Rebel (415: Ink #1) by Rhys Ford (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The hardest thing a rebel can do isn’t standing up for something – it’s standing up for himself.

Life takes delight in stabbing Gus Scott in the back when he least expects it. After Gus spends years running from his past, present, and the dismal future every social worker predicted for him, karma delivers the one thing Gus could never – would never – turn his back on: a son from a one-night stand he’d had after a devastating breakup a few years ago.

Returning to San Francisco and to 415 Ink, his family’s tattoo shop, gave him the perfect shelter to battle his personal demons and get himself together…until the firefighter who’d broken him walked back into Gus’s life.

For Rey Montenegro, tattoo artist Gus Scott was an elusive brass ring, a glittering prize he hadn’t the strength or flexibility to hold on to. Severing his relationship with the mercurial tattoo artist hurt, but Gus hadn’t wanted the kind of domestic life Rey craved, leaving Rey with an aching chasm in his soul.

When Gus’s life and world starts to unravel, Rey helps him pick up the pieces, and Gus wonders if that forever Rey wants is more than just a dream.

Rating: Narration – C+ : Content – C

I’ve listened to a number of Rhys Ford’s novels recently, and I’ve enjoyed Tristan James’ work in other books of hers, so I was pleased to pick up Rebel, the first book in her 415: Ink series, for review. Ms. Ford is a prolific author who writes in a variety of genres – fantasy, paranormal, romantic suspense, for instance – so Rebel, which is more of an ensemble family drama, is a bit of a departure from the other stories of hers I’ve listened to. And I have to confess that I wasn’t as drawn in by it as I’d hoped to be. The major characters are engaging, and their backgrounds are intriguing and skilfully incorporated into the story, but the central romance is lacklustre; there’s minimal conflict which is resolved rather easily, and I just wasn’t feeling the chemistry between the central couple. Add to that some odd quirks in the narration, and Rebel proved ultimately to be a bit of a let-down.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else – someone Mark remembers as a too-young, too-hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets – and his heart.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B+

I wasn’t wild about the previous book in this series (Wheels Up) and wasn’t sure I was going to continue to read or listen to any more, but then I saw the blurb for Squared Away AND that Greg Boudreaux was narrating it, so I decided to give it a try.  And I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be a beautifully told story of love – romantic and familial – trust, and acceptance, featuring an unusual (in my reading/listening experience, that is) slow-burn romance as two men come to terms with a devastating event that changes their lives irrevocably.

Six years earlier, eighteen-year-old Isaiah James decided it was time to lose his v-card and knew exactly who he wanted to give it to.  He’s had a crush on his cousin Cal’s best friend for a while and decides it’s time to make his move on Navy SEAL medic Mark Whitley (who is the bride’s brother) at Cal and Danielle’s wedding.  Sadly for Isaiah, his evening didn’t turn out as expected and Mark turned him down; in the intervening six years, they’ve hardly seen each other and Isaiah suspects Mark has actually gone out of his way to avoid him.  But that can’t continue when Cal and Danielle are killed in an accident, leaving behind three young children.  Mark is deployed at an undisclosed location when the tragedy occurs, so by the time he gets the news and returns to the States, it’s to find Isaiah installed in the family home with the kids, clearly knowing what he’s doing.  This version of Isaiah is more mature, more confident than the one Mark remembers and he’s not quite sure what to make of him at first.  He certainly doesn’t like the way Isaiah seems to have taken control of everything, and Isaiah’s calm confidence with the kids unsettles Mark, who hardly knows them, and knows little about children in general.

Mark assumes that the kids will have been left to his care, as he’s their closest relative, so it’s a surprise to discover that both Cal and Danielle made wills and that things aren’t so cut and dried.  In one, Mark is named, and in the other, Isaiah; so they agree to continue as they are for the time being until such time as a legal decision can be made.  Mark knows that his job is probably not all that conducive to being granted custody of young children, as it takes him away from home for long periods of time, but that’s a surmountable obstacle – once he has the children in his care, he can hire a good nanny.  What surprises him, however, is the ferocity with which Isaiah makes clear his desire to gain custody of baby Liam and his two pre-school age sisters.  As far as he’s concerned, the kids are family, and he’s not prepared to hand them off to someone else to bring up.

