A MelanieM Audio Review: Red Dirt Heart 2 by NR Walker and Joel Leslie Narrator


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Up until Travis arrived on his doorstep, Charlie had lived a very solitary life. He had surrounded himself with isolation; a couple million acres of red dirt, scorching sun and loneliness.

Six months on, winter has settled over the desert, and Charlie has the life he never dreamed possible. But living and working together, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for six months straight starts to take its toll.

Charlie is a stubborn, stubborn man, who tends to have more conversations in his head than what comes out his mouth, whereas Travis has no problem saying what’s on his mind. And even as they both struggle to communicate, struggle to make sense of need versus want, Charlie can see that he’s pushing Travis away – yet seems helpless to stop it.

When it all boils down to whether Travis should stay or go, maybe the decision won’t be theirs to make.

Listening to the amazing repertoire of voices that emerge from Joel Leslie, the narrator of NR Walker’s Red Dirt Heart series, it has come vividly back to me why I loved this book and series so in the first place.

Here once again I feel all the insecurities that have Charlie Sutton pushing Travis away, fearing that he will leave him sonner or later after all, getting tired of Charlie or the harsh landscape that is the outback of the Sutton Ranch.  Also the deep fear and pain instilled by Charlie’s father about his sexuality that continues to influence his behavior, all in negative ways. It’s a daily battle for Travis to fight, against Charlie’s inner demons and monologues and the verbal fights  that seems to be getting more frequent.

Along with all the personal relationship dynamics, we get the wonderful “found family” on display at the ranch too.  There’s Ma and George, Billy, Bacom, among the core that’s being gathered together here.  There’s watching Charlie stretching forward through his interactions outside the station as well as his tentatively accepting a future outside his fears with Travis at his side.

And always there’s the growing love and deepening relationship between them both that I just love, that encompasses both mens past history, family, respect and love for the land and each other.

This is what it’s all about, right here. Open desert, flat to the horizon, blue sky, red dirt and you.


All Red Dirt Heart stories flow naturally, one right into the next, so reading or listening to them without interruption now that the series is finished is a true joy this time around.  It just highlights how well constructed the stories and series is as well as how well developed and multidimensional all the characters are.  Stomtimes a series doesn’t age well with time.  Not so with the Red Dirt Heart series.  In fact, I may even love them a little bit more.  Joel Leslie’s voices have now become those people for me in my head, Trav’s slow southern Texas drawn and Charlie’s broad Aussie tones forever set as theirs.

Nut how I love this love affair.  Of the heart and of the land.

“He had this way of making me love him just a little bit more by doing the simplest of things. The littlest of things.”

I’m heading into RDH 3 audio next, then all the way to the end.  I’m smiling and picturing the station, the people, and yes, even the animals, especially Nugget.  I can’t imagine that as a reader you haven’t found this series already, but if you haven’t the audio version is such a marvelous way to make it’s introduction, via the superb narration of Joel Leslie  who inhabitants these characters as if he was made to do it.  I highly recommend  every aspect from author to narrator.  Just listen in the order they were written and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Cover art:  While all the covers have a certain similarity, this is one of my favorites with the red dirt front and center.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Book Details:

Listening Length: 7 hours and 10 minutes

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 8 pages
Published January 18th 2017 by NR Walker (first published August 17th 2014)
Original TitleRed Dirt Heart 2
Edition Language English
Series Red Dirt #2
setting Australia

A MelanieM Audio Review:Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might.

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Please note: This book is set in Australia, using Australian English and lingo.

NR Walker’s Red Dirt Heart series became an instant comfort read when I first read it when it first came out in 2014.  I adored the characters, the setting (it was one of my first Australian location stories), the differences in our cultures and, yes, the similarities, just everything!  I was wombat crazy and red dirt heart in love!

Time passed and NR Walker became an auto read, her books a must buy.  The Red Dirt Heart series always floating fondly there in her library waiting to be rec’d.  Then came the audio version of NR Walker’s  Spencer Cohen stories and Joel Leslie’s perfect narration, Aussie voice included.  What leapt to mind?  That I needed to listen to Joel Leslie narrating Red Dirt Heart in the worst way.

