Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton ~ Audio Review

Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton - Family Man Audio Cover g3rd9Title: Family Man

Author: Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 7 hrs, 40 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (5th June 2018)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: At 40, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro is still afraid to admit he might be gay – even to himself. It’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, it’s getting harder to ig-nore what he really wants.

Vinnie attempts some self-exploration in Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek, Trey agrees to let Vin-nie court him and see if he truly belongs on this side of the fence – though Trey intends to keep his virginity intact.

It seems like a solid plan, but nothing is simple when family is involved. When Vinnie’s family finds out about their relationship, the situation is sticky enough, but when Trey’s mother goes critical, Vinnie and Trey must decide whose happiness is most important – their families’ or their own.

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

Review: Family Man is a standalone book, which is a collaboration between authors Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton. Previously, I’ve enjoyed both authors on their own but since collaborations between fantastic authors doesn’t always gel, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.

The story starts with thirty-eight-year-old man, Vinnie Fierro. He’s from a massive Italian family in the suburbs of Chicago. He’s a plumber who is nagged by his family to live closer to them, and their family’s restaurant. The Fierro family are THE family in the area, the people to know and to get along with. A little stereotypical but I found it fun. After three failed marriages and a call to a job that gets him thinking, Vinnie starts to wonder if he’s gay and has been repressing his feelings. Although he feels some trepidation, Vinnie is willing to be open to possibilities. He isn’t angsty about it, just unsure and uncertain about how his Italian family would deal with it.

When he goes to a gay bar in the Boystown area, Vinnie is shocked to see twenty-two-year-old Trey Giles, who is a frequent customer to the Fierro’s restaurant and his grandmother is a family friend. The sparks between Trey and Vinnie are immediate. Trey hasn’t had an easy his life. His father died when he was young, his mother became a terrible alcoholic and it was up to he and his grandmother to keep things together. Trey had delayed going to college to help his mother, but nothing seems to be helping. I really liked Trey’s storyline because he is the character with true struggles and demons to deal with and he finds a lifeline with Vinnie.

One thing that I did look forward to was the narration. Colin Darcy is a narrator that I’ve become quite familiar with from his performances of some of the Dreamspun Desires audios. Darcy did a great job narrating Family Man. He added a lot of charm and appeal to the characters and I felt as though he was able to convey the emotions really well, yet someone in all that also sounded light-hearted. I particularly enjoyed the voice he gave to main character, Vinnie. It felt authentic (or as much as it feels authentic when you’re from the other side of the world and basing all your assumptions on TV and movies).

The book itself was excellent. Let’s face it, a later in life epiphany that involves falling for a much younger man can sometimes feel a bit tedious. Mostly because there is a lot of the same angst rehashed and massive dramas made over age gaps but not a lot. What I loved about this book was that instead of focusing much of the energy of the plot into the age gap and the older man insisting he was straight, we get to explore the conflicting emotions as the older man opens up and allows himself to face his feelings. In addition to that, because Vinnie is so open with his storyline, it makes for opportunity for a real well fleshed out plot regarding Trey and dealing with his mother’s condition.

I loved this one. I recommend this one for anyone that loves a good May- December romance.

Stranger in a Foreign Land by Michael Murphy ~ Audio Review

Michael Murphy - Stranger In A Foreign Land Audio Cover 734uykTitle: Stranger in a Foreign Land

Series: Dreamspun Desire 61

Author: Michael Murphy

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 6 hrs, 23 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (8th November 2018)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 3.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Losing his old life and finding a new love.

After an accident stole his memory, the only home American businessman Patrick knows is Bangkok. He recovers under the tender ministrations of Jack, an Australian expat who works nights at a pineapple cannery. Together they search for clues to Patrick’s identity, but without success. Soon that forgotten past seems less and less important as Jack and Patrick – now known as Buddy – build a new life together.

But the past comes crashing in when Patrick’s brother travels to Thailand looking for him…and demands Patrick return to Los Angeles, away from Jack and the only world familiar to him. The attention also causes trouble for Jack, and to make their way back to each other, Patrick will need to find not only himself, but Jack as well, before everything is lost….

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

Review: Stranger in a Foreign Land is a standalone novel by Michael Murphy with audio narration for this book performed by Colin Darcy. Michael Murphy is a new author to me and I have to say, even with soap opera type clichés, Stranger in a Foreign is, generally, an enjoyable read. I won’t go too much into the storyline because it will be so very easy to spoil. I think that the only thing that took away from my enjoyment was that there was a lot of stereotypes in this.

