Barb, a Zany Old Lady Review: Wholehearted by Cate Ashwood – Audiobook narrated by John Orr


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5audiobook clipart bw

Wholehearted coverWhen police officer Declan Grant goes to investigate the report of someone sleeping at the end of the town dock, he’s shocked to find a bruised, bloody, and unconscious man. And he’s even more shocked by his reaction to the man— under all the blood is a handsome young man who grabs Declan’s heart and won’t let go. Though he’s not happy with the hostile reaction he gets from the man when he finally wakes in the hospital, he finds himself offering a home and friendship to Lucas Hale and the offer comes from a deep and warm place in his heart.

Against his better judgment, Lucas accepts the offer of this stranger, a man who he feels safe with, and, we later learn, finds very cute and hot. The two grow closer together over the time that Lucas is recuperating and slowly Lucas begins to trust Declan until he finally tells him the full story of the homophobic attack that occurred while working on a lobster boat. He makes Declan swear to keep it confidential, and Declan, even though he’s a police officer, agrees to do that. But Declan didn’t agree not to investigate on his own, and he manages to gather information on all the men involved in case Lucas changes his mind someday.

Over time, Declan and Lucas grow stronger together and eventually declare their love and hope for a future together. But when Mack finds the file Declan had hidden, and arranges for arrest warrants, Declan is the one who has to tell Lucas of his betrayal. And that’s exactly how Lucas sees it. Broken-hearted over the break in his trust, Lucas leaves, telling Declan that he never wants to see him again.

The next few months are hell for Declan, but bring a happy surprise to Mack and Oliver, MC’s in the first book in the series, “Brokenhearted” in the form of a new addition to their family. Eventually Declan and Lucas get to see each other again while preparing for the trial, and after a long and heartfelt talk they begin to work their way toward their HEA. A large part of the story revolves around the separation period as we see it’s a difficult journey for Declan, one for which he has to travel alone for a while, and begin to see what he most wants in this world and what he’s willing to do to get it.

I loved the story and the narration was superb. John Orr’s narrator voice was different from the inflections he gave to Declan and Lucas and they were different from Mack, Oliver and Hayden who all return for a cameo appearance. He also brought reality to each scene— from panting to, crying, laughing, and sighing— all were done to perfection. I would normally give this story 4 stars but his narration is so good it moves the rating up to 4.5 overall.

I recommend this book and this series to all lovers of M/M romance, especially to those who love angst and hurt/comfort stories. The audiobook is outstanding so I recommend this format for not only this book but the entire series. Since I’ve listened to the other two books in the series, I can honestly say that they all have outstanding narration by John Orr.

Cover Art depicting a fishing boat with a blood stain on the side is by Aaron Anderson. I found that the art was a perfect depiction of the boat on which Lucas was hurt and the blood symbolic of the injuries he suffered there.

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Book Details:

Cover Artist Aaron Anderson
Narrator John Orr
Length 6 hours and 18 minutes
AudiobooksCate AshwoodHope Cove Series by Cate Ashwood
Book Type Audiobook
Other Formats eBookPaperback

A Paul B Review: A Heart for Robbie by J.P. Barnaby


Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart for Robbie coverCelebrated gay author Julian Holmes writes young adult books where his heroes face demons, spirits and other things that go bump in the night. Those are nothing compared to the problems he faces when his newborn son Robbie is diagnosed with a serious heart defect. Julian must now navigate the health system for a possible cure for his son. When he meets Simon Phelps, the hospital insurance coordinator, Julian might find someone who will help complete his new family. But this new relationship could possible hurt as much as help Robbie in his fight for life.

During the delivery of his son by surrogate and best friend Erin, Julian Holmes is worried when his son does not immediately cry after his birth. The doctors rush the child to the NCIU and arrange for transport to St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago for more exams. Once there, the doctors diagnose Robbie with a serious heart defect that will only be corrected with a heart transplant. Without it, Julian would lose his son around his first birthday.

