Prince of Flowers (Wild Hearts #1) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

prince of flowers

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

He captured a fae prince. But can he capture his heart?

Lochlann Wilde walks in the shadow of his father, a legendary summoner who commanded mythical beasts in battle. But Locke isn’t legendary. He’s barely a summoner, never passing his academy’s trial of the elements.

And then he accidentally summons a fae prince with a beautiful body and a bad attitude.

Sylvan is fiery and ferocious, stronger than anything Locke has ever encountered. And hotter, too. But time is running out. Locke must tame the prince’s wild heart. If he fails his trial, he’ll lose his inheritance and ruin his family’s name.

Without Sylvan, Locke could lose his chance to become a true summoner…along with his shot at true love.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

I’m enjoying Nazri Noor’s Arcane Hearts fantasy/romance series – it’s fun and inventive with intriguing plotlines, strong worldbuilding, likeable characters, and excellent narration by Zachary Johnson. When the author announced that his new series – Wild Hearts (which is set in the same world as Arcane Hearts) – would be narrated by Greg Boudreaux, naturally I jumped at the chance to listen to and review the first book, Prince of Flowers.

Lochlann – Locke – Wilde is the oldest student at the great and ancient Wispwood Academy, having yet to earn the Crest that will mark his ‘graduation’ as a summoner. In order to earn that – and to inherit his father’s fortune – he must summon and forge a pact with a great beast of legend, but all he’s managed so far are a flock of doves, an elderly wolf and a grubby cat – not exactly a resounding success for the son of the legendary Grand Summoner Baylor Wilde. He’s not exactly the most diligent of students, it’s true, but he’s persistent, so, armed with the grimoire inherited from his father, Locke has once again ventured into the forests of Wispwood, intent on gaining his summoner’s Crest by finding his eidolon (his ideal familiar), a creature of powerful magic with whom he can form a mutually beneficial bond.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Rivals of Caspar Road (Garnet Run #4) by Roan Parrish (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

the rivals of casper road

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

He’s in it to win it

Until he falls under his neighbor’s spell

Bram Larkspur’s rugged, sexy looks belie his fear of all things horrifying. But as Casper Road’s newest resident, he’s excited to join the annual Halloween decorating contest. The competition is keen, especially from six-time champion, architect Zachary Glass. But when enigmatic Zachary sparks a prank war, it’s game on—until one sizzling kiss turns these rivals into allies. Now only one thing scares Bram: how quickly he’s losing his heart to Zachary.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

Book four in Roan Parrish’s Garnet Run series, The Rivals of Casper Road is a sweet, charming and superbly narrated opposites-attract romance featuring two neighbours whose rivalry in the local Halloween Decorating Contest engenders a prank-war and leads to love.

Bramble Larkspur left Olympia, Washington after his boyfriend and former best friend betrayed him in the worst way, leaving him “a broken person who had to get away in order to keep things together.” He – accompanied by his yellow Labrador, Hemlock – has just moved to 667 Casper Road in Garnet Run, and on his first morning there, he takes an early morning walk around the neighbourhood and then returns to his new home and takes a seat on the porch to watch Casper Road wake up. He sits there quietly whittling (something he’s done since he was ten), and it’s not long before his new neighbours are saying hello and stopping to chat. The subject of the annual Halloween Decorating Competition quickly comes up, and Bram thinks it sounds like fun. He’s just asked when he should get started, when a man emerges from the house diagonally opposite (which is, of course, number 666!) – a very striking man dressed in a suit and tie even though it’s a Saturday – who comes over and introduces himself as Zachary Glass.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Silent Sin by E.J. Russell (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

silent sin

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When tailor Marvin Gottschalk abandoned New York City for the brash boom town of silent film-era Hollywood, he never imagined he’d end up on screen as Martin Brentwood, one of the fledgling film industry’s most popular actors. Five years later, a cynical Martin despairs of finding anything genuine in a town where truth is defined by studio politics and publicity. Then he meets Robbie Goodman.

Robbie fled Idaho after a run-in with the law. A chance encounter leads him to the film studio, where he lands a job as a chauffeur. But one look at Martin and he’s convinced he’s likely to run afoul of those same laws – laws that brand his desires indecent, deviant…sinful.

