Stuck With You by Jay Northcote (audiobook) – Narrated by Hamish Long

stuck with you

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two clashing colleagues stuck together for Christmas — will opposites eventually attract?

Patrick has been single since he broke up with his cheating ex almost a year ago. With Christmas looming, he’s resigned to spending it alone with only memories of happier times for company. When a business trip with a coworker leaves them stranded in the Lake District due to heavy snow, it seems Patrick will have company for Christmas after all. It’s a shame his companion is Kyle, who’s undeniably attractive, but annoying as hell.

Aware of Patrick’s reluctant admiration, Kyle basks in the attention, even though Patrick isn’t the type of man he normally goes for. Averse to relationships after being hurt in the past, Kyle enjoys the occasional hookup, but has given up on seeking anything more meaningful.

Stuck together, their antagonism escalates along with a heavy dose of sexual tension until it finally ignites. What starts as a Christmas fling soon feels like something special, but will their tentative connection melt away as the snow thaws? If they’re going to take a chance on finding happiness together, they’ll have to put their differences aside and learn to trust one another.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

A snowed-in, forced proximity, enemies-to-lovers romance with snarky flirting, a small dollop of angst and Only One Bed? *rubs hands with glee* Count me in! Jay Northcote’s Stuck With You is a sexy, heart-warming tale about finding love and connection when – and with whom – you least expect it.

Patrick and Kyle work at the same medical supplies firm in the north of England, and Patrick, as a senior member of staff, has been Kyle’s mentor while he learns the ropes. The two men are polar opposites; Patrick is quiet and serious (Kyle thinks he’s boring) while Kyle is more outgoing and flamboyant (Patrick thinks he’s an immature party boy) , and they’ve rubbed each other the wrong way since day one. Both of them are thankful that Kyle’s time as Patrick’s mentee is coming to an end; in January, he’ll be flying solo.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Broken Falcon (Evidence #12) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay & Nicol Zanzarella

broken falcon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chase Johnston is leading a double life. After two years of psychological torment, the quiet, highly skilled Raptor operative now has a darker side, and he’s hellbent on bringing human-traffickers to justice – using any means necessary. The only relief he finds for his troubled mind is a woman he’ll never meet in person.

Eden O’Keeffe is also leading a double life. By day she’s a grad student and barista, but at night she sits in front of a camera and provides companionship for those seeking entertainment, titillation, or simple conversation. She enjoys the freedom of being a siren online, but her secret career comes with risks that force her to hide her true identity at all costs.

When Chase walks into a coffee shop and comes face to face with the one person who makes him feel again, it seems his long nightmare may be coming to an end. But in entering Eden’s world, he’s bringing that nightmare – and the danger that comes with it – to her doorstep.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Broken Falcon – book twelve in Rachel Grant’s terrific Evidence series – for months. Ms. Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense, and I’m always impressed by her ability to craft tense and exciting stories with clever plots and interesting, engaging characters. Also, this book’s hero, Chase Johnston, was an important secondary character in Incriminating Evidence, one of my series favourites – if you haven’t read or listened to it, I’d recommend doing so before this, as Chase’s backstory is incredibly important to this story (note – there are spoilers in this review) and given his role in that book, I was especially keen to find out what happened to him ‘after’ and for him to find love and get his own HEA.

When we catch up with Chase at the beginning of the book, we find out that he’s devoting much of his free time to preventing runaway teens from being sucked into a sex-trafficking ring. Together with Isabel Dawson, the wife of Senator – and Raptor boss – Alec Ravissant, Chase helps the teens to get to a shelter set up specially to help prevent them being sent back to abusive family situations. He’s fairly sure the trafficking ring is linked to a legitimate business, a cam-girl site called Cam Dames – although he hasn’t yet been able to find any evidence to tie the two together. On this particular evening, Chase has cut things a bit fine; it takes longer than he’d expected to persuade the girl he’s ‘intercepting’ to go into the next-door coffee shop to meet with Isabel, and she has only just gone inside when a couple of goons show up looking for their quarry. Chase is Raptor’s expert in unarmed combat (having learned martial arts from a very young age, he’s got Mad Ninja Skillz!) and it doesn’t take him long to run them off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Up in Smoke (Hotshots #4) by Annabeth Albert

up in smoke

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Freewheeling smoke jumper Brandt Wilder thrives on adrenaline. He’s never met a parachute he can’t repair or a dangerous situation he couldn’t wrangle his way out of. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well…right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.