The story is about Patrick, who promptly is involved in a car accident shortly after arriving in Bangkok, Thailand. This results Patrick into basically forgetting who he is and the world around him. Enter knight in shining armour, the Aussie bum Jack. Jack is your stereotypical Aussie, who of course has now overstayed his visa. Meanwhile, Patrick’s amnesia is stereotypical in that you will have to suspend your disbelief when he forgets more than just his name and family and life – he doesn’t display any understanding of shopping centers and airplanes. Amnesia doesn’t work like that, so as I said you need to suspend your disbelief.

Jack looks after Patrick and as the weeks roll on they fall in love, all the while knowing that Patrick, now called Buddy, could get his memories back. Their private world is destroyed when Patrick’s brother finds him and convinces him to return to his wealthy family in LA.

Patrick tries to find himself and, in the end, knows that he must make a stand for himself to get his happy ending. All this culminates in a sugary sweet ending. The other thing that has been getting to me the entire audio was that I was think of the song Foreign Land by Australian band Eskimo from the 00s. Don’t judge, it’s in all the title.

The narration by Colin Darcy was, overall, pretty good. I’ve been really annoyed with myself trying to figure out who I have been mixing up with the narrator Seb Yarrick for the past couple weeks, and I now think that it’s Colin Darcy. He has a good knack for voices and giving characters their own distinctive voices, with a little bit of work on accents too. Being Australian I tend to be highly critical of narrators that do Aussie accents, because generally there is one accent that is stereotypical for Australians in any media that’s the Queensland – New South Welshman extremely pronounced and distinct accent. If it’s a truly bad accent, then the character sounds less Aussie and more like a New Zealander or South African. But being that Jack is from Queensland, the accent works perfectly.

Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennet ~ Audio Review

Nicki Bennett - Bad to the Bone Audio Cover 76svmTitle: Bad to the Bone

Series: Dreamspun Desires 58

Author: Nicki Bennet

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 5 hrs, 54 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC (24th August 2018)

Heat Level: Low

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Alex can’t think of himself as anything but a failure. In high school, he was on the fast track to a career in pro football when he forged an unlikely friendship with a half-Comanche boy from the wrong part of town, Ricky Lee Jennings. Their shared love of books could have grown into more—but a homophobic teammate attacked Ricky Lee, and Alex wouldn’t risk his scholarship to defend him. Ricky Lee was kicked out of school, and Alex never heard from him again. Now Alex’s glory days are nothing but a memory. An injury ended his football aspirations, his marriage fell apart, and his dreams of making a difference as an environmental lobbyist are as dead as his fantasies of sports stardom. But all that could change in one magical night, when Ricky Lee shows up at their high-school reunion.

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

Review: Bad to the Bone is a standalone book by Nicki Bennet for Dreamspun Desires. The author is relatively new to me, but I have to admit that I have read the ebook before. I am definitely open to reading more books by Nicki Bennet in the future as well – the story seemed a bit rough but it has a whole heap of heart.

While I enjoyed the ebook well enough when I read it, I felt that there was a significant chance that I would connect to the audio more than I had to the text. It’s not anything that I’ve attached to any narrator in particular, but I find that a good performance by any narrator lifts a story that I might have enjoyed but did not love. The narrator of this particular audio, Colin Darcy, is one which I’ve enjoyed performances in the past, I couldn’t name one without any certainty unless I went to my audible library first.

As for the story itself:
Alex is a washed-up jock. He’s approximately 27/28 and is about to attend his 10 year high school reunion. Back in college an injury ended his chances to be a pro footballer. He’s since moved back to his hometown, married a woman and divorced her, and now he runs his family’s store and is involved with the local library.

In high school his best friend was Ricky-Lee, who was judged by some of the more horrible people of the town for his sexuality and his ethnicity (he’s half Comanche Indian). Ricky-Lee left after he and Alex were caught in a compromising position and Alex was unable to defend him. When Ricky-Lee comes back to town he’s grown up and although a little mysterious, there is nothing bad about this all-around good guy. Alex has to work through his own personal baggage before he and Ricky-Lee can begin to pick up the pieces of their friendship and make something more.

The story itself is fun and there is true chemistry between the two characters. However, I’m not totally happy with the development of the characters, or lack thereof, throughout the story. This is a book for those that want to read an easy romance of rekindling a lost love, and all of it taking place at a school reunion.

Rocking the Cowboy by Skylar M. Cates ~ Audio Review

Skylar M. Cates - Rocking the Cowboy Audio Cover 934kswTitle: Rocking the Cowboy

Series: Dreamspun Desires 64

Author: Skylar M. Cates

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 7 hrs, 38 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (3rd January 2019)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 3.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: Opposites who go together like country and rock ’n’ roll.

