Into the Storm (and Before the Storm) (Evidence: Under Fire #0.5 & #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella & Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

As a storm rolls in, a team of elite Navy SEALs arrives at a remote lodge for a wilderness training exercise that becomes terrifyingly real….

Xavier Rivera planned the exercise down to the smallest detail, but he didn’t plan the arrival of archaeologist Audrey Kendrick—a woman he shared a passionate night with before betraying her in the worst way.

As the storm is unleashed on the historic lodge it becomes clear the training has been compromised. Trapped by weather, isolated by the remote wilderness, and silenced as communication with the world has been severed, unarmed SEALs face an unexpected and deadly foe.

Audrey and Xavier must set aside their distrust and desire and work together to save a team under fire and survive in a battle against the wild.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

Rachel Grant embarks upon a new series of romantic suspense novels with Into the Storm, book one in the Evidence: Under Fire series. The premise grabbed my attention immediately; a group of Navy SEALS arrives at a remote location for a top-secret training exercise only to find themselves fighting an invisible enemy, their communications severed and with a severe weather system closing in. As always, the author’s research and attention to detail are impeccable and she imparts a lot of fascinating detail by weaving it into the fabric of the story.

Before the Storm by Rachel Grant

A couple of months before Into the Storm begins, its protagonists, Audrey Kendrick and Xavier Rivera, meet (in the novella, (Before the Storm) when Xavier, a Navy SEAL trainer visits the Olympic National Park to scope out the historic Lake Olympus Lodge and surrounding area as a possible location for a top secret training mission. The chemistry that sparks between the couple is hot and intense, leading to their spending a passionate night together. A few weeks later, Audrey discovers she’s pregnant – despite the fact they’d used contraception – and decides, straight away that she’s going to keep the baby and that even if Xavier doesn’t want to be a part of their child’s life, telling him is the right thing to do. She asks the mutual friend that introduced them to ask Xavier to get in touch – and is delighted when, later that day, she bumps into Xavier at the Lodge, pleased to be able to share her news in person. But she realises something is wrong immediately; not only is Xavier in uniform (he never told her what he did for a living), he’s cold and hostile, telling her he’s filed a complaint about her because she refused to sign off on the Navy’s proposal for a training mission because she was angry that he’d rejected her. Reeling at the unjust and unfounded accusations that could tank her job and her career, Audrey doesn’t tell him about the baby.

(Note: It’s not essential to have listened to Before the Storm, as the relevant information is contained within Into the Storm).

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Heart Unseen (Hearts Entwined #1) by Andrew Grey (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

heart unseen

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

As a stunningly attractive man and the owner of a successful chain of auto repair garages, Trevor is used to attention, adoration, and getting what he wants. What he wants tends to be passionate, no-strings-attached flings with men he meets in clubs. He doesn’t expect anything different when he sets his sights on James. Imagine his surprise when the charm that normally brings men to their knees fails to impress. Trevor will need to drop the routine and connect with James on a meaningful level. He starts by offering to take James home instead of James riding home with his intoxicated friend.

For James, losing his sight at a young age meant limited opportunities for social interaction. Spending most of his time working at a school for the blind has left him unfamiliar with Trevor’s world, but James has fought hard for his independence, and he knows what he wants. Right now, that means stepping outside his comfort zone and into Trevor’s heart.

Trevor is also open to exploring real love and commitment for a change, but before he can be the man James needs him to be, he’ll have to deal with the pain of his past.

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – B

It’s no secret around here that my reading/listening preferences generally tend towards the plotty and angsty, with complex, edgy characters. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed stories that veer towards the low-drama end of the scale, and Andrew Grey’s Heart Unseen turned out to be one of those quieter, more character-driven tales that unexpectedly charmed me. Published in 2017, it’s part of a series featuring characters with disabilities; in this story, one of the leads is blind, and although I can’t say if the representation of what it’s like to live without being able to see is accurate, the author does seem to have taken care to address the issue respectfully.