Shane Travis is used to putting his country music career—and his own happiness—on hold after his sister rolls through his life. Like last spring when she convinced him to try skydiving for his birthday—and she walked away with the hot parachute instructor.

Now he gets to deliver the piece of news that will upend Brandt’s carefree life: he very well might be a dad.

Shane’s niece is safe in Brandt’s strong, capable hands, but too many questions remain unanswered. Co-parenting while they sort it out leads to late-night talks, and soul-bearing confessions lead to a most inconvenient attraction. Still, Shane can’t leave this makeshift family behind—even if it means playing house with the one man he can’t resist.

Rating: B

Up in Smoke is the fourth book in Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series about wildlife firefighters and smoke jumpers based in rural Oregon, but it’s got a slightly different tone (and a very different sort of cover) to the other books in the series.  Smoke jumping does feature in the story, but it’s more of a backdrop to the main storyline – about how the two leads learn to adapt to the unexpected circumstances in which they find themselves – and the slow-burn romance.

Smoke jumper Brandt Wilder occasionally helps out a friend who runs a sky-diving school.  The clients on this particular afternoon are a brother and sister – Shane and Shelby Travis;  it’s Shane’s birthday and the jump is his sister’s present to him.  Shane is quiet and clearly a bit nervous – and also obviously used to fading into the background around more ebullient sister – but something about him captures Brandt’s attention.  Shane supposes he should have known that Shelby’s sudden interest in jumping out of a plane was somehow related to her interest in a hot guy; Brandt really is gorgeous, but Shane deliberately tamps down the frisson of awareness he feels every time Brandt touches him as he readies them for the tandem jump.  Afterwards, with his feet back safely on the ground, Shane has to admit that the jump really had been exhilarating – and that the short time he’d flown with Brandt Wilder is something he’ll never forget.

Almost a year later, the last thing Brandt could ever have imagined is opening his front door to find Shane Travis on his doorstep – with a baby in tow.   He’s completely stunned when Shane tells him the baby is his, the result of the one-night stand he had with Shelby the night before Shane’s birthday.  He explains that Shelby turned up in Portland (where he was auditioning for a TV talent show) with the baby a few days earlier and was gone the next morning, most likely off to Canada with one of her friends. Brandt can’t believe it – but Shelby named him as baby Jewel’s dad in the note she left for Shane and had Brandt’s name put on the birth certificate.

Shane has spent most of his life clearing up Shelby’s messes, but nothing could have prepared him for being left literally holding the baby.  Unable to bear the idea of Jewel being put into care, Shane decides his only option is to take her to her dad, but it’s only once he’s arrived that he remembers that Brandt – who jumps out of planes to fight fires for a living – is as far from ideal fatherhood material as he is himself;  an itinerant musician trying to build a career isn’t going to be considered able to properly care for an infant either.  But he didn’t know what else to do; he’s worried and sleep deprived, he’s driven for hours to get to Painter’s Ridge and is too tired to be able to make any coherent decisions.  But one thing is clear.  No matter what sort of ‘dad material’ he may be, Brandt is the only person Shane can turn to for help.

Brandt is shell-shocked by the idea of being a dad, but having been a foster kid himself, he likes the idea of handing Jewel over to social services as little as Shane does.  When Shane’s rested and they’re all fed, they talk about the next steps, and when Shane offers to stick around for a while, Brandt offers him the spare room – “two sets of hands is better than one” after all.

Over the following days and weeks, Brandt and Shane go from unexpected roommates to friends, sharing baby duties and bonding over shared new experiences with her. They slowly fall into a routine of caring for Jewel – taking turns at feeding and night-time duty – and caring for each other, preparing meals, sharing chores and shopping trips and generally being a solid support for one another.  I loved watching them doing things together so seamlessly that they don’t quite realise they’re doing it. It’s a really well done getting-to-know-you phase, and alongside it, the attraction that sparked between them a year earlier is bubbling along beneath the surface.  Neither man has a great deal of sexual experience with guys;  Shane isn’t really out – he plays a lot of super rural communities where it’s just easier to keep himself and his sexuality to himself, and Brandt just… likes who he likes and has never felt the need to put a label on it.  He’s been with more women than men, but certainly isn’t averse to a little exploration and fun with Shane.  It doesn’t have to be anything permanent – neither of them is looking for that – but it can be more than a one-time thing (baby duties permitting) for as long as they both want it to be.

