Madison Square Murders (Momento Mori #1) by C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

Madison Square Murders audio

Everett Larkin works for the Cold Case Squad: an elite – if understaffed and overworked – group of detectives who solve the forgotten deaths of New York City. Larkin is different from others, but his deduction skills are unmatched and his memory for minute details is unparalleled.

So when a spring thunderstorm uproots a tree in Madison Square Park, unearthing a crate with human remains inside, the best Cold Case detective is assigned the job. And when a death mask, like those prominent during the Victorian era, is found with the body, Larkin requests assistance from the Forensic Artists Unit and receives it in the form of Detective Ira Doyle, his polar opposite in every way.

Factual reasoning and facial reconstruction put Larkin and Doyle on a trail of old homicide cases and a murderer obsessed with casting his victims’ likeness in death. Include some unapologetic flirting from Doyle, and this case just may end up killing Everett Larkin.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

C.S. Poe kicks off her latest series of m/m mysteries in grand style with Madison Square Murders, book one in her New York-set Momento Mori series. It’s a clever, tightly plotted mystery featuring one of the most unusual protagonists I’ve ever come across; I loved the story when I read it a few months back and enjoyed it all over again in audio – where there’s the added goodness of a wonderfully intelligent and switched-on performance from Kale Williams.

Detective Everett Larkin of the Cold Case Squad is called to Madison Square Park, where a storm has uprooted an old tree – beneath which lies a wooden crate containing human remains. These are obviously not new, and initial observations by the CSI on scene suggest the body is that of a male in his twenties; most unusual, however, is what has also been found in the crate – a bronze casting of a face. A death mask. There’s no way of telling, at this stage, if the face the mask was made from belongs to the same set of remains or if it’s completely unrelated – and the CSI suggests Larkin should contact Ira Doyle, a detective with the police department’s small Forensic Artist Unit, for some expert advice.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Firefly Lane (Briar County #1) by Riley Hart (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

firefly lane

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

At 43, Holden Barnett is getting along just fine. His job as a pilot keeps him from getting restless, and he’s got a man who doesn’t want promises for the future. One phone call from his estranged sister changes everything. She needs his help, so Holden drops everything and heads to Harmony, a small town in Briar County, which represents everything he’s tried to avoid in life.

Monroe Covington is 45 and happy. He loves his life – running his store, helping at his family’s farm, and spending his days with his best friend, Lindsey, and their son, Wyatt. Sure, half the town likes to forget he’s gay, and he’d love for the queer population to be bigger, but Roe makes do. He misses dating, relationships, and a man to hold at night, but at least he gets new eye candy when Holden, the brother of the woman who’s renting his cabin, shows up.

The attraction is instant, the friendship not far behind, but between Holden’s initial relationship status, family complications, and the two of them wanting different things, they’re a disaster waiting to happen…only it doesn’t feel that way, not with how much time they spend talking, laughing, and eventually, tumbling into bed, a field, or the back of a truck together. The closer they get, the more Holden realizes that just being fine isn’t enough, and Roe begins to see that his life isn’t as complete as he thought. Now, if they could only sort out the rest of it….

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C+

Riley Hart is the author of a large number of m/m romances, but I haven’t yet tried any of her work, so when I saw that Kale Williams was narrating her new Briar County series, I decided it was time to rectify that! The series is set in small-town North Carolina, and Firefly Lane is what I often refer to as a ‘quiet’ book – the angst level is low, and there are no silly misunderstandings or melodramatic plot devices. It’s a simple, character-driven story about two men in their forties who thought love had probably passed them by, about family being what you make it, and about having the courage to go for what you want.

Monroe Covington likes his life in small town Harmony, NC. Family is close by, he runs a successful store and his son Wyatt is a terrific kid whom he co-parents with Wyatt’s mom, Roe’s best friend, Lindsey. The only thing missing is someone to share his life with, but at forty-five, Roe realises that a long-term relationship probably isn’t on the cards, and he makes do with the occasional hook up on his trips to Asheville or Charlotte. He knows that practically everyone in town expects him and Lindsey to end up together, the fact that Roe is gay not deterring them from thinking that way; he and Lindsey decided to have a child together because they both wanted kids and a long-term relationship wasn’t on the horizon for either of them – and they went into it with their eyes open, knowing they’d be parents but not life-partners. (I had to side-eye the fact that Lindsey got pregnant “the usual way” – Roe is most definitely gay, but had sex with his female best friend. Not being a gay man, I have no idea how likely that is – I suppose it was the most cost effective option?)

