Pansies (Spires Universe #4) by Alexis Hall (audiobook) – Narrated by Cornell Collins

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was 18, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – A

I finished listening to Alexis Hall’s Pansies with a happy sigh and the biggest, sappiest smile on my face. I know several people who cite this as their favourite of Mr. Hall’s books, and now I can see why; it’s a funny, awkward, sexy, poignant and gorgeously romantic story featuring two wounded, lovely and lonely people that had me smiling one minute and tearing up the next – and sometimes both at once.

Alfie Bell left his home town of South Shields in the North East of England for a plum job in London, and now has a six-figure salary, a swanky penthouse apartment and the car of his dreams. He’s returned home for his best mate’s wedding, where he accidentally outs himself in quite the spectacular fashion at the reception. Deciding to make himself scarce for a bit, he drives to a local pub where he meets Fen, all lithe grace, pink-tipped hair and attitude … and is mesmerised. It’s not until after they’ve hooked up that Fen angrily tells Alfie that they went to school together, and not only that, Alfie bullied him and made his life a misery for years.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Spare by Miranda Dubner

This title may be purchased from 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.

The second son of the Queen of England has certain responsibilities. Dress well, smile at public events, uphold the family honor, be straight. At sixteen, Edward Kensington had been convinced that hiding his bisexuality was a small price to pay to protect his mother and siblings from yet another tabloid scandal in the wake of his parents’ high-profile divorce. But over ten years later, even a closet the size of Buckingham Palace feels small, and his secrets have only gotten harder to keep. Like being in love with his bodyguard—a man by the name of Isaac Cole.

Then he’s outed by the press.

The official schedule has no time for an identity crisis, even though every member of the royal family seems to be having one at once. Eddie’s estranged father shows up. His sister flirts with the reporter hired to write their grandmother’s biography. His older brother, harboring a secret of his own, is more reluctant than ever to take up public-facing duties, and Her Majesty is considering going out on a date. And now the Public Relations Office has set Eddie the task of finding himself a suitable fiancée.

But when Eddie learns that Isaac returns his decidedly inconvenient feelings, keeping calm and carrying on becomes impossible. Prince Charming never wished harder for a men’s size 12 glass slipper, but life in the spotlight isn’t a fairy tale, and there are some dragons not even a prince can fight alone. For any one of them to steal a happily ever after, the Kensingtons will have to pull together for the first time since the Second World War.

Hold on to your tiaras. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Rating: A-

I’m not a royal-watcher, and as a rule, I’m not a fan of royal romances.  Of those I’ve read (and that isn’t a large number) the only one that really worked for me was Lilah Pace’s His Royal Secret/His Royal Favorite duology, and a big part of that was because the author had taken care to set the story in an AU (alternate) but recognisable contemporary Britain in which all the important things (like the two world wars) still happened, but the royal line had taken a different direction. When I read the synopsis for Miranda Dubner’s début novel The Spare I was intrigued by the storyline and pleased to see that the book is also set in carefully constructed AU.  I decided to give it a try, and I’m very glad I did.

HRH Edward Nicholas William Desmond Kensington, second son of Queen Victoria II – and the eponymous spare – arrives, somewhat apprehensively, at the Royal Opera House to attend a performance at which his mother, his sister Alexandra, and various other society luminaries will also be present. Handsome, suave, charming Edward is the real ‘people person’ of the next generation of royals; he’s always been the one to deflect unwanted attention with a quip or able to turn an awkward conversation with a well-placed question or anecdote, and going to a royal gala is nothing he hasn’t done a hundred times before.  But this time is different.  A couple of weeks earlier, he was forcibly outed when a tabloid printed a photograph of him, taken when he was at university, which clearly shows him in an embrace with another man.  This is his first public appearance since the story broke, and while he knows all too well he’s going to be the subject of hushed gossip and hurriedly-stopped conversations, he doesn’t know how bad it’s going to be.  He’s bisexual, and his family is aware of it; and while he wanted to come out, he knows there was never going to be a good time for him to do it and has been holding off for the sake of his family, which has suffered enough scandal in the past decade due to his parents’ divorce, the first ever involving a reigning monarch – but the rainbow cat is well and truly out of the bag now and the fallout has to be dealt with.

