The Promise (Lost in New York #2) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

A promise made:

When Ezra Green sits next to Monroe Friedman in their high school English class, friendship blooms into first love, and even Ezra moving to California won’t keep them apart. Ezra promises Roe that once he finishes college, he’ll come home and the two will be together. In the meantime they’ll write and keep in touch. Nothing has to change.

A promise broken:

After months of unanswered letters, Roe makes one final attempt to contact Ezra with disastrous results. Ezra will never be his and he needs to move on.

Now, more than 20 years later, Ezra has come home. He doesn’t know why Roe stopped writing, but he’s determined to find out. But Roe won’t talk to him and Ezra doesn’t understand why. After all, Roe is the one who cut off contact. Isn’t he?

The promise of what is meant to be:

When Roe’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, the past becomes the present, and Ezra comes up with a plan. Pretending to be together to make an old lady happy should be no big deal, but after an unexpected explosive night together, decades-old secrets and lies are exposed, shattering Roe’s control and Ezra’s heart. Is first love only a dream and a promise merely words, or are Ezra and Roe meant to last a lifetime?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Having very much enjoyed Fool for Love, book one in Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series, I quickly jumped into book two, The Promise, a second-chance romance featuring Monroe Friedman, who runs the support group where Nate and Presley met in book one. We catch up with them briefly, and some of the other secondary characters have featured in other books by this author, but The Promise works perfectly well as a standalone.

Monroe – Roe – and Ezra Green were childhood sweethearts who were separated when Ezra’s parents moved their family from New York City to California when Ezra was seventeen. The guys were very much in love and knew they wanted to spend their lives together, so they promised each other that they would stay in touch, that Ezra would come back to New York after college, and then they’d begin their lives together. Things went okay at first and they exchanged letters regularly, but when, after a few months, Ezra stopped answering Roe’s letters, Roe scraped together the money to call him, only to be told that Ezra wasn’t interested in him anymore and that he’d started seeing other people. Needless to say, Roe was heartbroken at the discovery that the promises that meant so much to him meant nothing to Ezra.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fool for Love (Lost in New York #1) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Can there be a second chance for a first love?

When Presley Dawson falls in love with a married man, he knows it’s wrong but can’t help himself. For the first time, he’s wanted and desired and not so lonely. When his lover returns to his husband, Presley doesn’t worry. He always comes back — until he doesn’t.

Years later, Presley is stuck in neutral and lonelier than ever. He can’t forget his past and doesn’t know how to reach for his future. When his best friend suggests a support group to work through his grief, Presley agrees but without much hope; nothing has helped before. At the first meeting, he’s instantly attracted to Nate and struggles not to fall so far, so fast. He won’t be fooled again.

Nate Sherman is only attending a support group to get his family off his back. True, he hasn’t slept through the night in over three years, but he has reasons. Discovering your father — the man you love and idolize — is a liar and a cheater will do that. And dying in his girlfriend’s bed? No wonder Nate has trust issues.

Meeting Presley changes everything. Nate sees Presley’s sweet nature and good heart and when he sets boundaries for their relationship, Nate surprises himself by willingly going along. With Presley by his side, Nate is able to sleep again and find the trust that he’s lost in himself and other people. He can even fall in love.

But Presley is keeping a secret and if he tells Nate, it could be the end of everything between them. He knows it’s wrong to start another relationship based on a lie. But it isn’t a lie if you don’t say anything. Is it?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Felice Stevens’ three-part Lost in New York series opens with Fool for Love, a tender, poignant romance between two men who are struggling to deal with grief and loss. I really enjoyed both the story and Kale Williams’ narration, but I’ll say this now as I realise that for some it may be a deal-breaker: one of the leads was previously involved with a married man. There’s no cheating in this book, but that relationship does play a role in the story.

