The Pros & Cons of Deception (Pros & Cons #2) by A.E. Wasp (audiobook) – Narrated by Tor Thom and Alexandre Steele

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

There’s nothing like being blackmailed by a dead man to really bring a group of cons together. The deal is simple, we do the jobs and Charlie’s lawyer wipes the slate clean for each of us, one at a time.

Job number two lands right in my lap. I’m Bond. Wesley Bond. (I can’t resist saying it that way. Blame my dad, if you can find him.) You could call me a hacker. I redistribute wealth – moving it from rich slimebags to poorer but infinitely more deserving people – and make a tidy profit as I do. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to bring down some modern-day slave traders.

With the life of the one person in this world I love on the line, I can’t afford any screw-ups or distractions. Unfortunately, my biggest distraction is my biggest asset – Danny Monroe. Danny is a leftover complication from our first job. He’s a smart, funny, gorgeous ex-prostitute, who can’t seem to keep his clothes on. I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut around him. But I need a fake boyfriend, and Danny is the only option.

We don’t know who the bad guy is; we have no idea how to prove anything. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to need all the help I can get. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Rating: Narration: C-/B-; Content: C

The Pros & Cons of Deception is the second book in the Pros & Cons series, and the synopsis for the series – a group of misfits is blackmailed into carrying out a series of missions left to them by a dead man – sounded like a mash-up of LeverageCharlie’s Angels and Ocean’s Eleven and as though it might be fun. Having finished this instalment, I not sure that “fun” is the word I’d use to describe it; in fact, it turned out to be rather silly, with a bunch of grown men acting and talking like hormonal, teenaged-boys, and a plot so thin as to be see-through.

Retriever of illicitly obtained information Charlie Bingham is dead, and in his will, he left instructions for his lawyer, Miranda Bosley (yes, really ;)) to bring together a disparate group of men – some of them criminals, some not – in order to carry out his last instructions in exchange for the destruction of the information Charlie held on each of them. In the previous book, The Pros & Cons of Vengeance, ex-Special Forces Close Protection specialist Steele Alvarez was instructed to take down a dirty Senator – and along with hacker Wesley Bond, grifter Carson Grieves, thief Ridge Pfeiffer and disgruntled FBI Agent Leo Shook – set about doing just that. Along the way, he and the team rescued two young ex-hookers – Breck and Danny – from a violent situation, and Steele fell for Breck (who happens to be Ridge’s brother). When this book opens, we find them all, together with the enigmatic housekeeper Josie (whom the author bills as an “International Woman of Mystery”), comfortably holed up in Charlie’s luxury home in Miami.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mainly by Moonlight (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #1) by Josh Lanyon

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Can a witch avoid a murder rap without revealing the supernatural truth?

Cosmo Saville guiltily hides a paranormal secret from his soon-to-be husband. And if he can’t undo a powerful love spell, uncertainty threatens his nuptial magic. But when he’s arrested for allegedly killing a longtime rival, he could spend his honeymoon behind bars…

Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith never believed in love until Cosmo came along. Falling head over heels for the elegant antiques dealer is an enchantment he never wants to break. So when all fingers point to Cosmo’s guilt, John struggles to believe what his heart is telling him.

As Cosmo searches for the real killer among the arcane aristocracy, John warns him to leave it to the police. But with an unseen enemy threatening to expose Cosmo’s true nature, the couple’s blissful future could shatter like a broken charm.

Can Cosmo find the lost grimoire, clear his name and keep John’s love alive, or will black magic “rune” their wedding bells?

Rating: B

Josh Lanyon’s latest novel is kind of Adrien English meets Bewitched as the owner of an antique store (who also happens to be a witch) finds himself suspected of murder just a few days before his wedding to the city’s Police Commissioner.  Mainly by Moonlight is an enjoyable romp that’s perhaps a little more light-hearted than some of the author’s other novels – and as it’s the first in a trilogy, it sets up more questions than it answers, so don’t pick it up expecting everything to be cut and dried by the time you get to the last page.