Long before he was a superstar, Remy Sean had a secret crush on Jed Riley. But Jed sees Remy as a spoiled pop rocker and an extension of his father’s control. Still, Jed is willing to let Remy hide from the press on his ranch—but only as a way to get his father out of his life and business for good.

Used to being admired and fawned over, Remy keenly feels the sting of Jed’s dismissal. Can he make Jed see him as more than a pain in the ass? Or is Jed too tangled up in his ranch to see past his old hurt?

Jed doesn’t believe someone desired by so many fans could want him, a simple cowboy. But Remy is determined to change Jed’s mind and steal his heart….

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

Review: Rocking the Cowboy is a Dreamspun Desires line book by Skylar M Cates. I’ve read the book in ebook format and while it enjoyed it well enough, I had thought that perhaps hearing the audio would add another layer of interesting to the story.

I’ve read a handful Skylar M Cates books before – some I enjoyed and one I couldn’t finish. Ultimately, while this wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read, I really did enjoy this one. The romance was wonderful, the characters were relatable, the story was a lot of fun and most importantly the MCs had great chemistry.

In addition to that, the narration was good. Colin Darcy is a relatively new narrator to me. However, I feel that he did justice to this story, which is great because of its simplicity. His performance was great, despite the fact it didn’t really change my mind in calling this an excellent story, to a totally awesome story.

Rockstar Remy Sean has gone through a horrifying experience on stage where he almost got trapped by stampeding fans who broke through barriers to get onto stage. His agent, who personally is not a good man but ruthless in business, decides that Remy should go spend time at the family ranch which is ran by his son, Jed Riley. The problem is, Jed does not get along with his father at all.

Remy looks forward to this opportunity to heal from his mostly psychological scars. Years ago, when he had been sixteen, he had spent the summer at the ranch. Back when things were a lot better for the Riley family. This had been when Remy first met Jed, but he was certain that over the years he had a bad case of hero worship for Jed.

Jed makes a deal with his father for Remy to stay at the ranch in exchange for his father’s compliance. Jed will do anything to make his mother and sister happy and he has zero time for his a-hole father. What Jed didn’t expect, despite a bumpy start, was that he would have a true connection to Remy.

Fans of cowboy stories will not be disappointed, and if you like yourself a bit of a celebrity falling for an ordinary guy type of story then you’re in luck here too. Overall, a fun and enjoyable audio book.

High Test by Elizabeth Noble ~ Audio Review

Title: High Test

Series: Dreamspun Desires 47

Author: Elizabeth Noble

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary

Length: 5 hrs, 12 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (22nd March 2018)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 3.5 Hearts

Blurb: The coffee is rich. Hayden isn’t. But Neal doesn’t need to know that – yet.

Hayden Owens is just your typical graduate student working his way through school as a barista for the Owens Coffee Company – no relation. But he keeps the “no relation” part to himself when he meets dashing architect Neal Kirchner, a successful older man from an old-money family. Hayden doesn’t exactly lie, but he figures it can’t hurt for Neal to believe he’s a rich kid. After all, Hayden doesn’t want Neal thinking he’s a gold digger.

The closer they become, the harder it gets for Hayden to come clean. Something always seems to get in the way. When a company bankruptcy and a jilted, vindictive woman threatens to expose his charade, Hayden thinks it’s all gone down the drain. Luckily, Neal is ready with some innocent trickery of his own.

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

Reviewer: Prime

Review: Elizabeth Noble is relatively new author to me, no other previous books by the author leap to mind. Likewise, Colin Darcy is a relatively new narrator for me, I think I’ve heard his narration perhaps once or twice before.

I enjoyed both the narration and the writing style, both elements together made for a fairly pleasing audiobook experience for me. However, I found the plot rather simple and predictable. It’s one of those types of books that I recommend for people who want something easy and relaxing but don’t expect too much in terms of literary excellence. It’s a great book to just relax and escape with.

I wouldn’t call High Test a rags to riches tale, more like a Cinderella tale. Hayden Owens is struggling to get himself through college where he is a graduate student trying to complete his PhD. All he wants to do is graduate and design cars that are engineering works of art. When he is forced to attend college function, schmoozing with movers and shakers ready to donate Hayden meeting Neal Kirchner. Neal is older than Hayden but their connection is instant. When Hayden leaves at the end of the night so that he can get the last bus, he realizes too late that he forgot to get Neal’s number. This first night was the start of confusion that Hayden finds too hard to get the courage to admit to Neal that he doesn’t come from a rich family. This is the main plot of the book and while there is some angst and drama, it’s a mild and simple book.

