Unstable Connections (Valor & Doyle #3) by Nicky James

unstable connections

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Missing children are reappearing, and ties to a thirty-year-old cold case can’t be ignored.

Between his shaky, brand-new relationship with reformed office playboy Detective Aslan Doyle, his sister’s case going from cold to hot overnight, his father insisting on being involved, and his boss breathing down his neck, Detective Quaid Valor is on edge.

The stress of the case is impacting Quaid’s whole life. He isn’t eating or sleeping, and every time he and Aslan are together, he is overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, which threaten to ruin the one good thing he has. Aslan’s patience seems unending until something happens to turn his life upside down too.

Can their relationship survive the personal and professional pressures they’re facing, or will it crash and burn?

Between media rumors and unstable connections, Quaid and his team need to work quickly to piece together a complicated case before more children fall victim to their unknown serial kidnapper. Maybe once everything is solved, Aslan and Quaid will have time to work on their rocky relationship and find stable ground once again.

Rating: A

Wow – that was intense! This latest instalment in Nicky James’ Valor and Doyle series had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish; Unstable Connections is another compelling read that once again weaves together an absolutely gripping mystery plot with the continuing development of the relationship between the leads who, at the end of Elusive Relations, agreed they wanted more from each other than just sex, and are now a couple.

This series needs to be read in order so as to fully understand the relationship dynamics, and while each of the previous books has featured a self-contained mystery, certain overarching plotlines that have been bubbling along in the background reach a conclusion here, so this is not the place to jump in. Oh, and Spoilers Ahoy!

At the end of the previous book, the author dropped one helluva bombshell when eight-year-old Lili Vacari, who had been missing for four months, suddenly reappeared – and was carrying the backpack belonging to Quaid’s sister, who was abducted thirty years earlier. This news – naturally – hits Quaid incredibly hard, and sends him deep down a rabbit hole to the point of obsession; he’s not eating or sleeping well, he’s at his desk more often than not, and his colleagues are becoming concerned for him. It’s his partner, Eden, who finally calls in the big guns – Aslan – but while he’s just as concerned, he’s not sure how much more he can do. He knows Quaid and how much this case means to him, and is doing his absolute best to provide as much support as he can. He encourages Quaid to eat and sleep, offers the best type of distraction – sex – and someone to bounce ideas off… but he knows there are lines he can’t – and shouldn’t – cross. Quaid’s a grown man, Aslan isn’t his keeper, and he’s not about to torpedo their relationship by “taking a stance on Juniper”. He does, however, manage to drag Quaid away from the office on this particular Saturday – his birthday – long enough to get some sleep and get spruced up for dinner with his dad. Aslan is a bit nervous about meeting Abraham Valor in a social setting and as his son’s boyfriend; the two of them know each other by sight and reputation of course, but unfortunately for Aslan, his reputation as the department playboy means Valor Sr. sees him as someone else who might hurt Quaid. But after some initial frostiness, things settle and they begin to enjoy their meal – then a call from Quaid’s partner Eden throws another rock into the pond. Another missing little girl has just been found in the same location as Lily – and there’s no way this is a coincidence. Somehow the disappearances of these three little girls – Juniper, thirty years ago, Lily, and now Evelyn Rice – have to be connected, but how?

I’m not going to say any more, only that the author pulls it all together brilliantly as Aslan, Quaid and his colleagues in the MPU slowly begin to piece together the full picture by combining new information with everything Quaid has gained over years of painstaking research into his sister’s case. Juniper’s disappearance has been the framework for Quaid’s entire career; he followed his father’s footsteps into the police force and then became a detective in the Missing Persons Unit with the aim of preventing other families from going through what his did, and to be able to continue to investigate his sister’s disappearance with a view to getting some answers and closure for his dad.

