Voyageurs by Keira Andrews (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

voyageurs

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two men battle the wilderness – and desire.

It’s 1793, and Simon Cavendish needs to get to his station at Fort Charlotte, a fur-trading outpost in the untamed Canadian wild. The fort is only accessible by canoe, and there’s just one man daring enough to take him on the perilous, thousand-mile journey from Montreal this late in the summer.

Young Christian Smith, the son of an Ojibwe mother and absent English father, is desperate for money to strike out on his own, so he agrees to take clueless Simon deep into the wild. As they travel endless lakes and rivers, they butt heads.

Yet the attraction between Simon and Christian, two men from vastly different worlds, grows ever stronger. Locked in a battle against the wilderness and elements, how long can they fight their desire for each other?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

I suppose saying “it was too short” is a form of praise – right? I recently reviewed another novella by Keira Andrews – Arctic Fire – and said exactly that; I enjoyed it and would have loved to have listened to a longer story featuring those characters. The same is true of Voyageurs, an historical romance which is more of a short story than a novella, coming in at just over ninety minutes in audio. I don’t often review ultra-short audiobooks like this one, but Keira Andrews has become a favourite author and with Joel Leslie narrating… Pfft. No brainer.

It’s July 1793, and Simon Cavendish, formerly of the East India Company, has arrived – a month late owing to bad weather and a ship in need of repairs – at the offices of the North West Company in Montréal, from where he is to travel to take up a post at Fort Charlotte, a thousand miles away. Simon is eager to take up his new position, but unfortunately, the delay in his arrival means that the party of voyageurs (young men hired to transport goods to trading posts) he was to have joined for the journey had to leave without him. Simon is disappointed to learn that he will have to wait until next spring to travel safely – and jumps on the idea of maybe travelling with just one or two voyageurs if they can be found and persuaded to make the trip.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Merry Measure by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

merry measure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Arlo Wright’s introduction to his sexuality came when he saw his older brother’s best friend, Jack Cooper, in his sweaty football kit. Unfortunately, he didn’t have long to enjoy the revelation because he promptly knocked himself out on a table.

Relations between them have never really moved on from that auspicious beginning. Arlo is still clumsy, and Jack is still as handsome and unobtainable as ever. However, things look like they’re starting to change when Arlo finds himself sharing a room with Jack while on holiday in Amsterdam at Christmas.

Will the festive spirit finally move them towards each other, or is Arlo just banging his head against a wall this time?

Rating: Narration – A; Content- B+

A sweet, fluffy and charming romance between an accident-prone primary school teacher and his brother’s best friend, Merry Measure was one of my favourite Christmassy romances of last year, so I was delighted to see it make its way into audio just in time for the festive season this year. Fans of the author will know what I mean when I say it’s typical Lily Morton: funny, snarky and sexy with endearing leads, fun secondary characters and well-written familial relationships and friendships. Coming in at somewhere under six hours, it’s a relatively short listen, but it nonetheless manages to provide just the right amount of feel-good vibes and festive cheer – and with the supremely talented Joel Leslie at the microphone, you know you can just kick back and enjoy the show!

Arlo Wright just about makes it to the airport in time to catch his flight to Amsterdam, where he’s to join his brother Tom, Tom’s boyfriend, Bee, and a couple of other friends for a pre-Christmas jaunt to the city to celebrate Tom and Bee’s engagement. Although Tom has yet to propose; he’s hoping for the perfect moment while they’re on the trip. Arlo hates flying, so he was extremely relieved when Tom’s best friend Jack Cooper (on whom Arlo once had a massive crush) offered to travel with him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Spare by Miranda Dubner (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

The Spare

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

“I’m publicly bisexual now, I’ll make all the musical theatre references I please. I’ll belt Cole Porter songs prancing on top of this bar if I want to.” (His Royal Highness Prince Edward Nicholas William Desmond, second son of Her Majesty Queen Victoria II of England and the Commonwealth)

Eddie Kensington had certain responsibilities, up until two weeks ago. Dress well, smile in public, uphold the family honor. Be straight. Never talk about being bisexual, or being in love with his bodyguard, Isaac Cole, for nearly 10 years. Protecting his mother and siblings from yet more tabloid scandal in the wake of his parents’ high-profile divorce was always more important. 

Up until two weeks ago, when he was outed by the press. Now he’s in the midst of an unscheduled identity crisis, and his entire family seems to be joining in. His estranged father shows up. His sister flirts with the reporter hired to write their grandmother’s biography. His older brother is more reluctant than ever to take up public-facing duties, and Her Majesty is considering going out on a date. Keeping calm and carrying on becomes impossible when Eddie learns Isaac might return his decidedly inconvenient feelings. 

