Criminal Past (Hazard and Somerset #6) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery. Emery Hazard and his boyfriend, John-Henry Somerset, just want to enjoy the day at the Dore County Independence Fair. At the shooting gallery, though, Hazard comes face to face with one of his old bullies: Mikey Grames. Even as a drugged-out wreck, Mikey is a reminder of all the ugliness in Hazard’s past. Worse, Mikey seems to know something Hazard doesn’t – something about the fresh tension brewing in town.

When the Chief of Police interrupts Hazard’s day at the fair, she has a strange request. She doesn’t want Hazard and Somers to solve a murder. She wants them to prevent one. The future victim? Mayor Sherman Newton – a man who has tried to have Hazard and Somers killed at least once.

Hazard and Somers try to work out the motive of the man threatening Newton, and the trail leads them into a conspiracy of corrupt law enforcement, white supremacists, and local politicians. As Hazard and Somers dig into the case, their search takes them into the past, where secrets have lain buried for twenty years.

Determined to get to the truth, Hazard finds himself racing for answers, but he discovers that sometimes the past isn’t buried very deep. Sometimes, it isn’t dead. Sometimes, it isn’t even past. And almost always, it’s better left alone.

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: B+

Criminal Past is the sixth book in Gregory Ashe’s series of mystery novels featuring detectives Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset, and it concludes the story arcs that have run throughout the series. It’s longer than the other books (clocking in at 18+ hours), but the story is gripping and the interplay between the two leads is so sharp, so funny and so gut-wrenching that it’s easy to get lost in.

Note: There are spoilers for the other books in the series in this review.

Way back at the start of the series, we learned that Detective Emery Hazard had returned to his Missouri hometown of Wahredua for the first time in more than fifteen years, determined to find out the truth behind his first boyfriend’s suicide. That storyline, along with several others that have been quietly humming along in the background of the cases Hazard and his partner, John-Henry Somerset, have worked over the course of the series, are slowly, inexorably and skilfully brought together in Criminal Past, as Hazard and Somers confront police corruption, white supremacists and a wide-reaching old-boy network that will go to any lengths to preserve the status quo. And at the same time, they’re both forced to face many unpleasant truths about their pasts and to question whether their newly-forged romantic relationship can ever work given the issues that have lain between them for so many years.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Reasonable Doubt (Detectives Hazard and Somerset #5) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

After almost 20 years, Emery Hazard finally has the man he loves. But things with his boyfriend and fellow detective, John-Henry Somerset, are never easy, and they’ve been more complicated lately for two reasons: Somers’s ex-wife and daughter. No matter what Hazard does, he can’t seem to get away from the most important women in his boyfriend’s life.

While Hazard struggles with his new reality (changing dirty diapers, just to start), a bizarre murder offers a distraction. John Oscar Walden, the leader of a local cult, is found dead by the police, and the case falls to Hazard and Somers. The investigation takes the two detectives into the cult’s twisted relationships and the unswerving demands of power and faith.

But the deeper Hazard looks into the cult, the deeper he must look into his own past, where belief and reason have already clashed once. And as Hazard struggles to protect the most vulnerable of Walden’s victims, he uncovers a deeper, more vicious plot behind Walden’s murder, and Hazard finds himself doing what he never expected: racing to save the killer.

Only, that is, if Somers doesn’t need him to babysit.

Rating: Narration: B; Content: A-

Although I’ve only reviewed the first of the Hazard and Somerset audiobooks, Pretty Pretty Boys, I’ve been following the series (in both print and audio), and have now reached book five, Reasonable Doubt, which sees some major changes taking place in the lives of our heroes. And some things – like their seeming inability to read one another – staying very much the same.

Please note that there will be spoilers for the earlier books in the series in this review.

At the end of the last book, Guilt by Association, fans of the series who were rooting for Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset to tell each other what we’ve all known since book one – that they’re stupid in love with each other – finally got their wish. It’s been a difficult road; these two are masters of the art of not saying what they really mean and there’s enough baggage between them to fill a whole fleet of trucks – but at long last they managed to get onto the same page and now, a few months later, are living together as a couple. They continue to be partners at work as well – (I confess to wondering if that would actually be permitted) – and their latest case, the murder of the leader of a religious cult, is one that stirs up some extremely dark and painful memories for Hazard.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Quickie Reviews #3

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


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

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

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Grade: C- / 2.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

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

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

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


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

Truth and lies. 