Martin and Robbie embark on a cautious relationship, cocooned in Hollywood’s clandestine gay fraternity, careful to hide from the studio boss, a rival actor, and reporters on the lookout for a juicy story. But when tragedy and scandal rock the town, igniting a morality-based witch hunt fueled by a remorseless press, the studio brass will sacrifice even the greatest careers to defend their endangered empire. Robbie and Martin stand no chance against the firestorm – unless they stand together.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

E.J. Russell’s Silent Sin is a standalone historical romance set in the Hollywood of the 1920s featuring a movie star and the man who – through a fortunate circumstance – lands a job as his driver. The author has clearly done her homework when it comes to the background of this story – about the studio system and the influence it exerted over all aspects of the lives of its stars, about the relationship between the studios and the press – and that, together with the inclusion of a number of real-life figures and events, grounds the story very firmly in its time and place. I had a couple of niggles, but overall it’s a compelling story with fantastic narration by Greg Boudreaux, and I lapped it up.

When the book begins, we meet Robbie – Robinson Crusoe Goodman – as he arrives in a place called Hollywood. He’s disappointed; he’d hoped the farmer who’d given him a lift in his truck would have taken him a bit further along the road – plus in a town, he’s unlikely to find any work of the sort that could be done by a former potato farmer from Idaho whose meagre possessions amount to the very threadbare set of clothes on his back. After spending the night in an uninhabited shack at the edge of town, a tired, hungry and thirsty Robbie walks slowly back down main street, with no real idea of what to do next. He watches, surprised, as a cowboy – wondering just what a cowboy is doing in a town where there are no cows? – strolls along the street announcing he’s just got a part in a new picture. Robbie has no idea what the man is talking about, and just as he’s about to move along, is tapped on the shoulder and turns to find an older man wearing a uniform is speaking to him. For just a second or two, Robbie panics – uniforms mean authority and Robbie has been running from the authorities for six weeks now – but the man – who says that everyone calls him Pops – tells Robbie he’s done nothing wrong and then offers to buy him breakfast. Robbie can’t believe his luck, and as they eat, Pops tells Robbie that he works at Citadel Motion Pictures and, after ascertaining that Robbie knows how to drive, offers him a job.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Sink or Swim (Shore Leave #2) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux & Joel leslie

sink or swim

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Winning and losing are subject to sexy interpretation….

Navy Chief Calder Euler loves to win big. His latest score? A remote mountain cabin. Checking it out is supposed to be a quick trip, but Calder’s luck abruptly turns when a freak injury and a freakier snowstorm leave him stranded.

Oh, and the cabin isn’t empty. A silver fox caring for two young girls claims that the property is his, but Calder’s paperwork says otherwise.

Felix Sigurd is on a losing streak, and his ex-husband risking the cabin in a reckless bet is only the latest in a series of misfortunes. He’ll tolerate the handsome stranger for a couple nights – even care for his injuries – but that’s it.

Calder doesn’t know a damn thing about kids, but making pancakes for Felix’s girls is a surprising delight. Trapped in the cabin, the four of them slip easily into the rhythms of a family. But when the ice melts, they’ll have to decide if a future together is in the cards.  

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Sink or Swim is the second in Annabeth Albert’s Shore Leave series, but you can easily jump in here without having read or listened to book one, Sailor Proof, as the stories are completely separate. The lead characters here are Naval Chief Calder Euler – brother of Arthur from the previous book – and a silver-fox doctor who is also a single parent to two little girls. It’s a fairly low-angst story featuring two attractive and strongly-characterised leads in which the conflict is low-key but organic, arising from who these two people are and their respective situations in life.

