Quickie Reviews #3

Another handful of Quickie Reviews – all audiobooks this time – of things I’ve listened to over the past few weeks but haven’t written full-length reviews for.


Fit to be Tied (Marshals #2) by Mary Calmes, narrated by Tristan James

Deputy US Marshals Miro Jones and Ian Doyle are now partners on and off the job: Miro’s calm professionalism provides an ideal balance to Ian’s passion and quick temper. In a job where one misstep can be the difference between life and death, trust means everything. But every relationship has growing pains, and sometimes Miro stews about where he stands with his fiery lover. Could the heartstrings that so recently tied them together be in danger of unraveling?
Those new bonds are constantly challenged by family intrusions, well-intentioned friends, their personal insecurities, and their dangerous careers—including a trial by fire when an old case of Miro’s comes back to haunt them. It might just be enough to make Ian rethink his decision to let himself be tied down, and Miro can only hope the links they’ve forged will be strong enough to hold.

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

A bit uneven storywise; the plotlines tend to be a bit choppy because of the nature of the job these guys do (they’re not detectives or FBI agents following a single case), which is fine, but things kinda just chug along until the second half when Miro and Ian are sent to Phoenix following the escape of a nut-job serial killer with a serious crush on Miro. There’s plenty of humour and snark between the leads, who are now an established couple, but things in the garden aren’t all bunnies and rainbows as Miro wants to get married and Ian isn’t keen on the idea, which causes some friction between them. All told, it’s an entertaining listen, although not as good as the first book, IMO. Tristan James is a good narrator and I like his voice, but he gets his character voices mixed up from time to time (so Miro will sound like Ian or vice versa) … if not for that and a few other niggles, I’d be rating the narration more highly.

Is it my imagination or is the author kinda hung up on describing Miro’s wardrobe? And how does a guy on a government salary afford Armani suits and an $800,000 house?


Dead Speak (Cold Case Psychic #1) by Pandora Pine, narrated by Michael Pauley

Demoted to the cold case squad after shooting a suspect in the line of duty, Detective Ronan O’Mara knows that his career with the Boston Police Department is hanging by a thread. His first assignment is the case of Michael Frye, a five-year-old boy who has been missing for seven years. With no new leads or witnesses to interview, Ronan has to start from scratch to solve this mystery. When he sees a handsome local psychic on television, Ronan figures he’s got nothing to lose in enlisting the man’s help to find Michael.

Psychic Tennyson Grimm is riding high after helping South Shore cops find a missing child. He’s even being courted by the Reality Show Network about a program showcasing his abilities. He has no idea that his midday appointment with a customer, who instead turns out to be a police detective, is going to change the course of his life and his career.

With the blessing of the BPD, which badly needs an image makeover, Ronan is allowed to bring Tennyson in to assist with the Frye case. Being thrown together in front of cameras is never easy, but add in an emotional missing-person investigation, a tight-lipped spirit, and a cop who’s a skeptic, and it definitely puts a strain on both men and their working relationship.

When the child’s body is found, the work to identify his killer begins. As Ronan and Tennyson get closer to solving the case, the initial attraction they feel for one another explodes into a passion neither man can contain.

Will working together to bring Michael’s killer to justice seal their fledgling bond, or will unexpected revelations in the case tear them apart forever?

Overall Grade: C- / 2.5 stars

There are other reviews (such as this one) that nicely sum up the shortcomings of this book, but here are my thoughts, in a nutshell.

The romance – such as it is – is completely based on insta-lust. We’re told the story takes place over a couple of months, but there’s no sense of this, or of time passing, so it just feels as though these two jumped into bed and got serious after a few hours.

The villain was straight out of Bad-Guys-R-Us – seriously, all he needed was a cape to swirl and a moustache to twirl and to utter “I’d have got away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids!”

Ronan’s ex. I hate books in which one of the main characters’ ex is shown to be a nasty piece of work, because it makes me question that person’s judgement. This guy – Josh – was a complete and utter arsehole. Yet Ronan MARRIED HIM. Why??

The idea of a dead body being preserved in a bin bag for seven years is ridiculous. They’re plastic – they heat up and no way would there have been any viable remains.

I’m no expert on police procedures on either side of the Pond, but even I could spot aspects of it here that are distinctly wonky.

Finally – I’ve listened to and enjoyed some of Michael Pauley’s narrations in the past but here he was full-on Movie-Trailer-Announcer-Guy and it was really grating (and often, really funny, usually where it wasn’t meant to be.)

I don’t often return books to Audible… but yep, this one’s going back.



Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #1) by Abigail Roux, narrated by Brock Thompson

After barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him get back on his feet – after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.

Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part…or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address. Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other – friends and brothers in arms or something even deeper – before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

A quickie that fills in a couple of the gaps between Touch & Geaux and Ball & Chain in the Cut & Run series, and fills us in on how Nick and Kelly got together. After the events in New Orleans that left Kelly badly injured, he’s finally out of hospital and Nick takes him home to Colorado. Kelly admits to being curious about what it’s like to have sex with guys; Nick is all “not going there – you’re loopy on painkillers and lack of sleep” – until he isn’t. Kelly goes from being bi-curious to bisexual fairly quickly, but it helps that we already know these guys have history and that they’re already incredibly close.

