Quickie Reviews #5

I always mean to do these more regularly but… you know, life. Anyway, like many people right now, I’ve got a bit of extra time on my hands, so I’ve pulled together short reviews of a bunch of books and audiobooks I’ve read and listened to over the past few months but haven’t written full-length reviews for. If you’re looking for a read or listen to keep you company over the next few weeks, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here.


Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

Gio Valeri is a big-city police officer who’s been transferred to the small outback town of Richmond with his professional reputation in tatters. His transfer is a punishment, and Gio just wants to keep his head down and survive the next two years. No more mistakes. No more complications.

Except Gio isn’t counting on Jason Quinn.

Jason Quinn, officer in charge of Richmond Station, is a single dad struggling with balancing the demands of shift work with the challenges of raising his son. The last thing he needs is a new senior constable with a history of destroying other people’s careers. But, like it or not, Jason has to work with Gio.

In a remote two-man station hours away from the next town, Gio and Jason have to learn to trust and rely on each another. Close quarters and a growing attraction mean that the lines between professional and personal are blurring. And even in Richmond, being a copper can be dangerous enough without risking their hearts as well.

Rating: B

With two cops as leads, I’d thought this might be more of a mystery/suspense story, but it isn’t; rather it’s a fish-out-of-water tale as a disgraced big city cop relocates to a small rural community and discovers that policing there is very different to the sort of thing he’s used to. Lisa Henry evokes the small town/back of beyond atmosphere really well – although this town isn’t at all small really; Jason and Gio’s “beat” covers a massive area, but it doesn’t boast all that many inhabitants.

Amid the series of vignettes as to the various disputes the pair are called upon to work through is the relationship that gradually grows between them. They get off to a rocky start because of what Jason has heard about Gio’s reason for relocating (that he was an informant who got another officer dismissed from his job), but as they work together and get to know each other, Jason starts to wonder if that’s the whole story. (Of course, it isn’t).

Jason is a widower with a ten-year-old son, and is only just realising that he really needs to make proper childcare arrangements. Before, his two neighbours – a young couple with kids of their own – would always pick up the slack and were happy to help out when Jason had to answer a call at night or worked long shifts – but now they’ve moved away, he’s struggling to reconcile the demands of the job with his job as a father.

The slower pacing works and I enjoyed the book overall, although I would have liked a stronger romance. There’s a definite attraction between Jason (who is bi) and Gio, but a few pages before the end, Jason tells Gio he’s still in love with his dead wife (and he’s still wearing his wedding ring), which was unexpected and seemed a really odd move; and although they’re still together six months down the line (shown in the epilogue) it felt to me as though there was more to be said about their relationship. There are no ILYs – which is fine when I feel that the characters are committed to each other – and I don’t necessarily need the mushy stuff, but their emotional connection wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for by the end.

Even so, I’m giving this four stars because I really did like the story and the characters. I’m going to pick up the next book soon.


Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes

Narrated by Nick J. Russo

Nick Jorgensen is a quirky genius. He’s made a fortune in the competitive high-tech field with his quick mind and attention to detail. He believes in hard work and trusting his gut. And he believes in karma. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People are difficult, but numbers never lie. In the disastrous wake of a broken engagement to an investor’s daughter, Nick is more certain than ever he isn’t relationship material.

Wes Conrad owns a thriving winery in Napa Valley. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcome departure from his former career as a high-rolling businessman. Wes’s laid-back nature is laced with a fierceness that appeals to Nick. In spite of his best intention to steer clear of complications, Nick can’t fight his growing attraction to the sexy older man who seems to understand him. Even the broken parts he doesn’t get himself.