Calder is currently on desk duty at the base following a head injury which resulted in a concussion, and he’s itching to get back to active duty on his submarine. When we met him in Sailor Proof, he came across as overbearing, cocky and insensitive and, like almost everyone else in his large family, he’s highly competitive – which is how come, at the beginning of the book, he’s driving to Mount Rainier to check out the cabin he won from a guy in a poker game. A weekend getaway, somewhere to kick back with friends – and best of all, away from his accommodation in the barracks… yep, it could be an great “bro hangout”. He’s having a look around upstairs when he hears noises outside; he’s on the way down the stairs when the front door bursts open and he hears a scream just before he trips and falls the rest of the way down. The little girl in the doorway is quickly followed by a furious man:

“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my cabin?”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

 

The Demon’s in the Details by Meghan Maslow (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

the demon's in the details

This title maybe downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Can a sexy demon really spin straw into gold?

Poe Dupin, raven shifter and thief extraordinaire, is in trouble with a capital ‘T.’ Not only did he get his wing caught in the cookie jar during his latest heist, but his loser stepdad seems determined to run their roost into the ground. And Baltimore is many things, but forgiving is not on the list.

When his stepdad puts the roost in peril, Poe sees no choice but to bargain with Charm City’s only demon, Tommy Tittoti. Rumors are that Tommy eats the souls of those foolish enough to try. Three strikes and you’re out. But really, Poe wasn’t using his soul anyway. And if it saves his roost? Worth it.

Tommy isn’t what Poe expects. Demon—huge, horned, hairy, and scary, right? Nope. Blond, gorgeous, with a lilting drawl that beckons Poe to come play. Total hookup-app fantasy material. Even if he is a murder twink.

Poe’s no angel, but Tommy . . . well he’s more devil than demon. Yet, Poe just can’t seem to keep his feathers out of the fire. As one bargain turns into two, and then a third tragedy strikes the ravens, Poe finds himself falling for a guy who may very literally be the death of him. Or maybe the flames will burn them both.

The Demon’s in the Details is a fast-paced, roller coaster of a romance with a guaranteed happily-ever-after and lots of steam. Shenanigans include: a gold object that is definitely not a ring, a best friend who’s trigger-happy, and a demon who’s got a few surprises up his, uh, sleeve.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

I always have trouble finding a book to fill the “fairytale” prompt because fairytale retellings aren’t things I’m particularly drawn to and I don’t have many of them.  In fact, I was on the point of giving up on finding one for this month’s prompt when I was scrolling through my Audible library and my eye was caught by a subtitle – “an m/m paranormal fairytale”, and I thought, “that’ll do!”  The fact that the audiobook is narrated by one of my all-time favourite narrators was a big plus.

The Demon’s in the Details is a riff on Rumpelstiltskin that hits the basic beats of the original without being an exact reproduction of it, transforming the passive main character into a brave, fiercely protective individual who can look out for himself, the king – who is, let’s face it, a pretty nasty piece of work – into a kind of mob boss, and the titular character from the villain of the story into… well, not the villain 😉 It’s a thoroughly entertaining story that moves at a fairly swift pace without feeling rushed, the leads are well-drawn and easy to root for and the narration by Greg Boudreaux is flawless.

Raven shifter and jewel thief Poe Dupin is planning on putting the proceeds from his latest heist towards paying salaries and running costs of his roost, but his dickhead of a stepfather Ethan – who is the roost’s alpha – tells him he needs the money to pay part of the eight hundred grand gambling debt he now owes to casino owner, basilisk shifter and all-round sleazebag Biggs Bickley.  As if it’s not bad enough that Bickley is already milking the roost for protection money.  The only way the roost can manage to keep its head above water most times is because of Poe’s side-gig of finding (both legally and illegally) rare gems for the customers of his shop, Spun Gold Jewelers.  This isn’t the first time Ethan has selfishly endangered the roost, but Poe very much fears it might be the last. How on earth is he going to raise that kind of money?

At the suggestion of his best friend. Poe reluctantly decides to approach demon Tommy Tittoti for help.  Tommy is dangerous, powerful and mysterious – nobody really knows for sure what he is and where he comes from – but Poe is caught between a rock and a hard place, and heads to Tommy’s place, a barbershop of all things – Rumpled Still: Skin, Hair, and Scalp ready to make a bargain for the money to pay the debt and save the roost.