For any one of them to steal a happily ever after, the Kensingtons will have to decide what they really hold dear–the legacy they were born into, or the dreams they kept for themselves.

Rating: Narration – A+; Content- B+

The Spare is an entertaining mix of romance and sweeping family drama set in an AU in which Queen Victoria II sits upon the British throne – the first ever divorced monarch – and which features multiple storylines for her and her three children, Arthur, Prince of Wales, Edward (the titular “Spare”) and Alexandra. I read the book last year and enjoyed it, but although it contains one primary romance that reaches its HEA and other romantic threads throughout, I’d suggest anyone contemplating listening to this – and it’s well worth a listen – should think Downton Abbey rather than His Royal SecretThe book blurb is somewhat misleading in this respect.

When the novel begins, HRH Edward Nicholas William Desmond Kensington, second son of Queen Victoria II, is making his first public appearance in the UK since he was publicly outed when old photographs – taken while he was at university – of him cuddled up to another man were splashed across the UK tabloids. His family is aware of his bisexuality, but he’s kept it under wraps everywhere else mostly for their sake; his mother’s divorce some years before mired them all in enough scandal to last a lifetime, and Eddie was hoping he’d be able to pick his own moment to make an announcement. But it was not to be and now the fallout has to be dealt with.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

My 2020 in Books & Audio

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews are linked in the text beneath each image.

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

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

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

Audio

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

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

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

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

The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings (Black & Blue #1) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Levi Black is at a crossroads. After suffering a loss and breaking up a long-term relationship, he’s looking for a change. When he receives the news he’s inherited a house in York, he seizes the opportunity to begin a new chapter in his life.

However, when he gets there, he finds a house that has never kept its occupants for very long. Either through death or disinclination, no one stays there, and after a few days of living in the place, Levi can understand why. Strange noises can be heard at all hours of the day and night, and disturbing and scary things begin to happen to him. He never believed in ghosts before, but when events take a sinister turn, he knows he must look for help. He finds it in the unlikely form of the blue-haired leader of a ghost tour.

Blue Billings is edgy, beautiful, and lost. Utterly lost. He conceals so many secrets that some days it’s a miracle he remembers his own name. He knows that he should ignore Levi because he threatens the tenuous grip Blue has on survival. But there’s something about the kind-eyed man that draws Blue to him. Something that demands he stay and fight for him when he would normally run in the opposite direction.

As the two men investigate the shocking truth behind Levi’s house, they also discover a deep connection that defies the short length of time they’ve known each other. But when events escalate and his life is on the line, Levi has to wonder if it was wise to trust the mysterious and amazing Blue Billings.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Author Lily Morton branches out into paranormal romance with The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings, a ghost story set in York, which is often called one of the most haunted towns in Britain. The author’s trademark humour and snark are very much in evidence, the central romance features two engaging characters who come to share a strong emotional connection, and Ms. Morton knows how to bring the spooky, so maybe this isn’t a book to listen to in the dark!

Following the death of his mother and his breakup with his partner of five years, Levi Black relocates from London to York, where he has inherited a house from a distant relative. It’s a beautiful old building in a prime location not far from the Minster, and he falls in love with it straight away (despite the rather odd noises coming from upstairs), determining to fix it up, turn it into a proper home and make a fresh start. His plans to move in have to be put on hold however, because the house is in a worse state than he’d realised, so he moves into a hotel for the six months while the workmen make the house habitable again.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Manners & Mannerisms by Tanya Chris (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon
Everyone in Highley eagerly anticipates the arrival of Reginald Abernathy, the new master of Albon Manor. Everyone, that is, except Lord William Bascomb. William knows he’ll be expected to woo Reginald’s sister, and he can’t summon the interest for it. But when the Abernathys arrive at last, William discovers he’s interested after all – in Reginald. Reginald is the most handsome, most dashing, most intriguing man he’s ever known. Better yet, he seems to share William’s preference for men. The addition of the Abernathys to Highley suits everyone. William’s sister adores Reginald’s, Aunt Harriet foresees many happy matches between the two families, William’s sister-in-law is pleased at the prospect of unloading her penniless relatives at last, and all the eligible ladies in Highley want the man who only has eyes for William. Against a backdrop of elegant balls and frolicking picnics, William and Reginald enjoy furtive moments of ecstasy until a scandal erupts, forcing William to choose between Reginald and the only life he’s ever known.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – D