I loved this story, and the author has done a terrific job of showing what it’s like to be the parents of three very young children; they’re hard work and don’t conveniently disappear when the plot demands they do.  Isaiah is great with them and clearly adores them, while Mark doesn’t have the first clue of how to handle them.  In fact, he comes across as a bit of a dickhead in the first part of story, assuming he’ll get custody of the kids but leaving all the heavy lifting to Isaiah, and then being persuaded into a course of action that he knows isn’t right and will cause a major issue further down the line, but doing it anyway.

One of the joys of the story, though, is seeing Mark gradually unbend and adapt to his new situation.  He loves the kids, too, but hasn’t any experience of being around them, and he’s got a lot to learn.  But to his credit, once he realises that he’s not pulling his weight around the house, he mans up and starts to integrate into this small and rather special family unit.

The romance is sensual and beautifully developed, the fact that Mark is demisexual (or maybe grey ace) meaning that it focuses more on the emotional connection that develops between the two men, especially in the early stages, than a sexual one.  While Isaiah is the younger of the two, Mark is the least experienced; his sexual experiences so far have not been positive ones and he came away from them feeling guilty for disappointing his partner and not reacting in an expected way.  He’s given up hoping to find someone to ‘put up with him’, so he’s astonished at the ease with which Isaiah accepts his sexuality and is prepared to let Mark set the pace.  Ms. Albert does a superb job of conveying the complexity of Mark’s emotions and the way his feelings for Isaiah change and develop.

Books 1-4 in this series had four different narrators, so I was a bit surprised to see Greg Boudreaux’s name on the cover of this one… or maybe I wasn’t because, let’s face it, once Greg’s narrated one of your books, you’re ruined for anyone else 😉 (That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it! And even better, he’s narrating the next book, too!)  Of course he does a fantastic job with the narration, expertly characterising the principals (Isaiah’s soft tones contrasting nicely with Mark’s gruff, prickly ones) and skilfully realising Mark’s insecurity and uncertainty about his sexuality and his new role as a parent.  The various secondary characters (including those from previous books) are all clearly differentiated and easy to tell apart, his female voices are excellent and he does an especially good job with the two little girls, who sound age appropriate without being too high-pitched or squeaky.

Squared Away is a fairly angsty story, but is generally a ‘quiet’ book, focusing on the characters and their emotional journeys. In this case it’s about processing grief and learning to adapt in order to move forward, learning to trust, support and grow as a person and part of a couple and family.  I really enjoyed the story, and with Greg Boudreaux delivering another wonderfully insightful, nuanced performance, it’s an audiobook I can recommend without reservation.

Infamous (Famous #2) by Jenny Holiday (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Fell

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

All that up-and-coming musician Jesse Jamison has ever wanted is to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a gossip website nearly catches him kissing someone who isn’t his famous girlfriend – and also isn’t a girl – he considers the near miss a wake-up call. There’s a lot riding on his image as the super-straight rocker, and if he wants to realize his dreams, he’ll need to toe the line. Luckily, he’s into women too. Problem solved.

After a decade pretending to be his ex’s roommate, pediatrician Hunter Wyatt is done hiding. He might not know how to date in the Grindr world, how to make friends in a strange city, or whether his new job in Toronto is a mistake. But he does know that no one is worth the closet. Not even the world’s sexiest rock star.

As Jesse’s charity work at Hunter’s hospital brings the two closer together, a bromance develops. Soon, Hunter is all Jesse can think about. But when it comes down to a choice between Hunter and his career, he’s not sure he’s brave enough to follow his heart.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – A

Rock Star romances really aren’t my bag and that, together with the unappealing front cover of this one, would have been enough to make me pass on Jenny Holiday’s Infamous without a second glance. BUT. One of my fellow AAR reviewers absolutely raved about the book when it came out towards the end of 2017, so when I stumbled across it at Audible, I thought I’d give it a go. And I’m SO glad I did, because it’s wonderful; sweet, sexy and gorgeously romantic, featuring two strongly drawn, attractive principals, a colourful secondary cast and the sort of HEA that is guaranteed to give the listener a serious case of the warm fuzzies and all the feels. Narrator Michael Fell is new-to-me, so I’ll admit to a little trepidation, but I needn’t have worried – he delivers a strong performance that was sufficiently engaging as to enable me to get past the few minor problems.