Trevor Michaelson has a great life. He’s a successful businessman, he has a good relationship with his dad, good friends he likes spending time with and enjoys playing the field, his handsome face and toned body meaning he has the pick of guys at the clubs he and his friends frequent. When the book opens, Trevor and his two besties, Brent and Dean, are out at one of their favourite haunts to celebrate the end of Dean’s relationship with his manipulative ex, and be there as moral support as he gets back out there. While sitting with Brent, Trevor’s attention is caught by a stunningly beautiful man a few tables over – and he can’t take his eyes off him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Broken Falcon (Evidence #12) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay & Nicol Zanzarella

broken falcon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chase Johnston is leading a double life. After two years of psychological torment, the quiet, highly skilled Raptor operative now has a darker side, and he’s hellbent on bringing human-traffickers to justice – using any means necessary. The only relief he finds for his troubled mind is a woman he’ll never meet in person.

Eden O’Keeffe is also leading a double life. By day she’s a grad student and barista, but at night she sits in front of a camera and provides companionship for those seeking entertainment, titillation, or simple conversation. She enjoys the freedom of being a siren online, but her secret career comes with risks that force her to hide her true identity at all costs.

When Chase walks into a coffee shop and comes face to face with the one person who makes him feel again, it seems his long nightmare may be coming to an end. But in entering Eden’s world, he’s bringing that nightmare – and the danger that comes with it – to her doorstep.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Broken Falcon – book twelve in Rachel Grant’s terrific Evidence series – for months. Ms. Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense, and I’m always impressed by her ability to craft tense and exciting stories with clever plots and interesting, engaging characters. Also, this book’s hero, Chase Johnston, was an important secondary character in Incriminating Evidence, one of my series favourites – if you haven’t read or listened to it, I’d recommend doing so before this, as Chase’s backstory is incredibly important to this story (note – there are spoilers in this review) and given his role in that book, I was especially keen to find out what happened to him ‘after’ and for him to find love and get his own HEA.

When we catch up with Chase at the beginning of the book, we find out that he’s devoting much of his free time to preventing runaway teens from being sucked into a sex-trafficking ring. Together with Isabel Dawson, the wife of Senator – and Raptor boss – Alec Ravissant, Chase helps the teens to get to a shelter set up specially to help prevent them being sent back to abusive family situations. He’s fairly sure the trafficking ring is linked to a legitimate business, a cam-girl site called Cam Dames – although he hasn’t yet been able to find any evidence to tie the two together. On this particular evening, Chase has cut things a bit fine; it takes longer than he’d expected to persuade the girl he’s ‘intercepting’ to go into the next-door coffee shop to meet with Isabel, and she has only just gone inside when a couple of goons show up looking for their quarry. Chase is Raptor’s expert in unarmed combat (having learned martial arts from a very young age, he’s got Mad Ninja Skillz!) and it doesn’t take him long to run them off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Concrete Evidence (Evidence #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella and Greg Tremblay

Concrete Evidence 2021

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She wants revenge. He wants her.

Blackballed from underwater archaeology after accusations of artifact trafficking, Erica Kesling has a new job and a new life on the other side of the country and is working to clear her name. She’s closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge. But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content- B-

I’ve read/listened to and reviewed most of the books in Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense Evidence series, and they’re among my favourites in the genre – sexy, intelligent and fast-paced with well-drawn, interesting characters and storylines that sometimes feel as though they’re taken from tomorrow’s headlines! The first book – Concrete Evidence – is one of the few books in the series I haven’t read, and I’d intended to listen to the audio at some point, but after AudioGals reviewed it back in 2014 and said that the narration wasn’t very good, I instead put the book on the TBR pile of doom.

Unfortunately, the book is still there – so I was delighted when I saw a newly recorded audiobook version crop up at Audible, narrated by Nicol Zanzarella – who has narrated all the other Evidence books – and Greg Tremblay (whose work on the author’s Flashpoint series sent me down a Tremblay/Boudreaux shaped rabbit hole I still haven’t emerged from!). For anyone wondering, the author’s website indicates that she has made a few small revisions and added an epilogue previously only available as bonus material.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Someday, Someday by Emma Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay and Zachary Johnson

someday, somedayThis title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Max Kaufman was kicked out of his home as a teen, and his life has been an uphill battle ever since. From addiction and living on the streets, to recovery and putting himself through nursing school, he’s spent the last 10 years rebuilding his shattered sense of self. Now he’s taken a job as a private caretaker to Edward Marsh III, the president and CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Max soon learns Marsh’s multibillion-dollar empire is a gold- and diamond-encrusted web of secrets and lies.

The longer Max works and lives with the Marsh family, the tighter the secrets tangle around him. And his heart – which he’s worked so hard to protect – falls straight into the hands of the distant, cold, and beautiful son of a dynasty….