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Coincidence by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

the coincidence

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Nice guys always finish last, and Coby Epstein is sick and tired of being last. After his boyfriend dumps him, Coby vows to take it slow and not jump into another relationship, no matter what his 95-year-old great-aunt says. When Coby sees his ex has moved on, he goes on a series of disastrous first dates and swears off men, determined to be alone. His best friend disagrees and finds the “perfect man” for him online and arranges a date. The only problem? Coby has no idea what she’s done.

Since childhood, Eli Kaplan has been his father’s greatest disappointment, a fact he’s reminded of at every opportunity. For years, he’s struggled with the knowledge that dating women doesn’t work for him. A late-night confession to his brother changes everything and Eli realizes, maybe, just maybe, he can come out, find himself, and find love. Eli takes the plunge and creates a profile on a dating website, not knowing what to expect. One night he chats with an intriguing man, and despite his nervousness, they arrange to meet for coffee. No big deal. They’ll probably never see each other again.

On the day of their first date, nothing could surprise Coby and Eli more than to discover that they live in the same apartment building, on the same floor. In a city of eight million people, coincidences don’t get crazier than that. But as the two men begin to weave their lives together with cautious optimism and hope for a future, they find an even greater thread holding their families together – one born from the ashes of a final solution that couldn’t destroy their ancestors’ courage, leaving scars that remain almost a century later. Past lives torn apart can be pieced together by a future no one could have ever imagined, where love is more than fate or coincidence. It’s meant to be.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

My Felice Stevens glom continues with The Coincidence, a sweet, romantic and sexy standalone contemporary romance from 2019, in which two men – who start out as complete strangers – discover that their lives are more deeply intertwined than they could ever have guessed.

A year into his relationship with his boyfriend, Coby Epstein thought things were going really well and was on the point of suggesting they move in together – when the guy told him they didn’t want the same things and dumped him. Coby comes to see that he’d allowed himself to be treated badly throughout their time together, and decides that from now on, he’s going to take things slow whenever he meets someone he’s interested in – although right now, a new relationship is the last thing he’s looking for. His best friend Addie insists that the best way to get over the crappy ex is to get out there and have lots of hot, raunchy sex with other men – but that’s not really Coby’s style. He does, however, allow Addie to persuade him to sign up to a dating app, and even goes on a few dates. But they’re all pretty disastrous.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mr Uptight by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

mr uptight

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jude:

What do you do when you wake up with a hangover and find yourself in bed with your best friend’s younger brother?

Who happens to be your new brother-in-law?

The man who drives you crazy.

The man who always skated by on fast-talk, good looks, and a bright smile.

The one who makes you want to break all the rules.

You hire him as your assistant, of course.

And pray you can keep your sanity.

And your hands off him.

Mason:

How do you prove you’ve changed?

That you’re no longer the party boy who always needed rescuing from his own mistakes – and boy you’ve made some big ones.

But no one needs to know your secrets.

You take a job with the one man who doesn’t trust you.

Who’s waiting for you to screw up.

You try and forget that one explosive night together.

Except you can’t.

And to your shock…neither can he.

What do you do when the one man you can’t imagine living with is the one you can’t live without?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Reading the synopsis for Mr. Uptight, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s one of those “oops, the guy I had wild monkey sex will all last night is my frenemy/best friend’s little brother/new boss” rom-coms – and to an extent, you’d be right. But while the story certainly does start out with one of those typically awkward morning-afters, it doesn’t take the cutesy, kooky path and instead opens out into a deeply emotional story about two men who don’t (think they) like each other very much learning to reassess their opinions of both each other and themselves.

