Love Him Desperate (On the Market #5) by E.M. Lindsey (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick Hudson

love him desperate

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

“Don’t be ridiculous. There was nothing to steal. I was always yours.” 

Every important thing in Dmitri Williams’ life has come and gone along the narrow roads and tall mountain peaks of Cherry Creek.

Dmitri wants love, but he’s not quite sure he’ll ever find it. His sexuality is confusing on a good day, and the one person he wants is the one friend who can never know how he feels. Raphael Meyer is older, charming, and better looking than Dmitri will ever deserve – and somehow, he thinks Dmitri is worth his time.

Dmitri knows he will never be worthy, so he puts all of his efforts into making sure Raphael finds someone who will adore him as much as he deserves. Even if it destroys his heart in the process. And no matter what his friends keep saying, Dmitri isn’t sure he’ll ever believe that Raphael returns his feelings.

It’s the makings of star-crossed lovers, because Dmitri has never believed in happily-ever-afters. But, in the end, Raphael might just have enough desperate hope for the both of them.

Rating:  Narration – A-; Content – B

Love Him Desperate, book five in E.M Lindsey’s On the Market series, is a slow-burn, friends-to-lovers romance between two complex, damaged individuals who have a lot of soul-searching to do before they can finally be together. It’s beautifully written and richly characterised, with two likeable leads and a strong secondary cast, and Nick Hudson’s excellent performance certainly makes the case for experiencing the story in audio.

Raphael Meyer lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and while life hasn’t been easy, he’s comfortable in his body and has always lived life as himself, as a proud disabled person. He was born and raised in Germany and lived there until his thirties, when his American lover asked him to accompany him when he returned to the US. Even though Raphael sensed that their relationship wasn’t really built to last, he was restless and ready for change, so he agreed, settling in Cherry Creek after that relationship ended. Now approaching (or in? I don’t recall if his exact age is given) his forties, Raphael is mostly settled and mostly content – although he continues to search for the love and connection he longs for and hasn’t yet managed to find. He knows that being with him can be difficult, and has come to think that romantic love – lasting romantic love – isn’t for him, as everyone he’s loved – and who has loved him – has left him eventually.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Rank & File (Anchor Point #4) by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

rank and file

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize – making master chief and retiring after 30 years of service.

Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things – once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.

When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give – Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.

But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.

Except – too late.

Rating:  Narration – A-; Content – B+

I really like that the stories in the Anchor Point series all take an in-depth look at the various problems that can face those in long-term military service and that (so far) no two stories have been the same.  In this one, we’ve got a forbidden romance between an older, career enlisted Master at Arms (a Senior Chief), and a younger Lieutenant – when officer/enlisted “fraternisation” is strictly against the rules.

The two leads first meet when Will Curtis and some of his MAs are called to a domestic dispute; he arrives to find a heated situation between a husband, wife and another man, and fortunately is able to de-escalate the situation before it becomes more serious.  Lt. Brent Jameson is the other man in the situation; he met the woman on a hook-up app and had no idea she was married – which he admits later was pretty dumb of him.  Will gets him home and that’s that – except that he can’t stop thinking about the younger man, even though he’s obviously straight.

Around a year earlier, Will got out of a long-term relationship with a guy who cheated on him, and he hasn’t been interested in anyone since; deciding to get out of his funk (and to try to divert his thoughts from Brent Jameson), he goes out to the nearest thing Anchor Point has to a gay bar looking to hook-up… and who should he see there but the object of more than a few of his recent night-time fantasies.

Brent (who is bi) hadn’t been able to get Will out of his head either and he’s just as surprised to see the supposedly straight MA at a gay bar as vice-versa.  They both know it’s incredibly stupid, but the intense attraction between them is undeniable and leads to an equally intense fuck in the bathroom.  They then head back to Brent’s place to do it all over again… and realising that sex like that doesn’t come along very often, they decide to risk seeing each other again.

L.A. Witt writes sex scenes incredibly well – and there are a lot of them here, which serve to show just how sexually compatible (and combustible!) Will and Brent are, and why they keep coming back for more despite the very real risk they’re running.  But she also does a great job showing the development of an actual relationship between them and their growing feelings for one another outside the bedroom.  Of course, they’re not going to be able to continue to sneak around for ever and are bound to get caught; they both know this and think they really should stop seeing each other before they get in too deep.  The trouble is they only see that line in the sand once it’s way back in the rear-view mirror.

