Stray Fears (DuPage Parrish Mysteries #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by Declan Winters

stray fears

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Elien Martel is a survivor, but surviving, he’s beginning to discover, isn’t the same thing as living. In the house he shares with his much older boyfriend, Elien spends his days trying to stay as far away from living as possible. Living, he has learned, means that sooner or later you’ll get hurt.

When a member of Elien’s support group dies under strange circumstances, though, Elien finds himself in a web of bizarre coincidences. The responding officer turns out to be another member of Elien’s support group—a man named Mason, who has made no effort to hide his dislike of Elien. Then, just a few days later, Mason tries to kill Elien in front of dozens of witnesses.

As violence ripples through Elien’s world, he begins to suspect that the coincidences are not coincidences at all. Something is at work behind the cascade of tragedies, something vicious and intelligent. Something that has wanted Elien for a long time.

To defeat it, Elien will have to do what he fears most and face the darkness in his own past. Worse, he’ll have to take the risk of trying to live again.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – A-

Gregory Ashe’s paranormal/horror novel Stray Fears is a spooky tale featuring two engaging, flawed characters and a clever mystery plotline which draws on Louisiana folklore for inspiration. I read and enjoyed it when it was published last year, and was pleased to see it coming to audio with Declan Winters narrating; I’ve enjoyed his work in C.S. Poe’s Magic & Steam series and was looking forward to a similarly strong performance here.

The story centres around a support group for people with PTSD, and when it begins, a meeting is in progress. Elien Martel is one of the attendees, a young man of twenty-two whose life was ripped apart a year earlier when his elder brother shot their parents and then himself. Mired in grief and guilt, Elien is a mess; volatile, sarcastic and filled with self-loathing, he lives with his much older boyfriend Richard – a psychiatrist and therapist – whose equanimity and refusal to rise to Elien’s frequent baiting and have a damn good row irritate Elien no end.

Quite honestly, Elien seems like a total dick much of the time, but his sharp tongue belies a genuine kindness and wit, and he’s surprisingly good with the other members of the group, showing them the sort of patience and compassion he doesn’t extend to himself. When the group leader – who is a colleague of Richard’s – asks Elien if he’ll check up on fellow group member Ray, who hasn’t been doing so well lately, Elien agrees without question.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Wrangler and the Orphan (Farthingale Ranch #4) by Jackie North

the wrangler and the orphan

This title may be purchased from Amazon

“Some scars run soul-deep. Some scars only love can heal.”
Brody is the wrangler at Farthingdale Ranch. He knows a lot about horses, but not a whole lot about people.

He is so broken, he cannot imagine anyone would want to love him. Then along comes Kit, a young man in need of shelter, searching for a forever home.

In Kit, Brody sees the scared young man he used to be. In caring for Kit, Brody is in over his head.

But as Brody makes room in his heart for Kit, both their lives begin to change.

Rating: C

The Wrangler and the Orphan is book four in Jackie North’s Farthingale Ranch series; I haven’t read any of the others, but although characters from the other books appear in it, this one stands alone.  It’s a hurt/comfort age-gap romance in which the two leads bond over just how far their lives mirror each other and how much they have in common, but although I generally like age-gap romances, they can be difficult to pull off successfully, and I’m afraid this one didn’t work for me.
Brody Calhoun, wrangler at Farthingdale Ranch, is preparing to head back to the ranch after running some errands in town, when he sees a young man crawling out of a basement window in the Rusty Nail bar.  Brody recognises the kid as one that his friend Clay had stopped being smacked around by the bar’s owner a while back, and it doesn’t take him long to work out that he must be running away.  Brody can’t help seeing a younger version of himself in the scared, bleeding youngster, and signals him to get in to the truck.  He’ll take him back to the ranch and… well, he doesn’t quite know what to do long-term, but for now, he’ll get him cleaned up and fed and figure it out from there.

Kit Foster is nineteen and has spent his life being neglected and abused by his dead-beat mother Katie and her endless string of boyfriends, so much so that it’s become the norm for him.  Her latest boyfriend was Eddie Piggot, owner of the Rusty Nail, but now she’s skipped town after stealing five thousand dollars from him, leaving Kit behind.   Needless to say, Eddie is furious, and takes out that fury on Kit, who, with no money and nowhere to go, has to stay put and take what’s dished out.  Until an especially vicious beating prompts him to finally get away and he squeezes out the basement window.

