Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Ruairi Carter

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been all but unemployable since his disgrace during the War. Now he scrapes a living working for a rich eccentric who believes in magic. Saul knows it’s a lot of nonsense…except that he begins to find himself in increasingly strange and frightening situations. And at every turn he runs into the sardonic, mysterious Randolph Glyde.

Randolph is the last of an ancient line of arcanists, commanding deep secrets and extraordinary powers as he struggles to fulfill his family duties in a war-torn world. He knows there’s something odd going on with the haunted-looking man who keeps turning up in all the wrong places. The only question for Randolph is whether Saul is victim or villain.

Saul hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time. But as the supernatural threat grows, along with the desire between them, he’ll need to believe in evasive, enraging, devastatingly attractive Randolph. Because he may be the only man who can save Saul’s life – or his soul.

Rating: Narration – B- : Content – A-

Spectred Isle was one of my favourite books of 2017 and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to experiencing it again in audio format. The story is a captivating romantic adventure yarn set in England in 1923, wherein a small group of arcanists and ghost-hunters are England’s last line of defence against supernatural threat. Ms. Charles’ makes wonderful use of folklore, ancient myth and magical rites as she sets about pulling readers and listeners into the world she has created, one in which a war as terrible as the one being fought between 1914 and 1918 by men and machines was fought concurrently by forces of the occult.

The War Beneath, as that war is known amongst those who took part in it, was every bit as savage as the one going on in the trenches of Northern France, possibly moreso, as the opposing governments recruited as many occultists and arcanists as they could and set them to unleashing their very specialised form of warfare on the enemy. With both sides fairly evenly matched, the veil between the supernatural and the human worlds was irrevocably damaged; and with so many of the combatants dead, it now falls to just a handful of men and women to track down and repel the various creatures and malignant entities that are passing through the veil with increasing frequency.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3) by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux (audiobook) – Narrated by Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they’re assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring-an out-and-proud married couple-on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they’d rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is. Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game that is their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, they realize there’s more to being partners than watching each other’s backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty’s life, he and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B

The books in the Cut & Run series I’ve listened to so far have been a lot of fun. They’re fast-paced, and the plotlines are frequently implausible, but then no more so than those found in the myriad of police procedural/FBI/CIA/CSI and other alphabet soup TV shows that abound, so I can generally just roll my eyes when things get a little bit too daft and move on. And what makes that so easy to do is the fact that the two central characters are just so damn addictive. FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are a couple of big, tough, alpha males who drive each other nuts, up the wall and to blows almost as frequently as they end up screwing each other’s brains out; they’ve both been around the block more than a few times and are carrying shedloads of emotional baggage (Ty from his time in the marines, Zane as the result of a past filled with tragedy and addiction); they’re intelligent, funny, sexy, perfect for each other – and brilliant at evasion and not saying what they mean, especially when it comes to the nature of their growing feelings for one another.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Duchess by Design (Gilded Age Girls Club #1) by Maya Rodale (audiobook) – Narrated by Charlotte North

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

In Gilded Age Manhattan, anything can happen…

Seeking a wealthy American bride who can save his family’s estate, Brandon Fiennes, the duke of Kingston, is a rogue determined to do the right thing. But his search for an heiress goes deliciously awry when an enchanting seamstress tumbles into his arms instead.

…and true love is always in fashion.

Miss Adeline Black aspires to be a fashionable dressmaker – not a duchess – and not even an impossibly seductive duke will distract her. But Kingston makes an offer she can’t refuse: join him at society events to display her gowns and advise him on which heiresses are duchess material. It’s the perfect plan – as long as they resist temptation, avoid a scandal, and above all, do not lose their hearts.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Duchess by Design is the first entry in Maya Rodale’s new Gilded Age Girls Club series of historical romances, set – not surprisingly – in New York’s Gilded Age at the end of the nineteenth century. While the premise – an impoverished duke who needs to marry money falls for a penniless woman instead – is a well-worn one, Ms. Rodale gives it a fresh coat of paint while also encompassing the many changes in society that were happening at the time and providing a solution to the central dilemma that is completely and absolutely right for this story.

