Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. But as unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst – but who?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B-

I’m a relative newcomer to Josh Lanyon’s work, although I’ve enjoyed the few books of hers I’ve read or listened to and am definitely planning on reading and listening to more. Murder Takes the High Road is a new standalone romantic mystery set in Scotland, wherein our hero, California-based librarian Carter Matheson, is spending his holiday on a To Die For tour of the locations associated with the work of his favourite author. If you enjoy stories in which the author throws a subtle wink or three in your direction, then this is likely to appeal; Ms. Lanyon references many of the conventions and tropes found in genre fiction, name-dropping everything from classic mystery writers to Midsomer Murders and skilfully creates a Christie-like scenario culminating in a shocking murder at a remote Scottish castle. It’s low-angst, light-hearted fare, and the focus is definitely on the mystery – so anyone expecting something akin to the author’s normal brand of romantic suspense might be a bit disappointed. Murder Takes the High Road is more of a “cozy” mystery; it’s enjoyable, but lacks the steamy, fast-paced thrills I associate with the kind of m/m romantic suspense novels I’ve been listening to lately.

Carter Matheson definitely fits the definition of a superfan when it comes to British crime author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. There is only one To Die For tour each year and the highlight is the four nights spent on a remote Scottish island owned by the lady herself, where her superfans get to stay in her castle, spend time with her and talk to her about her work.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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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.

Preacher, Prophet, Beast (Tyack & Frayne #7) by Harper Fox (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Gilbert

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Lee would gladly trade all his psychic gifts for a chance at ordinary life with his husband and his little girl. Three years into their marriage, they’re settled in their new home – but the House of Joy can’t shield them from an oncoming threat with the power to uproot their whole world.

Lee can’t define it further, and even his beloved Gideon can’t unmask a monster with no face at all. Gideon is mired in problems and secrets of his own as he struggles to adjust to his new rank and the complexities of plainclothes police work with CID, and for once the devoted Tyack-Frayne partnership is failing to communicate.

Turbulent times in the world at large reach deep into the Bodmin heartland, and the village of Dark is without its guardian constable. More than Lee and Gideon can possibly know has been depending upon their rapport, and as the summer rises towards the longest day, a new and unfathomable kind of Beast is afoot on the moors….

Note: There are spoilers for earlier books in the Tyack & Frayne series in this review.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – B

Since reviewing Once Upon a Haunted Moor and Tinsel Fish, books one and two in Harper Fox’s series of romantic paranormal mysteries featuring Cornish bobby Gideon Frayne and TV psychic Lee Tyack, I’ve been gradually making my way through the rest of the series. Seven of the nine titles are available in audio (at time of writing), and having now reached book seven – Preacher, Prophet, Beast – I thought it was time to catch you all up on what’s been going on in that particularly mystical corner of Cornwall. Lee and Gideon have been together for three years, married for over two of them and are the parents of a little girl – Lee’s niece – whom they adopted more than a year earlier. They’ve continued to encounter threats both spiritual and mundane; it’s become clear that Lee’s gifts carry a heavy price and more recently, that the strong bond he and Gideon share, their psychic link, if you will, is not just one-sided. Gideon is sceptical, but it seems the Tyacks aren’t the only family to have been blessed with psychic abilities. And speaking of family, it’s been clear since her birth that little Tamsyn has inherited the Tyack family trait – although her gifts seem to be manifesting themselves in a different way.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Red Fish, Dead Fish (Fish Out of Water #2) by Amy Lane (audiobook) – narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

They must work together to stop a psychopath – and save each other.

Two months ago, Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the trigger-man remains at large – and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’ time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted – and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her – Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

Please note that there will be spoilers for Fish Out of Water in this review.

Amy Lane’s Fish Out of Water was a fabulous listen; an exciting, fast-paced suspense story, interwoven with a steamy, opposites-attract romance laced with plenty of snark and quieter moments of emotional insight and intensity. Needless to say, Greg Tremblay hit the narration out of the park, so I eagerly jumped into the sequel, Red Fish, Dead Fish, which picks up the story a couple of months later. Following a(nother) near-fatal shooting, private investigator Jackson Rivers is still (and, he insists, temporarily) living with his lover, defense attorney Ellery Cramer, while his house – which was shot to bits in the drive-by in which he was wounded – is set to rights. He’s impatient with his convalescence, he’s jonesing to get back to work and he’s on edge about the status of his… whatever it is with Ellery; Jackson doesn’t do permanence and the deep-seated insecurities that tell him he’s bad news and not good enough for anyone to bother with have him pretty much always poised for flight. Fortunately for Jackson, Ellery has him pegged and is well aware that deep down, Jackson is scared of what’s happening between them and that he’s looking for excuses to run. At least – for the moment – Jackson has nowhere to run TO, and Ellery’s patience and gentle, but inexorable persistence seem to be inexhaustible. Not that Jackson doesn’t drive him nuts at times – he absolutely does – but Ellery is every bit as stubborn as he is, doesn’t take any crap and is prepared to wait for Jackson for as long as it takes.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Henchmen of Zenda by K.J. Charles

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that’s Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.

Rupert of Hentzau is Michael’s newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.

Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.

A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zenda from a very different point of view.

