Strip Me by Margay Leah Justice (audiobook) – Narrated by Sebastian York and Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Sam Richmond is a workaholic in danger of becoming the very man he despises – his father. Stressed and sick with worry, he’s desperate to shake off the shackles that bind him to his current path and embark on a life lived only for himself.

His friends are determined to pull him out of his funk and decide to drag him to a strip club that caters to both men and women. Sam is shocked when he develops an attraction to the show’s male headliner: Rico McIntyre. The two men end up in a backroom for a private lap dance that ends up being a game changer for them.

Because despite the fact they both identify themselves as heterosexual, they decide to explore their strange attraction for one another – if only for one night. But one night quickly becomes another and then another, until a misunderstanding tears the two apart. Both men attempt to forget about the other, only for life to unexpectedly reunite them.

Can Sam and Rico embark on a relationship and come to terms with their new understandings of themselves and who they love? Or are they doomed from the start?

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C-

I’m far more likely to take a chance on a new or new-to-me author in audio than I am in print, especially if their book is performed by someone I enjoy listening to. So, when Margay Leah Justice’s Strip Me came up for review with two very familiar names attached, I decided to give it a try. Kale Williams is an experienced narrator I’ve enjoyed listening to on several occasions and Sebastian York is… well, Sebastian York! If nothing else, the narration should be good, right? And it is.

But the story? There are a couple of good ideas here, but overall, it’s a bit of a mess, the characterisation is fairly superficial, and the writing is distinctly amateurish in places. Gay-For-You stories are tricky to do well at the best of times and I’ve read and listened to far better examples of the trope than this one.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Full Package (Big Rock #4) by Lauren Blakely (audiobook) – Narrated by Sebastian York

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

I’ve been told I have quite a gift. Hey, I don’t just mean in my pants. I’ve got a big brain, too, and a huge heart of gold. And I like to use all my gifts to the fullest, the package included.

Life is smooth sailing…until I find myself stuck between a rock and a sexy roommate, which makes for one very hard…place. Because scoring an apartment in this city is harder than finding true love. So even if I have to shack up with my buddy’s smoking-hot and incredibly amazing little sister, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

I can resist Josie. I’m disciplined, I’m focused, and I keep my hands to myself, even in the mere 500 square feet we share. Until the one night she insists on sliding under the covers with me. It’ll help her sleep after what happened that day, she says.

Spoiler – neither one of us sleeps.

Did I mention she’s also one of my best friends? That she’s brilliant, beautiful, and a total firecracker? Guess that makes her the full package, too. What’s a man stuck in a hard place to do?

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

Full Package is fairly typical Lauren Blakely fayre, a flirty, fun rom-com featuring a couple of attractive central characters with great chemistry, plenty of hot sex and very little angst. It fits into the Big Rock universe, following on from Well Hung; and the heroine Josie Hammer is the sister of Nick from Mister O.

Josie runs a successful ‘boutique’ bakery in NYC and urgently needs a new flatmate as the friend she’s been sharing with up till now is leaving; Chase Summers is a hard-working ER doctor who is having trouble finding a place to live in the city since returning from a stint abroad with Doctors Without Borders.  Chase and his brother Max have known Nick and Jodie for years and they often hang out together; Chase and Josie are good mates, who share common interests and a sense of humour so… yeah, the solution to their problems is fairly obvious.

Chase moves in and everything is peachy.  Sort of.  Because the searing attraction that’s building between him and Josie is becoming harder and harder to resist – but neither of them wants to risk doing anything to jeopardise their friendship, which is what always happens when friends hook up.  But… maybe, just maybe there’s a way they can have both – all the toe-curlingly hot sex AND stay friends after this thing between them burns out.  The trouble is that the more time Chase spends with Josie, the more convinced he becomes that she’s the one… and she’s made it clear ‘forever’ isn’t on the table.

I picked up the audio book of this because I’d had a few mediocre listens on the trot and I knew Sebastian York wouldn’t disappoint.  He’s extremely good in these light-hearted, guy-PoV contemporary romances, bringing just the right degree of confident, uber sexiness to the narrative while also being able to convey the character’s inner emotions and vulnerabilities.  Chase is a great character, a thoroughly decent, dedicated and compassionate man who – it’s clear early on – has carried a torch for Josie for years, and Josie is a good foil for him, successful in her work life and not afraid to ask for what she wants when it comes to the bedroom.  They make a great couple and the build-up of sexual tension between them us superbly done, but once they hit the sheets, I confess the whole thing started to deflate.  The sex scenes are raunchy and hot and well written, but all the thinking at cross purposes – “this isn’t going to last so we have to stop before things go bad so we can still be friends” – got very wearing very quickly, and the last couple of hours were a bit of a slog.  I’ve listened to several books by this author (when I’m in the mood for sexy fluff), so I know they tend to be fairly low angst and that’s fine  –  not everything needs to be high-drama all the time – and a simple, sexy story about two people falling in love is sometimes just what the doctor ordered (!), but when the one stumbling block in the romance could be solved by having a simple conversation, it ends up feeling contrived and becomes extremely frustrating.

