The Long Game (Game Changers #6) by Rachel Reid (audiobook) – Narrated by Cooper North

the long game

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

The Long Game, the sixth intstalment in Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series of hockey romances is one of my most highly anticipated books of 2022 – and I’m delighted to say that not only did it meet all my expectations, it exceeded them. It’s the sequel to Heated Rivalry, the story that introduced us to top- flight players Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozunov who, despite their highly publicised reputation as intense rivals who hate each other’s guts, had in fact been carrying on a years-long affair in secret. By the end of that book, their relationship – which began as hook-ups when they were both in the same place at the same time – has evolved into a deep and abiding love, but they decide to continue to keep things under wraps for the foreseeable future – at least while they’re still playing hockey at the highest level. Coming out as queer is going to be difficult enough, but for two players whose professional rivalry is legendary to reveal that they’re in love with each other is going to need really careful handling when they decide to go public.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Criminal Intentions S1E2: Junk Shop Blues by Cole McCade (audiobook) – Narrated by Curt Bonnem

junk shop blues

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A murdered night club mogul unlocks a web of infidelity and deceit. The most likely suspect? The daughter of the richest family in Baltimore, if only Detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon can piece the evidence together. The clues just aren’t lining up—but Malcolm can’t tell if he’s missing a piece of the puzzle or completely missing the mark. The McAllister case still haunts him. So many dead. So many he couldn’t save. It’s throwing him off his game.And the only one who really understands is his strange, coldly aloof partner.

A partner he can never see the same way, after a moment of intimacy that haunts him as much as the voices of the dead.

Seong-Jae Yoon is struggling in his own way. He can’t solve the case when he can’t trust Malcolm, and he can’t trust Malcolm when the grizzled old wolf is growing increasingly erratic, increasingly dangerous. What disturbs Seong-Jae is how much he needs to trust Malcolm. He doesn’t get that close. He doesn’t get that involved.

But he may have no choice, if they want to stop a powerful killer from slipping away.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

I was completely hooked into Cole McCade’s long-running Criminal Intentions romantic suspense series by the time I’d reached the end of the first chapter of book one, so was chomping at the bit to get stuck into the next one! The Cardigans introduced listeners to two very different protagonists – detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon – and set up what looks set to be a very slow burn romance as well as telling a tense and exciting story of the investigation into the string of murders that brings them together.

Junk Shop Blues opens about a week since the pair started working with each other – and things aren’t going well. Neither of them is dealing well with the emotional fallout of the Macallister case, and neither of them is prepared to open up or attempt to process it with the person most able to really understand what they’re going through – each other. Malcolm is distracted and snappish and more irascible than usual, and Seong-Jae has no idea why – which, in turn, annoys him and makes him irritable, too. But the world – and crime – doesn’t stop just because they’re unaccountably pissed with each other, and they’re quickly assigned a new case – a murder at a luxury hotel.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Bridge of Silver Wings & This Other Country (More Heat Than the Sun #3&4) by John Wiltshie (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

The Bridge of Silver Wings and This Other Country may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The Bridge of Silver Wings

Nikolas and Ben discover that bonds aren’t forged with blood or scars, but in the hearts of men strong enough to love.
Siberia in winter isn’t a place for good men.
There is nothing Nikolas won’t do to keep Ben alive.
Nikolas has exorcised his demons, but when they end up stranded in Russia, the monster inside needs to be let loose. Ben discovers the truth of the adage, ‘be careful what you wish for’!

Nikolas then faces an enemy he can’t defeat: Ben Rider himself. Discovering a new family, Ben realizes he’s been living too long in the shadows cast by Nikolas’s all-consuming love. For the first time, life apart from Nikolas is possible.
Is Nikolas strong enough to let Ben go?

This Other Country

Nikolas is the sanest, straightest person Ben knows, so can anyone tell him why he is on a gay-therapy course?

Nikolas Mikkelsen could make a very long list of unpleasant things he’s endured in his life. Then order it from “nearly killed me” to “extremely horrific and don’t want to do again”. And what does it say about his 45 years, that being hit by a tsunami would be considerably way down on this list? But nothing – not torture, imprisonment, or starvation – has prepared him for what he now has to endure for Ben Rider’s sake – attendance on a residential gay-therapy course.

At least he has a new contender for the top spot on his “my awful life” list.