Rating: A-

I’ve been looking forward to The Henchmen of Zenda, K.J. Charles’ ‘queered’ retelling of the classic The Prisoner of Zenda, ever since she announced it months ago, and in fact the book made my ‘most eagerly awaited of 2018 list‘ at AAR.  I love a ripping adventure yarn, and that’s exactly what the author has delivered – a tale of swashbuckling derring-do featuring a pair of amoral, cynical and devil-may-care anti-heroes, palace intrigue, political shenanigans, double crosses, triple crosses… and hot sex.  The latter being missing from Anthony Hope’s original novel, which isn’t surprising considering it was written in 1894. 😛  The Henchmen of Zenda can be enjoyed without reference to the original, although I’ll admit that for me, part of the fun was spotting the places where the stories meshed and picking up on the in-jokes.

For anyone not familiar with The Prisoner of Zenda, the story is basically this. Rudolf V, the new King of (the fictional) small European country of Ruritania, is drugged on the eve of his coronation by those working for his half-brother, Michael, Duke of Strelsau, who wants the throne for himself.  In a desperate attempt to stop Michael, those loyal to the king persuade an English gentleman (Rudolf Rassendyll) who bears an uncanny resemblance to the monarch and happens to be holidaying in their country to impersonate the king during the coronation.  Things are complicated when Michael’s men kidnap the king and Rassendyll falls in love with the Princess Flavia, who is Rudolf’s betrothed; complications, plots and counter-plots ensue, Rassendyll leads an assault on the castle of Zenda and rescues the king, and then honourably bows out, leaving Flavia to do her duty to her king and country.

When our narrator, Jasper Detchard, immediately dismisses Rassendyll’s account as a pile of shit, and Rassendyll as an uptight prick who lied to make himself look good, the reader immediately knows they’re in for a rollicking good time.  Detchard’s deadpan, sarcastic narrative style grabbed me right away:

“My name is Jasper Detchard, and according to Rassendyll’s narrative, I am dead.  This should give you some idea of his accuracy, since I do not dictate these words to some cabbage-scented medium from beyond the veil.”

A disgraced former army officer who now makes his living as a mercenary, Detchard is approached by Michael Elphberg, Duke of Strelsau, to become one of his trusted bodyguard (known as The Six).   Michael demands absolute, unquestioning loyalty, and Detchard, not one to be overly picky as to where he lays his hat or sells his sword – signs up. As it turns out, for more than he bargained for.

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

Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach and deep into Jackson s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A-

It will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my reviews that I will listen to Greg Tremblay read just about anything. When, a few weeks back, I saw a new release with his name on the cover – Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane – I was keen to review it, but then saw it was the second book to feature jaded ex-cop-turned-P.I. Jackson Rivers and hot-shot defence attorney Ellery Cramer… so I had to find book one, and oh, my – am I glad I did.

Having grown up in poverty, Jackson Rivers has fought hard for everything he has. Neglected and essentially abandoned by his junkie mother when he was a boy, he was lucky enough to fall in with the Cameron family: Kaden – his best friend at school – Kaden’s sister, Jade, and their mother, Toni, a warm, loving woman who was more of a mother to him than his biological parent ever was. The Camerons are the only family Jackson has ever known and he is fiercely loyal and devoted to them. Thanks to Toni’s love and care, and Jackson’s own determination, he grew up ‘right’, and eventually achieved his ambition of enrolling in the Police Academy. But his life was forever changed when, as a rookie, he was paired up with a much older, more experienced – and dirty – cop.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Guardians of the Haunted Moor (Tyack and Frayne #5) by Harper Fox (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Gilbert

The wedding is just the beginning…

Gideon and Lee have spent a year in chaotic married bliss, with all the trimmings – a dog, tricky in-laws, and a baby girl they both adore. But even the best of lives can be fragile, and a shocking family loss hits their new world like a demolition ball.

Gideon has little energy left to investigate a murder that’s taken place in the fields outside Dark. He still has his duties to his community, though, and with Lee at his side, he begins to unfold the mysterious death of Farmer John Bowe. It’s harvest time, ancient West Country magic in the air, and rumours are flying through the village of an enemy Gideon thought he’d left behind long ago.

Can the beast of Bodmin possibly be real? Everything in Gideon’s stoical police-sergeant’s nature says no. But Lee has taught him to see the world differently, and now they must pool their resources to unmask a killer before more lives are lost – and somehow find a way to mend their shattered family, too.

Rating: B+

I love this series, and this fifth instalment doesn’t disappoint. Gideon and Lee have been happily married for a while and are preparing to adopt a child – Lee’s niece – but unfortunately things don’t go to plan, leaving them both bereft. But there’s no time for them to process or grieve properly; a horribly mutilated body is discovered at one of the local farms, and with rumours once again circulating about the Beast of Bodmin, it’s up to Gideon to find out the truth.

I love the way the author blends the mundane and the supernatural in these stories; Cornish myths, rituals and ancient folklore all combine to create an atmosphere of eerie uncertainty, and the devastation Gideon and Lee feel over the sudden upset of their cherished plans is palpable. The characters are well-established by now – Lee and Gideon of course, but also Gideon’s brother, Ezekiel, and his “right on” mother, both of whom have important roles to play in the story and in the life of the central couple.

Tim Gilbert’s narration is – again – spot on and thoroughly enjoyable. I know these stories are novella length and thus quite short when compared to many audiobooks, but believe me, they really are worth the credits.