Up in Smoke is a quiet, but sexy character-driven romance about two lost souls finding love and purpose and partnership, and building the family neither of them ever had.  It’s a low-conflict, low-angst story; the biggest obstacle to the romance is the fact that both Shane and Brandt have been used to living a rather nomadic lifestyle – unencumbered and going where the work is – and both will finally have to deal with emotional baggage that has made them (understandably) cautious about allowing themselves to trust wholeheartedly in another person.  But ultimately, they’re two decent guys trying to do the best they can in difficult circumstances, and there’s never any doubt that baby Jewel is their priority. Ms. Albert’s descriptions of the challenges involved in parenting a very young baby are pretty spot on, too.

While Shane’s frustration with Shelby is palpable and well-written, neither he nor Brandt hate her for what she did, and I appreciated that she’s never demonised or made out to be the villain of the piece.  Dumping her baby with her brother is a crappy thing to do, and she definitely comes across as somewhat unstable, but she’s troubled, not evil, and needs help.

Shane and Brandt are engaging and easy to root for, their emotional connection comes through strongly and this was an easy book to get lost in. I really liked the descriptions of Shane’s musical talent and songwriting skills, the cameo appearances from Jacob and Linc (Burn Zone), and the way the author still manages to convey the dangerous nature of Brandt’s job even though there isn’t a major fire or incident in the story (a deliberate choice which Ms. Albert explains in her author’s note).  I have a couple of reservations, however; mainly that the guys embark on their fling a bit too quickly, and also that the late-book conflict is maybe a little drawn out for two people who have been communicating so well, but those things apart, Up in Smoke is a nice mixture of sweet and steamy, and I’m happy to recommend both it, and the entire Hotshots series.

First Impressions (Auckland Med. #1) by Jay Hogan (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Michael:

Two years ago, I made a mistake, a big one. Then I added a couple more just for good measure. I screwed up my life, but I survived. Now I have the opportunity for a fresh start. Two years in NZ. Away from the LA gossip, a chance to breathe, to rebuild my life. But I’m taking a new set of rules with me.

I don’t do relationships.

I don’t do commitment.

I don’t do white picket fences.

And I especially don’t do arrogant, holier-than-thou, smoking hot K9 officers who walk into my ER and rock my world.

Josh:

One thing for certain, Dr. Michael Oliver is an arrogant, untrustworthy player, and I barely survived the last one of those. He might be gorgeous, but my daughter takes number one priority. I won’t risk her being hurt, again. I’m a solo dad, a K9 cop and a son to pain-in-the-ass parents.

I don’t have time for games.

I don’t have time for taking chances.

I don’t have time for more complications in my life.

And I sure as hell don’t have time for the infuriating Dr. Michael Oliver, however damn sexy he is.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

New Zealand author Jay Hogan’s début, First Impressions – the first book in her Auckland Med series – is an enjoyable, sexy antagonists-to-lovers romance with a bit of crime drama thrown in. It’s the second book of hers I ever read back at the end of 2018, and I’ve since become a really big fan. I’ve read all her books (but one) so when the author told me she was going to be putting the series into audio I was really excited – and her choice of narrator was the cherry on top. Gary Furlong is a terrific performer and a personal favourite, so I was really keen to get started!

Following a tragic event which sent him into a downward spiral of drink and depression, Los Angeles-based ER doctor Michael Oliver relocated to Auckland on a two-year exchange program, and is now a resident at Auckland Med. He’s been in New Zealand for six months and he’s having a great time – he loves his job, he’s made some really good friends and is more than happy with his regular array of hook-ups and the variety of bed partners on offer. He’d been in a relationship at the time his professional life in the US went pear-shaped, but after that went sour, too, he’s decided he’s not really a relationship kinda guy anyway.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All That Remains (Lancaster Falls #3) by R.J. Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Sean Crisden


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Federal Agent Lucas Beaumont has an agenda – get himself assigned to the case of the apparent serial murders at Lancaster Falls, find out who the murderer is, and then lay the ghosts that haunt his grandfather to rest. In the midst of a horrific murder investigation, the only peace he gets is from simple moments in a warm kitchen, talking to hotel owner, Josh. Attraction to the easygoing man is something he didn’t expect; in doing so, he opens himself to hurt, but at the same time, he begins to fall in love.

Josh is struggling to keep the Falls Hotel, even with every cent he has invested in its upkeep. The one thing keeping him above water is the not entirely legal work he does on the side – a steady income that not even his son knows about. When the FBI takes over his hotel for the duration of the Hell’s Gate serial killer case, Josh is faced with the real possibility that Lucas will not only discover his secret but also steal his heart.

When tragedy hits Josh and his son, and when it seems all hope is lost, can Lucas rescue them both?