The Palace communications team is, of course, keen to mitigate the damage, and they suggest Eddie squashes the “ugly rumours” by being seen with a suitable (and carefully vetted) young woman he could believably form a “long connection” with. Even as he knew this was going to be the likely response, and that he has no alternative but to do what is being asked of him – just like he always has – internally, he’s railing against the frustration that he can do nothing about the invasion of privacy he’s suffered, the demand that he continue to deny who he really is – and that he still has to hide the fact that for the last eight years, he’s been in love with a former SAS officer by the name of Isaac Cole. Who happens to be his principal protection officer.  His bodyguard.

The first part of the novel offers readers a good insight into the relationship between Eddie and Isaac (although I can’t deny I’d have liked it to have been fleshed out a little more), and offers a bit of their backstory and an explanation for exactly how and why they have become so close.  Isaac is every bit as gone for Eddie as vice versa, but he’s never been anything but professional around him, has never overstepped any boundaries… until the night a bomb goes off at a high-profile London club – with Eddie in the middle of it.

I’m not going to give more specifics about the plot, because there’s a lot of it.  The synopsis for The Spare talks more about the romance between Eddie and Isaac than about anything else in the book, but after the bombing, the focus widens and it becomes more of a family drama. Eddie and Isaac are at the heart of the story; even when they’re separated for a chunk of the second half, the depth of their longing for one another is always there in the background – but there’s a lot more going on than just their romance.  One of the people Eddie has been trying so hard to protect from the media spotlight over the years is his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales, who has recently been pretty much ordered to leave the job he loves with the RAF and come back to join the circus (the real royals refer to The Firm; here, it’s The Circus, which is a good alternative!) and who is quiet, reserved  and not as well-equipped as Eddie to deal with life in the goldfish bowl of media attention. There’s his sister Alexandra, whom the media has labelled self-absorbed and empty-headed, and his complicated, conflicting feelings about his father, whose addictions and infidelities eventually led to the end of his marriage, but whom Eddie can’t quite bring himself to hate.  All these other storylines are really well done and all the characters – from the principal players down to the smallest bit-parts – are superbly fleshed-out, making it easy to become invested in them and their stories.  I ended up loving the book, but I realise it may not work as well for others because of the wider focus than one normally expects in a romance.

The author has obviously done her homework (her author’s note is well worth reading), looking into the way the Royal Family works and various customs and protocols (and has adapted some of them in a way that makes them perfectly plausible), but unfortunately this makes the Americanisms – fall, fawcet, trash, diaper, ass – seriously, this sentence: “A bunch of politicians who think I’m an idiot are going to surreptitiously stare at my ass” will make any British person wonder why a bunch of politicians are going to stare at a donkey; using “school” to mean higher education and describing Isaac as a “upperclassman” –  stick out like sore thumbs.  It’s a shame, when Ms. Dubner has clearly worked very hard on giving the novel the ring of authenticity, to be let down by things like that, but I understand corrections will be made in future editions.

There are places where the book could have done with a stronger editorial hand, a few scenes that didn’t seem to accomplish anything or go anywhere, and perhaps a couple that could have been reserved for later books (the author implies in her author’s note that there could be more to come).

Ultimately however, I really enjoyed The Spare and raced through it in a couple of sittings.  It’s sharply observant, especially when it comes to the workings of today’s media and how vicious it can be;  it’s funny – the banter is fresh and witty – and there are some incredibly poignant moments, some of them coming from a quarter you’d least expect.  The plot does get a bit soapy towards the end, and there was one thing that I side-eyed hard, but in the end, I was enjoying the book so much, I decided to go with the flow.

Part romance, part family drama, The Spare may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked well for me in spite of its flaws.  I’ll definitely be on the look-out for more from Miranda Dubner.

Hither, Page (Page & Sommers #1) by Cat Sebastian (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A jaded spy and a shell-shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.

James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.

