Elusive Relations (Valor & Doyle #2) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

elusive relations

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Life was easier when rival detectives Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle kept to their own sides of the building. They could forget the one glorious night they’d shared and move on.

But when Aslan is called to a homicide and discovers one of the victims has a personal history with Quaid, he knows a confrontation is inevitable.

When news about the case spreads, Quaid can’t help but get involved. He wants answers; if not for himself, then for the families of the victims.

Joining Aslan and his partner, Quaid uncovers more than he bargained for—too many secrets and lies in a case that is dangerously personal.

Plus, the more time he spends with Aslan, the harder it is for Quaid to ignore his attraction to the playboy detective.

Aslan, who doesn’t believe in repeats, can’t seem to stop flirting with the grumpy MPU detective, and his rules go out the window as they’re drawn deeper into the case.

But what happens when one more night turns to two, and two turns into three?

Does Quaid want to risk his heart again?

Has Aslan developed feelings?

Can they put a stop to their fun and walk away?

Do they want to?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Note: This is a direct sequel to Temporary Partner, which should be listened to first. There are spoilers for that book in this review.

I used to listen to and read a lot of the same books, but in recent years, I’ve found myself only doing that with books that a) I’ve absolutely loved in print and b) where I know the narration is going to be top-notch. Both those things are true in the case of Nicky James’ Elusive Relations, book two in her Valor and Doyle Mysteries series. So often the second book in a trilogy (I don’t know if there will be more than three books in the series, so I’m going with “trilogy” for now) is a bit of a disappointment, a filler that just ticks along after the introductions and expositions of book one and doesn’t advance the plot/relationship very much because the author is keeping their powder dry for book three. Well, that is absolutely NOT what Nicky James does here, combining a fascinating plot with some stellar character/relationship development as a a new case hits close to home and detectives Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle try (and fail) to forget their spectacular night together and move on.

When Aslan and his partner Torin Fox are called to the scene of a particularly brutal murder, they find one man beaten viciously to death and learn that his bed-partner survived the attack and has been rushed to hospital. The detectives learn that he is the owner of the house, Jack Pilkey, and that, according to the neighbours, he brings home a different guy every night. The dead man’s wallet and driver’s licence identify him as a twenty-five-year-old student at the local university, and when Aslan sees the photograph of the other guy, his stomach drops. Jack Pilkey is Quaid’s cheating, douchebag ex-boyfriend.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Temporary Partner (Valor and Doyle #1) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

temporary partner

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Can two rivals work together to solve a case?

When an infant is taken from his carriage in broad daylight, missing persons detective Quaid Valor must race against the clock to find the child and bring him safely home to his family. Unfortunately, Quaid’s partner isn’t available, and his team is spread thin. Begrudgingly, Quaid must accept the help from his rival, homicide detective Aslan Doyle, if he wants to get the job done.

Aslan is Quaid’s opposite in every way. He’s bold, outspoken, arrogant, and the office playboy. And much to Quaid’s chagrin, Aslan seems to have set his sights on Quaid as his next conquest.

Quaid doesn’t have time to deal with Aslan’s flirty behavior when he’s trying to solve a case and juggle his cheating ex’s incessant interruptions.

It doesn’t matter how attractive Aslan is or the undeniable chemistry they seem to have. Getting involved with Aslan would be a huge mistake.

But as tension with the case builds, Quaid keeps forgetting he’s supposed to hate this new partner. Maybe Aslan is exactly the kind of distraction he needs.

Temporarily, at least.

Right?

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Nicky James kicks off a new romantic suspense/mystery series with Temporary Partner, a tightly-plotted mystery that will keep you guessing until the last minute coupled with a fantastic will-they/won’t-they partnership between two detectives from rival divisions of the Toronto PD.

