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.

Stray Fears (DuPage Parrish Mysteries #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Declan Winters

stray fears

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Elien Martel is a survivor, but surviving, he’s beginning to discover, isn’t the same thing as living. In the house he shares with his much older boyfriend, Elien spends his days trying to stay as far away from living as possible. Living, he has learned, means that sooner or later you’ll get hurt.

When a member of Elien’s support group dies under strange circumstances, though, Elien finds himself in a web of bizarre coincidences. The responding officer turns out to be another member of Elien’s support group—a man named Mason, who has made no effort to hide his dislike of Elien. Then, just a few days later, Mason tries to kill Elien in front of dozens of witnesses.

As violence ripples through Elien’s world, he begins to suspect that the coincidences are not coincidences at all. Something is at work behind the cascade of tragedies, something vicious and intelligent. Something that has wanted Elien for a long time.

To defeat it, Elien will have to do what he fears most and face the darkness in his own past. Worse, he’ll have to take the risk of trying to live again.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – A-

Gregory Ashe’s paranormal/horror novel Stray Fears is a spooky tale featuring two engaging, flawed characters and a clever mystery plotline which draws on Louisiana folklore for inspiration. I read and enjoyed it when it was published last year, and was pleased to see it coming to audio with Declan Winters narrating; I’ve enjoyed his work in C.S. Poe’s Magic & Steam series and was looking forward to a similarly strong performance here.

The story centres around a support group for people with PTSD, and when it begins, a meeting is in progress. Elien Martel is one of the attendees, a young man of twenty-two whose life was ripped apart a year earlier when his elder brother shot their parents and then himself. Mired in grief and guilt, Elien is a mess; volatile, sarcastic and filled with self-loathing, he lives with his much older boyfriend Richard – a psychiatrist and therapist – whose equanimity and refusal to rise to Elien’s frequent baiting and have a damn good row irritate Elien no end.

Quite honestly, Elien seems like a total dick much of the time, but his sharp tongue belies a genuine kindness and wit, and he’s surprisingly good with the other members of the group, showing them the sort of patience and compassion he doesn’t extend to himself. When the group leader – who is a colleague of Richard’s – asks Elien if he’ll check up on fellow group member Ray, who hasn’t been doing so well lately, Elien agrees without question.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Veiled and Hallowed Eve (Soulbound #7) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

a veiled and hallowed eve

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Death is the last lover you will ever know.

SOA Special Agent Patrick Collins has lived a life full of lies, and it has finally caught up with him. There’s no denying his past any longer, not after giving up the truth to save himself from a murder charge. But truth alone can’t set Patrick free, and time is running out to stop the Dominion Sect from turning his father into a god.

Jonothon de Vere knows survival isn’t a guarantee, but he’s desperate to keep Patrick safe, even as hope slips through his fingers. With the future unknown, Jono will follow Patrick wherever he goes, even to Salem, where a family reunion reveals a bitter secret that was never going to stay buried.

With New York City under control of their god pack, Patrick and Jono must fall back on every alliance they’ve brokered to fill the front lines of a war coming directly to the city streets. The veil is always thinnest on Samhain, and what awaits them on the other side is the stuff of nightmares. For when it tears, all hell will break loose, and the gods will be summoned to face a reckoning the world isn’t ready for.

The stakes have never been higher, failure has never been so deadly, and the Fates have never been kind to heroes. Patrick knows that better than anyone—because everything has a price, every debt always comes due, and it’s finally time for Patrick to pay his.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A-

It’s always sad when a long-running series comes to an end, so listening to A Veiled and Hallowed Eve, the seventh and final instalment in Hailey Turner’s Soulbound series was a bittersweet experience. I’ve been looking forward to the conclusion of this inventive and epic story, the big showdown between our heroes and their mortal enemies, but reaching The End also means saying goodbye to Patrick, Jono, Wade and all the other characters who’ve been with them on their amazing journey. It’s hard to think there will be no more books about them – but I have seven superb stories and audiobooks to re-listen to, thanks to this talented author/narrator duo.