Thanks to spending his own child-and-young-adulthood with the abusive Daddy Frank, Brody immediately recognises the signs of similar trauma in Kit.  At seventeen, Brody was rescued by trail boss Quint McKay, who showed him care and kindness and taught him that there is good in the world; now Brody decides it’s time for him to pay it forward, and that he’ll do  whatever it takes to help Kit.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

The Cuckoo’s Call by Lily Morton

the cuckoo's call

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Can a summer romance last forever?

Wren Roberts thought he’d found his fairy tale when he met Mateo Rossi on holiday in Majorca. The wealthy and successful older man swept him off his feet, and before he knew it, he’d thrown caution to the wind and was living in Mateo’s waterside apartment in Venice. It’s a far cry from his harsh upbringing and crummy flat in London.

But as the summer turns to autumn, cracks begin to show. Mateo’s family aren’t welcoming, and there doesn’t seem to be a place for Wren in Mateo’s world. He could have coped with all of that, but Mateo himself seems like a different person away from the sunshine island.

Should Wren have been more cautious in riding off into the sunset when he wasn’t sure what lay over the horizon?

Rating: B+

Lily Morton’s The Cuckoo’s Call is a charming and heartfelt age-gap, opposites-attract romance that looks at what happens to a holiday romance after the holiday is over.  You generally know what you’re getting with a Morton book – steamy sexytimes, witty banter, engaging characters and a good helping of feels – which is exactly what’s on offer here, and if you’ve read at least some of Lily Morton’s other romances, you’ll recognise the character-types – the snarky, free-spirited one and the more world-weary one who falls completely under his spell but fights it all the way.  But tropes are tropes are tropes; as always, it’s what the author does with them that matters, and if the formula happens to work for you (as it did for me here) then you’ll likely enjoy the book.

Wren Roberts was looking forward to taking a holiday on the island of Majorca with his long-time friend, Owen, but didn’t know that they would be joined there by a group of Owen’s rich, snobby friends.  After a week of putting up with their not-so-veiled jibes at his non-designer clothes and being dragged to private beaches and expensive bars, he’s more than a little pissed off when Owen announces the group’s intention to finish their holiday in Madrid – the fare an expense Wren can’t afford.

Wren is giving Owen a piece of his mind in the hotel lobby when he notices their exchange being watched by a striking, dark-haired man at the reception desk who is trying to suppress a smile.

Although disappointing, Owen’s departure at least means Wren will be able to explore the island and do the things he wants to do.  Not so good though is the treatment he’s afforded by the hotel staff; now he’s on his own and not with a rich crowd, they’re less than polite towards him, and one of the waiters is in the process of turning Wren away from the restaurant when the man Wren had seen earlier announces that Wren is his dinner guest – and the waiter’s attitude immediately turns from dismissive to obsequious.  Wren isn’t sure what’s going on, but when the man – who introduces himself as Mateo – invites him to join him, Wren allows himself to be persuaded to stay.

Wren and Mateo share a meal and an enjoyable evening, but it’s not until Wren has, with typical self-deprecating humour, spoken about the rudeness of the staff that he realises exactly whom he’d had dinner with.  Mateo Rossi.  The owner of the hotel.

Oops.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance

House on Fire (Ashes & Dust #2) by Jenn Burke

house on fire

This title may be purchased from Amazon

He’s done fighting his attraction to the sexy vampire…

To say former firefighter Colin Zhang is struggling to accept his new life would be a vast understatement. He’s bound to a vampire he didn’t choose, living in a house filled with creatures better left to the imagination—there’s a lot to resent. As much as he tries, he doesn’t resent Evan—far from it. But he needs to know that what he feels is real and that requires breaking their bond. No matter the cost.

Vampire private investigator Evan Fournier is more than willing to explore his connection with Colin, but the crisis at hand keeps getting in the way. Their bond makes it dangerous for them to be apart, so he’s forced to put the other man at risk while he investigates the latest in a series of murders. If he doesn’t find the killer soon, the paranormal community will seek retribution on all humans, not just the guilty ones.
As the tensions escalate, Evan and Colin find solace in each other and their growing attraction. But if their bond is broken, attraction—even love—might not be enough to keep them safe.

Rating: B-

Note: There are spoilers for previous books in this review.