Tommy turns out to be not at all what Poe had expected.  Instead of some hulking, disgusting brute, Tommy is a gorgeous twinky blond (Poe labels him a “murder twink” – which made me smile every time!) and Poe can’t take his eyes off him.  Tommy proposes a bargain (while giving Poe the cleanest (sexiest) shave he’s ever had) – surprising Poe by asking for a price he can easily pay.  Poe can’t believe he’s getting off that lightly, but also isn’t about to look a gift demon in the mouth, and the bargain is struck.

While the story is familiar and there’s not a lot new here – of course, the bad guys are very bad, and the good guys are very good – the excellent storytelling, world-building and characterisations elevate the tale beyond the ordinary and make for a super fun fantasy romp.  The various conflicts and challenges Poe and Tommy face are well thought-out, and there’s a lively secondary cast of supernatural beings (Carter the cat shifter is a total scene stealer) with different gifts and abilities.  Poe is an all-round decent guy trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, to look after his younger step-siblings and take care of everyone in the roost, even though it’s not technically his responsibility as he’s not the alpha.  I liked his snarky inner voice, and he’s got attitude by the bucket-load; he doesn’t think he’s anything special, but proves over and over that he is, especially in his willingness to give away the very thing he prizes the most in order to save the roost.  Tommy is an intriguing mixture of smooth, sexy and dangerous that fascinates Poe right from the start, and their chemistry is combustible.  Even though Poe is the sole PoV character, the author skilfully shows us Tommy’s motivations and feelings, and how he struggles to balance his own wants and needs with the demands of his demonic nature.  For a demon/assassin/vigilante he’s surprisingly endearing!

Greg Boudreaux is one of the best romance audiobook narrators around and he delivers a superb, well-paced performance that perfectly captures all the fun, mischief and heartache of this story.  All the characters are voiced in ways that reflect their personalities – such as the slight hiss on the sibilants in Bickley’s dialogue – and are clearly differentiated so that there’s never any problem working out who is speaking.  The two leads are really well depicted; Poe’s snappy snark is expertly timed and his hidden vulnerabilities are beautifully conveyed, and Tommy’s slight southern drawl drips with honey and sex and sarcasm, and works really well to fool people into thinking he’s the non-threatening twink he presents himself as.  As always, Mr. Boudreaux hits all the right emotional notes, and he brings the connection between Poe and Tommy vividly to life.

I had a few small niggles (I’m not a fan of stories where a third party has to tell person A how person B really feels about them), but overall The Demon’s in the Details is a fresh, fun take on a well-known story and I really enjoyed it.

Limelight (Vino and Veritas #15) by E. Davies (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

limelight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Save the bees, ride a rock star.

Formerly famous…and planning to keep it that way.

After my band kicked me out, I ran away to Vermont, changed my name, and kept my head down. So far, it’s working and nobody knows who I am. Or who I was. Until I see geeky poet Caleb stumbling through his first open mic night and I can’t help rescuing him. He’s as sweet as the honey my bees make and sexy enough to make me rethink so many things. But I can’t tell him my secret, or I’ll lose the anonymous life I worked so hard to build.

Everyone warns me he’s too good to be true.

I can’t believe a gorgeous, successful winemaker like Tag is into shy, geeky little accountant me. But he helps me blossom and believe in my talent, and works his way into my heart and my bed…not necessarily in that order. I’m falling for a man for the first time, and now I know what the missing number in my equation has always been.

When lies are revealed, though, someone’s going to get stung….

Rating: Narration – A; Content – D+

It’s no secret around here that I’ll listen to Greg Boudreaux read just about anything. He’s the main reason I picked up Limelight (the fifteenth book in the multi-authored Vino and Veritas series) – and having listened to and read several of the other books in the set, I believed the story in this one should at least be fairly decent. Oh, how wrong I was. Limelight is six-and-a-half hours of no story, ridiculously contrived (minimal) conflict, overblown and sentimental dialogue and instalove – and if I hadn’t been listening to it for review, I’d have DNF’d well before the halfway mark.

