Spell Cat by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Spell Cat Audio Cover cnw74NTitle: Spell Cat

Series: The Aloysius Tales 01

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: K.C. Kelly

Genre: Paranormal, Witches

Length: 6 hrs, 48 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (17th June 2019)

Heat Level: Low

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: When Killian Barth, history professor, meets Blaine Genneau, quantum physicist, they ignite their own big bang. But Killian can’t pursue a physics professor – or a human. As the most pow-erful male witch in 10 generations, Killian must bolster his dying race by reproducing – despite the fact that he’s gay.

Even a fling with Blaine is out of the question, because Killian has been told sex with humans drains his power. But if that’s true, why can young human Jimmy Janx dissolve spoons with the power of his mind? If Killian can sort through the lies he’s been fed, he’ll still face his biggest obstacle – convincing rational scientist Blaine to believe in magic.

With his ancient and powerful cat familiar, Aloysius, on his shoulder, Killian brings the lightning against deceit and greed to save Blaine from danger and prove love is the greatest power of them all.

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: Spell Cat is the first book in Tara Lain’s paranormal romance series, The Aloysius Tales. This narration is actually from the recently published second edition from Dreamspinner Press. Before coming across the audio of this story, I’ve not read either edition of this story. However, I thought the plot sounded interesting and more often than not I’ve really enjoyed Lain’s work (probably with a preferences towards her recent stuff than the older stuff).

The narration of this book was performed by KC Kelly. Who did a good job, creating tones and voices not only for the two MCs, but a whole host of minor characters, which also included a couple “European” and “Russian” type accents. It was honestly a great performance and I think this is one of those books where I wouldn’t enjoy as much if I simply read it book myself.

I will admit, I did a bit of research, because from the blurb I found it confusing as to why the series was called the Aloysius Tales. Then I actually started the book and then I realised: Aloysius is the name of the damn cat.

The story starts with Professor Killian Barth, a history professor who specialises in the history of witchcraft. The subject he teaches is popular – from kids wanting easy grades to others who find it cool to study witches. He also happens to be a bona fide witch, the most powerful witch for 10 generations and is known as the witch master, a powerful figurehead in the community. The witches are dying, the witch elders telling everyone that this is because witches have been diluting their powers by “mixing” with humans. And being the most powerful male witch means that his power-hungry mother and another power-hungry elder, have orchestrated an arranged marriage between Killian and the most powerful female witch to ensure the purity of the witch line. The biggest issue being that Killian is gay.

This makes Killian a heart breaking figure because he has never allowed himself some measure of happiness. He has been told his whole life having sex with humans will deplete his powers and make him weaker, yet he is comfortable and prefers to be in the human world. Perhaps worst of all, when he meets physics professor Blain Genneau, there is an instant spark of attraction between the two men. Which only serves to make Killian more miserable.

The story, shortly after Killian is introduced to his new familiar, the black cat Aloysius, is Killian’s battle to be find out what exactly is behind the whole “humans deplete a witch’s power”. All to find a way out of his arranged marriage and maybe even find some kind of happiness, no matter how temporary. Killian is definitely the main character here, although Blaine I felt got about as much “air time” as the secondary characters such as Killian’s fiancé Lavender and Killian’s strange student Jimmy Janks. In some ways that didn’t feel very fair to their romance, but for the overall story it worked that this was predominately told from Killian’s POV, and Killian has a lot of thing going on.

I recommend this one to those that love paranormal fiction, in particular those that like witches and magic. This is a first in a series which follows the influence of familiar Aloysius on the witch community and the love lives of a select few. I’m keen to hear or read more.

Fool of Main Beach by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Fool of Main Street Audio Cover 2374tfvTitle: Fool of Main Beach

Series: Love in Laguna 05

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 9 hrs, 17 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (4th November 2017)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Merle Justice wants to reach for the stars, but it’s tough to get respect when playing a teeny-bopper vampire on TV. Then he meets a famous director anxious to give him all he thinks he wants—and maybe a bit more. Everything’s looking up until a life-threatening encounter with some homophobes on Main Beach puts Merle face-to-face with a Sasquatch-sized hero in a pink puffer coat.