All Jesse Jamison has ever wanted to do is make music. Well, that and be on the front cover of Rolling Stone – and he and his band, Jesse and the Joyride are steadily making a name for themselves. Unfortunately however, while Jesse is hot, charismatic and extremely talented, he’s also something of a loose cannon, and his latest PR disaster – being photographed kissing someone other than his popular supermodel girlfriend – is the last straw for his manager, who promptly dumps Jesse and the band. Jesse has just boarded the train that will take him home to Toronto from Montréal, where he’s been visiting his sister and his nephew, when he sees the photo online and gets the bad news. He promptly decides to commiserate by consuming as much of the refreshment cart’s alcohol as possible, and invites the attractive man with whom he’s been chatting to join him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Making Up (London Celebrities #3) by Lucy Parker

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Once upon a time, circus artist Trix Lane was the best around. Her spark vanished with her confidence, though, and reclaiming either has proved…difficult. So when the star of The Festival of Masks is nixed and Trix is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight, it’s exactly the push she needs. But the joy over her sudden elevation in status is cut short by a new hire on the makeup team.

Leo Magasiva: disgraced wizard of special effects. He of the beautiful voice and impressive beard. Complete dickhead and—in an unexpected twist—an enragingly good kisser.

To Leo, something about Trix is…different. Lovely. Beautiful, even though the pint-size, pink-haired former bane of his existence still spends most of her waking hours working to annoy him. They’ve barely been able to spend two minutes together for years, and now he can’t get enough of her. On stage. At home. In his bed.

When it comes to commitment, Trix has been there, done that, never wants to do it again. Leo’s this close to the job of a lifetime, which would take him away from London—and from Trix. Their past is a constant barrier between them.

It seems hopeless.

Utterly impossible.

And yet…

Rating: B+

Lucy Parker is pretty much the only author of contemporary romance whose books are a must-read for me, and I suspect that there are many, many readers out there in Romancelandia who, like me, have been eagerly awaiting Making Up, the third book in her London Celebritiesseries.  Set in the world of London’s West End, the stories take place amid the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd, the backstage backstabbing, the gossip, rivalry and intense camaraderie of theatre companies mounting high-status, high profile productions.  Ms. Parker completely nails the London setting and the sheer amount of graft from all involved required to mount a commercially successful West End production; her characters work hard, play hard and show readers that not all is glitz and glamour behind the footlights.

So… what you want to know is – was Making Up worth waiting for?   Absolutely.  Is it as good as Act Like It and Pretty Face?  Weeeeeell…  not quite.  Don’t get me wrong – it has all the ingredients that made the other books in this series such great reads.  The two principals are appealing, the dialogue sparkles, the banter zings back and forth and the romance is well-done… but it lacks the emotional depth of its predecessor which, for my money, is the strongest of the series.

Towards the end of that book, Trix Lane, best friend of the heroine, Lily, was just emerging from an emotionally abusive relationship with a guy who had gradually been separating her from her friends, belittling her profession and eroding her self-esteem.  Fortunately, Trix managed to extricate herself before things got worse, but it’s left some big emotional scars and serious dents in her self-confidence.

At the beginning of Making Up, the lead aerial performer in Festival of Masks – an odd mix of carnival, rock concert and dark fairy tale with a bit of smut thrown in for good measure –  is hospitalised after an accident on-stage.  A combination of circumstances conspires to catapult Trix into the limelight to take over the role at the next performance and for the foreseeable future.  But Trix – who would in the past have jumped at the chance to get out there and show what she’s made of – is terrified.  It doesn’t help that the stage manager is a prick who never has a kind word or word of praise for anyone, but Trix knows the problem goes deeper than that.  She is fully aware that this newly found lack of assurance is a hangover from her relationship with Dan St. James; somehow his backhanded compliments and subtle and not-so-subtle digs and jibes insidiously wormed their way into her psyche and they’re hard to shake off.