I’ve said this before but it probably bears repeating: the books in this series need to be listened to in order so as to fully understand the complex storylines and the development of the various characters and their relationships, so if you’ve not been following the series, then this review will likely make very little sense to you. It’s also impossible to review this book without some reference to the previous ones, so there are spoilers ahead.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All The Feels (Spoiler Alert #2) by Olivia Dade

all the feels uk

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Wealth. A starring role on the biggest show on TV. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s hounded by old demons and his future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren, the former therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over a handsome but impulsive actor shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time she spends with Alex, the harder it is to hold on to her professionalism, and her heart . . .

When another scandal lands him in major hot water, and costs Lauren her job, Alex becomes determined to keep his impossibly stubborn and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. On a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves . . .

Rating: A-

Olivia Dade’s All the Feels is a terrific follow-up to last year’s Spoiler Alert, a charming, thoroughly entertaining read that, for all its outward lightheartedness, tackles some knotty issues in a sensitive but down-to-earth way.  We met Alex Woodroe briefly in Spoiler Alert and he charmed me completely, so I’ve been eager to catch up with him in his own book ever since – and I’m happy to say that All the Feels is just as enjoyable and sharply observed as its predecessor.

Like his best friend Marcus, Alex has been playing a lead role in the hit TV show Gods of the Gates for the past seven years.  The similarities to Game of Thrones – in the sense that the showrunners have run out of books to adapt and are going it alone (and fucking it up) are obvious – and like Marcus, Alex has become very disenchanted with the writing and the storylines given to his character, Cupid, and for similar reasons.  But there are other reasons for his discomfort that nobody else knows about, reasons related to past trauma and overwhelming guilt that have begun to affect his – already erratic – behaviour.

When the book begins, Alex is in big trouble; he was involved in a bar fight the previous night and the showrunners have had enough.  He’s always been a bit of a loose cannon, but this is too much, so for the rest of the shoot, he’s assigned a minder, someone to go wherever he goes, to keep him in line and who will report back on his behaviour.  Needless to say, Alex is not at all happy about this; but worse is the fact that nobody has asked to hear his side of the story – everyone assumes it happened just because he’s Alex, and getting into trouble is what he does.

Lauren Clegg is a former ER therapist who desperately needed a break from her job and decided to go to Europe for a much-needed vacation.  The Gods of the Gates showrunner is her cousin (a total dickhead who was always awful to her when they were kids and whom she’s never liked) so while she’d never in a million years have gone anywhere near the GotG set in Spain if it had been up to her, family pressure finds her accepting the job of “babysitter” to the show’s bad-boy star.

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

Cascade Hunger (DuPage Parish Mysteries #2) by Gregory Ashe

cascade hunger

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Eli and Dag survived a monster.

Two monsters, in fact.

A year later, though, they’re still trying to settle into a ‘regular’ life. Dag is working hard in school. It’s not going great. Eli is working hard at…being a better Eli. He’s eating right. Most of the time. He’s thinking about exercise in healthy ways. He’s ok with how he looks, as long as he doesn’t walk past any mirrors.

He goes out some nights, though. He goes across the lake, back to Bragg, where the monsters were. And he’s not sure why. He’s not sure what keeps calling him back.

When a woman is brutally murdered and an eyewitness claims to have seen the killer transform into a mysterious light, Eli and Dag are forced to set aside their own problems and face a difficult truth: there is another monster out there. Worse, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else who can stop it from killing again.

But not all monsters are the same, as Eli and Dag discover. And the most dangerous monster might be the one who can give you what you’ve always wanted.

