A Ferry of Bones and Gold (Soulbound #1) by Hailey Turner (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When the gods come calling, you don’t get to say no.

Patrick Collins is three years into a career as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency when the gods come calling to collect a soul debt he owes them. An immortal has gone missing in New York City and bodies are showing up in the wake of demon-led ritual killings that Patrick recognizes all too easily from his nightmares.

Unable to walk away, Patrick finds himself once again facing off against mercenary magic users belonging to the Dominion Sect. Standing his ground alone has never been a winning option in Patrick’s experience, but it’s been years since he’s had a partner he could trust.

Looking for allies in all the wrong places, Patrick discovers the Dominion Sect’s next target is the same werewolf the Fates themselves have thrown into his path. Patrick has been inexplicably attracted to the man from their first meeting, but desire has no place in war. That doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting what he shouldn’t have. Jonothon de Vere is gorgeous, dangerous, and nothing but trouble – to the case, to the fight against every hell, and ultimately, to Patrick’s heart and soul.

In the end, all debts must be paid, and Patrick can only do what he does best – cheat death.

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: B

I’ve been snapping up and enjoying the audiobooks in Hailey Turner’s military/sci-fi Metahumans series and was pleased to discover that last year, the author had begun a new Urban Fantasy series called Soulbound, set in and around a recognisably familiar New York City and featuring characters with magical and supernatural abilities. I added book one, A Ferry of Bones and Gold, to my TBR mountain but surprise, surprise, haven’t got to it yet, so I was delighted to see it come out in audiobook format with Gary Furlong – a narrator I enjoy listening to – at the helm.

Patrick Collins, a mage working for the Supernatural Operations Agency (which seems to be a kind of supernatural FBI), isn’t pleased when he gets a call from his boss cancelling his vacation and sending him instead to New York City, where a spate of ritualistic killings (the bodies are mutilated and have astrological symbols carved into their eyelids) seems to be ramping up as the Summer Solstice approaches. A former combat mage-turned-supernatural law enforcement agent, Patrick is assigned to investigate the most recent murders and immediately senses the presence of dark, demonic magic pointing to the involvement of the Dominion Sect, a cult set on stealing the godhood from one of the ancient gods and then transferring it to their leader.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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.

Illuminate the Shadows (Shatterproof Bond #2) by Isobel Starling (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A Scotsman and an Englishman fall in love…

After the most amazing week of his life, at Dunloch Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, in Scotland. The charming, mysterious Samuel Aiken has turned Declan Ramsay’s life upside down. Declan has experienced a remarkable change. He has come to terms with the fact he is bisexual, and he has fallen head-over-heels in love with his boss’s son Sam.

However, falling for his boss’s son was never going to be an easy path to happiness, mainly because the boss in question is multi-millionaire property tycoon and former MI5 operative, Sir James Aiken.

Sir James is repulsed by his son’s homosexuality, and so discovering that his employee Declan Ramsay – the man he installed to run his luxury property rental empire – is in a relationship with Sam, does not go down well.

The lovers cannot hide from the looming presence of Sir James Aiken for long! Soon enough James makes his move, and Declan finds out what he will have to endure to stay with Sam, and what he will have to give to feel worthy of Sam’s love.

Rating: Narration – B+: Content – C

I listened to As You Wish, the first book in Isobel Starling’s Shatterproof Bond series a few months back, and while I had some issues with parts of it (there was a fair bit of head-hopping and the writing was choppy in places), I liked the characters and the premise sufficiently to want to give the next book, Illuminate the Shadows, a try.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for As You Wish.)

In As You Wish, brawny Scot Declan Ramsey and his boss’s son, Sam Aiken, met online when they worked together to plan the wedding of Sam’s sister to Declan’s brother. Over a year or regular correspondence – Sam was working abroad – they got to know each other quite well, but nothing could have prepared Declan for the incredible pull of attraction he felt towards Sam when they finally met, especially as Declan had always identified as straight. Declan and Sam entered into a relationship (and had a lot of sex!) but at the end of the book, Declan learned that Sam, whom he’d been led to believe was an interpreter, actually worked for the covert security agency run by his father, Sir James Aiken, a former MI5 operative whose company now works with and for both MI5 and MI6. Sam wants out – but his father – who is already Declan’s boss because Declan works for his international property management company – gave the couple an ultimatum; Declan joins the agency or they can never see each other again. Unwilling to be separated, they go for option one.

