Into the Storm (and Before the Storm) (Evidence: Under Fire #0.5 & #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella & Greg Tremblay

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

As a storm rolls in, a team of elite Navy SEALs arrives at a remote lodge for a wilderness training exercise that becomes terrifyingly real….

Xavier Rivera planned the exercise down to the smallest detail, but he didn’t plan the arrival of archaeologist Audrey Kendrick—a woman he shared a passionate night with before betraying her in the worst way.

As the storm is unleashed on the historic lodge it becomes clear the training has been compromised. Trapped by weather, isolated by the remote wilderness, and silenced as communication with the world has been severed, unarmed SEALs face an unexpected and deadly foe.

Audrey and Xavier must set aside their distrust and desire and work together to save a team under fire and survive in a battle against the wild.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

Rachel Grant embarks upon a new series of romantic suspense novels with Into the Storm, book one in the Evidence: Under Fire series. The premise grabbed my attention immediately; a group of Navy SEALS arrives at a remote location for a top-secret training exercise only to find themselves fighting an invisible enemy, their communications severed and with a severe weather system closing in. As always, the author’s research and attention to detail are impeccable and she imparts a lot of fascinating detail by weaving it into the fabric of the story.

Before the Storm by Rachel Grant

A couple of months before Into the Storm begins, its protagonists, Audrey Kendrick and Xavier Rivera, meet (in the novella, (Before the Storm) when Xavier, a Navy SEAL trainer visits the Olympic National Park to scope out the historic Lake Olympus Lodge and surrounding area as a possible location for a top secret training mission. The chemistry that sparks between the couple is hot and intense, leading to their spending a passionate night together. A few weeks later, Audrey discovers she’s pregnant – despite the fact they’d used contraception – and decides, straight away that she’s going to keep the baby and that even if Xavier doesn’t want to be a part of their child’s life, telling him is the right thing to do. She asks the mutual friend that introduced them to ask Xavier to get in touch – and is delighted when, later that day, she bumps into Xavier at the Lodge, pleased to be able to share her news in person. But she realises something is wrong immediately; not only is Xavier in uniform (he never told her what he did for a living), he’s cold and hostile, telling her he’s filed a complaint about her because she refused to sign off on the Navy’s proposal for a training mission because she was angry that he’d rejected her. Reeling at the unjust and unfounded accusations that could tank her job and her career, Audrey doesn’t tell him about the baby.

(Note: It’s not essential to have listened to Before the Storm, as the relevant information is contained within Into the Storm).

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Broken Falcon (Evidence #12) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay & Nicol Zanzarella

broken falcon

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chase Johnston is leading a double life. After two years of psychological torment, the quiet, highly skilled Raptor operative now has a darker side, and he’s hellbent on bringing human-traffickers to justice – using any means necessary. The only relief he finds for his troubled mind is a woman he’ll never meet in person.

Eden O’Keeffe is also leading a double life. By day she’s a grad student and barista, but at night she sits in front of a camera and provides companionship for those seeking entertainment, titillation, or simple conversation. She enjoys the freedom of being a siren online, but her secret career comes with risks that force her to hide her true identity at all costs.

When Chase walks into a coffee shop and comes face to face with the one person who makes him feel again, it seems his long nightmare may be coming to an end. But in entering Eden’s world, he’s bringing that nightmare – and the danger that comes with it – to her doorstep.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Broken Falcon – book twelve in Rachel Grant’s terrific Evidence series – for months. Ms. Grant is my favourite author of romantic suspense, and I’m always impressed by her ability to craft tense and exciting stories with clever plots and interesting, engaging characters. Also, this book’s hero, Chase Johnston, was an important secondary character in Incriminating Evidence, one of my series favourites – if you haven’t read or listened to it, I’d recommend doing so before this, as Chase’s backstory is incredibly important to this story (note – there are spoilers in this review) and given his role in that book, I was especially keen to find out what happened to him ‘after’ and for him to find love and get his own HEA.

When we catch up with Chase at the beginning of the book, we find out that he’s devoting much of his free time to preventing runaway teens from being sucked into a sex-trafficking ring. Together with Isabel Dawson, the wife of Senator – and Raptor boss – Alec Ravissant, Chase helps the teens to get to a shelter set up specially to help prevent them being sent back to abusive family situations. He’s fairly sure the trafficking ring is linked to a legitimate business, a cam-girl site called Cam Dames – although he hasn’t yet been able to find any evidence to tie the two together. On this particular evening, Chase has cut things a bit fine; it takes longer than he’d expected to persuade the girl he’s ‘intercepting’ to go into the next-door coffee shop to meet with Isabel, and she has only just gone inside when a couple of goons show up looking for their quarry. Chase is Raptor’s expert in unarmed combat (having learned martial arts from a very young age, he’s got Mad Ninja Skillz!) and it doesn’t take him long to run them off.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Concrete Evidence (Evidence #1) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella and Greg Tremblay

Concrete Evidence 2021

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

She wants revenge. He wants her.

