Total Creative Control (Creative Types #1) by Joanna Chambers & Sally Malcolm (audiobook) – Narrated by Simon Goldhill

total creative control

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

When fanfic writer Aaron Page landed a temp job with the creator of hit TV show, Leeches, it was only meant to last a week. Three years later, Aaron’s still there….

It could be because he loves the creative challenge. It could be because he’s a huge Leeches fanboy. It’s definitely notbecause of Lewis Hunter, his extremely demanding, staggeringly rude…and breathtakingly gorgeous boss.

Is it?

Lewis Hunter grew up the hard way and fought for everything he’s got. His priority is the show, and personal relationships come a distant second. Besides, who needs romance when you have a steady stream of hot men hopping in and out of your bed?

His only meaningful relationship is with Aaron, his chief confidante and indispensable assistant. And no matter how appealing he finds Aaron’s cute boy-next-door charms, Lewis would never risk their professional partnership just to scratch an itch.

But when Lewis finds himself trapped at a hilariously awful corporate retreat, Aaron is his only friend and ally. As the professional lines between them begin to blur, their simmering attraction starts to sizzle

And they’re both about to get burned.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

Individually, Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm are two of my favourite authors, so I was delighted when, back in 2021, they announced that they were collaborating on a series of contemporary m/m romances set in and around the world of TV production. Total Creative Control is the first book in the Creative Types series, one they’ve described as an “angsty rom-com”, in which a grumpy boss – showrunner of a popular TV show – and his sunshiny PA fall for each other… despite trying very hard not to.

Lewis Hunter is the creator and head writer of the TV series Leeches (an urban fantasy/vampire show), which has been running for three years when the story begins. Lewis is driven, hugely talented and charismatic – but he’s also demanding, brusque, unfiltered and very difficult to work for, so unsurprisingly, his PAs don’t last long. On this particular morning, his most recent one – the latest in a string of temps – has just quit and HR quickly rustles up a replacement in the form of one Aaron Page, who is to work for Lewis for the rest of the week. Aaron is quick on the uptake and not at all fazed by Lewis’ abrupt manner, and he’s also, to Lewis’ surprise and delight, a big fan of Leeches. Lewis has never had anyone working for him who actually knows much about the show, and he suggests that if things work out this week, he can arrange for Aaron to stay until September, when Aaron is due to start the teaching job he’s got lined up. Aaron is very much on board with that idea.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

TBR Challenge: Block and Strike by Kelly Jensen

block and strikeThis title may be purchased from Amazon

Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.

Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.

Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.

Rating: B

It’s the rare romance that features a character or characters without emotional baggage, so I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from when deciding on my book for this month’s TBR Challenge prompt. Kelly Jensen’s Block and Strike (2017) is a character driven hurt/comfort slow-burn romance that features two men who’ve been dealt crappy hands in life, and follows them as they tread a difficult and sometimes painful journey towards love and self-acceptance.

Jake Kendricks is three months out of prison and doing everything he can to get his life back on track. Coming home one night to find some bum passed out on his doorstep is more than inconvenient – he can’t exactly drag him along the alleyway onto the street without inviting questions that could land him back in trouble, so he settles for laying the guy in the recovery position and steps past him to open his front door. It’s only when the dim light of the hallway shows there’s blood on his sleeve and hand that Jake realises the guy outside must be injured rather than drunk or stoned – turning back, he can now see the guy looks like he’s been beaten to within an inch of his life. Starting to panic, Jake calls his sister Willa, who is a nurse, and asks her to come over, but when she arrives, she insists they have to go to the ER. Jake later finds out that the guy is his neighbour, Max Wilson, who moved into the crappy basement studio apartment of the building a month ago.

Around a year earlier, Max’s dad threw him out when he discovered him flirting with another guy, and Max moved to Philly intent on a fresh start and finally being himself, but somehow… he’s still hiding, still the small, runty kid who’s been bullied all his life and has learned it’s quicker and easier not to put up a fight. His dad only ever told him it would toughen him up, and Max is so used to being used as a punching bag that he doesn’t really think twice about being attacked on his doorstep; all he wants is to get out of the hospital and on with his small, insignificant life, but with a serious concussion, he won’t be allowed to leave unless he has someone to keep an eye on him. He’s frustrated and fretting about losing his job when the nurse – Willa something? – suggests that if he really wants to go home, she could ask her brother to come get him. Max is confused, until Willa explains that Jake is the one who found him and then drove him to the hospital. Max puts two and two together and works out that Jake is the gorgeous blond guy who lives upstairs, and protests even harder that he’s fine and can make his own way home. He doesn’t realise his protests have fallen on deaf ears until he’s discharged and makes his way outside on very shaky legs – to find Jake waiting for him.