Jude Staubman and his best friend’s brother Mason have never really got on. For years, Mason was the annoying little brother, and then he grew into the annoying little brother who continually needed extricating from his latest fuck-up – and even bailing out of jail on one occasion! He’s an irresponsible party-boy who gets by on his good looks, quick wit and charm; in short, he’s everything the sensible, serious-minded Jude isn’t… which makes the stupid crush Jude has had on him for years even more stupid. So waking up – naked – in bed with Mason the morning after his sister’s wedding is something Jude wants to pretend never happened. Along with whatever they got up to the night before.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Never Say Never (Lost in New York #3) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

never say never

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

One taste leaves them wanting more…

INGREDIENTS:
Francisco “Frisco” Martinelli. Hot and spicy. Beautiful on the outside, dark and damaged on the inside. Handle with extreme caution.
Salvatore “Torre” Rossi. Sweet with a kick of spice. Gentle at first, can become swiftly and irrevocably addictive to the heart.

A RECIPE FOR ROMANCE
One snobby food critic who doesn’t believe in love
One down-to-earth food blogger who does
Add a touch of suspicious brother
A heaping serving of best friend who’s been waiting for this to happen

Blend with secret identities, past hurts, and judgments.
Stir in equal portions of desperate longing, desire, fear, and snarky humor.
Set over open flame, step back, and wait for sparks to fly.
Serve as is for an explosive love story that will leave you with a full heart and a ridiculously happy smile at the end.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B+

Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series comes to a close with Never Say Never, in which snarky restaurant critic and unapologetic manwhore Francisco – Frisco – Martinelli, best friend of Pressley from book one, Fool for Love, finds his HEA in a most unexpected quarter. It’s an angsty enemies-to-lovers (sort of) story featuring two men who have been burned by love – but while one of them is moving forward and getting on with his life, the other is stuck in an emotional limbo, unable – or refusing – to see how locking away the hurt and pain of a decades-old betrayal has changed the direction of his life and continues to inform his decisions. The mechanics of the basic premise are perhaps a little wobbly, but it’s worth getting past that in order to enjoy the rest of the story, which is a beautifully written and deeply felt romance.

Frisco is a food critic for Ultimate NYC, a glossy, up-market magazine “for the uber rich who can afford to Uber everywhere.” He tells it like it is and doesn’t hold back on his opinions, and his scathing reviews can make or break a reputation. For the last couple of years, he and Salvatore Grant, writer of the popular food blog New York for Real New Yorkers have been engaged in an online feud; Grant accuses Frisco of being an elitist, “a pompous, arrogant food snob”, pointing out that the restaurants he visits are way beyond the budget of most New Yorkers and that he favours the chic and the overpriced over the things that really matter – the food and the people who produce it. Grant’s blogs haven’t gone unnoticed by Frisco’s managing editor, who decides it’s time for him to broaden his horizons and visit some of the less exclusive places in the city. Which is how Frisco finds himself in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn one evening, fully prepared to hate it – but is (somewhat reluctantly) impressed by the quality of the food, which has obviously been lovingly prepared from the freshest ingredients, the ambiance and the service. Especially the service provided by his waiter for the evening, a gorgeous guy with dark curls, a generous mouth and eyes the colour of the finest chocolate.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Promise (Lost in New York #2) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

A promise made:

When Ezra Green sits next to Monroe Friedman in their high school English class, friendship blooms into first love, and even Ezra moving to California won’t keep them apart. Ezra promises Roe that once he finishes college, he’ll come home and the two will be together. In the meantime they’ll write and keep in touch. Nothing has to change.

A promise broken:

After months of unanswered letters, Roe makes one final attempt to contact Ezra with disastrous results. Ezra will never be his and he needs to move on.

Now, more than 20 years later, Ezra has come home. He doesn’t know why Roe stopped writing, but he’s determined to find out. But Roe won’t talk to him and Ezra doesn’t understand why. After all, Roe is the one who cut off contact. Isn’t he?

The promise of what is meant to be:

When Roe’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, the past becomes the present, and Ezra comes up with a plan. Pretending to be together to make an old lady happy should be no big deal, but after an unexpected explosive night together, decades-old secrets and lies are exposed, shattering Roe’s control and Ezra’s heart. Is first love only a dream and a promise merely words, or are Ezra and Roe meant to last a lifetime?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Having very much enjoyed Fool for Love, book one in Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series, I quickly jumped into book two, The Promise, a second-chance romance featuring Monroe Friedman, who runs the support group where Nate and Presley met in book one. We catch up with them briefly, and some of the other secondary characters have featured in other books by this author, but The Promise works perfectly well as a standalone.

