A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Embrace the Fire (Through Hell and Back #3) by Felice Stevens and Kale Williams (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A few things should be addressed before summarizing the review of this audiobook. First, there’s no mention of the need to read other books in this series, however, I believe my enjoyment of this book would have been greatly enhanced if I had done so.  So although this is ostensibly a standalone, it really is the capstone of a three-book series and I’d recommend that people read the others first—and also read the end of this review for information on the multiple epilogues.

The second thing that bugged me and made me crazy—why would the author give the MC (with the real name of Sebastian) the nickname of Tash when one of the MCs from the previous books in this series was Ash?  And Ash was frequently present in this story.  Then to make it worse, this is an audiobook so the frequency of use of Tash and Ash became way too confusing, especially in the beginning of the story when the couples from the earlier stories frequently made an appearance and I had to figure out all the relationships because I wasn’t warned that the other books should be read first.  It seems this story is connected with others in the series by each one featuring one of three boys who grew up as brothers in poverty under the rough hand of a nasty, abusive foster father.

This book is about Brandon, a young man who ran away from home after one fight too many with that abusive foster father. Thinking he killed the old man, Brandon moved to another city and changed his name to Randy. After a year or so on the streets, he was rescued by a man named Gage who was working in a program helping homeless teens.  Brandon turned his life around and is now working as a teacher.  Hearing of a way to help teens like he was, he agrees to meet with Dr. Sebastian (Tash) Weber, a psychiatrist who is starting another program for bullied LGBTQ youth.

Tash is about fifteen years Brandon’s senior, but he’s hot and Brandon is immediately attracted. Tash isn’t interested in a relationship, however, since his former lover died a few years before and he doesn’t think he can ever love again. 

The two do eventually come together, despite objections from some friends and family members who feel the age gap is too steep and/or Brandon isn’t the right person for Tash and vice versa. Add to that the guilt Brandon carries about his past and this makes for a long story.  It’s nearly ten hours of audio and a great deal of the story is interrelated to characters from the first two books.  Ultimately, it’s discovered that the lost brothers Brandon has never been able to find are the best friends of Gage and Tash and so their lives intertwine even more. 

After a misunderstanding, Brandon travels home to face his ghosts and to make peace with his foster mother, if at all possible.  Tash and the brothers follow and eventually all is resolved.  To be honest, I felt lost so often (and was frankly sick of hearing Tash and Ash in the same sentences!) I was happy to see it end, even though I liked the author’s writing and I liked the core relationship between Brandon and Tash.  I definitely enjoyed the narration by Kale Williams, who I don’t believe I’ve ever heard before.  Even with all of those confusing character names, he managed to juggle multiple voices so I was able to pick out the MCs.  That alone is well worth mentioning. 

I must say, however, I was surprised at the end when the Epilogue chapter was announced and suddenly it’s about people named Mike and Rachel, and I had no idea who they were.  The short scene is at their wedding and all the characters are present. And then suddenly, we had a second epilogue that takes place a month later about Jordan and Luke – MCs from After the Fire — in a little vacation and engagement vignette.    A month later a third epilogue about Drew and Ash takes place — MCs from the first book, A Walk Through Fire, so it’s a little odd to me that the author put the epilogues from these other couples into this book.  But finally, taking place a week after that last one, we get the epilogue for Brandon and Tash and their very satisfying HEA. 

Do I recommend this? Yes, to those who enjoy a contemporary romance with an age gap. However, I highly recommend the first two books be read before this one, or readers will likely suffer from the same confusion I went through.  It really is a three-book series, all of which are linked closely together.

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Cover art by Reese Dante in the newest edition features a headshot of two young men in an almost-kiss, hands on each other’s face.  Very attractive, and in keeping with the theme of the others in the series, the word fire in the title is bright red. 

BUY LINK

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2yu0NiV

Amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/2mem4vf

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 9 hours and 42 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: felice stevens
Audible.com Release Date: October 31, 2017
Whispersync for Voice: Read

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