A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake and John Solo (Narrator)

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s hard to decide where to start for this audiobook review but I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t immediately note how beautifully John Solo narrated this story. In fact, he didn’t just narrate it—he brought it to life. The voices—both male and female—were all unique and the emotions were powerfully and poignantly portrayed. Kudos Mr. Solo! Nearly fifteen hours to this story, but it went by quickly thanks to your skillful narration.

Christopher Ryder is a sweet, young man with a beautiful voice who gave up on his dream of stardom in Nashville when it became obvious he wasn’t quite as good as the top country singers of the time. But he’s very talented and lands the job of backup to the headliner at the Smoky Mountain Dreams Amusement Park. Christopher has an interesting extended family—from his estranged mother and her Bible-beating preacher husband, to his deadbeat father, whom he hasn’t seen in years, and his terrific sister and brother-in-law, both of whom are very supportive of him, even though he’s gay. But most of all, Christopher is close to his gran, a sweet little old woman who invades his thoughts even when he’s not able to visit with her in person. She supports him 100% and has already told him her house will be his when she passes. She doesn’t care one iota that Chris came out as gay when he was younger—for her, that is no reason not to love her grandson wholeheartedly.

Because the feeling is mutual, he wants to get his gran a very special gift for the Christmas holiday this year so he approaches Jesse Birch, a talented jewelry designer. Jesse is bisexual and one look at Christopher convinces him that the country singer is not straight and that they may have some mutual fun at some point if he can find the time. He’s a full time jewelry designer and full time father to two young children in the preteen age range. His wife was permanently injured five years before in an auto accident and is now in a medically sustained coma. The only reason she hasn’t passed yet is that her sister holds an end of life document which his wife signed years before the accident. It doesn’t matter to her religious sister that she had changed her mind and that she had told Jesse she never wanted to be kept alive by machines. Though they continually battle over the issue, Jesse has yet to win the case and so life goes on in limbo for the whole family.

Now, as he and Christopher become friendly and eventually start a relationship, life is even more complicated. Jesse’s daughter seems to think her mother can come back to life and refuses to become friendly with Christopher. In fact, she believes in a story about making a thousand cranes to grant a person’s fondest wish and she’s on a quest to complete two thousand by Christmas. At first, Christopher didn’t realize Jesse’s wife was still alive, so it’s a major hurdle for him to continue a relationship with Jesse when he finds out. There are so many family issues in this story that one has to concentrate and listen carefully in order to keep everything straight and to make sure not to miss an important point.

As I said at the beginning, the audio is very long—nearly fifteen hours—so the story is highly complex, but it’s really a wonderful love story that needed every moment to build all the relationships it contains. And it doesn’t end on a perfect note with a perfect family scene, but it does end in a very satisfying manner and winds out to a beautiful Christmas season where family of origin and family of the heart hold an equal place.

I highly recommend this to all lovers of MM romance, especially slow burn, men with children, family drama, and more.


Cover art depicts a photo of two bare-chested men in a sweet loving embrace superimposed over a photo of the Smoky Mountain Range. There’s also a white paper crane in the foreground that is set up to be flying over the words in the title. All are key elements to the story and tie together to make a cohesive summary of this beautiful love story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 14 hours and 46 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Audible.com Release Date: October 17, 2017
Language: English

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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