Sebastian York is, as I’ve said, a great choice of narrator for this sort of story; his deep, almost-drawl is a great fit for Ms. Blakely’s brand of sexy, self-aware heroes, and he has a nice way with the flirty banter and laid-back humour.  His female voices are okay – there’s a significant difference between Chase and Josie so there’s no confusion as to who is speaking – and he differentiates subtly but appropriately between the other men in the story.

I got what I expected and wanted from this audiobook – a bit of brain candy and to listen to a good narrator after a few disappointments.  Job done.

The Empire State Series: A Week in New York, Autumn in New York, Summer in Manhattan by Louise Bay (audiobook) – Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld and Sebastian York

This title may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

Anna Kirby is sick of dating. She’s tired of heartbreak. Despite being smart, sexy, and funny, she’s a magnet for men who don’t deserve her. A week’s vacation in New York is the ultimate distraction from her most recent break-up, as well as a great place to meet a stranger and have some summer fun. But to protect her still-bruised heart, fun comes with rules. There will be no sharing stories, no swapping numbers, and no real names. Just one night of uncomplicated fun. Super-successful serial seducer Ethan Scott has some rules of his own. He doesn’t date, he doesn’t stay the night, and he doesn’t make any promises. It should be a match made in heaven. But rules are made to be broken.

Rating: Narration – A-/B+; Content – B

Having recently listened to Louise Bay’s King of Wall Street, which I picked up on the strength of the review by one of my fellow AudioGals, I was keen on trying more of the author’s work. The Empire State Series caught my eye because of the narrator pairing; I’ve listened to and enjoyed Saskia Maarleveld in a few historical romances, but I’ve never listened to her in a contemporary; and Sebastian York… yeah, well, he could probably make the phone book sound sexy, so I was sold.

A Week in New York opens with Londoners Anna and Leah, at a bar in New York on a night out. Anna has recently come out of a bad relationship and Leah has travelled with her fiancé on a business trip and both are determined on a week of hanging out, retail therapy and soaking up some culture. Anna is approached by an unutterably gorgeous man who makes his interest in spending the night with her very clear – and Anna thinks “why not?” – and decides to go for it. One night stands aren’t her normal style, but the guy is hotter than hell and, she’s sure, knows his way around a woman’s body. She insists on a few rules though; no real names (which he refuses to go with – after all, he doesn’t want the woman he’s in bed with screaming any other name than his own!), no personal details, no exchanging numbers or email addresses; just one night of steamy sex. Other than the names thing, the guy – Ethan – is perfectly happy with all of those things, although he scoffs at Anna’s choice of name – Florence – and insists on giving her a better one, deciding upon – Anna. She can’t deny that’s a bit weird – that he should somehow have hit upon her real name, but doesn’t dwell on it. There are better things to do, after all.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

King of Wall Street by Louise Bay (audiobook) – Narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York

king-of-wall-street

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

The king of Wall Street is brought to his knees by an ambitious bombshell.

I keep my two worlds separate. At work, I’m King of Wall Street. The heaviest hitters in Manhattan come to me to make money. They do whatever I say because I’m always right. I’m shrewd. Exacting. Some say ruthless. At home, I’m a single dad trying to keep his 14-year-old daughter a kid for as long as possible. If my daughter does what I say, somewhere there’s a snowball surviving in hell. And nothing I say is ever right.

When Harper Jayne starts as a junior researcher at my firm, the barriers between my worlds begin to dissolve. She’s the most infuriating woman I’ve ever worked with. I don’t like the way she bends over the photocopier – it makes my mouth water. I hate the way she’s so eager to do a good job – it makes my dick twitch. And I can’t stand the way she wears her hair up exposing her long neck. It makes me want to strip her naked, bend her over my desk, and trail my tongue all over her body. If my two worlds are going to collide, Harper Jayne will have to learn that I don’t just rule the boardroom. I’m in charge of the bedroom, too.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

I picked up this audiobook for two reasons.One – Sebastian York is one of the narrators and I could listen to him read the phone book; and two – one of my fellow AudioGals pointed out that the story is a little different to the current crop of sexy, business/co-worker contemporary romances out there, which made it sound like it was worth a listen.