So back to the outback I went.  Back to the lives of all the people at the Sutton Ranch and the hot red dirt landscape that captures their hearts and souls.  And the readers too so quickly. I always had pictures of how Charlie and Trav looked fixed so firmly in my head, but now?   Oh, my, with Joel Leslie taking such a firm, absolute grasp of NR Walker’s characters and story, here every favorite person burst back into life once more.  Charlie with his distinct broad Aussie accent comes immediately into play and just listening to Charlie, his many inner monologues to his exchanges with Ma and his ranch hands, who he is as a person becomes crystal clear. You know Charlie now, more than ever before.

And its not just Charlie’s accent, but a multitude of australian accents that Leslie comes p with, all genders, as well as all ages.   Then Trav arrives.  All slow, warm, southern Texas drawl flowing out of his mouth….and boom!  It’s as though Trav has walked through our doors, lively, unable to sit still, and more Trav, more three dimensional than I can remember.  Red Dirt Heart is singing to me.  The characters are bright, lively, passionate, and so real it hurts at times.

And this story!  I remember now why I loved it so. Love it so.  There’s Matilda, Ma and George, even the horses Shelby and Texas, plus the ranch hands that become a family.  And alway, always, that red dirt soil and landscape that spreads like another major character across the novel and series that digs just as deep into your heart as everyone else.

You know what I found?  I loved these stories even more.  Joel Leslie and NR Walker are perfection, literary mates mean to be.  And now its on to the rest of the series because you just can’t stop here.

Whether it’s your first time or the upteenth, go immediately for the audio version of the amazing Red Dirt Heart series and fall in love again or all over again.  Tis the holidays.  Treat yourself or someone you love.  I can’t think of a better gift.

Cover art for this series has stayed with me so yes, love it.

Audio Sales:  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audio Details:

5 hrs 7 mins

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 6 pages
Published July 4th 2016 by Love Lane Books (first published February 20th 2014)
Edition Language English
SeriesRed Dirt #1
Characters Charles Sutton, Travis Craig
setting Australia

A Lucy Audio Review: Finders Keepers by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Needing a change of scene, Griffin Burke moves from Brisbane to Coolum Beach to start a new job. The beautiful white sand, aqua-coloured ocean, blue skies, and summer breezes are everything he longs for. What he finds is a mud-covered dog, lost and hungry, with a nametag and a phone number.

Dane Hughes is stuck in Surfers Paradise at a week-long work conference when he gets a phone call from his distraught mother. His dog, his fur baby, Wicket, has run away. Unable to leave and feeling helpless and miserable, he gets a text from a guy. “I think I found your dog…”

Griffin and Dane start talking, and Griffin agrees to look after Wicket until Dane can collect him. With a few days left before his new job starts, Griffin takes Wicket on some coastal adventures and sends Dane photos of their fun, and so the start of something new and kind of wonderful begins.

Griffin might have moved to Coolum in search of a new life, but what he finds is so much more. What he gets to keep just might take some four-legged help.

This was just what I needed after a pretty angsty book and it’s going into my “read after a bad day” folder on my iPad.  Griffin has just moved to Coolum Beach and on a hiking trip ends up giving water to a cute dog.  When he returns the next day, it’s raining and miserable and the poor dog is still there, now wetter and dirtier.  Griffin is a nice person, so he takes the dog, Wicket, and contacts the owner from the phone number on the tag. 

Poor Dane. He’s Wicket’s owner, and he has been frantic.  He left Wicket with his parents while he went away on a work conference and the little escape artist managed to open the screen door and disappear.  Dane’s parents are so upset and Wicket is no where to be found. In swoops Griffin, to say, “Yes, I found a dog.  Can you tell me about him?”  And so begins the friendship turned more of Griffin and Dane. And Wicket the dog, who is far from the parent’s house.

Griffin offers to care for Wicket until Dane returns from his business trip and does so in style, taking him to restaurants and parks, hiking and out for doggie desserts, all the while sending pictures and updates to Dane.  It was adorable.  Dane and Griffin get to know each other via text message and phone calls and I loved that as well. Sometimes it was awkward and adorable.  “And if you were looking-“I cringed at how ridiculous this was.  “-and used dating aps, would you use Tinder? Or maybe Grindr?”  I buried my face in the sofa cushion and rolled my eyes and wanted to die.”

The story basically is the adventures of Wicket and Griffin and then adding in Dane.  Friendly, flirty and then on to more. They do move pretty fast but they admit it.  “He told me he recognized we were moving pretty fast but he liked it, and I told him I agreed.  Wholeheartedly.”   The story is told in alternating first person point of view and I appreciated that as well.  I like getting to hear both sides. 