The dilemmas that face Brent and Will are very real and the consequences they could incur if caught are potentially career-ending. Will is career military and having served nineteen years, plans to stay in until the thirty year mark; Brent on the other hand was brought up living and breathing the Navy – his father served and so does his older brother – and was never really allowed to explore any other options for his future.  Nine years in, he’s not feeling it and tells himself that’s due to the fact that he’s still at the bottom of the ladder, and that things will get better as he starts to climb through the ranks.  But the longer he’s involved with Will, the more he starts to question that belief; and only when he finally realises what it feels like to actually want something for himself is he finally able to distinguish between what he wants and what others want for him; and I loved the way he handled the situation in every respect.

I’ve been dipping in and out of this series – I’ve listened to books 1-5 so far and plan to finish it – but Rank and File is possibly my favourite of the series so far.  Nick J. Russo does a great job with the narration; he always provides clear, distinct voices for the main characters, and differentiates well between the secondary characters, providing believable female voices when needed.  He’s extremely good in the sex-scenes as well; he doesn’t hold back but neither does he go stupidly over the top, which is important in a book like this where there’s such a lot of it!

A solid 4/4.5 stars for the story, and 4.5/5 for the narration.

Misdirection (Borealis: Without a Compass #2) by Gregory Ashe

misdirection

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Finding a missing boy will be hard. Dinner with Shaw’s parents might be murder.

When a rising star in the state senate asks Shaw Aldrich and North McKinney to transport her son, Flip, to and from his drug testing appointments, they’re not happy—they don’t do babysitting jobs. Arriving at the boy’s dorm room, though, they discover that the door has been forced and that Flip has disappeared, and rumors of strange men on campus suggest that something seriously bad has happened. The students and staff at the ritzy private school have plenty to tell about Flip, but the deeper North and Shaw dig, the less they understand what might have happened to the boy.

Then one of Flip’s friends is found dead, and it’s clear that she was killed for coming too close to the truth. As North and Shaw search for answers, they meet resistance from every angle: from the school’s staff, from Flip’s friends, from the police, even from Flip’s family. Someone wants the boy to disappear—and is willing to kill to make sure it happens.

The home front has its share of trouble too. North’s ‘uncle’ Ronnie is back at his old games, drawing North and Shaw into a job that seems simple on the surface—find a missing man who might be in trouble—but they suspect that the request hides something sinister. Ronnie’s involvement, and the job itself, puts the detectives on a collision course with Shaw’s parents and a strain on their fledgling relationship.

As the days pass, North and Shaw realize time is running out for Flip and, maybe, for them as well. They have been misled from the very beginning—and they might be too late.

Rating: A

Note: There are spoilers for earlier Borealis Investigations books in this review.

I suppose I should have expected, after the relatively light-hearted comedic zany-ness of Indirection, that Gregory Ashe would immediately turn around and pull the rug out from under my feet… which is exactly what he does in this second book in his Borealis: Without a Compass series.  If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll already know that not only is he the master of the slow-burn romance, he’s also without parallel in his ability to write relationships that rip his readers’ hearts into little shreds and stomp on them before slowly putting them back together and rebuilding said relationships so that they’re even stronger than before.  This process can be tough to read however, and I confess that even my high tolerance for angst and emotional torment was sorely tested in Misdirection.  I mean that in a good way; not many authors can provoke such visceral reactions, and it’s a testament to how much I’ve come to care for these characters that when the home truths that have been hovering just on the edge of our peripheral vision finally hit – it hurt. A lot.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  When we rejoin the Borealis Boys, things are going along pretty much as usual – which right now seems to mean North doing all the work and Shaw doing… well, being his usual quirky self – when an unusual job presents itself to them.  A state senator wants them to escort her seventeen-year-old son to and from his mandated drug testing appointments (because he made “a mistake”) – and when the try to explain to her that it’s not really their bag, she yells and then threatens to make sure their PI licences aren’t renewed when the time comes.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they take the job.  But their problems really begin when they arrive to collect Flip from his prestigious private school – which is, incidentally, the same one Shaw attended – to find that the door to his room has been kicked in, the room tossed and Flip is nowhere to be found.