Presley Dawson is the owner of a successful New York antiques store, but for the past six years, he’s been stuck in a kind of limbo. When he was much younger and newly bereaved, he was floundering under the weight of grief and of being responsible for the business he’d inherited following the deaths of his parents. He was lost and lonely, until he met a man who made him feel wanted and desired – and he tumbled into love with him. They were together for a few years – until Presley discovered Jared was married and broke things off. But months later, when Jared reached out to him, telling Press how lonely he was and how much he missed him, Press took him back and they started seeing each other again – until shortly afterwards, when Jared was killed in a car accident.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All or Nothing (Together #3) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A past he couldn’t forget.

Adam Barton is living his dream of working as a firefighter in his small Texas town, but a tragedy from his youth continues to haunt him. He decides New York City is the perfect place to start a new life and joins the FDNY, living and loving his own way – no strings and nothing personal. Until he catches sight of Rico Estevez, the sexy chef with the mysterious smile who rocks his world. After one explosive night together, Adam craves another…and then another. The more he and Rico are together, the more Adam wants him.

A future he never imagined.

Rico Estevez is living a lie. For years he’s hidden his sexuality, afraid to hurt the career of his politically ambitious father. He’s the perfect American – the best schools, top of his class, and most importantly to his father, a successful businessman. Who needs a boyfriend when sex is so easy to find? Starting a torrid love affair with Adam Barton isn’t a problem; neither is looking toward forever. But Rico’s father is about to get the chance of a lifetime, and Rico feels forced to play by the rules.

Rules are made to be broken.

Adam proves more unforgettable than Rico ever imagines, but he gives in to family pressures above personal desires. When a fire reunites them, both men discover their passion for each other hasn’t died; rather, it’s stronger than ever. Want turns to need and something even more dangerous to their hearts – love. Adam and Rico know if they want to have it all, they can let no one and nothing stand in their way of a life together.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

The third title in Felice Stevens’ Brooklyn-set Together series, All or Nothing is a sexy/sweet and emotional character-driven romance between firefighter and Texas-transplant Adam Barton and Rico Estevez, chef and owner of a growing catering business. It’s a simple story on a familiar premise, but the characters are well-rounded and engaging, and their romance is heartfelt, with just the right amount of angsty goodness.

Adam and Rico first set eyes on each other in book one, Learning to Love, when Adam was part of the firefighting team who attended a fire at the local synagogue. Rico hasn’t been able to get Adam out of his mind since, impressed by the courageousness of his dash into the burning building – and by his broad shoulders, red hair and piercing blue eyes. Rico knows that those All-American-Boy good looks are bad news; Adam has boyfriend material written all over him and Rico doesn’t do relationships. So he’s tried desperately to avoid the guy, even going so far as to hide in his office whenever Adam comes into the store to pick up something for lunch – until the day he’s not fast enough to get away, and Adam asks him out for a drink.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Ghost and Charlie Muir by Felice Stevens

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Bad enough the big old house Charlie Muir inherits is next door to Ian Gregg, the most gorgeous guy he’s ever seen—it also happens to be occupied by Rachel, the ghost who keeps running off his dates. It’s impossible to get any loving when the bed starts shaking…and not because you’re having fun in it.

When Ian helps Charlie search for the source of strange noises in his house, they stumble upon a stack of photographs hiding century-old secrets. Curious of the friendship between the two men pictured, Charlie and Ian set off to solve the mystery of their relationship. With the help of the meddling ghost, a magical mirror, and a way too Smart TV, they find answers…and more.

And as things heat up between Charlie and Ian, they begin to wonder if Rachel’s meddling has gone too far.

Doesn’t Rachel know Ian is straight?
Or is he?
That kiss they shared the other night sure didn’t seem like it.
Or the one after that…

Rating: C+

I’ve enjoyed a number of books by Felice Stevens, and when I saw she was writing something a bit different – a love story with a paranormal twist – I was intrigued and eager to read it. The Ghost and Charlie Muir is a cute and tender standalone romance, in which our protagonists are helped along the road to love by a (mostly) friendly spirit. The title is clearly a nod to the well-known film about the ghost of a cantankerous sea-captain who falls in love with his human ‘hauntee’, but the similarities don’t go much beyond the title and the inclusion of a ghost on a mission.