At St. Mary’s, Julian meets the hospital transplant team, which includes doctors, social workers, psychologist and Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator. Whereas Julian is out and proud, Simon is deep in the closet. He is afraid of the reaction from his deeply religious mother and the youth center where he volunteers. He agrees to have dinner with his parents and potential dates that his mother has set up for him from her church.

After taking Robbie back to the hospital, Julian runs into Simon in the cafeteria. As they talk about what has happened in the last couple of months, Simon asks Julian what if it was scary to be out. Julian answer sometimes but Robbie’s health problems are actually scarier. After lunch, Simon receives and email from Julian what it is like to be deep in the closet.

Later, Julian takes Robbie in for a test. When Robbie codes, Julian is a wreck. Once Robbie is stabilized, Simon offers to take Julian to get something to eat and then drive him home. At the restaurant, Julian has a bit to drink to help drown his sorrows. Simon offers Julian a place to crash for the night. While there, their passion for each other takes over and they enjoy a night of love making. In the morning, they decide to try to pursue a relationship but keep it quiet as it would be against hospital regulations for Simon to be involved with a patient’s father.

As Simon grows closer to Julian and Robbie, he finds himself spending more and more time with them. A couple of months after the start of their relationship, Robbie is having trouble breathing and is rushed by ambulance to the hospital. The next day, as Simon is comforting Julian in a conference room, the head of the transplant team catches them, resulting in Simon’s dismissal and threatening to take Robbie off the transplant list. The two manage to convince the doctor to leave Robbie on the list while the state auditor conducts an investigation to see if anything illegal had occurred.

After that incident, a gay newspaper finds out about the relationship. The youth center asks Simon not to come back. As the information is about to get out to the mainstream press soon, Simon decides to tell his parents about himself. As expected, his mother does not take it well but his father is tired of losing his children due to her actions and tells Simon that he will work on his mother. Julian provides support for Simon during this time. Simon decides that he has his family, whether or not his parents are part of it or not.

Just shy of Robbie turning five months, Julian gets the call that a heart is available. As he informs his family, Julian is glad that Simon no longer has to hide his support for him. While the operation runs longer than expected, all appears to be fine. When some post operational complications show up, Julian wonders if it was all worth the effort. With a change in medicine, the doctors inform Julian that the prognosis is good for Robbie.

J.P. Barnaby has crafted a great novel with A Heart for Robbie. It starts with a prologue which is a passage from one of Julian’s books. This serves as an introduction to Liam and Clay, the heroes of the “Black Heart” series. These characters appear throughout A Heart for Robbie as manifestations of Julian’s hopes and fears. As Julian’s relationship with Simon grows, his need to consult with his characters lessens.

While I was a little disappointed that Julian and Simon’s first night together was brought about by a night out drinking, it was totally understandable. Julian needed to let go of his worries for a night and thus his night of drinking. The way the relationship was built was well done. I could feel Simon, who never thought about children of his own, fall in love with Robbie and his father. The fact that they had to keep the relationship quiet due to Simon’s work and being in the closet was understandable. The actions the two took during this time made sense.

The cover art by AngstyG might seem strange for a gay romance novel but was well done in the context of the story. The big teddy bear (Julian) holding the injured teddy bear (Robbie) just tugs at your heartstrings. The injured teddy bear in fact makes an appearance in the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press ebook  Paperback       All Romance ebooks (ARe)   Amazon    A Heart for Robbie

Book Details:

Ebook, 216 pages
Published July 10, 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-63216-067-6
Edition language English

Barb, the Zany Old Lady, Review: A Rose By Any Other Name (Fallen Rose #2) by Charlie Cochet


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Rose by Any Other NameJourney back into the Roaring 20’s, the days of Prohibition, where illicit gaming, illicit alcohol, and illicit sex can be had for the right price. And the right price gets you into the Pantheon, a heavenly operation full of scantily clad young men who are yours if you have the cash. The sweetest prize of all is Eros, a blond angel, complete with wings, who will take your breath away. Usually seen in the company of his best friends and fellow angels, Himerus and Pothos, one look at Eros destroys all of Edwards’s brain cells.

