A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Spun! by JL Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

Spun! by JL Merrow won the Rainbow Award for Best Romantic Comedy in 2017 and with this outstanding audiobook, should have won that category as well.  Mark Steadman has zoomed up my list of narrators I just love to listen too and this audiobook and series is a prime example why.

Mark Steadman’s lively and articulate narration makes JL Merrow’s comedy romance all bright and heartwarmingly alive!  It’s in his many voices that easily separate the characters for you and for all the sweeping inflections and yes, ear for regional “dialects” that brings this story into the 5 star status as a audiobook as well as a novel.

Oh this story!  I loved David back when he made his appearance in Out! along with his bear Gregory.  He’s such a kind and sympathetic soul and you wanted him to find someone who wanted him back for his wonderful, flamboyant, empathetic, self. Who knew he would find it in a postman?

That would be postman Rory Deamer, father to two, and soon to be having the surprise lodger of his life.  Spun! is a lovely slow burn of a romance which works because we get to watch these two men connect over their shared love of Dr. Who and the fact they both can’t cook, bonding, talking….I just loved it.

And David?  Well, we enjoyed his friendship with Mark’s daughter so it’s no surprise to see his interactions and relationships build with Rory’s kids here.  It’s as much a part of the story as their romance and it should be because they are forming a family.

There’s miscommunications and misunderstandings abounding everywhere towards the end.  Enough to  make you  want to crack some heads together.  But the sheer joy of this romance, the absolute “rightness” of Rory and David finding love with each other?  It’s perfect.  And just  one more  reason I love visiting Shamwell so.

I love this audiobook.  What a great way to  spend the hours!  Read it, listen to it!  In fact, grab up the whole audiobook collection!  I recommend them all.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  These simple but eye catching covers work for the characters and series.

Audiobook Details:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon, Audible, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, Listening Time: 7 hrs. 44 min

Published November 29th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 1st 2017)
Original TitleSpun!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #4
Literary AwardsRainbow Award for Best Bisexual – Romantic Comedy & Suspence & Nominee for Best Bisexual Book (2017)

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Shamwell is a sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, and a place I’ve grown to love over the course of four Shamwell Tales novels by J.L. Merrow.  Slipping into one of these stories is like visiting a small village full of people you instantly like, all intimately connected to one another, full of humor, past histories, human frailties, and tons of love.

As read by Mark Steadman, one of my favorite narrators, Out! comes alive, vibrant, as one again I fell into the story of Mark and Patrick’s rough road to romance and love.  I can close my eyes and forget that it’s just Mark Steadman, one person, narrating the story.  He swings so easily between characters and voices, creating nuances and dialects even from person to person.  And this story deserves a certain flair!  We are talking about the Shamwell Players as well you know.

We have humor (sometimes laugh out loud humor), tough subjects such as Mark Nugent dealing with the realization that he really doesn’t know his daughter, that he had unknowingly checked out of her life, that he was a closeted dad, well, closeted period.  So many issues to deal with, including a bitter ex wife.

Patrick Owen is someone I loved in the previous stories and wanted to have his story here.  He’s remarkable in that he’s personable, loving, and relatable.  As are all J.L. Merrow’s characters.  They have staying power.  We get involved in their lives in Shamwell, caught up in their romances and drama and hopefully their HEA’s.  The books are a true joy but in the audiobook version, Mark Steadman launches the story anew, bringing a vibrancy to the tale and the characters that make me feel that I’m hearing it for the first time.  It’s breathes a true believable romance that we connect with and people we love.

I absolutely recommend Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator).  Both the story, the author and  the narrator!  Grab up the whole series!  You can’t go wrong.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is adorable and perfect.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible, Amazon, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 7 hrs. 51 min.

Published October 19th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 19th 2016)
Original TitleOut!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #3

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

Tristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

I’m a fan of both JL Merrow and her Shamwell Tales, the series that follows the lives and romances of this small English village and it’s little group of thespians.  Not familiar you say?  Well, Played! in audiobook format is a splendid way to make its acquaintance because a terrific story is further enhanced by the outstanding narration by Mark Steadman.