In the prequel novella (not available in audio) Department Rivals, we meet Detective Quaid Valor of the Missing Persons Unit and Detective Aslan Doyle of Homicide when they’re partnered up for a team-building exercise designed to foster co-operation between the two departments. MPU and Homicide don’t mix and their animosity is legendary. Valor and Doyle know each other only by reputation; Valor is by-the-book with a stick up his arse and a permanent scowl on his face; Doyle is laid-back and do-what-it-takes with a reputation as a manwhore (his words) and a revolving door of lovers of both sexes. Neither is pleased about being partnered with the other, and are surprised (and maybe a bit annoyed) to discover they work well together. It’s not essential to have read this one first, but it’s a fun introduction to the characters, and some of its events are referenced in this story.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Not What It Seems by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

not what it seems

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

They say I killed them. They say I’m sick. They’re wrong. Nothing is as it seems.

Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Cyrus Irvine takes his job and his life very seriously. He is well-respected in his field and has worked hard to get where he is.

But he’s lonely.

When called in to evaluate a murder suspect, the last person he expects to find is the man he slept with a few months ago. The man who ghosted him and wounded his fragile heart.

Ethically, he should turn around and walk away, but he doesn’t. For as much as Cyrus understands the human brain, he can’t understand the pull he feels toward the patient.

One session with River Jenkins and Cyrus is sure of three things: River and everything about his preliminary diagnosis is a lie, his feelings toward River haven’t gone away, and despite his professional code, he isn’t going anywhere.

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.

Cyrus’ world is turned upside down as he and River team up to find the truth.

During their quest for answers, Cyrus discovers the hardest part of his decision isn’t the risk to his career, but the risk to his heart.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Not What It Seems is a standalone romantic suspense story from Nicky James with a premise that drew me in from the moment I read the synopsis. The two protagonists are River Jenkins, a man in his late twenties accused of the murder of three women and Dr. Cyrus Irvine, a renowned psychiatrist in his mid-forties who is called in to assess River’s mental state after his arrest. It’s a difficult book to review – not just because it’s a mystery and I don’t want to give too much away, but also because it took quite a while for me to warm to the characters or invest in their relationship – although many of the reasons for that make perfect sense in the context of who these people are and the situations they find themselves in. I’m sure it takes considerable skill on the part of an author to be able to write hard-to-like characters and make their flaws feel realistic and well-founded, and then to pull them back from being completely unlikeable without giving them a personality transplant. Nicky James manages it here, although it was a close-run thing for a time!

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Code Red (Atrous #1) by N.R. Walker (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

code red

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Maddox Kershaw is the main vocalist of the world’s biggest boy band. He’s at the top of every music chart, every award show, every social media platform, and every sexiest-man-alive list. He’s the bad boy, the enigma, the man everyone on the planet wants a piece of.

He’s also burned out and exhausted, isolated and lonely. Not in a good headspace at the start of a tour.

Roscoe Hall is Maddox’s personal manager. His job is high-flying, high-demand, high-profile, and he loves it. Maddox has consumed his entire life for the past four years. Roscoe knows him. He sees the real Maddox no one else gets to see.

He’s also in love with him.

When the tour and stress become too much, when the world begins to close in, Roscoe becomes Maddox’s lifeline. But as Maddox knows already, and as Roscoe is about to learn, the brighter the spotlight, the darker the shadow.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – C

I’ve been a fan of N.R. Walker since I listened to her fabulous Thomas Elkin series a few years back and I always look forward to reading or listening to her newest releases. Code Red is set in the music world and features a romance between the lead singer of the biggest boy band on the planet and his manager/handler. Nick J. Russo’s narration is as reliably good as ever, and I enjoyed certain aspects of the story, but unfortunately, I didn’t find the romance to be particularly compelling.

At twenty-three, Maddox Kershaw is the lead vocalist for Atrous, currently the most famous, most popular boy band in the world. He and his four band-mates – the closest thing he has to family – have spent the last seven years writing, recording, performing and touring; it’s fame and success beyond their wildest dreams, but for Maddox, it’s begun to turn into something of a nightmare. Their schedule is relentless; their current tour comes hot on the heels of recording a new album which followed hot on the heels of their previous tour and previous album; there’s been barely time to take a breath let alone a break. When this current tour begins, Maddox is already showing signs of burn-out, and with so many people relying on him (fans, employees, his fellow band members) he’s desperate to keep his issues a secret from everyone around him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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.