Clashing Hearts (Hometown Jasper #1) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

clashing hearts

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Easton

There is nothing I hate more than when some big-city outsider stirs trouble in my peaceful little town. When Mr. Arrogance himself waltzes in and thinks he can slap a price tag on my land, he doesn’t know what he has coming. I’m not just a hick cowboy who’s going to bend to his good looks and charmless personality. No, sir.

I don’t care how smart he looks in his fancy suits, all he cares about is money.

I just wish I’d known who he was before I kissed him.

Lachlan

The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in a small town with a plethora of quirky people. If the stubborn cowboy doesn’t see sense soon, I don’t know what I’ll do. Failure is not an option. I was sent to make a deal, and I’m not leaving until it’s done.

I don’t care how hot he looks in his low hanging denim, boots, and hat, he wouldn’t see a good opportunity if it smacked him in the face.

I just wish I could get the taste of him off my tongue.

Rating:  Narration – B+: Content – B

Like many long-time/frequent/avid audiobook listeners, I tend to be a narrator-driven purchaser. On the whole, that’s proved to be a good thing for me, as I’ve discovered lots of new authors and books through glomming narrators like Greg Tremblay, Iggy Toma, Kale Williams and Nick J. Russo, all of whom have pointed me towards books I might otherwise have missed or not taken a chance on. I hadn’t come across Nicky James until I saw books from her latest series – Hometown Jasper – in an Audible list of new releases several months back; I liked the city-slicker-meets-country-boy premise of book one, and with Nick J. Russo as the narrator, I decided to give it a try.

Clashing Hearts is an opposites-attract, enemies-to-lovers affair in which the two leads really are enemies (for a good reason) and not just a little bit antipathetic towards each other – and I enjoyed listening to city-dweller Lachlan gradually falling under the spell of both his Canadian cowboy and the great outdoors.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Have Mercy by Christina Lee (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

have mercy

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Julian North

My whole world changed with one roadside bomb and an honorable discharge. Not even the city I used to love can ease the restlessness inside me. I don’t expect visiting my cousin Sienna’s farm to do the trick, either, but the change of scenery can’t hurt.

Wyoming isn’t what I expected – from the mischievous pig following me around, to the rescue horse I’ve become strangely fascinated with. And then, there’s Kerry, the handsome, brooding cowboy, who somehow calms the storm inside me – and just happens to be Sienna’s ex-husband.

Kerry Carmichael

I’ve had a rough go of it since I came out – disappointing my family, the divorce, and the blow of my daughter’s illness. Things are settling down now, my kiddo is healthy, and Sienna and I are finally on solid ground. Not everyone accepts me, but I’ve owned my truth, even if I spend my life solo. Only, now that Julian’s here, I’m not so lonesome, anymore. He’s a kindred spirit. First as someone to talk to, then as…more. The first time I hold him through one of his nightmares, I feel a rightness I never expected to find.

We know this’ll end with the summer, but with every stolen kiss against the stable walls, with every heated or tender moment, I fall deeper. The reality is, I can’t risk my family or the business by going public with him. I know this can never last and that Julian doesn’t belong here. So, why does it feel like he already does?

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Christina Lee’s Have Mercy is a “quiet” book; a simple but heartfelt slow-burn romance between two men who are struggling to find their place in the world. It’s the first time I’ve listened to anything by this author, but I plan to seek out more of her work on the strength of it. Audible shows me that Iggy Toma and Kale Williams have both narrated for her, so I feel a glom coming on.

Military veteran Julian North completed two tours in Afghanistan before being injured in the roadside bomb attack that killed two of his comrades. Left with a dodgy knee and scars – both internal and external – he’s been back in New York for a year, but he’s struggling to find a new direction in life. His mother, a successful real estate agent, has been keeping him busy with a variety of jobs requested by some of her clients, but they both know he can’t just drift along like that indefinitely. Then she suggests that perhaps he might go to stay with his cousin Sienna at her dairy farm in Wyoming to help out with a construction project – a change of scenery and pace for a few weeks, plus a concrete task to work on could be just the thing he needs. Julian allows himself to be convinced, although he’s not too keen on re-encountering Sienna’s ex-husband Kerry, who hurt her badly when he came out as gay a few years into their marriage. But even though he dislikes Kerry for what he did to Sienna, Julian can’t help feeling just a little bit of admiration for the man, given how difficult it must have been to come out while living amid the very conservative ranching community.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Rank & File (Anchor Point #4) by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

rank and file

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize – making master chief and retiring after 30 years of service.

Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things – once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.

When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give – Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.

But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.

Except – too late.

Rating:  Narration – A-; Content – B+

I really like that the stories in the Anchor Point series all take an in-depth look at the various problems that can face those in long-term military service and that (so far) no two stories have been the same.  In this one, we’ve got a forbidden romance between an older, career enlisted Master at Arms (a Senior Chief), and a younger Lieutenant – when officer/enlisted “fraternisation” is strictly against the rules.

The two leads first meet when Will Curtis and some of his MAs are called to a domestic dispute; he arrives to find a heated situation between a husband, wife and another man, and fortunately is able to de-escalate the situation before it becomes more serious.  Lt. Brent Jameson is the other man in the situation; he met the woman on a hook-up app and had no idea she was married – which he admits later was pretty dumb of him.  Will gets him home and that’s that – except that he can’t stop thinking about the younger man, even though he’s obviously straight.

Around a year earlier, Will got out of a long-term relationship with a guy who cheated on him, and he hasn’t been interested in anyone since; deciding to get out of his funk (and to try to divert his thoughts from Brent Jameson), he goes out to the nearest thing Anchor Point has to a gay bar looking to hook-up… and who should he see there but the object of more than a few of his recent night-time fantasies.

Brent (who is bi) hadn’t been able to get Will out of his head either and he’s just as surprised to see the supposedly straight MA at a gay bar as vice-versa.  They both know it’s incredibly stupid, but the intense attraction between them is undeniable and leads to an equally intense fuck in the bathroom.  They then head back to Brent’s place to do it all over again… and realising that sex like that doesn’t come along very often, they decide to risk seeing each other again.

L.A. Witt writes sex scenes incredibly well – and there are a lot of them here, which serve to show just how sexually compatible (and combustible!) Will and Brent are, and why they keep coming back for more despite the very real risk they’re running.  But she also does a great job showing the development of an actual relationship between them and their growing feelings for one another outside the bedroom.  Of course, they’re not going to be able to continue to sneak around for ever and are bound to get caught; they both know this and think they really should stop seeing each other before they get in too deep.  The trouble is they only see that line in the sand once it’s way back in the rear-view mirror.

The dilemmas that face Brent and Will are very real and the consequences they could incur if caught are potentially career-ending. Will is career military and having served nineteen years, plans to stay in until the thirty year mark; Brent on the other hand was brought up living and breathing the Navy – his father served and so does his older brother – and was never really allowed to explore any other options for his future.  Nine years in, he’s not feeling it and tells himself that’s due to the fact that he’s still at the bottom of the ladder, and that things will get better as he starts to climb through the ranks.  But the longer he’s involved with Will, the more he starts to question that belief; and only when he finally realises what it feels like to actually want something for himself is he finally able to distinguish between what he wants and what others want for him; and I loved the way he handled the situation in every respect.

I’ve been dipping in and out of this series – I’ve listened to books 1-5 so far and plan to finish it – but Rank and File is possibly my favourite of the series so far.  Nick J. Russo does a great job with the narration; he always provides clear, distinct voices for the main characters, and differentiates well between the secondary characters, providing believable female voices when needed.  He’s extremely good in the sex-scenes as well; he doesn’t hold back but neither does he go stupidly over the top, which is important in a book like this where there’s such a lot of it!

A solid 4/4.5 stars for the story, and 4.5/5 for the narration.

All or Nothing (Together #3) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A past he couldn’t forget.

Adam Barton is living his dream of working as a firefighter in his small Texas town, but a tragedy from his youth continues to haunt him. He decides New York City is the perfect place to start a new life and joins the FDNY, living and loving his own way – no strings and nothing personal. Until he catches sight of Rico Estevez, the sexy chef with the mysterious smile who rocks his world. After one explosive night together, Adam craves another…and then another. The more he and Rico are together, the more Adam wants him.

A future he never imagined.

Rico Estevez is living a lie. For years he’s hidden his sexuality, afraid to hurt the career of his politically ambitious father. He’s the perfect American – the best schools, top of his class, and most importantly to his father, a successful businessman. Who needs a boyfriend when sex is so easy to find? Starting a torrid love affair with Adam Barton isn’t a problem; neither is looking toward forever. But Rico’s father is about to get the chance of a lifetime, and Rico feels forced to play by the rules.