Brandon Fiennes, Duke of Kingston, inherited a pile of debts along with his title, and is now faced with the time-honoured method of restoring the family finances, his crumbling estates, his tenant’s livelihoods and providing a dowry for his sisters. He must marry an heiress. On the advice of his cousin, Freddie, Lord Hewitt, Kingston travels to New York where his title will gain him an entrée in to the highest society and thus present him with his choice of current crop of Dollar Princesses – heiresses whose families have made huge sums of money from railways, manufacturing, real-estate and so on. It might not be what he wants for himself, but it’s the only way he can provide for all those who depend on him; even if he can’t marry for love, it will at least mean that his sisters will have the chance to do so.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She was unmarried, untouched, and almost 30, but novelist Amanda Briars wasn’t about to greet her next birthday without making love to a man. When he appeared at her door, she believed he was her gift to herself, hired for one night of passion. Unforgettably handsome, irresistibly virile, he tempted her in ways she never thought possible . . . but something stopped him from completely fulfilling her dream.

Jack Delvin’s determination to possess Amanda became greater when she discovered his true identity. But gently-bred Amanda craved respectability more than she admitted, while Jack, the cast-off son of a nobleman and London’s most notorious businessman, refused to live by society’s rules. Yet when fate conspired for them to marry, their worlds collided with a passionate force neither had expected . . . but both soon craved.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – A-

I was really pleased to see that some of Lisa Kleypas’ older, previously un-recorded/out of print titles are making their way into audio format, and even moreso when Suddenly You popped up at Audible with Beverley A. Crick as the narrator. (I’m not so pleased that Tantor’s next foray into Ms. Kleypas’ backlist, Someone to Watch Over Me, uses one of the worst narrators I’ve ever heard, but that’s another story!)

Suddenly You was originally published in 2001, and it’s easy to understand why it’s such a firm favourite with many. It’s got a higher steam-quotient than some of the author’s other books dating from this period, but the thing I most enjoyed about it was the way in which the hero is so completely smitten with the heroine from the outset and is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of her throughout.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Blueprint by S.E. Harmon (audiobook) – Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Kelly Cannon is satisfied with his life. He has friends, a wonderful family, and a great job. But his love life has reached a new level of pitiful. Why? Well, his heart decided to break all the rules. Don’t fall in love with a straight guy. And definitely don’t fall in love with your best friend.

NFL standout Britton “Blue” Montgomery has pressure coming at him from all sides: from his father, who’s only interested in Blue’s football career; from his coaches, who just want him to play without getting injured again; from the fans; from his agent; and from his mother, who has popped up on the radar after leaving his family years before. And now his relationship with Kelly is on shaky ground, and that frightens Blue more than anything.

When Kelly admits he’s in love with Blue, bonds are tested, and Blue has to decide what’s really important. He doesn’t want to lose the number-one person in his life, but the cost to keep Kelly close might be more than he’s willing to pay. It’s a good thing his nickname is the Blueprint – it’s time to draft a new set of plans.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

I’m not a fan of sports of any kind (my idea of exercise is opening a good book!) so I’ve tended to steer clear of sports romances because I had the feeling that the parts of the story dealing with the sport in question would probably bore me to tears. But I was encouraged to dip my toe into the genre a little while back, and liked what I heard (in, among others, Serena Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s Him and its follow-up, Us) – and quite honestly, seeing as I’ve as little idea about Football, Cricket and Rugby as I have about American Football, Baseball and Ice Hockey, I realised the type of sport doesn’t matter as long as I’ve got a couple of characters I can root for and a good story in my ears.