I especially liked the scene at the airport where the Sidewinder guys say goodbye and have to leave Kelly and Zane behind; also included here is a short story Bait & Switch in which Zane receives an unexpected visit from Nick while he’s on a special pass from his deployment, and it was nice to see them getting along.

Narrator Brock Thompson does a good job, although I’m kinda used to J.F. Harding for these guys, so some of the different characterisations took getting used to.


In the Ruins (Metahuman Files #2) by Hailey Turner – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

Truth and lies. 

Captain Jamie Callahan knows the Metahuman Defense Force frowns on fraternization. For once in his life, he’s breaking all the rules. Having Staff Sergeant Kyle Brannigan on his team and in his bed is worth the risk of being found out. When a mission comes down requiring Alpha Team to go undercover in order to infiltrate a criminal alliance, Jamie knows it won’t be easy. Putting his family’s name on the line is nothing compared to the role the MDF wants him to play—that of a billionaire’s son, discharged from the military, with a lover on his arm, looking to make his own shady business deals. 

Dirty little secret. 

Kyle knows the only way to be with Jamie is to hide their relationship from their superiors. Waking up to Jamie at home is more important than being together in public, or so Kyle thought, until he comes face to face with what he’s been missing. Pretending to be a couple on paper for the sake of the mission thrusts Kyle into a world of incredible wealth and a social status he’s not sure he belongs in, but he’ll do anything to stay by Jamie’s side. 

Play the game to win. 

Surrounded by the enemy, Jamie and Kyle need to trust each other now more than ever. Their covers—and the life they’re trying to build together—depend on it. 

Overall Grade: B+/4.5 stars

Another exciting instalment in this military/sci-fi series – the action shifts to London and I was pleased at the way the author incorporated it into the story (I’ve done a lot of walking backwards and forwards through those tunnels under Exhibition Road on the way to South Ken station!) The overarching plotline of the series – terrorist groups are out to create Metahumans of their own – really kicks into gear, and we get to meet Jamie’s friend, Liam – thirteenth in line to the British throne – and a new team-member, ex CIA agent, Sean Delaney. Hm. Alexei doesn’t like spooks. Although… he might like this spook…

I’m loving the storyline about Jamie and his family – he really is stuck between a rock and a hard place, caught between his desire to serve his country and his love for his family (and he does love them, no matter that they drive him up the wall) – and there’s more relationship development in this one. In In the Wreckage what was going on between Jamie and Kyle was more of a full-on shagfest, but now there’s the sense that what’s between them is more than that. There’s still some full-on shagfesting going on, but I was pleased by the relationship stuff as well 😉

Greg Boudreaux is excellent as ever – he sports a suitably posh English accent as Liam (and the few other English characters in the story), and although there are a lot of male characters in the main cast, they’re well differentiated so there’s no confusion as to who you’re listening to. My one niggle is that there’s a scene featuring an Irish character who sounds mostly Scottish. But that’s it – otherwise, it’s a strong performance that hits all the highs and lows and everywhere in-betweens.

Fingers crossed the rest of the series will come out in audio soon.

Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Pauley

shadow lover audio

This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

Victim. Lover. Both? His dark game is seducing her – just as it was when they were young.

How can he still have that power over her? Eighteen years ago, she saw him die.

Wealthy, selfish, and greedy, the McDowell family raised Carolyn McDowell – a foster child – like a modern Cinderella. Neglected and ignored, good-hearted Carolyn adored scion Alexander despite it all, even though he tormented her.

When Alex ran away one night, Carolyn followed and witnessed his murder, though she never told anyone. Her beloved Alex died when he was 17. There was no doubt.

Eighteen years later, Carolyn returns to the decadent milieu of the McDowell clan to care for her dying foster mother, Sally. As greedy relatives gather to claim their inheritances, a stunning stranger arrives, claiming to be Alexander. To Carolyn’s utter shock, Sally greets her “son” without question, and no one but Carolyn believes he’s a fraud.

As she delves into the mysteries of both the past and present, Carolyn quickly realizes that the resurrected Alex is a dangerous combination of seduction and power. Is this stranger after the McDowell fortune, or is he really, somehow, the Alex of old, coming back to claim her? How can he be an imposter and yet know family secrets only the real Alex would remember? Was someone helping him?

What would you do if the boy you loved returned almost 20 years later and you fell in love with him all over again – even if you were sure it couldn’t be him?

Rating: A- for narration; A- for content

Caz listens to a contemporary! Hold the Front Page! Er… well, perhaps that’s going a bit too far, but as is obvious, I don’t tend to stray much outside my historical comfort zone and it takes something a bit special to tempt me out of it. But Shadow Lover is a superb combination of mystery and romance that hooked me in from the start and didn’t let me go until I’d finished it. The hero is almost indecently sexy, the heroine won’t take any crap and goes toe-to-toe with him all the way, and while the sex scenes are probably quite tame by today’s standards, they’re nonetheless hot as hell. I read the book last year for a reading challenge and absolutely loved it – I’m a sucker for an Anne Stuart bad-boy, no matter the time-frame – so when I saw it had come out in audio format, I had to listen to it, even though I’m unfamiliar with the narrator.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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