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – C-

All That Remains is the third and final book in RJ Scott’s series of romantic suspense novels set in the small Pennsylvania town of Lancaster Falls, and it neatly wraps up the overarching mystery storyline begun in What Lies Beneath and continued through Without a TraceEven though I was disappointed with both the story and narration in the latter book, I decided to listen to All That Remains in hopes that Without a Trace had been suffering from middle-book-itis, and that the series finale would be a stronger listen. Plus, I wanted to find out whodunit!

The series has an overarching plot, so if you still like the sound of it after reading my reviews (!) then this isn’t the place to start. There are spoilers for the previous books in this review.

The discovery of several sets of human remains in a sink hole in Lancaster Falls leads to speculation that one of the bodies is that of Casey McGuire, a young man who went missing a decade earlier, and whose disappearance is still felt keenly by all in the community. The previous book (Without a Trace) focused on the investigation as to whether or not Casey was one of the murder victims and who might have killed him; All That Remains picks up the story shortly after the events of that book, when an FBI team headed by Special Agent Lucas Beaumont arrives in the town to work the investigation into what looks like a string of serial murders of young women.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Off Balance (Painted Bay #1) by Jay Hogan

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When JUDAH MADDEN flees his tiny suffocating home town in New Zealand for the dream of international ballet stardom, he never intends coming back. Not to Painted Bay. Not to his family’s struggling mussel farm. Not to his jerk of a brother. Not with his entire life plan in shreds. And certainly not into the tempting arms of MORGAN WIPENE, the older, ruggedly handsome fisheries officer who seems determined to screw with Judah’s intention to wallow in peace.

But dreams are fickle things. Shatter them and it’s hard to pick up the pieces. Hard to believe. Hard to start again.

And the hardest thing of all? Finding the courage to trust in love and build a new dream where you least expected to find it.

Rating: A-

In Off Balance, the first book in her new series of contemporary romances, author Jay Hogan takes a big geographical leap from one end of New Zealand to the other, from the lakes and mountains of the Southland (the setting for her recent Southern Lights books) to the coastal region of subtropical Northland at the northern tip of the North Island, and the small town of Painted Bay. It’s an emotional, powerful story about two very different men who end up back in their home town following tragedy and heartbreak, and how they learn to come to terms with the past and move forward with their lives while also working out how – and if – they can manage to do that together.

Judah Madden got out of Painted Bay as soon as he possibly could, having spent sixteen years never fitting in because he was too flamboyant, too gay and too unwilling to be anything other than who and what he was.  His ticket out was his talent as a dancer; his parents supported him both morally and financially, and helped him to follow his dreams of making it as a ballet dancer, and when we meet him, he’s twenty-five and has already made himself a name as a world-class performer.  But his world comes tumbling down when – during a performance – he has a severe dizzy spell which causes him to fall and then pass out.  Shortly after this, he is diagnosed with Menière’s Disease – a chronic illness which affects the inner ear, causing (among other things) vertigo, tinnitus and potentially, hearing loss.  It’s a condition for which there is no cure.

With no alternative left open to him, Judah returns to Painted Bay to lick his wounds and try to work out what to do next.  The Menière’s means his future employment prospects are severely limited – he can’t drive, he can’t operate machinery – and in any case, the only thing he’s ever trained for, the only thing he’s ever been good at is ballet… which is no longer an option.

Around five years before this, another man whose life had been devastated by tragedy arrived in Painted Bay, needing to get away from the suffocating concern of his family while he worked through his grief.  Fisheries officer Morgan Wipene lost his wife Sally to a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and it hit him hard, but over the years, he’s learned to process his grief and accept her loss, and while he still feels her absence at times, it’s a gentle comfort rather than a searing pain.   After five years, he’s ready to move on; he’s always known he’s bisexual, but has mostly been with women, and had certainly reckoned without being knocked sideways by a gorgeous, smart-mouthed, but obviously deeply wounded (and much younger) man who is not coping well with whatever has brought him back to Painted Bay.

The sparks fly between Judah and Morgan from their very first meeting, and the pull between them only grows stronger as they find out more about each other.  Both men are at difficult places in their lives and know that trying to fit in a new relationship is almost certainly a recipe for disaster, yet the attraction between them is so strong, the chemistry so intense that they also both recognise that they’re not going to be able to keep their hands off each other for very long.  Their mutual attraction builds quickly, which happens often in this author’s novels, but she always takes the time to develop a strong emotional connection as well, so that what starts out looking a bit like insta-lust (and sometimes the mental lusting is just a tad overdone) grows organically into something deeper.