The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t put down roots.

As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and that of the man he’s growing to care about.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Cat Sebastian’s Hither, Page is book one in a series of mysteries set just after the Second World War in the sort of sleepy English village beloved of cosy mysteries and British detective series; a place in which all the inhabitants are in and out of each other’s business, gossip abounds and deep secrets are kept. I read the book when it came out last summer and enjoyed it very much, so I was really pleased to be able to experience it again in audio. And with Joel Leslie in the narrator’s chair I knew I was guaranteed an entertaining listen.

Doctor James Sommers returned to his home in the small Cotswold village of Wychcomb St. Mary after the war, having served as an army surgeon. Like many others, he continues to be haunted by his wartime experiences and has been forever changed by them; he still has nightmares and reacts badly to the unexpected, and he wants nothing more than to spend the rest of his days in the quiet obscurity of a normal life, treating coughs and colds and boils and bunions and attending the odd birth. But when one of the villagers is murdered – drugged and then pushed down a flight of stairs – James is more disturbed than he cares to admit, and realises that his carefully constructed illusion of peace [is] in tatters.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Family We Make by Dan Wingreen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Spencer Kent gave up on love a long time ago. As a twenty-eight-year-old single father with a fourteen-year-old son, Connor, he knows his appeal to the average gay man is limited, and when you factor in his low self-esteem and tendencies towards rudeness and sarcasm, it might as well be nonexistent. But that’s okay. A man is the last thing Spencer needs or wants.

Tim Ellis’s life is falling apart around him. After four years of hard work at college, he finds himself blacklisted from the career of his dreams by the professor he refused to sleep with and abandoned by the boyfriend he thought he was going to marry. Even though he was lucky enough to land a job at a bakery, he still feels like a failure.

Tim and Spencer’s first meeting is filled with turbulent misunderstanding, but Tim makes a connection with Connor through a Big Brother/Big Sister program, and both men put aside their mutual dislike for his sake. By letting go, they may help each other find their way into a life they never could have imagined.

Rating: A-

Dan Wingreen’s The Family We Make is a charming, funny and incredibly touching contemporary romance featuring a single dad with a teenaged son and a guy who feels as though he’s lost his way in life.  It’s well-written and sharply observed, with brilliantly drawn relationships, a teenager who speaks and acts like one and two complex, flawed and utterly endearing leads.  I pretty much inhaled it, and even though there were a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me, I adored it and came away from it with a huge smile on my face.

At twenty-eight, teacher Spencer Kent has been a father for half his life.  His son Connor – the result of a drunken more-than-fumble when he was just thirteen – is the centre of his universe; which is not to say that life is plain sailing and they don’t have their ‘moments’, especially now Connor is a teenager, but Spencer adores him and wouldn’t have things any other way.  Becoming a father so young, though, has been a bit of a struggle; Spencer had help from his parents in the early days, and they took care of Connor while Spencer went to college, but it’s just been him and Connor for a decade and even now he is never sure he’s doing the right thing – something any parent of any age will identify with.  But most of the time, things between them are pretty good, and if Spencer is sometimes lonely for adult companionship and conversation, if he’s missed out on his chance to find ‘the one’ – because what gay man his age is going to want to take on a teenaged boy as well? – then that’s the way it is. Having Connor in his life more than makes up for it.

Connor is fairly quiet and reserved, but it comes as a shock when Spencer discovers his son doesn’t have any friends and that he’s being bullied, and he panics.  How can he not have noticed something that important?  When a colleague recommends he signs Connor up for the local Big Brother program, he thinks it’s worth considering, and after a discussion (and a hefty bribe!) Connor agrees to give it a try.

Tim Ellis finished his psychology degree and intended to continue his studies at grad school, but dropped the idea when his professor made it clear that his acceptance to the master’s program was dependent on Tim’s having sex with him – and when he refused, the man threatened to blackball him at all the other colleges in the area.  Tim broke up with his manipulative boyfriend a few months back, his mother is forever on at him to come home, to do this, or that, and instead of embarking on the career in child psychology he’d planned on, he’s back working at a friend’s bakery.  He’s fed up and feeling useless, the one bright spot in his life his volunteer work at the local youth centre. Which is, of course, where he meets Spencer and Connor.