Manners & Mannerisms is a standalone m/m historical romance by Tanya Chris, who is the author of a number of contemporary and paranormal romances – and based on this, I’d suggest she should stick to those, because historicals clearly aren’t her forté. The story is dreadfully dull, and had I not agreed to review it, I’d probably have DNF’ed; even the fabulous Joel Leslie can’t turn this audiobook into anything other than it is – painfully uneventful and completely devoid of chemistry and humour. Our PoV character is Lord William Bascombe, younger brother of the Marquess of Eldridge. The family is very strapped for cash thanks to their father’s mismanagement, and they have avoided destitution by the marquess’ marriage to an heiress. William and his younger siblings, Frederick and Catherine, still live at the family home, although William knows that he should be considering taking a wife for himself and setting up his own household. He also knows that he is not inclined towards women, and has instead resigned himself to living alone. His aunt, however, has other ideas; Mr. Reginald Abernathy of Virginia – the new owner of the neighbouring estate of Albon Manor – would be an excellent choice of suitor for Catherine, and more than that, he has a sister of marriageable age who would no doubt make William a good wife. You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Milo (Finding Home #2) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Once upon a time, a brave knight rescued a young man. Unfortunately, he then spent the next few years bossing the young man around and treating him like a child.  Milo has been burying himself at Chi an Mor, hiding from the wreckage of his once promising career and running from a bad relationship that destroyed what little confidence he had. Niall, his big brother’s best friend, has been there for him that entire time. An arrogant and funny man, Niall couldn’t be any more different from the shy and occasionally stuttering Milo, which has never stopped Milo from crushing wildly on the man who saved him.

However, just as Milo makes the decision to move on from his hopeless crush, he and Niall are thrown into close contact, and for the first time ever, Niall seems to be returning his interest. But it can never work. How can it when Milo always needs rescuing?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Milo is the second book in Lily Morton’s Finding Home series, and in it, listeners return to the gorgeous Cornwall setting of Chi an Mor, the country estate belonging to Silas, Earl of Ashworth. We met Milo Ramsey and Niall Fawcett first of all in the previous book, Oz, when Niall interviewed Oz Gallagher for the job of Collections Manager at the house, where Milo has worked as an art conservator for the past few years. He’s a decade or so younger than Niall, but the pair have known each other for most of their lives; Milo’s older brother Gideon is Niall’s best friend (they were at school together) and they’ve also been occasional fuck-buddies for years – a discovery that left a smitten, seventeen-year-old Milo heartbroken after he found them in bed together.

The novel opens with a prologue set five years before the story proper, with Milo in the kitchen of the flat he shares with his boyfriend Thomas. Milo has just dropped a bottle of wine and is terrified of Thomas’ reaction; with good reason it turns out, as the other man wastes no time in getting nasty, telling Milo how useless he is, criticising his appearance and making fun of the stammer he’s struggled with since childhood and which tends to worsen when he’s upset or nervous. In the midst of Thomas’ cruel tirade, another voice bursts in and furiously demands to know “What the fuck is going on in here?” It’s Niall – who immediately tells Milo to pack up his stuff and then whisks him away to Cornwall and Chi an Mor, where Milo gradually starts to recover, returning to physical health and gradually making new friendships and becoming comfortable in his new surroundings. Mentally, however, his ex really did a number on him; his self-confidence, which was never strong owing to his stammer, is still seriously dented.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Oz (Finding Home #1) by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

What happens when temporary becomes forever?

Oz Gallagher does not do relationships well. Bored and jobless after another disastrous hook up, he decides to leave London for a temporary job in the wilds of Cornwall. Surely managing a stately home on a country estate will be easier than navigating the detritus of his relationships at home. Six months there will alleviate a bit of his wanderlust and then he can come back to London as footloose and fancy free as the day he left it.

However, when he gets there, he finds a house in danger of crumbling to the ground and a man who is completely unlike anyone he’s ever met. An earl belonging to a family whose roots go back hundreds of years, Silas is the living embodiment of duty and sacrifice. Two things that Oz has never wanted. He’s also warm and funny and he draws Oz to him like a magnet.

Oz banks on the fact that they’re from two very different worlds to stop himself falling for Silas. But what will he do when he realizes that these differences are actually part of the pull to one another? Will falling in love be enough to make him stop moving at last and realize that he’s finally home?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B-

Oz, the first book in Lily Morton’s Coming Home series, is loosely linked to her previous Mixed Messages trilogy but works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you’re familiar with the author’s work, you’ll find exactly the sort of thing you’ve come to expect; characters who could snark for England, plenty of steam, a wonderful ‘family’ of secondary characters and a lovely HEA.  I have to be honest, though.  While I enjoyed Oz, it’s far from my favourite of Ms. Morton’s books, and even though it’s got all the ingredients that made the Mixed Messages books real winners, something about it fell a bit flat.  The humour isn’t as funny, the wit isn’t as biting, the conflict is very slight and there’s ultimately not much of a story here.