Both characters are well-rounded and skilfully drawn. With the life he’d envisaged for himself in tatters, Judah is struggling to work out who he wants to be and what he wants to do with the rest of his life.  He’s pissy, self-absorbed and narcissistic, full of hate, despair and cynicism, a complete contrast to the confident easy-going individual he used to be.  And he doesn’t know how to pull himself out of the downward spiral. He isn’t taking care of himself properly, he’s depressed and won’t accept help or let anyone in.  He hates being back in a place that so obviously hated him growing up, and worse, he’s come home broken rather than as a man at the top of his profession.  Morgan is able to relate – to an extent – to where Judah’s head is and to his desire to push everyone away, because he’s hit rock bottom, too, and knows what it takes to be able to climb out of the pit.  Yet although he’s put the past into perspective – and I really appreciated the way Sally’s presence in his life is handled in the story – there’s one niggle at the back of his mind that’s holding him back.  They’re at different places in their lives, but both men are dealing with a lot – Judah especially – and the way each is able to provide the support, comfort and understanding the other needs is truly uplifting and immensely satisfying to read.

The first book I read by Jay Hogan, Digging Deep, also featured a character living with a chronic illness, and here, as in that book, the author does a spectacular job when it comes to painting a realistic picture of the way Judah’s condition affects him and the long road ahead of him in learning to adjust and live with it.

There’s an engaging cast of secondary characters (some more likeable than others) including Terry, one of Judah’s few friends from his schooldays and Terry’s nine-year-old daughter Hannah, who has juvenile arthritis, and Leroy, Judah’s brother, who has always resented him and who seems set on making his life even more of a misery.  There are some intriguing relationships being set up and characters I’m hoping to see more of later in the series.

Off Balance is a poignant, angsty and passionate story about love, loss and new beginnings, about finding the strength to overcome adversity, and the importance of knowing when and how to accept help. There’s family drama and a bit of suspense (as Morgan works to bring down a local poaching ring), and as in the author’s Southern Lights series, the locations and scenery are described in such a way as to be almost characters in the story themselves.  All in all, it’s a terrific start to this new series, and I’m really looking forward to my next visit to Painted Bay.

Common Goal (Game Changers #4) by Rachel Reid

This title may be purchased from Amazon

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.

Rating: A-

Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series of hockey romances continues with Common Goal, the fourth book in the set and easily one of the best.  It’s a gorgeous May/December romance between a silver-fox goalie close to retirement, and a bartender sixteen years his junior; it’s tender, funny, emotional and hot as hell – and don’t be surprised if it makes an appearance on my Best of 2020 list.  I loved it.

New York Admirals Goalkeeper Eric Bennett is approaching his forty-first birthday and has reached the decision that this season will be his last.  He’s in good shape and still playing well, but the career of a professional athlete is tough on the body and Eric wants to quit while he’s ahead and walk away while he can still walk!  The trouble is that he doesn’t have much of an idea as to where he wants to go from here, and in addition to that, he’s struggling with being newly single following his divorce a year earlier from his wife of sixteen years, and with his sexual identity.  He’s always known he’s attracted to men as well as women but had chosen to ignore that side of himself; he’d been happily married and had no reason to think about it.  But now, with high-profile players like team captain Scott Hunter (Game Changer) openly out and proud and about to marry his fiancé, and other athletes being open about their sexuality, Eric is re-examining his choices. Facing a huge life change in terms of his career – and a lonely retirement – maybe it’s time to make another change and finally start to live as his truest self.  But he’s been out of the dating game for such a long time, he isn’t sure how to go about dating anyone, let alone dating a man for the first time.

Grad student Kyle Swift is twenty-five and works as a bartender at The Kingfisher, a local gay bar that has grown in popularity since Scott Hunter started frequenting it.  Kyle came to New York following an experience with an older, married man that left him badly burned and continues to haunt him, even seven years later. After that, he vowed to steer clear of older men, but they do it for him in a way most younger men don’t – and although he’s noticed Eric the few times he’s been into the bar with Scott, Kyle reminds himself that while Eric is exactly his type, he’s also exactly the type of man he shouldn’t allow himself to fall for any more.

On the night of Scott and Kip’s engagement party, Kyle’s resolve is tested when Eric actually initiates a conversation with him.  The older man’s confidence is hard to resist, especially when it seems as though Eric might actually be flirting with him, and they chat for a while, discovering a mutual love of art and books and travel.  By the end of the evening, Kyle is cursing a universe that has thrown this gorgeous, perfect and completely off limits man into his path, and Eric is wondering just how much of a mid-life crisis stereotype he’s become by even contemplating dating a man so much younger than he is.

