The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss ~ Audio Review

Jeff Adams & Will Knauss - The Hockey Player's Heart Audio CoverTitle: The Hockey Player’s Heart

Series: Hockey Hearts 01,  Dreamspun Desires 50

Author: Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Narrator: Finn Sterling

Genre: Contemporary, Sports

Length: 4 hrs, 56 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (30th March 2018)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts

Blurb: Hometown hero. Hockey superstar. Perfect boyfriend?

When hockey star Caleb Carter returns to his hometown to recover from an injury, the only thing he’s interested in is a little R&R. He never expects to run into his onetime crush at a grade school fund-raiser. Seeing Aaron Price hits him hard, like being checked into the boards. The attraction is still there, even after all these years, and Caleb decides to make a play for the schoolteacher. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?

Aaron has been burned by love before and can’t imagine what a celebrity like Caleb could possibly see in a guy like him. Their differences are just too great. But as Aaron spends more time with Caleb, he begins to wonder if he might have what it takes to win the hockey player’s heart.

Product Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: The Hockey Player’s Hearts is a wonderfully sugary sweet friends to lovers book tale that just happens to involve a professional, out and proud, NHL player and an equally out and proud small town school teacher. Neither author was known to me before listening to this audio, nonetheless I looked forward to a sports themed romance.

The story sends professional NHL player who is the Captain of the New York Rangers, and one of few out and proud hockey players (including his best friend and team mate Dimitri), Caleb Carter back to his small hometown in upstate New York. He broke his ankle on the ice and desperately wants out of New York so he can recuperate in peace. While his parents are away on a around the world tour, he gets to spend time with his big sister, who is now the principal of the elementary school they attended. Tagging along, helping his sister he encounters her best friend and Caleb’s school crush. Aaron Price.

Aaron is portrayed as a nerd. When they were kids, Aaron helped Caleb pass math by tutoring him. It was what gave Aaron his passion to become a teacher. College had taken him to California, where he could be himself (i.e. explore his sexuality). He had stayed in LA until a failed relationship with a closeted baseball player and then losing his job, but luck was on his side when his best friend, the principal of his hometown elementary school and Caleb’s sister, handed him a lifeline with a job at the school. Aaron has a lot of baggage from his time in LA and renewing a friendship that could lead to more with Caleb forces Aaron to examine his feelings.

The narration of this audio was done by Finn Sterling, I looked up my audio bookshelf to find out that I’ve only heard Sterling’s narration sometime last year and then again just the other day. Finn Sterling is another wonderful narrator for the Dreamspun Desires house line. The narration for The Hockey Player’s Heart was great, Sterlings put a great voice onto both main characters, as well as a number of minor characters (especially Caleb’s sister and his best friend). He puts the right tone into the main character Aaron, who has a lot of baggage that could sabotage his HEA so that his indecision and his desperate need not to caught by another pro athlete.

Over all this was a fun story. I loved the hockey aspect of the story, it was weaved perfectly throughout and not just used as incidental background information. Caleb and Aaron have a lot of history together, yet these guys developed a lot throughout the story. The only criticism I have is that I occasionally found Aaron’s need to protect his heart because Caleb is a pro athelete a little frustrating and I wanted to shake him. This looks like it’s going to be a series (I’m hoping Caleb’s best friend, Dimitri, will have his own story).

Stalking Buffalo Bill by j. leigh bailey ~ Audio Review

Title: Stalking Buffalo Bill

Series: Shifter U 01 / Dreamspun Beyond 03

Author: J. Leigh Bailey

Narrator: Finn Sterling

Genre: Paranormal

Length: 5 hrs, 31 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (4th December 2017)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Blurb: A smitten coyote isn’t the only one stalking Buffalo Bill.

A buffalo walks into a cafe. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but for coyote shifter Donnie Granger, it’s the beginning of an obsession. Donnie is a little hyperactive and a lot distractible, except when it comes to William. He finally works up the nerve to approach William but is interrupted by a couple of violent humans.