While North and Shaw attempt to find out what happened to him and are getting the runaround from the staff and students at the school, they’re also working on one of their open cases from Aldrich Acquisitions – an attempted break-in at the Nonavie lab which seems to have been targeted at certain proprietary technology – and North’s dodgy not-Uncle Ronnie shows up again, this time demanding North and Shaw’s help locating a guy who might be in trouble.  They’re immediately suspicious of Ronnie’s motives of course, but given what he’s holding over North’s head, they don’t have much choice but to agree to try to find him, too.

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

An Echo in the Sorrow (Soulbound #6) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

an echo in the sorrow

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Forgiveness is a hollow prayer you only hear in your dreams.

Patrick Collins has spent years handling cases as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency, even as his secret standing in the preternatural world has changed. He should have confessed to his role as co-leader of the New York City god pack when he and Jonothon de Vere took up the mantle months ago, but he didn’t. Now, that split loyalty will cost him at a time when he can least afford it.

Outmaneuvered, framed for murder, and targeted by the Dominion Sect, Patrick has to face a past full of lies to regain his freedom. Revealing the truth means he’ll need to give up the life that has defined him. Everything he’s fought to build with his pack is at stake, and losing them isn’t a price Patrick is willing to pay, but some choices aren’t his to make.

Jono knows they can’t cede any more territory if they want to win the god pack civil war spilling into the streets of New York City. But the souls of werecreatures are free for the taking when demons come to town and angels sing a warning no one can ignore. When Jono’s worst fear comes to life, and he loses the one person he can’t live without, the only option left is to fight.

Facing down the demons of their past and the ones in their present, Patrick and Jono will learn the hard way that some sins never wash away clean.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Note: The Soulbound series features a number of overarching plotlines, so this book is unlikely to make much sense unless you’re familiar with at least some of the previous entries in the series. There are likely to be spoilers for those in this review.

Following their battle royale against a zombie army in Paris, An Echo in the Sorrow finds Patrick and Jono back in New York and facing danger much closer to home. There are two major plotlines running throughout the Soulbound series, one related to the growing tensions between the New York City god pack and the rival god pack led by Patrick and Jono, and the other to the ever-present threat posed by the Dominion Sect, a cult dedicated to destroying the veil between worlds and literally unleashing hell upon Earth.

An Echo in the Sorrow focuses on the first of those storylines as the corrupt New York City god pack led by Estelle Walker and Youssef Khan steps up its campaign to destroy Patrick and Jono and all the were-creature packs that have placed themselves under their protection. Estelle and Youssef don’t care what they have to do or who they have to kill in order to maintain control; Patrick and Jono suspect that they may have allowed demons into their souls, just as they discovered had happened in the London god pack, but even if they haven’t gone that far, they have certainly allied themselves with agents of evil, from the Krossed Knights, hunters of anything supernatural, to the Great Marquis of Hell – and possibly the Dominion Sect itself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mine Till Midnight (Hathaways #1) by Lisa Kleypas (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

mine till midnight

Their lives defy convention . . .

When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

Their desire consumes them both . . .

Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his ‘uncivilized’ Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship – but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. Can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honoured arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .

Rating: Narration – A; Content – C+

Mine Till Midnight is book one in Lisa Kleypas’s series about the Hathaway family; it was published in 2007 and an audio recording – with Rosalyn Landor at the microphone – was released in 2009. That version was never available worldwide however; only one or two of the series was actually available in the UK before now (the same is true of the earlier and perennially popular (pun intended!) Wallflower series.) Last year, I noticed first two or three titles in the Hathaways series appearing at Audible UK and immediately assumed that they were reissues of the 2009 recordings – but they’re not; they’re brand new recordings.