Leo Magasiva has known Trix on and off for years, ever since they were at school.  They had been good friends once, but a nasty, unguarded comment from Leo, followed by Trix’s departure for a posh boarding-school put paid to their friendship, and they’ve been at daggers drawn ever since.  Somehow, though, they have never been able to completely avoid each other, running into one another at various events and gatherings over the years, and taking advantage of the opportunity to indulge in a game of verbal one-upmanship.

A talented and widely respected make-up artist, Leo’s career has taken a nose-dive courtesy of an actor who failed to disclose his skin allergies.  Which is how come Leo is prepared to take a short-term gig in the West End; he can lie low for a bit and also get ready for a major make-up and special effects competition being held in London which he’s hoping might open doors for him in the movie industry.

As soon as Trix and Leo set eyes on each other, old wounds are reopened and old hurts resurrected.  Leo isn’t thrilled about working in close proximity with Trix, and she’s openly hostile to him while she’s friendly with her cast-mates, and one guy in particular.  Leo immediately labels her as a fake and a flirt, although it’s very clear that his antagonism is rooted in jealousy and something else that relates to their past.  Fortunately, however, the author doesn’t string out the issues that lie between them for too long and the misunderstandings that led to the end of their youthful friendship are cleared up well before the half-way point.  The sexual tension that has been simmering between them since their first scene (and for the past decade!) finally boils over, but it’s clear that keeping things casual is going to be difficult for both of them and Trix, especially, is terrified.  Insecurites continue to plague her about her professional ability, and the thought of trusting a man again, no matter that she knows Leo is nothing like her ex… it’s all too much and she’s finding it hard to cope.

Fortunately for Trix, Leo is an amazing guy.  He’s generous of spirit, insightful and incredibly supportive, knowing when to push and when to hold back, watching out for Trix even as he’s worrying over his younger sister who, for most of the book is a total  bitch and is clearly unhappy about something but won’t open up to him.   He refuses to allow Trix to lose sight of who she really is – “You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met” – or to give up on herself or on them.

There are many things to enjoy about the story, not least of which is the fact that Leo and Trix come across as adults who have real conversations dealing with complex issues and emotions.  Their banter is witty and perceptive; Ms. Parker has a way of using verbal sparring between characters to illuminate their weaknesses as well as their strengths and while the level of snark varies from the gentle to the punishing, it’s never downright nasty.  The secondary characters are well-drawn and the backstage camaraderie is the perfect mixture of heartfelt and cynical; Trix and Leo are talented people, both ambitious, dedicated to – and supportive of – their careers, and the overlying message of the book is one we can all identify with, the need to find happiness where we may, amid “life in all its occasional shittiness.”

While Making Up doesn’t quite rise to the heights of the previous books in the London Celebritiesseries, it’s nonetheless an extremely entertaining and enjoyable novel and one I’m more than happy to recommend.  Funny, sexy, poignant, warm, intelligent – and I haven’t even mentioned the cute baby hedgehog yet – it’s the perfect summer read.

TBR Challenge: Waking Up Married by Mira Lynn Kelly

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Her first thought: “Who are you?”

It’s the morning after her cousin’s bachelorette party in Vegas and Megan Scott wakes up with the mother of all hangovers. Even worse, she’s in a stranger’s penthouse having woken up with something else as well – a funny, arrogant, sexy…husband!

Up until now, finding even a boyfriend had seemed impossible – been there, got the broken heart, sworn off men for good. Then a few martinis with Carter…no, Connor Reed and she’s gone from first meet to marriage in one night!

Megan wants a lawyer. But Connor’s shocking bombshell?

“I don’t want a divorce.”

Rating: C+

Scrolling through my Kindle to find a contemporary romance to read for this month’s prompt, I stumbled upon Mira Lyn Kelly’s Waking Up Married, one of the titles in Harlequin’s short-lived Kiss line (which is published as Mills & Boon Modern Tempted in the UK).  I’ve read a couple of the author’s more recent titles and enjoyed them – funny, sexy and sweet, they’re written with a secure but deft hand and boast attractive principals and a strong supporting cast.  I went into this one hoping for more of the same and found it, for the most part, but the story as a whole is rather let down by the hero who spends most of the novel trying to persuade the heroine into doing something she isn’t sure she wants to do.

