Saturday Smutty Six: “Before you give up on audiobooks, try these” with partial covers for Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews, Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles, Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas, Silver Silence by Nalini Singh, Goal Lines & First Times by Eden Finley and Saxon James, and From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Before You Give Up On Audiobooks, Try These

I don’t read nearly as fast as Holly or Ingrid, and I really like to multitask in certain areas (embroidery and movie night, anyone?). Holly and Ingrid were recently bemoaning (might be a strong word, but if they weren’t, they should have been) the fact that they can’t process audiobooks, and there I sat, wondering how on earth I’d live without them. (I mean, I would, but my shopping trips would be less fun.)

Aside from one’s ability to process audiobooks or not, there’s the matter of narrators. A narrator can make or break an audiobook. I’m sure I’ve listened to audiobooks that I might have thought were just okay if I had read them, but the narrator brought the story to life in such a way I thought it was fantastic. I might do another smutty six featuring narrators I like to listen to, but for today we’re looking at the combination of great stories brought to life with great narration. 

I decided to organize these more or less (how does one even compare apples and oranges, anyway?) in order so we end with my absolute, top, I-squee-to-everyone recommendation. So without further ado, before you give up on audiobooks, try these:

From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

Narrated by Callie Dalton and Teddy Hamilton

Zapata’s books are all first person from the heroine’s perspective, and typically that narration would simply be done by a woman reading the whole book, but in this case, Callie Dalton narrates the story, and Teddy Hamilton voices only Ivan’s lines. The style is unusual and absolutely not for everyone, but I enjoy Dalton’s calm tones with enough intonation to give us Jasmine’s attitude, and Teddy Hamilton’s voice is mellifluous, bringing Ivan to life even though he’s not reading any full chapters. Plus, Lukov is one of Zapata’s most popular books.

Goal Lines & First Times by Eden Finley and Saxon James

Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma

I have listened to so many books narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma, and I typically  find the combination delightful, but this is the one I’m suggesting. Both narrators have very distinctive voices (Cendese especially), so YMMV, but Cendese as the cuddly but clueless hockey himbo, Cohen, and Toma as the academically superlative but romantically sidelined grad student, Seth, in a playful college romance, really lets those voices shine. 

Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Narrated by Angela Dawe

Did I listen to 19 Psy-Changeling books in a row? In a month? I sure did. Angela Dawe is so easy to listen to. Why am I recommending Silver Silence instead of Slave to Sensation? Well, it’s the beginning of Psy-Changeling, Part II a.k.a. Psy-Changeling Trinity, so it’s a good place to start, and without some dated stuff from the earliest books. But really? The bears. 


Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

Mary Jane Wells has narrated many books, but I just listened to this one to prep for our Back to Old School duel, and, look, I stan Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. I could have listened to a satisfactory narration of the book, and it would have been fine if he weren’t quite right, but let’s face it: I would have left unsatisfied. Luckily, I listened to Mary Jane Wells, who absolutely nailed the assignment. She had me chuckling out loud at Sebastian’s outrageousness because she captured him perfectly.

Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles

Narrated by Cornell Collins

It’s possible I have accent envy, but really, kudos to Cornell Collins for managing all the different accents in this whole series (there are quite a few). The way he brought Will and Kim to life… So fun. And I legit gasped when Will and Kim kissed for the first time. It’s so fun when a narrator pulls you into the story so completely that you react out loud to what’s happening. Another winning combination: KJ Charles is an exceptional storyteller, and this series deserved—and got—an exceptional narrator.

Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews

Narrated by Renée Raudman

I have enjoyed many an audiobook, but I do not think I have ever heard a better narration than Renée Raudman’s in this trilogy. Some of the voices she creates for the secondary characters seem not to be from the same person who is voicing the narrator. The first time I listened to this book, I made excuses to keep cleaning my house so I could binge all three almost straight through. It doesn’t hurt that the story is riveting, too.


Bonus points:

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Neil Gaiman

I know it’s not romance, it’s actually a short children’s book (<1hr), which is how I found it: desperately searching for something to occupy my kids on a drive. It. Is. Amazing. Gaiman simply brings to life this witty and outlandish story about a father explaining to his children why he was late coming back from the corner shop with their milk for breakfast. It involves a stegosaurus, a hot air balloon, a Really Good Moves Around in Time Machine, and, of course, the milk.


Want to give audiobooks a try? All of these romances are available on Audible. (Or support your local library by seeing if they’re on Hoopla!)

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: Hockey Season = Hockey Romance

Well, I decided to do a hockey round-up for the beginning of hockey season, but apparently most of the hockey books I’ve read are college sportsball, or I’ve already talked about them on the blog in a review or a listicle, and obviously I wanted to talk about new-to-us books. So I’m left with a M/M pro hockey romance list. There will be teammates. There will be coaches. There will be celebrities, and some normal people, too. Mostly, it’ll be fun.

So, here! Have some hockey romances!


