4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 4 Stars, Reviewed by Sadonna, Tere Michaels

Audio Review: Duty & Devotion by Tere Michaels – Narrated by JP Handler

Audio Gem

Title: Duty & Devotion

Author: Tere Michaels

Narrator: JP Handler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 5 Hours and 21 Minutes

At a Glance: A really engaging and enjoyable follow-up for Evan and Matt from Faith & Fidelity, as they – and their relationship – continue to evolve.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: After their happily ever after in Faith & Fidelity, Matt and Evan move forward to a new chapter of their lives — inside the bedroom and out — with some surprises in store for both. Evan struggles with labels and feelings, even as he wants to give in to his baser desires. Matt, now the ideal househusband of Queens, New York, has his own set of struggles — who is he now? What does he need and want?

A visit from his friend, and one-night stand, Jim Shea (of Love & Loyalty), throws everything into disarray as Evan’s jealousy and unease push Matt’s buttons — and not always in a good way.

Dividers

Review: Note: Duty & Devotion is book three in what is, so far, a five book series. I don’t recommend reading/listening to this one until you’ve at least read book one, as there are numerous spoilers. It’s not completely necessary to have read book two, but I would recommend reading that one before reading/listening to book four.

Let me start by saying that Matt Haight is one of my favorite characters in the genre. I love, love, love his personality. The contrast between Matt and Evan is part of what makes this couple so much fun. Evan is still, in some ways, very uptight, but Matt, with his wit and charm and ability to push Evan, keep them going. While I think both of them have some fears about their relationship and what it means – for their careers, the kids, the future – Matt is able to sense Evan’s reluctance and help him over the humps of living.

In this book, Matt and Evan are together, they have moved to a new house, Miranda is in college, and Katie and the twins are at home and taking the majority of Matt’s focus. He has built pretty solid relationships with these kids. Evan continues to work too much, and in some ways he takes Matt for granted – realizing, even as he’s doing it, that he is repeating the patterns of his relationship with Sherry. He also seems to have a pretty jealous streak that comes to the fore when it comes to Matt and his friendship with Jim Shea. He can sort of deal with it when Jim stays on the West Coast, but when he comes to town with his boyfriend Griffin, this brings up all kinds of issues for Evan.

While he agrees to dinner with Jim and Griffin, he definitely doesn’t deal well with the situation. He’s jealous of Matt’s relationship with Jim, and finds himself dealing with other very new emotions when he’s around Jim and Griffin. A crisis that confronts everyone leads to a lot of revelations and epiphanies for Matt and Evan – some that will change their relationship entirely.

There continues to be a lot of humor and warmth in this series – mostly centered around Matt and his relationships – with the kids, Evan, his friends and new friends. Evan’s coworkers are still supportive and also add a good dose of reality checks and humor. Heavy moments, and especially Evan still dealing with so many mixed emotions, the chief of them being guilt, add to the drama of the story. But, as usual, there is a great balance of light and dark, humor and pathos, and fun and games.

The narrator continues to do a good job with the characterizations in this series. I particularly like his way of conveying Matt’s playful side, but he also imbues him with both serious and realistic traits as well. Highly recommended for lovers of this series.







 

You can buy Duty & Devotion here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Tere Michaels

Audio Review: Love & Loyalty by Tere Michaels – Narrated by JP Handler

Title: Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love & Devotion: Book Two)

Author: Tere Michaels

Narrator:: JP Handler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 5 Hours, 32 Minutes

At a Glance: I can honestly say that the audio version of Love & Loyalty was a wonderful way to spend a pleasant few hours

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Detective James “Jim” Shea is a Seattle homicide detective who has never taken his work home with him – until now. A case has gotten under his skin and though it’s “over,” it isn’t for Jim. The emotional toll has left him vulnerable and tied to the victim’s dying father.

Meanwhile, Hollywood comes calling for a hot story, and screenwriter Griffin Drake sees the tragic case as his ticket to more serious fare than his usual action blockbusters. But to get the whole story he needs to win over the stoic and protective Detective Shea.

Neither man has had much luck when it comes to romance or long-term relationships and neither is particularly looking but there’s an attraction from their first meeting that can’t be denied. Their impromptu first date seems to have no end in sight – quickly becomes a barreling freight train of romance.