Monroe – Roe – and Ezra Green were childhood sweethearts who were separated when Ezra’s parents moved their family from New York City to California when Ezra was seventeen. The guys were very much in love and knew they wanted to spend their lives together, so they promised each other that they would stay in touch, that Ezra would come back to New York after college, and then they’d begin their lives together. Things went okay at first and they exchanged letters regularly, but when, after a few months, Ezra stopped answering Roe’s letters, Roe scraped together the money to call him, only to be told that Ezra wasn’t interested in him anymore and that he’d started seeing other people. Needless to say, Roe was heartbroken at the discovery that the promises that meant so much to him meant nothing to Ezra.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Fool for Love (Lost in New York #1) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Can there be a second chance for a first love?

When Presley Dawson falls in love with a married man, he knows it’s wrong but can’t help himself. For the first time, he’s wanted and desired and not so lonely. When his lover returns to his husband, Presley doesn’t worry. He always comes back — until he doesn’t.

Years later, Presley is stuck in neutral and lonelier than ever. He can’t forget his past and doesn’t know how to reach for his future. When his best friend suggests a support group to work through his grief, Presley agrees but without much hope; nothing has helped before. At the first meeting, he’s instantly attracted to Nate and struggles not to fall so far, so fast. He won’t be fooled again.

Nate Sherman is only attending a support group to get his family off his back. True, he hasn’t slept through the night in over three years, but he has reasons. Discovering your father — the man you love and idolize — is a liar and a cheater will do that. And dying in his girlfriend’s bed? No wonder Nate has trust issues.

Meeting Presley changes everything. Nate sees Presley’s sweet nature and good heart and when he sets boundaries for their relationship, Nate surprises himself by willingly going along. With Presley by his side, Nate is able to sleep again and find the trust that he’s lost in himself and other people. He can even fall in love.

But Presley is keeping a secret and if he tells Nate, it could be the end of everything between them. He knows it’s wrong to start another relationship based on a lie. But it isn’t a lie if you don’t say anything. Is it?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

Felice Stevens’ three-part Lost in New York series opens with Fool for Love, a tender, poignant romance between two men who are struggling to deal with grief and loss. I really enjoyed both the story and Kale Williams’ narration, but I’ll say this now as I realise that for some it may be a deal-breaker: one of the leads was previously involved with a married man. There’s no cheating in this book, but that relationship does play a role in the story.

Presley Dawson is the owner of a successful New York antiques store, but for the past six years, he’s been stuck in a kind of limbo. When he was much younger and newly bereaved, he was floundering under the weight of grief and of being responsible for the business he’d inherited following the deaths of his parents. He was lost and lonely, until he met a man who made him feel wanted and desired – and he tumbled into love with him. They were together for a few years – until Presley discovered Jared was married and broke things off. But months later, when Jared reached out to him, telling Press how lonely he was and how much he missed him, Press took him back and they started seeing each other again – until shortly afterwards, when Jared was killed in a car accident.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

I Buried a Witch (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #2) by Josh Lanyon (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Something old, something new, something borrowed…something blacker than the darkest night.

Cosmo Saville adores his new husband, but his little white lies and some very black magic are about to bring their fairy tale romance to an end. Someone is killing San Francisco’s spell casters, and the only person Cosmo can turn to – the man who so recently swore to love and cherish him – isn’t taking his phone calls.

The only magic police commissioner John Joseph Galbraith believes in is true love. Discovering he’s married to a witch – one with something alarmingly like magical powers – is nearly as bad as discovering the man he loved tricked and deceived him.

John shoulders the pain of betrayal and packs his bags. But when he learns Cosmo is in the crosshairs of a mysterious and murderous plot, he knows he must do everything in in his mortal power to protect him.

Till death do them part. With their relationship on the rocks, Cosmo and Galbraith join forces to uncover the shadowy figure behind the deadly conspiracy.

Can the star-crossed couple bring down a killer before the dark threat extinguishes love’s flame?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

I Buried a Witch is book two in Josh Lanyon’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks series, and it picks up just a couple of weeks after the events of book one, Mainly by Moonlight. Because all three books are linked by an overarching plot, it’s fairly safe to say that this one doesn’t really work as a standalone. The author does include a bit of backstory and information about book one, but I think listeners will be best served by listening to the books in order so as to get the full picture.