However, when Wes’s past collides with Nick’s present, both men will have to have to decide if they’re ready to lean into the ultimate fall.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Nick is a tech genius who doesn’t do well in social situations and frequently comes across as an arsehole; Wes is more than a decade older and considerably more chilled than Nick, but seems to just ‘get’ him – even the parts of himself Nick doesn’t fully understand. I liked the way their relationship developed; laid-back Wes is a great foil for Nick, who is sometimes driven to the point of obsession and oblivious to everything around him. There’s plenty of hot sex, but there’s an emotional connection, too -Nick has never clicked with anyone the way he has with Wes, and realises that for the first time ever, he’s developing feelings for someone that go beyond work or friendship.

The conflict comes fairly late in the book and although it seems a little contrived, it does actually fit with Nick’s character – he gets worked up and anxious easily and does tend to blurt the first thing that comes into his head, and the ‘black moment’ works because of it.

Nick J. Russo narrates and does a great job!


Setting the Hook by Andrew Grey

Narrated by Greg Tremblay

William Westmoreland escapes his unfulfilling Rhode Island existence by traveling to Florida twice a year and chartering Mike Jansen’s fishing boat to take him out on the Gulf. The crystal-blue water and tropical scenery isn’t the only view William enjoys, but he’s never made his move. A vacation romance just isn’t on his horizon.

Mike started his Apalachicola charter fishing service as a way to care for his daughter and mother, putting their safety and security ahead of the needs of his own heart. Denying his attraction becomes harder with each of William’s visits.

William and Mike’s latest fishing excursion starts with a beautiful day, but a hurricane’s erratic course changes everything, stranding William. As the wind and rain rage outside, the passion the two men have been trying to resist for years crashes over them. In the storm’s wake, it leaves both men yearning to prolong what they have found. But real life pulls William back to his obligations. Can they find a way to reduce the distance between them and discover a place where their souls can meet? The journey will require rough sailing, but the bright future at the end might be worth the choppy seas.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B

Sweet character-driven romance between a workaholic businessman, groomed by his parents to take over the family engineering firm, and the owner of the boat he charters a couple of times a year to go fishing.

A bad storm following William’s latest fishing trip leaves him stranded in Florida for a few days; Mike invites him to stay with him (he lives with his mother and ten-year-old daughter) and the nacent attraction they’ve both been feeling for years now becomes impossible to ignore or resist.

They’re from very different worlds, but no matter how strong the emotions growing between them, Mike’s life is in Florida and William’s is in Rhode Island. Yet the months apart after William’s last visit only prove to both of them that there’s something between them worth exploring, and both men have to decide how much they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to be together.

It’s nto going to win any prizes for originality, but Setting the Hook is an enjoyable story featuring likeable characters, and of course, Greg Tremblay’s narration was flawless.


Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely.

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Rating: B

Lovely and just what I needed right now.

Charlie Sutton is just twenty-five but is now the owner of the 2.58 million acre Sutton Station in the Northern Territory, Australia. He loves what he does, even though he knows he’s likely to spend his life alone; he’s gay and closeted, his late father having insisted that “no fairy” was ever going to be able to run Sutton Station and that it needed a “real man”. Yes, his father was an arsehole, but those words struck so deep that Charlie – although he’s doing a terrific job – can’t seem to see beyond them.

Enter Travis Craig, an agronomy student from Texas who has come to Sutton to see how things are done as part of an exchange programme. Travis is handsome, confident and, as quickly becomes clear to Charlie and his staff, knows his way around horses and cattle; he settles in quickly, becoming part of the team and establishing friendships with the others, but Charlie tells himself he must keep his distance.

There’s not a lot of angst in this one (a bit of very plausible drama in the second half worked well to ramp up the tension) and it’s mostly the story of Charlie learning to let go of his father’s bigotry and be his own man, and finally allowing himself to believe it’s possible for him to live his life with a loving partner by his side.

There are some great secondary characters (I loved Ma, who rules the kitchen with a rod of iron… or spatula, whatever) and the author’s descriptions of the Outback setting, the “red dirt”, the night skies, the sunsets are fabulous.

If you’re looking for a simple, well-written story that will transport you somewhere else for a few hours, this could be just what you’re after.