Rules are made to be broken.

Adam proves more unforgettable than Rico ever imagines, but he gives in to family pressures above personal desires. When a fire reunites them, both men discover their passion for each other hasn’t died; rather, it’s stronger than ever. Want turns to need and something even more dangerous to their hearts – love. Adam and Rico know if they want to have it all, they can let no one and nothing stand in their way of a life together.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

The third title in Felice Stevens’ Brooklyn-set Together series, All or Nothing is a sexy/sweet and emotional character-driven romance between firefighter and Texas-transplant Adam Barton and Rico Estevez, chef and owner of a growing catering business. It’s a simple story on a familiar premise, but the characters are well-rounded and engaging, and their romance is heartfelt, with just the right amount of angsty goodness.

Adam and Rico first set eyes on each other in book one, Learning to Love, when Adam was part of the firefighting team who attended a fire at the local synagogue. Rico hasn’t been able to get Adam out of his mind since, impressed by the courageousness of his dash into the burning building – and by his broad shoulders, red hair and piercing blue eyes. Rico knows that those All-American-Boy good looks are bad news; Adam has boyfriend material written all over him and Rico doesn’t do relationships. So he’s tried desperately to avoid the guy, even going so far as to hide in his office whenever Adam comes into the store to pick up something for lunch – until the day he’s not fast enough to get away, and Adam asks him out for a drink.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Sixty-Five Hours by N.R. Walker (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Cameron Fletcher and Lucas Hensley are advertising executives who have 65 hours to pull together the campaign of their careers. Sixty-five hours to get along. Sixty-five hours to not kill each other. Sixty-five hours to fall in love.

Rating: Narration – B+: Content – B-

N.R Walker’s Sixty-Five Hours is a cute, fluffy and very sexy antagonists-to-lovers story that centres around two advertising executives who are given the job (i.e. they’re voluntold) of coming up with a campaign to woo a potential new client in, yes, you’ve guessed it, just sixty-five hours.

Lucas Hensley has worked at Fletcher Advertising for six months, and for all of that time has received only scowls and the cold shoulder from the “gorgeous, fucking arrogant, sonova bitch” in the office across the corridor, the boss’s son Cameron Fletcher. When he’s summoned to a meeting at which only the two Fletcher men are present, Lucas isn’t sure what to expect, but it certainly isn’t to be offered the opportunity to work on a pitch to land an account that could be the making of his career. It turns out that the largest manufacturer of “lifestyle products” (i.e condoms, lube and sex aids) in the country is looking to change their agency – and Fletcher has managed to secure a meeting with the company’s top executives. The downside – Lucas and Cameron are going to have to work together on creating the pitch, and they’ve only got sixty-five hours in which do to it. Being sequestered for the entire weekend with stuffy, pompous Cameron Fletcher is a far cry from the way Lucas had envisaged spending his weekend.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Live Wire (Brooklyn Boys #2) by E. Davies (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Adam: I might be into guys. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? I’ve already run halfway across the country to get away from my abusive parents, and I really want to experiment, but I can’t even hook up without scaring myself away. I might look confident on the outside, but this is tearing me apart. Then my new roomie wins a trip for two to a gay resort in Hawaii. Darren wants to show his clueless ex that he’s moved on, and I want to help out. Darren deserves way better, and faking being his boyfriend is the perfect chance to figure out my feelings. But then what do I do when the man I really want turns out to be Darren himself?

Darren: I escaped the regret-fueled hookups with my ex when I moved out. He’s not the worst guy out there, but now we’re going to be at the same resort for a week, and I want to make it clear that I’m off-limits. My hotheaded, impulsive, but surprisingly sweet new roommate is willing to help with that. While I pretend to date Adam, I can’t stop imagining what it’d be like for real. I want to be more than Adam’s experiment, and suddenly keeping up appearances is less important than following my heart. I’m going to have to learn to trust all over again for this to work out once this week is over, though. Can we grow strong enough to build something that lasts forever?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Live Wire is book two in E. Davies’ Brooklyn Boys series, but although it features characters from Electric Sunshine (book one) and the author’s earlier Significant Brothers books, it works perfectly well as a standalone. It’s a fun, sexy, fake-relationship romance between two roommates that takes off when one of them wins an all-expenses-paid luxury holiday to a gay resort in Hawaii and needs a plus-one… and being not long out of his last relationship, decides to invite his new roomie – his straight roomie – to go with him.

