The Doctor’s Secret (Copper Point Medical #1) by Heidi Cullinan (audiobook) – Narrated by Iggy Toma

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The brilliant but brooding new doctor encounters Copper Point’s sunny nurse next door…and nothing can stand in the way of this romance.

Dr. Hong-Wei Wu has come to Copper Point, Wisconsin, after the pressures of a high-powered residency burned him out of his career before he started. Ashamed of letting his family down after all they’ve done for him, he plans to live a quiet life as a simple surgeon in this tiny Northern town. His plans, however, don’t include his outgoing, kind, and attractive surgical nurse, Simon Lane.

Simon wasn’t ready for the new surgeon to be a handsome charmer who keeps asking him for help getting settled and who woos him with amazing Taiwanese dishes. There’s no question – Dr. Wu is flirting with him, and Simon is flirting back. The problem is, St. Ann’s has a strict no-dating policy between staff, which means their romance is off the table…unless they bend the rules.

But a romance that keeps them – literally – in the closet can’t lead to happy ever after. Simon doesn’t want to stay a secret, and Hong-Wei doesn’t want to keep himself removed from life, not anymore. To secure their happiness, they’ll have to change the administration’s mind. But what other secrets will they uncover along the way about Copper Point…and about each other?

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: C+

I’ve enjoyed several of the audio collaborations by the author/narrator team of Heidi Cullinan and Iggy Toma, and was pleased to learn that the pair would be joining forces again for Ms. Cullinan’s new series of small-town medical romances. While I generally enjoy medical dramas on TV and I cut my romance-reading teeth on medical romances, I haven’t really read any for years, so I was looking forward to The Doctor’s Secret, in which we meet brilliant young surgeon Hong-Wei Wu as he boards the plane on the last leg of his journey from his home in Houston to a new life and job in the small town of Copper Point in northern Wisconsin.

Burdened with guilt at not meeting his family’s high expectations, and more than a little burnt out by the pressures of his residency at the prestigious Baylor MC, Hong-Wei – who could have had his pick of any number of high-profile positions at the best hospitals in the country – has opted to join the staff at a small hospital in the back of beyond in an attempt to get his life back on track and make a fresh start. He’s expecting to be met at the airport by some of the bigwigs from St. Ann’s Medical Center, so is somewhat surprised to discover that instead, he has a welcoming committee of one, an attractive young man who introduces himself as Simon Lane, the hospital’s surgical nurse.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

American Fairytale (Dreamers #2) by Adriana Herrera (audiobook) – Narrated by Sean Crisden

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.

New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily ever after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man with whom he had an unforgettable hookup turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.

Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: He knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.

Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.

Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.

Rating: Narration: A-; Content: B+

American Fairytale is the second book in new-to-me author Adriana Hererra’s Dreamers series, which features four Afro-Latinx friends who live and work in and around New York. The story – a romance between a self-made billionaire and a social worker – definitely lives up to its fairytale moniker; it’s sexy and wonderfully romantic, the protagonists are compassionate, decent men, and while there are a couple of “uh-oh” moments, the author doesn’t overdo the angst, instead spending time on developing their relationship and showing us exactly why they’re so perfect for one another.

Social worker Camilo – Milo – Briggs is residential programs director at New Beginnings, an agency that works with disadvantaged people from all walks of life, and he’s passionate about helping to make life better for his clients. He meets handsome, charming and wealthy Thomas Hughes at a swanky charity benefit, and right from the start, they’re captivated by one another, the intense attraction that flares between them culminating in a swift but hot sexual encounter that leaves them both reeling. But afterward, Milo starts second-guessing himself, rattled because something that should have been just a bit of fun has started to feel like something much more intense – and he leaves the event without saying goodbye or expecting to see Thomas Hughes again.

(These guys clearly don’t read enough romance novels!)

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Undue Influence by Jenny Holiday (audiobook) – Narrated by Michael Fell

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Second chances only come around once.