Silas Marsh is set to inherit the family fortune, but his father is determined his heir be the “perfect” son. Before Silas can take over the company and end its shady business practices, he must prove himself worthy…and deny his true nature.

Silas must choose: stand up to his father by being true to himself and his undeniable feelings for Max or pretend to be someone he is not in order to inherit everything. Even if it means sacrificing a chance at happiness and real love.

Rating: Narration: A/B+; Content – B+

Emma Scott’s Someday, Someday is an angsty yet heartfelt romance about two damaged men who’ve been to hell, clawed their way back and are still fighting to reclaim the things they’ve lost. Max Kaufman was a major secondary character in Forever Right Now (he was the best friend and sponsor of the heroine, Darlene Montgomery) but you don’t have to have read or listened to that book to enjoy this one. I remember thinking, when I listened to Forever Right Now, that I’d love to know Max’s story, and was delighted when I saw Someday, Someday pop up at Amazon last year; and after that I was hoping for audio and for Greg Tremblay to return to narrate. I got my wish on both counts, and Mr. Tremblay is joined by new-to-me narrator Zachary Johnson. I confess I was a bit wary – dual narrations can be a real let-down if one narrator isn’t as good as the other – but I’m pleased to report that Mr. Johnson holds his own.

After he was thrown out of his home at sixteen for being gay, Max Kaufman lived on the streets, became addicted to cocaine and, for a short time at least, sold himself to pay for his habit. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger – an ex-cop – Max got clean, put himself through nursing school and now volunteers as a sponsor for NA (Narcotics Anonymous). Seven years after his family turned their backs on him, Max has got his life back on track; he likes what he does, he knows who he is and he’s comfortable in his own skin. There’s only one thing missing. He wants his family back – or to at least try to see if there’s any way they can be part of one another’s lives again, so he’s moved back home to Seattle to try to reconnect with them. He about to start a new job as part of a small nursing team for a wealthy private patient, but continues to volunteer for NA, and it’s at one of those meetings that he first sets eyes on ‘Scott’, who sits at the back, wearing a black hoodie and sunglasses, remaining aloof and saying nothing. Intrigued – and more than a little attracted – Max observes him quietly, but he leaves without speaking. A few days later, he turns up again, and this time talks briefly about his addiction and how he pulled himself back from it – and surprisingly, offers to drive Max home. Max accepts the lift, but after ‘Scott’ drops him home, he doesn’t expect to ever see him again.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Quickie Reviews #5

I always mean to do these more regularly but… you know, life. Anyway, like many people right now, I’ve got a bit of extra time on my hands, so I’ve pulled together short reviews of a bunch of books and audiobooks I’ve read and listened to over the past few months but haven’t written full-length reviews for. If you’re looking for a read or listen to keep you company over the next few weeks, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here.


Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

Gio Valeri is a big-city police officer who’s been transferred to the small outback town of Richmond with his professional reputation in tatters. His transfer is a punishment, and Gio just wants to keep his head down and survive the next two years. No more mistakes. No more complications.

Except Gio isn’t counting on Jason Quinn.

Jason Quinn, officer in charge of Richmond Station, is a single dad struggling with balancing the demands of shift work with the challenges of raising his son. The last thing he needs is a new senior constable with a history of destroying other people’s careers. But, like it or not, Jason has to work with Gio.

In a remote two-man station hours away from the next town, Gio and Jason have to learn to trust and rely on each another. Close quarters and a growing attraction mean that the lines between professional and personal are blurring. And even in Richmond, being a copper can be dangerous enough without risking their hearts as well.

Rating: B

With two cops as leads, I’d thought this might be more of a mystery/suspense story, but it isn’t; rather it’s a fish-out-of-water tale as a disgraced big city cop relocates to a small rural community and discovers that policing there is very different to the sort of thing he’s used to. Lisa Henry evokes the small town/back of beyond atmosphere really well – although this town isn’t at all small really; Jason and Gio’s “beat” covers a massive area, but it doesn’t boast all that many inhabitants.

Amid the series of vignettes as to the various disputes the pair are called upon to work through is the relationship that gradually grows between them. They get off to a rocky start because of what Jason has heard about Gio’s reason for relocating (that he was an informant who got another officer dismissed from his job), but as they work together and get to know each other, Jason starts to wonder if that’s the whole story. (Of course, it isn’t).