And it was.  The storyline is fairly familiar to start with. Max King is the owner of a highly successful New York consulting firm, and Harper Jayne has wanted nothing more than to work for him since she was at business school.  She’s twenty-five and has recently landed that dream job as a junior researcher at the firm, but to her dismay Max – who is seriously gorgeous  – is a complete arsehole.  He pretty much ignores her and ripped her most recent report to pieces – and hasn’t even bothered to read her revised version.

The thing is, however, is that Max is completely smitten with Harper and for a man who has spent most of his adult life keeping his work life and his personal life completely separate, that’s a massive problem.  But even though he can’t deny the strength of his attraction to her, as long as he keeps his distance, he’ll be able to ignore it until it goes away.  And given that his days are devoted to work, and he spends most of the rest of his time at the Connecticut home he now shares with his daughter, Amanda, keeping his distance shouldn’t be too difficult.  Until, that is, he bumps into Harper at the gym in the basement of the building where he has his New York apartment, and realises she’s his downstairs neighbour.

This is a romance – we know where it’s going.  But what adds extra layers of interest to the storyline and depth to the characters is Max’s life away from the office, as the loving father of a fourteen year-old daughter and his relationship with his sisters; and Harper’s daddy issues, which, she can’t see until quite late in the book, have more or less dictated many of her life-decisions in spite of her desire not to have anything to do with him.  Harper’s difficult relationship with her estranged father causes a few of the speed-bumps on the way to true love, but fortunately, the misunderstandings aren’t dragged out for too long, and Max shows himself repeatedly to be a really good guy.  Harper is perhaps a bit quick to jump to conclusions towards the end, but it’s understandable given her background.

This is a relatively short audiobook – under eight hours – but they flew by courtesy of an engaging story and equally engaging narration from Sebastian York – to whom I’ve listened a few times, now – and Andi Arndt, who I’ve not listened to before, but whom my colleages at AG generally rate highly.  Both narrators do a great job, narrating alternate chapters from Harper’s and then Max’s PoV.  Over the past year, Mr. York seems to have become THE go-to narrator for contemporary romance, and it’s easy to hear why.  He’s fantastic at portraying those confident, intelligent, sexy heroes who know what they want, especially once they’ve set eyes on the heroine 😉  His female voices are good, too – a softening of tone and a very slight lift in pitch works well, and he does a good job in differentiating between Max’s sisters and daughter, and Harper and her friend, Grace.  Andi Arndt is his perfect narrator match; I don’t listen to a lot of books performed by two narrators, and I can imagine there’s nothing worse than one being really good and the other not –but that’s not an issue here on any level.  Ms. Arndt performs the male characters in the story with a drop in pitch and adds a slightly gruff note to her tone, which makes Max sound every bit as sexy as he does when performed by Mr. York.  Both narrators are equally good when things get steamy, performing with confidence and conviction, although I freely admit there’s something a bit knee-weakening about Sebastian York’s sexy growl 😉

All in all, King of Wall Street is an enjoyable listen with an engaging story, likeable characters, plenty of steam, and excellent narration.  I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more audiobooks narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, who are a great team.

Mister O. by Lauren Blakely (audiobook) – Narrated by Sebastian York

Mister O

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Just call me Mister O. Because your pleasure is my superpower.

Making a woman feel “oh god that’s good” is the name of the game, and if a man can’t get the job done, he should get the hell out of the bedroom. I’m talking toe-curling, mind-blowing, sheet-grabbing ecstasy. Like I provide every time.

I suppose that makes me a superhero of pleasure, and my mission is to always deliver.

Sure, I’ve got an addiction to giving, but step right up, and you’ll also find a man with a hot exterior, a kickass job, a razor-sharp wit, and a heart of gold. Yeah, life is good…. And then I’m thrown for a loop when a certain woman asks me to teach her everything about how to win a man. The only problem? She’s my best friend’s sister, but she’s far too tempting to resist – especially when I learn that sweet, sexy Harper has a dirty mind, too, and wants to put it to good use. What could possibly go wrong as I give the woman I’ve secretly wanted some no-strings-attached lessons in seduction?

No one will know, even if we send a few dirty sexts. Okay, a few hundred. Or if the zipper on her dress gets stuck. Not on that! Or if she gives me those f–k-me eyes on the train in front of her whole family.

The trouble is the more nights I spend with her in bed, the more days I want to spend with her out of bed. And for the first time ever, I’m not only thinking about how to make a woman cry out in pleasure – I’m thinking about how to keep her in my arms for a long time to come.