The story – such as it is – is this. Some years before it begins, Tag Campbell – aka the artist formerly known as Titus Taylor – was a member of a world famous, hugely successful rock band. But when creative differences led to his bandmates forcing him out (in a very public, unprofessional and hurtful way), he ran away to Vermont, changed his name, kept his head down, and for the past few years, has run a small farm near Burlington where he keeps bees and makes mead which he sells to, among other places, the Vino and Veritas wine bar. He’s just made a delivery there one evening and is about to head out when his eye is caught by a head of bright blond curls and the young man they belong to as he steps up to the microphone on stage.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Honey from the Lion (Love Across Time #2) by Jackie North (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

honey from the lion

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Soulmates across time. A love that was meant to be.

In present day, Laurie, tired of corporate life, takes a much-needed vacation at Farthingdale Dude Ranch.

The very first night, a freak blizzard combined with a powerful meteor shower takes Laurie back to the year 1891. When he wakes up in a snowbank, his only refuge is an isolated cabin inhabited by the gruff, grouchy John Henton, who only wants to be left alone. His sense of duty prevails, however, and he takes Laurie under his care, teaching him how to survive on the wild frontier.

As winter approaches, Laurie’s normally fun-loving manner makes it difficult for him to connect with John, but in spite of John’s old-fashioned ways, the chemistry between them grows.

Sparks fly as the blizzard rages outside the cabin. Can two men from different worlds and different times find happiness together?

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – B+

Honey from the Lion is book two in Jackie North’s Love Across Time series of timeslip romances, and although I haven’t listened to the first book (Heroes for Ghosts), the two aren’t connected by storyline or characters, so this one can be listened to as a standalone. I enjoyed this one sufficiently to want to go back to Heroes, and also to hope that the remaining four books in the series will find their way into audio – especially if Greg Boudreaux continues to narrate them!

Twenty-four-year-old software designer Laurie Quinn is tired, stressed-out and badly needs a break from his familiar routine and surroundings. When the book begins, he’s just arrived at the Farthingdale Dude Ranch in Wyoming and is looking forward to time spent in the fresh air, doing something completely different – a bit of “cowboy work”, evenings round the fire, camping under the stars, riding the range and generally escaping the stresses of modern life. Things get off to a pretty good start, with an evening spent around the campfire, eating food from the chuck wagon and listening to ghost stories told by the ranch’s owner, Bill. (I loved the use of the story about Oooooooold Joe and his Little Red Fox, which starts out as just a throwaway campfire story and is later shown to have much more significance.) Laurie goes to sleep that night looking forward to a ride across the dusty high plains the next day.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Aftermath (Vino and Veritas #6) by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux & John Solo

aftermath witt

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Brent Weyland was the life of the party until an injury ended his hockey career. Now he’s retreated alone to a lakefront house, trying to make sense of a life and body that doesn’t feel like his anymore.

Jon Norquist was happily married right up until he wasn’t. Now a single father in his 40s, he’s trying to figure out what comes next. In the meantime, he pours his heartache and regret into the lyrics he sings for the wine bar crowd a couple of nights a week.

When a friend coaxes Brent out for a night of wine and music, he puts Brent and Jon on a collision course. Their chemistry is instantaneous. Jon gives Brent’s battered body a much-needed remedial lesson in pleasure. And Brent gives Jon a reason to smile again.

Multiple reasons, actually. Neither man wants anything serious, but love has a habit of showing up whether it’s welcome or not. No matter how hard they try, the two can’t help having feelings for each other, even as life continues to throw them curveballs.

But they’ve both got baggage to unpack and hurt to move past, and if they can’t leave their pasts in the past, they might just miss out on an amazing future.

Rating – Narration – A/B; Content – B

Aftermath – the fifth book in the Vino and Veritas series – features a young hockey player whose career came to an abrupt end when he was seriously injured in a car accident, falling for a single dad in his early forties who was – or thought he was – happily married until his wife asked for a divorce. It’s a sweet and sexy romance between two men whose lives have been upended in different ways and who are both struggling to work through their grief for the lives they thought they were going to have while at the same time, going through a period of adjustment into whatever their new normal is going to be.