Rating: Narration – A+; Content – B+

The Bridge of Silver Wings and This Other Country are books three and four in John Wiltshire’s More Heat Than the Sun series of thriller/romantic suspense novels following the exploits of Ben Rider, a former SAS operative, and enigmatic (ex) diplomat Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, two of the most stubborn Alpha Males who ever stubborned. The books are characterised by fast-paced, dramatic plots – there’s no such thing as ‘low-drama’ in Ben and Nik’s world – lots of humour, terrific dialogue and the continually evolving relationship between the two leads, a pair of complex, damaged and compelling individuals who aren’t always likeable but who always manage to be fascinating.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Thirst for You (Beyond the Cove #2) by Jaclyn Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

thirst for you

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Forty-year-old Zachariah Taylor owns a successful bar, Zach’s Bar and Grill, in the quiet town of Riverside Falls and loves the life he’s built for himself. But as his siblings move on and find their forever partners in life, he’s starting to feel less and less needed – not to mention old. Suddenly, he’s finding it even harder to ignore the younger man who has pursued him for years, but the 12 years separating them is something Zach can’t seem to overlook.

Twenty-eight-year-old Drew Belford has been in love with the stubborn Zach Taylor for seven years. Drew, however, is just as strong-minded and refuses to let Zach use their age difference as an excuse to disregard the attraction burning between them.

When Drew begins to get unsettling messages from an unknown person, Zach feels helpless in a way he’s never felt before. The thought of anyone hurting Drew unleashes years’ worth of pent-up desire Zach has had for the younger man. Is his thirst for Drew enough to protect him from the danger lurking in the shadows, or will the threat of the unknown be enough to douse the spark of love between them – and silence Drew forever?

Rating:  Narration – B+; Content – C+

Thirst for You is the second book in Jaclyn Quinn’s Beyond the Cove series, and my first book by this author; it’s an age-gap/best friend’s brother contemporary romance with a suspense sub-plot that is effectively threaded throughout the main storyline, and I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything by not listening to the first book, so it works just fine as a standalone.

Forty-year-old Zach Taylor owns a successful bar in the quiet town of Riverside Falls where he’s built a life he loves amid family and friends. Over the past few years, however, he’s watched his siblings and his friends gradually coupling up, and can’t help thinking that maybe that part of life has passed him by. He’s had a few girlfriends and boyfriends over the years, but nothing has stuck; in fact, his previous girlfriend Lisa is now dating his best friend, Grant Belford, whose brother Drew works at the bar. Zach has known Drew for years, but now, he has to keep reminding himself not to notice that Drew has grown into a very attractive man – and that, as his best friend’s little brother, he’s firmly off limits.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Stroke of Brilliance (Arcane Hearts #2) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Zachary Johnson

a stroke of brilliance

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The fragrance of chaos. The flavor of terror. The color of madness.

Jackson Pryde and Xander Wright are loving a life of hunting and harvesting rare reagents wherever the Black Market travels. But a routine trip to visit Japanese tree spirits turns up something sinister: Two crystal shards, embedded in the bodies of wild animals. They’re familiar, glimmering, violet…like splinters of amethyst.

But that’s not all. Two rival guilds are in strife, Jack and Xander caught in a crossfire of spells and slander. SEER and its hundred eyes are still watching their every move. And then there’s the matter of meeting Xander’s parents, perhaps Jackson’s deadliest challenge to date.

The Chrysanthemyst’s return is the least of their problems.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Nazri Noor’s Arcane Hearts series of snarky, sexy, action-packed urban fantasy novels continues with A Stroke of Brilliance, which picks up shortly after A Touch of Fever ends. In that book, the author did a great job of setting up and introducing listeners to the fascinating and imaginative universe of the Black Market – a dimension that travels from place to place, enabling its inhabitants to go through portals into ‘our’ world – of creating a couple of complex, likeable leads and of setting up an intriguing overarching plotline for the series.

Note: There are spoilers for AToF in this review.

The series’ PoV character is Jackson Pryde, a smart-talking artificer whose parents were killed in an explosion that also destroyed the entirety of the Artificer’s Guild. Artificers are born without much magical ability but with the talent for creating devices that amplify the little magic they have, and Jackson, who still feels his loss keenly but mostly covers it up with layers of wise-assery, is now working on something he hopes will restore his fortunes as well as a more widespread respect for the craft. For years, Jackson has been at loggerheads with his former best friend, Xander Wright, a mage destined for incandescence (a state achieved only by the most powerful); but after teaming up to solve several murders, Jackson and Xander rediscovered their friendship and finally admitted and acted on the frustrated attraction which had been simmering between them for so long.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

His Compass (His #2) by Con Riley (audiobook) – Narrated by Cornell Collins

his compass

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Tom has one rule: Don’t sleep with the crew. A second chance with a younger, gorgeous deckhand tempts him to break it.