Rating: A-

The second book in Gregory Ashe’s DuPage Parish series of paranormal-with-a-horror-vibe mysteries, Cascade Hunger catches up with Elien Martel (who has reverted to going by his real name of Eli Martins) and Dagobert LeBlanc around a year after the events of Stray Fears. In that book, Eli and Dag discovered the existence of a supernatural being called a Hashok, a malevolent spirit that fed on pain and suffering, and which had been consuming negative energy from Eli – who, in addition to carrying around a shedload of guilt over the deaths of his parents and brother, struggles with body dysmorphia and self-esteem issues – for a long time without his being aware of it.  Eli and Dag were able to defeat and destroy the Hashok – not without considerable risk to themselves – and now, a year later, we find them living together in the house they’ve bought, and getting on with their lives.

Well.  Sort of.

After working for a few years as a Sheriff’s Deputy, Dag is now at college studying marine biology, and although he loves the subject, he’s struggling.  And Eli… well, he’s still Eli.  Sharp-tongued, prickly, damaged, and his own worst enemy at times, he loves Dag but can’t seem to stop himself from doing things he knows will hurt him.  When the story begins, Eli seems to have fallen back to his old self-destructive ways, sneaking out of the house late at night and heading to Bragg where he wanders around and binge-eats and then calls Dag for a ride home. Eli knows it’s not good for him, he knows it upsets Dag (and how unfair it is of him to be calling so late when Dag has to get up early for college) but he just can’t seem to fight off the compulsion that draws him back there time and again.

Dag loves Eli very much, but he’s tired.  Lack of sleep is affecting his college work, but Eli’s simultaneous skittishness and neediness can be just as exhausting.  Even though they’ve lived together for a year, Eli isn’t willing to label what they are – their latest fight was over Dag’s use of the “b” word – and while Dag tries hard to be supportive and understanding (seriously, the man has the patience of a saint!) sometimes it’s hard.

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

Voyageurs by Keira Andrews (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

voyageurs

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two men battle the wilderness – and desire.

It’s 1793, and Simon Cavendish needs to get to his station at Fort Charlotte, a fur-trading outpost in the untamed Canadian wild. The fort is only accessible by canoe, and there’s just one man daring enough to take him on the perilous, thousand-mile journey from Montreal this late in the summer.

Young Christian Smith, the son of an Ojibwe mother and absent English father, is desperate for money to strike out on his own, so he agrees to take clueless Simon deep into the wild. As they travel endless lakes and rivers, they butt heads.

Yet the attraction between Simon and Christian, two men from vastly different worlds, grows ever stronger. Locked in a battle against the wilderness and elements, how long can they fight their desire for each other?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

I suppose saying “it was too short” is a form of praise – right? I recently reviewed another novella by Keira Andrews – Arctic Fire – and said exactly that; I enjoyed it and would have loved to have listened to a longer story featuring those characters. The same is true of Voyageurs, an historical romance which is more of a short story than a novella, coming in at just over ninety minutes in audio. I don’t often review ultra-short audiobooks like this one, but Keira Andrews has become a favourite author and with Joel Leslie narrating… Pfft. No brainer.

It’s July 1793, and Simon Cavendish, formerly of the East India Company, has arrived – a month late owing to bad weather and a ship in need of repairs – at the offices of the North West Company in Montréal, from where he is to travel to take up a post at Fort Charlotte, a thousand miles away. Simon is eager to take up his new position, but unfortunately, the delay in his arrival means that the party of voyageurs (young men hired to transport goods to trading posts) he was to have joined for the journey had to leave without him. Simon is disappointed to learn that he will have to wait until next spring to travel safely – and jumps on the idea of maybe travelling with just one or two voyageurs if they can be found and persuaded to make the trip.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (audiobook) – Narrated by Vikas Adam & Graham Halstead, with Cassandra Campbell

the charm offensive

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date 20 women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – A-

I defy anyone not to be completely charmed by Alison Cochrun’s The Charm Offensive. It’s a warm, witty romance that offers an insightful story of self-discovery featuring a pair of captivating, superbly crafted lead characters and a lively, wonderfully diverse secondary cast. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but it’s so much more than that; I generally think of rom-coms as light-hearted and fairly insubstantial, and this certainly isn’t the latter. It’s most definitely romantic, and it packs plenty of gentle humour, but it’s got a more serious ‘feel’ than the average rom-com, taking a sensitive and nuanced approach to neurodiversity and mental health issues as the two protagonists figure out who they are and what they really want – and of course, fall in love along the way.