Oz Gallagher doesn’t exactly have a great track record – any track record, really – with relationships, but even so, finding his boyfriend balls-deep in another bloke in their bed is something he could have done without.  Over a drink in the local pub, Oz’s best mate Shaun shows him an ad for a House and Collections Manager at the Earl of Ashworth’s property in Cornwall and encourages Oz to apply – he’s got degrees in Fine Art, History of Art and nothing to lose, after all.  Oz is surprised, to say the least, to get an interview, and turns up at the swanky London hotel amid all the besuited posh types who are obviously after the job as well.  Feeling completely out of place and knowing he’s got no chance against all these chinless wonders, Oz thinks ‘fuck it’ and gives the worst interview ever:

“So, Oz, I see that you have a first class degree in Fine Art and History of Art… And can you say that you’ve used this in a productive manner?”

I shrug and smile earnestly. “It’s allowed me to work on Bernie’s Antique stall on Camden Market.”

And later:

 “The position you’re interviewing for is that of the house manager at Ashworth House. Can you tell me what you think that entails?”

I shrug and smile winsomely. “I imagine it’s like being a tour manager, but with less drugs and hookers.”

… and of course, he gets the job.

Silas, the Earl of Ashworth, was left with huge debts when his father died, but wants to see if he can turn things around before he thinks about offloading the place to the National Trust.  The house  – whose Cornish name is Chi an Mor – is his home, and even though his childhood wasn’t particularly happy (if you’ve read or listened to Risk Taker, you’ll already know what a complete and utter bastard his father was) –  the place is in Silas’ blood and he can’t envisage himself anywhere else.  His plan is to generate income by opening the house to visitors for part of the year, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get it ready to open on time. His thriving veterinary practice keeps him going financially on a personal level, but he can’t work there and oversee the renovations, and his former house manager – who had been sharing his bed – has recently quit.

Oz arrives to find the situation worse than he’d expected.  The car park is still a field, the visitors centre is an empty shell and the workmen…  are down the pub.  With gusto, gumption and grit worthy of Mary Poppins, Oz deals with the lazy builders, sorts out Silas’ staffing problems, gets everything running like clockwork and even faces off against Silas’ shitty ex for an encore.  He’s just that good.

Lily Morton builds a lovely friendship between Oz and Silas to start with, Oz caring for Silas in simple but important ways (like sitting up late to make sure he eats when he’s been out on calls all day), the two of them talking and getting to know each other.  Silas is bisexual and freely admits to having had a lot of relationships, but none has lasted very long; he loves Cornwall and doesn’t want to leave, and his previous partners haven’t wanted to be there long term.  He’s down-to-earth and lovely and lonely, and I loved watching him demolish every one of Oz’s preconceptions of what a member of the aristocracy would be like. There’s a strong pull of attraction between them from the start, but with both men having had bad experiences of boss/employee relationships, they agree that acting on that attraction would be a very bad idea… until, of course, it becomes impossible not to. 😉

Silas and Oz are good for each other in the best of ways, each finding something in the other they’d never thought to have.  The only real conflict in the story comes from the fact that Oz is convinced he’s not good enough; an Irish boy from a Tottenham council estate and an Earl don’t make sense and he can never really fit into Silas’ upper-crust life (impressions only reinforced by Silas’ bitchy mother). But Silas is clever enough to know exactly what Oz is thinking and is prepared to wait for the penny to drop – that penny being that he’s as in love with Silas as Silas is with him and that they’re each other’s person – each other’s home.

Oz is funny and sexy, with great secondary characters and wonderfully descriptive prose, but the story loses momentum after Oz and Silas become a couple.  There’s no real drama (and I’m not talking about over-the-top melodrama, just… something to propel the story forward) and no real tension as a result – and that’s fine; low-angst stories can be great, but I just wanted a bit more from this one.  And Oz the character… well, he’s witty, gorgeous, warm, capable and caring; he’s a good cook, he’s a brilliant manager, he’s got an answer for everyone and a plan for everything – in short, he’s more than a bit too good to be true, and that got to be wearing after a while.

