The Duke in Denial: Scandal in Sussex, Book 1 Written by: Alexandra Ainsworth Narrated by: Joel Leslie

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Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfill his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.

Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister, Dorothea.

After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancée, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe…and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.

This is a gay regency historical romance.
Audiobook Review:
The story begins in London with Sebastian Lewis on his way to a ball hosted by his Aunt Beatrice. He is to meet his fiance for the first time. Sebastian has been given the title of Duke of Somerset because his cousin Lewis has passed away. A gust of wind blows his top hat off his head and into the street. He tries to chase after his hat when somehow it ends up in a tree. He attempts to climb the tree and is interrupted by a man, who with the slightest touch leaves Sebastian breathless. William gallantly retrieves his hat and the two head to a tavern to enjoy a drink.
It is while they are at the ball that they learn of each other’s identities. William and Sebastian are instantly attracted to each other and William is dismayed to learn that not only is Sebastian a Duke but he is also betrothed to William’s sister Dorothea.
This story has a little bit of everything. Mystery, intrigue, romance and a lot of internal struggles due to Sebastian’s sense of duty and William’s longing for Sebastian.
There are a lot of things I really liked about this story, the realistic portrayal of Sebastian’s inner conflict about his attraction to William, Sebastian’s unwavering honor in upholding his duty, and William’s acceptance of himself. I really loved Sebastian’s Aunt Beatrice (she was amazing), and Sir Ambrose as the villian.
The story itself seemed to drag a bit in the beginning but towards the end the action picks up and moves at a faster pace. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first part.
Now for the narration. Joel Leslie did such a fantastic job with his narration. His voice is very smooth and I really was able to enjoy all of the distinct “voices” for each character. No one sounded the same and it was so easy to follow along in the story. Joel has such a smooth tone and his pacing was spot on. I absolutely loved his voice for William. William’s voice is a little deeper than Sebastian’s and I was able to distinguish between the two very easily. Joel did a great job of highlighting William’s strength of character and also his frustration in not being allowed to love who he wants. I could hear William’s hurt when Sebastian would constantly pull away from him. There were times during the more romantic scenes where his voice would dip low and I really could feel the emotion that he was portraying.
I enjoyed Joel’s narration of William. I loved the accent and tone especially, like I mentioned earlier, when his voice would deepen.
Sebastian as a character frustrated me throughout the book. He seemed to run hot and cold although I think he is just overwhelmed by his feelings for William. Sebastian realizes that he has always appreciated the male form and maybe a time or two his eyes lingered a little bit too long on men. The time period also plays a big part in the story. Homosexuals were often arrested and hanged and when societal status means everything, a whole family’s reputation could be ruined. Sebastian is duty bound and is quite willing to put his feelings for William aside and go through with the marriage to Dorothea. He is willing to live a lie in order to fulfill that duty and that is very sad but very true to the time period the story takes place in.
William, on the other hand, knows who he is and what he wants and that appealed to me.
I have to say that Aunt Beatrice is one of my favorite characters in the story. She was funny and very supportive of her nephew Sebastian. I loved Joel’s portrayal of her. I couldn’t help but picture the actress Maggie Smith. He really captured her character so well I couldn’t help but smile every time she spoke. She was a true delight.
I highly recommend this narrator. He is very engaging, has a smooth voice and a wonderful tone to his narration. And I think the best aspect of Joel’s narration is that his “voices” are all very distinct which is a must when listening to a story.

After finishing the story I was a little curious about the narrator and investigated a bit. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that I had listened to him before. I would never have put two and two together because in this particular story he had an American accent and I wondered to myself, is he from England or America? It turns out he grew up in a British commonwealth with American parents. What a surprise! I definitely will be looking for other audiobooks by Mr. Leslie.