Trade Deadline by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Nothing to see here but sweetness. After winning the Stanley Cup, Daniel wonders what’s next for his career, so when an offer comes to be an influential veteran for the struggling Miami team, he takes it. His risk is rewarded: it turns out that his childhood bestie still lives in Miami (he works with the marine mammals at the aquarium!), and Micah isn’t opposed to picking up where they left off—first kiss and unrealized romantic dreams finally realized?—now that they’re back in the same city. But Daniel’s career is dependent on his team winning, and Micah can’t find aquarium jobs just anywhere. Bonus points: If you’re looking for an MC with an amicable divorce, I found one for ya! (Daniel’s ex moves with him so they can keep co-parenting equally.)

Skater Boy by A.E. Wasp

Sergei and Alex have been best friends since Sergei was billetted in Alex’s house for juniors. Alex is a retired olympic medalist figure skater who’s floundering and broke. Sergei is an extremely successful professional goalie. When Alex finds out he’s the other man for the jerk who turned out to be a controlling sugar daddy, he has nowhere to go but to Sergei until he figures out his next move. Meanwhile, Sergei, who is giving off many demisexual vibes, realizes that, in fact, he’s interested in more than friendship with Alex. Fun story, though! Just when they’re thinking they might be able to do this relationship thing, they get the curveball of becoming parents as well. Definite domestic bliss fantasy wish fulfillment in this one. This book would be better with more editing, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless.

Hat Trick by Eden Finley

So, look, I started this series at the beginning, and I enjoyed it all; however, the last two books in this series were added after the planned three because the characters just really needed their stories told. Which is likely why they’re my favorites. Soren is the first out player in the NHL. He came out in Deke (#3), which is also a hockey romance (FYI). But now he’s getting old. He’s getting slower. There might not be much hockey left in him, but he’s going to enjoy being the 5th wheel on his Fijian vacation and play next season refreshed. Then Jet comes back in need of some TLC. Jet is the little brother of Trick Play’s (#2) hero. He’s a spitfire. He’s a rock star. But when he and Soren hooked up three years before, he was just getting started. And he’s still ten years younger than Soren. Their relationship has “bad idea” written all over it, but they just don’t care anymore.


Gravity by Tal Bauer

Can I interest you in some angst? The first…half(?) of this book is an emotional roller coaster. It’s followed by some lovely, calm sweetness like snuggles under the blanket by the fire when the snow is falling outside. And then someone almost dies. Me, I am a sucker for an “Oh my God, you almost died, and then I would have died!” moment, but I feel I should warn readers that this one was particularly, er, graphically terrifying. Pucks are no joke, folks. And then the ending is really lovely. Broadly speaking, I liked this book. Bryce is the biggest player in the league, and he’s closeted, but it doesn’t matter because he’s never interested in anybody. He and Hunter hit it off immediately, but Hunter’s convinced he’s straight. Mixed signals ensue. Enter the angst-fest.

Home & Away by Samantha Wayland

The quantity of absolutely bananas stuff in this book (I mean, just Rupert’s background alone) is one thing that’s extremely entertaining if you roll with it. But the primary draw of this is probably going to be that it’s 100% playing house, we-made-a-family fantasy wish fulfillment. Callum and Rupert get off on the wrong foot when professional goalie Callum buys into the minor-pro (CHL-type) hockey team Rupert manages, but when Rupert’s 4yo brother needs rescuing, one thing leads to another. And another. And sharing a bed. And a hotel room. And coordinating childcare. And making decisions together. And why is Callum going back to his pro-hockey career in a different country, again?

Changing the Rules by Brigham Vaughn

Y’all, I cannot resist a coach romance. If it’s coach-player, so much the better. It’s so naugty. And Gabriel and Lance know they’re being naughty. The one thing they have going for them is that Lance coaches the forwards and Gabriel plays defense. They’re both living their second chance—a TBI ended Lance’s pro career and his marriage, and it took him many years to rehabilitate himself until he was able to coach; Gabriel’s only outlet for his personal woes has been sex and fighting, so his last chance at a pro career after being put on waivers is to toe the line in Evanston. If you’re into a wholeheartedly caring and supportive friendship as a romantic foundation, this one delivers.


Well, shoot, I wrote up this whole Saturday Smutty Six and then started making the graphics and found I had seven! Plus my bonus down below! Whatever. More romance is better than less romance! Enjoy this Saturday Smutty Seventh and the Taylor Fitzpatrick it’s-technically-not-genre-romance-but-it-slayed-me bonus below.

Power Play by Avon Gale 

Why have one coach when you could have two? I don’t know. And I didn’t try to resist, honestly. Max is the new assistant coach for an ECHL team, and he is very surprised to discover that his head coach is none other than Misha, the guy who caused the accident that ended Max’s pro career. You’d think the conflict would center on this one injury that so significantly impacted both men…but it doesn’t. Instead, Misha has a lot of baggage about a lot of things (among them is Max’s injury, but it’s by no means the biggest), and both men are fighting for the health, wellbeing, and success of all their players. If you’re into scenes involving holidays that bring people together, I found a book for you!


