Broken Falcon (Evidence #12) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay & Nicol Zanzarella

broken falcon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chase Johnston is leading a double life. After two years of psychological torment, the quiet, highly skilled Raptor operative now has a darker side, and he’s hellbent on bringing human-traffickers to justice – using any means necessary. The only relief he finds for his troubled mind is a woman he’ll never meet in person.

Eden O’Keeffe is also leading a double life. By day she’s a grad student and barista, but at night she sits in front of a camera and provides companionship for those seeking entertainment, titillation, or simple conversation. She enjoys the freedom of being a siren online, but her secret career comes with risks that force her to hide her true identity at all costs.

When Chase walks into a coffee shop and comes face to face with the one person who makes him feel again, it seems his long nightmare may be coming to an end. But in entering Eden’s world, he’s bringing that nightmare – and the danger that comes with it – to her doorstep.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Broken Falcon – book twelve in Rachel Grant’s terrific Evidence series – for months. Ms. Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense, and I’m always impressed by her ability to craft tense and exciting stories with clever plots and interesting, engaging characters. Also, this book’s hero, Chase Johnston, was an important secondary character in Incriminating Evidence, one of my series favourites – if you haven’t read or listened to it, I’d recommend doing so before this, as Chase’s backstory is incredibly important to this story (note – there are spoilers in this review) and given his role in that book, I was especially keen to find out what happened to him ‘after’ and for him to find love and get his own HEA.

When we catch up with Chase at the beginning of the book, we find out that he’s devoting much of his free time to preventing runaway teens from being sucked into a sex-trafficking ring. Together with Isabel Dawson, the wife of Senator – and Raptor boss – Alec Ravissant, Chase helps the teens to get to a shelter set up specially to help prevent them being sent back to abusive family situations. He’s fairly sure the trafficking ring is linked to a legitimate business, a cam-girl site called Cam Dames – although he hasn’t yet been able to find any evidence to tie the two together. On this particular evening, Chase has cut things a bit fine; it takes longer than he’d expected to persuade the girl he’s ‘intercepting’ to go into the next-door coffee shop to meet with Isabel, and she has only just gone inside when a couple of goons show up looking for their quarry. Chase is Raptor’s expert in unarmed combat (having learned martial arts from a very young age, he’s got Mad Ninja Skillz!) and it doesn’t take him long to run them off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

stray fears

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

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

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – B; Content – A-

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

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Don’t Look Now by Mary Burton (audiobook) – Narrated by Hillary Huber, Alan Carlson, Kirt Graves, Heather Firth, Zara Eden & Joyce Oben

don't look now

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Austin homicide detective Jordan Poe is hunting a serial killer she fears is the same man who assaulted her sister, Avery, two years ago. The details line up: the victims are the same age, same type, dead by the same grim MO. Luckily Avery survived. But the terrible memories linger, making Jordan more determined than ever to stop this monster in his tracks.

Texas Ranger Carter Spencer isn’t one to poach on a detective’s territory. Yet no matter how resentful a capable lone wolf like Jordan is, when she is attacked at a third crime scene and suffers a trauma that leaves her with limited vision, it’s up to Carter to help Jordan navigate a world she no longer recognizes. He needs her instinct, her experience, and her fearless resolve to crack this case. A case that’s about to get even darker.

A stranger is watching. He’s closing in on his ultimate prey. And no one but the killer can see what’s coming.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B-

Mary Burton’s Don’t Look Now is a standalone suspense/police procedural novel in which a homicide detective has to confront the possibility that the serial killer she’s now trying to apprehend may be the same person who assaulted her younger sister a couple of years earlier. The book gets off to a bit of a slow start and I almost put it aside to return to later, but it picked up after a few chapters and became a lot more interesting.

We’re plunged right in to the deranged world of the serial killer in the prologue, which depicts the gruesome assault and death of their latest victim. It’s not blood-and-guts gory and I’m not squeamish, but I did find it made for uncomfortable listening. I’m sure that was the intention, but I’m starting to become tired of the way so many thrillers use sickening violence against women as a basic premise. That’s a different issue however and I’m not going to discuss it here; I chose to listen to Don’t Look Now knowing the storyline and I’m not going to diss it on account of a plot point I knew about in advance.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

a veiled and hallowed eve

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Death is the last lover you will ever know.

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

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A-

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cold As Ice (Cold Justice – The Negotiators #5) by Toni Anderson (audiobook) – Narrated by Eric G. Dove

cold as ice Anderson

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When Darby O’Roarke wakes up in a strange house with a dead man – with no memory of what happened – she knows who she has to call: FBI Supervisory Special Agent Eban Winters…the man she fell for, and who rejected her, last summer.

A negotiator isn’t supposed to get involved with kidnap victims, and Eban has been trying to avoid the temptation that is Darby O’Roarke ever since they met. One frantic phone call has him racing to Alaska to uncover the truth, but he faces stubborn opposition from the local police, and a growing media frenzy.