Brent Wayland was at the peak of his professional hockey career when the car he was driving was hit by a drunk driver. Brent was seriously injured and it’s a miracle he survived the accident, let alone that he can walk again. It’s been a long, hard and painful road to recovery and even a year later, he’s not there yet. Intense physical therapy hurts like hell and tires him out, his dad keeps going on and on about how other hockey players have come back from worse injuries and telling Brent he needs to snap out of it and get back on the ice, his body is never going to be the same, things are probably not going to get a great deal better than they are now, and he has no idea what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. It’s a lot to cope with – and truth be told, he hasn’t really been coping. Ever since he came home, he’s been more or less a recluse, venturing out only to attend his appointments and for weekly weekend lunches at his parents’ place. But at the urging of his best friend – mostly just to shut him up – Brent agrees to go out for a drink at the new-ish wine bar in town. He can have one drink then make an excuse to leave after an hour. It’ll be fine.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Right Move (Clean Slate Ranch #6) by A.M Arthur (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Levi Peletier is settled – for now. With his life on the rodeo circuit reined in, he’s content doing trick-riding demos for tourists at Clean Slate Ranch and spending his off-hours with three finicky felines. It’s a life he’s grateful for, one that keeps his heart safe.

George Thompson couldn’t be less like the ruggedly sexy Levi. A onetime figure skating star, he’s hung up his skates to live in introverted anonymity in San Francisco. An effort to shake up his regular routine finds him at Thanksgiving dinner, dude ranch style, and he immediately falls in love with the gorgeous view – the wide-open spaces and big blue sky aren’t bad, either.

The country cowboy and the stay-put city boy strike up an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more. But getting attached is a bad idea. Because the open road is calling to Levi, and it’s a call George can’t imagine answering. When the past catches up to them, this odd couple will have to decide if a future together is worth fighting for.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

When I reviewed Lucky Break, fourth in the Clean Slate Ranch series last year, I hadn’t listened to any of the other books in the series; since then I’ve gone back and listened to the first three (book three, Saddle Up is my favourite). These are mostly low-drama, character-driven stories featuring a group of men who find happiness and second chances when they come to work at or visit the Clean Slate Ranch in California. As in Lucky Break – and most of the other books, in fact – the central romance is a lovely slow-burn which means the protagonists have lots of time to get to know each other properly, and although characters from the other books do make appearances, it’s perfectly possible to listen to Right Move as a standalone.

After the death of his brother Xander (who was married to Robin Butler – see Lucky Break) Levi Peletier went on a year-long bender and did a number of things he isn’t proud of. He’s since cleaned up his act and is now in a much better place; he went back to working for his father’s travelling rodeo, Lucky’s, which came to Bentley Ghost Town in order to take part in the attraction’s opening celebrations. Afterwards, Levi decided to stay on, and he’s now a regular there, working alongside Robin doing trick riding demonstrations for the guests. He’s lived a pretty nomadic life, but living on the outskirts of the beautiful town of Garrett in California has settled him in a way he hasn’t been in quite some time, and he’s content, living in his tiny home with the three cats he rescued three years earlier, Ginger, Baby and Sporty. (Who are SOOOOO adorable!)

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

My 2020 in Books & Audio

2020, huh? I don’t think I need to expound on that particular dumpster fire except to say that I feel lucky to be someone who has managed to read/listen to books pretty much as normal throughout it all. Books – and writing about them – have provided a much-needed escape from everything going on “out there”, and there have been times this past year when I don’t know what I’d have done without them.

So, what was I reading/listening to in 2020? Well, according to Goodreads (which shows an average rating of 4.1 stars overall), I read and listened to 269 books in total (which was 30 fewer than 2019) – although I suspect that number may be slightly higher as I sometimes forget to mark any re-listens I do. But just taking the new reads/listens, I listened to almost as many books as I read – 52.9% ebook and 47.1% audio, according to this new spreadsheet I’ve been using, and almost three-quarters of the total were review copies.

Of that total there are 77 5 star books, 152 4 star books – by far the biggest category – 36 3 star books and 6 2 star books. (Books sorted by rating.)