For years, witch and antiques dealer Cosmo Saville has been trying to locate the Grimorium Primus, the first and most powerful of the Five Grimoires and an important family heirloom. When he receives a message from business rival Seamus Reitherman telling him he has the Grimorium in his possession, Cosmo goes to meet him at his store late one evening – only to find the man lying dead in a pool of blood. Panicked, Cosmo doesn’t have time to do much more than register that Seamus has been murdered (there’s a double-edged knife sticking out of his back) and notice the beginnings of a sacred symbol on the floor in yellow chalk above Seamus’ head before flashing lights and sirens herald the arrival of the police.  He’s immediately arrested – and then recognised as the police commissioner’s fiancé.  He’s taken to the police station where series of phone-calls eventually leads to the arrival of Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith (who has no idea that he’s engaged to a witch!), and to Cosmo’s release, although it’s clear that’s not the end of the matter.

As soon as he can, Cosmo goes to see his mother Estelle, Duchesse d’Abracadantès and next in line to be Crone – or Queen of the Witches – to tell her about the events of the previous night, only to have another bombshell dropped on him.  Like most of Cosmo’s friends, Estelle is not pleased about his plans to marry John, and when Cosmo expresses doubts as to whether the wedding will go ahead seeing as he’s a murder suspect and John is the commissioner of police, Estelle points out that John can’t change his mind because he’s under the power of a love spell – one which Estelle assumed Cosmo must have cast himself.

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

Afraid to Fly (Anchor Point #2) by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.

Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.

Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.

It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.

Rating: Narration: A; Content: B

The second book in L.A. Witt’s Anchor Point series of military romances, Afraid to Fly features two protagonists in their forties who have so many issues to deal with between them that at times, I couldn’t help wondering if there were too many.  But the fact that both men are a bit older than the norm for romance novels, are long-term military and have both seen active service made it more plausible that they’d have as much baggage as they do.

We met former pilot Commander Travis Wilson in the first book, Just Drive, and learned that he lives with chronic pain due to a back injury sustained in a crash some eight years earlier.  He’s been divorced for well over a decade and has a daughter of twenty who lives with him; since his divorce, he’s mostly had casual and short-term relationships (with both men and women) – apart from one relationship (with a man) ten years earlier which ended badly and has left him extremely cautious about falling in love again.

A former RAP (Remote Aircraft Pilot), Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser transferred to Adams Naval Base fairly recently.  Three years before, he was involved in a mission that left him badly traumatised and ultimately led to the breakdown of his marriage; he turned to drink and became violent (though not to his wife and kids) and unpredictable. His divorce was messy and his wife has custody of their three children, but he’s doing better and hopes that in the not too distant future he’ll be able to see his kids for more than the odd Skype chat and supervised visit.

Clint and Travis work in the same office (though in different departments) and both men have had a bit of a crush on each other for a while, even though neither has the faintest idea if the other is into men.  That changes on the night of the Navy Ball, when Clint arrives with his date – a guy – and when Travis, in casual conversation, mentions a somewhat disastrous date with an ex-Marine.

It’s clear early on that Travis and Clint have great chemistry, and not long after the ball, they start seeing each other.  The bulk of the story is thus taken up by their working out how to be together given their health and other issues as they grow closer emotionally and start to think in terms of a making a life together.  As I said before, they have a lot of problems to deal with, problems that are part of their everyday lives and have to be taken into account every step of the way. Travis’ chronic pain has caused the end of more than one relationship as his partners grew frustrated, bored or irritated (or all three) with the way his life had to revolve around his pain management and with the limitations imposed upon him by his condition when it came to sex.  Clint’s PTSD still gives him violent nightmares regularly, which makes him nervous of spending the night with anyone, and he’s also battling the guilt he feels every day for the hell he put his wife and kids through.  Bringing him down still further is that he feels almost as though he’s not ‘entitled’ to be traumatised seeing as he was sitting in an air-conditioned room, thousands of miles away from a war zone when the incident which ended his career as a RAP took place, but the real kicker is that the mission is still classified and he can’t talk about it to anyone, not even the chaplain or a therapist. (I have no idea if this actually happens – if it does, then it’s a disgrace.)  All these things make Travis and Clint cautious about revealing the true extent of their issues for fear of scaring each other off, but as they spend more time together, they start to open up and to realise that they may just have found the one person in the world who can understand what they are each going through and how they can support each other through it.