Looks like the real adventures of Mister Orgasm have only just begun…

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Anyone who knows me or reads my reviews regularly will know that I’m not really one for Contemporary romance. I freely admit to sneaking in the odd Harlequin Presents now and again, but I’m not into tattooed bikers, hockey players (or anything sport-related), Navy SEALs, firefighters, lawyers… and being British, I don’t get the appeal of small-town America. With all that said, though, I’m not averse to sampling something different occasionally, and when I was scrolling through Audible’s new releases pages recently, this caught my eye. Not only was the title one that made me grin and click to find out more, I’ve heard a lot of good things about narrator Sebastian York, so I decided to give it a go.

As one would expect from something called Mister O., it’s a very sexy book. It’s also very funny and, because the story is told entirely from the male point of view, refreshingly different. Add in a superb performance from Mr. York, and you’ve got a thoroughly entertaining listen.

Nick Hammer is twenty-nine, single, successful and knows how lucky he is to have landed his ideal gig. A few years back, his online comic strip – The Adventures of Mister Orgasm – was picked up by a television network and is now a hugely popular late night TV show. Once a weedy nerd with pencil and paper forever in hand, Nick is now a seriously hot nerd; glasses, great hair, toned body – he’s all that and a bag of chips. And fortunately for the women he dates, he is just as dedicated to the pursuit of female pleasure as his fictional creation.

It would have been easy for Nick to be an arrogant arsehole, but he isn’t. He’s genuinely aware of how lucky he’s been in his life; he’s charming and self-deprecating, and while he loves women, he’s a one-woman-at-a-time kinda guy, describing himself as a serial monogamist. He has, however, been single for a few months now, ever since the last woman he was with – a romance writer – jetted off to Italy to research her new book. There’s someone he’s seriously interested in, but – and I don’t know if this is a genuine guy thing or just a romance novel convention – she’s his best friend’s little sister and therefore strictly off-limits.

Harper Holiday has known Nick for years and they are great friends who get each other in a way many other people don’t. A few months back, something changed between them when the two of them decided to wind up her brother and make him think that they were getting it on. That prank involved a bit of touching and groping, and Harper hasn’t been able to forget the look and feel of Nick’s hard body and warm skin under her hands. But she knows she’s not his type, and is content with his friendship. Mostly.

Harper is a great character. She’s vibrant, funny and insightful, but when it comes to men, she’s hopeless. She’s a magician, and makes her living by performing at children’s parties and events, but while she loves her job, it’s also quite a lonely one. Most of her time is spent with kids and parents, so she doesn’t have many opportunities to interact with single men. When Nick witnesses her getting tongue-tied around a guy she likes, and realises that she has absolutely no idea when a man is interested in her, he’s stunned. Harper is the girl of his dreams (with alarming frequency) – how can she not know how attractive she is?

Things start to ramp up between them when Harper shyly asks Nick for dating advice. Naturally, he’s appalled at the thought of teaching her how to be with another man, but when he realises how alone she feels and how important it is to her, he can’t say no.

There’s no question where this is headed – it’s a romance novel after all! Flirty texting, dirty sexting, multiple Os on multiple surfaces… it’s all here; and it’s hot and sexy and sweet and filthy and incredibly honest. But it also becomes about much more than just sex and I really enjoyed listening to Nick’s thought processes as lust turns to love.

In addition to the humour and the male PoV, another thing the story has going for it is that it’s wonderfully free of contrived angst and drama. There’s a point towards the end when I wondered if things might be headed that way but Nick and Harper are intelligent adults who actually TALK to each other, so thankfully, it doesn’t go there.

Sebastian York is a narrator I’ve been aware of for some time, but because he narrates mostly Contemporary and New Adult romances, I’ve never listened to him before. Boy, have I been missing out! He has a lovely, deep baritone that can quite easily send shivers down the spine and his manner of delivery and comic timing are perfect. This is a first person narrative and he totally inhabits the character of Nick Hammer, bringing him to life in all his deadpan, honest and sexy glory. Mr. York’s female voices are very good, too, a slight hike in pitch and softening of tone working well to portray Harper and the various female secondary characters, all of whom are very clearly differentiated. The sex scenes are frequent – I have no idea what the sex-scene/page-count ratio is, but it’s pretty high! – but they’re very well written and narrated with self-assurance and absolute conviction.

Mister O. turned out to be one of those impulse decisions that paid off, supplying me with eight hours of funny, sexy entertainment. If you like your audiobooks on the steamy side, then you should definitely check it out.