Tom Henry defies description. As unsophisticated and simple as an angel, he walks through life content with who he is and asking for very little except to care for his sister, Lily, and the dogs he loves. Then he meets Merle, the embodiment of dreams he barely knows he has. Merle knows the people who hold his future in their hands might love Tom—but they’ll never under-stand Merle and Tom together. Tom knows it too. With lives this far apart, who’s really the fool of Main Beach?

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: Fool of Main Beach is the fifth and final book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series. If you haven’t read or heard the rest of the series, you really should, just so that you can do justice to all the characters, because I’ve become so emotionally invested in this, it’s crazy. However, this book in particular is good for those that love sweet romances with a splash of Hollywood.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, with incredibly relatable characters and deep romances, I’ve loved both Lain’s writing and Kelly’s narration. Both were excellent, although I’m going to say that I got a little annoyed hearing Audi pronounced as “Or-dee” as opposite to “Ow-dee”. Though I figure it could be an accent thing, like the ridiculous way Americans pronounce Craig (don’t get me started).

Onto the actual story, Lain has left the sweetest story to last in this series, and other than the pace of the story starting at a good speed and then slowing down at a couple points, there isn’t really much I can criticise. Quite simply, this is a sweet romance and full of heart.

Readers met Merle Justice in book 2, when Ru and Gray got together. Merle was the famous TV actor who starred in the stage production of Hamlet with Hollywood heartthrob Gray Anson. Unlike Gray, Merle has been out of the closet for years and while that has affected his career he’s been pretty comfortable as the lead in a popular teen vampire series (basically, he’s like the Angel or Edward Cullen of the show that he’s in). However, his stint in Hamlet introduced him to a group of down to friends, the very same group we’ve been following for this series. Now Merle is having a home built in Laguna when he can get away from LA, he’ll be close to his friends and in an idyllic seaside location.

One night on the beach some bigots try to attack Merle, but he is saved by a gentle giant called Tom Henry. Later, when he goes through his home with his friend and contractor, Billy from book 1, Merle finds Tom working on Billy’s crew. And now fate has intervened and is throwing the two men together. They start a really beautiful friendship, although at first it takes time for Merle to see that Tom is much more than his outside appearance. In this sense, Merle undergoes a lot of change and development throughout this story.

Tom is a gentle giant. He kind of naïve and has very low self-esteem, but he loves animals and will do just about anything for his friends. His naivety can be easily mistaken for some form of mental illness by the reader, I’ll admit that I wondered this, but in the end he is a pure soul whose doesn’t seem to be touched by the darkness of life. He just wants love and happiness for everyone. Even for his parents who have sent him away for being gay and will do anything, even sending the last of his money, for his beloved little sister.

Together their lives seem incompatible, Tom knows what he wants and knows how much of that he can get because in reality he is not famous as Merle and does not see himself as amazing as the man he could give his heart to. Despite the fact that they are amazing friends, it really does seem to be an impossible dream, to both of them but especially to Tom. But Merle is less accepting of the logical outcome, yet he must contend with his own preconceived notions before figuring out what’s more important.

Lord of A Thousand Steps by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Lord of a Thousand Steps Audio Cover 832bg3Title: Lord of a Thousand Steps

Series: Love in Laguna 04

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 7 hrs, 42 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (12th December 2016)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: To architecture student Ian Carney, family means everything. Taken in by his brother, Jim, when his father threw him out at 18 for being gay, Ian yearns to create his own family with his boy-friend, Rico. But Rico’s in Mexico caring for a sick father, Ian hasn’t had sex in a month and a half, and his gorgeous boss, Braden Lord, CEO of the architectural firm Ian interns for, is look-ing better and better.