Jenn Burke’s Ashes & Dust  – a sequel/spin off to the Not Dead Yet series – got off to a strong start earlier this year with All Fired Up, which finds Wes, Hudson and Evan running a successful PI business in Toronto five years after the end of Graveyard Shift.  This series puts “Baby Vamp” Evan Fournier into the spotlight as the PoV character, and All Fired Up introduced a new love interest for him in the form of Colin Zhang – a firefighter who was believed to have died in the 1990s but who had actually been kidnapped and held captive by a witch who forced him to suck the magic from other supernatural beings.   I’d strongly suggest anyone thinking about reading this one should start at the very beginning with Not Dead Yet, as there are a lot of recurring characters in these stories and you’ll understand the relationship dynamics more easily.

It’s been five months since the events of All Fired Up, and Evan is no closer to discovering the identity of whoever was behind the operation at the Rising Sun Retreat.  During those months, Colin and Evan have begun adjusting to their mistakenly-formed bond, although Evan recognises it’s a lot easier on him than on Colin, who has to spend most of his days just hanging out in the Caballero Investigations offices instead of getting out and making a new life for himself (if Colin and Evan get too far apart physically, the bond causes them excruciating pain).  Evan recognises that his feelings for Colin probably go deeper than Colin’s for him, but is determined to give Colin the space he needs to work things through and not to push him into anything he’s not ready for.  When Colin asks if it might be possible to break the bond, Evan is dead set against it; for one thing it could be very dangerous, for another – he believes Colin won’t want to be with him without it.

The lives of everyone in the Westerson-Rojas household has been further complicated by the addition of Hudson’s brother Lance, whom Hudson has brought to live with them.  Lance has no idea about the paranormal world, so they all have to work hard to keep him in the dark, even though Hudson knows he really should tell him the truth.  But when videos showing shifters actually shifting headlined with messages such as “this is not special effects” and “they are all around us” begin circulating, it’s clear that Evan and the gang have far more to worry about than someone letting something slip in front of Lance.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

TBR Challenge: Tiny House, Big Love (Love Unscripted #2) by Olivia Dade

tiny house big love

This title may be purchsed from Amazon

On camera. Up close. In denial–but not for much longer…

After a relationship gone bad, Lucy Finch is leaving everything behind. Her old home, her old job, her old insecurities. Even Sebastián Castillo, her protective but intensely private friend of almost twenty years. Before she moves halfway across the country, though, she has one last request for Seb: She wants him to help her choose a tiny house on cable television. And maybe during the filming process, she can discover once and for all whether his feelings for her are more than platonic…

Sebastián would rather do anything than appear on HATV. But Lucy needs him, and he can’t say no. Not when she’s about to leave, taking his heart with her. Hiding how he feels with a television crew watching their every move will prove difficult, though–especially when that crew is doing their sneaky best to transform two longtime friends into a couple.

Tiny spaces. Hidden emotions. The heat generated by decades of desire and denial. A week spent on camera might just turn Lucy and Seb’s relationship from family-friendly to viewer discretion advised…

Rating: B+

Tiny House, Big Love is the second of Olivia Dade’s Love Unscripted books, both of which feature contestants taking part in different reality TV shows.  In this story, the show is Tiny House Trackers, in which the participants are looking to buy – you guessed it! – a Tiny House.  I have to stop here to confess that I had no idea a Tiny House was something other than “a very small house”, and had to look it up so I could understand what the heroine was actually looking for!  It’s a quick and entertaining read, the two leads are endearing and the mutual longing they feel for each other just leaps off the page, although the short page-count left me wanting to know about more of both their backstories.

Massage therapist Lucy Finch is about to take a promotion which will require her to move around the country a fair bit, and rather than finding temporary accommodation each time she moves, she’s decided to buy a Tiny Home that she can take with her wherever she goes.  Her friend, Allie, a real estate agent, encouraged her to apply to appear on the show and she’ll be the one finding Lucy three homes to view – with the expectation being that she’ll choose to buy one of them at the end of it.  Lucy asks her best friend of over twenty years, Sebastián Castillo, to be on the show, too, to help her make her choice.

It’s clear from the off that Sebastián and Lucy have long had feelings stronger than friendship for each other, but have never acknowledged the fact or acted on them.  They’ve been friends since high-school, when Sebastián, bullied because he was small for his age and because he was an immigrant, not only faced off his own bullies, but hers as well.  They kept in touch after Sebastián  moved away, exchanging loads of letters, postcards and emails; but now he’s back in Marysburg, Lucy is about to leave, and she’s wondering, somewhat wistfully, if they could ever have been more to each other than friends.

