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.

Firestorm (Flashpoint #3) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

CIA covert operator Savannah James is after intel on a potential coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she needs a partner fluent in Lingala to infiltrate the organization.

Sergeant First Class Cassius Callahan is the perfect choice, except he doesn’t like her very much. He doesn’t trust her, either, despite the sparks that flare between them, fierce and hot. Still, he accepts the assignment, even though their cover requires Savvy to pose as his mistress.

They enter battle-worn Congo to expose the financing for the coup. A trail of cobalt, gold, and diamonds leads them into the heart of darkness, a jungle in which everyone is desperate to find the mother lode of ore and gems. Betrayal stalks them as they follow the money, but Savvy will stop at nothing to bring down the would-be dictator before he can ignite a firestorm that will engulf all of Africa.

Deep in the sultry rain forest, spy and Green Beret forge a relationship more precious than diamonds, but Cal knows Savvy is willing to sacrifice anything – or anyone – to complete her mission. As they near the flash point, Cal will have to save her from the greatest threat of all: herself.

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – A

I had the same feeling when I finished listening to Firestorm (book three in Rachel Grant’s Flashpoint series) as I did when I finished reading the novel a few weeks back – the urge to stand up, applaud and yell “bravo!” – because it is easily one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve ever listened to. It’s also a story I’ve been waiting for since the series began; Sergeant First Class Cassius ‘Cal’ Callahan and CIA operative Savannah James have been striking sparks off each other for two books now, and in Firestorm they get their chance to kick ass, take names, and burn up the sheets. (And then some).

Both Savvy and Cal were prominent secondary characters in the other books, and it’s been clear from the off that while Cal doesn’t particularly like Savvy, he’s strongly attracted to her – and that the reverse is true. Savannah is the resident “spook” at the military base at Camp Citron in Djibouti, and pretty much everyone on base views her with suspicion; she’s widely rumoured to be with the CIA, but nobody knows for sure. Whatever her affiliation though, there’s no question she’s extremely competent and is completely focused on getting the job done, no matter what the cost. This ruthlessness is one of the things about her that Cal dislikes intensely; he believes she’ll sacrifice anything and anyone in pursuit of her goals – plus he has his own reasons for being wary of the CIA. So when his commanding officer tells him that Savvy has requested his services for a sensitive operation, he’s not eager to sign up.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

YOU CAN ENTER THE GIVEAWAY AT AUDIOGALS – THERE ARE TWO COPIES OF FIRESTORM UP FOR GRABS – UNTIL WEDS 8th AUGUST.

Quickie Reviews #1

Given that both my TBR and TBL are normally fairly full of review copies, I don’t always get many opportunities to read or listen to books that I’m not reviewing somewhere. But lately, I’ve been getting through a large number of audiobooks due to the fact that I have a thirty-minute commute each day, and that when I get home, looking at words on a page sends me to sleep so it’s easier to listen than to read!

I like to keep track of my reading/listening, so even though I haven’t got time to write full-length reviews for these titles, I’ve posted short reviews on GoodReads and thought I might as well put them here as well, given this blog is supposed to be the Place Where I Review All The Things. (One day, I might even get around to using it that way!)

So here are some quickie reviews for audiobooks I’ve listened to over the past few weeks.


Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford, narrated by Greg Tremblay

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

An enjoyable steampunk novella/short story set in a recognisable alternative Victorian London that plants lots of threads and ideas – I’m guessing for a series that has never materialised? And that’s a shame, because the world-building is richly imagined and the two central characters – a viscount (although the author needs a bit of guidance about the use of titles and inheritance, because a third son would not have a courtesy title) and an inventor – are likeable and intriguing. This review pretty much encapsulates my thoughts 🙂

I’ve heard Greg Tremblay’s British accent before, although he didn’t have to sustain it as long as here; he does an extremely good job with both central characters, although one of the secondary cast (a female doctor) does sometimes sound more Antipodean than Cockney (a fairly common problem with American narrators who Bring the Brit) but for the most part, he does a superb job. Just one thing, Greg – I love you to bits, but “duke” is NOT pronounced “dook” on this side of the pond! (More like “juke” – just sayin’).

If this ever expands into a full series, I’ll definitely be picking it up.


Third Solstice by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert


Gideon’s managed to swing a few festive days off, and he and Lee are looking forward to celebrating their little girl’s first birthday. But duty calls, and Gideon is too good an officer to ignore the summons. He finds himself on the streets of Penzance, helping police the midwinter Montol celebrations.

