A MelanieM Audio Review: Family Camp (Daddy Dearest #1) by Eli Easton and Matthew Shaw (Narrator)


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Geo signs up for Family Camp, he envisions nature hikes, s’mores, and a chance to win over his recalcitrant new foster kids, Jayden and Lucy. He’s tried to become a dad for so long, and he hopes the three of them can be the family he’s always wanted. What he doesn’t anticipate is the prickly and gorgeous camp counselor who constantly comes to his rescue.

Travis spends a week every year at Camp Evermore, the camp his adoptive parents own. As a pro baseball player, his presence guarantees a full campground and excited campers. He has one rule: never, ever mess around with anyone at camp. His profession demands he stay in the closet. But one sweet and funny new dad is about to test all his resolve.

Sparks fly for Geo and Travis, and not because of the nightly campfire. Having been a foster kid himself, Travis is drawn to Geo’s sincerity and big heart and to his kids. The four of them just fit. But will this be a summer romance? Or can they find a way to be a family long after Family Camp is over?

You know how there are books that as soon as you’ve finished them, you want to start them  all over again?  Well, it turns out there are audio books you feel about that way too. Family Camp (Daddy Dearest #1) by Eli Easton and Matthew Shaw (Narrator) is most definitely one of them.  It imparts  those warm, fuzzy, wrapped up in your favorite blankie sort of feelings, boosted in part by the fabulous narration by Matthew Shaw.

It all starts when new foster dad (who wants to be their forever dad) Geo signs his small new family up for some bonding time at Family Camp in hopes he and they can start to start to move through erected barriers and begin the process of learning about each other and becoming a family.

The journey is not going well.  The car is barely holding together as is Geo’s nerves, the kids well, are being who they are, removed and or brash/outspoken, depending upon the kid. And everything about it speaks of an authenticity of desperation, the reality of a new dad trying to make things work and oh yeah, the heat of a summer’s day.  Great writing, great characters, and a great scene that also came alive with the right narration. Yep, totally hooked.

When Travis enters the picture along with his dog Max, if my heart wasn’t totally engaged before, it was now.  Because the sparks flew and I just knew this was going to be a great couple and yes family affair.  And I couldn’t wait to see how Easton would bring them all together at Camp.

Turns out it’s quite the journey as Travis isn’t out to his team or family.  Geo has foster children in need of himself and the idea they have found their forever home.  And more, so much more as Travis is the product of the foster system and the Family Camp is run by his parents who raised him and a huge number of children, much of whom came out of the system.  Trust is a big element here and not just for Jayden and Lucy but also for Travis and  Geo.

Easton carefully weaves the bonds of family and love between the men and the children, making them feel real and heartbound.  That it takes only two weeks doesn’t feel unlikely because of the established backgrounds.

The pace of the story and the resolution to the angst filled moments all felt right.  As I said I would  be listening to this story again soon, when I need a hug and a story to warm me.

The narration by Matthew Shaw is everything.  His tones have a wide range, equal to a father like Travis’ and then down to Lucy beginning to come out of her shell.  I believed them all.

Cover art just made me grin.  That’s perfect for the story and character.  Doesn’t it make you want to come to Family Camp too?

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

Audio Book Details:

Audible Audio, 7 pages
Published August 14th 2019 by Pinkerton Road LLC (first published March 28th 2019)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDaddy Dearest #1

A MelanieM Review: The Last Thing He Needs by J.H. Knight


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Last Thing He Needs CoverTommy O’Shea is raising his seven younger brothers and sisters the best he can under the worst of circumstances. With an alcoholic, drug addicted father and stepmother to contend with, only the fact that the house they live in was their grandmother’s keeps a roof over their heads.  The money needed for food and other living expenses is cobbled together by a collection of part time jobs, petty thefts and other desperate measures.  This includes selling sexual favors in alleys to get by.  And it’s been that way since Tommy was 15. Here living on the edge is razor sharp, pain is common place and despairs its companion. Between trying to make sure his brothers and sisters are fed, attend school, and stay out of the foster care system, Tommy has room for little else in his life, including a relationship.