Eight years ago, Adam Elliot made the biggest mistake of his life. Now that mistake is coming back to haunt him. His family’s beloved vineyard has gone into foreclosure, and the new owner is the sister of the only man he’s ever loved – the man he dumped under pressure from family and friends who thought the match was beneath him.

When Freddy Wentworth, aka the bad boy of Bishop’s Glen, left town with a broken heart, he vowed never to return. But a recently widowed friend needs his help, so here he is. He’s a rich and famous celebrity chef now, though, so everyone can just eff right off.

But some things are easier said than done. Despite their attempts to resist each other, old love rekindles – and old wounds reopen. If they want to make things work the second time around, they’ll have to learn to set aside their pride – and prejudice.

Rating: Narration: B-; Content: B

I read and enjoyed Jenny Holiday’s Undue Influence when it came out last year, and having also enjoyed Michael Fell’s performance in Infamous, I was looking forward to listening to their next collaboration. The novel is a contemporary reworking of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set in the small town of Bishop’s Glen in upstate New York and in it, our parted lovers are Adam Elliot, the son of a wealthy family of winemakers, and town bad-boy Freddy Wentworth. Undue Influence can be enjoyed regardless of whether you’re familiar with the original; and if you are, you’ll enjoy spotting the key plot points and characters the author has carried over and how they’ve been adapted.

Adam Elliot is spending the evening at the family home on the Kellynch Estate for the final time. His father’s death five years earlier, followed by his mother and sister’s insistence on ignoring the worsening state of their finances and spending lavishly, has run their winery business into the ground, and now they’re broke and have been forced to sell up. But even now, the ladies continue to act as though nothing is wrong and are planning a prolonged stay with an old friend in the Hamptons. Adam, however, is perfectly happy to remain in Bishop’s Glen, even though leaving Kellynch is going to be a real wrench for him. He’s always had a strong affinity for the land, and that affinity is what’s kept him in Bishop’s Glen in spite of the constant nagging by his friend and mentor, Rusty Anderson, to leave town and make something of his life.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Rating: B+

Arctic Wild, book two in Annabeth Albert’s Frozen Hearts series, is a gently moving, slow-burn romance between two very different men who find themselves re-evaluating their lives following an almost fatal accident.  There are places where perhaps the pacing could have been a little faster and the focus a little sharper, but I really liked the way the romance developed and how the author explored the dynamics between the leads and the secondary characters/family members who also appear in the story.

Workaholic corporate lawyer Reuben Graham has been persuaded to take a long-overdue vacation with a couple of friends when a last minute change sees him heading off to Alaska on his own.  He’d much rather just have cancelled, but was pretty much guilted into going and anyway, he’s got plenty of work with him so when there’s no decent  internet connection he’ll just hunker down and read all that paperwork he’s got piled up.  With any luck, his guide will be some “grizzled old mountain man pilot”  who is disinclined to talk and will leave Reuben to work in peace.  But he’s out of luck in that department and is instead greeted by a gorgeously attractive, vivacious, younger (too young for him, anyway) man who definitely doesn’t seem as though he’s the strong silent type.

Pilot and tour guide Toby Kooly (whom we met briefly in the previous book, Arctic Sun) is very good at what he does. Personable, informative and fun, he genuinely enjoys making sure his clients are having a good time and doing whatever he can to help them make the most of what is generally a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   But on meeting Reuben Graham he instantly senses the man is going to prove something of a challenge; he obviously isn’t particularly enthusiastic about being there and seems resistant to enjoying himself.  And he presents another sort of challenge, too; older guys don’t normally do it for Toby, but something about this tall, distinguished silver fox – no, silver bear – with the broad shoulders and the commanding presence most definitely turns his crank. But hooking up with clients isn’t something he makes a habit of, so he pushes temptation aside and concentrates on doing his job, determined to win Reuben over and get him to enjoy himself.

And over their first couple of days and tour stops Reuben does gradually start to unwind and even finds himself opening up a little about himself, chatting casually with Toby in a way he can’t remember really doing with anyone, especially not someone he’s known for so short a time.  Both men are aware of the hum of an attraction between them, but before they can do anything about it, the trip takes a swift turn into hell when a freak storm blows in while they’re in the air and despite Toby’s best efforts, the plane crashes. Having sustained some serious injuries, Toby is pretty helpless and it’s down to Reuben to get them to safety while they wait for the rescue team to arrive.