The Prince and his Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

Being a fierce predator – not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature – the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. 

As prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromising dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. 

The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard…

Grimmwolf

When the king of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. 

Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. 

When Owin was tasked with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B-

I wanted something short and sweet and this definitely fit the bill. The prince of the ocelot shifters has to team up with his bodyguard, a wolf shifter, to fulfil a quest set him by the king of all shifters… of course, they spar like cat and dog (!) and shenanigans ensure.

It’s not deep and the worldbuilding is minimal, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, especially in audio where Greg Boudreaux demonstrates once again that he’s a master of comic timing (and just about everything else when it comes to narration!)

Quick, fun and sexy – just what I was looking for, and I’ll probably pick up more audios in the series as they become available.


Sergeant Delicious by Annabeth Albert

Soon to be ex-marine Xavier has a bright future as a firefighter. But stationed far from home, he’s lonely and homesick for more than just his favorite foods. Thinking ahead to his homecoming, he responds to an ad seeking a date for a special gourmet dinner, but he doesn’t anticipate an immediate connection with the intriguing foodie who placed the ad.

Food writer Damien is looking for his big break, and reviewing an uber-exclusive secret restaurant may be exactly what he needs if he can score a date to go with him. He doesn’t expect to enjoy corresponding with Xavier quite so much, nor is he prepared for his powerful surge of lust for the hot marine.

However, Damien’s had more than his share of bad luck when it comes to romance, but Xavier is determined to win Damien over. Course-by-course, they fall deeper into like. When they finally give into their passion, sparks fly. But is it a flash in the pan or the recipe for lasting love?

Rating: B-

A sweet and sexy short story previously published in a charity anthology, Sergeant Delicious begins with soon-to-be demobbed Xavier answering an ad from “fun foodie guy” (a food writer) who wants someone to go with him to an upmarket dinner on Valentine’s day. The first part of this short story/novella shows the pair getting to know each other a bit via email, which makes the attraction they experience when they meet more believable. Both men are likeable and down-to-earth, and one of the things I really appreciate about novellas when they’re done well, is that the shorter page count doesn’t leave room for silly misunderstandings and other distracting plot points; and this is one of those that’s done well. The author doesn’t allow Damien’s hang-ups to get in the way (in fact, making good use of them! *wink*) and devotes all her page time to building the relationship between the leads.

A quick, fun (and did I mention sexy?) read.


Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price

Narrated by Gomez Pugh

There’s a new drug on the streets called Kick. The side effects are so brutal, most folks only try it once…unless they’re psychic. Then they do it until it kills them.

Psychic medium Victor Bayne is well acquainted with pharmaceuticals, from the Auracel that blocks his ghosts to the Seconal that offers him a blissful nights’ sleep. But he’s managed to steer clear of street drugs…so far.

Jacob Marks has a medicine cabinet filled with every over-the-counter remedy known to man, but none of them are doing much for his mood—and his long, fruitless days of combing through records at The Clinic are taking a heavy toll.
But their lackluster investigation does have one silver lining: a front row seat at The Clinic when the first Kick overdose comes in. And as scary as the drug might be, if it truly does augment psychic ability, the appeal is not lost on Vic.

Because the very first hit never killed anyone.

Where did Kick come from? Why is it so addictive? And why is everyone at The Clinic acting so darn shady? That’s what Vic intends to find out. And if he’s lucky, he can also expose a shadowy figure from Camp Hell.

Unfortunately, the demons of his pill addiction might prove just as deadly as his long-buried history. He thought he’d managed to ditch that pernicious habit. But what if it was only lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best time to rear its ugly head?