Dev Deshpande is a life-long romantic who, for the past six years, has worked as a producer on the reality dating show Ever After, crafting the perfect happy ending for his contestants. Despite the recent break-up of his long-term relationship, Dev still believes in fairy tales and happy endings and still wants the hearts and the flowers and the whole shebang for himself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Diversion (Diversion #1) by Eden Winters (audiobook) – Narrated by Darcy Stark

diversion winters

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

There are good guys, bad guys, and then there’s Lucky.

Former drug trafficker Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter flaunts his past like a badge of honor. He speaks his mind, doesn’t play nice, and flirts with disaster while working off his sentence with the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. If he can keep out of trouble a while longer he’ll be a free man – after he trains his replacement.

Textbook-quoting, by-the-book Bo Schollenberger is everything Lucky isn’t. Lucky slurps coffee; Bo lives caffeine free. Lucky worships bacon; Bo eats tofu. Lucky trusts no one; Bo calls suspects by their first names. Yet when the chips are down on their shared case of breaking up a drug diversion ring, they may have more in common than they believe.

Two men. Close quarters. Friction results in heat. But Lucky scoffs at partnerships, no matter how thrilling the roller-coaster. Bo has two months to break down Lucky’s defenses…and seconds are ticking by.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Another deep-dive into the Audible library of-the-as-yet-unlistened-to produced the box set of the first three books in Eden Winters’ Diversion series (there are nine books in all, available individually or in three sets of three) – aptly entitled, Diversion. It’s a well-plotted, fast-paced tale of romantic suspense featuring two complex, damaged leads; it’s funny, sexy and full of terrific banter (so it’s basically my catnip!) and I was hooked in pretty quickly by both the intriguing premise and by Darcy Stark’s excellent narration. All in all, my reaction when I finished listening was “Why the hell did I wait so long???”

As the story opens we meet Richmond E. Lucklighter – Lucky (don’t ever call him Ritchie!) – as he plans the theft of a delivery truck due to depart from a warehouse facility in Raleigh. It’s clear he really knows what he’s doing; it’s also clear he’s cantankerous, sharp-tongued, prickly and intolerant – in other words (and his own) a “card-carrying asshole”. Lucky’s careful and clever planning means he gets away with the theft of three-point-five million dollars’ worth of pharmaceutical products – a serious blow to the company who owns it, Regency Pharma Inc.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Merry Measure by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

merry measure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Arlo Wright’s introduction to his sexuality came when he saw his older brother’s best friend, Jack Cooper, in his sweaty football kit. Unfortunately, he didn’t have long to enjoy the revelation because he promptly knocked himself out on a table.

Relations between them have never really moved on from that auspicious beginning. Arlo is still clumsy, and Jack is still as handsome and unobtainable as ever. However, things look like they’re starting to change when Arlo finds himself sharing a room with Jack while on holiday in Amsterdam at Christmas.

Will the festive spirit finally move them towards each other, or is Arlo just banging his head against a wall this time?

Rating: Narration – A; Content- B+

A sweet, fluffy and charming romance between an accident-prone primary school teacher and his brother’s best friend, Merry Measure was one of my favourite Christmassy romances of last year, so I was delighted to see it make its way into audio just in time for the festive season this year. Fans of the author will know what I mean when I say it’s typical Lily Morton: funny, snarky and sexy with endearing leads, fun secondary characters and well-written familial relationships and friendships. Coming in at somewhere under six hours, it’s a relatively short listen, but it nonetheless manages to provide just the right amount of feel-good vibes and festive cheer – and with the supremely talented Joel Leslie at the microphone, you know you can just kick back and enjoy the show!