Nick J. Russo is rapidly becoming a favourite narrator – I can’t think why I haven’t listened to him before this year!  Once again, he delivers a strong performance all round, providing distinct vocal characterisations for the two principals and the handful of secondary characters in the story.  He’s very good at pinpointing the emotional heart of any given scene, and does an excellent job of communicating the ups and downs experienced by Travis and Clint as they each open up and start to merge their lives.

Afraid to Fly is an enjoyable story – which isn’t devoid of heat, even taking Travis’ difficulties into account – which addresses both men’s health conditions in a sympathetic way without sugar-coating them.  I have to say though, that there’s a false note struck fairly late on in the story which feels like an obvious contrivance just to throw in a bit of tension before the end.  Fortunately, that doesn’t disrupt things for too long, and although there are a few questions I’d have liked answered (such as – will Clint get to see his kids again?) I was left hopeful for the couple’s future.

Surrender of a Siren (Wanton Dairymaid #2) by Tessa Dare (audiobook) – Narrated by Gabrielle Baker

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.

To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?

Rating: Narration: B; Content: C

Originally published in 2009, Surrender of a Siren is the second book in Tessa Dare’s Wanton Dairymaid trilogy, and is her second published novel. It was released in audiobook format earlier this year, and although I’ve never listened to narrator Gabrielle Baker before, I decided to pick it up for review. In fact, the narration turned out to be the best thing about the listening experience; Ms. Baker’s delivery and speech patterns reminded me very much of Mary Jane Wells (who is narrating Ms. Dare’s current Girl Meets Duke series), and although I had issues with certain aspects of her performance, I enjoyed listening to her and will definitely seek out more of her narrations. When it comes to the story, however… well, it’s an early work and it shows, especially in terms of the plot and the characterisation of the heroine, who annoyed me for something like ninety percent of the book.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Heated Rivalry (Game Changers #2) by Rachel Reid

heated rivalry

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.

Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.

Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.

As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…

Rating: B+

Heated Rivalry is the second book in Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series set in the world of professional hockey. I haven’t read book one (Game Changer), but although characters from that book are mentioned in this one, it works perfectly well as a standalone.  Heated Rivalry is a kind-of-but-not-quite enemies-to-lovers story that takes place across the span of almost a decade as we follow the development of the relationship between two players from opposing teams. There are a few things about the novel that require the reader to suspend their disbelief a bit, but on the whole, this is a steamy and sometimes poignant love story that boasts a pair of engaging protagonists and plenty of snark.

In the prologue, we meet Shane Hollander, captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, as he faces off against Ilya Rozanov, his opposite number for the Voyageurs’ arch-rivals, the Boston Bears.  The on-and-off-the-ice rivalry between the two men has been ruthlessly stoked and fed by the media since before their rookie seasons years earlier; pitting the good-looking, easy-going, boy-next-door Shane against the big, brooding, ill-mannered Russian was like manna from heaven to media and fans alike, but while there’s no doubt that Rozanov can play dirty and deserves his reputation as the most hated man in Montreal, there’s more to their rivalry that meets the eye.  A lot more.

After the game that night, Shane heads off to the condo he owns but doesn’t live in for one of the intense but infrequent – hook-ups he’s had over the years with … you guessed it, Ilya Rozanov.  The explosive chemistry that ignited between them when they first met has never abated, and even though Shane knows it’s stupid and what’s at stake for both of them if they get caught; even though he’s angry at himself for continuing to crave Rozanov’s body, and even though he tells himself every time that this is the last time – he can’t stop.

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

Hither, Page (Page & Sommers #1) by Cat Sebastian

This title may be purchased from 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 set 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 those of the man he’s growing to care about.

Rating: B+

Cat Sebastian has become known for her queer historical romances set in the nineteenth century, so Hither, Page is a bit of a departure in that it is set in Post-WW2 England. The sleepy Cotswold village of Wychcomb St. Mary is the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else, is in each other’s business, and gossip abounds, but also where people pull together and look out for one another in times of trouble.  Hither, Page is billed as the first in the Page & Sommers series, and is a cosy mystery wherein a country doctor traumatised by war and a world-weary, rootless spy team up to work out who is responsible for a couple of murders.