Rating: Narration: A; Content A-

Gah, I love this series so much, and it seems to get better and better! So much going on here besides the actual plot, about the investigation into a deadly psyactive drug (Kick) that is killing psychics. I’m loving Vic’s character growth, especially over the last few books as he’s finally realising what it’s like to work with people who respect him and is really gaining in confidence as a result. He still can’t quite believe it, and is still as endearingly self-deprecatingly shambolic as ever, but we – and Jacob of course – see it and appreciate it. And I like that we get to see Jacob’s more vulnerable side; he’s one of those people who, by virtue of his good looks, imposing physique, intelligence and charisma has come up against little in his life that he hasn’t been able to deal with, but that’s changing, and although he’s still very much the Jacob we all know and love, that extra dimension to him is great to see.

Vic and Jacob’s relationship continues to grow and their love for each other to deepen; they get to work with Zig and Carolyn again, and we get some closure for one of the characters who’s been around since book one; Jackie, the ghost who spasmodically haunted Vic’s old appartment. Her story is a tragic one, and the author does an amazing job in the scenes where Vic and Jacob find out the truth of what happened to her and then help her to move on – they’re incredibly poignant and Gomez Pugh is simply brilliant in them and captures every single drop of emotion.

On the subject of Mr. Pugh – his portrayal of Vic is so absolutely perfect that it’s easy to forget sometimes just how good he is at the rest of it. He can produce an amazing variety of character voices for what is, after eleven books, a large secondary cast, many of whom have appeared in several books throughout the series, and his inventiveness (and consistency) is remarkable.

And – whoa, that ending! When’s the next book out?!

The Backup Boyfriend (Boyfriend Chronicles #1) by River Jaymes

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Professionally, Dr. Alec Johnson has almost reached his goals. As this year’s recipient of a humanitarian award with his ex, Dr. Tyler Hall, Alec’s work with the homeless is about to be recognized. Unfortunately, his personal life sucks because now he has to attend several events alongside Tyler—with his ex’s new boyfriend in tow. In an attempt to lift his mood and break out of his rut, Alec purchases a motorcycle he has no idea how to start.

Dylan Booth doesn’t have time for Dr. Clueless and his fickle 1964 Harley, but the cocky mechanic can’t say no to the request for help. Having spent his teen years on the streets, and losing his best friend to HIV, Dylan decides teaching the do-gooder how to ride is the least he can do. But watching Alec flounder in his ex’s company throws Dylan into protector mode, and the confirmed hetero introduces himself as Alec’s new boyfriend.

The ex suspects Dylan is lying.

Alec claims Dylan’s plan is insane.

And Dylan’s not sure he can fake being gay.

But he’s a master bullshitter, and the phony PDA soon turns ultra-hot. Alec can’t afford to get attached, and Dylan’s learned everyone eventually leaves. Unfortunately, playing the backup boyfriend is starting to feel way too real…

Rating: B+

I went into The Backup Boyfriend expecting the sort of GFY story I’ve read before, where the gay character would fall for the (supposedly) straight one and the straight one would be in denial for a while and then struggling over the fact that he like-liked another guy – but The Backup Boyfriend  doesn’t really do that.  Instead, River Jaymes takes a couple of tropes out for a spin and turns them into something refreshingly different and heart-meltingly sweet.

Genius, doctor and humanitarian-award-winner  Alec Johnson is still reeling from his recent split from the man he’d thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with – and finding out his ex has shacked up with someone else less than two months after their break-up does nothing to help matters.  Hurt and miserable, Alec decides to buy himself a motorbike as a bit of a confidence booster and a kind of ‘getting-a-life-and-moving-on’ present to himself, but his new Harley is a bit temperamental, which is how come he ends up taking it to the garage run by friend-of-a-friend, Dylan Booth.

Dylan had actually advised “Dr. Clueless” against buying a vintage Harley and doesn’t really have the time to spare to work on it – but in the end he can’t turn down Alec’s request for help and ends up offering to spend a bit of time after work the following week showing him the basics.  The two men couldn’t be more different – Alec is highly educated but socially awkward; Dylan has lived on the streets and is super confident;  Alec is a one-man guy, and Dylan rarely hooks up with the same girl twice.  A friendship between them shouldn’t work… yet it does.  Dylan helps Alec with the bike, they take some long rides out together, and they start hanging out at home, too, enjoying each other’s company and surprised at how comfortable they are around one another.