At the beginning of Illuminate the Shadows, Declan is kidnapped by Sir James’ people and taken to his “interview” – which basically consists of his being tied to a chair, injected with various drugs and questioned for a week. (And it’s all a bit silly, really!) We learn that Sir James has actually been interested in him for longer than Declan has known Sam, owing to what Declan avers is his completely unwitting involvement in a number of covert operations. When the “interview” is over, Declan is dumped, unconscious, on his doorstep, leaving Sam to take care of him.

And that’s about it as far as the plot goes. There’s an interesting snippet of information dropped about Declan’s childhood that I suspect may come to play a greater role in the overarching plot, but overall, I was quite disappointed with this story. I know that this is a serial, so each instalment isn’t self-contained, but other than Sam and Declan both being assigned to the same job, and a bit of drama when the couple tells their respective siblings about their relationship –and Declan’s brother freaks out – there’s not much going on here, other than Sam and Declan dirty talking, groping and having more sex. Which isn’t a bad thing, I just wanted a bit more story.

Sam’s father is a total git, freely acknowledging that he hates that his only son is gay, and so deliberately sends him to locations – Saudi Arabia, Russia – where actually engaging in homosexual acts could get him imprisoned or killed; he’s downright creepy. As with the previous book, there’s a lot of head-hopping going on, switching from a single PoV to an omnipotent one and back again; the first chunk of the book is pretty much entirely devoted to the “interview” and there’s not a lot of relationship development. Which there should have been, given these guys only met face to face a few months earlier, they’ve been apart for the last three months and Declan has never had a male lover before. I like them together and they’re clearly head-over-heels for one another, but I didn’t much sense of a connection that went beyond sex.

Gary Furlong does a more than decent job with the narration, and the Scottish accent he adopts for Declan is consistent (and sexy). He gets Sir James’ smarminess down pat, Sam’s youthful enthusiasm is expertly rendered and the secondary characters are all clearly delineated. His participation as narrator is the reason I picked up this and the previous book, but the story in this one isn’t strong enough to encourage me to continue with the series.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A story too secret, too terrifying – and too shockingly intimate – for Victorian eyes.

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant, and chronicler for 20 years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell
September 1914

Rating: Narration – A-: Content – A

K.J. Charles’ The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is a collection of wonderfully imaginative, well-written and downright spooky tales of ghostly goings on and supernatural shenanigans set in the late Victorian era featuring ghost-hunter extraordinaire, Simon Feximal, and his chronicler and long-term companion Robert Caldwell. The author draws on ancient legends and late Victorian sensation fiction for inspiration and has crafted a set of original and compelling creations while also charting the development of the relationship between her two protagonists, a lasting partnership built on a solid foundation of love and respect that endures through dark days and the direst of adversity.

When we first meet Robert Caldwell, he is a making a name for himself as a journalist for The Chronicle. He has recently inherited old, dilapidated Caldwell Place and decides to sell it rather than live there. The only problem is that it appears to be haunted – and when the walls start bleeding, Robert realises he’s got to do something about it before he can even think of putting the place up for sale. So, he calls in the renowned ghost-hunter Simon Feximal in the hope that he will be able to get rid of his unwanted, ghoulish guest, and is immediately struck by Simon’s imposing form and air of command. Feximal clearly knows what he’s doing – but both he and Robert have reckoned without the strength of a spirit long denied its desires, and a highly-charged, passionate encounter ensues which sends the mischievous spirit packing and sees our principals left to their own – most pleasurable – devices.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

As You Wish (Shatterproof Bond #1) by Isobel Starling (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

One wedding, two best men, one hell of a love story!

Declan Ramsay’s brother Oliver was marrying Annabelle Aiken at a fairytale castle on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland. The bride and groom decided that Annabelle’s gay younger brother would share the best man duties with Declan. Declan had never met the kid who was to be his joint best man. Sam Aiken was abroad, working as an interpreter and finishing his studies. He wouldn’t meet Declan until a few days before the wedding, so the best men communicated and planned their speech by email for more than a year.