I easily sunk into the drama and every day lives of Tristan and Con with Mark Steadman’s voice casting a spell over the tale.  The narrator rose quickly to being the “voice’ of  everyone in the large cast of players as well as acting the various roles the characters/actors were playing (play inside a play) from Bottom to Puck, and giving them life as well.  I never had a difficulty distinguishing between characters, and indeed, often forgot I was listening to only one person narrating the story, Mark Steadman is that good.

And with Mark Steadman narrating, you can concentrate on the story of Tris and Con and their rocky path towards romance and love. Ah, Tris with his rich imperious father and full load of familial expectations, none of which seem particularly desirable to Tristan.  The death of his Gram, a house, and a cat lead Tris to Shamwell, the Shamwell Players and Con.  All of which starts to erode the strict goals his family has laid out for him,. Under the influence of Con and the people he’s meeting,  Tristan becomes the person he’s meant to be.

Con, a handyman, ends up with a remarkable amount of revelations for himself as well.  A learning disability has Con convinced he could never act until Tristan starts coaching him. The why’s behind that action I’ll leave up to the story.  There’s is mystery in Con’s background and an investigation to launch in the village.  Really, Played! has a cornucopia of elements and it makes for a lively, hopping plot!

Merrow’s characters have depth and a believability about them that makes it a delight to care for them and the outcome of their romance. Especially, when you want to give them a shake or two as you will Tristan!  The story just flows and the listening goes quickly.  You’ll find the book is over and your visit in Shamwell done before you are ready to leave.  At least I felt that way.  Luckily there are more Shamwell tales out there.  I hope they all end up as audiobooks with Mark Steadman as the narrator.  I can’t wait to listen.

I highly recommend this audiobook and all the Shamwell stories, ebook and otherwise.

Cover by: Natasha Snow is  perfect for Tristan.  Love the cover.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon |  Audible |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 6 hrs., 58 min.

Audiobook
Published September 15th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 30th 2015)
Original TitlePlayed!
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Shamwell Tales #2
setting England (United Kingdom

 

 

 

A Kai Audiobook Review: Summer Heat by Jay Northcote and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

When Adam is dumped by his boyfriend, a week away at a beach resort seems like a great opportunity to get over his ex. Sun, sea, and no-strings sex will be just the boost he needs to move on with his life.
Adam’s best friend, Finn, agrees to accompany him at short notice. Finn’s had a crush on Adam for years but is determined to put his feelings aside and be the perfect wingman in Adam’s time of crisis.
A spontaneous threesome with another guy forces Adam and Finn to confront their attraction to each other. Having a holiday fling together wasn’t part of the plan, and as their trip heats up, they soon realize that one night of fun won’t be enough for either of them.
The passion might be scorching, but their hearts and friendship are on the line. If their romance is going to survive the flight home, they have to be honest about what they want.

This story was a delight! A perfect hot summer read. And although I am in winter right now (sadly), this was just what I needed. It was a light, lown-angst and hot friends to lovers.

Jay Northcote brought two great characters to live and with a really simple plot put me smiling almost the entire narrative. It was well written and fluid: fast paced but not rushed.

I loved the scenario where the story took place and I have to confess I was so envious of Adam and Finn. I want so much go to a resort in a sunny Spain right now. (Thanks Jay for putting it in my dreams travels plans)

Finn and Adam were remarkable. They were sweet, real, HOT (yes, yes!) and simply perfect for each other. I was just so glad they gave it a try even with the fear of ruining their long time friendship.

This would be a perfect book for a holiday at the beach or at the pool or, just like was for me, to make you smile and remember the summer always come back. Lol

Mark Steadman did a great job narrating this novel. I just loved so much his voice and interpretation. Oh, and the accent was just lovely and sexy.

Highly recommend this audiobook!