Braden’s life is chaos. Just out of the closet and going through an ugly divorce from his wife of 15 years who’s trying to take custody of his two children, he desperately resolves not to suc-cumb to a completely inappropriate attraction to Ian – even though his kids adore both the man and his crazy cat.

When Rico proves to be a snake in the grass and Ian exercises his powers of seduction, what starts as a friends with benefits fling turns into real life real fast. Can Ian give up his romantic dreams for an old guy who didn’t come out until he carried a mountain of baggage?

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: Lord of A Thousand Steps is the fourth book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series. This has been a wonderful series to listen to on audio, Lain’s writing translates well to audio narration and the characters are just so relatable. I was looking forward to this book because we’ve already met both characters separately in the previous books. The series revolves around one of the men in the featured couple battling his way out of the closet, while the other is out and proud but needs to support and understand the transition is new man needs so much.

KC Kelly has done a fantastic job performing the narration for this series. He nails the light-hearted moments just as well as he nails the tense moment, with just the right tone and distinct voices for the main characters.

Ian Carney entered this series in book 2, when he showed up on his much older brother Jim’s doorstep with a stray cat he found outside Jim’s place. Ian was about to go to college and be the architect he had always dreamed of being when their father disowned him for being gay. Three years down the track, Ian is living with his brother and his brother’s fiancé and the cat. He has become that architect he has always wanted to be. And the same boyfriend, Rico, he had when he arrived in Laguna is still with him. But when Rico goes to Mexico Ian is understanding and sympathetic of Rico’s situation, with his father potentially dying. Ian is the loyal boyfriend to a fault, even when he feels an attraction to one of his bosses at the firm where he works while attending school.

For Braden Lord, his life is a mess. His professional life is fine, he’s CEO of a major architectural firm. His personal life is a mess. He’s divorcing his wife, trying to keep his kids and she is after everything she can get her grubby hands on, including the company if she can. Braden is ready to not live a lie in the back of the closet. His attraction to the firms intern, Ian, doesn’t help but Braden is far too ethical to allow anything to happen. But fate brings them together, along with Ian’s cat and Braden’s kids, who both love Ian as well. If not for the conspiring ex-wife, their lives seem to just click together as the romance slowly builds once Ian can allow himself to give his heart to another after Rico.

I have to admit that this is probably my least favourite book in the series. I simply found Ian’s situation was vastly more complicated than called for. While there was no cheating or anything, the timeline made the plot feel rather compressed and I didn’t feel the development of the characters quite like I did in the other books until about halfway through this one. The story also employs one plot device that I feel is bit bland – the old evil ex, for both men, the lying rat ex-boyfriend and the bitch ex-wife who doesn’t want her kids so much as she wants revenge. Still, how Lain has written this in works fine and actually adds a little more drama into the overall plot.

Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable book and those that have been following the series will likely appreciate Ian getting his own story, I know I did.

Prince of the Playhouse by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Prince Of The Playhouse Audio Cover 3548hjTitle: Prince of the Playhouse

Series: Love in Laguna 03

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 8 hrs, 41 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (6th June 2016)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Driven by his desire to become a successful fashion designer and concerned with hiding his questionable past, Ru Maitland has let obsession with action movie star Gray Anson on the big screen replace his social life. Then obsession and reality collide when Ru is asked to design fashion costumes for a special performance of Hamlet at the Playhouse in Laguna starring none other than Gray Anson. Gray turns out to be a compelling mix of shy and brash and, despite a high profile engagement to a female socialite, the signals Gray sends Ru have his libido doing the salsa.

Gray Anson has what most people only dream of – great wealth, huge fame, a job he loves. For that, he’s given up any semblance of privacy and the right to say no to the thousands of people who depend on him and the millions who love him. He sees everything he’s ever wanted just outside the bubble of his life, but how can he make the compromises needed to embrace it? When Ru’s shady past crashes into Gray’s paparazzi-haunted present, both men have to learn that sometimes the only acceptable compromise is the truth.