It’s his third winter solstice with Lee, and disturbance, danger and magic are in the air. His daughter is beginning to show some remarkable gifts, and not all the family can cope with them. As the Montol festivities reach their fiery heights, will Lee and Gideon find a way to keep those they love best on the right side of the solstice gate?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Another charming – though short – visit with the Tyack-Frayne household, as baby Tamsyn approaches her first birthday and is showing signs of the magical and supernatural abilities that run in her bloodline. The focus is firmly on the domestic here; Lee and Gideon are more in love than ever and their time as new parents is brilliantly depicted – anyone who has had to cope with the chaos of having a young child/toddler in the house will be nodding their heads sagely at the descriptions of shirts stained with breakfasts or sticky hands!

Zeke and Ma Frayne are back, and we also bump into a number of other characters we’ve met throughout the series, and – as is the case with each of the books in the series – we’re given more glimpses of the supernatural world of Dark and Cornish/Celtic folklore; it’s a bit bonkers sometimes, but I love it.

Narrator Tim Gilbert does a spectacular job once again; he captures Lee, Gid and Zeke so perfectly, and his narration is wonderfully nuanced and hits all the right emotional notes. Recommended.


All Kinds of Tied Down by Mary Calmes, narrated by Tristan James

Deputy US Marshal Miro Jones has a reputation for being calm and collected under fire. These traits serve him well with his hotshot partner, Ian Doyle, the kind of guy who can start a fight in an empty room. In the past three years of their life-and-death job, they’ve gone from strangers to professional coworkers to devoted teammates and best friends. Miro’s cultivated blind faith in the man who has his back…faith and something more.

As a marshal and a soldier, Ian’s expected to lead. But the power and control that brings Ian success and fulfillment in the field isn’t working anywhere else. Ian’s always resisted all kinds of tied down, but having no home – and no one to come home to – is slowly eating him up inside. Over time, Ian has grudgingly accepted that going anywhere without his partner simply doesn’t work. Now Miro just has to convince him that getting tangled up in heartstrings isn’t being tied down at all.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B

An enjoyable m/m romantic suspense story featuring two US Marshals, All Kinds of Tied Down is my first experience with author Mary Calmes. The first half of the story is somewhat disjointed, although I suppose that’s largely due to the nature of the job these guys do; I’m not too well-versed in who does what when it comes to US law enforcement, but if I’ve understood correctly, these are the guys who are sent to pick up and escort prisoners and oversee witness protection and things like that, which means this is a bit different from your normal police procedural when the characters will follow a case from beginning to end. There’s a meatier plotline that runs from about the halfway point, but what the earlier section does well is set up the two central characters; the fashion conscious, organised Miro(slav) Jones, an all-round nice guy nobody seems to have a bad word to say about, and his partner, Ian Doyle, who is also a Captain with the Green Berets (I have no idea how that works, but I went with it). Ian is prickly, snarky and a slob – so we’ve got a bit of an odd couple thing going on. Oh, and he’s straight, which is hell for Miro who has a serious crush on him.

The author sets up their friendship well – Ian is a regular pain in the arse and everyone says that he’s only bearable when Miro is around – and because the story is told through Miro’s PoV, we recognise all the signs he misses that Ian might not be as out of Miro’s reach as he thinks he is. It’s a decent story with likeable characters – not the best I’ve ever come across, but it’s entertaining and the banter and teasing between Ian and Miro is well done.

Tristan James narrates – I’ve listened to him a few times now and he delivers an entertaining performance, although sometimes there wasn’t sufficient differentiation between the principals, but he does a good job overall, his narration is well paced and he captures the spirit of the central relationship really well.

This is a four book series, so I’ll probably pick up book two at some point and see how it goes.


HIM by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, narrated by Jacob Morgan and Teddy Hamilton

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – A-

NA (I’m calling it that because the two main characters are in their early 20s) isn’t my normal cuppa, but I’ve heard many good things about this story – and the narration – that I thought I’d give it a go and picked it up in an Audible sale recently.

It’s a superbly done friends-to-lovers / sexual awakening story featuring two likeable protagonists; cocky, loudmouthed Wes is out, long-time friend Jamie has no idea he’s not completely straight. Sweet, funny and hot, it’s very well narrated and was definitely worth a listen.


Guardians of the Haunted Moor by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – A-

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

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

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


I’ve optimistically titled this as Quickies #1.  Hopefully, I’ll have time for more in future.