This near death experience has big ramifications for both men, who find themselves having to make some major reassessments and adjustments in their lives.  Toby, who has been the main provider for his family (an invalid father and two sisters at college) for over a decade, is unable to work due to a broken arm and broken leg, and is immediately swamped by money worries, while the event gives Reuben the push he needs to start rethinking his life.  At forty-eight, he’s too young to retire, but his firm is restructuring and has offered him a buyout package, which he hasn’t really had the time and inclination to think about so far.  Now, however, he realises he’s been given an opportunity to make the sorts of changes he hadn’t realised he needed to make, which includes spending more time with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Amelia.  He’s missed out on a lot of her life and is determined to do better by her, and when he discovers the extent of Toby’s injuries (and knowing that he can’t possibly afford rehabilitative care) Reuben offers to rent a place that Toby can share with him and Amelia, who is coming to spend the Summer with him.

[On a side note, reading about how much Toby worries about his medical bills makes me so thankful for the NHS!]

The principal conflict in the story arises because Toby doesn’t find it easy to ask for and accept help.  As Reuben falls in love with Alaska, and the two men fall in love with each other, Toby’s stubbornness on that point and his deep-seated fear of dependence threaten to derail things between them.  He’s convinced that Reuben deserves someone as rich and sophisticated as he is and that whatever is happening with them can only be a short-lived thing – which isn’t helped by his father’s obvious disapproval of Reuben (he’s too old and too rich) and his constant insistence that a man must take care of his own shit and not rely on anyone else.  It’s a mantra that Toby has been brought up with, and it’s hard for him to shake so many years of conditioning and admit to himself that he likes being taken care of for a change. Reuben freely admits that he enjoys taking care of others, but that gives rise to other doubts.  Is Toby just some sort of ‘project’ to fulfil Reuben’s desire to feel useful and needed ?  And given the feelings he’s no longer able to deny he has for Reuben, how will he cope when summer ends and they go back to their old lives?

While I admit that Toby’s reluctance to ask for and accept help did perhaps go on a little too long, and I had a few issues with how easily he was able to get around with a broken arm and leg (I’ve been wheelchair-bound and the kitchen counters were just about eye-level, so no way would I have been able to cook like Toby does!), I enjoyed everything else about the story very much.  I could easily understand Reuben’s desire to make big changes in his life and I loved the slow-burning but sizzling attraction between the two men, which eventually culminates in some sensual love scenes.  Ms. Albert takes her time developing their romance and she does it beautifully, showing them growing closer and their connection deepening as they spend more time talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Reuben’s daughter appears in a large chunk of the book, and comes across as a typical fourteen-year-old, wanting to be ‘grown up’ but isn’t quite yet.  Ms. Albert captures that aspect of her character really well, and skilfully shows her gradually reconnecting with Reuben and recapturing some of the optimism and youthful enthusiasm she’d lost.  The other secondary characters – Toby’s dad and sister, Nell (who befriends Amelia) – are well-drawn, and as in Arctic Sun, the Alaskan landscapes are vividly and tantalisingly described.

Arctic Wild earns a strong recommendation in spite of my few reservations, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series, Arctic Heat, when it comes out later this year.

To See the Sun by Kelly Jensen (audiobook) – Narrated by TJ Clark

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Survival is hard enough in the outer colonies – what chance does love have?

Life can be harsh and lonely in the outer colonies, but miner-turned-farmer Abraham Bauer is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion – someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart.

Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything – even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.

Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work – until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.

Rating: Narration: B+; Content: B+

I’ve become a big fan of Kelly Jensen’s over the past few months and was delighted to be able to snap up a copy of To See the Sun for review. By one of those odd flukes, I read the book a few weeks ago, before I had any idea it was coming out in audio, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to enjoy it again.