Jake and Max have both been through a lot in their young lives (Jake is twenty-seven, Max twenty-two) and although it looks, at first, as though Jake has everything figured out and Max is a mess, as the story progresses, we discover that neither of those things is completely true. Or untrue. Behind Jake’s solid, dependable exterior lies a man who knows what it’s like to be broken; we don’t learn why he was in prison until later in the book so I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s clear that he’s still dealing with the issues that (in part) led to that happening and that he’s still got work to do. He’s kind, funny and protective; he’s never met anyone quite as stubborn as Max, yet he can’t help liking him and wanting to help him however he can – and that Max is really cute doesn’t hurt. Max hasn’t had anyone in his corner since his mother died, and seems to have accepted that his lot is just to take whatever crap life dishes out. He’s desperately lonely and can’t help wondering if he’s some kind of ‘project’ for Jake – who can’t, surely, be interested in a guy like him for any other reason – and it takes him a while to tamp down those insecurities and accept Jake’s overures of friendship as genuine.

The romance between Jake and Max is rooted in a strong friendship and is very much a slow-burn, which is absolutely right for who they are and what they’ve been through. Jake senses that the attraction he’s feeling towards Max may not be all one-sided, and the last thing he wants to do is to spook him, but Max is so up in his head with internalised homophobia and self-doubt that he gives off mixed signals. It takes a while for the two them to work things out, but it’s lovely when they do and there’s a real sense that they see each other for who they really are and that they’re exactly what the other needs – Max needs someone to help him learn to stand up for himself and Jake needs someone who doesn’t see him as the fuck up who let his temper screw up his life.

Kelly Jensen is one of those authors whose stories are often deceptively simple, the depth of the emotions and realism of the characters and situations almost taking the reader by surprise. She also manages to create characters who feel very authentic and nuanced, and Jake and Max are no exceptions. They’re beautifully developed – flawed and complicated with a genuine warmth and relatability – and their differences, Max’s prickliness and Jake’s kindness and compassion, really complement each other. I liked that Jake encourages Max to go with him to his martial arts group so he can learn some self-defence moves and maybe gain some self-confidence, and that he helps Max to see the core of inner strength and resliliance that enables him to keep getting up after the blows he’s been dealt.

For all the good things about the story – and there are a lot of them – there are a couple that have affected my final grade. One is that the people who attacked Max are never properly punished; the other is related to what landed Jake in prison, so I’m going to put it under a spoiler tag.

Click to read the spoiler

His ex-girlfriend Kate – the mother of his daughter – called him, crying, after her current boyfriend Dominick (who had always been possessive) hit her. Jake went over and beat him up, and was later convicted of assault. At the end of the book, we learn Kate has forgiven Dominick for what he did and that he’s vowed never to do it again – and part of Jake’s journey is accepting that. But I was uncomfortable with it – not only does it downplay the domestic abuse, it ignores the fact that Kate brought Jake into the situation, likely knowing what would happen as a result.

While that last thing didn’t affect my enjoyment of Jake and Max and their romance, I realise it might be problematic for some readers, which is why I’ve made mention of it here. In the end, though, Block and Strike is a charming, beautifully written romance, full of warmth, humour and genuine emotion, and well worth reading.

The Jackal’s House (Lancaster’s Luck #2) by Anna Butler (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

the jackal's house

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy? Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case. Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed.

What begins as tricks and pranks escalate to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

The Jackal’s House is book two in Anna Butler’s Lancaster’s Luck steampunk trilogy featuring aeronaut-turned-coffee-house-owner Rafe Lancaster and his lover, Ned Winter, renowned Aegyptologist and heir to the head of Britain’s most powerful political House. All the things I enjoyed about book one (The Gilded Scarab) – the fabulous worldbuilding and Rafe’s distinctive voice and wonderful sense of irony among them – are all very much in evidence, together with a compelling mystery, well-realised setting and some likeable (and not-so-likeable) well drawn secondary characters.

