Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War 1 by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Audiobook) – Narrated by Alex Wyndham, Billie Fulford-Brown, Morag Sims, Gary Furlong, Derek Perkins, Greg Wagland, Antony Ferguson, Jane Copland and Mary Jane Wells

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes – as everyone does – that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafés of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently….

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict – but how? – and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war, he also faces personal battles back home, where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears – and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris – a cherished packet of letters in hand – determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B+

Last Christmas in Paris is a beautifully written, superbly narrated epistolary novel which centres around the correspondence exchanged between three friends during the years of the First World War. I suspect the degree to which any listener will enjoy the story will depend on whether one enjoys novels that consist entirely of letters; personally, I’m a big fan of that literary device, so that, added to the fact that I have a particular interest in the history of the period, plus the list of excellent narrators attached to the project pretty much ensured my enjoyment of this audiobook. And enjoy it I did, although ‘enjoy’ seems rather a feeble word to describe how I feel about it now that I’ve finished listening to it. I was so caught up in this story of friendship, emancipation, love, loss, tragedy, hope, despair… a real gamut of emotions, that I couldn’t bear to set it aside; I listened to it in only two or three sittings and, when I finished it, felt that strange sense of emptiness that always seems to descend when I’ve finished reading or listening to something really good – that feeling of “what do I do now?”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Playing the Rake’s Game (Rakes of the Caribbean #1) by Bronwyn Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Antony Ferguson

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Ren Dryden has a spark she can’t risk igniting…

Emma Ward is in trouble. The devilishly handsome part-owner of her beloved Caribbean sugar plantation has arrived, and clearly he doesn’t trust her. But his eyes promise pleasures she can only imagine. Maybe there’s a way to get him onside…

Ren Dryden may be fresh off the boat from London, but he knows when a woman is playing him—and when she’s as intriguing as the alluring Emma, he’s more than happy to play back! But several sultry nights and secrets shared later, Ren realizes just how high the stakes are in this game of seduction!

Rating: Narration – C+; Content – C+

I’ve read a number of books by this author and have generally enjoyed them, and I selected to review this title because of that, and because the story is set somewhere other than 19th century England. Not that I object to 19th century England as a setting of course, but sometimes I like to immerse myself in a tale set somewhere else, and Playing the Rake’s Game, with its Caribbean location, fit that bill.

Renford Dryden, the Earl of Dartmoor, has recently inherited fifty-one percent of a sugar plantation (Sugarland) on the Caribbean island of Barbados, and is somewhat relieved at the opportunity the bequest offers him to leave England. He hopes that the profits from the plantation will help to shore up the depleted family finances and enable him to provide his sisters with suitable dowries as well as make much needed improvements to his estates. His mother is pressuring him to marry an heiress who has made it clear that all she wants from him is his title, but Ren is unwilling to face the prospect of such a bloodless union, so the news of the inheritance comes at an opportune time.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Rake’s Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell (audiobook) – narrated by Antony Ferguson

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Brilliant scholar Genevieve Barrett’s secret identity as the author of her father’s articles is her greatest deception—until her father’s handsome new student arrives on their doorstep. Genevieve recognizes him as the masked intruder who earlier tried to steal a priceless gem from their home. Keeping the seductive stranger’s identity hidden is a risk, but she’s got secrets of her own to keep.

Sir Richard Harmsworth fakes a rakish facade to show society that he doesn’t care about his bastard status. Yet haunted by his unknown father’s identity, Richard believes the Harmsworth Jewel will prove he’s the rightful heir. Intent on seducing the stone away from its owner, Richard finds himself face-to-face with a beauty more breathtaking than any jewel. But even as she steals Richard’s heart, Genevieve will be in greater danger than her coveted treasure . . .

Rating: B- for content and C for narration

I had a hard time rating this as an audiobook. I really liked the print edition and graded it B+ at All About Romance, but as an audio, it doesn’t rate as highly.

I read and enjoyed A Rake’s Midnight Kiss early in 2013 and was very much looking forward to revisiting it in audio format. I’d already listened to the previous book in the series (a href=https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13512914.Seven_Nights_in_a_Rogue_s_Bed>Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed) and will admit to having reservations about Mr. Ferguson’s narration, principally due to one particular vocal tick that got on my nerves after an hour or so. But I like to follow series and see if the performers develop and make changes to their interpretations from book to book, and I’m pleased to report the absence of the particular quirk that had so annoyed me before.

The hero of this story is Sir Richard Harmsworth, whom we met briefly in the previous book. Like his friends, Jonas Merrick and Camden Rothermere (hero of the next book), Richard has lived all his life dealing with slurs about his parentage. Although he is technically legitimate as his mother was married to Sir Lester Harmsworth at the time of his birth, Richard is not actually Sir Lester’s son, and everyone in society knows it. Even as a boy, he had to bear the taunts of his schoolmates, and as he grew into adulthood, he developed an ironclad defence mechanism, cultivating an even-temperedness and urbanity so that society believes him to be lazy and unconcerned about little more than his tailoring. Of course, having a thick skin doesn’t mean that the insults don’t sting, and when, on one particular evening, he is pushed beyond his limit, Richard vows to find the famous Harmsworth Jewel, an ancient artefact passed through the generations and always in the possession of the true heir to the Harmsworth name.

After searching for six months, Richard discovers the jewel is in the possession of Miss Geneveive Barrett, the daughter of a renowned medieval historian. She was left the jewel by Richard’s aunt, and has refused his offers to purchase it, so Richard hatches a scheme to pass himself off as a dilettante scholar by the name of Christopher Evans who wishes to study with Genevieve’s father. He thinks he will be able to persuade her to sell the jewel, or alternatively, seduce it out of her – but he has reckoned without the lady’s determination and tenacity.

The sparks begin to fly from the moment the pair set eyes on each other. Genevieve is immediately suspicious of the handsome charmer who is determined to flirt with her, and tries everything she can think of to put him off. In her innocence, she doesn’t realise that her put-downs and obvious displeasure in Mr. Evans’ company have exactly the opposite effect on that gentleman and only make him even more determined to succeed in his quest.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.