Jason is a widower with a ten-year-old son, and is only just realising that he really needs to make proper childcare arrangements. Before, his two neighbours – a young couple with kids of their own – would always pick up the slack and were happy to help out when Jason had to answer a call at night or worked long shifts – but now they’ve moved away, he’s struggling to reconcile the demands of the job with his job as a father.

The slower pacing works and I enjoyed the book overall, although I would have liked a stronger romance. There’s a definite attraction between Jason (who is bi) and Gio, but a few pages before the end, Jason tells Gio he’s still in love with his dead wife (and he’s still wearing his wedding ring), which was unexpected and seemed a really odd move; and although they’re still together six months down the line (shown in the epilogue) it felt to me as though there was more to be said about their relationship. There are no ILYs – which is fine when I feel that the characters are committed to each other – and I don’t necessarily need the mushy stuff, but their emotional connection wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for by the end.

Even so, I’m giving this four stars because I really did like the story and the characters. I’m going to pick up the next book soon.


Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes

Narrated by Nick J. Russo

Nick Jorgensen is a quirky genius. He’s made a fortune in the competitive high-tech field with his quick mind and attention to detail. He believes in hard work and trusting his gut. And he believes in karma. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People are difficult, but numbers never lie. In the disastrous wake of a broken engagement to an investor’s daughter, Nick is more certain than ever he isn’t relationship material.

Wes Conrad owns a thriving winery in Napa Valley. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcome departure from his former career as a high-rolling businessman. Wes’s laid-back nature is laced with a fierceness that appeals to Nick. In spite of his best intention to steer clear of complications, Nick can’t fight his growing attraction to the sexy older man who seems to understand him. Even the broken parts he doesn’t get himself.

However, when Wes’s past collides with Nick’s present, both men will have to have to decide if they’re ready to lean into the ultimate fall.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Nick is a tech genius who doesn’t do well in social situations and frequently comes across as an arsehole; Wes is more than a decade older and considerably more chilled than Nick, but seems to just ‘get’ him – even the parts of himself Nick doesn’t fully understand. I liked the way their relationship developed; laid-back Wes is a great foil for Nick, who is sometimes driven to the point of obsession and oblivious to everything around him. There’s plenty of hot sex, but there’s an emotional connection, too -Nick has never clicked with anyone the way he has with Wes, and realises that for the first time ever, he’s developing feelings for someone that go beyond work or friendship.

The conflict comes fairly late in the book and although it seems a little contrived, it does actually fit with Nick’s character – he gets worked up and anxious easily and does tend to blurt the first thing that comes into his head, and the ‘black moment’ works because of it.

Nick J. Russo narrates and does a great job!


Setting the Hook by Andrew Grey

Narrated by Greg Tremblay

William Westmoreland escapes his unfulfilling Rhode Island existence by traveling to Florida twice a year and chartering Mike Jansen’s fishing boat to take him out on the Gulf. The crystal-blue water and tropical scenery isn’t the only view William enjoys, but he’s never made his move. A vacation romance just isn’t on his horizon.

Mike started his Apalachicola charter fishing service as a way to care for his daughter and mother, putting their safety and security ahead of the needs of his own heart. Denying his attraction becomes harder with each of William’s visits.

William and Mike’s latest fishing excursion starts with a beautiful day, but a hurricane’s erratic course changes everything, stranding William. As the wind and rain rage outside, the passion the two men have been trying to resist for years crashes over them. In the storm’s wake, it leaves both men yearning to prolong what they have found. But real life pulls William back to his obligations. Can they find a way to reduce the distance between them and discover a place where their souls can meet? The journey will require rough sailing, but the bright future at the end might be worth the choppy seas.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B

Sweet character-driven romance between a workaholic businessman, groomed by his parents to take over the family engineering firm, and the owner of the boat he charters a couple of times a year to go fishing.

A bad storm following William’s latest fishing trip leaves him stranded in Florida for a few days; Mike invites him to stay with him (he lives with his mother and ten-year-old daughter) and the nacent attraction they’ve both been feeling for years now becomes impossible to ignore or resist.

They’re from very different worlds, but no matter how strong the emotions growing between them, Mike’s life is in Florida and William’s is in Rhode Island. Yet the months apart after William’s last visit only prove to both of them that there’s something between them worth exploring, and both men have to decide how much they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to be together.