Quaid’s tunnel vision has not only got him into hot water with his boss, who is close to pulling him off the case, it’s also causing problems in his fledgling relationship with Aslan. They’ve spent hardly any time together since deciding to give a relationship a try, but fortunately for Quaid, Aslan is a good guy who knows how much this case means to Quaid and is doing his absolute best to support him through it. Still, it’s hard to watch Quaid running himself into the ground – and to see what being so stressed out is doing to him psychologically. Aslan knows Quaid’s ex did a real number on him and seriously damaged his self-esteem, and knows that isn’t something that can be fixed overnight, but this case is also confirming just how many of Quaid’s insecurities and feelings of inadequacy can be traced back to Juni’s abduction when he was just six years old; how his fears of abandonment all stem from being pretty much forgotten in all the furore that surrounded it and then the breakdown of his family when his mother left a few months later. Aslan knows how much Quaid fears not being enough, that he believes that showing vulnerability is unattractive and that his neediness will drive Aslan away – but he’s prepared to wait out the storm because he’s recognised that what he has with Quaid – and the man himself – is worth it. But it’s not going to be easy.

While everything in Quaid’s life has been turned upside down, Aslan is also having a tough time balancing life and work as he and his partner Torin Fox find themselves juggling almost more cases than they can handle. I liked the realistic approach here; Aslan might want to drop everything to help Quaid, but he can’t because he has his own job to do, and to have it otherwise would have stretched my creduilty a bit too far. The pressure they’re both under is palpable and the author does a fantastic job of building the tension throughout this story; there’s little let up, and even when Quaid and Aslan do get some alone time, there’s a constant sense of unease, especially on Quaid’s part, as he allows his insecurities to start to get the better of him. And then, out of the blue, comes something with the potential to shatter Aslan’s world, too – no spoilers, but your heart will be in your throat and if you’ve got any nails left by this point, you won’t have many left after!

There are a number of other interesting relationships in the story, principally Quaid’s with his dad, which has so far seemed loving and solid, but is here revealed to have been built on some pretty shaky foundations. Abraham Valor’s guilt over what happened to his daughter is buried deep and has never been addressed – he and Quaid never talk about Juniper – and some of the effects of that guilt and its long denial are quite ugly.

I loved the way Quaid’s colleagues – his partner Eden and two other MPU detectives, Allison Bright (Torin’s crush – watching him flounder like a schoolboy trying to ask her on a date is so cute!) and Erik Travolta – rally round with support, and even Costa Ruiz, the IT specialist who, in the previous book, came across as a homophobic dickhead, turns out to be a good guy in the end; maybe he’s never going to go on a Pride march, but he and Quaid establish a good working relationship peppered with snarky banter, and there’s the sense that they might actually come to like each other one day.

Unstable Connections further cements the Valor and Doyle Mysteries as an all-time favourite series, and will undoubtedly be making an appearance on my Best of 2022 list. The plotting is tight, the pacing is swift and relentless and Nicky James does a fantastic job of wrapping up all the plotlines she’s seeded throughout. This events of this story really put Valor and Doyle’s romantic relationship to the test, and while they clearly still have a way to go, there’s every indication that they’ll get there. Plus, I’m a sucker for the player-falls-hard-and-forever trope, and Aslan shows himself to be boyfriend material of the highest calibre.

So it’s on to the DIK shelf for this one – and looking ahead to January 2023 and the release of book four, Inevitable Disclosure. It can’t come soon enough!

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.

Owl’s Slumber (Trials of Fear #1) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Adam Gold

owl's slumber

This title can be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Imagine what life would be like if panic ruled your world at the mere thought of going to bed at night. For as long as he can remember, Finnley Hollins has been crippled by his extreme phobia of sleep. Every night is a battle, and every morning isn’t without consequences. The root cause is something he’s ashamed to admit to anyone. It’s his war, and he will fight it alone.

When an unexpected turn of events lands the stunningly gorgeous Aven Woods at Finnley’s place of business, his life gets turned upside down.