Sebastián would rather have teeth pulled without anaesthetic than appear on television, but he can’t refuse Lucy’s request for help, and agrees to appear with her on Tiny House Trackers.  He’s an intensely private person and years of bullying have left him scared to let himself be vulnerable and with a thick outer shell of implacability.  He keeps his emotions buried and under lock and key – but because he buries them doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel them deeply;  he’s determined not to give anything away in front of the cameras – or Lucy – as to the truth of his feelings for her, because he doesn’t want to influence her decision to move away – and because he doesn’t think he could handle rejection.  He’s the strong, silent type, but he shows his affection for Lucy in a hundred little ways and he’s a lovely hero – caring, protective and supportive with every bone in his body.

Lucy’s last boyfriend was a douchebag who knocked her confidence in her own judgement, and she’s still second-guessing herself more than she used to.  She’s strongly attracted to Sebastián, but his inscrutability gives her no clue as to whether he feels the same, and she doesn’t want to risk making a move and ruining the most important relationship in her life.  Sometimes she thinks he’s attracted to her, but then whatever she sees in his face is gone, leaving her wondering.

Lucy and Sebastián are likeable and endearing and make an adorable couple – although I admit I did sometimes want to shake some sense into Sebastián and tell him to wise up (but he more than makes up for his reticence in the end.)  They’re real people with real problems who struggle, but grow and learn how to make things work.  Their move from friends to lovers doesn’t feel rushed, and the aforementioned longing and UST is incredibly well done. The scenes they film for the show as they tour the houses on offer are a hoot –

The last thing she needed was either a deep-woods pot shack, a dick-festooned bus, or an Oregon Trail enthusiast’s fever dream.

– and I loved that we’re shown Lucy slowly re-learning to assert herself as she works through the selection process and reaches her decision.  I also liked the way the main story is framed with chapters from the PoVs of two of the production assistants (who really deserve their own story, because there are serious sparks there!)

Tiny House, Big Love is a delightful contemporary romance with lots of gentle humour and awesome friends-to-lovers pining.  It’s short, sweet, sexy and well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.

All The Feels (Spoiler Alert #2) by Olivia Dade

all the feels uk

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Wealth. A starring role on the biggest show on TV. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s hounded by old demons and his future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren, the former therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over a handsome but impulsive actor shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time she spends with Alex, the harder it is to hold on to her professionalism, and her heart . . .

When another scandal lands him in major hot water, and costs Lauren her job, Alex becomes determined to keep his impossibly stubborn and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. On a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves . . .

Rating: A-

Olivia Dade’s All the Feels is a terrific follow-up to last year’s Spoiler Alert, a charming, thoroughly entertaining read that, for all its outward lightheartedness, tackles some knotty issues in a sensitive but down-to-earth way.  We met Alex Woodroe briefly in Spoiler Alert and he charmed me completely, so I’ve been eager to catch up with him in his own book ever since – and I’m happy to say that All the Feels is just as enjoyable and sharply observed as its predecessor.

Like his best friend Marcus, Alex has been playing a lead role in the hit TV show Gods of the Gates for the past seven years.  The similarities to Game of Thrones – in the sense that the showrunners have run out of books to adapt and are going it alone (and fucking it up) are obvious – and like Marcus, Alex has become very disenchanted with the writing and the storylines given to his character, Cupid, and for similar reasons.  But there are other reasons for his discomfort that nobody else knows about, reasons related to past trauma and overwhelming guilt that have begun to affect his – already erratic – behaviour.

When the book begins, Alex is in big trouble; he was involved in a bar fight the previous night and the showrunners have had enough.  He’s always been a bit of a loose cannon, but this is too much, so for the rest of the shoot, he’s assigned a minder, someone to go wherever he goes, to keep him in line and who will report back on his behaviour.  Needless to say, Alex is not at all happy about this; but worse is the fact that nobody has asked to hear his side of the story – everyone assumes it happened just because he’s Alex, and getting into trouble is what he does.

Lauren Clegg is a former ER therapist who desperately needed a break from her job and decided to go to Europe for a much-needed vacation.  The Gods of the Gates showrunner is her cousin (a total dickhead who was always awful to her when they were kids and whom she’s never liked) so while she’d never in a million years have gone anywhere near the GotG set in Spain if it had been up to her, family pressure finds her accepting the job of “babysitter” to the show’s bad-boy star.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Voyageurs by Keira Andrews (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

voyageurs

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two men battle the wilderness – and desire.