While William – don’t call me Bill – is currently a professor, he once worked undercover against an international weapons-trafficking ring. Before he can settle into obscurity, he must find out who leaked his location and eliminate the thugs. He tries keeping his distance to protect Donnie, but the wily coyote won’t stay away.

It’ll take both Donnie’s skills as a stalker – er, hunter – and William’s super-spy expertise to neutralize the threat so they can discover if an excitable coyote and a placid-until-pissed buffalo have a future together.

Product Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: Stalking Buffalo Bill is the first book in J Leigh Bailey’s series for Dreamspun Beyond, Shifter U. J Leigh Bailey isn’t an author that isn’t really on my radar, but the blurb caught me. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hopeful. Turns out, it’s a pretty damn good read and the audio was actually quite relaxing to listen to.

Finn Sterling, the narrator, is not unknown to me either, but I feel like its been a while since I heard his narration and I couldn’t remember what he was like. Sterling too was excellent. I liked the voices that he gave the two characters and amongst the action gave the tone something that I can only describe as amusing hijinks.

The story is about cheeky coyote shifter Donnie. He’s hyperactive and pretty like Tigger (I know I’ve made this comparison before for another book, but I love this cute hyper shifters). Donnie is made to feel like he has no direction from his family, since he decided not to work with the rest of his family and go to college … but Donnie dropped out of college and has shifted from job to job until he finds himself settled as a barista in a café near the college. There is one customer that has him intrigued and I suspect it’s Donnie’s coyote that leads him literally chase down (er… stalk) the hot customer who has become quite the mystery.

Donnie’s target is William, a buffalo shifter. He’s recently had a bit of a career change and is using his qualifications to be a professor at the college called Shifter U by all the shapeshifters. It’s one of the only colleges with a large, but secret, population of shifters living nearby and attending the uni. However, William has trouble on his tail who don’t want him to forget his former career. At the same time, the cute barista that he is definitely attracted to is dead set on “protecting” William and is getting under William’s skin in more ways than one. In the end, it’s William that has to protect the funny little coyote.

Overall, this was a completely enjoyable story and the audio was equally as enjoyable. I liked the chemistry between the guys and I like how the sex didn’t over take from the action and danger at the most inappropriate times (my pet hate for romance books). The plot was well balanced between the danger and the romance and was very well paced. I’m very much looking forward to the next books in this series.

The Fireman’s Pole by Sue Brown ~ Audiobook

Title: The Fireman’s Pole

Series: Dreamspun Desires 44

Author: Sue Brown

Narrator: Finn Sterling

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 5 hrs, 16 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (2nd February 2018)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 4.5 Hearts

Blurb: The flames of passion rise for the lord of the manor.

It’s springtime in Calminster village, but things are already heating up. Sexy firefighter Dale Maloney is new to the local station. When Dale backs the company fire engine into the village maypole, he attracts the ire – and attention – of Benedict Raleigh, the Baron Calminster.
Soon after meeting Dale, Ben breaks off his relationship with his girlfriend, and the sparks between Ben and Dale are quickly fanned into flames.

Unfortunately, the passion between the two men isn’t the only blaze in the village. An arsonist’s crimes are escalating, and it’s up to Dale and his crew to stop them. Meanwhile, as they investigate, an unscrupulous business partner attempts to coerce Ben into marrying his daughter. The May Day parade is around the corner, but they have plenty of fires to put out before Ben can finally slide down the fireman’s pole.

Product Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: I love to read a good romance by Sue Brown. For me it means I get to indulge in a little romance set in England. For me The Fireman’s Pole fulfilled this expectation as well as giving me the thrill of seeing a fireman being romanced by a minor aristocrat. It spoke to and made me happy since I once was obsessed with reading Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian romances (of course MF, but nobody’s perfect).

After ending things with his closeted ex, who he used to work with, Dale Maloney gets transferred to the other side of the country to the village of Calminster. (In saying “the other side of the country” that doesn’t seem big to me since England is so small geographically it’s enough distance for Dale). Things don’t go too well on his first day and his luck just continues with his first encounters with the local Lord of the Manor, Benedict Raleigh, Baron of Calminster. It’s actually really amusing hear their interactions.