All it would take is one night together for his secret to be exposed. Finnley wasn’t prepared to fall in love. More so, he wasn’t prepared for his phobia to completely consume his life. Not only is it affecting his job and his relationship, but now it’s affecting his health. What will it take for Finnley to finally admit he needs help?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

A few months ago, I reviewed Cravings of the Heart, book six in Nicky James’ Trials of Fear series, and enjoyed both the story and the excellent narration by Adam Gold. As each book in the series works as a standalone (apart from the final one), they can be listened to in any order, and as I already had a couple of the others in my Audible library, I decided to skip back to the beginning and listen to Owl’s Slumber.

Each story features a protagonist with a very unusual phobia and explores the ways in which that phobia impacts on his life, usually in an extremely negative – and often dangerous – way, and how they find love with someone who offers the kind of loving support they’ve never had before. I’m no expert on phobias of any kind (unless you count having them about moths and spiders!) but it seems to me that Ms. James approaches them in a sympathetic yet realistic way, not shying away from the very real damage the characters are incurring while also presenting them as real people who are badly misunderstood and desperately need to be properly seen if they’re to stand a chance of being able to manage their fears.

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

Elusive Relations (Valor and Doyle #2) by Nicky James

elusive relationsThis title may be purchsed from 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: A

Detectives Quaid Valor and Aslan Doyle return in this second book in Nicky James’ latest series of romantic suspense novels, this time teaming up to investigate a homicide that hits very close to home for Quaid. Elusive Relations is every bit as compelling a read as Temporary Partner, with a cleverly constructed, twisty plot and some very welcome forward momentum in the slow-burn relationshiph between the two leads.

Note: As Elusive Relations is a direct sequel, it’s advisable to read Temporary Partner first. There are spoilers for that book in this review.

It’s been six weeks since Aslan Doyle and Quaid Valor solved the case of a missing infant – and since the explosive night they spent together. Despite the intensity of the sexual attraction sparking between them, it was a poor decision in so many ways – they’re like chalk and cheese in practically every respect. Aslan is a player who never does repeats while Quaid has never been into the hook-up scene and prefers to have a connection with his partners; Quaid prides himself on his self-control and logicality, Aslan is more of a go-with-the-flow type who does what he has to do to get the job done. Added to that, the detectives in homicide and the missing persons unit really don’t get on – which is another in a long list of complications neither man wants or needs.

During those six weeks, Aslan and Quaid have seen each other only in passing and are both telling themselves it’s for the best, even though they’re finding it really difficult to put that night behind them. At work though, it’s business as usual for Aslan, while Quaid and his partner are on a temporary re-assignment to cold cases, affording Quaid a bit of time to continue looking into the disappearance of his older sister some two decades earlier.

Aslan and his partner Torin Fox are called to the scene of the brutal murder of a young man who was so badly beaten as to be practically unrecognisable. The victim was in bed with a partner at the time; the other man was also very badly beaten but is still alive – just barely – and has been taken to hospital. The detectives learn that he’s the owner of the house, Jack Pilkey, and that according to the neighbours, he regularly brings guys home, but rarely the same one twice. As Aslan and Torin are looking around, a distant memory nags at the back of Aslan’s mind; seeing a photo of Pilkey crystallises his suspicions. Jack Pilkey is Quaid’s cheating, manipulative douchebag of an ex-boyfriend.

Quaid is at the courthouse when he gets a call from Jack’s distraught parents who tell him what’s happened. After visiting the hospital to find out what he can, he goes back to HQ, intent on talking to Aslan and Torin. Quaid knows he’s not thinking rationally, but it’s the only thing that makes any sense to him right now. He’d told Aslan he wasn’t going to go back to Jack after their latest break-up, and he hasn’t, but no longer being Jack’s boyfriend doesn’t negate the fact that someone he’d once been close to has been hurt or stop him wanting to find the person responsible.

