Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1) by Jenn Burke (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Dying isn’t what it used to be.

Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t-though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For 70 years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.

His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago – and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.

As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together – permanently.

Rating: Narration: A+; Content: A-

I know some audio listeners who prefer not to listen to books they’ve already read in print, but I’m the opposite – if I enjoy reading something, I’m always up for experiencing it again, and as I don’t have much time for re-reading, audio is the perfect way for me to return to a favourite story. Of course, sometimes I don’t do that because there are some narrators I dislike listening to, but when a favourite book gets paired up with a favourite narrator – Bring. It. On! Jenn Burke’s Not Dead Yet is a funny, sexy and exciting paranormal romantic mystery with a unique premise; I loved it when I read it earlier this year, and loved it just as much in audio – which, given it’s narrated by the ever fabulous Greg Boudreaux – will come as a surprise to exactly no-one.

Wes Cooper is a ghost. Well, no, he’s not. But he’s not alive either. Back in 1933, he was shot and killed by his lover Michael (in a suicide pact gone wrong), but Michael’s sister was a witch who cast a spell to bring Wes back to life. The spell worked wonderfully – in fact, it worked TOO well, because not only did it bring Wes back, it made him immortal and left him with the ability to exist in both the living plane and the otherplane, the shadowy place between the living world and the world beyond, and to effortlessly slip between the two.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely (audiobook) – Narrated by Jason Clarke and Amanda Ronconi

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Never Have I Ever been so infuriated by a man I wanted to kiss.

They say opposites attract, but I beg to differ. Combust is more like it. Because every single time I talk to Zach Nolan, I see red.

The too-good-looking, too-smart, too-effortlessly-charming single dad who works down the hall from me has turned getting under my skin into a sport. Call it the battle of wits between the wedding planner and the divorce attorney.

Trouble is, when we’re forced into closer quarters, planning an engagement party for our best friends, I start to see his other sides.

And I fear I’m falling for the enemy.

***

I’m not out to make friends. My goals are simple – fight till the end for my clients, and my family.

The last thing I need is a vibrant, outgoing, snarky, and surprisingly big-hearted wedding planner to spend my precious free time with…except, watching Piper bond with my daughter just might break down the cinder block walls I’ve built around my heart these last few years.

Second chances don’t come around for guys like me…or do they?

Rating: Narration: A-; Content: B-

Never Have I Ever is the latest Audible Original story from the powerhouse of contemporary romance, Lauren Blakely. It’s a charming, funny and sexy enemies-to-lovers tale that follows the development of the romance between a vivacious, successful wedding planner and a widowed hot-shot divorce lawyer. The principals are likeable, the story is low on drama but still packs an emotional punch here and there, and the narration is excellent, so fans of the author and audio rom-coms alike are sure to be delighted with this latest offering.

Around ten years before the story proper begins, fledgling wedding planner Piper Radcliffe is basking in the glow of a job well done – a wedding well planned – only to have that glow stomped on during the reception by Zach Nolan, who predicts the marriage won’t last. Piper and Zach don’t know each other all that well, even though they have a number of mutual friends and have known each other vaguely since college, and Piper is naturally pissed off by his message of doom and gloom. For the next decade or so, they avoid each other or behave coolly whenever they meet (which is as infrequently as they can manage) until they end up taking office space in the same building.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Lord of the Last Heartbeat (The Sacred Dark #1) by May Peterson

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Stop me. Please.

Three words scrawled in bloodred wine. A note furtively passed into the hand of a handsome stranger. Only death can free Mio from his mother’s political schemes. He’s put his trust in the enigmatic Rhodry—an immortal moon soul with the power of the bear spirit—to put an end to it all.

But Rhodry cannot bring himself to kill Mio, whose spellbinding voice has the power to expose secrets from the darkest recesses of the heart and mind. Nor can he deny his attraction to the fair young sorcerer. So he spirits Mio away to his home, the only place he can keep him safe—if the curse that besieges the estate doesn’t destroy them both first.

In a world teeming with mages, ghosts and dark secrets, love blooms between the unlikely pair. But if they are to be strong enough to overcome the evil that draws ever nearer, Mio and Rhodry must first accept a happiness neither ever expected to find.