The trouble starts when Alec’s ex, Tyler, turns up one day to collect the last of his stuff – with his new man in tow.  Dylan, who has a protective streak a mile wide, hates to see Alec upset and floundering and blurts out (to Alec’s horror) that he and Alec are sleeping together and having lots of fantastically adventurous sex. Tyler obviously doesn’t buy it, but asks if Alec will be bringing Dylan to the party their friend Noah (who is also good friends with Dylan on account of Dylan having been Noah’s late boyfriend’s best friend) is holding for them to celebrate their winning a prestigious humanitarian award for their work with the homeless at the clinic they set up and continue to run together.  Alec is cringing inside, but Dylan keeps the pretence going and says he’ll be there;  he can be the backup boyfriend – a convenient substitute for display purposes only –  no problem.

But that changes when a tipsy Alec makes a move on Dylan, who is surprised to find himself responding more than enthusiastically.  He’s never really thought much about his sexuality; he’s only ever had sex with women, but he’s not into labels and really doesn’t care – gay, bi, straight and every shade in between, he’s just himself… and certainly isn’t averse to hot, mind-blowing sex with someone he likes and feels comfortable with just because he’s a guy.

I’m a sucker for fake relationship stories and I really enjoyed this one.  The author develops the friendship between Dylan and Alec very well and shows how deeply they come to care for each other in a fairly short space of time.  Alec recognises he’s falling for Dylan, but Dylan steadfastly refuses to admit that he has feelings for Alec beyond friendship, so the conflict in this story isn’t Dylan freaking out when he realises he’s attracted to –and enjoys having sex with – another man, it’s that Dylan doesn’t do relationships and Alec is very much a relationship kinda guy.

Both characters are immensely likeable and the chemistry between them sizzles right from the start, but they’re both carrying emotional baggage they have to work through before they can start to really find their way as a couple.  Alec has spent much of his adult life trying to please his mother because he feels he owes it to her for the amount of support she’s given him over the years, so part of his journey is making it clear that she has to step back and let him make his own choices.  Dylan’s backstory is incredibly poignant and is uncovered slowly, each piece that’s revealed going a little further to explain his aversion to strong emotion and relationships.

The secondary characters are nicely rounded-out, and I appreciated that the author didn’t paint Tyler as a total git, even though he was the one who called a halt to his and Alec’s relationship.  Their snarky mutual friend Noah is frequently hilarious, even though there were times I wanted to tell him to back off and mind his own business, and Alec’s relationship with his mother is depicted really well.

River Jaymes strikes just the right balance in this story between the darker undertones and lighter moments.  The love scenes are steamy and really show the developing connection between the leads, and there’s plenty of humour and a great deal of warmth to be found here as well.  Funny, touching, sexy and sweet, The Backup Boyfriend  is a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone wanting a story with a bit of heft that doesn’t get bogged down in too much angst.

The Broken One (Corisi Billionaires #1) by Ruth Cardello (audiobook) – Narrated by Summer Morton and Brian Pallino

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Single mom Heather Ellis would do anything for her adopted daughter, Ava. Even post an online reward for anyone who found the girl’s lost stuffed animal. Who’d have guessed it’d be returned by a drop-dead-sexy man with such sadness in his eyes that she had to reach out to him? To Ava, he’s a hero. To Heather, he’s a fantasy that puts at risk the happy life she’s made for herself.

It’s been five years since billionaire developer Sebastian Romano lost his wife and unborn child in a tragic accident. Now he’s all business. No room for emotion. Until he stumbles across that damn stuffed wolf and the beautiful single mother looking for it. Is he ready to give love a second chance?