It’s nto going to win any prizes for originality, but Setting the Hook is an enjoyable story featuring likeable characters, and of course, Greg Tremblay’s narration was flawless.


Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely.

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Rating: B

Lovely and just what I needed right now.

Charlie Sutton is just twenty-five but is now the owner of the 2.58 million acre Sutton Station in the Northern Territory, Australia. He loves what he does, even though he knows he’s likely to spend his life alone; he’s gay and closeted, his late father having insisted that “no fairy” was ever going to be able to run Sutton Station and that it needed a “real man”. Yes, his father was an arsehole, but those words struck so deep that Charlie – although he’s doing a terrific job – can’t seem to see beyond them.

Enter Travis Craig, an agronomy student from Texas who has come to Sutton to see how things are done as part of an exchange programme. Travis is handsome, confident and, as quickly becomes clear to Charlie and his staff, knows his way around horses and cattle; he settles in quickly, becoming part of the team and establishing friendships with the others, but Charlie tells himself he must keep his distance.

There’s not a lot of angst in this one (a bit of very plausible drama in the second half worked well to ramp up the tension) and it’s mostly the story of Charlie learning to let go of his father’s bigotry and be his own man, and finally allowing himself to believe it’s possible for him to live his life with a loving partner by his side.

There are some great secondary characters (I loved Ma, who rules the kitchen with a rod of iron… or spatula, whatever) and the author’s descriptions of the Outback setting, the “red dirt”, the night skies, the sunsets are fabulous.

If you’re looking for a simple, well-written story that will transport you somewhere else for a few hours, this could be just what you’re after.


The Prince and his Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

Being a fierce predator – not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature – the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. 

As prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromising dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. 

The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard…

Grimmwolf

When the king of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. 

Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. 

When Owin was tasked with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B-

I wanted something short and sweet and this definitely fit the bill. The prince of the ocelot shifters has to team up with his bodyguard, a wolf shifter, to fulfil a quest set him by the king of all shifters… of course, they spar like cat and dog (!) and shenanigans ensure.

It’s not deep and the worldbuilding is minimal, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, especially in audio where Greg Boudreaux demonstrates once again that he’s a master of comic timing (and just about everything else when it comes to narration!)

Quick, fun and sexy – just what I was looking for, and I’ll probably pick up more audios in the series as they become available.


Sergeant Delicious by Annabeth Albert

Soon to be ex-marine Xavier has a bright future as a firefighter. But stationed far from home, he’s lonely and homesick for more than just his favorite foods. Thinking ahead to his homecoming, he responds to an ad seeking a date for a special gourmet dinner, but he doesn’t anticipate an immediate connection with the intriguing foodie who placed the ad.

Food writer Damien is looking for his big break, and reviewing an uber-exclusive secret restaurant may be exactly what he needs if he can score a date to go with him. He doesn’t expect to enjoy corresponding with Xavier quite so much, nor is he prepared for his powerful surge of lust for the hot marine.

However, Damien’s had more than his share of bad luck when it comes to romance, but Xavier is determined to win Damien over. Course-by-course, they fall deeper into like. When they finally give into their passion, sparks fly. But is it a flash in the pan or the recipe for lasting love?

Rating: B-

A sweet and sexy short story previously published in a charity anthology, Sergeant Delicious begins with soon-to-be demobbed Xavier answering an ad from “fun foodie guy” (a food writer) who wants someone to go with him to an upmarket dinner on Valentine’s day. The first part of this short story/novella shows the pair getting to know each other a bit via email, which makes the attraction they experience when they meet more believable. Both men are likeable and down-to-earth, and one of the things I really appreciate about novellas when they’re done well, is that the shorter page count doesn’t leave room for silly misunderstandings and other distracting plot points; and this is one of those that’s done well. The author doesn’t allow Damien’s hang-ups to get in the way (in fact, making good use of them! *wink*) and devotes all her page time to building the relationship between the leads.

A quick, fun (and did I mention sexy?) read.


Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price

Narrated by Gomez Pugh

There’s a new drug on the streets called Kick. The side effects are so brutal, most folks only try it once…unless they’re psychic. Then they do it until it kills them.

Psychic medium Victor Bayne is well acquainted with pharmaceuticals, from the Auracel that blocks his ghosts to the Seconal that offers him a blissful nights’ sleep. But he’s managed to steer clear of street drugs…so far.