It’s 1793, and Simon Cavendish needs to get to his station at Fort Charlotte, a fur-trading outpost in the untamed Canadian wild. The fort is only accessible by canoe, and there’s just one man daring enough to take him on the perilous, thousand-mile journey from Montreal this late in the summer.

Young Christian Smith, the son of an Ojibwe mother and absent English father, is desperate for money to strike out on his own, so he agrees to take clueless Simon deep into the wild. As they travel endless lakes and rivers, they butt heads.

Yet the attraction between Simon and Christian, two men from vastly different worlds, grows ever stronger. Locked in a battle against the wilderness and elements, how long can they fight their desire for each other?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

I suppose saying “it was too short” is a form of praise – right? I recently reviewed another novella by Keira Andrews – Arctic Fire – and said exactly that; I enjoyed it and would have loved to have listened to a longer story featuring those characters. The same is true of Voyageurs, an historical romance which is more of a short story than a novella, coming in at just over ninety minutes in audio. I don’t often review ultra-short audiobooks like this one, but Keira Andrews has become a favourite author and with Joel Leslie narrating… Pfft. No brainer.

It’s July 1793, and Simon Cavendish, formerly of the East India Company, has arrived – a month late owing to bad weather and a ship in need of repairs – at the offices of the North West Company in Montréal, from where he is to travel to take up a post at Fort Charlotte, a thousand miles away. Simon is eager to take up his new position, but unfortunately, the delay in his arrival means that the party of voyageurs (young men hired to transport goods to trading posts) he was to have joined for the journey had to leave without him. Simon is disappointed to learn that he will have to wait until next spring to travel safely – and jumps on the idea of maybe travelling with just one or two voyageurs if they can be found and persuaded to make the trip.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée (Merriwell Sisters #1) by Virginia Heath

never fall for your fiancee

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The trouble with lies is they have a tendency to catch a man out.

The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, wants is a wife. But since the only way to keep his mother’s matchmaking ways at bay is the promise of impending nuptials, Hugh takes the most logical action: he invents a fake fiancée.

It’s the perfect plan – until Hugh learns that his mother is on a ship bound for England to meet his ‘beloved’. He needs a solution fast, and when he collides with a mysterious beauty, he might just have found the answer to his prayers.

Minerva Merriwell is desperate for money to support her sisters, and although she knows that posing as the Earl’s fiancée might seem nonsensical, it’s just too good an offer to refuse.

As the Merriwells descend upon Hugh’s estate, the household is thrown into turmoil as everyone tries to keep their tangled stories straight. And with Hugh and Minerva’s romantic ruse turning into the real thing, is true love just one complication too many?

Rating: B-

Virginia Heath has been one of my favourite authors of historical romance since I read her second book (Her Enemy at the Altar) for Mills & Boon/Harlequin back in 2016. Her stories are generally light-hearted and a lot of fun although not without a more serious side, her characters are well-rounded and engaging, her prose is crisp and the humour never feels forced.   Never Fall for Your Fiancée, the first book in her new Merriwell Sisters trilogy, is her first book for St. Martin’s Press, and it bears all the hallmarks of her style – a gorgeous hero, an intelligent and snarky heroine who won’t put up with any crap, sparking dialogue and genuinely witty banter – although it’s a tad overlong and the chemistry between the two principals isn’t quite as compelling as I know she’s capable of delivering.  The plot isn’t going to win any prizes for originality, but Ms. Heath makes good use of the fake-relationship trope and her bright and breezy writing style carries the day.

Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, is in a bit of a bind.  His mother, who lives in Boston with her second husband, is on her way to England for a visit expressly to meet Hugh’s fiancée Minerva, the young woman to whom he’s been engaged for the past two years.  The problem?  Minerva is entirely a product of Hugh’s imagination, invented in order to head off his mother’s constant reminders that he should get married and her offer (which Hugh saw more as a threat) to come home to help him find a bride.  Hugh adores his mother, but he is absolutely convinced that a man should only enter into a marriage when he had every intention of honouring his vows, and being sure he isn’t capable of either love or fidelity, he has decided to eschew matrimony.  But his mother’s arrival is imminent, and the idea of telling her the truth weighs heavily.  He never, ever wanted to hurt her and, if he’s honest with himself (which he tries hard not to be too often), he also wants to avoid admitting to her that he’s far too much like his late father to consider settling down.