But there’s more to Sebastian, his family, and his past than Heather knows. More than even Sebastian knows. Will the life they’re building together be challenged when the truth is finally revealed?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C-

The Broken One is the first in Ruth Cardello’s Corisi Billionaires series, and I chose to listen to it mostly because I’d enjoyed listening to Brian Pallino in Avery Flynn’s Tomboy and wanted to listen to him again. Reviews of the book were mixed, but I’m pretty much all about the narrator, so I decided to give it a go; in the end, while the narration is excellent, the story was distinctly ‘meh’.

Having read the synopsis, I was surprised to see that none of the characters featured in the story were named “Corisi”. Which seemed odd, as that’s the series title. I was even more confused when I started listening, because the entire first chapter is about a little girl called Judy who has been told she has to re-do her school project – a family tree. According to the blurb, the main characters in this novel are called Sebastian, Heather and Ava; Judy talks to her Aunt Alethea and mentions Uncle Alessandro… but there’s no mention of anyone called Sebastian, Heather or Ava. I thought I’d requested the wrong book, or been sent a copy that had been marked with the wrong title! (It’s happened before). As the chapters progressed (Judy turns up again in the middle and then right at the end) it became clear that there’s an overarching plot that seems to do with Judy’s desire to find out her family’s secrets, but the framing device just didn’t work. Maybe it worked better in print, where it’s easier to flip pages or jump to the next chapter, but in audio it’s not so easy to do that; I didn’t know if, by skipping to the next chapter, I’d miss anything important (I wouldn’t have, as it turned out), so I had to stick with it until the story “proper” began in the next chapter.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Risk Taker (Mixed Messages #3) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Being in love with your best friend is hard.

Henry’s the odd man out. All his friends are settling down, and his reputation as the hook-up king of London seems more like a curse than a blessing, these days. Especially when it keeps photojournalist Ivo, his best friend and the brilliant man he’s loved since they were 15, at arm’s length. But that’s where Ivo wants him, right? Putting aside his feelings, Henry decides to give up casual sex and look for the real deal.

After all, he has no chance with Ivo. Or, does he?

Henry is everything to Ivo. Best friend, soul mate, the one person who has never let him down. The one person he is loyal to above everything and everyone. But Henry’s in a box marked best friend, and that’s where Ivo’s kept him for nearly 20 years, despite steadily falling in love with the gentle man. And besides, why would Henry want to date Ivo? Burned out and injured, he’s the walking embodiment of damaged.

Distance has helped Henry and Ivo keep a lid on their attraction, but when they find themselves in the same city for a change -Ivo hurt and needing assistance and Henry more than willing to provide it – the two best friends grow closer than ever, forcing a realization and a decision.

Risk their friendship for their hearts? Or can they have both?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Risk Taker is book three in Lily Morton’s Mixed Messages series, and in it, the author turns her focus to Henry Ashworth, who is Gabe’s (Rule Breaker) former college roommate and closest friend. Handsome, witty, clever Henry has appeared in both the previous books, coming across as someone who’s got his shit together – although his ability to offer wryly insightful relationship advice when his friends need a little nudge in the right direction is rather at odds with his penchant for casual sex in nightclub toilets. For years, he’s been content with a series of NSA hook-ups, but has lately started to realise that lifestyle isn’t working for him anymore and, having watched his close friends fall in love and settle down, decides it’s time he started looking for something a bit more long-term.

I’m going to find someone who wants me: Henry, the family lawyer who loves his dog, works hard and sometimes comes home late and knackered. Someone who will embrace the life I yearn for. Monogamy and a true partnership that works because the couple love each other.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Hard Pursuit (Delta Force Brotherhood #3) by Sheryl Nantus (audiobook) – Narrated by Rock Engle

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Trey Pierce has spent years helping the Brotherhood, using his computer skills to dig out secrets and help deliver justice. But there’s one mission he’s yet to finish – finding out who killed his best friend. A chance meeting with Ally Sheldon gives him a new lead, one that comes with some baggage.