Rating: B-

May Peterson’s début novel, Lord of the Last Heartbeat, is an intricately constructed gothic fantasy with an intriguing storyline, set in a world that reminded me somewhat of eighteenth century Italy where dark secrets lurk behind the scenes, political backstabbing is rife and influential families jostle for power.  Adding to that particular vibe is the fact that one of the main characters is an opera singer, and I loved the way his vocal talent is incorporated into the fabric of the world the author has created.  In fact, I liked almost all the different elements that went to make up the novel – the worldbuilding, the characters, the plot – but ‘almost’ is the key word there, because there are two fairly major problems I couldn’t overlook.  Firstly, Ms. Peterson’s writing style just didn’t work for me – which I recognise is entirely subjective – and secondly, the romance isn’t well-developed; it springs almost fully formed out of nowhere and there isn’t a great deal of chemistry between the leads.

Mio is the son of Serafina Gianbellici, a powerful witch whose ambition is to control the government of the city of Vermagna, which she does by learning the secrets of its members and using that knowledge to keep them in line. In this world, a mage’s magical power lies in a specific part of the body, and Mio’s lies in his beautiful voice, which he can use to enter someone’s mind and soul to uncover their deepest, darkest secrets – which his mother then uses against them. Mio hates doing what amounts to mind-rape, and hates himself for helping Serafina, but he does it nonetheless, partly because he fears her power and partly because, well… she’s his mother.  On the night the story opens, Mio is pretending to be a footman at the house of Pater Donatelli, Serafina’s latest target, waiting until she calls him inside to sing, when he is accosted by a drunken guest (who mistakes him for a pretty girl) who tries to drag him away.  Mio has barely begun to try to free himself when the man is pulled off him and dunked into a nearby fountain by a large, dark gentleman Mio quickly realises must be a moon-soul, someone brought back from the dead and invested with the spirit of a noble beast (in this case a bear).  Once upon a time, these shape-changing elite had been numerous but now, they are very small in number and coming across one is rare. Feeling unexpectedly comfortable in the man’s presence, Mio decides to take a chance to escape his mother’s machinations once and for all.  Before he is summoned inside, he presses a note into the man’s hand which says just three words: Stop me. Please.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

All Souls Near and Nigh (Soulbound #2) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

all souls near and nigh

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

You can’t bargain with death if you’ve already sold your soul.

Special agent Patrick Collins has been reassigned by the supernatural operations agency to New York City. Navigating his new relationship with Jonothon de Vere, the werewolf he’s now soulbound to, is nothing compared to dealing with territorial disputes between the vampires and werecreatures who call the five boroughs home. But the delicate treaties that have kept the preternatural world in check are fraying at the edges, and the fallout is spilling into the mundane world.

Manhattan’s club scene is overrun with the vampire drug known as shine and the subways have become a dumping ground for bodies. When the dead are revealed as missing werecreatures, Patrick and Jono find themselves entangled in pack politics twisted by vampire machinations.

Learning to trust each other comes with problems for both of them, and the gods with a stake in Patrick’s soul debt aren’t finished with him yet. Bound by promises they can’t break, Patrick and Jono must find a way to survive a threat that takes no prisoners and is stalking them relentlessly through the city streets.

Old and new betrayals are coming home to roost but the truth – buried in blood – is more poisonous than the lies being spun. Trying to outrun death is a nightmare – one Patrick may never wake up from.

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: B+

Note: As this is a series where the books need to be listened to in order, there will be spoilers for the previous instalment in this review.

All Souls Near and Nigh is the second book in Hailey Turner’s inventive Soulbound series, which takes place in a world very similar to our own where supernatural creatures and mythical beings exist alongside humans and the gods continue to interfere with the actions of mere mortals. And of one mere mortal in particular.

Combat mage turned federal agent Patrick Collins owes a soul debt to the goddess Persephone, who rescued him from death at the hands of his crazed father when Patrick was just eight years old. At the time he was too young to know what he was doing when she offered him escape in return for his soul, but now he’s paying that debt whenever the gods want something done in the human world and don’t want to get their hands dirty.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Bringing Down the Duke (League of Extraordinary Women #1) by Evie Dunmore

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Oxford, 1879. A beautiful bluestocking is about to teach a duke a lesson . . .

Brilliant but destitute Annabelle Archer is one of the first female students at Oxford University. In return for her scholarship, she must recruit influential men to champion the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her first target is Sebastian Devereux: cold, calculating and the most powerful duke in England.

When Annabelle and her friends infiltrate his luxurious estate, she’s appalled to find herself attracted to the infuriatingly intelligent aristocrat – but perhaps she’s not the only one struggling with desire. . . Soon Annabelle is locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own. She’ll need to learn fast just what it takes to bring down a duke.

Rating: B+

Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke is the first book in the A League of Extraordinary Women series, and is a very strong début from someone who promises to add a much-needed fresh voice to historical romance.  The writing is sharp and clear, and displays a really good sense of time and place; the characters feel true for the time period, and I was particularly impressed by the heroine, who is forward-thinking and progressive without being one of those contrary-for-the-sake-of-it, look-at-how-unconventional-I-am types who annoy the crap out of me.