4.5 of 5 stars

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Audible Link

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Duke-in-Denial-Audiobook/B01CIJ39V2/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1462251543&sr=1-1

 

In the Middle of Somewhere Audiobook by Roan Parrish Narrated by Robert Nieman

audiobookreviewDreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7669

61y5XEZ0j+L._SL300_Blurb

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in – not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.
Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.
When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

Review

(Book reviewed by Tracy here previously : https://openskyebookreviews.com/in-the-middle-of-somewhere-by-roan-parrish/)

Morgan’s view

This is written in first person present tense and can be difficult for some authors/readers. I think it’s done very well and after a few pages I didn’t think it felt odd at all.

I really loved the characters. Daniel is hysterical and snarky and insecure and sexy and wonderful. Rex is a simple yet deep (still waters and all that) and the perfect foil for the kinetic energy that is Daniel.

I loved how they came together right away and started building from that. What I didn’t like was the continual waffling. A simple, sincere conversation could have easily eliminated half the angst of this long (maybe too long?) book.

I also didn’t love the ending. After all the torment I really wanted them to end up in a more decisive place. Perhaps this is leading to a book two, but if not, I really wanted more for them. It just felt so wishy washy – and we had put up with a lot of torment for us not to get that glorious satisfaction of a solid HEA.

The side story of Colin, Daniel’s closeted brother, didn’t really lend itself to the story and only served to muddy the waters. Perhaps this is another book to follow, but if not – I’m not sure it was necessary here and definitely distracted from the focus of the book.

All in all I mostly really enjoyed the book, wished it was a bit more tightly edited and wished for a slightly more robust ending.

Audiobook

Robert Nieman is a favorite narrator of mine so I really enjoyed his interpretation of things here. He doesn’t do a lot of different voices, but his voice is a good one – especially for Daniel. Some of the lines that I’d maybe skimmed the first time around made me chuckle out loud while listening. I think this is a great way to enjoy this story.

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Tracy’s View

I know I must have ended my review of this book with this ending, “I need/want this on audio.” And I happily got my wish this past March. I have to say that Robert Nieman has done a tremendous job with this narration. He brings so much life to the story. In my opinion the narrator literally becomes his characters right before your ears. I don’t know how you listen to audiobooks but I find the best way is to just stretch out on your bed or couch with your earbuds and just listen away. The story just comes alive and I tend to drift along with the author’s words and the beautiful narration.

This story is big. And long with lots and lots of internal dialogue from Daniel who happens to be a favorite character of mine. I liked being in his head, exhausting as it was, but as a reader and listener I feel it makes me care for and become more invested in the characters. I think I mentioned in my review of the book that I would’ve loved having more insight into Rex’s inner thoughts and that view hasn’t changed.

So, the characters. Daniel’s voice like I mentioned earlier is very prominent and you get to know him very well. Robert Nieman brought this character to life. He captured Daniel’s hesitance and self doubt so well. The pauses in his narration and the stops and starts in his speech is perfect. He literally becomes Daniel as you listen and I can totally appreciate that. His voice is smooth when Daniel is speaking and his voice trembles when Daniel is upset. He has such a wonderful tone and I always knew how Daniel was feeling through his narration.

Daniel is such a big character. He’s had to grow up tough especially in a house with 3 other brothers and an oblivious father. Their mother died and since then the family has sort of been semi­functional. Daniel is an English professor who gets a job at a small college in an equally small town in Michigan. A far cry from the inner city of Philadelphia. I enjoyed listening to how the narrator brought Daniel to life. His moments of snark and toughness as well as his moments of vulnerability.

Daniel meets Rex Vale, a resident of this small town. Rex lives in a cabin in the woods and works as a carpenter and general handy man. Late one night, Daniel accidentally hits a dog and Rex comes to his rescue.
There ensues awkwardness, angst, growth, romance, fun, pain and healing and this audiobook completely delivers and deserves high praise. Roan Parrish has a way of writing that completely engages you and the narration is equally well done. Robert Nieman has a way of delivering Daniel’s fragility yet also highlights his grittiness. He also does such a wonderful job with Rex. Rex is such a strong character yet he’s very vulnerable as well. I felt those emotions comes across in this audiobook.