There is no angst in this book, no conflict.  It’s just a gentle, soft, fluffy story with a meet-cute and a lovely dog.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Narration by Joel Leslie is perfect, as usual.  He gives different voices to Dane and Griffin, making it easy to differentiate between the two and his upbeat tone fits very well.

Cover art, showing Wicket with Griffin, is simple and I felt is conveyed the feel of the story well. 

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | Audiobooks

Audio Book Details:

Listening Length: 6 hours and 30 minutes

Audible Audio, 7 pages
Published July 30th 2019 by Tantor Audio (first published January 31st 2018)
Original Title Finders Keepers
setting Australia

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: Nova Praetorian by NR Walker and Joel Leslie (narrator)


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

NR Walker and Joel Leslie have become my favorite duo as they bring us the kind of superb entertainment I once saw on the big screen in my younger years—Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind. This story is a sweeping saga worthy of the big screen but more readily portable as all one needs is a phone app to get lost in the glory days of Rome.

One of the best lanistas—gladiator trainers—in Rome, Quintus Furius Varus is “tall and strong in build, fearsome in manner, and sharp of wit.” Senator Servius Augendus seeks personal guards, so he comes to Quintus with an offer he literally cannot refuse, and Quintus ends up in Neapolis, contracted not only as a trainer of guards, but head of those assigned to protect Servius. He’s told the contract period is limited, so once the threat is removed, Quintus can go home to his gladiators and resume his peaceful existence.

Kaeso Agorix was abducted from Iberia and brought to Rome as a slave. Purchased by Servius, he’s handed over to Quintus to train. Their attraction is immediate and intense, and he’s given to Quintus as a personal slave for as long as Quintus is in Servius’s employ. When Quintus discovers Servius’s treachery and plot to gain power, not only is Quintus’s life in danger, but also the lives of Kaeso and the other gladiators. What follows is a complex plot of assassination and treachery and involves not only Quintus and his gladiators, but also Servius and his slaves, and the emperor and his royal guard, the praetorian.

This story is very long and very, very complex with characters who have Ancient Roman names, so it takes time to get to know each one, and it takes a while to understand the politics and the atmosphere of the times. That all being said—it is time well-spent. A grand saga, created by the fertile imagination of NR Walker and brought to life by the brilliant and highly talented Joel Leslie, the character development is outstanding in this large cast of mighty Roman warriors and deceitful Roman politicians. Joel is most definitely a man of a thousand voices in this one. How he managed to pronounce each name, give the character a different voice, and keep up with the pace of the story is beyond me. He and the author made this interesting and exciting and the last chapters fly by quickly. The outcome is surprising and very satisfying. I very highly recommend this to all lovers of a grand adventure, MM romance, and of course, history buffs.

The cover features a Roman guard, holding sword and shield, on the battlefield with the sun coming up behind him. Beautifully done, it’s symbolic of the new guard—the nova praetorian.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible

Audio Details:

Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 12 hours and 24 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Love Lane Books Ltd.
Audible.com Release Date: August 27, 2019
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English, English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: Deal Maker (Mixed Messages #2) by Lily Morton and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Jude and Asa are at the top of my favorites right now. And their son, Billy—not every author can create a precocious five-year-old and keep him from being annoying, but between Lily Morton’s writing and Joel Leslie’s delivery of Billy’s adorable voice, I’m sold on Bill as my favorite child of 2019.

This audiobook made the original story even better with Joel Leslie’s vocal interpretation of Asa and Jude and the rest of the cast of characters. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—these people become real to me when I can hear their emotions expressed in their voices. There’s drama, humor, anger, and sadness in this story, and every voice is so distinctive there’s never a doubt about who is speaking, especially Billy—what a great voice he was given!

Asa, an older well-known actor, is a gentle soul who loves his son and is extremely protective of his privacy. His heart was broken by a former model after a four-year relationship. So when Jude shows up needing a place to stay and willing to take a PA job to help Asa out, he’s shocked when he’s despised just because he’s an empty-headed male model.

Jude is normally pretty even keel but he can do revenge with the best of them so he proceeds to show Asa just how airheaded a model can be. The author opens each chapter with a note from Asa, written by Jude, in answer to fan mail. The notes are so witty, snarky, and downright decadently humorous, it’s hard to keep from laughing out loud in public places.