To say that Spencer and Tim get off on the wrong foot at their first meeting is an understatement of massive proportions, and they part actually hoping never to see each other again!  Fortunately however, Tim and Connor get along really well, and their growing friendship eventually expands to include Spencer, and I loved watching Tim and Spencer become friends, then fall in love, and the three of them gradually become a family.

The story is told from Spencer’s and Tim’s viewpoints, but really there are three main characters, as Connor is integral to the story without overwhelming or unbalancing it. I adored all three of them; the characterisation is superb, and they’re all fully-rounded, complex individuals whose flaws and insecurities combine to make them feel incredibly real, and the dialogue is sharply focused and often very funny.  Spencer is a bit chaotic, but he’s also hilarious – he’s cynical and sarcastic and has no brain-to-mouth filter (sometimes Connor seems to be the more mature of the two of them!), but his snarkiness is clearly a defence mechanism.  Tim thinks he’s adorable, and it’s true – beneath the waspishness, he’s rather charming.  Tim is six years younger, but seems to be a bit more ‘together’; he’s also the more sexually experienced of the two, which makes sense given Spencer has put his social and dating life in order to parent Connor.

The book tackles a number of serious issues, from the problems of being a father at fourteen to how to parent a child close to you in age, to how to protect and support that child in a way that still allows them to acquire the independence they need as they grow up.  One of the things the author does very well is to expose the difficulties involved in handling bullying at school; as a teacher myself, it’s something I come up against a lot and while schools do their best, they can only do so much.  And while I’m on the subject of school and teaching, the only parts of the book that didn’t work for me were mostly related to Spencer’s job. Some of the things he did and said (like texting during a lesson) were unprofessional (and here in the UK would have probably led to disciplinary action), and there’s an odd sub-plot relating to a female teacher who is widely known to sleep with older students, and who is still in a job.  Here, she’d have been suspended at the merest whiff of a suspicion, let alone actual complaints.

Those things apart however, I loved The Family We Make and recommend it highly.  The familial relationships that develop between Tim, Spencer and Connor are really well done, and the friendship between Tim and Connor, especially how Tim is absolutely there for Connor and makes sure to respect his privacy, was lovely to watch developing.  There are some wonderful moments of raw emotion that perfectly capture the ups and downs of family life, and of what it’s like to love another person so much it hurts that really hit me in the feels, and the romance is a lovely, angst-free slow-burn.   I loved that once Spencer and Tim start dating (and having sex), they’re exactly the same people with the same sense of dry humour and ability to snark back and forth that they always were, and by the end, I was completely convinced that these guys – all of them – were going to be together for the long haul.

The Family We Make is cute, funny, insightful, sexy and utterly delightful.  It’s the fabulous feel-good read I didn’t know I needed in my life, and I’m so glad to have found it.

Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2) by Lyssa Kay Adams (audiobook) – Narrated by Andrew Eiden


This title is available to download from Audible

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart…even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

I had mixed feelings about The Bromance Book Club the novel that introduced readers and listeners to a group of guys who get together a few times a week to discuss the romance novels they’re reading, viewing them as a way to understand the female psyche and learn to look at things from the female perspective. It was a clever, funny marriage-in-trouble story that I mostly enjoyed, even though I did have reservations about some elements of the plot and wasn’t wild about the heroine. But I’d listen to Andrew Eiden read the phone book, so when the chance to review the follow up, Undercover Bromance, came up, I decided to take it and see if I might like it more than the first book. Again, I have mixed feelings. The narration is excellent – no surprises there. There were some aspects to the story that I liked more than the first book, and the plot feels more cohesive, perhaps because there’s no ‘story-within-a-story’ element to this one. But – and also again – the heroine – the sister of Thea from book one – bugged me. That didn’t really surprise me either, seeing as I didn’t like her very much in The Bromance Book Club, where she was obnoxious and pushy, and continually interfering in Gavin’s attempt to save his marriage.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Irresistible (Horsemen Trilogy #3) by Mary Balogh (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Sophia Armitage does not consider herself attractive. Even her late husband treated her more as a companion than a lover when she accompanied him to war. But Sophia hopes to enjoy a Season in London as her niece makes her social debut – until, that is, her hopes are dashed when she is faced with a threat she can reveal to no one. Then she meets Sir Nathaniel Gascoigne, an old army friend, and falls in love with him even as she must discourage his growing passion for her. Nathaniel can sense Sophia’s unhappiness and fear, but does not understand that his attempts to protect and help her can only bring about her downfall….