The five Hathaway siblings were not born to wealth and privilege. Instead, they were thrust into the upper echelons of society when Leo – the only male sibling – inherited a viscountcy from a distant relative, although unfortunately, the title comes with only a modest fortune. Leo has been in a downward spiral for the last year or so, since the death of the young woman he planned to marry, which is how come we first meet our heroine Amelia – the oldest of the four female Hathaways – as she is planning to drag Leo out of Jenner’s (the club owned by Sebastian St. Vincent). She’s accompanied by her adoptive brother Merripen – a Rom (here’s one change from the original – “Gypsy” has been changed to “Rom”) – and they pull up outside the club in time to witness an altercation between some obviously drunk patrons who are vying for the attentions of a prostitute. Before things can get nasty, the fight is broken up by another man – a younger one with dark hair, gleaming hazel eyes and the face of an angel who, for all he is dressed like a gentleman, obviously isn’t one. He’s Cam Rohan (also a Rom), the club’s manager – and just looking at him is enough to take Amelia’s breath away. But she quickly squashes the ripples of nerves and heat that run through her to focus on her reason for being there, irritated when Rohan waves off her concern for her brother as nothing to do with him. It’s only when Merripen speaks to him in their own language that he at last agrees to allow them inside to search for Leo, and on learning that Leo has left the club for a nearby brothel, and of Amelia’s intention to seek him out there, Cam arranges transportation and accompanies them to retrieve the errant viscount.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Unguarded (Vino and Veritas #10) by Jay Hogan

unguarded

This title may be purchased from Amazon

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

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

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

I should walk away.

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

Rating: A

Jay Hogan takes the number of books in the Vino and Veritas series into double figures with Unguarded – the story of a closeted, repressed bisexual veterinary surgeon and an ex-pat Kiwi running from an abusive relationship – and it’s the best book of the series (that I’ve read) so far.  If you haven’t picked up any of the earlier entries, don’t worry; all the Vino and Veritas books are standalones so you can jump in here and not feel like you’ve missed anything.

When Tai Samuels walked in on his long-term boyfriend Dion and found him having fun being the filling in a twink sandwich, he stormed out – of Dion’s life and of his life in Boston, where he’s lived for the past three years.  It’s not the first time Dion has cheated on him, but it’s the last – Tai is done.  He hightails out of there with nothing more than the clothes on his back – which are far better suited to a night out clubbing than to a night spent by the side of the road in freezing Vermont, which is where he’s ended up after getting in his crappy car and driving just about as far away as he could get.

Next morning, when he goes to the nearest bakery to get some breakfast, he realises the situation is even worse than he’d thought.  His payment cards are declined – Dion has cleaned out all his accounts – and Tai has just three hundred dollars to his name.  He knows how stupid it was to allow Dion to control every aspect of his life, but hadn’t wanted to admit it to himself before now; it was easier to look away and believe everything was okay.  And now – broke, homeless, alone (and fucking freezing) – all he’s got is time to mull over his foolishness. Which he figures he might as well do in the warmth of the Vino and Veritas bookstore with a hot cup of coffee.

After a couple of hot drinks and a chat with Briar, the store clerk – who gives Tai a few tips about the local amenities – Tai’s attention is caught by another customer, a tall, blond,  mouth-wateringly gorgeous man wearing a harried expression and carrying an empty cat-carrier.  Tai can’t help watching as Mr. Gorgeous heads off into a hallway – and then reappears, the carrier now full of yowling grey cat.  To Tai’s surprise, the man approaches him and introduces himself as Emmett Moore, the local vet – then asks him if he’ll keep an eye on the animal while he goes to the bathroom. Which is how Tai ends up dissing crappy boyfriends in conversation with a huffy feline.

Emmett is pretty much run ragged between running his practice and caring for his ten year old son Leo.  His wife was killed in a car accident four years earlier, and he’s never really managed to get things back onto an even keel; a situation made worse by the fact that his receptionist has just quit, leaving him even more short-handed than he already was.  So he’s relieved when Briar tells him he’s sending someone over who might be able to help out until Emmett can find a new receptionist – and then flustered when it turns out to be the beautiful young man with the cute accent he’s been fixated on since he left the bookstore.  And that’s a can of worms he really wants to keep well and truly unopened.

