November Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

black and white image of a man walking away from the viewer into the fog - he's walking alongside a barbed wire fenceThe Tyack & Frayne series by Harper Fox  Well… less of a review and more of a series recommendation really.  As you might know, I attempted to cut off the top of one of my fingers a few weeks ago and the recovery period has left me struggling with typing. As a result I took a break from review books while I recovered (well, mostly recovered) and read/listened to things already on my TBR/TBL. As much as it is a privilege and pleasure to read review books and have early access to them, it is also a delight to read or listen just for fun. 

One of the fantastic things I did over the past few weeks was listen to all of the Tyack & Frayne mysteries by Harper Fox. The entire series is not available on audio yet (alas), but the first 7 book are and – joy of joys, they’re all available in the Audible Plus catalogue. (Also at the time of writing this, book 1 is available to buy for only $3.99.) The series is built around Cornish local police officer, Gideon Frayne and Lee Tyack, a clairvoyant who is called in by the Truro police to consult on the disappearance of a young girl from Gideon’s village. There are mysterious and spooky goings on and along the way, Gideon and Lee fall deeply in love. Each of the available audiobooks is self-contained – no cliffhangers – but they do need to be consumed in order as they build one upon the other.

I love the connection Gideon and Lee have and I also enjoy the Cornish setting and the use of local myth and legend which adds to the atmosphere.

Driftwood by Harper Fox, narrated by Chris Clog

A sleeping or unconscious man lies on the sand, only his head (face in profile) and right shoulder/arm are in view. He appears to be under shallow clear water.Why I read it:  After listening to Priddy’s Tale recently I went and bought a few more of Harper Fox’s audiobooks.I was especially keen to listen to more of Chris Clog.

Content warning: Description of sexual violence and abuse.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  What the tide washes in, the past can sweep away.

All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He’s home in Cornwall after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn’t. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishaps and shatters Tom’s lonely peace.

Flynn is a crash-and-burn in progress, one of only two survivors of a devastating rescue helicopter crash that killed his crew. His carefree charm is merely a cover for the messed-up soul within. The sparks between him and Tom are the first light he’s seen in a long, dark tunnel of self-recrimination, which includes living in sexual thrall to fellow crash survivor and former co-pilot, Robert.

As their attraction burns through spring and into summer, Tom must confront not only his own shadows, but Flynn’s before the past rises up to swallow his lover whole.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’m generally not a fan of cheating in romance. Even if the person being cheated on is a jerk. Which just goes to show that there are exceptions to every rule because I really didn’t have a problem with it here. Perhaps that was because it became apparent that the relationship Flynn and Robert have is not based on consent. Robert is far worse than just a jerk. The author deftly and cleverly shows the unhealthy nature of the relationship while also showing why Flynn stays so long. It’s complicated. There is no judgement in it. It’s sad and scary and it felt realistic, even in the somewhat heightened melodrama of the plot.

Tom Penrose is the village doctor in a small Cornish town. He’s coping with his own demons after returning from the war in Afghanistan and lives a fairly reclusive life with only his Irish wolfhound dog, Belle, for company. He meets Flynn on the beach one morning after Flynn is wiped out by a big wave when surfing. Tom, being the caretaker he is, goes into the water to help. There is a clear connection between the two men (Belle immediately loves Flynn which is, of course, a SIGN) but nothing more really happens. Tom is called away to assist one of his patients who is suicidal after his own war experience and their moment is lost.

July Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

A white man in his mid to late 20s stands against a door. He has short dark hair and is wearing a dark gray t-shirt and his arms are folded across his chest. Only his upper torso and head are visible.Marty and the Pilot by Harper Fox, narrated by Chris Clog – B- This book is part of the #AudibleRomance package. It’s my third Harper Fox book narrated by Chris Clog in a very short space of time (about 2 weeks and the last two were back to back). I’m definitely a fan of this narrator.  This book wasn’t quite the success of Priddy’s Tale and Driftwood – but it was nevertheless still worth my time. Marty and the Pilot isn’t quite a melancholy as the other two books I’ve listened to and as such it didn’t quite have the mood I enjoyed so much in the earlier two books. I also didn’t quite trust Devlin (Marty’s pilot) and the story was a bit too fast to entirely convince me he was in a place to really commit to a relationship. This is somewhat strange because Flynn (from Driftwood) was arguably more messed up but I believed him. Maybe it’s because Tom and Flynn were both messed up. Marty here is pretty much together. He likes himself and the life he’s built. He knows what’s important. In some ways, he’s a “Marty Stu” (and is perhaps very aptly named) but he doesn’t have the same journey that Devlin has.