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

Dirty little secret. 

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

Play the game to win. 

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

Overall Grade: B+/4.5 stars

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

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

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

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

Eyes Only For Me by Andrew Grey (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

For years, Clayton Potter’s been friends and workout partners with Ronnie. Though Clay is attracted, he’s never come on to Ronnie because, let’s face it, Ronnie only dates women.

When Clay’s father suffers a heart attack, Ronnie, having recently lost his dad, springs into action, driving Clay to the hospital over a hundred miles away. To stay close to Clay’s father, the men share a hotel room near the hospital, but after an emotional day, one thing leads to another, and straight-as-an-arrow Ronnie make a proposal that knocks Clay’s socks off! Just a little something to take the edge off.

Clay responds in a way he’s never considered. After an amazing night together, Clay expects Ronnie to ignore what happened between them and go back to his old life. Ronnie surprises him and seems interested in additional exploration. Though they’re friends, Clay suddenly finds it hard to accept the new Ronnie and suspects that Ronnie will return to his old ways. Maybe they both have a thing or two to learn.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – C

I haven’t read or listened to a book by Andrew Grey before, but I know he’s a fairly prolific author of m/m romances and knowing Tristan James is a reliably good narrator, decided to give this one a try.

Eyes Only for Me centres on two best friends – Clay (who is gay) and Ronnie (who isn’t) – who end up becoming a lot more than friends following an unexpected night of passion. I suppose it’s a Gay-For-You story, although the author does explore the idea that sexual orientation is a grey area and that there are many different options and possibilities beyond the simple definitions of “gay” and “straight”.

Both men are in their forties, but for most of the book, Ronnie seems stuck in his twenties – he’s brash, loud, unsubtle and a player; after a failed marriage years earlier and a more recent break up with a long-term girlfriend, he hooks up with a succession of gorgeous airheads who, he’s well aware, are more after what he can give them (he’s a hugely successful stockbroker (or something of that ilk) and thus extremely wealthy) than for who he is himself. He has a form of OCD which can make it hard for him to think clearly and he has trouble letting go of things that have affected him emotionally, like his most recent break-up (which was over a year before) and his father’s death more than two years earlier.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Pretty Pretty Boys (Hazard & Somerset #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

After Emery Hazard loses his job as a detective in Saint Louis, he heads back to his hometown–and to the local police force there. Home, though, brings no happy memories, and the ghosts of old pain are very much alive in Wahredua. Hazard’s new partner, John-Henry Somerset, had been one of the worst tormentors, and Hazard still wonders what Somerset’s role was in the death of Jeff Langham, Hazard’s first boyfriend.

When a severely burned body is discovered, Hazard finds himself drawn deeper into the case than he expects. Determining the identity of the dead man proves impossible, and solving the murder grows more and more unlikely. But as the city’s only gay police officer, Hazard is placed at the center of a growing battle between powerful political forces. To his surprise, Hazard finds an unlikely ally in his partner, the former bully. And as they spend more time together, something starts to happen between them, something that Hazard can’t–and doesn’t want–to explain.

The discovery of a second mutilated corpse, though, reveals clues that the two murders are linked, and as Hazard gets closer to answers, he uncovers a conspiracy of murder and betrayal that goes deeper–and closer to home–than he could ever expect.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – A-

Pretty Pretty Boys is the first book in Gregory Ashe’s six-book series about Missouri-based detectives Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset. I really enjoyed the story, which boasts a well-crafted, intricate mystery and combines it with the difficult, angsty relationship between the two men, who have known each other since boyhood and whose shared history is a complicated one. I’ll say right now though, that while there are romantic elements to the book, they’re low-key and mostly confined to some really delicious sexual tension between the leads, so if an HEA or HFN in every book is a must, I’m afraid you won’t find it here. We’re talking slow burn, with an emphasis on the slooooooooow – although reviews of later books lead me to believe that the guys get there eventually. Each instalment in the series takes place across a fairly short time-span, and the whole series only spans a few months, so it makes sense that the romantic side of things would take a few books to get going. Even though the wait is frustrating…