There’s an instant spark of attraction between Emmett and Tai, but both men have their reasons for trying to ignore it. Tai isn’t planning on sticking around, and has just got out of an abusive relationship, while Emmett is a single dad and… well, it’s complicated.  He’s always known he’s bisexual, but he’s not out;  after he fell in love with his late wife – who knew about his sexuality –  he never looked at anyone else and never thought he’d need to say anything about it.  He hasn’t been seriously interested in anyone since Lu died, so he’s been content to continue to keep his queerness under wraps.  Until Tai.

It isn’t just Tai’s looks that have captured Emmett’s attention, it’s everything about him; his vibrant personality, his sense of humour, his easy charm and intelligence – and the way he can be so brashly confident one minute and so quietly insecure the next intrigues him. But even though get on like a house on fire – they enjoy each other’s company and work together really well – both of them need to think seriously about next steps.  Tai knows Emmett is nothing like Dion, but he needs to make his own way on his own terms, which might mean taking a bit of time and distance to make sure being with Emmett is what he wants; Emmett has to work out how to tell his son that not only is he dating someone new, but that he’s dating a guy.  He hasn’t deliberately kept the truth about himself from Leo, but in the wake of their grieving and putting themselves back together after Lu’s  death, Emmett…  just hasn’t got around to it.

The romance between this unlikely pair progresses quite quickly, but it’s so superbly written and developed that it never feels rushed or as though any steps have been missed out.  The chemistry between them is off the charts and there’s a definite opposites attract vibe going on – Tai is a force of nature, Emmett is quiet and considered – but somehow they’re each exactly what the other needs.  Tai has spent most of his life feeling like he never measured up, and then his ex really did a number on him, seriously denting his self-esteem and sense of self.  He’s used to being thought of as just a pretty face and nothing else, but Emmett quickly sees the kind, gentle man beneath the layers of brittle snark and doesn’t let him get away with talking himself down.  Giving Tai the chance to work at the clinic makes him feel useful for the first time in ages, and Emmett provides the support Tai needs in order to re-locate his inner strength and to move towards realising his true potential.  In return, Tai brings vitality and colour back into Emmett’s life, making him realise he’s just been going through the motions and that it’s time to start living again for real, that he deserves more in his life than work and a kid he’s crazy about – a loving relationship and to be proud of who he is.  One of the things I absolutely loved here is the way Emmett is so sure of who and what he wants;  he might not have had a relationship with a man before, but he knows himself, he knows what it feels like to fall hard for someone, and once he’s in, he’s ALL in.

Jay Hogan’s inimitable sense of humour, her talent for creating strong, relatable characters who are easy to fall in love with, and her ability to achieve a superb balance between light-hearted snark and thoughtful introspection make Unguarded a fantastic read in every way.  Tai and Emmett are complex and fully three-dimensional, with real-life problems that are dealt with in a believable way,  their romance is funny, tender, sexy and emotional, and Emmett’s relationship with Leo is just lovely.  There’s a strong secondary cast, including Emmett’s colleague Ivy, who is wonderfully forthright and won’t let him get away with anything and Jasper, a friend who is also a widower (his story is coming soon in Kate Hawthorne’s Daybreak).  You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up and everything in between; Unguarded is a contender for my Best of 2021 list, and I’m more than happy to recommend it.

Spotlight (Famous #2) by Eden Finley (audiobook) – Narrated by Iggy Toma

spotlight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ryder

When I quit the biggest boy band on the planet, I was supposed to get my life back.

It’s not that I wanted to leave the spotlight. I felt like I had to for my daughter. Her picture shouldn’t be splashed all over the tabloids. I thought I could do this parenting thing on my own, but it’s obvious I need help. I just didn’t expect to find it in the form of a gorgeous guy I meet by chance. I can put my attraction aside for my daughter’s sake. I’ve put my whole life on hold for her.

If only he wasn’t so tempting.

Lyric

Working as a nanny is my backup to my backup plan. My first plan is fame, but something always holds me back. When I randomly run into Ryder Kennedy and end up becoming his daughter’s nanny, I figure it’ll be a short-term thing. But then Ryder finds out I can sing. He wasn’t ready to give up music, and now he’s found a new way to have it: through me. He wants to produce my demo and make me a star. He says I was born to be in the spotlight, but I think I was born to run from it.

It doesn’t help that each day I’m with him and his daughter, the deeper I fall into fantasies of being part of their family. And not just as the nanny.