Arlo Wright just about makes it to the airport in time to catch his flight to Amsterdam, where he’s to join his brother Tom, Tom’s boyfriend, Bee, and a couple of other friends for a pre-Christmas jaunt to the city to celebrate Tom and Bee’s engagement. Although Tom has yet to propose; he’s hoping for the perfect moment while they’re on the trip. Arlo hates flying, so he was extremely relieved when Tom’s best friend Jack Cooper (on whom Arlo once had a massive crush) offered to travel with him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Total Creative Control (Creative Types #1) by Joanna Chambers & Sally Malcolm

total creative control

This title may be purchased at Amazon

Sunshine PA, meet Grumpy Boss…

When fanfic writer Aaron Page landed a temp job with the creator of hit TV show, Leeches, it was only meant to last a week. Three years later, Aaron’s still there…

It could be because he loves the creative challenge. It could be because he’s a huge Leeches fanboy. It’s definitely not because of Lewis Hunter, his extremely demanding, staggeringly rude…and breathtakingly gorgeous boss.

Is it?

Lewis Hunter grew up the hard way and fought for everything he’s got. His priority is the show, and personal relationships come a distant second. Besides, who needs romance when you have a steady stream of hot men hopping in and out of your bed?

His only meaningful relationship is with Aaron, his chief confidante and indispensable assistant. And no matter how appealing he finds Aaron’s cute boy-next-door charms, Lewis would never risk their professional partnership just to scratch an itch.

But when Lewis finds himself trapped at a hilariously awful corporate retreat, Aaron is his only friend and ally. As the professional lines between them begin to blur, their simmering attraction starts to sizzle

… And they’re both about to get burned.

Rating: A-

Two of my favourite authors teaming up to write a grumpy/sunshine “angsty rom-com” ? YES, PLEASE – sign me up! Total Creative Control is a captivating read and I blew through it two sittings. Featuring two complex, superbly characterised protagonists, and a small but equally well-written supporting cast, it’s full of humour, witty banter, delicious sexual tension and a multitude of feels – and I loved it.

The ”grumpy” part of the pairing is Lewis Hunter, creator and writer of the hit TV show, Leeches (an urban fantasy-type show with vampires!) which, when the book opens, has been on air for three years. He’s dynamic, hugely talented and very charismatic… but he’s also brusque, demanding, doesn’t seem to have a verbal filter, and is hell to work for. Which is why he goes through assistants like a knife through butter – until the morning his most recent one quits, and he’s assigned a temp named Aaron Page for the rest of the week. Aaron is a big fan of Leeches – which Lewis is both surprised and pleased at – and very quickly shows his aptitude for the job. He’s just finished teacher training and has a job lined up for September; Lewis has never had a PA who actually loved Leeches before, and is already thinking of ways to keep him on for longer. He suggests that if things go well that week, he’d like Aaron to stay until September. Aaron agrees.

The story then skips ahead three years – and finds Aaron still working for Lewis. In the intervening time, he’s made himself pretty much indispensable – not just because he knows Lewis likes brown sauce in his bacon rolls or how many sugars he takes in his tea, but because his knowledge of and love for the show is second only to Lewis’ and he’s provided a lot of valuable feedback and insight into the scripting process during that time. He’s far more than a PA now, and Lewis is a decent enough boss that he’s made sure Aaron is properly compensated for his expanded role. But, as one of Aaron’s colleagues points out, although Aaron well paid for what he does, shouldn’t he be looking to move into a job that would stretch him creatively and make greater use of his talents? But Aaron is happy where he is – and refuses to let himself dwell on the real reason for it. That moving on to a different job would mean leaving Lewis – because that way madness lies. Lewis made it clear on Aaron’s very first day that he doesn’t get involved with colleagues, EVER, and despite the stirrings of attraction they felt for each other when they met, they’ve kept things perfectly professional between them ever since. They’ve both worked hard to maintain that fine line between colleagues and friends, not allowing themselves to be too curious about each other’s personal lives, never attending work functions together, carefully steering their way around anything too intimate – and it’s worked, for the most part, enabling them to carry on with their working relationship as though that’s all that lies between them.

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