Blackballed from underwater archaeology after accusations of artifact trafficking, Erica Kesling has a new job and a new life on the other side of the country and is working to clear her name. She’s closing in on her goal when she’s distracted by a sexy, charismatic intern who makes her want something other than revenge. But Lee Scott is no intern. He’s looking for the lead conspirator in an international artifact smuggling scheme, and Erica is his prime suspect. He’ll do whatever it takes to win her trust and get her to reveal her secrets, even seduce her.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content- B-

I’ve read/listened to and reviewed most of the books in Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense Evidence series, and they’re among my favourites in the genre – sexy, intelligent and fast-paced with well-drawn, interesting characters and storylines that sometimes feel as though they’re taken from tomorrow’s headlines! The first book – Concrete Evidence – is one of the few books in the series I haven’t read, and I’d intended to listen to the audio at some point, but after AudioGals reviewed it back in 2014 and said that the narration wasn’t very good, I instead put the book on the TBR pile of doom.

Unfortunately, the book is still there – so I was delighted when I saw a newly recorded audiobook version crop up at Audible, narrated by Nicol Zanzarella – who has narrated all the other Evidence books – and Greg Tremblay (whose work on the author’s Flashpoint series sent me down a Tremblay/Boudreaux shaped rabbit hole I still haven’t emerged from!). For anyone wondering, the author’s website indicates that she has made a few small revisions and added an epilogue previously only available as bonus material.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

This title may be downloaded from Audible.

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancee was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid….

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions – unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there – irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late….

Rating: Narration – A-; Content: B+

Kate Clayborn arrived on the contemporary romance scene a couple of years ago and made a big splash with her Chance of a Lifetime trilogy which featured three friends who won the lottery. She’s followed up that success with Love Lettering, a gorgeous slow-burn romance featuring a pair of truly likeable characters who, while complete opposites nonetheless complement each other perfectly.

Meg Mackworth has made a name for herself as a calligrapher and hand-letterer, producing beautiful custom-made journals, planners and stationery for the small, boutique paperie owned and run by a friend. But recently, her work has gained a wider audience and she has become something of an internet celebrity; her Instagram “how to” videos get hundreds of thousands of hits, she’s more in demand than ever, and she’s about to move her business to the next level by pitching a new range of designs to a company that will produce and distribute her work far more widely. So things are going well and life is good. Except… it isn’t.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Poison Evidence (Evidence #7) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

It was supposed to be paradise….

Ivy MacLeod has the perfect opportunity to test her advanced remote sensing technology: mapping a World War II battle site in the islands of Palau. The project is more than an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise. It’s also an opportunity to distance her reputation from her traitorous ex-husband.

But foreign intelligence agencies will kill to possess her invention, and paradise turns deadly when her ex-husband’s vicious allies attack. In desperation, she turns to Air Force pilot Jack Keaton. But is he the bigger threat? Jack might be protecting her as he claims…or he could be a foreign agent. Her compass is skewed by his magnetic pull and further thrown off when she learns her own government has betrayed her.

Stranded on a tropical island with a man whose motives remain a mystery, Ivy must decide who is the spy, who is the protector, and who is the ultimate villain. She longs to trust the man who rescued her, but she’s risking more than her heart. Choose right, and she saves her country’s secrets – and her life. Choose wrong – and she risks nothing short of all-out war.

Rating: Narration – B+: Content – A-

Note: In my review of Cold Evidence, I mentioned that there was a teeny bit of a cliffhanger at the end, which would play out in the next book. Because the two stories are linked by this plot point and a few recurring characters, there will be some small spoilers for Cold Evidence in this review.

