Undue Influence by Jenny Holiday (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Fell

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Second chances only come around once.

Eight years ago, Adam Elliot made the biggest mistake of his life. Now that mistake is coming back to haunt him. His family’s beloved vineyard has gone into foreclosure, and the new owner is the sister of the only man he’s ever loved – the man he dumped under pressure from family and friends who thought the match was beneath him.

When Freddy Wentworth, aka the bad boy of Bishop’s Glen, left town with a broken heart, he vowed never to return. But a recently widowed friend needs his help, so here he is. He’s a rich and famous celebrity chef now, though, so everyone can just eff right off.

But some things are easier said than done. Despite their attempts to resist each other, old love rekindles – and old wounds reopen. If they want to make things work the second time around, they’ll have to learn to set aside their pride – and prejudice.

Rating: Narration: B-; Content: B

I read and enjoyed Jenny Holiday’s Undue Influence when it came out last year, and having also enjoyed Michael Fell’s performance in Infamous, I was looking forward to listening to their next collaboration. The novel is a contemporary reworking of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set in the small town of Bishop’s Glen in upstate New York and in it, our parted lovers are Adam Elliot, the son of a wealthy family of winemakers, and town bad-boy Freddy Wentworth. Undue Influence can be enjoyed regardless of whether you’re familiar with the original; and if you are, you’ll enjoy spotting the key plot points and characters the author has carried over and how they’ve been adapted.

Adam Elliot is spending the evening at the family home on the Kellynch Estate for the final time. His father’s death five years earlier, followed by his mother and sister’s insistence on ignoring the worsening state of their finances and spending lavishly, has run their winery business into the ground, and now they’re broke and have been forced to sell up. But even now, the ladies continue to act as though nothing is wrong and are planning a prolonged stay with an old friend in the Hamptons. Adam, however, is perfectly happy to remain in Bishop’s Glen, even though leaving Kellynch is going to be a real wrench for him. He’s always had a strong affinity for the land, and that affinity is what’s kept him in Bishop’s Glen in spite of the constant nagging by his friend and mentor, Rusty Anderson, to leave town and make something of his life.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Rating: B+

Arctic Wild, book two in Annabeth Albert’s Frozen Hearts series, is a gently moving, slow-burn romance between two very different men who find themselves re-evaluating their lives following an almost fatal accident.  There are places where perhaps the pacing could have been a little faster and the focus a little sharper, but I really liked the way the romance developed and how the author explored the dynamics between the leads and the secondary characters/family members who also appear in the story.

Workaholic corporate lawyer Reuben Graham has been persuaded to take a long-overdue vacation with a couple of friends when a last minute change sees him heading off to Alaska on his own.  He’d much rather just have cancelled, but was pretty much guilted into going and anyway, he’s got plenty of work with him so when there’s no decent  internet connection he’ll just hunker down and read all that paperwork he’s got piled up.  With any luck, his guide will be some “grizzled old mountain man pilot”  who is disinclined to talk and will leave Reuben to work in peace.  But he’s out of luck in that department and is instead greeted by a gorgeously attractive, vivacious, younger (too young for him, anyway) man who definitely doesn’t seem as though he’s the strong silent type.

Pilot and tour guide Toby Kooly (whom we met briefly in the previous book, Arctic Sun) is very good at what he does. Personable, informative and fun, he genuinely enjoys making sure his clients are having a good time and doing whatever he can to help them make the most of what is generally a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   But on meeting Reuben Graham he instantly senses the man is going to prove something of a challenge; he obviously isn’t particularly enthusiastic about being there and seems resistant to enjoying himself.  And he presents another sort of challenge, too; older guys don’t normally do it for Toby, but something about this tall, distinguished silver fox – no, silver bear – with the broad shoulders and the commanding presence most definitely turns his crank. But hooking up with clients isn’t something he makes a habit of, so he pushes temptation aside and concentrates on doing his job, determined to win Reuben over and get him to enjoy himself.

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

Let There Be Light (Twin Hearts Duet #1) by A.M. Johnson (audiobook) – Narrated by Aaron Shedlock and Teddy Hamilton

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

His world was water and rhythm. Hard work and drive kept Royal O’Connell one step ahead of his competition. His spot on the swim team, keeping his scholarship, was the only plan that mattered.

His world was ebony and ivory. Natural talent and ambition set Camden Morgan apart from the other music majors. His dedication scored him a full ride.