Leo Page, a spy working for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence services is an orphan who was recruited more than a decade earlier by British Intelligence and has been getting his hands dirty on their behalf ever since. He has no family, no friends to speak of – those just aren’t compatible with the sort of life he leads – but when he’s sent to the village of Wychcomb St. Mary, ostensibly to look into the death of a woman who worked for a former army officer suspected of selling military secrets, he begins to find his priorities shifting, regardless of whether he wants them to or not.

Doctor James Sommers grew up in Wychcomb and returned there after the war, hoping to find refuge from the memories of the devastating memories that continue to haunt him.  His PTSD can hit unexpectedly, but for the most part he’s getting by, tending to the villagers and making a home among them, but the news of the death of one of their own disturbs him more than he cares to admit. After everything he’s seen and done, all he wants is a settled, orderly life, one where he’d take any and every reminder that people were capable of something other than reducing one another to piles of meat.

The mystery in the book is well done and moves at a good pace, but really, it’s secondary to the characters, a motley crew of quirky, well-rounded individuals who have been affected by the war in some way, from Marston a former patient of James’, who now lives in an old gamekeeper’s cottage and keeps himself to himself to the Misses Pickering and Delacourt, a pair of elderly spinsters who live on the outskirts of the village, to the vicar and his permanently harried wife, and the former evacuee Wendy, who was sent to the village to wait out the war but has never returned home.

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

Secrets of a Highland Warrior (Lochmore Legacy #4) by Nicole Locke

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The key to his past…

…lies with the enemy sharing his bed!

Part of The Lochmore Legacy: a Scottish castle through the ages! Rory Lochmore had expected to wage battle, to claim land and finally secure his standing within his clan… Instead he won a wife. A McCrieff wife. Their convenient marriage could unite the two long-feuding clans forever. But can a political alliance give way to a passion strong enough to stand the secrets of the past?

Rating: B

Secrets of a Highland Warrior is the fourth and final book in the Lochmore Legacy series, in which each instalment has been written by a different author and is set in a different time period.  Interestingly, the story began in the Victorian era (with His Convenient Highland Wedding) and then moved back through time so it’s here that readers finally discover the truth behind the centuries-old animosity between the Lochmore and McCrieff clans, the reason for the empty crypt and the origin of the antique brooch found by Flora in the first book.

It’s Spring of 1293 in the Scottish Highlands, and Rory, son of the Lochmore chief, is journeying to meet with the chief of clan McCrieff in the attempt to once and for all resolve the long-standing dispute over a tract of land granted to the Lochmores by the English king.  Anticipating a battle, Rory has ridden out with over a hundred of his men – only to meet with no opposition.  All is quiet. There’s no sign of the enemy.  Nothing bars the way on to McCrieff land or to the McCrieff stronghold –  surely it’s a trap?  With nothing but dishonour and his father’s wrath awaiting him should he return to Lochmore Castle empty-handed, Rory decides to proceed with caution, taking with him his closest friend and right-hand man, Paiden, and a few of his most trusted men.  His uneasiness grows the closer they get to the McCrieff stronghold, and only increases when they are met by an imposing man – not the clan chief – who invites Rory and his men to eat at the McCrieff table.

Alisa is the daughter of Frederick – the man who greeted Rory – the Tanist of the clan.  With their chief sick and dying of a mysterious complaint, the Tanist (the heir apparent) has stepped in to lead the clan, and given that many are still loyal to Hamish McCrieff, this is causing divisions that Frederick is at pains to keep hidden.  Ailsa is the clan’s healer and has been unable to identify what ails the chief.  All she can do is tend him which, for some reason she doesn’t understand and cannot question, he has decreed she must do alone.  So it’s rare for her to have a moment to herself, but she manages to slip out to observe her father meeting with the Lochmores and is struck by the aura of power and dominance radiating from the man who is obviously their leader.  When their eyes meet, her heart skips a beat – and when she learns his name, it brings back the memory of an old fable told to her by a dying woman many years ago, the tale of a baby named Rory born during the time of the Great Feud between the clans.

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