The story takes place at some unspecified time in the future when the human race and civilisation has finally moved beyond Earth and has spread through distant galaxies. At the edge of one of those galaxies is the garden planet Zhemosen, a reputed paradise of blue skies, bright sunshine and lush greenery… if you can afford it. The rich enjoy life in the fresh, open air, while those less fortunate live in the undercity, a place where “water tastes like sweat”, the air is bitter, and the streets are dark and dangerous. It’s here that Gael Sonnen just about manages to eke out an existence, but when he fails to carry out an assassination ordered by the powerful family he works for (and is practically enslaved to) he has no alternative but to run – and run as far as possible. But with no money, it looks as though his only option will be to sign up for a long indenture which he’ll likely never get out of – until a friend suggests an alternative. There are plenty of people living in the outer colonies at the far-flung edges of the galaxy who are looking for companions, be it for friends or lovers, and there are companies who specialise in arranging companion contracts. If Gael were to sign up with one of them, his youth and good-looks will surely garner him plenty of replies, and as many of the contracts are initially for only a year, it will at least buy him some breathing space.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Give Up the Ghost (Not Dead Yet #2) by Jenn Burke

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The bigger they are, the harder they maul.

Immortal not-ghost Wes Cooper and his vampire partner, Hudson Rojas, have it all—rewarding private investigation work, great friends and, most important, a love that’s endured. But ever since Wes sent a demon screaming back to the beyond, his abilities have grown overpowering and overwhelming. He’s hiding the fact that he’s losing control the best he can, but it’s hard to keep anything a secret for long when your partner’s a former cop…and especially when your partner’s a former cop who wants to move in together.

When all hell literally breaks loose in Toronto and superstrength ghosts are unleashed on Wes and his friends, he and Hudson are thrown into a case unlike any they’ve seen before. To save the city, Wes needs to harness his new power…and find some answers. But when he gets them, the solution to fix it all could mean losing everything.

Rating: A-

Jenn Burke’s Not Dead Yet earned a place on my keeper shelf earlier this year for many reasons, not least of which were the great storytelling, excellent worldbuilding, memorable characters, snappy dialogue and unusual premise.  Wes Cooper was murdered in 1933 by his lover Michael, but was resurrected by Michael’s sister – a witch.  Somehow, she overdid it, not only bringing Wes back to life, but making him immortal, which changed his life in many ways apart from the obvious one.  He’s made a living as a ‘retrieval specialist’, using his ability to slip between the living plane and the otherplane (which exists between the living and the dead), to sneak in and out of places others cannot access in order to recover items for interested parties.  Witnessing a murder while in the otherplane was the kicking off point for Not Dead Yet, which saw Wes reconnect with the love of his life, detective Hudson Rojas, and then work with him to solve the murder, making some truly disturbing discoveries along the way.  As Wes and his rag-taggle band of friends and allies fought together to prevent a powerful demon taking corporeal form, something even weirder than usual happened to him, and at the end of the story he realised that his (mostly low-level) magical powers had somehow been increased to a massive degree – and he’s not entirely sure if he’s strong enough to control them.

Give Up the Ghost opens some months after those events, and Wes still hasn’t told Hudson or his best friend, Lexi, what happened to him.  It’s not that he’s deliberately holding out on them, it’s just that, what with one thing and another – Hudson’s retirement from the Toronto PD, setting up their new PI agency, settling into being a couple again, Lexi needing to rest following the clean-up after their battle with the demon, and helping their friend, Evan, to come to terms with his part in it – basically, there just hasn’t been a good time.  And now, months later, it feels too weird to bring it up.  Plus, Wes is a master at avoidance and decides he’s better off not knowing exactly what the Crown of Osiris did to him, because that way he can hide from it.  But he’s struggling; not only to keep the secret, but to keep his powers under control and his fears at bay – and it’s taking its toll on him.