This book is good for those that want a simple, Cinderella type story with a sweet HEA.

As a side note one thing that I really liked here was that Hayden was a PhD candidate (only directly referenced once or twice) and despite this his intelligence was put right to the background of the whole story. From experience, I know that we do tend to be completely obsessed with our own projects and theses because we have very little time away from our projects, but the whole antisocial nerd thing is a tired stereotype.

Staggered Cove Station by Elle Brownlee ~ Audio Review

Title: Staggered Cove Station

Series: Coast Guard Rescue 01 / Dreamspun Desires 54

Author: Elle Brownlee

Narrator: Colin Darcy

Genre: Contemporary, Military

Length: 6 hrs, 11 mins

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (20th April 2018)

Heat Level: Low

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 3.5 Hearts

Blurb: Rescues are wild in the Alaskan terrain. So is romance in this coast guard rescue novel.

Sun-kissed California guardsman Dan Farnsworth might be at home in the water, but he’s out of his element at remote, rugged, and freezing Staggered Cove Station. Acclimating proves hard enough, but he’s also digging into how the station’s previous rescue swimmer was lost at sea. Was it an operation gone bad or something more sinister? Add to that the instant tension between him and his partner, no-nonsense, Alaskan Karl Radin, and Dan has his hands full.

As his investigation heats up, so does the attraction between Dan and Karl, even if they don’t completely trust each other. But as suspicious events escalate to sabotage, Dan starts to fear that he and Karl won’t get the chance to become more than reluctant coworkers.

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

Reviewer: Prime

Review: I was excited to get stuck into this book. It looks great – and for the most part it worked well – it has romance, mystery, danger and hot men in uniform who are honest to God heroes. I’ve previously enjoyed Elle Brownlee’s books in the past, although I’ve never actively looked up each and every release she is definitely on my list of enjoyable authors.

Now, I will state from the outset that I did enjoy this book on the whole. However, there are a number of elements that I found difficult and so my enjoyment wasn’t quite as high as I had expected. Before I get onto that, I’ll go into the actual story.

Dan Farnsworth is a fairly fresh recruit in the US Coast Guard. After being top of his class for so many different things during training, especially his swimming, he requests for a transfer to a remote post in Alaska. One reason is for the challenge but the most important reason is because he needs to investigate the presumed death of his missing, much older half-brother, Axe.

At Staggering Cove Station, Alaska, Dan meets Karl Radin. He had been the leading the rescue where Axe went missing. Dan, much like Karl, find it tough to believe that Axe could be so easily swallowed up by the ocean with his experience and strength as a swimmer, but anything is possible. When he meets Dan, Karl knows that there something that isn’t quite right about the man, who seems to be snooping around. Karl just can’t work out why and has to find out the secrets the intriguing man is hiding. It certainly doesn’t help that there is a mutual attraction as the characters slowly fall in love.

The main mystery of this book is what happened to Axe, with a good dose of Karl trying to figure out Dan for the first few chapters. The romance is basically a secondary storyline and for the most part that works really well, in my opinion.

Now, as I said earlier, this is an enjoyable book for the most part. But there were a few things that didn’t really gel with me. The first thing is the sex scene in the book. The fact that there are only a couple sex scenes towards the end doesn’t bother me, I’m all for the sweet and getting to know you type romance with cuddling and stolen kisses. It was that the one sex scene is everything I hate of sex in romance novels – it’s sex in an inappropriate place at a completely stupid point in time. The other thing that didn’t gel with me was that some elements of the plot simply didn’t grab me – I know the relationship between the brothers had gone by the way side but I wasn’t properly convinced. The other and probably most unfortunate thing was the narration. I feel brutal in saying that it was mediocre, but I just wasn’t sold by the tone used by Colin Darcy in his narration. I’m not sure if it was the writing or what, but sometimes the guys sounded way too comical for a rescue team, especially when they are mid rescue. Quite honestly, I feel that I now need to read the book to find out how much the narration took away from my enjoyment.

Yet, the strengths of this book include a fairly believable setting in Alaska and life in the US Coast Guard (no idea how accurate it is but it doesn’t seem completely outlandish). The other thing that I thought was possibly the best element of the book is that the characters are given a lot of time to get to know each other which picking through the mystery element of the story line. It definitely made the romance more believable and relatable, even if it was a happy for now ending.

At this point I am looking forward to more books in this series. I kinda have hopes as to which secondary characters could have their turn next.