It’s the summer of 1900 and all Rafe wants to do is make the best coffee in Londinium, spend as much time as he can with the man he loves and keep as far away from house politics as is humanly possible. As a younger son of one of the minor Houses (in this universe, Britain is ruled, under the monarch, by the eight Convocation Houses) Rafe doesn’t have too much trouble doing that; he’s always been something of the black sheep of House Stravaigor, and is happy to keep it that way.

But when he receives an unexpected visit from the Stravaigor himself, it becomes clear that however much Rafe wants to escape the tangled webs of intrigue woven by the Houses, he’s not going to be able to. The Stravaigor is pleasant and surprisingly good-humoured, which only makes Rafe more suspicious as to his motives; and he’s surprised when in the end, all the Stravaigor asks is for him to maintain his friendship with Ned which, given Ned’s status as heir to House Gallowglass, could prove valuable to House Stravaigor. Rafe isn’t pleased that his relationship with Ned is seen as something to be exploited, and his relief at being asked for so little is tempered by the knowledge that that is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books #1) by K.J. Charles

the secret lives of country gentlemen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Abandoned by his father, Gareth Inglis grew up lonely, prickly, and used to disappointment. Still, he longs for a connection. When he meets a charming stranger, he falls head over heels—until everything goes wrong and he’s left alone again.

Then Gareth’s father dies, turning the shabby London clerk into Sir Gareth, with a grand house on the remote Romney Marsh and a family he doesn’t know. The Marsh is another world, a strange, empty place notorious for its ruthless gangs of smugglers. And one of them is dangerously familiar…

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. When the new baronet—his old lover—agrees to testify against Joss’s sister, Joss acts fast to stop him. Their reunion is anything but happy, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. Soon, all Joss and Gareth want is the chance to be together. But the bleak, bare Marsh holds deadly secrets. And when Gareth finds himself threatened from every side, the gentleman and the smuggler must trust one another not just with their hearts but also with their lives.

Rating: A-

I’ve yet to meet a book by K.J. Charles that I haven’t at the very least liked – or more usually, loved – and her latest title, The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen is no exception. The story is set in and around Romney Marsh in Kent – a fairly desolate part of the country even today and one that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, was something of a smuggler’s paradise due to its topography, location and isolation. TSLoCG is a fabulous mix of frenemies-to-lovers romance and mystery boasting a wonderfully evoked setting, lots of interesting historical detail and plenty of the wry humour and sharp observation that I so enjoy about the author’s work.

After the death of his wife, Sir Hugo Inglis sent his six-year-old son Gareth to live in London with his uncle. It very much a case of out of sight, out of mind for Sir Hugo, who married again and ignored his son’s pleas to be brought home. Gareth grew up without love and affection, knowing he was unwanted from the moment Henry Inglis made it very clear to his bereaved, exiled nephew that he had taken him in on sufferance and because he was being paid to. Gareth eventually studied law and has worked as his uncle’s clerk for several years, when, completely out of the blue, Inglis dismisses him for no reason. Just two days later, Gareth learns that his father is dead and that he has inherited the baronetcy, his house in Romney Marsh in Kent and a fairly respectable sum of money.

Going through his father’s books and papers, Gareth finds himself intrigued by his collection of books on natural history, maps of the local area and the collection of notebooks in which Sir Hugo made copious notes about the local birds, wildlife, flora and fauna and his particular interest in insects. Gareth has always been interested in natural history and at first thinks that by reading the notebooks, he might learn something about his father… but there’s nothing by way of personal reflection or insight to be found. Still, his own interest is piqued and he begins to explore his surroundings, starting in his own garden and then going further afield and onto the marshes. Out late one night, he stumbles across a string of ponies laden with packs and barrels; realising immediately what this means, he steps back out of sight, but can’t help overhearing voices raised in argument and then seeing a man pull off the cloth covering his companion’s face. Gareth is surprised to recognise the young woman, but before he can think much about it, she barks a command and the train moves on. The next day, Gareth thoughtlessly mentions this in front of his half-sister Cecilia’s beau, a revenue officer; the young woman is arrested and brought for trial, and Gareth, despite not really wanting to rock any boats, is called to give evidence against her.

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

Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly

something wild and wonderful ukThis title may be purchased from Amazon

Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with saving a hot stranger from a snake. Alexei was prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he wasn’t prepared for is outgoing and charistmatic Ben Caravalho, and yet they keep running into each other. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . .

Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men, but there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that he can’t just walk away from.

There are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life, but when their paths start to diverge, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.