We met Jude in the first book, as he’s Dylan’s BFF. His character is much more fully developed here and he’s simply a wonderful person. Caring and concerned for his parents, whom he helps financially, always ready to help a friend in need, and with a great sense of humor, and a huge love for Billy, but his fear of commitment nearly destroys his chance at happiness.

Of course, the author gets them to their happy place, but Jude’s stubbornness does not make the HEA very easy to achieve. I love the way the author handled the last few chapters to bring them together. And the epilogue? Couldn’t be better!

An outstanding audiobook with a super performance by Joel Leslie. I very highly recommend it.

As for the cover by Natasha Snow, the handsome man on the colorful cover definitely attracts attention.

Audio Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible

Audio Details:

Audible Audio, 289 pages
Published September 28th 2019 (first published December 22nd 2017)
Original Title Deal Maker
Edition Language English
Series Mixed Messages #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) by Lily Morton and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating:  5 stars out of 5

What a wonderful story! And the audiobook made it even better with the fantastic performance of Joel Leslie, who brought Dylan, Gabe, and the rest of the cast of characters to life. Listening to a book narrated by Joel is like watching the story unfold on the big screen. The voices become real characters. There’s drama, humor, tears (he does crying scenes so well!) and every voice is so distinctive that there’s never a doubt of which MC is speaking.   

The story of Gabe and his personal assistant, Dylan, is filled with the angst of falling in love with an unlovable man, but it’s also laced throughout with humor, much of it dry Brit wit and snark. The author opens each chapter with a note or memo from either Dylan to Gabe or Gabe to Dylan, and many provide laugh-out-loud moments and/or embarrassing barks or snorts in public places.

Gabe is smart, sharp, gorgeous, and wants no part of relationships or feelings with anyone whatsoever, even his current boyfriend. In fact, it’s nothing for them to engage in a threesome with a stranger and afterwards both leave Gabe to his own devices. Dylan is sweet, cute, snarky, and can see through the shell Gabe keeps locked tight around his heart. Their banter is a very important part of this audiobook and keeps readers like me constantly smiling.

Throughout much of the story, although they were attracted to one another, they didn’t act on it since it would break Gabe’s no-sex-with-employees rule. And then it happened and they couldn’t get enough of each other. Some of those locations and situations were funny, but then over time, Dylan loses his heart and Gabe refuses to take it.

Be ready with tissues for this one because Dylan’s heart was literally in pieces all over the floor. And the sobbing and anguished dialogue brought to life by Joel were painful to hear. And yet, I hurt for Gabe as well. His backstory, when we learn it, is heartbreaking and it’s no wonder he refused to share his love with anyone.

Of course, our guys get together in the end, helped along by Dylan’s bestie (who gets his own book next). The epilogue was long enough to tie all the loose threads together in a way that leaves readers knowing this couple is solid and well on the way to their HEA.

I highly recommend this 9.5 hour audiobook to all my friends who enjoy Brit humor, hot sex, angst, love, and redemption, and of course, a very well-deserved HEA.

The handsome man on the colorful cover by Natasha Snow definitely attracts attention.

Sales Links:   Amazon | Audible

Audio Details:

Audible Audio
Published April 15th 2019 (first published August 17th 2017)
Edition Language English
Series Mixed Messages #1
setting London, England

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review : With a Kick Collection #2 by Clare London and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Volume two in a collection of novellas that take place in With a Kick, an innovative ice cream shop where they make ice creams with liquor for an extra “kick.”

The first story is Pluck and Play featuring Curtis, a young man who’s had his ups and downs in life—mostly downs—but works hard to be a Jack-of-all-trades to many. Basically, if you need an odd job done, it’s Curtis you call. Friends with the staff at With a Kick, Curtis stops in when he has time between deliveries and sometimes even to make a delivery there. It’s on one of those visits he notices the handsome cowboy playing a guitar on the street corner.

Riley is making his living as a busker. His cowboy boots, hat, and accent identify him as American. His ability to carry a tune isn’t the best, or is it the shite music he plays? Curtis can’t decide, but he does decide he’s attracted to the man. Through a series of good days and bad, the two get to know one another and start a sexual relationship, until Curtis’s former lover—and abuser—comes calling. He blackmails Curtis into owing him money for a van Curtis bought from him. But what Curtis doesn’t realize is that instead of having no one to turn to, he has a ton of people willing to back him up, and they are led by Riley and by Brian, Phiz’s boyfriend (Slap and Tickle) and including Eddy and Nuri (A Twist and Two Balls).