Megan Scott is in Vegas with a group of (very bitchy) girlfriends, and they’re out partying before being bridesmaids at the wedding of one of their number the next day.  Megan has decided that she doesn’t want or need a man – she has never fallen in love with one and doesn’t think she is capable of it – instead, she intends to fulfil her desire for motherhood by a visit to the local sperm bank.

Connor Reed is surprised – in a good way – when the gorgeous woman he’d noticed earlier as he’d walked by her table approaches him and asks him if he’ll walk her out of the bar.  Her friends have been egging her on all night, and she won’t hear the end of it if she leaves the bar alone.  It’s an odd request, but he agrees, and he and Megan end up spending the next few hours together, during which they really do ‘click’; Megan tells Connor a bit about her seeming inability to fall in love, which she puts down to the fact that her mother has been married seven times (and had boyfriends in between) and having no desire to follow the path of falling in love and being repeatedly left.  As the night progresses,  Connor becomes more and more convinced that Megan wants the same things from life that he does.  Of course, they take in more than a few more drinks along the way, which is how Megan ends up with her head stuck down the great white telephone the next morning with the hangover from hell – and discovers she’s now Mrs. Reed.

In the spirit of ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, she tells her new husband they made a horrendous mistake and that they should start divorce proceedings immediately – and is stunned when Connor tells her he wants their marriage to stand.  Megan can’t believe what she’s hearing, but Connor persuades her to hear him out over breakfast.  From what Megan told him the previous night, it seems she wants the same things from a relationship that he does:

“All the vital components that make a relationship successful, without any of the emotional messiness to drag it down. It’s about respect, caring and commitment. Shared goals and compatible priorities. It’s about treating a marriage like a partnership instead of some romantic fantasy. It’s about two people liking each other.”

– and he’s one hundred percent there for that sort of marriage.

Even though Megan has decided she’s probably never going to find ‘the one’, a marriage like the one Connor is suggesting sounds terribly calculating, and she’s not sure it’s what she wants for the rest of her life.  But she agrees to a three month trial – although with no sex allowed – and moves into Connor’s house.

One of the things I liked straight away about Waking Up Married is that the ‘Oh no – we got drunk, got married and must get a divorce as quickly as possible’ trope doesn’t quite pan out that way, because while Megan and Connor did get married while drunk, Connor knew exactly what they were doing when they walked down the aisle.  The trouble is though, that I wasn’t wild about the idea that he was aware of what they were doing while Megan wasn’t; she can’t even remember saying her vows, or much of what Connor told her the previous night.  And while Connor is devastatingly handsome and extremely charming, he’s also incredibly manipulative; for the majority of the book, he’s doing his damnedest to convince Megan that what he wants is what she wants, too, which he does by being Mr. Reasonable and Mr. Unflappable, even when Megan tries everything she can think of to rile him or get him to give up – which seemed a bit mean considering she had actually agreed to give him and their marriage a chance to work out. Neither of them covers themselves in glory here, but fortunately, this stalemate isn’t allowed to continue and things start to look up – until Connor turns into an idiot not far from the end and only manages to turn things around in the last page or two.

Waking Up Married was enjoyable-  but ultimately forgettable – fluff.  I liked both protagonists, and the way Connor was so clueless as to the real state of his feelings about Megan was oddly sweet; he’s a nice blend of alpha and beta hero, a man who wants to protect and support his woman while also applauding her desire for independence.  On the downside, her being independent means less aggro for him and none of those nasty romantic luuurve cooties, so it’s not an entirely altruistic trait.  Ms. Kelly opts to give both characters a backstory that explains their reluctance to pursue love, but it’s very sketchy and could perhaps have been a little more developed; and I also have to admit that I wasn’t always comfortable with Connor’s more manipulative side.

I can’t recommend Waking Up Married without reservations, but if you enjoy rom-coms and are looking for an afternoon quickie (!), it might hit the spot.

How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives #1) by Alexis Hall (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Rules are made to be broken….

If England had yearbooks, I’d probably be “Arden St. Ives: Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.” So far, I haven’t. I’ve no idea what I’m doing at Oxford, no idea what I’m going to do next and, until a week ago, I had no idea who Caspian Hart was. Turns out, he’s brilliant, beautiful…oh yeah, and a billionaire.