What follows is a sexy, slow-burn romance (with an emphasis on the ‘burn’ because – phew! *fans self*) which starts out as Kyle offering to teach Eric a few things in a safe, non-judgmental way about the world of dating (and having “sexy times” with) men, but which ends up becoming so much more than ‘just’ a physical relationship. In fact, it’s clear to the reader very early on that there’s no ‘just’ about it when it comes to these two; they’re a perfect match on every level – intellectually and physically – but although they’re generally honest with each other, they’re both struggling with baggage and preconceptions that make it difficult for them to open up about how they really feel.

Both characters are genuine, good people who are extremely likeable and very well-drawn, and the chemistry between them is electric.  Eric is – it seems to me – a pretty atypical sportsman hero; he’s got a degree in English from Harvard, he’s a connoisseur of fine art, and he’s well-travelled; I liked that he was so keen to fully embrace his bisexuality and really appreciated his quietly introspective manner and self-awareness.  He knows that what he’s really looking for is companionship and someone to share his life with; not that the hot sex he’s having with Kyle isn’t all sorts of amazing, but Eric has never been one for casual sex.  He wants more than that, but is concerned that his being so much older than Kyle is somehow unfair to him, thinking that Kyle really should be with someone closer to his own age.  He’s also worried on his own account – a recent divorcé dating a pretty young thing is going to make him look like the worst kind of dirty old man.

The age-gap isn’t so much of an issue for Kyle; he has a history of falling for the wrong men, usually older men who only see him as a fun time, and part of him thinks he’s not good enough for a sophisticated, cultured man like Eric.  His outgoing nature is the perfect counterpoint to Eric’s more cautious one, and the author does a great job of developing their relationship out of the bedroom – where they clearly have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company as equals –  as well as in it – where Kyle takes the lead and Eric is only too happy to let him. But Kyle’s doubts are as difficult to overcome as Eric’s, and unless one of them can find the courage to risk laying his heart on the line, they might end up missing out on the best thing ever to happen to either of them.

If I have a complaint about Common Goal, it’s that perhaps the age-gap hand-wringing goes on a little too long, and the lack of communication that piled up was frustrating, but in the end, they were only minor irritants.  Reader favourites Ilya and Shane make cameo appearances – mostly Ilya who, of course, steals pretty much every scene he’s in, with his wicked sense of humour and arseholic-but-impossible-to-dislike personality – and we also get to see Scott and Kip finally tie the knot.  Rachel Reid’s writing is accomplished and direct, the dialogue is sharp, and the sex scenes, besides being superbly written, are integral to the character and relationship development rather than being there for the sake of it.  If you’re following the Game Changers series then you definitely won’t want to miss Common Goal; it’s warm and tender and charming (and, did I mention hella sexy?) and I finished it with a happy sigh and a fond smile on my face.  Definitely one for the keeper shelf.

In the Solace (Metahuman Files #6) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Built to carry you.

Jamie Callahan is looking forward to spending the rest of his life with Kyle Brannigan. They’ve overcome impossible odds, and the only thing left to do is walk down the aisle together. Despite the happiness they’ve earned, their enemies haven’t all disappeared.

Make it to the other side.

Colonel Liam Wessex is thrilled his best friend is getting married, but it’s just further proof that his own life is breaking apart. With his classified identity revealed to the public, Liam is struggling with the transition into civilian life. Becoming reacquainted with MI6 Agent Oliver Archer forces Liam to reconcile his past actions with a future that just might be the answer to all of his problems.

It’s not over, it’s just the start.

Oliver thought he’d done enough to cut Liam out of his life. When their professional lives collide, he’s forced to accept the fact that Liam is no longer the spoiled prince he once knew. When terrorists target London and the unthinkable happens, Oliver and Liam learn that second chances come with a price neither can afford to pay.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Note: The Metahuman Files is a series in which overarching plotlines mean all the books need to be listened to in order; there are spoilers for earlier books in this review.