I admit, though, that what attracted me to The Blueprint were the narrators. I’ve listened to both Alexander Cendese and Sean Crisden before (in different audiobooks) and really enjoyed their performances, so the idea of listening to them narrating the same book was an attractive one – and one that really paid off. The storyline, while enjoyable, isn’t particularly original, but the narration really elevated the story and enabled me to get past the creakier moments without too much trouble.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Duke of Lies (The Untouchables #9) by Darcy Burke (audiobook) – Narrated by Marian Hussey

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Verity Beaumont has suffered domineering men most of her life; first with her father and then with her husband. Free from both men, she has finally found peace even meeting a kind and hard-working gentleman who just might be the perfect father her young son so desperately needs. But as she dares look to the future, her carefully ordered world is shattered when her dead husband returns.

After six years away, Rufus Beaumont, Duke of Blackburn, returns to claim his place and protect his family. Only, the life he finds is not the life he left, and he must convince his wife that their marriage is worth fighting for; that he’s not the man he was.

When the truth about what happened to him leaks out, he must prove that not everything about him, especially his love for her, is a lie.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

I’ve read and/or listened to a number of the books in Darcy Burke’s The Untouchables series and generally enjoyed them, but what attracted me specifically to The Duke of Lies was the fact that the premise is reminiscent of one of my favourite films, The Return of Martin Guerre. Set in medieval France, a man returns to his village – and his wife – after a long absence and is welcomed and accepted by all… until doubts begin to creep in as to whether he really is who he says he is. (The film was remade in the 1990s as Sommersby, and the setting shifted to the American Civil War).

In The Duke of Lies, the returning character is Rufus Beaumont, Duke of Blackburn, who has been absent for six-and-a-half years after disappearing without explanation during a visit to London. His wife, Verity, is not exactly heart-broken at her husband’s continued absence; he was a thoroughly unpleasant, boorish man who routinely ill-treated her and humiliated her, and she was actually relieved at the news of his sudden disappearance. At the beginning of the book, she is visiting an old retainer, the former steward of Beaumont Tower (Blackburn’s seat in the north of England), with her young son, Beau, whom she hadn’t known she was expecting until after she learned her husband had vanished without a trace. She has become concerned of late with the behaviour of the current steward – a man who was appointed by her interfering father – and has decided it’s time to do something about it and plans to dismiss him. Feeling lighter now that she’s made the decision, she returns home only to have her peace and happiness shattered by a completely unexpected – and unwelcome – arrival. Rufus.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fair Play (All’s Fair #2) by Josh Lanyon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Fifty years ago, Roland Mills belonged to a violent activist group. Now, someone is willing to kill to prevent him from publishing his memoirs.

When ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills is called out to examine the charred ruins of his childhood home, he quickly identifies the fire for what it is–arson. A knee injury may have forced Elliot out of the Bureau, but it’s not going to stop him from bringing the man who wants his father dead to justice.

Agent Tucker Lance is still working to find the serial killer who’s obsessed with Elliot and can’t bear the thought of his lover putting himself in additional danger. Straightlaced Tucker has never agreed with radical Roland on much–“opposing political viewpoints” is an understatement–but they’re united on this: Elliot needs to leave the case alone. Now.

Tucker would do nearly anything for the man he loves, but he won’t be used to gain Elliot access to the FBI’s resources. When the past comes back to play and everything both men had known to be true is questioned, their fragile relationship is left hanging in the balance.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B

This second book in Josh Lanyon’s All’s Fair trilogy takes place a few months after the apprehension of the serial killer The Sculptor who was revealed to be Andrew Corian, a colleague of Elliot Mills, a history professor at Puget Sound University. An ex-FBI agent, Elliot was drawn into the investigation of the disappearances of a couple of students during the course of which he reunited with his former lover, Special Agent Tucker Lance. The two parted badly after a serious knee injury ended Elliot’s FBI career, but when the investigation in the previous book threw them back together, they were finally able to work things out between them, and when Fair Play opens, they’re an established couple in it for the long haul, although they are still getting used to being a couple and the compromises and adjustments that are necessary to make a relationship work.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.