Jacob Marks has a medicine cabinet filled with every over-the-counter remedy known to man, but none of them are doing much for his mood—and his long, fruitless days of combing through records at The Clinic are taking a heavy toll.
But their lackluster investigation does have one silver lining: a front row seat at The Clinic when the first Kick overdose comes in. And as scary as the drug might be, if it truly does augment psychic ability, the appeal is not lost on Vic.

Because the very first hit never killed anyone.

Where did Kick come from? Why is it so addictive? And why is everyone at The Clinic acting so darn shady? That’s what Vic intends to find out. And if he’s lucky, he can also expose a shadowy figure from Camp Hell.

Unfortunately, the demons of his pill addiction might prove just as deadly as his long-buried history. He thought he’d managed to ditch that pernicious habit. But what if it was only lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best time to rear its ugly head?

Rating: Narration: A; Content A-

Gah, I love this series so much, and it seems to get better and better! So much going on here besides the actual plot, about the investigation into a deadly psyactive drug (Kick) that is killing psychics. I’m loving Vic’s character growth, especially over the last few books as he’s finally realising what it’s like to work with people who respect him and is really gaining in confidence as a result. He still can’t quite believe it, and is still as endearingly self-deprecatingly shambolic as ever, but we – and Jacob of course – see it and appreciate it. And I like that we get to see Jacob’s more vulnerable side; he’s one of those people who, by virtue of his good looks, imposing physique, intelligence and charisma has come up against little in his life that he hasn’t been able to deal with, but that’s changing, and although he’s still very much the Jacob we all know and love, that extra dimension to him is great to see.

Vic and Jacob’s relationship continues to grow and their love for each other to deepen; they get to work with Zig and Carolyn again, and we get some closure for one of the characters who’s been around since book one; Jackie, the ghost who spasmodically haunted Vic’s old appartment. Her story is a tragic one, and the author does an amazing job in the scenes where Vic and Jacob find out the truth of what happened to her and then help her to move on – they’re incredibly poignant and Gomez Pugh is simply brilliant in them and captures every single drop of emotion.

On the subject of Mr. Pugh – his portrayal of Vic is so absolutely perfect that it’s easy to forget sometimes just how good he is at the rest of it. He can produce an amazing variety of character voices for what is, after eleven books, a large secondary cast, many of whom have appeared in several books throughout the series, and his inventiveness (and consistency) is remarkable.

And – whoa, that ending! When’s the next book out?!

Forever Right Now by Emma Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Caitlin Kelly and Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Darlene Montgomery has been to hell and back…more than once. After a stint in jail for drug possession, she is finally clean and ready to start over. Yet another failed relationship is just the motivation she needs to move from New York to San Francisco with the hopes of resurrecting her dance career and discovering that she is more than the sum of her rap sheet. As Darlene struggles in her new city, the last thing she wants is to become entangled with her handsome – but cranky – neighbor and his adorable little girl….

Sawyer Haas is weeks away from finishing law school, but exhaustion, dwindling finances, and the pressure to provide for himself and his daughter, Olivia, are wearing him down. A federal clerkship – a job he desperately needs – awaits him after graduation, but only if he passes the bar exam. Sawyer doesn’t have the time or patience for the capricious – if beautiful – dancer who moves into the apartment above his. But Darlene’s easy laugh and cheerful spirit seep into the cracks of his hardened heart, and slowly break down the walls he’s resurrected to keep from being betrayed ever again.

When the parents of Olivia’s absentee mother come to fight for custody, Sawyer could lose everything. To have any chance at happiness, he must trust Darlene, the woman who has somehow found her way past his brittle barbs, and Darlene must decide how much of her own bruised heart she is willing to give to Sawyer and Olivia, especially when the ghosts of her troubled past refuse to stay buried.

Rating: Narration: A; Content: B

Sawyer Haas is a law student in his early twenties who works hard and plays hard.  In the middle of a party at the place he shares with a few other guys, he is literally left holding the baby when a woman he hooked-up with a few months earlier turns up on his doorstep, presents him with a warm bundle she says is his daughter and then leaves.  Sawyer may be young, and bringing up a child alone was certainly not something he’d ever envisaged doing, but it’s pretty much love at first sight, and after a few days with Olivia, he realises he can’t do anything else.  He makes huge changes to his life; he moves out of the shared house and devotes his life to his studies and his daughter.  For ten months, he juggles those two things, focused on his goal of having his name added to Olivia’s birth certificate so that she’s legally his, something he can petition for after she’s been with him for a year and there’s no sign of her mother coming back for her (which is his deepest fear).  He’s a devoted father and Olivia is well and happy when Darlene comes into their lives like a breath of fresh air.