Bonus points: Thrown Off the Ice by Taylor Fitzpatrick

It’s not *technically* a genre romance, but oh my gosh it was such a beautiful love story. I wouldn’t typically recommend a book that’s not a romance because I get super ragey when I go in thinking something is a romance and it’s not, but there are a couple things about this book that made it really worthwhile. If you want a good cry with a lifelong love story between a veteran D-man and a rookie forward that has so, so much heart, I do recommend this one. 


Got any hockey recommendations for Erin? Please let her know. Seriously. She needs them all.

Listicle

Saturday Smutty Six: M/M Sports Romance

Our Smashdown can’t be limited to only 8 duels and a few other reviews! In order to showcase some more lovely sports romance, we need listicles! 

This week Erin’s spotlighting some of the M/M sports romance that she’s read but hasn’t reviewed for the blog:

(I will note that because of the very small number of out queer players in professional sports, a lot of these narratives (in general) involve secret relationships, internalized homophobia, and coming out stories.)


Game Changer by Rachel Reid

At the time of publication, there were no out professional hockey players in the NHL, so Scott’s story is a what-if exploration of big feels. At first, Kip is happy just to be falling in love, and Scott can’t believe he’s so lucky as to have what he never thought he would, but before long the pressure of keeping the relationship a secret wears on the couple. The close narrative focus on Scott and Kip helps create the sense of isolation that the relationship has created for the protagonists. The lovely thing is, they never doubt their love for each other; this is a story that illustrates that love doesn’t magically make everything perfect, but it does provide support and safety when the world is scary and decisions are tough. 

The Endgame by Riley Hart

Game Changer but make it football. I kid! But it is a sports coming out story. Anson is carrying a lot of internalized homophobia and is living a lie, sleeping with women so no one suspects his secret. It’s extremely taxing on his emotional health. Weston’s extremely conservative parents sent him to conversion therapy camp as a teen, so even though he’s a successful out and proud senator now, he understands that Anson needs a friend and keeps reaching out to let Anson know he’s not alone, even after Anson shoots him down. Then their friendship becomes physical, and everything changes. Weston knows that love alone won’t make the secret relationship last, but he’s braced for heartbreak. Seeing what Weston is willing to do for him makes Anson realize not only what he’s willing to do in return for Weston, but for himself as well.

Blindsided by Eden Finley

If you love a book where the LI uses a different name than everybody else, look no further! Miller’s been low-key in love with Talon since they were in college together. When they’re on the same team again years later, Talon seems to think everything is just fine, but revisiting their old group sexcapades proves it’s really not. Talon can’t figure what’s wrong, but when Miller is injured and facing the possible end of his career, Talon refuses to let go of their dream of winning the Super Bowl together just as much as he refuses to let go of the friend who’s burrowed so deep in his heart that he moved to Chicago instead of winning another ring with his old team. Their dynamic is just the sweetest.


Empty Net by Avon Gale

Can I interest you in some angst? There’s a lot in this book, between Isaac’s history of sex work due to his economic and housing insecurity (possibly discussed more in Power Play than in this book, but still discussed) and Laurent’s history of abuse and his eating disorder. There’s a lot here that warrants content notes. BUT when Laurent is traded to Issac’s team as a punishment, he finally finds a safe harbor with a man who should be his rival. They’re both goalies who need to be the one in the net in order to succeed, and yet they are able to support each other in really lovely ways, even as the story is fraught with emotional tension. Also, these are professional hockey players, but they’re playing ECHL hockey, which is a feeder for AHL hockey (a.k.a. the “farm teams” for the NHL), so they’re getting paid almost nothing and playing hard in hopes of being selected for an AHL spot.

Undone By You by Kate Meader

This story was teased in So Over You, so of course I immediately bought it and then Bad Decisions Book Clubbed it. And its sequel. If bedding-the-boss, secret-relationship: hockey edition interests you at all, I would recommend this book. Cade isn’t out – he doesn’t think his dad would take it well, and that’s scary, plus being the first out NHL player is not his dream – but he knows he really wants Dante, so he makes his play. Dante, who’s defending his dream job of being GM of a pro hockey team, really doesn’t want to risk anything by fooling around with a player. But Cade is just SO irresistible. Cade plays Dante really well to get what he wants – Dante’s a caregiver, and their age gap emphasizes that – but at the end of the day, they take care of each other, so the relationship is not one-sided.

Dirty Slide by Lauren Blakely and KD Casey

If you’d like to read a short, sexy romance without a lot of angst, this is a very fun book. I really love that runners and basemen can, like, have a little chat while they’re waiting for the next play. Anyway Chris and Josh are rivals on different teams, and they totally flirt during games together until Josh gets super grumpy about losing the World Series and kinda sorta has a snit about Chris playing dirty. Chris, being much more sunshiney, brushes off Josh’s grumbling because he a) won the World Series and b) still knows they could be great together. And he proves it when they have a quickie in a room where, let’s be honest, anybody could walk in. *Fans self* 

Bonus points: if you’ve read Unwritten Rules, you’ll note that Zach and Eugenio are playing the World Series against each other. So that’s fun.