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.

Quickie Reviews #1

Given that both my TBR and TBL are normally fairly full of review copies, I don’t always get many opportunities to read or listen to books that I’m not reviewing somewhere. But lately, I’ve been getting through a large number of audiobooks due to the fact that I have a thirty-minute commute each day, and that when I get home, looking at words on a page sends me to sleep so it’s easier to listen than to read!

I like to keep track of my reading/listening, so even though I haven’t got time to write full-length reviews for these titles, I’ve posted short reviews on GoodReads and thought I might as well put them here as well, given this blog is supposed to be the Place Where I Review All The Things. (One day, I might even get around to using it that way!)

So here are some quickie reviews for audiobooks I’ve listened to over the past few weeks.


Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford, narrated by Greg Tremblay

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

An enjoyable steampunk novella/short story set in a recognisable alternative Victorian London that plants lots of threads and ideas – I’m guessing for a series that has never materialised? And that’s a shame, because the world-building is richly imagined and the two central characters – a viscount (although the author needs a bit of guidance about the use of titles and inheritance, because a third son would not have a courtesy title) and an inventor – are likeable and intriguing. This review pretty much encapsulates my thoughts 🙂

I’ve heard Greg Tremblay’s British accent before, although he didn’t have to sustain it as long as here; he does an extremely good job with both central characters, although one of the secondary cast (a female doctor) does sometimes sound more Antipodean than Cockney (a fairly common problem with American narrators who Bring the Brit) but for the most part, he does a superb job. Just one thing, Greg – I love you to bits, but “duke” is NOT pronounced “dook” on this side of the pond! (More like “juke” – just sayin’).

If this ever expands into a full series, I’ll definitely be picking it up.


Third Solstice by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert


Gideon’s managed to swing a few festive days off, and he and Lee are looking forward to celebrating their little girl’s first birthday. But duty calls, and Gideon is too good an officer to ignore the summons. He finds himself on the streets of Penzance, helping police the midwinter Montol celebrations.

It’s his third winter solstice with Lee, and disturbance, danger and magic are in the air. His daughter is beginning to show some remarkable gifts, and not all the family can cope with them. As the Montol festivities reach their fiery heights, will Lee and Gideon find a way to keep those they love best on the right side of the solstice gate?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Another charming – though short – visit with the Tyack-Frayne household, as baby Tamsyn approaches her first birthday and is showing signs of the magical and supernatural abilities that run in her bloodline. The focus is firmly on the domestic here; Lee and Gideon are more in love than ever and their time as new parents is brilliantly depicted – anyone who has had to cope with the chaos of having a young child/toddler in the house will be nodding their heads sagely at the descriptions of shirts stained with breakfasts or sticky hands!

Zeke and Ma Frayne are back, and we also bump into a number of other characters we’ve met throughout the series, and – as is the case with each of the books in the series – we’re given more glimpses of the supernatural world of Dark and Cornish/Celtic folklore; it’s a bit bonkers sometimes, but I love it.

Narrator Tim Gilbert does a spectacular job once again; he captures Lee, Gid and Zeke so perfectly, and his narration is wonderfully nuanced and hits all the right emotional notes. Recommended.


All Kinds of Tied Down by Mary Calmes, narrated by Tristan James

Deputy US Marshal Miro Jones has a reputation for being calm and collected under fire. These traits serve him well with his hotshot partner, Ian Doyle, the kind of guy who can start a fight in an empty room. In the past three years of their life-and-death job, they’ve gone from strangers to professional coworkers to devoted teammates and best friends. Miro’s cultivated blind faith in the man who has his back…faith and something more.