Rating: B+

Anita Kelly’s Something Wild and Wonderful is a charming character-driven romance that, while quiet and somewhat understated, nonetheless packs quite the emotional punch. It’s set mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the most unusual settings I’ve ever come across in a romance novel, and boasts two complex, likeable leads who each has his own reason for undertaking the punishing two-and-a-half-thousand-plus-mile hike.

Six months before the story begins, Alexei Lebedev came out as gay to his deeply religious parents, who very promptly and quietly disowned him for his “choice”. He’s still in contact with his sister, Alina, but feels the loss of his parents and ostracism from the community in which he grew up very keenly. He’s been planning his hike along the PCT for months, and he still feels a pinch in his chest when he remembers that he owes his love of nature, birding and hiking to his father – but he hopes that by the end of the trail, maybe he’ll have become used to that feeling, maybe so used to it that he won’t even notice it any more.

It was hard to imagine, truthfully. But he was hopeful anyway. Hope was why he was here.

He meets Ben Caravalho on his very first day, literally saving Ben’s life when he stops him walking into the path of a rattlesnake. Alexei can’t help noticing the deep brown of his eyes and the warmth of his smile, but when Ben invites Alexei to walk with him and his party, Alexei declines. He’s been looking forward to the solitude, wanting the chance to say goodbye to his old life and find a bit of peace before starting over.

Ben’s reasons for hiking the PCT are similar to Alexei’s in that he, too, is looking forward to starting afresh. After a string of bad decisions, messy relationships, dead-end jobs and missed obligations throughout his twenties, he’s finally got his act together. After qualifiying as a nurse, he’s ready to start his career –

and is taking a few months to excise his restlessness and prepare himself for his new, responsible life. One thing he’s determined to do is to break his habit of falling in love so easily – usually with the wrong guy – so he absolutely isn’t going to fall for the next gorgeous man he sees. Even if that man did save his life…

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

Stone Skin (The Gargoyles of Arrington #2) by Jenn Burke

stone skin

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Can he break his curse before time runs out?

Despite being cursed to sleep as a gargoyle for a hundred years, and awake for only twenty-five, Rian O’Reilly is an optimist. He knows he can find a way to break the curse through the tattooed runes he’s spent years mastering. No need to wait for this true love crap. But he hasn’t found the right combination of magic and his time is almost up. Rian isn’t ready to lose everyone and everything. Again.

Professor Logan Davis knows about loss. In the past year, he’s lost his mother, his twin, his werewolf pack, and he’s on the verge of losing his mind. So when he’s invited to Arrington to learn about a legend he’s never heard of, he jumps at the chance for a working vacation. He doesn’t expect to find a handsome gargoyle who needs his help to break a centuries-old curse—and he certainly doesn’t expect his grief to finally overwhelm him.

As Rian comforts Logan, he starts to wonder if there might be something to this true love crap after all. He’d give anything to help this gentle giant of a man, but Logan needs time to heal…and time is the one thing Rian doesn’t have.

Rating: B-

Jenn Burke’s Stone Skin is book two in her Gargoyles of Arrington series, featuring three brothers who were cursed five hundred years ago, and their search for a way to break the curse once and for all. This is a trilogy with each book featuring a different brother and love interest, but the overarching plot means it’s probably best to read all the books in order; the author does include the backstory here, but I don’t think it really works as a standalone.

In Stone Wings we met Teague, Drew and Rian, the surviving three O’Reilly brothers who were turned to stone by a witch and cursed to live out their days as gargoyles. Thanks to a counter-curse by their aunt – also a witch – they are able to return to their human forms once every century and live as human for twenty-five years after which they return to their sleep in stone. The only way to break the curse is for them to find true love – which has now happened for two of them; the eldest brother, Finnian, found his love in 1899 and, sadly, lived his life without his brothers at his side – and Drew, who fell in love with their ‘caretaker’ and assistant, Josh in Stone Wings. With less than two years to go before their next ‘sleep’ the chances of Rian and Teague finding love and returning to their human forms is becoming less and less likely.

In the previous book, we learned that Rian has been scouring the internet for information on folklore, myths and curses – basically, anything that might help them find a way to break the curse before he and Teague return to stone once more, which is due to happen in less than two years time. And he suspects that he may not even have all of that time to keep trying; recently, he’s begun sleeping for longer periods than normal, sometimes for days at a time, and is worried this is a warning that his time may be up sooner than anticipated.