The cover art by Garrett Leigh is hot and perfect for the book.

 

Sales Links

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Summer-Heat-Audiobook/B073HJHFQR

 

 

Audiobook Details:

 

Published July 3rd, 2017 by Jaybird Press (first published June 9th, 2017)

Written by: Jay Northcote

Narrated by: Mark Steadman

Length: 4 hrs and 43 mins.

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Imperfect Harmony by Jay Northcote and narrated by Mark Steadman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This was a terrific story, made even better by Mark Steadman’s audio performance. Jay Northcote’s books seem to get progressively better and he’s up there among my favorites now. In fact, his stories are among the ones I reach for when I’m feeling down or stressed as they always lighten my heart.

This is no exception as we see the love story between John Fletcher, an older man who is grieving for his long-term partner who was killed two years before, and twenty-two year old Rhys Callington, who also happens to be grieving the tragic loss of his lover and best friend.

The men become friends and then lovers, and as their affection grows, John begins to have second thoughts while Rhys is in favor of second chances. Mark Steadman takes us through all the emotional turmoil and angst we’d expect from this May-December, nineteen-year age-gap romance. But, the beauty of the story lies in the men’s personalities, their struggles to overcome their grief—individually and together—and John’s final awakening to the gift he’s been given for a second chance at love.

Very sweet and romantic, as well as, an interesting storyline and endearing characters. I highly recommend this audiobook.

 

Cover is striking with its black and white coloration.

Buy links:
Audible.com
Audible.co.uk
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published June 12th 2017 by Jaybird Press (first published April 15th 2016)
Original TitleImperfect Harmony
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Practice Makes Perfect (Housemates #3) by Jay Northcote and narrated by Mark Steadman

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

I love this Housemates series by Jay Northcote, and it doesn’t matter if I read the e-book or listen to the audiobook—which I did in this case—it’s always a delightful way to spend an evening’s entertainment.

This one has managed to move to my favorite of the series (though I think I say that every time!) In this story, Dev, a geeky virgin (Oh, my!) moves into the house with Mal and Jez and the other housemates. A first year physics student, the maths genius knows all about adding and subtracting but nothing about relationships, and more importantly, nothing about sex. Well, nothing other than what he’s seen on porn vids. So he sets out to learn and prepares his list of positions and techniques that he needs to learn.

Ewan, one of the guys who rooms in the house next door, and a friend of some of the guys in Dev’s house, is looking for someone to tutor him in maths. He’s a psych major but has to take a statistics course and desperately needs the help. When he spots the cute geek neighbor’s profile on Grindr and reads that he’s a virgin looking for experience, after he’s done swallowing his tongue, he sets out to cut a deal. He’ll “help” Dev get experience and Dev will tutor him in statistics. A match made in heaven.

And really, that’s what it turns out to be. We get a blow by blow (no pun intended) description of each of the lessons, which of course, get hotter and hotter as they progress. We also get to witness the guys’ friendship as it’s blossoming into more than that—if each can get out of his head and into his heart and realize that’s what’s happening. There’s misunderstandings and some small drama, but they do eventually find their way to their HEA. And along the way we’re treated to humor and sweet, tender moments and a lot of super sexy times.

Narrator Mark Steadman was outstanding, as usual, since he always makes me feel as if I’m right there at uni with the gang and enjoying their fun times in the house together. And Ewan’s Scottish accent was just the right touch. The Scot and the geek—a match made in heaven. Each story is like a mini-reunion with the past characters and always leaves me feeling good.

I definitely recommend the series and this one in particular as super sweet and super- hot with two engaging characters who were made for each other.

The cover is just like the others in the series – a simple black-and-white photo of a male with bare torso, and in this case, a pair of glasses. Why not? It has to be Dev, our story’s geek.