Darlene Montgomery has moved to San Francisco from New York intent on making a fresh start.  Three years earlier, she had overdosed, and later, served three months in prison for drug possession.  She’s cleaned up her act, but has found it hard to shake off the past in a place where everyone she knows is aware of what happened and always looks at her as though they’re expecting her to go off the rails again.  Darlene wants to get out from under the weight of those negative expectations, to put the past behind her and doesn’t want any reminders of the woman she was then to impinge on the new life she wants to create for herself.

Darlene and Sawyer don’t hit it off at first.  She’s open and friendly, but Sawyer is reserved and tightly wound as well as naturally cautious about strangers around Olivia.  But living in the same building it’s impossible to avoid one another completely, and gradually they get to know one another and start falling for each other.  For Sawyer, Darlene is everything light and carefree he’s missing in his life of responsibility, and Darlene is completely smitten with the caring, passionate man she occasionally glimpses behind Sawyer’s stoic, but exhausted exterior.  The chemistry between the pair is electric, and the author builds the romantic tension between them extremely well; their first kisses are hot and sweet and intense, and we’re left in no doubt that these two very different people care deeply for one another.

Both characters are likeable but flawed, and while it’s easy to see the Black Moment coming a mile off, it’s also easy to understand why Darlene is so eager to keep the details of her past screw-ups from Sawyer.  The trouble is, she’s so focused on her fresh start that she fails to take into account the importance of owning her mistakes and remembering them so as to learn from them and not make them again.  And Sawyer, whose eidetic memory is undoubtedly an asset given the pressures he’s under, is someone who sees things very much in black and white; he’s brilliant, but he struggles to see the grey areas, to account for human frailty when it comes to the law – and that inability could threaten not only his career, but the life he’s making with Olivia… and the one he’d hoped to make for the both of them with Darlene.

I didn’t expect to get quite so sucked in to this story, but the characters, plot and narration were so appealing that I found myself listening at every opportunity.  Greg Tremblay is an incredibly talented narrator and one I listen to frequently, but Caitlin Kelly is new-to-me, so I admit to a little trepidation before I started listening.  I needn’t have worried however, because she delivers a really strong performance that more than holds its own.  Both narrators differentiate clearly between the various characters and both are able to voice characters of the opposite sex convincingly and consistently throughout.  Their vocal acting is superb and they don’t hold back when it comes to the heightened emotion of some of the later chapters; I was on the verge of tears when it seemed Sawyer’s world was about to come tumbling down and could feel Darlene’s heart breaking when she thought she’d lost everything she ever wanted.

Forever Right Now is an emotionally charged story that tugs at the heartstrings in the best way.  The relationships – especially Sawyer’s with Olivia – are really well written, and the romance is just the right amount of sexy and sweet.  The superb narration is a real bonus; if you’re into audio, that’s definitely the way to go for this one.

Fire and Granite (Carlisle Deputies #2) by Andrew Grey (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The heat is growing from the inside, but danger is building on the outside.

Judge Andrew Phillips runs a tight ship in his courtroom. He’s tough, and when he hands down a sentence, he expects to be obeyed. So when a fugitive named Harper escapes and threatens his life, Andrew isn’t keen on 24/seven protection…especially not from Deputy Clay Brown. They have a past, one that could cause problems in their careers.

But with Clay assigned to Andrew and the two of them together every minute, there’s nowhere to hide from their attraction – or from the fact that there’s much more than chemistry blooming between them. As the threat intensifies, Clay knows he’ll do anything it takes to protect the people who are taking their places in his heart: Andrew and his young niece and nephew.

Rating: Narration: A+; Content: B-

I listened to Fire and Flint, the first book in Andrew Grey’s series featuring the sheriff’s deputies in Carlisle, PA, last year and enjoyed it sufficiently to want to listen to another book in the series. Fire and Granite is book two, and like its predecessor, it’s a fairly low-angst, low-drama listen with a tender and rather sweet romance at its centre.