Rating: Narration – A: Content – B+

Spotlight is the second book in Eden Finley’s Famous series, which tells the stories of the members of the world’s biggest Boy Band after it breaks up. The story has a number of things in common with book one, Pop Star – a closeted lead character, a realistic portrayal of the workings of the music business and the way so much of the media treats celebrities – but those similarities didn’t outweigh the rest of the story or make me feel as though I was listening to the same book all over again.

When Ryder Kennedy left Eleven, it wasn’t because of personality clashes or creative differences – it was because he wanted to be a proper father to his young daughter, Kaylee. Two years later, and with Kaylee now four-going-on-five, Ryder has his hands full working as a producer as well as being a single parent of the rather precocious child he’s trying desperately to keep well away from the public eye.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

The Spare by Miranda Dubner (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

The Spare

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

“I’m publicly bisexual now, I’ll make all the musical theatre references I please. I’ll belt Cole Porter songs prancing on top of this bar if I want to.” (His Royal Highness Prince Edward Nicholas William Desmond, second son of Her Majesty Queen Victoria II of England and the Commonwealth)

Eddie Kensington had certain responsibilities, up until two weeks ago. Dress well, smile in public, uphold the family honor. Be straight. Never talk about being bisexual, or being in love with his bodyguard, Isaac Cole, for nearly 10 years. Protecting his mother and siblings from yet more tabloid scandal in the wake of his parents’ high-profile divorce was always more important. 

Up until two weeks ago, when he was outed by the press. Now he’s in the midst of an unscheduled identity crisis, and his entire family seems to be joining in. His estranged father shows up. His sister flirts with the reporter hired to write their grandmother’s biography. His older brother is more reluctant than ever to take up public-facing duties, and Her Majesty is considering going out on a date. Keeping calm and carrying on becomes impossible when Eddie learns Isaac might return his decidedly inconvenient feelings. 

For any one of them to steal a happily ever after, the Kensingtons will have to decide what they really hold dear–the legacy they were born into, or the dreams they kept for themselves.

Rating: Narration – A+; Content- B+

The Spare is an entertaining mix of romance and sweeping family drama set in an AU in which Queen Victoria II sits upon the British throne – the first ever divorced monarch – and which features multiple storylines for her and her three children, Arthur, Prince of Wales, Edward (the titular “Spare”) and Alexandra. I read the book last year and enjoyed it, but although it contains one primary romance that reaches its HEA and other romantic threads throughout, I’d suggest anyone contemplating listening to this – and it’s well worth a listen – should think Downton Abbey rather than His Royal SecretThe book blurb is somewhat misleading in this respect.

When the novel begins, HRH Edward Nicholas William Desmond Kensington, second son of Queen Victoria II, is making his first public appearance in the UK since he was publicly outed when old photographs – taken while he was at university – of him cuddled up to another man were splashed across the UK tabloids. His family is aware of his bisexuality, but he’s kept it under wraps everywhere else mostly for their sake; his mother’s divorce some years before mired them all in enough scandal to last a lifetime, and Eddie was hoping he’d be able to pick his own moment to make an announcement. But it was not to be and now the fallout has to be dealt with.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

His Haven (His #3) by Con Riley

his haven

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Once jilted, twice shy…

Keir Brodie is a lawyer with good reason for his trust issues. A year after his groom didn’t show up at their wedding, he’s still heartsore and hurting. Work has been his saviour, but a new project sets alarm bells ringing — his favourite client wants to buy a house for someone Keir thinks is a liar.

Mitch’s nice-guy act doesn’t fool Keir, and he can’t let sparks flying when they’re together distract him. That’s just the flare of opposites attracting, not the lifelong connection he misses. Besides, no amount of passion is worth risking his heart, especially with someone only down for onetime hook-ups.

Their shared project chips away at Keir’s first impressions. As the truth, and Keir, unravel, Mitch pieces him back together in ways Keir couldn’t have predicted. Trusting Mitch with more than his client’s money will take a leap of faith, in himself, and in a man Keir hopes won’t leave him waiting.