Sales Links

Audible.com
Audible.co.uk
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published April 19th 2017 by Jaybird Press (first published June 22nd 2016)
Original TitlePractice Makes Perfect
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHousemates #3 settingPlymouth, England (United Kingdom)
England (United Kingdom)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

what-happens-at-christmas-by-jay-northcoteFirst and foremost, the most important disclaimer for this review is that I love holiday stories. The second is that I highly enjoy the work of Jay Northcote. And last, but certainly not least, I love Mark Steadman’s narrations. Put these all together, and it’s a no-brainer that I really enjoyed this short friends-to-lovers story.

Justin is heartbroken over the loss of his boyfriend—probably more so because the ex was cheating on him, works in the same office, and is now going to be at their holiday party—the party for which Justin doesn’t have a date. When his old friend Sean comes back from overseas and admits to Justin that he told his dad that he’s gay before he left on this last trip, Justin is surprised but happy. He’s lusted after the guy he grew up with for years, but Sean was straight, or so he thought.

When Sean agrees to accompany Justin to the office party as Justin’s boyfriend, little does Justin know that Sean is looking forward to the cuddles and kisses as much as Justin is. Add in a snowstorm that strands both men for the holidays, and their decision to stay together gives them a much better chance to follow through on what starts at the party.

Because it’s a short story, there’s not a lot of misunderstanding, angst, and soul-searching, and to be honest, I’m glad for that. But the two fated mates do look forward to their HEA as the story ends.

Jay pulled out the old friends-to-lovers trope, dusted it off, and created a highly enjoyable book. The fact that he got Mark Steadman to narrate shows his brilliance and bumps the rating up a notch. This is one that would make a wonderful stocking stuffer for all lovers of MM romance.

Cover art fits the  character and story.

Sales Links

Audible.com
Audible.co.uk
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Audiobook Details:

3 hrs 41 mins

Audible Audio, 4 pages

Published November 11th 2016 by Jaybird Press (first published November 19th 2015)
Original TitleWhat Happens At Christmas
ASINB01MXHOFVQ
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Helping Hand by Jay Northcote ~ Narrated by Mark Steadman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Helping Hand audiobookAbout a year ago, I had the pleasure of reading this story by Jay Northcote. I enjoyed it, primarily because it was about two guys, Jez and Mac, who discover that their friendship with benefits could grow to be so much more.

It starts out as Jez giving Mac a helping hand one night after spending quite a few weekends in a row studying. Both second year university students, and young men with active libidos, they decide to watch porn one night after finishing their studies. One thing leads to another, and Jez, who spends more time looking at Mac’s package than at the movie, decides to offer a hand job.

Both are amazed at how good it feels, so Jez takes the next available opportunity to offer to give Mac a blowjob. Mac doesn’t resist, and the guys move to a new stage in their relationship. Further stages occur as they discover mutual hand jobs, kissing, frottage, and finally full penetration. Jez realizes, however, that it’s not casual for him anymore. He’s in way over his head because his feelings are involved, and he’s unsure of Mac because he has always claimed he’s not gay. And that’s exactly when they are discovered, and everything begins to fall apart.

Jez doesn’t want to be Mac’s “dirty little secret” for life, but can’t find a way to tell him that. What happens makes the conclusion of this story not only interesting, but heartwarming as well.

What I loved most about the audiobook version is the narrator. Mark Steadman gave the story the British authenticity it was missing when I was just reading the e-book. His accent and his ability to provide variety in the main and secondary characters’ voices made it perfect. Add to that, the story had just the right amount of sweetness and angst, stirred together with some great, hot and sexy scenes.

I recommend the audiobook version if you’re thinking of picking this one up. It’s terrific!

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Cover art by Garrett Leigh is a black-and-white photo showing the bare upper torso of a reclining, dark-haired man with the right amount of five o’clock shadow and looking ready for anything or anyone who comes along.

Sales Link: Audible.com | Audible.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Apple

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published May 13th 2016 by Jaybird Press (first published June 24th 2015)
Original TitleHelping Hand
ASINB01FL0YXO2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHousemates #1 settingPlymouth, England (United Kingdom)