Anyway. For reasons listeners are not (yet) privy to, Detective Emery Hazard has been forced to quit his post in St. Louis. He’s offered the choice between being demoted to a desk job or keeping his shield and going somewhere else – and chooses the latter option, deciding to return to his home town of Wahredua – which he remembers as a dismal backwater – intent on finally discovering what drove his first boyfriend to commit suicide some fifteen years earlier. The place doesn’t hold many happy memories for him. The only openly gay kid in a small, insular town, he was tormented at school by a group of three boys, and he still bears the scars – both physical and emotional – of that bullying, so returning to Wahredua brings back all those memories and more. He knows one of his three persecutors is dead, and he soon discovers another is a wreck of a man… which leaves him wondering what happened to the third, the town’s golden-boy; the drop-dead gorgeous, charming and popular John-Henry Somerset.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1) by Layla Reyne (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

You can download this title from Audible via Amazon

It’s a good thing assistant US attorney Dominic Price co-owns a brewery. He could use a cold one. Nic’s star witness has just been kidnapped, his joint operation with the FBI is in jeopardy, his father’s shady past is catching up with him, and the hot new special agent in San Francisco is the kind of distraction best handled with a stiff drink.

Kidnap and rescue expert Cameron Byrne has his own ideas about how to handle Nic, but his skills are currently needed elsewhere. The by-the-book FBI agent goes deep undercover as a member of an infamous heist crew in order to save Nic’s witness, break up the crew, and close the case before anyone else gets hurt. Nic in particular.

Things heat up when Cam falls for Nic, and the witness falls for Cam. As the crew’s suspicions grow, Cam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and how far into his own dark past he’s willing to dive – to get everyone out alive.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – C

I’ve been looking forward to this latest book from Layla Reyne for months. I loved her Agents Irish and Whiskey series of fast-paced, steamy romantic suspense novels, and was over the moon when she announced that she’d be writing a spin-off series featuring two of the major secondary characters from those books – Special Agent Cameron Byrne, one of the FBI’s top K&R (kidnap and rescue) specialists and Assistant US Attorney Nic Price. Imperial Stout is book one in the Trouble Brewing series (as well as his day job as a legal eagle, Nic co-owns a craft brewery) and I was looking forward to more of the same; a fast-paced, tightly plotted and complex story and two fully rounded, engaging characters I could root for. Sadly, however, Imperial Stout doesn’t deliver on any of those things. There’s an attempt to follow a similar pattern as the I&W books, in that there’s one thread that looks set to run through the whole series, accompanied by a self-contained plot that is wrapped up by the end of each book; but while the long-running thread is certainly intriguing, the self-contained plot is pretty lacklustre, the villain is a caricature and the large suspensions of disbelief required on the part of the listener in order to make it work are just too much.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Rebel (415: Ink #1) by Rhys Ford (audiobook) – Narrated by Tristan James

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The hardest thing a rebel can do isn’t standing up for something – it’s standing up for himself.

Life takes delight in stabbing Gus Scott in the back when he least expects it. After Gus spends years running from his past, present, and the dismal future every social worker predicted for him, karma delivers the one thing Gus could never – would never – turn his back on: a son from a one-night stand he’d had after a devastating breakup a few years ago.

Returning to San Francisco and to 415 Ink, his family’s tattoo shop, gave him the perfect shelter to battle his personal demons and get himself together…until the firefighter who’d broken him walked back into Gus’s life.

For Rey Montenegro, tattoo artist Gus Scott was an elusive brass ring, a glittering prize he hadn’t the strength or flexibility to hold on to. Severing his relationship with the mercurial tattoo artist hurt, but Gus hadn’t wanted the kind of domestic life Rey craved, leaving Rey with an aching chasm in his soul.

When Gus’s life and world starts to unravel, Rey helps him pick up the pieces, and Gus wonders if that forever Rey wants is more than just a dream.

Rating: Narration – C+ : Content – C

I’ve listened to a number of Rhys Ford’s novels recently, and I’ve enjoyed Tristan James’ work in other books of hers, so I was pleased to pick up Rebel, the first book in her 415: Ink series, for review. Ms. Ford is a prolific author who writes in a variety of genres – fantasy, paranormal, romantic suspense, for instance – so Rebel, which is more of an ensemble family drama, is a bit of a departure from the other stories of hers I’ve listened to. And I have to confess that I wasn’t as drawn in by it as I’d hoped to be. The major characters are engaging, and their backgrounds are intriguing and skilfully incorporated into the story, but the central romance is lacklustre; there’s minimal conflict which is resolved rather easily, and I just wasn’t feeling the chemistry between the central couple. Add to that some odd quirks in the narration, and Rebel proved ultimately to be a bit of a let-down.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.