Mainly by Moonlight introduced us to Cosmo Saville, antiques dealer and witch, and his fiancé John Galbraith, the newly appointed Police Commissioner for San Francisco. The story kicks off when Cosmo finds a business rival dead at his shop and after that it’s an almost non-stop few days of mayhem when one of Cosmo’s friends is left in a coma following a hit-and-run, one of his oldest friends disappears, he learns of the existence of a secret society that threatens the existence of the Craft (as witches are known) – and to top it all, someone tries to kill him on his wedding day. Oh, and there’s just one other problem that could put paid to the life he’s looking forward to building with the man he loves. Cosmo hasn’t told John he’s a witch. Oops.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Crashing Upwards by S.C. Wynne (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Harper Jones is a professional bike courier, and in his business if you don’t ride fast, you don’t make money. His apartment has mice, he’s barely able to scrape up the rent, but at least he’s living life on his terms and doesn’t depend on anyone.

Sam Foster is the gay son of a wealthy conservative senator. He’s noticed Harper before when he’s dropped off packages at his dad’s company, but he’s never had the nerve to speak to his secret crush.

When Sam accidentally hits Harper with his car, Harper’s bike is destroyed and he’s injured seriously enough that he won’t be delivering packages for a while. Sam decides Harper needs rescuing, and he moves in with Harper to take care of him.

Unfortunately, Sam’s politician dad is convinced Harper’s a con-artist and he’ll do whatever it takes to get him away from his son.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C-

Crashing Upwards is a fairly low-drama romance by a new-to-me author, and I picked up the audio to review partly because some of my online friends enjoyed the book, partly because it’s a LAMBDA award winner, and partly because Kale Williams is narrating. I suspect that the award-winner status raised my expectations somewhat, because while the story is engaging enough, it doesn’t really have anything new to offer, and the characters, while likeable, are nothing I haven’t read or listened to before.

That said, the way the two protagonists meet IS unusual. I can’t call it a meet-cute, not when Sam Foster hits Harper Jones with his car, knocks him off his bike and lands him in hospital. Harper regains consciousness to find an unfamiliar man sitting by his hospital bed, apologising and telling him that he’ll take care of him and that his father will pay for a new bike and whatever else he needs. As Harper gradually starts to get a clearer picture of what’s happened, he understands that the man – who introduces himself as Sam Foster – is apologising for hitting him with his car and telling him not to worry about the medical bills or, indeed, about anything because he’ll deal with it all. Harper, who has supported himself since he was sixteen and now earns his living as a bike messenger, can’t NOT worry – about the bills, about his job, about making the rent – so being told he shouldn’t isn’t exactly helping.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Mainly by Moonlight (Bedknobs & Broomsticks #1) by Josh Lanyon (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A gay high-society wedding. A stolen book of spells. A love-threatening lie.

Can a witch avoid a murder rap without revealing the supernatural truth? Cosmo Saville guiltily hides a paranormal secret from his soon-to-be husband. And if he can’t undo a powerful love spell, uncertainty threatens his nuptial magic. But when he’s arrested for allegedly killing a longtime rival, he could spend his honeymoon behind bars.

Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith never believed in love until Cosmo came along. Falling head over heels for the elegant antiques dealer is an enchantment he never wants to break. So, when all fingers point to Cosmo’s guilt, John races to prove his fiancée’s innocence before they take their vows.

As Cosmo searches for the real killer among the arcane aristocracy, John warns him to leave it to the police. But with an unseen enemy threatening to expose Cosmo’s true nature, the couple’s blissful future could shatter like a broken charm. Can Cosmo find the lost grimoire, clear his name, and keep John’s love alive, or will black magic “rune” their wedding bells?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Josh Lanyon’s paranormal mystery/romance Bedknobs and Broomsticks series is a little bit different to her normal fare. Mainly by Moonlight, the first book (of three), is a fun and mostly light-hearted tale in which San Francisco antiques dealer Cosmo Saville – who also happens to be a witch – finds himself suspected of murder just a few days before his wedding to the city’s Police Commissioner, John Galbraith. In the course of the story, listeners are introduced to the magical society of the Craft and its hierarchy, and to an interesting principal and secondary cast; but please note that the book sets in motion a number of plot points that will run across all three instalments, so listeners will need to listen to all three books in order to experience the whole of the story.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.