After a busy season as a charter-hire skipper, Tom yearns for some downtime. His lonely heart also aches for adventure with someone special, but paying his bills has to come first. A surprise sailing contract and huge bonus offer his first glimpse of freedom for years. There’s only one catch: he must crew with Nick, a deckhand who jumped ship once already.

Nick’s as young and untested as the new yacht they’re contracted to sail, and he’s just as gorgeous. Forced to spend a month as Nick’s captain, Tom discovers depths he hadn’t noticed. He’s captivated, and happier sailing with Nick than he’s been in forever. However, their voyage is finite, and both men keep soul-deep secrets.

As the contract draws to an end, they must get honest about what’s in their hearts if they want to share a life at sea, and love, forever.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – A-

Con Riley’s His trilogy continues with His Compass, a May/December, forced proximity romance between a forty-something charter-hire skipper and his younger crewmate. The characters are beautifully drawn and their romance is nuanced and emotional; I loved the book when I read it back in 2021 and was only too pleased to be able to experience it all over again in audio.

Tom Kershaw has spent most of his life at sea, and now works as a skipper on a luxury charter yacht. He appeared briefly in the previous book (His Horizon) when he made an unscheduled stop at Porthperrin in Cornwall in order to return his deckhand Jude home to deal with a family emergency. Tom thought highly of Jude and was fond of him, but sadly, Jude’s replacement was something of a disaster; lazy, messy and unreliable, Nick might have been sociable and great with the guests, but he never finished a task he was given and his claims of growing up around boats and crewing from a young age were clearly lies, as he couldn’t do any of the jobs Tom needed him to. Then one day, he just up and left without a word, leaving Tom in the lurch.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Not What It Seems by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

not what it seems

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

They say I killed them. They say I’m sick. They’re wrong. Nothing is as it seems.

Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Cyrus Irvine takes his job and his life very seriously. He is well-respected in his field and has worked hard to get where he is.

But he’s lonely.

When called in to evaluate a murder suspect, the last person he expects to find is the man he slept with a few months ago. The man who ghosted him and wounded his fragile heart.

Ethically, he should turn around and walk away, but he doesn’t. For as much as Cyrus understands the human brain, he can’t understand the pull he feels toward the patient.

One session with River Jenkins and Cyrus is sure of three things: River and everything about his preliminary diagnosis is a lie, his feelings toward River haven’t gone away, and despite his professional code, he isn’t going anywhere.

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.

Cyrus’ world is turned upside down as he and River team up to find the truth.

During their quest for answers, Cyrus discovers the hardest part of his decision isn’t the risk to his career, but the risk to his heart.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Not What It Seems is a standalone romantic suspense story from Nicky James with a premise that drew me in from the moment I read the synopsis. The two protagonists are River Jenkins, a man in his late twenties accused of the murder of three women and Dr. Cyrus Irvine, a renowned psychiatrist in his mid-forties who is called in to assess River’s mental state after his arrest. It’s a difficult book to review – not just because it’s a mystery and I don’t want to give too much away, but also because it took quite a while for me to warm to the characters or invest in their relationship – although many of the reasons for that make perfect sense in the context of who these people are and the situations they find themselves in. I’m sure it takes considerable skill on the part of an author to be able to write hard-to-like characters and make their flaws feel realistic and well-founded, and then to pull them back from being completely unlikeable without giving them a personality transplant. Nicky James manages it here, although it was a close-run thing for a time!

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Farview (Greynox by the Sea #2) by Kim Fielding (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

farview

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ravaged by a horrific experience, Oliver Webb flees the smog-bound city of Greynox for a quiet seaside village and the inheritance he’s never seen: a cottage called Farview. He discovers clear skies, friendly imps, and a charming storyteller named Felix Corbyn.

With help from Felix’s tales, Oliver learns surprising secrets about his family history and discovers what home really means. But, with Felix cursed, Oliver growing deathly ill, and an obligation in Greynox hanging heavy around his neck, it seems that not even wizards can save the day.

Still, as Felix knows, stories are the best truths and the most powerful magic. Perhaps the right words might yet conjure a chance for happiness.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

You know how, sometimes, you finish a book, sit back with a sigh and think “what a lovely story!”? I did just that after listening to Kim Fielding’s Farview (book two in her Greynox to the Sea series), a charming, whimsical romance set in a kind of fantasy/AU Victorian England where dragons pull carriages, imps, chatty ghosts, and winged people live side-by side and magic is a part of everyday life. Although it’s the second book in the series, it works perfectly well as a standalone – and I liked it sufficiently to want to backtrack and listen to book one, Treasure.