Rachel Grant is – in case it’s not obvious by now – my go-to author for romantic suspense. She’s got the knack of getting the balance between romance and plot just right; the pacing in her books is spot on, just the right mix of fast-paced action and calmer periods of reflection or love scenes, and her characters are strong, likeable and easy to root for. In this series, she’s drawn strongly on her background as an historian and archaeologist, and many of her characters work in those professions, as marine archaeologists, military historians and the like, all of which I find fascinating. In Poison Evidence, the seventh book in the Evidence series, we meet Ivy MacLeod, a highly intelligent, self-confessed tech-geek with a passion for geological and geographical archaeology, who works for NHHC (Naval History and Heritage Command) and whose latest invention – a complex computerised mapping system using infrared and Lidar she nicknames CAM – is about to undergo its first field test in the small Pacific island nation of Palau.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cold Evidence (Evidence #6) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The only thing Navy underwater archaeologist Undine Gray fears more than facing former SEAL Luke Sevick is never scuba diving again. But when a dive on a Cold War-era US Navy submarine ends with an accidental explosion, she’s terrified of going into the deep, forcing her to beg the most experienced diver she knows to take her back to the bottom of the cold Salish Sea.

Luke wants nothing to do with the woman who destroyed his career a dozen years ago but finds it impossible to turn his back on her plea. Caught off guard by an attraction he doesn’t want to feel, he’s eager to be done with this mission of mercy. But when they dive on the wreck, he only gets sucked in deeper. Someone has been digging on the Navy sub…and it appears the explosion that almost killed Undine was no accident.

To find the truth, Undine must navigate murky waters and the unexpectedly hot undercurrents swirling between her and Luke. Worse, divers are searching for something lost in US waters during the Cold War, and they’ll do anything to keep Luke and Undine from finding it first.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Cold Evidence is number six in Rachel Grant’s seven-book (so far) Evidence series of romantic suspense novels. I’ve yet to read or listen to every instalment, but those I’ve got to so far have proved to be immensely enjoyable, complex and action-packed stories featuring hot-as-hell heroes and feisty (in a good way) heroines who don’t take any crap. The romances are nicely steamy and well integrated into the main storylines, and for me, the balance between romance and suspense is just about perfect. Cold Evidence does feature some recurring characters but like all the books in the series, it can be enjoyed as a standalone – although there is a bit of a cliff-hanger at the end which leads into the next book, Poison Evidence. Don’t worry though, it’s more by way of a teaser; the suspense storyline and HEA are happily resolved, so you can safely listen to this without fear of frustration!

Underwater archaeologist Undine Gray is working on a project to salvage the USS Wrasse, an old US submarine that sank off the coast of Seattle during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, taking a number of its former crewmembers with it; men who had served aboard her in World War Two and who had volunteered to take her to her final resting place, not knowing it would become theirs, too.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Covert Evidence (Evidence #5) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

covert-evidence

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Falling in love was never part of his mission…

With visions of professional glory, underwater archaeologist Cressida Porter embarks on a research trip deep into the heart of Eastern Turkey. Her dreams turn into nightmares when she becomes the unwitting courier for a terrorist network. Stranded and unable to speak the language, she turns to a handsome and enigmatic security specialist for help, even while fearing he may be behind a violent assault that leaves her vulnerable.

CIA case officer Ian Boyd’s mission is clear: follow the courier, identify the terrorist leader, and intercept the microchip before it falls into enemy hands. For Ian, cozying up to the alluring archaeologist to find out where her loyalties lie isn’t exactly hardship duty. But spending time with her proves dangerous when she awakens a longing for a life he can never have.

Attraction wars with distrust as Cressida and Ian are forced on the run. When violence erupts in the already unstable region, Cressida discovers everything she knows about Ian is false. With all secrets revealed, Cressida must decide if she can trust the spy with her life while Ian faces his own impossible choice: Cressida or his mission.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A-

In this action-packed romantic thriller, the fifth in Rachel Grant’s Evidence series, marine archaeologist Cressida Porter travels to South Eastern Turkey (near the borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran) in order to reconnoitre a possible excavation site as a subject for her thesis, only to end up on the run from a dangerous terrorist network with an American covert operative who may or may not be trustworthy. I should point out that although a number of characters from the previous books make cameo appearances in Covert Evidence, it’s not absolutely necessary to have listened to or read them to be able to understand and enjoy this story.

On her last night in Antalya before heading out to the prospective site, Cressida and a friend are enjoying a night out at a bar while waiting to meet with the guide and translator with whom she has arranged to travel. Completely out of the blue, Cressida’s ex-boyfriend Todd Ganem turns up and starts making a nuisance of himself, and their heated exchange ends with Cressida decking him in rather spectacular fashion. Some months earlier, Todd had stolen some extremely valuable Lidar (a kind of Radar, but which uses laser technology) equipment from the university and then dragged Cressida into it by claiming he stole it at her instigation. An enquiry exonerated her, but her reputation is still a little suspect in some quarters, and now all she wants to go is to regain the respect of her colleagues, move on and finish her PhD.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.