Deputy Clay Brown is one of a team escorting a high-risk, dangerous criminal from prison to the courthouse when their vehicles are ambushed, and the prisoner – who by a weird quirk of fate happens to be Clay’s cousin Harper Grange – is sprung in what is clearly a well-planned operation. Clay is frustrated at being on the other end of the investigation rather than being out there looking for the escapee, so he’s not too pleased when he’s handed a different assignment. Judge Andrew Phillips was responsible for putting Grange behind bars, and less than an hour after the ambush, received a phone call threatening his life. Clay is assigned as his protection detail while Grange is at large – but as he doesn’t exactly get along with “Judge Moody and Superior” or like him very much, it’s going to be a difficult few days.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fire and Flint (Carlisle Deputies #1) by Andrew Grey (audiobook) Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jordan Erichsohn suspects something is rotten about his boss, Judge Crawford. Unfortunately, he has nowhere to turn and doubts anyone will believe his claims – least of all the handsome deputy, Pierre Ravelle, who has been assigned to protect the judge after he received threatening letters. The judge has a long reach, and if he finds out Jordan’s turned on him, he might impede Jordan adopting his son, Jeremiah.

When Jordan can no longer stay silent, he gathers his courage and tells Pierre what he knows. To his surprise and relief, Pierre believes him, and Jordan finds an ally…and maybe more.

Pierre vows to do what it takes to protect Jordan and Jeremiah and see justice done. He’s willing to fight for the man he’s growing to love and the family he’s starting to think of as his own. But Crawford is a powerful and dangerous enemy, and he’s not above ripping apart everything Jordan and Pierre are trying to build in order to save himself…

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B-

Fire and Flint is the first Carlisle Deputies book, a new spin-off of the author’s earlier Carlisle Cops series (which I haven’t read or listened to). It will come as no surprise whatsoever when I say that the big draw on this one was the narrator, who I’d cheerfully listen to if he were reading me Haynes Car Manuals. Fire and Flint proved to be a cute, fairly low-angst story that concentrates mostly on the developing relationship between the main characters, with a bit of drama injected courtesy of a crooked judge who could derail the adoption of a little boy by the man he already calls “Daddy”.

Deputy Pierre Ravelle is pulled off regular duty and temporarily assigned to the courthouse – specifically as protection for Judge Crawford, who has recently received a number of threatening letters. At the judge’s office he meets the judge’s paralegal and assistant, Jordan Erichsohn, with whom he feels an instant rapport. A few days later, he’s out with colleagues, when he comes across a rather agitated Jordan who is desperate to get back to his mother’s house where his four-year-old son, Jeremiah, has become unwell. Jeremiah had leukaemia, and although the cancer is gone, there’s always a chance it could come back, or that it’s caused other complications, and Jordan is worried. The trouble is that he’s on a very rare night out with friends and has left his car at home – and the friend he came with is reluctant to leave the club so early. This is when Pierre steps in and offers to drive Jordan home so he can pick up his car and drive to his mother’s. Pierre ends up doing more than that when Jordan’s car won’t start; he takes him to collect Jeremiah and then drives them both to the hospital, staying with them until the boy is seen by the doctor, treated and then discharged.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Restless Spirits (Spirits #1) by Jordan L. Hawk (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work.

A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner. The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed. Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns. For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives but their very souls.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B

Restless Spirits is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s Spirits trilogy set in New York at the end of the nineteenth century. The novels chart the development of a romantic relationship between a most unlikely couple as they battle malevolent ghosts and evil spirits; and in this opening instalment scientist Henry Strauss and medium Vincent Night are pitted against each other in a contest of modern scientific ideas versus traditional myth and mediumship.

After his father’s death a decade earlier, Henry Strauss and his grieving mother were duped by a medium who promised them he could communicate with the late Mr. Strauss. Young, handsome and charming, Isaac Woodsend wormed his way into the household and stole everything he could lay his hands on – including Henry’s sixteen-year-old innocence and heart. His family ruined, his mother driven to an early grave, Henry vowed never to trust a medium again, and set his mind to devising a machine that would enable the dead to contact the living without the need for a human intermediary. As the novel opens, Henry has put the finishing touches to his Electro-Séance and has finally proven that it works; he is anxious to present his findings to the Psychical Society and hopes to finally achieve his long-held ambition of acceptance into their ranks and of getting the necessary funding to have his work mass produced.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.