Priddy’s Tale by Harper Fox, narrated by Chris Clog

Muscular dark-haired man wearing only a sand-coloured towel, looking down as he fastens it around his hips, against the backdrop of a brick wall with a quartered window.Why I read it:  I downloaded this one with the #AudibleRomance package.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  What doesn’t kill you sometimes makes you wish it had…

Priddy’s a lost soul in a part of Cornwall the tourists don’t get to see. He’s young, sweet-natured and gorgeous, but that’s not enough to achieve escape velocity from his deadbeat village and rotten family life.

He’s a drifter and a dreamer, and self-preservation isn’t his strong suit. An accidental overdose of a nightclub high leaves him fractured, hallucinating, too many vital circuits fried to function in a tough world. When a friend offers him winter work in a lighthouse – nothing to do but press the occasional button and keep the windows clean – he gratefully accepts.

His plans to live quietly and stay out of trouble don’t last very long. A ferocious Atlantic storm washes a stranger to Priddy’s lonely shore. For a shipwrecked sailor, the new arrival seems very composed. He’s also handsome as hell, debonair, and completely unconcerned by Priddy’s dreadful past.

Priddy has almost given up on the prospect of any kind of friendship, and a new boyfriend – let alone a six-foot beauty with eerily good swimming skills – out of the question entirely. But Merou seems to see undreamed-of promise in Priddy, and when they hit the water together, Priddy has to adapt to Merou’s potentials too, and fast. His lover from the sea might be a mere mortal from the waist up, but south of that line…

Far-flung west Cornwall has a hundred mermaid tales. Priddy’s loved the stories all his life. Now he has to face up to a wildly impossible truth. Merou’s life depends upon his courage and strength, and if Priddy can only find his way in the extraordinary world opening up all around him, all the ocean and a human lifetime needn’t be enough to contain the love between merman and mortal.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  While I have many Harper Fox books on my TBR, I haven’t read most of them. I remember enjoying Life After Joe after it was first released – way back in 2010 now. What sticks in my memory is how well Ms. Fox writes melancholy. There is a way she writes which is poignant and sweet and sad but not tipping over into emotional torture porn or OTT melodrama. Like Nora Roberts, Ms. Fox makes me care about characters quickly. And in Priddy’s Tale, I cared so much about Priddy almost from the start of the book. He’s young and a little lost, recovering from an accidental drug overdose which has derailed a life which was already difficult because of an abusive father. When Priddy’s best friend, Kit, leaves town to attend university, Priddy feels very alone.

Once Upon a Haunted Moor by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert

Black and white photo of a man in the distance walking against a wire fenceline on a misty moorWhy I read it:  My friend Caz recommended this series to me.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. It’s not life in the fast lane, but he takes it very seriously, and his first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he’s gutted – he’s a level-headed copper who doesn’t believe in such things, and he can’t help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl.

But Lee is hard to hate, no matter how Gideon tries. At first Lee’s insights into the case make no sense, but he seems to have a window straight into Gideon’s heart. Son of a Methodist minister, raised in a tiny Cornish village, Gideon has hidden his sexuality for years. It’s cost him one lover, and he can’t believe it when this green-eyed newcomer stirs up old feelings and starts to exert a powerful force of attraction.

Gideon and Lee begin to work together on the case. But there are malignant forces at work in the sleepy little village of Dark, and not only human ones – Gideon is starting to wonder, against all common sense, if there might be some truth in the terrifying legend of the Bodmin Beast after all. As a misty Halloween night consumes the moor, Gideon must race against time to save not only the lost child but the man who’s begun to restore his faith in his own heart.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I enjoyed the story very much. It was a short (novella-length) audio and, considering that the main characters had not met before it began, it managed to sell me on the budding relationship between Gideon and Lee. There is a bit of insta-lust (nothing wrong with that) and perhaps one or two narrative jumps which suprised me just a little in the romantic story but nothing I wasn’t able to go with fairly easily. Gideon’s last relationship broke down because he was closeted. It’s clear that he has enough regret about that and enough time had passed that when Lee bobs up in his life, Gideon wasn’t likely to let that happen again. So it made sense to me.

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