Encountering Dale sets off something inside of Ben. He has always known he was gay for what he considers to be practical reasons, Ben has stayed closeted and even has a girlfriend. Besides the fledgling relationship between Dale and Ben making small, shaky steps, there is also a mysterious series of small fires being set around the village and the cops and fire service don’t what to make of it at first.

Ben and Dale make a good couple and their story is really sweet, really cute without too much drama and angst – for me that was perfect. They got great chemistry and they got character that develops well. These guys are truly interesting. The other thing that I really like is that Brown didn’t make a massive song and dance out of Ben’s ex-girlfriend (in fact she’s a bit of an ally) and doesn’t make her out to be the Wicked Witch of the West because she has been dumped. It was refreshing. What was also refreshing was how Dale’s ex turning up didn’t become some stupid all out shoot-up, or some sort of violence or attempted murder.

With narration by Finn Sterling, now this is only the second book I’ve heard narrated by the man, I found the tone and emotion in the book was well conveyed. However, it did take me a couple chapters to fully settle with being happy with the narration. I found the accents a little too choppy at times, but once the rhythm was found, I was happy to continue without further questioning.

Out of the Shadows by K.C. Wells ~ Audiobook

Title: Out of the Shadows

Series: Dreamspun Desires 20

Author: KC Wells

Narrator: Finn Sterling

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 6 hrs 6 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 4 Hearts

Blurb: Can he step out of the shadows and into love’s light?

Eight years ago, Christian Hernandez moved to Jamaica Plain in southern Boston, took refuge in his apartment, and cut himself off from the outside world. And that’s how he’d like it to stay.

Josh Wendell has heard his co-workers gossip about the occupant of apartment number one. No one sees the mystery man, and Josh loves a mystery. So when he is hired to refurbish the apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, Josh is eager to discover the truth behind the rumors.

When he comes face-to-face with Christian, Josh understands why Christian hides from prying eyes. As the two men bond, Josh sees past his exterior to the man within, and he likes what he sees. But can Christian find the courage to emerge from the darkness of his lonely existence for the man who has claimed his heart?

Product Link: Audible AU | Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: I loved the plot of this book. I love KC Well’s writing. I also read the book and wondered how much my opinion would change between formats. Often I find that a narrator adds the right tone and emotion to the characters that allows me to enjoy stories more. Unfortunately that was not the case. However, that is not to say I didn’t not like the narration. On the contrary, I really enjoyed listening to the narration of Finn Sterling, the first time I’ve had the pleasure to hear his narration.

This is a book for those that like a bit of insta-love, are all for a Phantom of the Opera type of disfigurement and a smoking hot, young handy man who seems a tad naiveté or too good to be true. My only criticism is that I desperately wished that it had a lot more depth of emotion, particularly from Christian’s side and part of me wanted more trepidation, more dating because Christian is agoraphobic and if there had been a chance to develop the emotion and plot a little more would have made the characters more believable and more relatable.

Christian Hernandez moved Jamaica Plain – an idyllic housing development south of Boston – eight years ago from Colorado. He learnt a hard lesson when he became disfigured and then decided to hide away from the world.

Honestly, I can’t say much more without blowing his entire back story. I suppose you can call him agoraphobic, he refuses to leave his apartment but it all comes down to vanity and hating the stares his looks usually attracts. (This dude needs to go back to counselor or psychologist, stat). He has everything delivered to his and works from home. Everything is ordered in his little world until he finds out that his kitchen and bathroom is going to undergo a much needed renovation. That means the handyman that does a lot of the work around his building needs to enter his home. Something that Christian can’t have, even if that handyman is the hot guy he often admires from his window.

Josh Wendell is young and idealistic in many ways. But he is the handyman that is going to renovate Christian’s apartment. There have been many rumors about the occupant of apartment 1, but nothing could prepare Josh for what happens. This is especially because his first impression is that Christian had locked himself in his bedroom all day while Josh was working (unknown to Josh at first). Josh has just the right amount of sweetness and understanding to help Christian get out of his shell. A little bit of romance doesn’t hurt either!