A bunch of “weird shit” happening at their local coffee shop is the first clue that something is badly wrong.  Wes, Lexi and Evan arrive to discover the place overrun by imps, who must be coming through some sort of crack or portal into the living plane – but from where?  Imps don’t exist in the otherplane, so they must be coming from Beyond, the place where spirits pass after death and where demons live – but in order to do that, the imps must have been summoned.  But by whom – and why?  Before Wes can contemplate that, however, he and the others must seal the breach – and not for the first time, he berates himself for not coming clean about his enhanced magic, as he instead of doing it himself, he has to channel some of his magic into Lexi so that she can close it.

Wes wants to find out what happened – after all, they’re investigators now, right? – but Hudson insists they’re not the paranormal police and wants to leave it alone.  Things between Wes and Hudson have been a bit on edge for a while; Hudson wants them to move in together (again) but Wes keeps turning him down, scared that Hudson will find out the truth about his magic and everything will change between them.  Even though he’s well aware that his own experience now strongly parallels what happened to Hudson when he was turned (into a vampire), Wes still can’t bring himself to reach out. He’s terrified that Hudson will look at him differently and that their relationship will fall apart. Again.

When Lexi receives a phone call from Kee, a friend who runs a shelter for homeless LGBTQIA teens, telling her that some of the kids there report having seen ghosts, she and Wes head over to Aurora House to see what’s going on. Kee tells them about a mirror that spontaneously shattered, a resident who watched scratches appear on his arm, one who felt someone nudge him as he walked down the stairs… and Wes is immediately on the alert.  It’s not unusual for ghosts to want to communicate with the living, but for them to persist when it’s clear that none of the living around them are sensitive enough to be able to do it?  That bothers him.  He’s bothered even more by the fact he can see ghosts in his normal, human state, which isn’t something he’s ordinarily able to do.

The portal in the coffee shop, ghosts haunting places they’d never been when alive and trying to communicate in the living plane – and then, the appearance of Michael, who is clearly trying to warn Wes about something; all these things point to some sort of movement or tear in the fabric of the boundaries that exist between the different planes.  And the more Wes, Hudson and their friends discover, the clearer it becomes that it’s imperative the breach is sealed once and for all… and that there’s only one way to do that. And only one person who can do it.  But at what cost?

Give Up the Ghost is a terrific sequel to Not Dead Yet, full of all the ingredients that made that first book such a great read.  The storyline is compelling, suspenseful and heartbreaking – I choked up near the end! – the characters are well-defined and complex, with flaws that make them seem that much more real, and the relationships between them are brilliantly drawn.  Wes and Hudson are going through the sorts of teething troubles experienced by many couples, none of which is helped by the fact they’re both keeping secrets; but though things sometimes seem rocky, they’re both committed to making things work between them this time around.  They’re great characters – individually and together – and I continue to enjoy Wes’ very distinctive voice and the way he’s still growing as a character and working to break out of his long-ingrained habit of self-interest. Even though he can sometimes be frustrating, his awareness of his flaws is truly appealing, as is his fierce desire to protect those he loves, Hudson and his ‘found family’.

Give Up the Ghost is a fantastic blend of romance, humour, chills and suspense and is, fortunately, one of those rare sequels that’s as good as the first in the series. Both books are going to be sitting right next to each other on my keeper shelf, and I’m eagerly awaiting Graveyard Shift, which is set for release later this year.

A Matter of Time Vol.1 by Mary Calmes (audiobook) – Narrated by Paul Morey

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jory Keyes leads a normal life as an architect’s assistant until he is witness to a brutal murder. Though initially saved by police Detective Sam Kage, Jory refuses protective custody – he has a life he loves that he won’t give up no matter who is after him. But Jory’s life is in real jeopardy, especially after he agrees to testify about what he saw.

While dealing with attempts on his life, well-meaning friends who want to see him happy, an overly protective boss, and a slowly unfolding mystery that is much more sinister than he could ever imagine, the young gay man finds himself getting involved with Sam, the conflicted and closeted detective. And though Jory may survive the danger, he may not survive a broken heart.

Rating: Narration: B-; Content: B-

Architect’s assistant Jory Keyes is young, gay, free, single and gorgeous – as we’re repeatedly reminded. You could probably make a drinking game out of it; how often Jory is called beautiful (by both men and women) and how many men are falling over themselves to sleep with him or have a relationship with him.