Executive Ally Sheldon has to find her wayward brother if she wants to save her company. Pretending like nothing is wrong is getting to her. But when the sexy Trey is assigned to her to help her case, focusing on what’s most important is difficult.

Never in his life has Trey been more attracted to a woman, but she’s hiding something. And that something may just destroy them.

Rating: Narration: B-; Content: C+

Hard Pursuit is book three in the Delta Force Brotherhood series of romantic suspense novels by new-to-me author Sheryl Nantus, and although I haven’t read or listened to the other books, I was perfectly able to follow the story here, so it worked fine as a standalone. However, the series title, the cover, the book blurb, the ex-special forces hero – all of that led me to expect a romantic suspense novel complete with heart-pounding, fast moving action scenes and an intense romance developing under pressure… but that isn’t what I got. Rather, Hard Pursuit is the story of a young woman finally learning to step out of the shadows and start to live for herself, and a man driven by revenge learning to let it go and move on with his life. Neither of those are bad things – it’s just not what I was expecting – and the romantic chemistry between them is lukewarm at best.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

This title may be downloaded from Audible.

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancee was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid….

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions – unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there – irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late….

Rating: Narration – A-; Content: B+

Kate Clayborn arrived on the contemporary romance scene a couple of years ago and made a big splash with her Chance of a Lifetime trilogy which featured three friends who won the lottery. She’s followed up that success with Love Lettering, a gorgeous slow-burn romance featuring a pair of truly likeable characters who, while complete opposites nonetheless complement each other perfectly.

Meg Mackworth has made a name for herself as a calligrapher and hand-letterer, producing beautiful custom-made journals, planners and stationery for the small, boutique paperie owned and run by a friend. But recently, her work has gained a wider audience and she has become something of an internet celebrity; her Instagram “how to” videos get hundreds of thousands of hits, she’s more in demand than ever, and she’s about to move her business to the next level by pitching a new range of designs to a company that will produce and distribute her work far more widely. So things are going well and life is good. Except… it isn’t.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Parental Guidance (Ice Knights #1) by Avery Flynn (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Paige

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

It wasn’t me.
It was my team.
But as almost co-captain I raised my hand to fix it.
Never imagined they’d arrange a PR stunt to make me look like Mr. Right to someone my mom picks out on some new dating app.
Then my salvation walks into the restaurant.

Zara Ambrose.

The five-foot-nothing redhead with more freckles than inches that I convinced to go on five dates with me for all the world to see.
She’s got her own reasons for our set up–and her own rules.
But somewhere between the couples’ obstacle course, wrestling matches with her Great Dane, and fights over mashed potatoes, Zara went from means-to-an-end to something so much more.
What happens when you start to fall for the one girl you can’t have…on live TV?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

Having enjoyed Avery Flynn’s Tomboy last year, I wanted to try something else of hers so I picked up Parental Guidance, the first book in her Ice Knights series. We were introduced to the hockey team in Tomboy – that book’s hero, Zach Blackwood, was an Ice Knights’ defenceman – and here, we meet Caleb Stuckey, another Ice Knights player who needs to rehabilitate his public image. A video in which he’s seen NOT shutting down his team-mates when they start talking like a bunch of misogynistic arseholes goes viral, resulting in a chewing out from his coach, the team’s PR manager AND his mother (a famous junior hockey coach) – which is how he ends up agreeing to do something “…to change the narrative and give everyone something else to talk about besides what dickheads you all are. “

That something is a publicity stunt involving the Bramble dating app. The deal? He has to go on five dates with a woman his mum picks out for him; afterwards, he and his mum film a little post-date chat, his date and her mum do the same, and Bramble can use the videos in their publicity. After all, if, after the disastrous video, they can make Caleb dateable, they’ll be able to do the same for anyone. Right?

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.