The story is heartwarming, funny, and very British. Performed by the inimitable voice of Joel Leslie, it couldn’t be more entertaining. Riley even gets an ice cream named after him, one with bourbon and chocolate crunchies and named Pluck and Play.

The second book on the audio is Double Scoop, which features Patrick, the With a Kick shop owner, and Lee, his young assistant. Lee has been in love with Patrick for a long time, but it isn’t until a freak accident occurs that he finally has his chance to spend the night with the older man. Unfortunately, Patrick is so worried about how Lee might feel the next day that he overthinks everything and constantly puts his foot in his mouth. If he’d just say what’s on his mind he and Lee might have a chance.

Most of the story revolves around Patrick and his misunderstandings—both the ones he perceives and the ones he creates. It makes for a great story, even though I really wanted to whack him in the head a few times to knock some sense into him. The gang of friends, including those who show up in the first story, comes to the rescue in this one, too, as everyone chips in to not only settle affairs at the shop but to assist Patrick and Lee and show them how very much they belong together from now into the future.

I love the voices Joel Leslie brings to this audiobook, not only for the MCs but also for the host of secondary characters. He makes it fun and interesting and an audio I definitely didn’t want to have to shut down when real life intruded. I recommend not only this collection but also collection number one in audiobook format for many hours of listening pleasure.

The cover by Lou Harper is in the same theme as that of volume one and features a handsome young man with a sweet treat, obviously created at the With a Kick ice cream shop, in the bottom right corner.

Buy Links

Audible US

Audible UK  

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 58 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Jocular Press
Audible.com Release Date: April 5, 2019
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English, English

A Lila Audio Review: Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed.

To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?

Salt Magic, Skin Magic is a magical adventure that intrigues the reader from the very start. The more we learn about the characters, the more complicated they get. Their identities are intrinsically attached to the settings and the turn of events. And all senses get engage as the author paints a vivid picture of Thornby’s and Blake’s lives. 

The magical elements mixed with the historical period and the hot but sweet romance set the frame for a story that goes beyond the main characters. All the relationships and friendships are relevant to the plot. As well as the locations in which the characters meet and live. 

The magical system created by the author is interesting and refreshing. It has some common elements to ground it, but the additions give it credibility. The pacing is also well crafted and it has the right amount of backstory and interesting spins to move the action forward.

I did want more answers. The end, as with any other good story, felt a bit rushed. Plus, we don’t get the answers to all the turns and twists the author introduced us. But this doesn’t take much from the story. 

Joel Leslie is one of my favorite narrators and the main reason I selected to review this book. The blurb was interesting and I knew Joel will make it exceptional. 

The cover makes more sense after reading the story. It’s not one that would have made me pick up the book, though. 

Sales Links:  TantoriTunes | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 9 hours and 14 minutes

Published: February 12, 2019 (Audio Edition) by Tantor Audio
Edition Language: English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: Hidden in Darkness (In Darkness #1) by Alice Winters and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Joel, Joel, Joel. The man of a thousand voices. And when he vocalizes a younger, less experienced, or smaller, less aggressive character, he brings such life, such wonderful humanity to the character’s interactions that I may as well be sitting in front of a big screen TV.  I can picture every wonderful minute.  That’s what happened here.

I really enjoyed this story, and I know that was due, in large part, to Joel Leslie’s narration. The characters were engaging and fun with each other. Their snarky and disparaging words may have come across as rude and nasty on paper, but delivered by this talented voice actor, the barbs and insults were just plain funny! I fell in love with Felix. What a gem! Totally enjoyable and not one to live with caution. He barges into situations without much forethought and then somehow manages to get himself out of trouble.

He also takes the straight-laced Lane and makes him unquestionably loveable. Lane was an undercover copy who was tortured and blinded by one of the men he was stalking. When Felix enters his life to “assist” him in his daily life, his life becomes something he never dreamed of. Instead of feeling sorry for the blind guy, Felix pokes and prods and nags and niggles and Lane gives back just as much as he gets.  Through Felix, we see Lane come to a greater acceptance of his blindness and definitely to a greater acceptance for and need for Felix.  Their relationship is solid by the last scene.