Darren has moved out of the apartment he shared with his ex, after putting an end to their year-long relationship. He and Xavier had been over for a while, but kept falling back into bed (or onto sofas, against walls…) until Darren finally put an end to their convenient hook-ups when he realised they were making him feel like shit. He moves in with Adam, a cute, funny, cheeky (and straight) guy with whom he shares mutual friends, and he’s sworn off casual relationships – for a while at least – and especially relationships with roommates.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Wireless by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Skin to skin contact is illegal. Sex? A felony. Insulated suits and gloves keep people from even the most platonic touches. Citizens line up in droves at simhouses for their rationed, prescribed orgasms in virtual reality machines.

Keith Borden has worked in a simhouse for years, and he’s never been tempted to break the strict no-contact laws…until Aiden Maxwell comes along. The attractive and dangerously flirtatious patient invites him into the seedy underground where people engage in real, wireless sex. Though Keith stands to lose his career and his freedom, he’s curious and Aiden is irresistible.

From the moment he sets foot in the wireless lounge, Keith is in a world of flesh and fantasy. He’s hooked. On the sex, on the atmosphere, and most of all, on Aiden. Years of keeping everyone in his world at arm’s length have left Keith craving a human touch, and Aiden offers all the contact – scorching sex, gentle affection, and everything in between – Keith can handle.

That is, until an unexpected act of betrayal throws Keith’s world into chaos, and he finds himself more alone than he ever imagined possible…

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

L.A. Witt’s Wireless has a really interesting premise and terrific worldbuilding, although the romance didn’t quite work for me. The story takes place in a future in which skin-to-skin contact is not only forbidden but illegal, sex is a felony and orgasms are administered ‘by appointment’ at simhouses.

Keith Borden has worked as a simtech for years, and over the last couple has developed a crush on one of his regular ‘patients’, Aiden Maxwell. Keith has never been tempted to break the strict no-contact rules at one of the underground Wireless Lounges (where people gather to have sex or just experience skin-to-skin contact with another person) – until Aiden invites him to join him at one. Keith is nervous – if he’s caught it could cost him his career – but his attraction to Aiden and his curiosity about what it would be like to actually touch another person are so strong that he agrees to go.

Keith’s first experience of touch is mind-blowing and overwhelming – and he quickly realises that one visit won’t be enough. He starts to realise that it’s not just the amazing sex he and Keith are having that he craves, but just simple human contact, the touch, the feeling of being connected to another person – but going to the Lounges is so dangerous and he knows it’s just a matter of time until everything comes crashing down.

I really enjoyed the story, although I wish it had been a bit longer. (If it had been a movie we’d have watched the good guys break out of the restrictive society they lived in and maybe start a more open and free community somewhere else). The worldbuilding is excellent, and author describes Keith’s feelings very well, his cravings and his withdrawal when he tries to quit going, and she does a great job of amping up the tension in the later part of the story. The only thing that didn’t work all that well was the romance between Keith and Aiden, which wasn’t helped by the lack of depth to the characterisation – we know little about Keith outside of his job and as the whole story is told from his PoV, we know next to nothing about Aiden. There’s no question about the strength of their physical connection, but the emotional one was somewhat lacking.

Nick J. Russo is a very skilled narrator, and has become a firm favourite of mine. He delivers an expressive performance here, with clearly defined character voices for the two leads and a clearly differentiated secondary cast. His delivery is well-paced and nicely-nuanced and I really liked the way he conveys the emotional content of the text.

Wireless wasn’t an unqualified success, but I did enjoy the story and would recommend it – especially in audio – to anyone looking for something a bit different.

The Dichotomy of Angels by N.R. Walker (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Nathaniel and Chasan are no ordinary angels.

Destiny chose them to be twin flames, fated mates. But Nathaniel has avoided Chasan for nearly a thousand years.

When sent to Earth on a mission to live and work together, Nathaniel comes face-to-face with his destiny. Short-tempered, petulant, and grumpy, he hates the idea of being fated to anyone and has chosen an existence of isolation rather than spending time with the calm, kind, and serene Chasan. But now he has no choice.