Rating: A-

The third book in Con Riley’s His series of contemporary romances, His Haven is a gorgeous, angsty opposites-attract romance between an uptight lawyer and an open-hearted gentle giant of a man, and it’s every bit as good as His Compass, which I adored.

The books in this series work as standalones, but I’d advise reading His Compass before this one, as it will provide a bit more background detail about the relationships between the main characters.

The beginning of His Haven finds lawyer Keir Brodie aboard The Aphrodite, the charter yacht owned by Tom Kershaw and his partner Nick, together with Tom’s younger brother Justin and Justin’s carer, Mitch, a specialist in severe brain injury rehabilitation.  Nick comes from an extremely wealthy family, and Keir sees it as part of his job to protect him from poor decisions and to make sure he isn’t taken advantage of financially, so when Nick and Tom ask Keir if he will work with Mitch to find Justin a house somewhere near Porthperrin harbour, alarm bells start ringing. Property in the area is far from cheap and Justin can’t live independently; Keir suspects Mitch is behind the idea, that he’s sowed seeds of doubt in Tom’s mind about The Haven (the facility Justin and Mitch live in) becoming a bit run down, and is out to get himself a very valuable property without paying a penny.  Keir’s suspicions are only increased by the fact that Mitch has been blatantly flirting with him all day but wears a silver band on his ring finger – and in Keir’s eyes, cheaters are the lowest of the low.  But it’s his job to do what Nick instructs him to do, even if it means spending time with Mitch and constantly shutting down his flirty innuendo.

It’s apparent right away that Keir is tightly wound and the way he jumps to conclusions about Mitch makes him seem like a class A prick.  But it’s also clear that there’s something else behind his suspicions, something that doesn’t really have anything to do with Mitch at all.  Almost a year earlier, Keir’s fiancé jilted him on their wedding day, and since then, he’s thrown himself into his work rather than deal with the emotional fallout.  It’s obviously left him with serious trust issues, but Ms. Riley slowly and skilfully shows us that those issues go a lot further back than his aborted wedding.  He’s wounded, hurting and lost and the author does an amazing job of portraying him as a man close to the edge, the raw emotions that lurk behind his rigidly maintained self-control a tangible presence.

By contrast, Mitch is pretty much an open book.  He’s kind and patient and understanding and he’s one of life’s givers; he’s devoted to Justin and to making his life the best it can be, and he regularly goes above and beyond at The Haven, helping to care for all the residents and being an important part of the community there.  He’s a skilled professional, too – he senses straight away that Keir is carrying a huge burden and genuinely wants to help; there’s a lovely scene early on where he helps Keir through a panic attack which shows exactly the sort of person he is – he notices everything and acts accordingly and that moment is something of a turning point in his relationship with Keir.
Keir is definitely attracted to Mitch but he fights it all the way – until he decides he’s tired of feeling empty and alone and that maybe a fling with Mitch is just what he needs. Mitch has made it clear he’s not looking for anything long term, and that suits Keir just fine; they’ll have a no-strings affair while they’re house-hunting for Justin and once that’s done, so are they. Simple.

But of course, it’s not simple at all, and it doesn’t take long at all for both men to realise that there’s more than ‘just sex’ to whatever is going on between them. The romance between this unlikely pair is beautifully written and superbly developed as they learn more about each other – their pasts and insecurities – and Keir comes to fully appreciate the role Mitch plays in Justin’s life and to see him for the genuine, caring man he is. He is also, with Mitch’s help, able to start letting go of some of the experiences and misconceptions that have been holding him back and to begin to move forward with his life. The amount of character growth Keir experiences is phenomenal; one can almost feel him slowly lightening up as he learns to trust – and to love – Mitch, who makes him feel truly wanted and fully present in a way he hasn’t ever felt before, as though he’s enough and worthy of being held on to after a life full – one way or another – of rejection.

Mitch isn’t without his demons; we learn here of the guilt he carries over the incident that happened in his younger days that prompted him to specialise in brain injuries, and how it informed his attitude towards relationships. He’s such a thoughtful, compassionate person, and he thoroughly deserves someone who’s going to look out for and be there for him, someone who sees him and understands what’s important to him. The chemistry between these two very different men is so strong that it leaps off the page, and their romance is peppered with moments of such perfect honesty and understanding as to be almost breathtaking.