But on meeting Sam Aiken, Declan is surprised to realize the kid isn’t a kid at all, but a tall, blond, and athletic young man. Declan is sure he’s straight, so he’s alarmed by the ferocious attraction he feels for Sam. And as the attraction is reciprocated, the events at Dunloch Castle change everything Declan has ever believed about himself.

But, is Samuel Aiken all that he appears to be?

Rating: Narration – A-: Content – C+

As You Wish is the first book in Isobel Starling’s Shatterproof Bond series which – so far – comprises four books (and a prequel) in which the storylines are all inter-related and the romance progresses throughout. I knew before I started listening that this story wasn’t self-contained and that it is to be continued into the next book (Illuminate the Shadows) and beyond, so please be aware of that before you decide to listen to As You Wish.

It’s a novella-length listen, coming in at just over four hours, and opens with two very different young men bumping – literally – into each other at Heathrow Airport as they each rush to catch a plane. Uptight control freak Declan Ramsey isn’t pleased when a scruffy back-packer almost canons into him, and is even less impressed when he finds the same man in the seat next to his on the flight to Edinburgh. He’s flying home to attend his younger brother’s wedding; Oliver Ramsey is marrying Annabelle Aiken, daughter of Declan’s boss, an incredibly wealthy property developer, at a fairytale castle on the banks of Loch Lomond, and Declan and Annabelle’s brother, Sam, are sharing best man duties. Because Sam has been living abroad for the past couple of years – he works as an interpreter and translator for his father’s company – Declan and Sam have been corresponding by email during that time, working out various details and planning their joint speech, and very quickly fell into an easy online friendship. Truth be told, Declan is a bit of a grouch; at thirty-two he’s never had a serious relationship and all the dates he’s gone on lately have been disasters – but the emails from Annabelle’s young, geeky brother have never failed to cheer him up, and he’s looking forward to finally meeting the kid.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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.

Caught by the Scot (Made to Marry #1) by Karen Hawkins (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

This title may be downloaded from Audible

Rating: Narration – A- Content – B

Dashing Scottish privateer Conner Douglas must marry a respectable, well-born woman – and soon, if he wants to secure his rightful inheritance. Determined to still explore the high seas as well as his mistresses’ beds, he aims to find a pliable wife who’ll turn a blind eye to his antics. And he knows just the woman – childhood friend and mousy spinster Miss Theodora Cumberbatch-Snowe.

Unbeknownst to Conner, meek and plain Theodora has been hopelessly in love with him for years. But unwilling to wait forever for what will never happen, Theodora plans to wed a kind – if unexciting – local landowner, leaving behind the wild highlander of her dreams.

Yet Conner refuses to let his perfect wife get away. He chases her to Gretna Green and is shocked to discover the real Theodora is an ardent and wildly sensual woman. Soon, he realizes his passion to win her has nothing to do with securing his inheritance and everything to do with earning the love of the unforgettable woman who has vowed to leave him in her past forever. But have his wandering ways chased the woman he loves away for good? Or can Conner convince Theodora to give him one last chance before she marries the wrong man?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Caught by the Scot is the first book in a new series from Karen Hawkins and in it, we meet the three Douglas brothers, Declan, Conner and Jack, who are told they have to marry within a few months or forfeit the inheritance due to them as part of their late sister’s will. It’s an enjoyable friends-to-lovers romance that, while not offering anything new, is nonetheless very well-written; and the hero’s journey, as he comes to realise what is really important to him, is nicely done.

Having lost their parents when they were quite young, the Douglas brothers were more or less brought up by their older sister, Anna, who has just died giving birth to a son, her husband’s heir. The Duke of Hamilton is devastated by his wife’s death and is in no mood for argument from his brothers-in-law; Anna desperately wanted to see them all settled with wives and families, and to honour her memory that’s what is going to happen. If the men don’t marry within four months, the considerable legacy left them by Anna will be given to the Campbells, sworn enemies of the Douglas clan.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.