Normally, their paths would have never crossed…but when Royal meets his best friend’s new roommate, his big plan and Camden’s controlled environment faces a variable that could destroy it all: attraction.

The world they live in had no room for error. That undeniable pull between them was dangerous, and neither one of them could’ve prepared for the choice they’d have to make.

Love isn’t always an easy road, and when everything they’ve worked for is on the line, they’ll have to decide if being together is worth the risk.

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

Even though HimUs and The Understatement of the Year are all on my favourites shelf, romances featuring college-age protagonists aren’t ones I normally pick up. But in the case of Let There Be Light by new-to-me author A.M. Johnson, the draw was twofold – 1.) Teddy Hamilton and 2.) as a classically trained musician myself, I’m interested in stories featuring characters who are musicians. Let There Be Light features two scholarship students – one a champion swimmer, the other a virtuoso pianist – in a charming coming-of-age/coming-out story.

It’s a very low-drama tale that relies more on internal conflicts and issues to drive it forward, and I admit that had I read it, I may have decided it was too slow-moving and not for me. Fortunately, the excellent narration by Teddy Hamilton and new-to-me narrator Aaron Shedlock kept me engaged, although I can’t deny that things dragged a little around the middle and early in the second half.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Is it really wrong to want to murder your boss?

Dylan has worked for Gabe for two years. Two long years of sarcastic comments. Two long years of insults, and having to redo the coffee pot four times in the mornings to meet his exacting standards.

Not surprisingly he has devoted a lot of time to increasingly inventive ways to murder Gabe. From stabbing him with a cake fork, to garrotting him with his expensive tie, Dylan has thought of everything.

However, a chance encounter opens his eyes to the attraction that has always lain between them, concealed by the layers of antipathy. There are only two problems – Gabe is still a bastard, and he makes wedding planners look like hardened pessimists.

But what happens when Dylan starts to see the real Gabe? What happens when he starts to fall in love with the warm, wary man that he sees glimpses of as the days pass?

Because Gabe is still the same commitment shy, cold man that he’s always been, or is he? Has Dylan had the same effect on Gabe, and has his solid gold rule of no commitment finally been broken? With his heart taken Dylan desperately needs to know, but will he get hurt trying to find the answers?

Rating: Narration: A; Content: A

Sometimes, you listen to the first few minutes of an audiobook and know you’re going to love it – which is exactly what happened to me with Lily Morton’s Rule Breaker, the first book in her Mixed Messages series. It’s yet another of those books friends have been telling me for ages that I really must read, and once again, audio has proved the perfect way for me to catch up – and Joel Leslie’s fantastic performance only makes me even more thankful to have experienced the story in this format.

Rule Breaker charts the development of the opposites-attract romance between high-powered lawyer Gabe Foster and his assistant Dylan Mitchell; and as soon as I heard Dylan’s opening lines, I knew I was in for just the sort of fun-filled snark-fest that is right up my alley.

I want to kill my boss.

It has become an absolute truth that a small portion of my time every day, is now taken over with creating increasingly inventive ways to murder him slowly. Take today for instance. Today I’m debating whether to hang him out of the tenth-floor window tied to the conference table, or disembowel him with the cake knife from the tea trolley. This is all done while taking diligent notes at the meeting he’s forced me to sit on in. Never let it be said that men can’t multitask.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Deeper Blue (Rules of Possession #2) by S.E. Harmon (audiobook) – Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A year ago, Kelly Cannon couldn’t imagine he’d end up with his formerly straight best friend. It’s hard to believe he can finally kiss Blue anytime he wants…as long as they’re in private. And there’s the rub. Despite Kelly’s promise to wait until Blue is ready to come out, he’s tired of sneaking around. The cracks in their relationship are starting to show, and there might not be enough Spackle in the world to fix them.

Britton “Blue” Montgomery may not be the physics brainiac his boyfriend is, but he’s not stupid. He knows Kelly isn’t completely happy, but he’s not ready to be the poster boy for bisexuals and gays in the NFL. He just wants to keep his head down, play the game he loves, and go home to the man he adores. Is that too much to ask?

With the truth slowly coming to the surface, Blue must make a choice. If it means losing Kelly, there’s no decision to make. He has to find enough courage to face the music and hope they’ll survive the fallout.

Man. Happily ever afters may not be just for Disney princesses, but they sure are a lot of work.

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

Note: There will be spoilers for the previous book in the Rules of Possession series in this review.