Minerva Merriwell has been the family caretaker since their mother died when Minerva was nine, and has been solely responsible for her younger sisters Diana and Vee (short for Venus) since their good-for-nothing father abandoned them when she was nineteen.  Now twenty-four, Minerva ekes out a living as an engraver but it’s a hand-to-mouth existence and her worries are never-ending.  Today’s is that one of the people she’s produced work for is four weeks late with payment; she’s confronted him outside his house to request – politely – that he pay her right away and things are deteriorating when a gentleman steps in and offers his assistance.  The bluster displayed by Minerva’s ‘employer’ can’t hold up in the face of the stranger’s aristocratic hauteur; the debt is settled and the gentleman offers to escort her home.

Hugh can’t believe his good fortune.  Not only does this young woman share the name of his fake fiancée, she’s entirely captivating – beautiful, witty and self-assured – and on the spot, he decides the answer to his problem is right in front of him.  He’ll pay Minerva to act as his fiancée, and then engineer some sort of falling-out that will end their ‘engagement’.  But he’s surprised when Minerva expresses reservations.  It’s clear she needs the money he’s offering, but she’s not happy about the idea of practicing such a deception; the Merriwells may be on the cusp of destitution, but they had morals.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (audiobook) – Narrated by Vikas Adam & Graham Halstead, with Cassandra Campbell

the charm offensive

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date 20 women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Rating:  Narration – A; Content – A-

I defy anyone not to be completely charmed by Alison Cochrun’s The Charm Offensive. It’s a warm, witty romance that offers an insightful story of self-discovery featuring a pair of captivating, superbly crafted lead characters and a lively, wonderfully diverse secondary cast. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but it’s so much more than that; I generally think of rom-coms as light-hearted and fairly insubstantial, and this certainly isn’t the latter. It’s most definitely romantic, and it packs plenty of gentle humour, but it’s got a more serious ‘feel’ than the average rom-com, taking a sensitive and nuanced approach to neurodiversity and mental health issues as the two protagonists figure out who they are and what they really want – and of course, fall in love along the way.

Dev Deshpande is a life-long romantic who, for the past six years, has worked as a producer on the reality dating show Ever After, crafting the perfect happy ending for his contestants. Despite the recent break-up of his long-term relationship, Dev still believes in fairy tales and happy endings and still wants the hearts and the flowers and the whole shebang for himself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Merry Measure by Lily Morton (audiobook) – Narrated by Joel Leslie

merry measure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Arlo Wright’s introduction to his sexuality came when he saw his older brother’s best friend, Jack Cooper, in his sweaty football kit. Unfortunately, he didn’t have long to enjoy the revelation because he promptly knocked himself out on a table.

Relations between them have never really moved on from that auspicious beginning. Arlo is still clumsy, and Jack is still as handsome and unobtainable as ever. However, things look like they’re starting to change when Arlo finds himself sharing a room with Jack while on holiday in Amsterdam at Christmas.

Will the festive spirit finally move them towards each other, or is Arlo just banging his head against a wall this time?

Rating: Narration – A; Content- B+

A sweet, fluffy and charming romance between an accident-prone primary school teacher and his brother’s best friend, Merry Measure was one of my favourite Christmassy romances of last year, so I was delighted to see it make its way into audio just in time for the festive season this year. Fans of the author will know what I mean when I say it’s typical Lily Morton: funny, snarky and sexy with endearing leads, fun secondary characters and well-written familial relationships and friendships. Coming in at somewhere under six hours, it’s a relatively short listen, but it nonetheless manages to provide just the right amount of feel-good vibes and festive cheer – and with the supremely talented Joel Leslie at the microphone, you know you can just kick back and enjoy the show!

Arlo Wright just about makes it to the airport in time to catch his flight to Amsterdam, where he’s to join his brother Tom, Tom’s boyfriend, Bee, and a couple of other friends for a pre-Christmas jaunt to the city to celebrate Tom and Bee’s engagement. Although Tom has yet to propose; he’s hoping for the perfect moment while they’re on the trip. Arlo hates flying, so he was extremely relieved when Tom’s best friend Jack Cooper (on whom Arlo once had a massive crush) offered to travel with him.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.