When I listened to In the Requiem, book five in Hailey Turner’s gripping series of action-packed, sexy futuristic thrillers, it was billed as the last (full-length book) in the series. The main couples got their HEAs, the bad guys were defeated and the group of characters I’d come to know and love over five brilliant books all got to head off into the sunset and pastures new. Ms Turner did, however, leave one major plot-thread hanging and has kept that going through the couple of novellas she’s published since In the Requiem came out, and I – along with many fans – was expecting that one of those novellas would tie up that loose end and also bring us Jamie and Kyle’s wedding. Earlier this year, the author sprung a very well-kept surprise on us by announcing that there would be a sixth (and this time, definitely final) book in the series – and it not only ties up the plot, and shows us the wedding, it also gives us a story for Liam Wessex, a major secondary character in the series who quickly became a favourite with readers – who just as quickly started to ask when Ms. Turner would write a story for him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Three Fantasies by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews

three fantasies

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Note: The three novellas in this collection – two co-authored by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews, the third by Leta Blake, solo – have been previously published.

Rating: C+

Levity (previously published as Earthly Desires) and Flight (previously published as Love’s Nest) were originally part of a three part series of Gay Fairy Tales, and are, respectively, retellings and reworkings of The Light Princess, a Scottish fairy tale published in 1864, and the more well-known The Twelve Dancing Princesses, as published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.  The style of the storytelling in both works well to create the overall ‘feel’ of a fairy story, and there’s magic and true love and princes, princesses, fae and witches galore.  Oh, and lots more sex than is to be found in either of the originals!


Levity: A Gay Fairy Tale by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews (2012)

Cursed as an infant with a lack of physical and emotional gravity, Prince Efrosin can’t keep his feet on the ground or his head out of the clouds. Laughing his way through life, he’s never been weighed down by love and lust. When his tenuous tie to the earth is severed, he blows away on the wind. Rescued by Dmitri, an equally cursed woodsman, the two men are irresistibly drawn together. But Efrosin and Dmitri must fight free of their curses in order to find their fairy tale ending and live happily ever after.

Rating: C+

Prince Efrosin is cursed to a life devoid of physical or emotional gravity.  Always tethered, lest he float away and become lost forever, he floats – literally – through life without a care in the world, unable to experience any of the weighty emotions, or even to understand them, which often leads to his responding to such things in a completely inappropriate manner.  The only place he’s different is in the water, where his late mother’s magical gift prevents him from floating away and enables him to experience emotions more normally.

Carried away by the wind one day, he’s rescued from a tree by a handsome woodsman named Dmitri, who was cursed by a witch to be unable to ever leave the land in which he lives.  He’s bound to the earth and able only to imagine all the far off places he would love to see.  Thus Levity is the story of how the earth-bound woodsman and gravity-less prince find freedom and love.

It’s all quite silly – it’s a fairy tale! – but it’s entertaining and there’s plenty of hot sex if that’s what you’re here for (although the lubeless shagging on the riverbank… ouch?).  Like most fairy tales, there’s an evil witch putting a spanner in the works, a rescue to be performed and a sacrifice to be made before our heroes can reach their HEA, which – also like most fairy tales – is a sufficiently gruesome one (it put me in mind of Ashputtel’s sisters trying to get the slipper to fit!)  Levity is cute, sexy and imaginative, and, despite the title, not without some heavier themes.


Flight: A Gay Fairy Tale by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews (2013)

There’s no greater mystery in the kingdom than where Prince Mateo’s sisters disappear to each night. The king is determined to discover where they go and issues a challenge to all the nobles to help him learn their secret. Hoping to protect them, Mateo hides beneath a magic cloak and follows his sisters to an enchanted world of fairies and lusty delights.

Ópalo has waited years to finally meet his human lover. But while Mateo soon succumbs to the pleasures of the flesh, he refuses to surrender his heart so easily. As their worlds collide, Ópalo has to risk everything to win his man forever.

Rating: C

The longest of the three stories, Flight follows the storyline of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, although in this version, there are eleven princesses and one prince, who has not been included in the mysterious nightly excursions that ruin his sisters’ shoes!  When the King issues a decree that whoever can find out where his daughters are going at night can marry any of his children (including Mateo) Mateo is furious at the idea that he could be offered up as a reward and decides to find out what is going on himself.

Ópalo is the youngest of the twelve fae princes and princesses who await their human brides every night.  His bride has not so far arrived, but his patience is rewarded when, at last, Mateo appears.  For three days and nights (time works differently in fairy land!) Ópalo woos Mateo; unlike his brothers and sister, he warns Mateo not to eat anything while he’s there, as otherwise, he’ll be permanently bound to Ópalo.  Mateo is momentarily outraged at the thought that his sisters have been unwillingly enchanted, but Ópalo is quick to reassure him that they ate the fairy cakes they were offered completely of their own volition.  He knows Mateo is his fate, but wants him to want to be with him; and Mateo makes it clear early on that his heart and his love are his to give, and that he’s determined to make his own decision.