Looming problems outside threaten their relationship – death, secrets and broken trust – and they’ll have to learn loyalty to save their newfound love.

Dividers

Review: Love & Loyalty, book two in Tere Michaels’ Faith, Love & Devotion series, focuses on Jim Shea, the one night stand in that awkward moment in Faith & Fidelity when Matt succumbs to his loneliness after the initial breakup with Evan. Jim, an out of town cop, also needed intimacy with another guy in order to forget the stifling crush he had on his soon to be married roommate, Ben. Jim is back home and about to hear the verdict in a case he has more than just a passing interest in. When the verdict is revealed, and even more tragedy strikes the couple who lost their only daughter, Jim steps in to care for the ailing spouse left behind.

The case had garnered national attention, and Griffin Drake, a successful screenwriter, descends with his best friend and screen starlet, Daisy Mae, to wrap up a deal that will ensure the story is handled with grace and respect. But all is not gold in Hollywood, and Griffin is about to feel the sting of his best friend’s betrayal, which sends him straight into the arms of a silent, aloof cop who is best described as a loner. Jim, still pining for Ben, is stunned when he finds he is attracted to the sarcastic and affable Griffin. But surely this heady lust could not be misconstrued as love, or could it?

First, let me remark that I felt there was a huge change in this author’s approach to this second novel. Gone was the heavy angst of the previous book and instead, there was a lively story that captivated me completely. Lighter, witty, sarcastic, and just downright sweet, Love & Loyalty was a lovely novel of two different worlds colliding to form a gorgeous partnership. I must admit I simply adored Griffin; he was such an incredibly fun foil to Jim’s more dour and reluctant character. He teased such sweetness from Jim—much like Matt did in that short vignette in book one. This was a sweet story, shorter yet more complete in many ways than the first, the angst minimal, rather more time spent on discovering who these two people are and what makes them tick.

In keeping with this change in the author’s voice, the narrator, JP Handler, used a vastly different voice—deeper, gruffer and much more natural sounding. I felt that he really captured the essence of these characters with his tone and inflection. There was more variety in his pacing, and the speed of this narration was smoother and lighter. Granted, this was a great deal less heavy than the first book, but I felt JP Handler has developed better skill in varying his voicing of the characters. The only down side of Mr. Handler’s interpretation was that tendency to go breathy and a smidge high for both Griffin and Daisy. I felt that the style of voice used for Griffin made him just a tad bit too effeminate. Other than that little glitch, I really felt JP Handler grew into his craft with this novel, and look forward to hearing him do more work that will continue to stretch his abilities as a narrator.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The story was refreshing and sweet, the narration nearly spot on and playful. I can honestly say that the audio version of Love & Loyalty was a wonderful way to spend a pleasant few hours with a delightfully tender love story.






You can buy Love & Loyalty here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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3.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Tere Michaels

Audio Review: Faith & Fidelity by Tere Michaels – Narrated by JP Handler

Title: Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love & Devotion: Book One)

Author: Tere Michaels

Narrator:: JP Handler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 9 Hours, 48 Minutes

At a Glance: I think my biggest issue with the novel, overall, was that it dragged on in places.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli has lost his wife, the only person he ever loved and slept with. He’s trying to get on with his life, build a life for his children. Former Homicide Detective Matt Haight is a ladies’ man, all sex/no commitment. He’s depressed, having a midlife crisis, and not sure where his life is headed.

The two find friendship in the bottom of a shared bottle. When the friendship turns to love, it shakes two straight men to the core and flips their lives inside out. Kids, families, careers that are not gay-friendly — can all the love in the world overcome the obstacles to faith and fidelity?

Dividers

Review: Normally I would not give a disclaimer about my reviews but I feel it is important for you to know how I based my review on the narrator of this audiobook. A good portion of my high school and college years were spent speaking competitively. I received high honors, particularly in the area of Dramatic Interpretation, which included acting out scenes from plays with noted changes in pitch of voice, subtle nuances of both tempo and facial expressions, to indicate a different character, etc. I tell you this because when one is listening to an audiobook, it is vital for a narrator to change both tone and pitch to delineate the many speakers in the novel, particularly when there isn’t a “he said” attached to the dialogue. So, without further qualifiers, let’s take a look at the audio version of Tere Michael’s Faith & Fidelity, and the dulcet tones of its narrator, JP Handler.