Rating: Narration: A; Content: B+

First published in 1998, but newly available in audio, Irresistible is the final book in Mary Balogh’s Horsemen Trilogy, which features a group of friends who served together in the Peninsular War, and whose fearless feats of derring-do earned them the nickname the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s a gently moving and compelling friends-to-lovers story that has a few flaws (mostly relating to some of the heroine’s actions) but which I enjoyed very much in spite of them.

Sir Nathaniel Gascoigne has spent the last couple of years rusticating on his Yorkshire estate drowning (as he sees it) in female relatives – five sisters and one cousin. With four of his sisters now settled, he’s looking forward to having the place to himself once he has found suitable husbands for his youngest sister and cousin, and is heading to London for the Season for the first time in two years with exactly this intention. He also plans a reunion with his fellow Horsemen (two of whom are now happily married) and to have a bit of *ahem* fun whilst he’s in town and break his two-year dry spell ;). One morning shortly after his arrival in town, he and his friends are riding in the park when they are delighted to meet an old friend, Mrs. Sophia Armitage.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Master Wolf (Capital Wolves Duet #2) by Joanna Chambers

This title may be purchased from Amazon

HE MUST MASTER THE WOLF WITHIN…

Edinburgh, 1820. Thirty years after leaving Scotland, Drew Nicol is forced to return when the skeleton of a monster is found. The skeleton is evidence of werewolves—evidence that Marguerite de Carcassonne, the leader of Drew’s pack, is determined to suppress.

Marguerite insists that Drew accompany her to Edinburgh. There they will try to acquire the skeleton while searching for wolf-hunters—wolf hunters who may be holding one of their pack prisoner.

But Drew has reason to be wary about returning to Edinburgh—Lindsay Somerville now lives there.

Lindsay who taught Drew about desire and obsession.

Lindsay who Drew has never been able to forgive for turning him.

Lindsay who vowed to stay away from Drew twelve years ago… and who has since taken drastic steps to sever the bond between them.

Marguerite’s plan will throw Drew and Lindsay together again—and into a deadly confrontation with Lindsay’s enemy, Duncan MacCormaic. They will be tested to their limits and forced to confront both their past mistakes and their true feelings.

But it may be too late for them to repair the damage of the past. The consequences of Lindsay’s choices are catching up with him, and he’s just about out of time…

Rating: A-

Master Wolf is the eagerly awaited second instalment of Joanna Chambers’ Capital Wolves duet and concludes the story begun in Gentleman Wolf, which introduced readers to the beautiful, elegant, devil-may-care Lindsay Sommerville and Drew Nichol, the rather dour architect with whom he falls head-over-heels in love. This book is a direct sequel to the first and does not stand alone – and there are spoilers in this review.

Master Wolf opens just days after the shocking events at the end of Gentleman Wolf which saw Lindsay, in a moment of sheer desperation, biting a mortally wounded Drew in order to save his life. When he learns what happened, Drew is furious, filled with rage and betrayal at what was done to him without his permission, even though he knows he’d likely have died had Lindsay not acted as he did. He’s devastated and wants nothing to do with the man who, just hours earlier, had called him his mate and with whom Drew had finally begun to allow himself a small measure of acceptance of the needs and desires of which he’d before been so ashamed.