In Joel Leslie, Lily Morton has found the perfect narrator for her particular brand of sexy snark.  He’s an incredibly talented performer and it was obvious to me within the first five minutes of their very first collaboration, Rule Breaker, that I was listening to a narrator who completely ‘got’ his author and her characters. His comic timing is superb, he has a wide repertoire of character ‘voices’ and accents, and  isn’t afraid to go big in the more emotional moments – especially the sex scenes, which should probably come (!) with a bucket of ice.  All those things are true in Oz; timing, characterisation, differentiation and pacing, it’s all superb, but something about his performance here didn’t wow me as much the others he’s given so far in books by this author.  I’m not 100% sure why that was, but I suspect it’s because I wasn’t wild about the accent he adopts for Oz (To clarify, it’s not bad or inaccurate, I just… didn’t care for it). Mr. Leslie’s vocal characterisations are terrific and every character sounds different and is easy to identify; he set himself a huge challenge  in sustaining a completely different accent for the vast majority of the story, but towards the end, it starts to slip, especially when it ‘bleeds over’ into some of Silas’ dialogue, which makes him sound odd given he doesn’t have an accent earlier in the book.

BUT.  I suspect that for many (most?) listeners that won’t be an issue – it’s just that accents are ‘my thing’ and I tend to be pretty exacting about them.  Joel Leslie is one of my favourite narrators, and so my expectations are very high; and I suppose what I’m saying is that here, he’s merely very good as opposed to outstanding!

Oz it isn’t going to make my list of Lily Morton favourites, but it’s a sweet, hot, fun listen and Joel Leslie does a great job. If you’re in the market for minimal angst, hot sex and a dirty-talking earl, you need look no further!

Hither, Page (Page & Sommers #1) by Cat Sebastian (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A jaded spy and a shell-shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.

James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.

The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t put down roots.

As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and that of the man he’s growing to care about.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Cat Sebastian’s Hither, Page is book one in a series of mysteries set just after the Second World War in the sort of sleepy English village beloved of cosy mysteries and British detective series; a place in which all the inhabitants are in and out of each other’s business, gossip abounds and deep secrets are kept. I read the book when it came out last summer and enjoyed it very much, so I was really pleased to be able to experience it again in audio. And with Joel Leslie in the narrator’s chair I knew I was guaranteed an entertaining listen.

Doctor James Sommers returned to his home in the small Cotswold village of Wychcomb St. Mary after the war, having served as an army surgeon. Like many others, he continues to be haunted by his wartime experiences and has been forever changed by them; he still has nightmares and reacts badly to the unexpected, and he wants nothing more than to spend the rest of his days in the quiet obscurity of a normal life, treating coughs and colds and boils and bunions and attending the odd birth. But when one of the villagers is murdered – drugged and then pushed down a flight of stairs – James is more disturbed than he cares to admit, and realises that his carefully constructed illusion of peace [is] in tatters.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Within the Mind (In the Mind #1) by Alice Winters (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

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Seneca is the complete package. He’s smart, sexy, and confident, much to Chevy’s annoyance. They’ve worked with each other for two years, and even though Chevy might secretly find his partner charming and attractive, playful harassment is all they have.

Chevy was born with a unique gift that allows him to go into the memories of others. As detective, he uses this ability to find peace for victims who have been hurt or attacked. He delves into their memories and can pick out minute details that will help them put the criminal behind bars.

But neither Chevy nor Seneca are prepared when they are asked to go into the mind of a serial killer in hopes of finding survivors. They are even more unprepared for the monsters they find inside the man’s mind. Drawn into a memory where it’s hard to figure out where the truth exists, they realize that there may be more to the serial killer than they originally thought. The dark world draws the two men together in a way they never dreamed. It will take everything Chevy and Seneca can give to stop the darkness that could consume their minds. As the two are forced to face what is keeping them apart, together they realize that there’s more to the mind and heart than either of them know.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – C

Alice Winters is a new-to-me author, but I’m a fan of paranormal romantic suspense stories and the synopsis of Within the Mind caught my eye. Seeing Joel Leslie listed as the narrator sealed the deal and I decided to give her work a try.

Chevy Wright and his partner Seneca Bates (Seneca? Really?) are both psychics within a special department of the Westlands PD. (Which is where? It’s never made clear.) Chevy has the ability to access people’s memories and Seneca is a mimic, able to replicate and use the gift of the last person he touched. Together, they work with victims of crime to retrieve memories of whatever happened to them in order to help the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.

So they’re surprised when they’re approached by a couple of homicide detectives and asked to enter the mind of a man – Mason Page, a well-known artist – believed to be responsible for several murders to see if they can find out where he’s holding his two most recent victims… assuming they’re still alive. This will be like nothing they’ve done before, and turns out to be a lot more dangerous than either of them had expected as they are thrown into a horribly deranged mind that leaves them scared, confused and struggling to tell the difference between reality, memory and fabrication.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.