The 5 star bracket includes those titles I rate at 4.5 but round-up (which I equate to A-); the 4 star bracket (B) includes the 4.5 star grades I don’t round up (B+) and the 3.5 star ones I do round up (B-), the 3 stars are C+/C/C- and so on.  Of the 77 5 star ratings, only around 17 are straight A grades in terms of the story (in the case of audiobooks, sometimes a 4 star review will get bumped up because the narration is so fabulous), so the rest of that 77 are A minuses or audiobooks where A and B grades combined to rate a higher overall total. Looking back at my 2019 Books & Audio post, those numbers are fairly consistent, although I didn’t have any one stars or DNFs in 2020, which isn’t a bad thing!

The books that made my Best of 2020 list at All About Romance:

Reviews are linked in the text beneath each image.

As usually happens, I always have a few “also-rans”, books I could have included if I’d had the space:

If you follow my reviews, you’ll already know that in 2020, I awarded more top grades than ever to a single author, which isn’t something that’s ever happened before; sure, I give high grades to some authors consistently (Sherry Thomas, KJ Charles and Meredith Duran spring to mind) but those have been one every few months or per year – not nine in a single year! So, yes, 2020 is, in my head, the Year of Gregory Ashe 😉  I could have chosen any number of his books for these lists as they’re all so very good.

Sadly noticeable by its (near) absence on these lists – historical romance.  I said in my 2019 post that the amount of really good historical romance around had been declining for a while, and although there were some excellent  historicals around in 2020, they were fairly few and far between. Many of the best came from Harlequin Historical – Virginia Heath’s Redeeming the Reculsive Earl is a lovely, funny and warm grumpy-reclusive-hero-meets-breath-of-fresh-air-(and neuroatypical) heroine, while Mia Vincy continues to demonstrate her mastery of the genre with A Dangerous Kind of Lady, a sexy, vibrant, not-really friends-to-lovers story in which the leads embark on a difficult journey of self-discovery while coming to realise how badly they’ve misjudged each other. The “modern” historical is a term being coined for novels set in the more recent past, and Asher Glenn Gray’s Honeytrap, the love story between an FBI agent and Red Army office that spans thirty-five years, would proibably have made my Best of list had I read it in time.  Annabeth Albert is a big favourite of mine; Feel the Fire is book three in her Hotshots series, a second-chance romance that just hit the spot.

Audio

When I struggled to read something – which fortuantely, didn’t happen often – I could usually find something in audio that suited my mood, plus the fact that there are still back-catalogue titles coming out of books I haven’t got around to reading means that audio is always my preferred method of catching up!  I listened to a lot of pretty good stuff over the year, but for my 2020 Favourites for AudioGals, I stuck to titles to which I’d given at least ONE A grade (usually for the narration) and nothing lower than a B+.

So that was 2020 in books and audio.  I’m incredibly grateful to those authors and narrators who continued to provide me with such great reading/listening material through what has been an incredibly trying time for all of us;  I know some who have really struggled to get words on a page this year, and I just want to say that you’re worth waiting for and I’ll be here whenever you’re ready.

As for what I’m looking forward to in 2021… more of the same, really – lots of good books!  There are a number of titles I know are coming up in the first part of the year that I’m really excited about – the third Lamb and the Lion book from Gregory Ashe – The Same End – is out at the end of January, and I’m also eagerly awaiting new adventures with North and Shaw and Theo and Auggie. Then there’s book three in KJ Charles’ Will Darling Adventures, Subtle Blood, at least three (squee!) new books from Annabeth Albert, including the fourth Hotshots book; and a new instalment in Jordan Castillo Price’s long-running Psycop series (Other Half) due out in January, although I’ll be waiting for the audio because Gomez Pugh’s incredible turn as Victor Bayne is well worth waiting for.  (I really must catch up with JCP’s ABCs of Spellcraft books, in audio, too!).  There’s a new book in Hailey Turner’s  Soulbound series coming soon, a new instalment in Jay Hogan’s Southern Lights series, and later on, I’m hoping Josh Lanyon’s The Movie Town Murders will be out this year – I need more Sam and Jason! – and I’m looking forward to new books in her Secrets and Scrabble series.  I’m looking forward to more from Lucy Parker, Loreth Anne White, Garrett Leigh, Rachel Reid, Roan Parrish… There are new books slated from many of my favourite authors and narrators, and I’m looking forward to another year of great reading and listening.

I’ll be back this time next year to see if my expectations were fulfilled!