When the story begins, Oliver Webb has left the colourless, grime-filled streets of the city of Greynox, where he’s lived his entire life, to settle in the small fishing village of Croftwell , planning to live at Farview Cottage, a property that’s been in his family for generations and which he’s inherited from the mother who died when he was a child. Tired from the long journey, he ventures into one of the village taverns, The Merman, for a drink and a meal, and is somewhat surprised – and maybe a teeny bit irritated – at the friendliness of the locals; he’s not in Croftwell to make friends and he just wants to be left to his own devices. But not long after he sits down, he’s approached by a cheerful (and very attractive) young man called Felix who offers to tell him a story in return for a pint. Intrigued despite himself, Oliver agrees, and Felix tells him the ages old tale of Farview Cottage and the legendary Lyra Moon. Oliver finds himself completely caught up in the story and maybe just a little bit captivated by the storyteller.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Criminal Intentions S1E1: The Cardigans by Cole McCade (audiobook) – Narrated by Curt Bonnem

Criminal Intentions S1E1

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When a string of young queer men turn up dead in grisly murders, all signs point to the ex-boyfriend – but what should be an open-and-shut case is fraught with tension when BPD homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji joins up with a partner he never wanted. Rigid, ice-cold, and a stickler for the rules, Seong-Jae Yoon is a watchful presence whose obstinacy and unpredictability constantly remind Malcolm why he prefers to work alone. Seong-Jae may be stunningly attractive, a man who moves like a graceful, lethal bird of prey…but he’s as impossible to decipher as this case.

And if Malcolm doesn’t find the key to unravel both in time, another vulnerable young victim may end up dead.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

For those unfamiliar with Cole McCade’s long-running Criminal Intentions series (and to explain the long-winded title!) the series was conceived as kind of a TV show in book format, with one book the equivalent of one episode in a twelve-thirteen episode season. There are currently two complete seasons and season three – the final one, I believe – is underway. The same two protagonists feature throughout; each book boasts a self-contained mystery, there are overarching elements that run through each season, and the central relationship evolves as the seasons progress. CI:The Cardigans, then, introduces those protagonists – homicide detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-jae Yoon – and marks the start of their working relationship as they investigate the murder of a number of young gay men. This is very much a setting-the-stage book in terms of the characters – they’re very intriguing and I’m eager to find out more – and while there’s little more than a whiff of a potential romance (and it’s barely even that), I do know that it happens eventually and I enjoyed this book enough to be prepared to wait and see how it pans out.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Hope on the Rocks (Rainbow Cove #4) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Cooper North

hope on the rocks

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

One too many…

Doctor Quinn Strauss is beloved by his small-town patients. He almost never drinks, especially not alone on a weeknight. But he’s heartbroken over an unexpected reminder of exactly how much his bad breakup has cost him. And the sexy ginger bartender keeps making him special drinks that go down a little too easy.

Take a drunk doc home…

Bartender Adam Ringer can tell when someone’s hurting, and the heroic local doctor is practically radiating pain. Adam’s a natural caretaker and can’t help but spring to Quinn’s rescue. And when the drunk and rambling Quinn reveals a mutual sexy interest, Adam’s other instincts are intrigued. He can’t wait for Quinn to sober up.

All mixed up…

When Adam offers Quinn a chance to explore secret desires he’s long repressed, Quinn finds himself saying yes to a summer fling with the younger Daddy bear. Falling in love isn’t part of the plan, but amid all their steamy encounters and intimate exchanges, a deep, emotional bond is forged. Summer is nearly over. Real life pressures are mounting. Can they grow enough to find a way to forever?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Hope on the Rocks is the final book in Annabeth Albert’s Rainbow Cove series about three friends who set up a queer-friendly restaurant in a small coastal town in Oregon. It’s a low-angst, very sexy and unexpectedly sweet character-driven romance between a pair of complex, likeable individuals, and although it’s the fourth in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone.

Bartender Adam Ringer knows very well how to recognise the signs of someone who’s had a really bad day, and local doctor Quinn Strauss is giving off all those bad-day-vibes and then some. Being observant and a good listener go with the job, but Adam is also one of life’s natural caretakers, and he’s genuinely concerned and wants to help. But Quinn doesn’t seem to want to talk, so instead, Adam – who has noticed that Quinn doesn’t seem to like the rum and coke he ordered – offers to make him a drink he’ll actually like. He concocts a chocolate hazelnut martini that definitely does the job – but it’s only after the good doctor has downed two of them that Adam realises the man is much more of a lightweight than he’d thought. It’s nearly closing time, and Adam decides he’ll drive Quinn home rather than wait around for ages for a cab, but when Quinn passes out before he can give Adam his address, Adam has no alternative but to take him back to his place to sleep it off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.