again. When Variable Onset begins, they’ve just become active again – and for the first time ever, the FBI might just have a plausible lead as to their whereabouts.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Friend in the Dark (Auden & O’Callaghan Mysteries #1) by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Garrett Kiesel

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Rufus O’Callaghan has eked out a living on the streets of New York City by helping the police put away criminals as a confidential informant. But when Rufus shows up for an arranged meeting and finds his handler dead, his already-uncertain life is thrown into a tailspin. Now someone is trying to kill Rufus too, and he’s determined to find out why.

After leaving the Army under less than desirable circumstances, Sam Auden has drifted from town to town, hitching rides and catching Greyhounds, until he learns that a former Army buddy, now a police detective in New York City, has died by suicide. Sam knows that’s not right, and he immediately sets out to get answers.

As Rufus and Sam work together to learn the truth of their friend’s death, they find themselves entangled in a web of lies, cover-ups, and accelerating danger. And when they witness a suspect killed in cold blood, they realize they’re running out of time.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B+

A Friend in the Dark is book one (of four) in a new series of m/m romantic suspense novels co-authored by Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe, and it’s a strong start, boasting a well-paced and interesting mystery and two quirky, engaging central characters I’m eager to spend more time with. Narrator Garret Kiesel is new-to-me and, it seems, quite new to audiobook narration in general; so far he has narrated a few non-fiction books with this as his sole venture into fiction. I’m always apprehensive when listening to a new narrator, especially one who is narrating a book I’ve enjoyed; thankfully however, Mr. Kiesel acquits himself reasonably well , but there’s a serious production issue that irritated me, especially during the latter half of the audiobook.

Rufus O’Callaghan has, for a number of years, acted as a CI (confidential informant) for Detective Jake Brower of the NYPD, and over that time, they’ve become friends of a sort. Jake looks out for Rufus – the only person in Rufus’ life ever to have done so – and Rufus feels safe with him, which means a lot to someone whose meagre means keep him barely off the streets. Rufus runs errands for Jake at times, and when the book opens, is on his way to meet with him to pick up a package. When Rufus arrives at the specified location though, there’s no sign of Jake, so he carefully makes his way through the abandoned offices – finding Jake’s body slumped in a shower room, a bullet hole in the centre of his forehead. Rufus barely has time to process this before he’s being shot at, too; he manages to escape and quickly makes his way to Jake’s apartment, to see if he can find any clue as to what was in the package he was supposed to pick up. Horrified, filled with grief and sadness at the loss of the only friend he’s ever really had, Rufus decides he owes it to Jake to find out what he can and take it to the NYPD to help find his murderer.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Lady’s Formula for Love (Secret Scientists of London #1) by Elizabeth Everett (audiobook) – Narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

What is a Victorian lady’s formula for love? Mix one brilliant noblewoman and her enigmatic protection officer. Add in a measure of danger and attraction. Heat over the warmth of humor and friendship, and the result is more than simple chemistry – it’s elemental.

Lady Violet is keeping secrets. First, she founded a clandestine sanctuary for England’s most brilliant female scientists. Second, she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all? Her feelings for protection officer Arthur Kneland.

Solitary and reserved, Arthur learned the hard way to put duty first. But the more time he spends in the company of Violet and the eccentric club members, the more his best intentions go up in flames. Literally.

When a shadowy threat infiltrates Violet’s laboratories, endangering her life and her work, scientist and bodyguard will find all their theories put to the test – and learn that the most important discoveries are those of the heart.

Rating: Narration – C+; Content – C

I’ve always loved historical romance, and although I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find historicals to enjoy (so much HR right now features twenty-first century people in costume) I still look out for new authors to try. Elizabeth Everett’s début romance, A Lady’s Formula for Love, was getting quite a bit of advance buzz, narrator Elizabeth Jasicki is experienced in the genre – although I don’t think I’ve listened to her before – so I decided to give this one a go, and… I really wish I could tell you it was great. But I can’t.

The widowed Violet Hughes, Lady Greycliff, is a brilliant chemist and the founder of Athena’s Retreat, ostensibly a social club for ladies, but really a place for them to indulge their passion for science and to undertake research, somewhere they can use their brains and display their intelligence freely without having their ideas belittled by men. But word has leaked out about the true purpose of the club, and Violet has received threats against her and the club that her stepson William, Viscount Greycliff (who is a government agent) suspects originate from a radical, anti-government group. Grey has to be away from London for a few weeks, so he engages Arthur Kneland, a former colleague and experienced protection officer, to act as bodyguard for Violet while he’s away.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.