Police officer Bobby McAlister has known Tommy and his family since they were kids. Unbeknownst to Tommy he has been trying to keep an eye out for their safety.  A chance meeting with Tommy gives Bobby a chance to help out while trying to strike up a friendship once more.  But Tommy has erected a wall of anger, diffidence and shame to keep others away and he tries to do the same with Bobby. Bobby sees how desperate the situation has become and refuses to be pushed away and a tentative friendship and relationship is formed.

A shattering event tests the fragile bonds that has formed between Tommy, Bobby and Tommy’s family.  Will they be strong enough to withstand the tragedy that befalls the O’Shea family, or will all be lost forever under the aftermath?

The Last Thing He Needs by J. H. Knight is that story that slips along the edges of what could have been a Lifetime movie yet surmounts that overwrought template to become a deeply moving and emotionally wrenching story of family and love.  J. H. Knight is another new author and a terrific one if this story is any indication.  I have to admit I approached this story from two very different viewpoints.  One, the side of me that’s addicted to those Christmas Hallmark movies, and the other side?  That’s the one that looks at life through George Carlin glasses.  The blurb hooked me in while my suspicious nature said to beware the maudlin elements that could have made this a manipulative sob fest.

I shouldn’t have worried.  Knight took all the suspect elements, the impoverished family, the kids in danger, the drug addled parents…all of it and made it believable and heartrending. It all starts with Tommy O’Shea for he is the anchor of his family and for this story.  If Tommy had not come across as real as he does, this would be a very different novel.  But Knight makes us believe in Tommy.  In his anger, and pain, and desperation.  The descriptions of the O’Shea family’s living conditions ring in as authentic and gritty.  The condition of the house, exterior and interior rooms, reads as desperation,especially the bedroom crammed with bodies. The teenagers shouldering burdens they were never meant to cope with, young kids on the edge of delinquency but for reasons that make your heart break, and the toddlers unaware of how shaky is the foundation their family rests on.  Knight has a clear enough idea of the reality of poor families these days to make the O’Shea family existence spare, gritty and desperate without coating it in dramatic prose and imagery.  It’s a grim life and Knight depicts it as such.

Bobby McAlister comes from a very different background.  The only son of two loving parents, the loss of his father has left Bobby and his mother trying to cope with the hole in their lives and a future without the man they both loved deeply.  His life and upbringing could not be any more different and the manner in which Tommy and the kids are living is almost too much for Bobby to comprehend, even as a police officer.  His emotional and familial solidity is the bulwark Tommy needs for himself and for his brothers and sisters against the reality their lives have become.  Bobby isn’t perfect and that just pulls us into his personality even further.  Then add to that his grieving mother, Judy, and our love for the McAlister family just grows and grows.

All the characters here managed to be fleshed out to a level that enables the reader to believe in them too.  Tommy’s father and step mother are characters whose addictions and behaviors are heinous yet Knight is careful to show that Cal and step mother Cheryl were once so very different from the people they are now after years of substance abuse, bad decisions, and parental neglect has made them.  Life is choices and sometimes it only takes a slip or a push for you to go one way or the way.  Or in Tommy’s case, realize that to ask and accept help when you need it does not have to be dangerous or belittling.

Knight is quick not to deliver any easy answers for a desperate and painful situation.  Tommy’s life and that of his siblings remain precarious for most of the story.  But the resolution, while slow to arrive, is ultimately satisfying and emotionally heartwarming.  This story and its characters earns its ending.  It’s wonderful and realistic.  And it puts J.H. Knight squarely on my must read list.  I think after reading this story you will find yourself doing the same.  Consider this highly recommended by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

Cover art by AngstyG.  I like the cover but its lacking a little something in design.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press       All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon   The Last Thing He Needs

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 28th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 27th 2014)
edition languageEnglish