Annabelle Archer has lived under the roof of her cousin, a country clergyman, since the death of her parents.  She’s an unpaid skivvy; she keeps house, looks after his children and endures his continual complaints about the fact that her father over-educated her – why on earth would a woman need an education?  So when Annabelle is offered a place at Lady Margaret Hall (in 1878, LMH was the first Oxford college to open its doors to women) he’s  far from pleased, but when she says she’ll fund the cost of a replacement housekeeper (somehow), he begrudgingly allows her to go.

Some months later, we find Annabelle in London with a group of her friends, like-minded young women who, under the leadership of Lady Lucie, secretary of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage, are planning to approach various men of influence with a view to getting them to support changes to the Married Women’s Property Act.  The strategy – identify a man of influence, approach him firmly, but with a smile, and deliver a pamphlet boldly declaring The Married Women’s Property Act makes a slave of every wife! – isn’t difficult to grasp, but at this period, just walking up to a gentleman unannounced and unchaperoned wasn’t the done thing and could lead to worse things than a refusal to listen.  Annabelle is understandably nervous, but nonetheless determined to do her bit when she notices a man who appears to be exactly the sort of man of influence she needs to approach.

Sebastian Devereux, thirteenth Duke of Montgomery, is one of the most powerful and respected men in England.  He  has a reputation for being cold and severe, and devotes most of his time to the running of his numerous estates and is particularly concerned at present with regaining possession of his family seat, Castle Montgomery, which his profligate father lost in a card game.  The Queen (who was, sadly, one of the biggest opponents of female emancipation) promises her support for his cause if he will take on the role of chief strategic advisor for the Tory party in the upcoming election – a job he doesn’t have either the time or the inclination to perform.  But he can’t refuse what is tantamount to a royal command.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Invitation to the Blues (Small Change #2) by Roan Parrish (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Eight months ago Jude Lucen fled his partner, his career, and a hospital in Boston after a suicide attempt. Now back in Philadelphia, he feels like a complete failure. Piano has always been his passion and his only escape. Without it, he has nothing. Well, nothing except a pathetic crush on the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Faron Locklear came to Philly looking for a fresh start and has thrown himself into tattooing at Small Change. He’s only met Jude a few times, but something about the red-haired man with the haunted eyes calls to him. Faron is blown away by Jude’s talent. What he isn’t expecting is the electricity he feels the first time they kiss – and the way Jude’s needs in bed speak directly to his own deepest desires.

Jude and Faron fall fast and hard, but Jude has spent a lifetime learning that he can’t be what the people he loves need. So when the opportunity arises to renew his career in Boston, he thinks he has to choose: music, or Faron? Only by taking a huge risk – and finally believing he’s worthy of love just as he is – can he have the chance for both.

Rating: Narration: A+; Content: B+

I suppose it was a given that a book written by Roan Parrish and narrated by Greg Boudreaux was going to hit me squarely in the feels; the author’s beautiful, lyrical writing combined with the narrator’s ability to zero in on and convey every single bit of emotion in that writing is a match made in audiobook heaven. Invitation to the Blues is a gentle and moving love story featuring a musician living with depression and the artist whose love and understanding makes a huge difference in his life. It’s the second book in the author’s Small Change series, but although characters from the first book appear in this one, Invitation to the Blues works perfectly well as a standalone.

Following a suicide attempt, Jude Lucens simply up and left his manipulative boyfriend and his life as a successful musician in Boston to return to his home town in Philadelphia, feeling like a complete failure and unsure what happens next. He’s moved into his brother’s apartment (Chris has moved in with his girlfriend, Ginger – their story can be found in the previous book, Small Change) and has taken a job for which he’s extremely ill-suited at the coffee shop Chris owns. Knowing things aren’t going well, Jude needs to find other work, but the question is what? Music and playing the piano are his life and all he really knows how to do, so he decides to see if he can find work as a piano teacher.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Forever Right Now by Emma Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Caitlin Kelly and Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Darlene Montgomery has been to hell and back…more than once. After a stint in jail for drug possession, she is finally clean and ready to start over. Yet another failed relationship is just the motivation she needs to move from New York to San Francisco with the hopes of resurrecting her dance career and discovering that she is more than the sum of her rap sheet. As Darlene struggles in her new city, the last thing she wants is to become entangled with her handsome – but cranky – neighbor and his adorable little girl….