Edward Joseph Clarence Junior is celebrating his 30th birthday. His cousins, Maxfield and Albert, have brought him to this slice of heaven, and Maxfield has arranged some very interesting private entertainment for him. He submits, despite his better judgment, but what he wants most of all is to meet Eros. Unfortunately, Eros has been booked for the night by Ares, an evil-looking, powerful and influential man who will use brute force if necessary to get his way.

Eros is Julius, the young male prostitute we met in Roses in the Devil’s Garden. It was Julius, along with his best friends, Lawry and Terry, who escaped the raid the night he met Harlan. Lawry and Terry have come with him to the Pantheon and now play the roles of Himerus and Pothos.

We learn that Ares wants all of Eros, not just for sex, but to own him heart and soul, but Julius won’t succumb to him. In fact, Julius has rules in place that normally keep him protected from allowing men to think they have his heart when they pay for his body. He never sees a man for more than three days in a row, and he never kisses, under any circumstances. Ares intends to break those rules and break Eros’s stubbornness with them.

Edward returns again and again, hoping to gain an audience with Eros, and when he finally does, Eros/Julius is less than impressed with him. But Edward is nothing if not persistent, and he bombards Julius with kindness, buying his time for a three week period in which he doesn’t make one sexual overture, even though he’d like nothing better. The result of getting to know each other during this time is that Julius does start to care for Edward, and Edward falls head-over-heels in love with Julius. The kissing rule goes out the window, and the two make plans to go away together for a while so that they can avoid Ares’s hold on Julius.

But Ares learns of their plans and destroys the little happiness they’ve gained when he arranges for Edward to be committed to Bellevue Hospital, arranging a bogus diagnosis with Edward’s psychologist. Edward had suffered from anxiety disorder after his time serving in the ambulance corps in Europe, and though he’s been free of issues recently, Ares convinces Edward’s father that he needs to be committed then he moves in to grab Julius and keep him in the Pantheon until he’s finally willing to beg for all Ares can give him.

And this is just the beginning! There’s so much more to this story. There’s romance on multiple fronts as Julius’s friends find love and affection with Edward’s cousins, some more easily than others. Harlan and Nathan become involved when Maxfield and Lawry find evidence supporting Ares’s true identity as a crime syndicate boss. There’s adventure and intrigue and catastrophe when the entire mess comes to a head, and it looks like Edward and Julius may never get to be together. But, of course, Charlie Cochet does not let us down, giving us a HEA for the guys—all of the guys, in fact.

So what did I love in this story? I loved the characters. Julius, Lawry, Terry, Albert, Maxfield, Edward, Nathan and Harlan. Each one of them now has a place in my heart, and I’m so glad the author gave us the side stories of the secondary characters’ romances. I enjoyed the big screen production feel of the Pantheon stage settings—I swear I could hear the music playing in the background. Oh, and one more thing—the author gave us a little peek into a time when Edward met a fella named Jacky, before Jacky joined the French Foreign Legion (The Auspicious Troubles of Chance). Such a nice surprise! Thanks, Charlie!

What didn’t I like? There were a few places where I was lost in the dialogue, places where I couldn’t tell who was speaking. There were also a few segments in which one character referenced something as if it had just happened, and I couldn’t follow what they were talking about. And last, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the way the final catastrophic event unfolded. Without giving away any spoilers, I can only say that the setting where Edward and Julius met up shouldn’t have still been standing at that point in time. I know that sounds odd, but I really don’t want to give away the concluding drama.

So all that being said, I’ve given this story 4.5 stars. It’s so lovely, complex, intriguing and fun, with wonderful, handsome, warm-hearted characters that I can’t possibly give it any less. If you love historical fiction, then by all mean buy this, and if you simply love an adventure with romance and intrigue, then don’t hesitate—you can’t go wrong.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson— captures the feel of the time period and depicts the MCs perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner eBook Paperback     All Romance (ARe)   Amazon   A Rose By Any Other Name

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published September 12th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632160307 (ISBN13: 9781632160300)
edition languageEnglish
seriesFallen Rose