Charlie Muir grew up in the foster system, so he’s surprised to discover that he’s inherited a house from a great-great aunt. His hasn’t been an easy life – moved from home to home he was never able to put down roots or make friends, being openly gay meant he was often bullied and his adult relationships haven’t been stellar either. He’s learned the hard way not to trust and to expect the worst.

His neighbour, Ian Gregg, works as an electrician and contractor, but he also used to look after the garden of the house next door. Since Miss Muir’s death two years earlier, the place has been closed up and the garden left to go a bit wild, but he hopes that whoever has just moved in will take care of the beautiful trees and flowers he’s inherited. He’s working in his own garden when his new neighbour introduces himself and offers Ian a drink – and Ian is caught unawares by a sense of familiarity… which makes no sense, as they’ve never met before.

Also making no sense is the prickle of attraction that sizzles through him when their hands touch in a simple greeting, or the way Charlie appears to be surrounded by a strange golden glow… Ian puts it all down to his still being hungover from the night before.

As they talk, Charlie mentions that something weird happened the other day when he brought a guy home. He tells Ian how the bedroom lights started flickering on and off, the chandelier above the bed started swinging back and forth and when the mirror fell off the wall, Charlie saw the face of a woman dressed in old-fashioned clothes staring disapprovingly back at him. Ian stops by to check out the wiring the next evening, and after doing that, offers to help Charlie to go through the stuff he’s found boxed up in the bedrooms. Exploring the attic and the upstairs further, they find a tiny, hidden room, and in it an old, locked box which, when they manage to open it, contains an Army death certificate for someone called Edward Robinson. Later that night, Charlie has a dream or vision of himself yet not himself – Edward – crawling through mud as screams and the sound of gunfire rend the air. And as it fades, images of Edward kissing another young man – Robert – followed by the appearance of the woman from the mirror, who informs him that he and Ian have much work to do.

Neither Charlie nor Ian can see what a decades-old story can possibly have to do with them, but the more they learn about Edward and Robert, the more intrigued they become and soon, they’re eager to find out what happened to them, two young men who were so clearly in love with each other but unable to do anything about it.

And as that love story progresses, so does the one between Charlie and Ian.  Ian has always been something of a ladies’ man and has never been attracted to men, but there’s something about Charlie that draws him in and makes him start to question things he’s always believed about himself, and to admit that there’s been something missing from his past relationships with women.  But something about Charlie just does it for him; and although it takes him a while to get his head around it, once he’s accepted that, he doesn’t freak out and is fully open to exploring the burgeoning feelings he has for Charlie.  The difficult part is going to be convincing Charlie that Ian really does want to be with him for more than sex;  Charlie has been there, done that, fallen for straight guys who only wanted some action on the side, and it always ended badly – sometimes even violently – for him.

Charlie and Ian are likeable characters, although Charlie is generally too passive, and his non-existent self-esteem has him coming across as overly needy and even, dare I say it, a bit whiny.  He’s sweet and he’s been through a lot, so his mass of insecurities make perfect sense, but his tendency to expect the worst was tiring at times, and there was one occasion I really wanted him to stop acting like a kicked puppy. Ian, on the other hand, is a live wire.  He’s outgoing and confident, but once he realises he’s all in for Charlie, is prepared to wait for him to catch up and realise that Ian wants to be with him for real.

On the downside though, the story is quite repetitive in places, and while I appreciate a slow burn, the trips to clubs and the ghostly interference and sabotaged dates were repetitive and felt like padding.  And although I really liked the idea of the two parallel love stories, the significance of Edward and Robert’s story is very obvious very quickly, and I didn’t understand why, if it was so important for Charlie and Ian to know their story, it was doled it out piecemeal rather than being told in one go. Okay, logically I know why not – if that had happened, that there would have been no book.  But once the ghost had their attention, whether it was by showing them visions of the past on the TV or in dreams, or by simply talking to them face-to-face, there was no reason I could see for it to be dragged out over several visits.

I liked the premise of the dual love story, but it didn’t quite work, and the ghostly shenanigans weren’t as spooky or as funny as I’d hoped.  The Ghost and Charlie Muir kept me entertained, but the repetitiveness and a rather wishy-washy main character keep it from earning a recommendation.