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: The Prince and the Playhouse is the third book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series. This is a series that you need to follow in order to enjoy properly. The characters are intertwined throughout and now that I’ve gone through two books, I looked forward to checking in with the couples from books 1 and 2. When starting this series I had the niggling feeling that I’ve tried reading a book from the series before, not realising it was a series, and didn’t enjoy the book. And surprise, surprise, that book was The Prince and the Playhouse. I have to say, now that I’ve gone through the audios of this series in the proper order, I really enjoyed and has been looking forward to this story.

KC Kelly has once again done a great performance for the book. I really have no complaints. To be perfectly honest, I was simply happy that he didn’t use the voice he had done for Ru in book 1 here, because I really hadn’t liked that. Also because of that voice, I didn’t really feel particularly close to Ru. But Ru is a character full of surprises and his story was excellent.

Ru Maitland is an up and coming fashion designer, he works alongside popular designer Shaz (Chase from book 1), who is also Ru’s best friend. Ru hasn’t done well in the romance department; he has been more concerned with his career and making it in the fashion industry. He also has a massive secret which he has never told anyone of his friends, and that past is just about ready to catch up with him just as his love life and career begin to take off. Ru has been hired to work for a well known movie director, who has turned his hand to directing a stage production of Hamlet, with Ru providing his own unique brand for the costumes. This production is even more special because it features the world’s hottest action star as Hamlet, as well as one of the hottest actors on TV. Both men are attracted to Ru, but for Ru it is action star Gray Anson who is the main attraction. Ru has crushed over the movie star for a long time and now he meets the man in real life.

The possibilities aren’t exactly endless for an out and proud fashion designer and a closeted action star who is under strict order to keep that closet door firmly shut. Gray Anson isn’t exactly happy with how his life is going, mostly because every aspect of his life, including the people (women) he is seen with, is controlled by his bigoted manager. Gray knows he can’t offer a whole lot on the relationship side of things but he can’t help his attraction to Ru and the wonderful thing that his life becomes when they are alone together, because they truly can’t appear as anything more than friends in public.

The guys have a strong connection which I really enjoyed hearing. Although I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Ru even though he was ready and willing to keep everything in the closet for Gray. Gray as a character wasn’t entirely likable to me at first, but as the story progressed his character changed in positive ways because of Ru.

This was a fun story, a little bit Hollywood, a little bit gangsta, and a whole lot of love.

Knave of Broken Hearts by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Knave of Broken Hearts Audio Cover 3485bmpTitle: Knave of Broken Hearts

Series: Love in Laguna 02

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 7 hrs, 46 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (24th November 2015)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Jim Carney has a full time job – running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at 16 because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems – a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable – but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital – when all he really wants is the knave of broken hearts?

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: Knave of Broken Hearts is the second book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series. I would suggest reading this series in order, because it would make it easier to understand the large cast of secondary characters that we are getting to know. I love Tara Lain’s writing, I find it so easy to connect to, but in saying that I do think that I once tried reading a book in this series (without realising it was a series) and didn’t really enjoy it and so just became a forgettable experience.

KC Kelly, who is performs the narration for the audio of this series has done an excellent job for the second book. There is nothing really that took away from my enjoyment of the book, it was just so easy to connect with the characters when I started listening to this book.

The characters of the book are Jim Carney and Doctor Ken Tanaka. Jim was actually in book 1, a close ally and now friend to Billy Ballew. In fact, Jim now works for Billy after Billy took the big step to start up his own contracting business. Jim starts the book in a really down position. Being in the closet means that although he has been supportive of Billy, he feels like a liar and begins to revaluate his life as his new job begins to take off. To top it off, he has a tonne of baggage when it comes to his family as well, who he hasn’t seen in years. It just so happens that the doctor’s appointment that he has to attend for the new job leads him to the office of cardiologist Doctor Ken Tanaka.