It’s impossible not to be captivated by someone like that. But Caspian Hart makes his own rules. And he has a lot of them. About when I can be with him. What I can do with him. And when he’ll be through with me.

I’m good at doing what I’m told in the bedroom. The rest of the time, not so much. And now that Caspian’s shown me glimpses of the man behind the billionaire I know it’s him I want. Not his wealth, not his status. Him. Except that might be the one thing he doesn’t have the power to give me.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone who reads or listens regularly to romances that the Arden St. Ives trilogy (of which How to Bang a Billionaire is book one) is similar in its premise to E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy. A young student/wannabe journalist meets a hotter-than-hell billionaire and, after negotiating a contract, kinky sex ensues. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge of Fifty Shades as I’ve neither read nor listened to any of the books, but that at least means I can make an assessment of HTBAB based purely on my reaction to the story and overall enjoyment of both it and the narration. Which, I’ll say now, is outstanding.

Twenty-year-old Arden St. Ives is in his third year reading English at Oxford. He’s taken the place – at the end of a phone line – of a sick friend in a telethon to raise funds for (the fictional) St. Sebastian’s College, but isn’t having a lot of luck with the list of college alumni he’s been given to cold-call. Remembering advice he’d been given about putting a smile in his voice, he dials the next number and this time, manages to get out more than just his name before the person at the other end hangs up. In fact, he ends up having an actual conversation with Caspian Hart, whom Arden is somewhat shocked to realise (from looking at his cheat-sheet) is a billionaire. Several times over. Who also has a sexy voice, a gently flirtatious manner and who – unexpectedly – takes the time to have a proper conversation, at the end of which Arden remembers to invite him to the gala dinner being held in a few weeks’ time. He’s not surprised when Caspian doesn’t commit – billions don’t make themselves after all – which is why he’s knocked sideways when he’s getting ready for the dinner and is told that there’s a Mr. Hart waiting for him downstairs.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Tinsel Fish (Tyack & Frayne #2) by Harper Fox (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Gilbert

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Christmas in a Cornish seaside town, bright lights, and a hot new romance to ward off the winter storms…what could be finer? But Gideon and Lee’s first festive season together is shockingly interrupted when Lee tries to rid a client’s home of a malevolent presence. The ritual goes wrong, and in its aftermath Lee is strangely altered.

As well as dealing with the changes in his lover, Gideon has a sinister thread to follow, linking the haunted house with disappearances among the homeless people of Falmouth. Can love withstand what looks like a case of possession?

As the darkest night of the year comes down, Gideon finds himself locked in a battle to restore his lover’s soul.

Rating: Narration – A: Content – A-

Tinsel Fish, the second book in Harper Fox’s Tyack and Frayne series, takes place shortly after the events of book one (Once Upon a Haunted Moor), and TV psychic Lee Tyack and Cornish bobby Gideon Frayne are a few weeks into the relationship they began in that book.

As Tinsel Fish opens, Gideon has taken some time off work and has gone to Falmouth to surprise Lee with a visit. He’s fairly sure of his welcome, but there’s a little niggle of apprehension at the back of his mind that wonders if perhaps he’s overstepped the line, considering he and Lee have never really spoken about taking things further than their current pattern of comfortable togetherness and spectacular sex. He’s on his way to Lee’s flat when he’s accosted by a homeless man; Gideon buys him something to eat while listening to his ramblings about how so many of the other homeless he’s known have just disappeared into thin air. Sadly, it’s the sort of story with which Gideon is only too familiar; the almost unremarked disappearances of the homeless, the nameless and the forgotten who end up as mere statistics in government reports.

Outside Lee’s door, Gideon is surprised to hear raised voices coming from inside – he thought Lee lived alone. After a thoroughly enthusiastic greeting, Lee explains he’d had the TV on with the volume up and asks Gideon if he will come to the show he’s doing that night in town. It’s not Gideon’s ‘thing’, Lee knows, but all the same, he’d like him to be there. Of course, Gideon agrees, and finds himself impressed by Lee’s stage presence and aura of quiet confidence. All is going swimmingly until Lee suddenly collapses as he’s talking to a woman about her missing daughter – and the show comes to an abrupt halt.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.