Professor of Anthropolgy at the University of Victoria, Dr. Logan Davis is a world-renowned expert on folklore and legend, and has driven to Arrington in order to find out more about the Irish legend brought to the US by the O’Reilly family. He suspects the tale is probably one he’s heard before, but he hasn’t heard this family’s spin on it – and honestly, he just wanted to get away from Victoria and the sad memories that have been dragging at him since the deaths of his mother (from cancer) and younger brother (in a motorcycle accident), both within the last six months. His car breaking down on the outskirts of Arrington – where there’s no phone signal – really shouldn’t have surprised him; his frustration is just one more thing pushing him closer and closer to the edge of falling into all those unwanted emotions he’s been squashing down for so long.

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

Lord of Leaves (Wild Hearts #2) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

lord of leaves

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The Blood of the Earth. The Breath of the Wind.

Lochlann Wilde is a true summoner at last, earning his Crest, the admiration of his peers, and a hunky fae prince in one fell swoop. With the headstrong Prince Sylvain at his side, Locke is finally ready to walk in his father’s legendary footsteps.

And to collect his inheritance, too, except for what he finds in the family vault. No one said anything about a fast-talking familiar. They certainly never mentioned a dragon.

But deeper danger awaits. Sylvain and Locke must untangle the twisted curse threatening to strangle all life, first in the Oriel of Earth, and now in the Oriel of Air.

They must face the Withering.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Lord of Leaves, book two in Nazri Noor’s Wild Hearts series of fantasy romances, picks up about a week after the end of Prince of Flowers, and, like its predecessor, is a fun, inventive and light-hearted adventure romp through the magical worlds of the Black Market, the Wispwood and the Verdance in the company of our hero, newly-minted summoner Lochlann Wilde, and Sylvain, the gorgeous fae prince he summoned by accident and then fell for.

When the book begins, Locke and Sylvain are making their way through the Black Market to the Convent of Infinite Sorrow, where Locke is at last going to claim the inheritance left him by his father, Grand Summoner Baylor Wilde. With any luck, said inheritance will be a pile of fabulous riches, and he’s optimistic as he arrives at the convent – which has to be one of the strangest banks in existence and is run by a most unusual order of nuns.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Radio Static by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

radio static

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two single dads. Two headstrong teenagers. One dead body.

A cabin in the middle of nowhere, nature all around, peace and serenity. It was supposed to be a vacation to help Nova reconnect with his son.

But he didn’t expect to fall for his neighbor in the cabin across the lake.

He didn’t expect an erratic and unusual broadcast on a radio station no longer in existence.

And he definitely didn’t expect a dead body in the water.

Mercy likes his mysteries to stay within the pages of his novels. When strange things start to happen at his summer cabin, he and his daughter team up with the man and his son on the other side of the lake to get to the bottom of it. A little amateur sleuthing won’t hurt anyone, right?

Someone out there knows the truth.
Who is the man on the radio?
What does he know?
Mercy and Nova are determined to solve the mystery, but are they willing to risk life and limb for answers? Because someone doesn’t want their secrets revealed.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Nicky James has become one of my favourite authors over the past couple of years, her well-structured stories featuring complex, well-drawn characters and – usually – mid-to-high levels of angst – have made her a must read. Radio Static is a standalone romantic mystery (originally published in 2021) in which two single dads in their forties (together with their teenaged son and daughter) become embroiled in the mystery surrounding a decades-old disappearance. This is very much an amateur sleuth story in which the characters sometimes do things that made me facepalm, but which Jessica Fletcher and her ilk of cosy TV detectives would probably do without batting an eyelid! So it’s worth bearing that that in mind before jumping in – these guys aren’t Valor and Doyle with guns, badges and all their experience of detective work to call on.

Nova Charrette and his sixteen-year-old son, Cooper, are on their way to the remote cabin his family has owned for years by the lake near the small town of Drysdale. Nova hasn’t been there for around twenty-five years, since he was eighteen, but has decided that its remote location with its range of activities (swimming, fishing, hiking etc.) and lack of wifi and mobile connectivity is just the place for him to spend a bit of time reconnecting with Cooper – who lives with his mother – before it’s too late and Cooper heads off to college. Cooper isn’t impressed when Nova tells him there’s no wifi or 4g, and scoffs at the idea that a month without Spotify and Netflix is going to be “fun”. Trying to rally him, Nova suggests he try to find the local music station on the jeep’s radio, but all he can find is a bunch of static – until suddenly, the radio crackles to life and they hear a rough, gravelly voice rambling about the murder, thirty years before, of a young woman named Vivian Malone, and how it’s been covered up. Nova vaguely remembers hearing about Vivian’s disappearance when he was a teen, but nothing more – and wonders if what they’d heard was a talk show or a true crime podcast.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Best Man’s Problem (The Navarros #2) by Sera Taíno

the best man's problem

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Is the best man

the best man for him?