Aslan is surprised to see Quaid approaching him – homicide and MPU keep to their own parts of the building and the demarcation lines are clear – and for just an instant the sight of Quaid sends a spark of excitement flashing through him. He can’t afford to show it, however, and falls back on his usual cockiness as deflection, but Quaid doesn’t rise to the bait this time. Instead he asks to be allowed to help with the investigation; he dated Jack for over a year and might be able to provide is useful insight into things others might overlook. Aslan is sceptical – he thinks Quaid is too close to be objective – but in the end, agrees to keep him updated and for him to act as a kind of consultant on the case, provided their superiors are on board.

Nicky James has once again penned a tightly-plotted mystery that takes some unexpected twists and turns as Aslan, Quaid – and Torin (who is a fantastic secondary character and side-kick) – work through interviews and evidence to piece together the bigger picture. I was impressed with the way she’s found such a plausible way for Valor and Doyle to work together again, with Quaid acting as a consultant rather than being able to partner Aslan, as well with the fact that I had no idea whodunnit until the reveal.

Also impressive is the way she balances the romance and the suspense parts of the story. With Quaid and Aslan in close proximity once again, it becomes more and more difficult for either of them to ignore their mutual attraction, or the fact that there’s something deeper growing between them. Aslan has been out of sorts ever since their last hook-up, for reasons he can’t – or won’t – admit to himself, and Quaid is still struggling with his tendency to attach greater importance to sex than he should and knows he’s setting himself up for a world of hurt should he take up Aslan’s invitation for a repeat. Yet they’re drawn to each other despite their differences, and there’s some fantastic relationship development going on here; the two men open up to each other about some deeply personal issues and have some really heartfelt conversations that further cement the connection between them. Quaid is still downright prickly at times, and Aslan hasn’t lost his ability to be an arsehole, and watching them allow themselves to be vulnerable around each other and starting on that road towards falling in love is very satisfying. The flirty banter and humour I enjoyed in the first book is still very much in evidence, and I loved those little moments when Aslan works hard to make Quaid smile in spite of himself, and how proud he is when he succeeds – it’s wonderfully, ridiculously cute.

These two still have a huge number of issues to work on between them, but by the end of this book there’s every indication that they’ll get there – together with a big hint as to the direction the next in the series is going to take.

Fun, sexy, clever and romantic Elusive Relations is an enthralling read featuring two complex and engaging leads, a superbly drawn secondary cast and a thoroughly intruguing plot that had me glued to it from start to finish. I’m eagerly awaiting more from Valor and Doyle some time later this year.

Cravings of the Heart (Trials of Fear #6) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Adam Gold

cravings of the heart

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A relationship with his brother’s best friend had only ever been a dream.

A chance reunion with his brother’s childhood best friend leaves Arden hungry for attention. He’s always loved Iggy, despite their vast age difference, but he didn’t know Iggy was gay until now. His family wouldn’t approve. His brother wouldn’t approve. Plus, Arden isn’t in a position to have a relationship.

Arden’s phobia is slowly killing him and consuming his life, and he doesn’t see a way out. He’s desperate to break free, but every day is a losing battle. It would be an impossible thing to hide, and when Iggy finds out the truth, could he love him the same, or will he decide Arden is too much to handle?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

Each of the books in Nicky James’ Trials of Fear series features a protagonist living with an unusual phobia. Cravings of the Heart – an angsty, hurt/comfort story featuring an age-gap/brother’s bestie romance – is book six in the series but can be listened to as a standalone, and the narration by Adam Gold is outstanding – I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to listen to him!