Getting Darby released from jail and keeping her safe is his first priority. When another woman is brutally slain, evidence emerges that suggests Darby is being framed, and that the culprit is a vicious serial killer who has eluded the FBI for more than a decade…and, now, the killer has Darby in their sights.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

In this fifth instalment of Toni Anderson’s Cold Justice: The Negotiators series, we catch up with a couple of the secondary characters from a previous book in the series. In book two, (Colder Than Sin) CNU (Crisis Negotiation Unit) operative Eban Winters had been part of the team sent to effect the rescue of Darby O’Roarke, an American Ph.D student in Indonesia who was kidnapped and held hostage by an extremist group and subjected to violence and sexual abuse. (Note: this story references Darby’s experiences several times, although there is nothing graphic on the page). Since surviving her ordeal, Darby has, with the help of extensive therapy, been putting her life back together and has resumed her studies (she’s a volcanologist) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

When Cold as Ice begins, Darby is waking up in strange surroundings, her mind a bit foggy, and it takes her a while to work out where she is. She remembers being at a party with colleagues the previous evening, and is and lying on a sofa in someone’s living room, relieved to find herself fully dressed. Darby then recognises the room as belonging to a fellow grad student, Martin Carstairs, and recalls dancing with him and a group of friends at the party and generally having fun – but she doesn’t have any recollection of much after that, and has no idea how she got to Martin’s place. Maybe she had too much to drink and he was looking out for her? Trying to get her mind straight, she tidies up a little and then makes her way cautiously upstairs to see if Martin is in the house. He is. On his bed. With a hunting knife sticking out of his chest.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

voyageurs

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two men battle the wilderness – and desire.

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

the charm offensive

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

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

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

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

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – A-

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

diversion winters

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

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

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

merry measure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – A; Content- B+

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

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

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Right Behind Her (Bree Taggert #4) by Melinda Leigh (audiobook) – Narrated by Christina Traister

right behind her

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Twenty-seven years ago, Sheriff Bree Taggert’s father killed her mother, then himself. Now Bree and her younger brother, Adam, find human bones on the grounds of their abandoned family farm. The remains are those of a man and a woman, both murdered in the same horrible way.

When the investigation determines the murders occurred thirty years ago, Bree’s dead father becomes a suspect, forcing Bree to revisit the brutal night she’s spent most of her life trying to forget. The only other suspect is an unlikely squatter on the Taggert farm who claims to know secrets about Bree’s past. When he mysteriously disappears and Bree’s niece is kidnapped, the cold case heats up.

Bree has stoked the rage of a murderer who’ll do anything to keep his identity – and motives – a secret. To protect everyone she loves, Bree must confront a killer.

Rating: Narration – C+; Content- B

Right Behind Her is the fourth book in Melinda Leigh’s series of romantic suspense novels featuring Bree Taggert, a former homicide detective who is now sheriff of Grey’s Hollow in upstate New York. While each one comprises a self-contained mystery plot, these books really do need to be read in order, so as to be able to follow and understand Bree’s journey from hard-nosed cop who never wanted to see her home town again to a woman making a life and a family there. In the first book, Cross Her Heart, Bree returned to Grey’s Hollow after the murder of her younger sister and realised she needed to stay in order to look after her niece Kayla (eight) and nephew Luke (sixteen) – even though she didn’t have the faintest idea about raising kids. As the series has progressed, we’ve seen her slowly settling into her new roles – professional and personal – although her path has been strewn with realistic obstacles, both internal and external, from dealing with the aftermath of the corruption she uncovered in the sheriff’s department to the continuing fall-out of her own personal trauma – her father was a violent man who killed her mother and then himself when Bree was just eight years old, and it’s clear that she has never really processed or dealt with it. It’s also left her very cautious about forming relationships – which means she’s spent the last couple of books keeping her love interest – investigator and K9 handler Matt Flynn – at a distance, while he begins to worry that she may never be ready or able to commit to him emotionally.

When Right Behind Her opens, Bree and her younger brother Adam – who was just a baby when their parents died – are paying a visit to their former family home, which Adam (now a very successful artist) has recently purchased. It’s hard for Bree, but she wants to be there for her brother, who is clearly looking for some sort of connection to a past he has no memory of. Privately, Bree thinks it’s better that way. As they’re leaving, Bree hears sounds coming from the nearby barn; she identifies herself and enters cautiously, only to be attacked by whoever is inside. The man runs, but Bree manages to subdue him, and once backup arrives and she hands him off, she realises the backpack he was carrying is missing. She, her deputies and Adam start looking for it, but find more than they bargained for when Bree finds the backpack – and Adam finds some old bones. Human remains that are later shown to be those of a man and a woman who were murdered around thirty years before. And the man had clearly been tortured.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.