Kudos to an author and a narrator that can captivate you from beginning to end. I really hope this narrator has the opportunity to do Colin’s story.

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4.5 of 5 stars

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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

Out of Nowhere (Middle of Somewhere Book 2) by Roan Parrish

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7480

 

OutOfNowhereLGBlurb

The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

 

Review

(Book one reviewed here https://openskyebookreviews.com/in-the-middle-of-somewhere-by-roan-parrish/)

Wow!  This book is completely gutwrenching on so many levels.  Colin.  Oh my poor Colin.

I’ll start by saying that you absolutely must read the first book in this series “In the Middle of Somewhere”.  In that book we first meet Colin and he truly did not leave a good impression on me.   Colin was rude, foul mouthed and was so cruel to his brother Daniel. He would tease Daniel and say all kinds of homophobic things to him.  “Out of Nowhere” really lets you in and shows you exactly why Colin is so hateful.

In fact, he’s such an unlikeable person that at times it was hard to read.  Colin made me so frustrated – I wanted to punch him- probably because he’s so full of self-hate and in complete denial of his sexuality.

Colin lives his life to please his father and is completely jealous of his brother Daniel (who was brave enough to come out to their family). As a result, he punishes himself continuously with alcohol and exercise.  He uses running as a way to escape the thoughts in his head.

Throughout the story Colin gave me the impression of “living in his head”.  This leads to him misinterpreting what family members and other people say – especially his brother Daniel.    (Later on in the story we learn of other ways Colin punishes himself and it’s truly heart-breaking.)  But… what girl doesn’t love a damaged man?  And the hope that someday he will fall in love and everything will work out in the end?  That’s what keeps ya readin’… knowing his redemption is going to be oh so delicious the more horrible he is at the beginning.

I love how the Roan Parrish was able to make my feelings for Colin go from “intensely dislike” to “love”. A true sign of a great author.

Colin has to face some very hard truths about himself and his life.  The author showed us that Colin gained purpose through his work with the YA group and by teaching others.  Mikal, Ricky and DeShawn are great secondary characters.   Colin grew so much through his experiences with these youngs kids and of course…. Rafael.

Ah Rafe.  Rafe is a saint.  Rafe has a past of his own and has made something positive out of his life with his work with the YA group.

Rafe is Colin’s very own knight in shining armor.  He literally comes to Colin’s aid one night as Colin is getting beat up.   He saves the day and there begins a complicated frienship/attraction.  Rafe shows Colin how to care for others – including himself.  Rafe shows Colin through his work with the YA group that everyone’s life has its ups and downs and everyone deserves to be happy and they deserve a second chance.

It’s not an easy road for Colin and Rafe.   The author navigates their relationship so well.   It’s not all hearts and flowers and insta-love.   These guys have to work for it -especially Colin.  Rafe’s instinct to be a caretaker make him want to be there for Colin since he touches something deep inside Rafe’s heart.

I loved how the author shows the stories overlapping.  I am such a big fan of Daniel and Rex it was great to see another perspective on the boys’ childhood.

Daniel and Colin have very different memories about growing up.   Colin believes that Daniel thinks he’s too good for their family and couldn’t wait to move away from them. Whereas Daniel believes that no one really cares about him.  Once Daniel comes out to his family it changes everything.

When a tragic event strikes the family it becomes even more apparent how split apart this family is.  Colin has to come to grips with some pretty serious issues and once his eyes begin to open he can start the repair process to salvage the relationship between himself and his brothers.  Colin comes to slowly realize he’s living a lie and once he accepts certain truths – then he can grow and that is when the magic happens.

This is truly a wonderful story.  It’s a story about life, love and the complications of family. Through the love of one man Colin is able to rise above all of his self-hate and learn to love himself.  This is a very passionate book full of intense scenes.  It’s easily ranking as a favorite of mine.

If I could I’d give it ten stars! Highly Recommended.

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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review