I highly recommend this story in audio format. I’ve just learned there’s a sequel narrated by Joel.  I’ll be on that like syrup on a pancake. This is just the perfect sort of action-packed, and humor-packed, adventure I like to listen to on my walks, or in the car, and because I couldn’t get enough of these characters in Joel’s voice, this one may have accompanied me while I was working. Yes. It’s that good.

The cover features a close-up of a man in a suit jacket and tie, but only the lower half of his face. The tone is dark with a black background. It’s very symbolic of the darkness in which Lane lives.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 10 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published February 17th 2018)
Edition Language English
Series In Darkness #1

A Lucy Audiobook Review : Unscripted Love (Road to Blissville #1) by Aimee Nicole Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rated 3 stars out of 5

This story is told in the alternating point of view of Chaz and Kyle.  Chaz is a writer and fan of online gaming who works in a salon.  He has been crushing on the sexy vet, Kyle, for a while and they eventually start to talk and date.  Dr Dimples, as Chaz calls Kyle, is sweet, kind and he likes Chaz very much. He is also a World of Warcraft fan, so they start to bond over that

I would have rated this book higher but I had some issues with Kyle being a doormat at times and with Chaz being ridiculous with his yes/no/yes towards Kyle. Chaz has a secret that he is afraid will send Kyle running, but he had so many chances to come clean about it and didn’t.  Instead, he would run out on Kyle, or not see him.  The secret itself to me wasn’t that big of a deal and I felt it was there just to provide some conflict.  The book actually begins with Chaz whispering the secret into Kyle’s ear and then flashes back to a year earlier when the whole thing actually started. Kyle had noticed Chaz previously in a lustful way but since he was with Gabe he never did anything about it. 

Chaz has some funny inner dialogue.  When seeing Kyle professionally about his pet, Harry, he thinks, “Harry? No, I manscape to within an inch of my life.  No wild bush with hairy man berries here!”  But his obsessing about his secret causes him to run so often that he made me crazy. He has some endearing qualities, such as when “I grabbed a glass of wine, a dog-eared paperback copy of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, my phone and set them all on the nifty bath tray that my grandmother got  me for Christmas.”  Anyone who takes a bath while reading Dame Agatha has smarts, I just wish he would have used them.

On the whole, it was a little bland and the “secret” was so blown out of proportion that it was frustrating.  You would think he had a body hidden somewhere, the way he acted sometimes.  It’s very confusing for Kyle when Chaz is very hot and cold towards him. There were times he hurt Kyle for no good reason. “I saw the moment he realized I wasn’t going to stay.  His dashed hopefulness made me want to cry.”  Kyle, grow a pair!

The side characters, Chaz’s best friend, Josh, and his boyfriend, Gabe, play an integral part.  It was a little awkward because Gabe is Kyle’s ex-boyfriend, a serious relationship that apparently parted very amiably.  This is a spin-off of the Curl Up and Dye series and Josh and Gabe get together there.  I probably should have read that first because I think their story would be more interesting.  Josh and Gabe sort of push Chaz and Kyle together and that causes some consternation.  Meredith, the other Chaz and Josh bestie, is strong and wonderful in her own right.

Oh and the family!  I loved the Matrons.  Grandma, Mom and Aunt Sandy, meddling in Chaz’ love life and just being strong women who want their boy to be happy.  They were so awesome.  “We have a book idea for you, dear,” Grandma said. “We want you to write a story about a small-town guy who really likes the town vet is too afraid to act on it… let’s name him Chad…” They miss nothing, those ladies.

Once the secret is FINALLY revealed, Kyle handles the info like a champ (which we knew he would because he is awesome) and it was a bit of a let down after all that Chaz-drama.

I am a big fan of Joel Leslie’s work but this wasn’t my favorite of his audio.  Right in the beginning there was a strange intonation and I was worried.  But as the book started the voices smoothed out, except there wasn’t quite enough differentiation for Chaz and Kyle, so there were times (as I was listening while driving) that I lost track of who was talking. Mom and Gramma, on the other hand, were done so well I could picture them.

This was my first Aimee Nicole Walker book and I would try another of hers. 

Cover art by Jay Aheer is eye-catching and perfect for the story.  Love it.

Sales Links:

AMAZON US: http://amzn.to/2uzVnkV

AMAZON UK: http://amzn.to/2tzosN1 

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 9 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published July 11th 2017)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRoad to Blissville #1
CharactersKyle Vaughn, Charles Bailey” Chaz ” Hamilton