As a marshal and a soldier, Ian’s expected to lead. But the power and control that brings Ian success and fulfillment in the field isn’t working anywhere else. Ian’s always resisted all kinds of tied down, but having no home – and no one to come home to – is slowly eating him up inside. Over time, Ian has grudgingly accepted that going anywhere without his partner simply doesn’t work. Now Miro just has to convince him that getting tangled up in heartstrings isn’t being tied down at all.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B

An enjoyable m/m romantic suspense story featuring two US Marshals, All Kinds of Tied Down is my first experience with author Mary Calmes. The first half of the story is somewhat disjointed, although I suppose that’s largely due to the nature of the job these guys do; I’m not too well-versed in who does what when it comes to US law enforcement, but if I’ve understood correctly, these are the guys who are sent to pick up and escort prisoners and oversee witness protection and things like that, which means this is a bit different from your normal police procedural when the characters will follow a case from beginning to end. There’s a meatier plotline that runs from about the halfway point, but what the earlier section does well is set up the two central characters; the fashion conscious, organised Miro(slav) Jones, an all-round nice guy nobody seems to have a bad word to say about, and his partner, Ian Doyle, who is also a Captain with the Green Berets (I have no idea how that works, but I went with it). Ian is prickly, snarky and a slob – so we’ve got a bit of an odd couple thing going on. Oh, and he’s straight, which is hell for Miro who has a serious crush on him.

The author sets up their friendship well – Ian is a regular pain in the arse and everyone says that he’s only bearable when Miro is around – and because the story is told through Miro’s PoV, we recognise all the signs he misses that Ian might not be as out of Miro’s reach as he thinks he is. It’s a decent story with likeable characters – not the best I’ve ever come across, but it’s entertaining and the banter and teasing between Ian and Miro is well done.

Tristan James narrates – I’ve listened to him a few times now and he delivers an entertaining performance, although sometimes there wasn’t sufficient differentiation between the principals, but he does a good job overall, his narration is well paced and he captures the spirit of the central relationship really well.

This is a four book series, so I’ll probably pick up book two at some point and see how it goes.


HIM by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, narrated by Jacob Morgan and Teddy Hamilton

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – A-

NA (I’m calling it that because the two main characters are in their early 20s) isn’t my normal cuppa, but I’ve heard many good things about this story – and the narration – that I thought I’d give it a go and picked it up in an Audible sale recently.

It’s a superbly done friends-to-lovers / sexual awakening story featuring two likeable protagonists; cocky, loudmouthed Wes is out, long-time friend Jamie has no idea he’s not completely straight. Sweet, funny and hot, it’s very well narrated and was definitely worth a listen.


Guardians of the Haunted Moor by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert

The wedding is just the beginning…Gideon and Lee have spent a year in chaotic married bliss, with all the trimmings – a dog, tricky in-laws, and a baby girl they both adore. But even the best of lives can be fragile, and a shocking family loss hits their new world like a demolition ball.

Gideon has little energy left to investigate a murder that’s taken place in the fields outside Dark. He still has his duties to his community, though, and with Lee at his side, he begins to unfold the mysterious death of Farmer John Bowe. It’s harvest time, ancient West Country magic in the air, and rumors are flying through the village of an enemy Gideon thought he’d left behind long ago.

Can the beast of Bodmin possibly be real? Everything in Gideon’s stoical police-sergeant’s nature says no. But Lee has taught him to see the world differently, and now they must pool their resources to unmask a killer before more lives are lost – and somehow find a way to mend their shattered family, too.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – A-

I love this series, and this fifth instalment doesn’t disappoint. Gideon and Lee have been happily married for six months and are preparing to adopt a child – Lee’s niece – but unfortunately things don’t go to plan, leaving them both bereft. But there’s no time for them to process or grieve properly; a horribly mutilated body is discovered at one of the local farms, and with rumours once again circulating about the Beast of Bodmin, it’s up to Gideon to find out the truth.

I love the way the author blends the mundane and the supernatural in these stories; Cornish myths, rituals and ancient folklore all combine to create an atmosphere of eerie uncertainty, and the devastation Gideon and Lee feel over the sudden upset of their cherished plans is palpable. The characters are well-established by now – Lee and Gideon of course, but also Gideon’s brother, Ezekiel, and his “right on” mother, both of whom have important roles to play in the story and in the life of the central couple.

Tim Gilbert’s narration is – again – spot on and thoroughly enjoyable. I know these stories are novella length and thus quite short when compared to many audiobooks, but believe me, they really are worth the credits.


I’ve optimistically titled this as Quickies #1.  Hopefully, I’ll have time for more in future.