His sister’s wedding isn’t the ideal place for Rafael to reunite with the man he kissed in a moment of passion. But it’s impossible to avoid best man Étienne! The gorgeous Haitian photographer hasn’t forgotten their kiss, even if Rafi is the most maddening person he’s ever met. Will the two prove that opposites not only attract—but can fall in love?

Rating: B

Sera Taíno’s The Best Man’s Problem is an enemies-to-lovers slow-burn romance between two guys who are to undertake best man duties at the wedding of their sister and best friend respectively – Val and Philip, protagonists of the first Navarros book, A Delicious Dilemma.  I haven’t read that one, but The Best Man’s Problem works perfectly well as a standalone, and I enjoyed it, in spite of a bit of a rocky start.

Rafael Navarro and Étienne Galois shared a passionate kiss the previous summer, but immediately after, Rafi decided it was a mistake and walked away, leaving Étienne stunned at the intensity of the connection he’d felt and disappointed at Rafi’s rejection. That was several months ago, and Rafi has ghosted Étienne ever since, determined to fall back on his preferred strategy when looking back on a rare poor decision – to pretend it never happened. When the book opens, it’s the evening of Val and Philip’s engagement party and Rafi is having to try really hard to employ his strategy and not think about the fact that Étienne will also be at the party. He’s still berating himself for instigating That Kiss – it’s the worst decision he’s made in a long time, and the last thing he needs is someone as chaotic as Étienne trampling all over his nicely organised life.

Étienne has thought of Rafi often since that night, unable to forget the feel of him under his hands, the taste of his skin – or his annoyance that someone who knows him so little should turn out to be so judgmental. He berates himself for wanting Rafi and for wanting him to like him, but those desires just won’t go away. As Philip’s best friend, Étienne was naturally his first choice for best man for his wedding to Rafi’s sister – but his job as a photographer means he’s often out of the country, so Val and Philip suggest that Rafi should work with him to plan the bachelor party and on the other best man duties. Both men think it’s a terrible idea… but they can’t say no.

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

Subway Slayings (Memento Mori #2) by C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

subway slayings

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Detective Everett Larkin of New York City’s Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave since catching the serial killer responsible for what the media has dubbed the “Death Mask Murders.” But Larkin hasn’t forgotten that another memento—another death—is waiting to be found.

Summer brings the grisly discovery of human remains in the subway system, but the clues point to one of Larkin’s already-open cases, so he resumes active duty. And when a postmortem photograph, akin to those taken during the Victorian Era, is located at the scene, Larkin requests aid from the most qualified man he knows: Detective Ira Doyle of the Forensic Artists Unit.

An unsolved case that suffered from tunnel vision, as well as the deconstruction of death portraits, leads Larkin and Doyle down a rabbit hole more complex than the tunnels beneath Manhattan. And if this investigation isn’t enough, both are struggling with how to address the growing intimacy between them. Because sometimes, love is more grave than murder.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

C.S. Poe’s Subway Slayings was one of my favourite books of last year, a wonderful combination of clever, tightly-plotted mystery and gorgeous slow-burn romance that gave me a book hangover of the very best kind – and now I get to experience the story all over again with the added benefit of a superlative performance from Kale Williams.

Detective Everett Larkin of the Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave to recover from the broken arm he sustained while apprehending the ‘Death Mask Killer’ at the end of Madison Square Murders. It’s the nineteenth of May and exactly fifty-nine days later (Larkin is nothing if not precise!) and one day before he is due to return to work, he’s called to the Fifty-Seventh Street subway station where a dead body has been found, stuffed in a blue IKEA tote bag, inside a utility closet on the platform. He’s a little confused though, as this is clearly a recent death and is surely a case for Homicide rather than Cold Cases – but the reason becomes clear when the CSU hands him an evidence bag containing a photograph of a teenaged girl slumped on one of the platform benches. The girl is wearing clothes that appear to date from the eighties or nineties and she looks to be asleep – or drunk or stoned – and there’s a message scrawled across the back: “Deliver me to Detective Larkin.”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.