Ken comes from a very traditional Japanese family. His parents love him and are endlessly proud of his professional accomplishments. In fact, his mother loves him so much and is so traditional, that now she has accepted that her son is gay, he is going to find him a good Japanese boy to marry. Because… well, tradition. But Ken is conflicted when it comes to his attraction to Jim, after all Jim is a patient as well as being a man who is struggling even more than Ken. But the two men, once thrown into each other’s orbit, cannot do anything but get back together.

However, it isn’t all roses. Ken is confused by his feelings for a man who would not pass muster with his parents, no matter how accepting they are. Ken has concerns for Jim’s health. Jim is struggling to become the better man he wanted to become. Jim also has to deal with his estranged family when his little brother arrives on his doorstep, desperate for help from his big brother (the two had never been close, due to their age difference). The guys have a lot of growing to do before the spark between them becomes a blazing fire.

Once again, I’ve loved the in-depth development we see of the MCs, but also love the support and getting to know the secondary characters in this book. I see that one character being in closet is the theme in this series. I don’t think its necessarily a bad thing because all the characters are very different have their reasons for staying in the closet, oh, and there are a lot of blue-collar construction workers. It is only when they fall in love that they realise that they can live in freedom. It’s a really sweet, heart-warming series, with really down to earth characters so far.

Knight of Ocean Avenue by Tara Lain ~ Audio Review

Tara Lain - Knight of Ocean Avenue Audio Cover 382yjkTitle: Knight of Ocean Avenue

Series: Love in Laguna 01

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: KC Kelly

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 9 hrs, 33 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (15th July 2015)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: How can you be 25 and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help sup-port his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgment blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz – alias Chase Phillips – a ris-ing-star celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted – stalwart, honest, brave – but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in com-mon find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

Purchase Link: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: Knight of Ocean Avenue is the first book in Tara Lain’s series, Love in Laguna. I’m very familiar with the author, although I have to admit I think I may have read one of the books in the series in epub format but I don’t remember at all. Regardless, I was looking forward to starting this series on audio, purely because of the blurb and my previous experience with the author.

Billy Ballew is a huge man, he’s a construction worker, he is everything that is blue collar. However, at the age of twenty five, Billy has only just allowed himself to want someone sexually. Before now sex and attraction has been a non-event for the most part. He was labelled as stupid most of his life and so he simply dropped out of school and began to work hard to make money. He has put all his energy to help his sisters through college. he has become excellent in his work, so much so he’s been urged to get his contractor’s license but is terrified of tests (linking back to his school experience). Billy really does know he isn’t straight, although he has never accepted it and mostly because he fears how his mother would react to his sexuality. For the most part, Billy is happy with his lot in life. Then he meets Shaz.

Shaz, real name Chase Phillips, is an up and coming designer who has become sought after by the rich and famous. He has no questions of who he is what he needs to do. Chase is cool and confident. As soon as he meets Billy there is a brilliant spark, these guys have a great connection and it was lovely to be able to see this spark of attraction develop between the two. At first Chase thinks that Billy is straight, and then after that both Chase and Billy must go on a journey of discovery regarding each other before they can contemplate a HEA.

Chase is interested in Billy as a man, but also in Billy as a person and it was so easy to fall in love with Billy through Chase’s eyes. In saying that, the same is true for Billy and seeing Chase through his eyes.

The narration of this book was performed by KC Kelly. On the whole, I really enjoyed the narration and the thought that Kelly did a wonderful job conveying the emotion from the words. However, the one criticism I have for this was the voice for one of the secondary characters, Ru, whose story is told later in the series. There was something about the tone that I did not like and I hope that it hasn’t been carried over to Ru’s story, because I’m just not sure if I could hear that voice for a major character.

This is a great start to a series. I’m looking forward to getting to the audio of the rest of the series. The main theme being that one of the MCs must come out of the closet so that he can embrace happiness and love. I recommend this to those that like a down to earth romance in an almost tropical locale.