Sawyer Haas is weeks away from finishing law school, but exhaustion, dwindling finances, and the pressure to provide for himself and his daughter, Olivia, are wearing him down. A federal clerkship – a job he desperately needs – awaits him after graduation, but only if he passes the bar exam. Sawyer doesn’t have the time or patience for the capricious – if beautiful – dancer who moves into the apartment above his. But Darlene’s easy laugh and cheerful spirit seep into the cracks of his hardened heart, and slowly break down the walls he’s resurrected to keep from being betrayed ever again.

When the parents of Olivia’s absentee mother come to fight for custody, Sawyer could lose everything. To have any chance at happiness, he must trust Darlene, the woman who has somehow found her way past his brittle barbs, and Darlene must decide how much of her own bruised heart she is willing to give to Sawyer and Olivia, especially when the ghosts of her troubled past refuse to stay buried.

Rating: Narration: A; Content: B

Sawyer Haas is a law student in his early twenties who works hard and plays hard.  In the middle of a party at the place he shares with a few other guys, he is literally left holding the baby when a woman he hooked-up with a few months earlier turns up on his doorstep, presents him with a warm bundle she says is his daughter and then leaves.  Sawyer may be young, and bringing up a child alone was certainly not something he’d ever envisaged doing, but it’s pretty much love at first sight, and after a few days with Olivia, he realises he can’t do anything else.  He makes huge changes to his life; he moves out of the shared house and devotes his life to his studies and his daughter.  For ten months, he juggles those two things, focused on his goal of having his name added to Olivia’s birth certificate so that she’s legally his, something he can petition for after she’s been with him for a year and there’s no sign of her mother coming back for her (which is his deepest fear).  He’s a devoted father and Olivia is well and happy when Darlene comes into their lives like a breath of fresh air.

Darlene Montgomery has moved to San Francisco from New York intent on making a fresh start.  Three years earlier, she had overdosed, and later, served three months in prison for drug possession.  She’s cleaned up her act, but has found it hard to shake off the past in a place where everyone she knows is aware of what happened and always looks at her as though they’re expecting her to go off the rails again.  Darlene wants to get out from under the weight of those negative expectations, to put the past behind her and doesn’t want any reminders of the woman she was then to impinge on the new life she wants to create for herself.

Darlene and Sawyer don’t hit it off at first.  She’s open and friendly, but Sawyer is reserved and tightly wound as well as naturally cautious about strangers around Olivia.  But living in the same building it’s impossible to avoid one another completely, and gradually they get to know one another and start falling for each other.  For Sawyer, Darlene is everything light and carefree he’s missing in his life of responsibility, and Darlene is completely smitten with the caring, passionate man she occasionally glimpses behind Sawyer’s stoic, but exhausted exterior.  The chemistry between the pair is electric, and the author builds the romantic tension between them extremely well; their first kisses are hot and sweet and intense, and we’re left in no doubt that these two very different people care deeply for one another.

Both characters are likeable but flawed, and while it’s easy to see the Black Moment coming a mile off, it’s also easy to understand why Darlene is so eager to keep the details of her past screw-ups from Sawyer.  The trouble is, she’s so focused on her fresh start that she fails to take into account the importance of owning her mistakes and remembering them so as to learn from them and not make them again.  And Sawyer, whose eidetic memory is undoubtedly an asset given the pressures he’s under, is someone who sees things very much in black and white; he’s brilliant, but he struggles to see the grey areas, to account for human frailty when it comes to the law – and that inability could threaten not only his career, but the life he’s making with Olivia… and the one he’d hoped to make for the both of them with Darlene.

I didn’t expect to get quite so sucked in to this story, but the characters, plot and narration were so appealing that I found myself listening at every opportunity.  Greg Tremblay is an incredibly talented narrator and one I listen to frequently, but Caitlin Kelly is new-to-me, so I admit to a little trepidation before I started listening.  I needn’t have worried however, because she delivers a really strong performance that more than holds its own.  Both narrators differentiate clearly between the various characters and both are able to voice characters of the opposite sex convincingly and consistently throughout.  Their vocal acting is superb and they don’t hold back when it comes to the heightened emotion of some of the later chapters; I was on the verge of tears when it seemed Sawyer’s world was about to come tumbling down and could feel Darlene’s heart breaking when she thought she’d lost everything she ever wanted.

Forever Right Now is an emotionally charged story that tugs at the heartstrings in the best way.  The relationships – especially Sawyer’s with Olivia – are really well written, and the romance is just the right amount of sexy and sweet.  The superb narration is a real bonus; if you’re into audio, that’s definitely the way to go for this one.