This story revolves around two needy and wounded men finding each other, first in friendship. Theirs was a relationship built on mutual need, Evan having lost the love of his life and carrying enormous guilt over the fact his career as a cop kept him away from his family for long hours. He is mired in grief, and his four children live a half-life of sorts due to his inability to move past the loss of their mother. He is so tortured and so heavily invested in his memories that he cannot bring himself to date or even consider ridding his bedroom of his wife’s things. As a result, he sleeps on the sofa and moves through life in an almost zombie-like state, until he meets Matt Haight.

Matt works for a security firm, having lost his job as a cop due to his tendency toward angry outbursts and shooting off his mouth at the wrong time. Having angered some high-up politicians, he was booted from the force, and grieves the loss of his position every day. He finds his solace in the bottle of booze that is never far from him. When he is invited to a retirement party for a fellow cop, Matt attends with a great deal of trepidation and a healthy slug of alcohol to give him courage. When he meets Evan, there is a certain appeal to the guy, and they end up meeting to shoot the breeze. One get-together leads to another, and before they know it, these two have become best friends, and then…something more.

I enjoyed this novel for many reasons. I felt the two men and their attraction and horror over their attraction was very realistic. I appreciated the grief that consumed Evan, and found the way he interacted with his in-laws and children to be spot on—tinged with such sadness and remorse. I think my biggest issue with the novel, overall, was that it dragged on in places. Utilizing a changing point-of-view in the story I felt allowed things to keep on rolling—I had no problem with that at all. But the heavy-handed approach to Evan’s character—I felt that tended to weigh down the flow of the story overall. While I understood his angst over being “found out” in his relationship with Matt, I struggled with his not gradually letting go of his dead wife. Consequently, the fast resolve at the end of the novel left me uncertain if he was going to be able to be with Matt for a long-term future.

Speaking of the end, I also felt the quick turnaround by Matt in accepting Evan’s desire to reignite their love for each other to be way too easy and quick. Given the incredibly emotional breakup they endured, and then the abrupt turnaround—the story felt unfinished to me. Plus, there was unfinished business between these two men and no explanation of all they had done while apart—both having gone through some really emotional things. I realize this was a set up for future installments in the series, but I felt the final chapters of this novel sped up to the point where the storyline suffered.

As to the narration of the story, JP Handler certainly captured the emotional tone and angst of the novel. His trembling voice gave such resonance to the sadness inherent in Evan’s character. The sarcastic and deflective cadence to Matt’s voice really allowed me to understand the way he tended to hide his fragile emotional state over his inability to commit to a relationship and his sadness over leaving the force. The speed, clarity and handling of this extensive story were done well by Mr. Handler. However, I felt the variations in pitch and voices were a bit thin. When the narration did not include a clue as to who was speaking, I found it hard to delineate between Evan and Matt. Also, the slightly breathy and higher pitches for the female characters were not always consistent and left me wondering who was addressing whom in a conversational dialogue portion of the story.

All in all, this was a challenging novel to put to audio, given its length and numerous side characters. Also, it was highly charged emotionally, and that alone made the audio so hard to listen to at times due to the heavy tone of the written material. I am eager, however, to see what JP Handler does with the next installment of this series. I am hoping he will have a lighter text to read from, and we will be able to see the depth of his interpretive skills.






You can buy Faith & Fidelity here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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Giveaways, The Year In Reviews

Simply The Best 2014: Round Four – The Year In Reviews and a Giveaway

2014

Hi, everyone!

We are thisclose to the end of our best of the best selections for this year. In case you missed the earlier selections, Sammy’s and Tina’s can be found HERE, Jackie’s, Lana’s, and Jules’ can be found HERE, and Lynn’s and Chris’s HERE.

Since Kim and Kathie are the audio connoisseurs in our group, today’s feature are their top picks in the audiobook category, and guess what? TNA is going to give you the chance to win TWO of the listed titles. And guess what else? If you’re selected as the winner, you get to choose which titles you’d like in either audio or e-book format. Continue reading

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