One is fire, the other is air; a true dichotomy of angels. Together they will be ignited, or they will be extinguished. This assignment will seal their fate either way.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – A-

I read N.R. Walker’s The Dichotomy of Angels when it came out at the end of 2019 and loved it. It’s a clever, funny and poignant story about two angels who are sent to Earth on a mission, with a sexy and angsty romance at its centre, and I was delighted when I learned it was getting an audio release, too.

Nathaniel and Chasan are angels from the same order of the same hierarchy, but they’re polar opposites. Nathaniel is dark to Chasan’s light, fire to Chasan’s air and grumpy to Chasan’s tranquillity. But though they’re opposites, they share a unique bond, a twinning of souls that is incredibly rare, but the bond is not complete until they have both accepted it – and Nathaniel refuses to do so. Saint Peter doesn’t know how much longer the burn of the twin flames can be ignored before it will die out or consume both angels, and it’s time to do something about it.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Quickie Reviews #5

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


Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

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

Except Gio isn’t counting on Jason Quinn.

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

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

Rating: B

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

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

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

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

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


Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes

Narrated by Nick J. Russo

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

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

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

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

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

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

Nick J. Russo narrates and does a great job!


Setting the Hook by Andrew Grey

Narrated by Greg Tremblay

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

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

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

Rating: Narration: A; Content B

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

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

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

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


Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

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

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

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Rating: B

Lovely and just what I needed right now.

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

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

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

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

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


The Prince and his Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

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

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

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

Grimmwolf

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

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

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

Rating: Narration: A; Content B-

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

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

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


Sergeant Delicious by Annabeth Albert

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

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

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

Rating: B-

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

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


Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price

Narrated by Gomez Pugh

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

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

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

Because the very first hit never killed anyone.

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

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

Rating: Narration: A; Content A-

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

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

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

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

Rebound (Pucks and Rainbows #1) by L.A. Witt (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo and Nick J. Russo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A 40-something single dad, a 20-something hockey star, and a whole lot of baggage. No, this couldn’t possibly blow up in their faces.

Officer Geoff Logan has his plate full. His cop’s salary and Marine retirement aren’t enough to make ends meet. He’s got war wounds and demons that are in it for the long haul. His teenagers are, well, teenagers, plus they’re pissed that he left the boyfriend they loved. Can’t a guy catch a break?

Seattle Snowhawks center Asher Crowe has it all. A seven-figure salary. A literal house on a hill. A stable, loving relationship with an amazing boyfriend. At least, that’s what the world sees. Behind closed doors, he’s been living in a private hell, and when he finally works up the courage to end things, his boyfriend refuses to go quietly.

One call to the cops, and suddenly Geoff and Asher’s paths cross. But is the connection between them simple chemistry? Kindred spirits? Or just a pair of lonely hearts looking for a hot distraction?

And even if it’s more than physical, is there really a future for two men from such vastly different worlds? Especially when the past comes knocking?

Rating: Narration; A – Content; B+

Rebound, book one in L.A. Witt’s Pucks & Rainbows series, pairs a twenty-something hockey star with a forty-something cop and ex-marine, both of whom have recently ended long-term relationships with abusive partners. Naturally, both men bring a lot of emotional baggage to the table, so maybe a no-strings rebound fling is what they both need, a simple distraction while they deal with all the other stuff going on in their lives and sort themselves out. It’s a well-written – if slightly predictable – story featuring two engaging leads that takes a realistic look at the issue of domestic abuse in gay relationships and the perceptions – personal and public – that come with it.

When Officer Geoff Logan and his partner Laura are called to a disturbance at a local restaurant, Geoff is surprised to recognise one of the parties involved as up-and-coming hockey star, Asher Crowe, centre for the Seattle Snowhawks. While Geoff and Laura wait for back-up, Geoff talks to Asher about the fight and learns Asher had just broken things off with Nathan – his long-term , physically abusive boyfriend – having deliberately chosen to do so in a public place in the hope that Nathan wouldn’t make a scene… which obviously didn’t turn out as Asher had hoped. Geoff, who has very recently ended a six-year relationship with a man who manipulated him emotionally for years, sees something of himself and his own situation in Asher, and after seeing him safely home, tells the younger man to call him if Nathan ignores the warnings he’s been given to stay away and offers to check up on him at the end of his shift – an offer Asher gratefully accepts.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.