Although Keir is the PoV character, the author does such a great job of bringing Mitch to life through his eyes that I didn’t for one moment miss a second perspective, and the same is true of the secondary characters. Justin is extremely well-written and the limitations he lives with as a result of his injury feel very realistic; he’s endearing and sweet, but there’s no question that looking after him can be difficult at times. I loved catching up with Nick and Tom, and meeting Keir’s best friend and flatmate Charles, who is huge fun and completely irrepressible, but who clearly has issues of his own to deal with. I was delighted to learn that he’s getting his own book soon and I’ll be at the front of the queue waiting for it!

A warm, tender and emotionally satisfying romance featuring two memorable leads and a superbly characterised secondary cast, His Haven will tug at the heartstrings and bring a tear to the eye in the very best way. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Somebody to Love (Tyler Jamison #1) by April Wilson (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding and Jack DuPont

somebody to love

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chicago homicide detective Tyler Jamison has accepted the fact that he was born defective. Women just don’t do it for him, and he can’t contemplate any other option. So, loneliness it is.

Ian Alexander has met the man of his dreams, but the guy’s in complete denial of his sexuality. Ian’s not giving up on Tyler, though. Tyler’s a domineering, controlling force of nature…just what Ian has always craved in his bed.

When a serial killer sets his sights on Ian, Tyler will do anything to protect the much younger man. For the first time in his life, Tyler has experienced desire, and it’s for another man. How much will it take for him to become the man he was meant to be?

Rating: Narration: A-; Content: C

April Wilson’s Somebody to Love is very much a book of two halves. It starts out as a (sort of) mystery/suspense story a with Detective Tyler Jamison investigating the murder of three gay men, all killed in the same manner and therefore believed to have been killed by the same person. During the course of the investigation, Tyler meets Ian Alexander; Tyler is deeply, deeply closeted but is strongly attracted to Ian in a way he’s never been to anyone.

The first half of the story (more or less) is taken up with the hunt for the killer – although to be honest, it’s not much of a hunt – during which Ian does some very TSTL things (like asking around at the gay club the victims were known to frequent and skipping out on the police protection he’s been given in order to do so), which of course, bring out Tyler’s growly, protective side. The perpetrator is arrested by the half-way point, but this is no intricate, twisty mystery – it’s all very simplistic and obviously just a plot device to get Tyler and Ian together.

Once the serial killer plot is dispensed with, the second half of the book focuses on the romance. It’s okay but nothing special, although I did like the way Tyler’s coming out was handled; he’s forty-four (to ian’s twenty-eight) and has spent his life trying to bury the part of him that liked men, even dating (and sleeping with) women. He never found the sort of connection he was looking for, but refused to admit why, and had eventually resigned himself to being alone. I can imagine that for someone so strongly entrenched in their ways, coming to the realisation – or at last admitting the truth – would be incredibly difficult and the way things finally come to a head for Tyler is well done. Ian has some issues relating to his childhood, but they seem somewhat superficial, as if they’ve been added simply in an attempt to make him interesting. The romance as a whole is pretty run of the mill stuff.

The best thing about this audiobook is the narration. I’m not familiar with Jack DuPont, but he delivers a strong performance all round – pacing, characterisation and differentiation were all good, as were his female voices. I’m a big fan of J.F. Harding (his name on this was why I picked it up in the first place) – and of course he was excellent in every respect. Interestingly though, both men have very similar types of voices – deep and slightly husky – and actually sound alike, so I wondered why two narrators were used. Jack DuPont reads the chapters from Tyler’s PoV and J.F. Harding those from Ian’s; both men portray the other character very well (JFH’s portrayal of Tyler was perfect) and quite honestly, either of them could have carried the book on his own.

The author sets up the drama for the next book towards the end of this one – I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up as once again, the plot seems fairly contrived and based on someone doing something really stupid it’s hard to believe they would have done.

Somebody to Love isn’t the worst audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but it’s far from the best. The excellent narration kept me listening even though the worst of the eye-rolling parts, but the story is disjointed and clichéd, and the characters are bland and barely two-dimensional. It passed the time and the terrific performances meant it passed mostly pleasantly, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to this one again.