That was the most interesting aspect of the story, and it was kind of a double-edged sword.  I liked the emphasis that Mateo placed on making his own choices, but on the other, his refusal to admit that he and Ópalo are destined – and his insistence on not wanting to love anyone – caused Ópalo unnecessary hurt.  That didn’t stop them from having lots of energetic sex though 😉

There’s a dramatic denouement that sees Mateo forced to make a choice – but even then, he’s not all in with it – and the ending was something of an anticlimax; it just seemed to fizzle out and we never got to see Mateo actually commit.  Flight started well but got a bit repetitive around the middle and the ending was disappointing.


Angel Undone: An Urban Fantasy by Leta Blake (2016)

The Archangel Michael is tired. He fought wars and shoved his brother Lucifer out of heaven all before the Dark Ages rolled around. His role as protector of Israel now encompasses all of humanity, and while he performs his job perfectly, there’s little personal joy in it.

Until one night in a bar when he meets Asher.

Michael isn’t sure what it is about the vulnerable, self-deprecating Asher that calls to him, but something about his restrained depths, gentle smiles, and encyclopedic knowledge of flowers tugs at Michael in a way that can’t be denied. Too bad romance isn’t part of his mission.

Rating: B-

This story by Leta Blake isn’t a fairytale retelling; rather, it’s a modern fable – sort of.  The Archangel Michael is frequently sent to Earth to help or protect humans, and on the night this story opens, he’s been instructed to connect with Asher Rosenthal, a depressed, lonely forty-year-old man who has lost his job and been rejected by his family after coming out.  He’s drinking heavily on the verge of making a decision that could cost him his life; Michael steps in and engages him in conversation, and very soon and finds himself in the grip of an intense attraction, the like of which he hasn’t felt in centuries.  He’s done his job and saved Asher… but for Michael, one night isn’t enough and even though he knows he shouldn’t, he arranges to see Asher the next night. And the next.  Even though he fears his Father’s wrath and being cast out, Michael can’t give Asher up.

Most of this story deals with Michael’s conflicting thoughts and desires, and while Asher is sweet (and there’s plenty of angelic sexytimes!) he’s not especially well-developed.  I enjoyed the scenes between Michael and Lucifer, who Michael asks about what it’s like to truly fall (if this was a movie, he’d have all the best lines (!) and steal every scene he was in). Lucifer never passes up a chance to provoke Michael into rebellion against their Father, but even though he’s supposed to be the bad guy, he does listen to Michael and try to help him out.

Angel Undone ended up being my favourite of the three, and I would have given it a higher rating had it not been for the sudden time-jump near the end.  I’m not sure what the author was trying to achieve – a last minute bit of conflict, perhaps? But whatever it was, it felt off, and I knocked half a grade point off because of it.  I found the premise an interesting one and would have liked it to have been more thoroughly explored, together with more development in terms of the romance and the characterisation of Asher.


I’ve read and listened to several books by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews over the last year or so and they’re both firmly on my radar as authors whose work I enjoy and will always look for. But these novellas, while well-written and imaginative, didn’t quite hit the spot.  I enjoyed reading them, but they’re not stories I’m likely to revisit.

Reverb (Twisted Wishes #3) by Anna Zabo (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The tougher they are, the harder they fall.

Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess – gorgeous, sexy, and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: A stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.

David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial-arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing – not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training – prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.

When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice – lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been really enjoying Anna Zabo’s series about the members of the rock group Twisted Wishes. When we first met them in Syncopation, they were on the verge of making it big, and by the time of Counterpoint, their position as one of the most famous bands around had been cemented. Reverb finds the group about to go on tour once again, this time as a headlining act, and now it’s the turn of bassist Mish Sullivan to get her happy ever after.

Beautiful, confident and talented, Mish has always seemed like the glue that has – on occasion – held Twisted Wishes together. She’s not had an easy life, having lost the mother she loved dearly to cancer when she was in her teens, but she’s moved on and made a successful life for herself with the band, who are her family. But the sort of fame she’s now enjoying brings problems of its own; over the last few months, Mish has been receiving threatening emails from an obsessive fan who is clearly stalking her. She’s tried to play it down, but when she’s attacked by a (different) fan wielding a pair of scissors (wanting to cut off a lock of hair) Ray Van Zeller decides it’s time to step up their security and hires ex-military martial arts expert David Altet as protection for them all – but really, to act as a bodyguard for Mish.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.