Anyway. When he witnesses a murder, Jory refuses to go into witness protection (is that actually allowed?) and then becomes involved with the gruff, hot detective assigned to the case – Sam Kage, who is strongly attracted to Jory from the get-go, but tries to ignore it because he’s straight (or so he thinks).

Matter of Time Vol. 1 was originally published as two books, and neither ends particularly happily for Jory and Sam. By the end of the second book, Sam has admitted he’s gay and has come out to his family and colleagues and is set for a future with Jory, until a last minute attempt on their lives railroads everything, leaves Jory seriously injured and Sam being assigned to an undercover task force to root out the bad guys. (Although to be fair, he chooses the assignment – and to leave Jory – to go undercover because he can’t afford to say no; after his partner was discovered to be on the take, Sam is under scrutiny and should it become known he was in a relationship with a witness, it would ruin his career. He also thinks it’s the best way to keep Jory safe – and although his mother calls him out on it, Sam nonetheless puts his career first). So to get the whole story of their on-again/off-again relationship, you need to pick up the second volume (books 3 & 4).

I enjoyed the story for the most part, once I’d got past that whole everyone-wants-Jory thing. He’s actually a great character; he’s compassionate and kind and funny, and wants to make the people around him happy – and yes, he doesn’t always act rationally and sometimes goes against good advice, but I sort of got where he was coming from. He’s young – just 22 when the story starts – and it was obvious he wanted to be his own person and live life on his own terms rather than be pushed around and pulled in all the directions people wanted him to go, even if they were doing it nicely. So yeah, he was annoying at times, but he’s such a compelling character that I ended up being completely charmed by him as much as it seems almost everyone else who’s ever read the book has been!

As for Sam. Having recently finished listening to the fabulous Adrien English series, I was prepared for another assholic, closeted cop who couldn’t admit he was in love with a guy, whose words and actions practically SHOUTED he was in love with the guy, who kept trying to keep the guy at a distance but at the same time couldn’t stay away from him. Sam’s a hot mess of sexy, growly and possessive; he manhandles Jory a lot (kept giving him fireman’s lifts and grabbing him by the neck – what was with all the neck-grabbing?) but there’s no doubt he really does care for Jory. It just takes him a while to work out what he truly wants and he hurts Jory while he does it.

But here’s one of the things that makes Jory such a great character; when he realises, in the first book/half, that he’s only a minor detour on the path Sam’s mapped out for himself and that Sam (like Jake Riordan before him) is set on doing the wife and family thing, Jory gets out. He isn’t going to hang around to be used or to be someone’s experiment; it kills him, but he’s got too much self-respect to just hang around and wait for whatever scraps Sam’s prepared to give him. Yes, he should probably have told Sam he was going, but Sam made it pretty clear to Jory where he stood, so I don’t blame him for getting out when he did and then getting on with his life.

Overall, the story meanders a lot and could really have done with some serious tightening up. There are lots of secondary characters and random people dropping in and out (mostly to marvel at Jory’s awesomeness) and the plotline that brings Jory and Sam together is largely absent until near the end. It’s referenced, but it’s very much in the background with little to no urgency about it until the final chapters, and honestly, a lot of the flab should have been cut out of the story, because some of the non-Jory-and-Sam stuff dragged quite a bit.

Paul Morey does a really good job with his vocal characterisations of both Sam and Jory, and handles the large cast of secondary characters really well; Sam has a suitably gravelly tone while Jory’s is lighter, and the essense of both their personalities comes through. His female voices are pretty good (just a softened tone without any massive variations in pitch) and the main supporting roles of Dane and Nick are easy to recognise. My one big issue with his narration was with the pacing, which was a bit on the slow side – but most of all, with his tendency to take long pauses between phrases and sentences, which was incredibly annoying. We’re talking pauses of two or three seconds; long enough to make you wonder if your player has suddenly shut off or run out of battery! I did get used to it eventually, and it hasn’t put me off picking up the next in the series, but the audio experience would have been nigh on perfection (like Jory!) without all the long pauses.