Now, Lindsay is getting ready to leave Edinburgh for the Low Countries, leaving Drew in Edinburgh with Francis Neville, one of Lindsay’s oldest and closest friends, to help him to adjust to his new reality and learn to accept his wolf. Normally, this obligation would fall to a wolf’s maker, but Drew refuses to see or speak to Lindsay and their parting – a parting which, if Drew has anything to say about it, will be forever – is painful and awkward. Lindsay is clearly grief-stricken and Drew is surprised at being able to feel such visceral pain – but he puts that aside, believing it to be due to the unwanted bond Lindsay created when he made him and bids the other man a cold, curt goodbye.

The story then moves forward by thirty-two years, to 1820 and to London, where Drew has become a successful businessman. He has never fully come to terms with his wolf, shifting only when absolutely necessary and determined never to give in to the pull towards Lindsay the bond still exerts. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that the pair has seen each other only rarely in the intervening time, and that although their mutual attraction burns as brightly as ever, Drew hasn’t forgiven Lindsay for what he forced upon him and is determined he never will. Now, twelve years after their last meeting, Drew has noticed a subtle change in the nature of the bond he’s always felt tugging at him, a gradual lessening of it, which makes him believe that perhaps at last he is getting a measure of control over his wolf and – finally – gaining freedom from Lindsay’s mastery over him. It’s what he has wanted for the last thirty years – so why does the prospect of losing that connection make him want to howl in misery?

Drew’s return to Edinburgh for the first time in more than thirty years is occasioned when Marguerite de Carcassonne, the leader of his pack, tells him she needs his help in acquiring the misshapen remains that have been recently discovered in the Nor’loch by St. Cuthbert’s Church.  (The remains are, of course, those of their adversary from the previous book.) There are several parties interested in purchasing the bones, and Marguerite wants to get to them first so as to prevent anyone from investigating further and discovering the existence of werewolves.  After their arrival in the city, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more at stake than the recovery of a decades old skeleton.

Drew isn’t sure what to expect at his first sight of Lindsay in twelve years.  The tone of his recent letter to Marguerite was odd, to say the least, but even so, Drew isn’t prepared for Lindsay’s drastically altered appearance. He’s obviously very ill, his always slender body now little more than skin and bone, his still beautiful face etched with pain and exhaustion, and he leans heavily on the cane he’d before only carried as a fashion item.  He explains that he’s tired of running from Duncan MacCormaic, his maker and the man who had kept him prisoner for forty years and subjected him to utter degradation and humiliation, and that he has at last found a way to sever the bond between a wolf and his maker and free himself from Duncan’s hold – an incredibly dangerous way that will also finally enable him to give Drew the one thing he knows Drew wants above anything else.  His freedom.

This book will break your heart and make you want to break things at the same time.  Gentleman Wolf told the story of Drew and Lindsay’s romance from Lindsay’s point of view, and this continuation is told from Drew’s – and he’s not always the easiest character to sympathise with.  He views the wolf-bond as one of master and servant, knows that a wolf’s master can control him utterly, and is so completely focused on his fear of Lindsay’s having such power over him and of the depth and strength of the yearning he attributes to the bond, that he has absolutely no idea that what he’s feeling is love and the all-too-human desire to be with the love of his life.  He also fails to see that Lindsay is just as trapped by their bond as he is, and that he is trying to show the depth of his love regardless of the cost to himself.

The anger, despair and longing felt by these two simply leap off the page and the scenes between them are both heartfelt and heart-breaking, full of intense sorrow and deep denial; and witnessing Drew finally learning to accept his wolf while we watch Lindsay becoming weaker and weaker is poignant and utterly gut-wrenching.

While the main focus of the novel is Drew’s journey towards acceptance – of his wolf and of Lindsay’s place in his life – other plot-threads are tied up as well, most notably that of Lindsay’s master, Duncan MacCormaic, which comes to a tragic and unexpected conclusion.  Ms. Chambers’ writing is focused and polished, and her descriptions of nineteenth century Edinburgh and the other locations to which she takes readers are vivid and evocative.  Above all, the love story which takes centre stage is truly epic, with high stakes and a happy ending that is hard fought and hard won.  Master Wolf is a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the Capital Wolves duet.