A Deeper Blue is the sequel to The Blueprint, an enjoyable friends-to-lovers, gay/bi-for-you story about hip young physics professor Kelly Cannon and his dearest friend, NFL star player Britton (Blue) Montgomery. Kelly had been in love with Blue for years, but believed Blue was straight and they were destined only to be friends… until Blue sensed his friend trying to distance himself from him and realised that whatever he felt for Kelly, it was something way beyond friendship.

Working their way through various trials, tribulations and misunderstandings, Kelly and Blue are a couple by the end of The Blueprint, although the intensely homophobic culture that prevails in professional sports, plus the media circus certain to ensue whenever Blue comes out as bisexual and in a relationship with a guy causes Kelly to suggest that Blue doesn’t do it right away. Blue was already planning how to break the news – he’d have to tell his coach, his team, his agent, his publicist so they can control the narrative – but Kelly freaked a bit, hating the idea of stepping straight into the spotlight without their actually having time to adjust to being a couple first.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dream (Skins #1) by Garrett Leigh (audiobook) – Narrated by Shaun Grindell

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

When unrequited love leaves Dylan Hart sleepless and nursing his wounds, instinct draws him to the one place he’s found mindless respite in the past – Lovato’s. It’s a place for every fantasy, where a night of insane NSA sex brings relief.

It should be a perfect escape, and for one magical night it seems that way, but then worlds collide, and reality bites when Dylan’s hookup desperately needs a friend. Surely Dylan can’t trust his instincts when friendship has bruised his heart so badly before?

The deck is stacked against former ballet dancer Angelo Giordano ever finding real love. At least visiting Lovato’s offers respite from a life defined by illness; a glimmer of light in the dull gray of his so-called life without dance. But then he encounters Dylan, who makes his heart pound once more with purpose.

Angelo’s mind is blown by this man, but the disease that ended his career won’t let him bask in new love. He’s drowning, and Dylan can’t save him while insecurities swamp them both. The only way to make it means confronting their demons. If Dylan can turn his back on the past, and Angelo can face his uncertain future, maybe they can chase their dreams together.

Rating: Narration: B-; Content: B

Garrett Leigh is another of those authors I’ve not managed to get around to reading yet, and once again I’m really pleased to see her novels being released in audio format so I can play catch up! Dream, the first book in the Skins series, is an angsty but deeply romantic story featuring two young men who are struggling to adapt to big changes in their lives – and not always dealing with them well.

Dylan Hart has been in love with his best friend Sam for years, even though he knows Sam isn’t into him “that way” – and he’s been (sort of) content to make a regular third in Sam’s relationship with his girlfriend, Eddie (their story is told in What Matters, although it’s not necessary to be familiar with it in order to enjoy this novel). As Dream opens, Dylan has finally admitted to himself that it isn’t enough for him, and that he needs to cut the ties if he’s to stand any chance of finding the sort of love they have.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Daily Grind (Takeover #4) by Anna Zabo (audiobook) – Narrated by Iggy Toma


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Brian Keppler, owner of Ground N’At, the coffee shop beneath SR Anderson Consulting, doesn’t have time for a relationship. His most recent girlfriend broke up with him because he’d become married to his shop, which is falling apart without his favorite barista, Justin. As he struggles to stay afloat, the arrival of handsome British high-tech whiz Robert Ancroft becomes another complication. Rob quickly becomes a fixture at the shop with his sharp wit and easy charm, and Brian soon finds himself looking forward more and more to Rob’s visits – to the point where his heart skips a beat when he walks in. But will Brian be able to come to terms with his previously unexplored sexual identity and find happiness now that he has a chance?

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: A-

Daily Grind, the fourth book in Anna Zabo’s Takeover series, is perhaps one of the more unusual romances I’ve listened to recently in that it takes a hard look at how the pressures of work – ones we often inflict upon ourselves – can make us lose sight of what’s really important, and the way such factors can affect our quality of life and relationships.

Brian Keppler owns the popular coffee shop Grounds N’at and is dedicated to providing the best tasting and best prepared coffee in Pittsburgh. Brian has owned the shop for almost a decade and he’s always been a bit of a workaholic – as can be affirmed by his small number of ex-girlfriends, all of whom cited Brian’s insistence on working all hours and putting his business before anything else as the reasons for their break-ups. Lately, however, things have been getting even more difficult; rising costs and staffing problems mean Brian is spending more time working than ever, and although he keeps telling himself it won’t always be like this, there’s no sign of a let up and things are looking bleak.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.