When twenty-year-old Arden McMillan has a dizzy spell during the day at college, the paramedic who arrives to check him over and take him to hospital is Ignatius – Iggy – Rojas, the man on whom Arden had a massive crush as a kid. Iggy is also Arden’s oldest brother Phoenix’s best friend, although – as Arden believes – they haven’t seen each other for years. He’s surprised to learn that Iggy and Phoenix are still in touch – just that Iggy doesn’t come to the house any more. That’s odd – Phoenix never mentions Iggy – and it’s only when Arden learns that Iggy is gay that he realises the truth, that his ultra-religious parents don’t approve and that Phoenix has probably hidden the fact that they’re still friends. Finding out Iggy is gay is the best news Arden has had in ages though; he’s as attracted to him as he ever was and decides to find out if there could be anything more between them.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Temporary Partner (Valor & Doyle #1) by Nicky James

This title may be purchased from 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: A-

Temporary Partner, the first book in a new series of romantic mysteries from Nicky James, features two rival detectives who team up to solve a missing persons case.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining read and I raced through it in a couple of sittings; it’s fast-paced, tightly-plotted and the sexual tension between the two leads is off-the-charts.

In the short prequel, Department Rivals (available through the author’s newsletter), we were introduced to detectives Quaid Valor of the Missing Persons Unit and Aslan Doyle (yes, his mother was a Narnia fan!) from Homicide.  There’s a long-standing and not at all friendly rivalry between Homicide and the MPU at the Toronto Police Service, and in that story, the higher-ups arrange a team-building exercise in which a detective from one division partners with a detective from the other in order to solve a case-like puzzle.  Of course, the department playboy – Doyle – is partnered with the standoffish, anally-retentive Valor, and while neither is impressed with the other, they’re rather annoyed to find they work surprisingly well together.  It’s not absolutely necessary to read that first, but it’s a quick read and a fun introduction to the characters.

Temporary Partner opens a few months later when Quaid is called in after a five-month-old baby goes missing, snatched from the back-yard of his very well-to-do family home.  Time is of the essence in these cases and Quaid needs to get the ball rolling quickly, but his regular partner is currently on leave dealing with a family situation and all the other detectives in the MPU are on assignment so Quaid’s boss requests help from other departments – which is how come Aslan Doyle ends up working the case. Quaid isn’t best pleased – but it’s Doyle or no-one if he wants to find little Matthieu and return him to his parents safe and sound.

Nicky James has created a real edge-of-your-seat mystery here, with difficult family dynamics and an ever expanding web of secrets and lies that provides lots of twists, turns and red herrings as the investigation quickly moves into high-gear and Valor and Doyle move from merely tolerating each other to a reluctant respect and burgeoning trust. They’re complex, flawed individuals, who couldn’t be more different in both looks and temperament. Aslan, all darkly brooding sexiness, isn’t above bending the rules when it suits him and is a player of the first order with a revolving door of bed partners of both sexes, and yet beneath the swagger there’s a truly kind and intuitive man he rarely lets others see. By contrast, behind Quaid’s All-American good looks is a stickler; tightly wound and by-the-book, he’s dedicated to his job and is extremely good at it – but he never feels as though he’s quite good enough. Unlike Doyle, Quaid is looking for long-term commitment, but he’s stuck in an emotionally abusive cycle with a serial cheater he knows he should kick to the kerb – but somehow can’t.    The way their relationship develops both personally and professionally is extremely well-done, both men coming to appreciate (and perhaps even admire) the other’s skills as they strike sparks off each other while trying to ignore the intensity of their growing attraction.  Aslan makes no secret of the fact that he’d love to get into Quaid’s pants – if for no other reason than to provide a bit of a distraction from Quaid’s asshole ex – but Quaid has absolutely no interest in being just another notch on his bedpost.

The one issue I had with the story is with the unprofessional behaviour Aslan exhibits, especially in the first half, in his ‘pursuit’ of Quaid; on a number of occasions, while he and Quaid are interviewing suspects, he makes comments and/or suggestive remarks which are completely inappropriate in terms of the situation (flirting when you’re about to ask questions of a distraught mother is not a good look)  and workplace ethics.  He does back off when Quaid points out that his behaviour could be considered sexual harassment –  but his disregard of professional/personal boundaries early in the story is somewhat jarring.

That’s my only complaint though.  Otherwise, Temporary Partner is a real page-turner, a fantastic blend of clever mystery and budding romance that gets this new series off to a cracking start.

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.

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