Audiobook Rating: 3.75 stars
Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Narrator: Sean Crisden
Length: 6 hours and 34 minutes
Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Book Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
At age 45, things are going pretty well for Nate Qells. He is a popular English professor, has a great son who loves him, and is best friends with his ex-wife Melanie. He even has a close, almost paternal relationship with Michael, the 16-year old who lives next door with his uncle. But so far Nate hasn’t found someone to truly love. In fact, he has never really even opened himself up to love. Not until he finally notices his next door neighbor, Michael’s uncle Dreo Fiore.
Although the men have met many times as they exchange care for Michael, Nate has never really seen Dreo. It isn’t until parts of Dreo’s life as a mob bodyguard begin to hit close to home that their interaction increases, and suddenly Nate realizes just how much he likes the younger man. Even more, he learns that Dreo has wanted him for years, he has just been too afraid to say anything. Plus, with Dreo’s job, having an openly gay relationship would have been impossible. But now that Dreo is getting out of mob work and into a legitimate job, a relationship for them is finally possible. Now that Nate’s eyes are open, he is falling hard for Dreo, and along with Michael, they are starting to build a future together. But Dreo’s former job is hard to leave behind, and risks to their safety may ruin things before they can even start.
I have heard such wonderful things about Acrobat by Mary Calmes, mostly along the lines of “Dreo. Sigh.” So when the chance came to review this one on audiobook, I snatched it up. And no, Dreo does not disappoint. Although the story is told from Nate’s POV, Dreo really stole the show for me (and just about everyone I talk to). He is younger than Nate at 28 and has been raising his nephew for years after his sister’s death. He took a job working as a bodyguard for a mobster so he could support Michael, and Dreo is a good, solid guy despite his profession. Dreo has been longing for Nate for years, and when he finally gets him, he is all growly, possessive hotness. Nate loves that sense of being taken, and Dreo just overwhelms him with his sexual intensity. He is so incredibly hot, but also so warm and sweet. Just an amazing character.
Nate is also a good guy. He maintains a wonderful relationship with his ex-wife and her husband and is close with his son. Nate has also spent years casually looking after Michael next door, inviting the boy over for meals, taking him on outings, and generally looking out for him when Dreo is off at work. They have a lovely relationship and one I really enjoyed. But while I found Nate very likable, the downside for me was how intensely likable everyone else found him as well. Throughout the entire book, virtually everyone who meets Nate adores him. People constantly talk about how wonderful he is and how incredibly attractive they find him. Honestly there is scene after scene of people extolling Nate’s many virtues, to the point I found it somewhat ridiculous. Not to mention he is totally oblivious to his looks or his affect on people, constantly perplexed when someone calls him attractive. So I found him a really great character, but the constant obsessive praise and Nate’s own cluelessness started to get a bit much after a while.
I really enjoyed how the relationship develops between Nate and Dreo. Although Dreo has been pining after Nate for a while, Nate hasn’t realized it. And slowly over the first part of the book, we see Nate begin to notice Dreo, bit by bit. The attraction grows until Nate can not believe he never realized how hot Dreo is, or how warm and wonderful. It is a very sweet build to their relationship, and when they finally get together they are just explosive.
Much of the suspense side of story focuses on Dreo’s job with the mob and the fallout from both a change of power and from Dreo coming out as gay. It adds a nice contrast to the relationship side of things and builds in the conflict without stirring up trouble between Dreo and Nate. I did find myself questioning Nate’s reaction to Dreo’s role in the mob however. He seems to alternate between oblivious (a hit man is found dead outside his fire escape while Dreo is sleeping over and it never occurs to Nate that it might have something to do with Dreo’s job), and completely unconcerned about what his lover does for a living. It just seemed highly unlikely that this would not faze him in the least, yet there is never any point where Nate seems to really care at all that his boyfriend is a mobster who has likely killed people or, at the very least, is involved in illegal dealings. Even if he truly doesn’t care, I would have liked to see this at least acknowledged.
As I mentioned, I listened to this book in audio format so I will share my thoughts about that experience as well. First off, for me an audiobook can be made or broken by the narrator. Unfortunately I was not a big fan of Sean Crisden’s voice, and to be honest, it really negatively impacted the listening experience for me for a lot of the book. His narration of Nate’s voice just didn’t fit him at all to me. The voice was nasal and whiny and often sounded snide or blasé. Given that Nate is supposed to be a total sweetheart, his voice and the tone used to depict him just didn’t fit at all for me. I kept trying to figure out who it reminded me of, and suddenly I realized the Crisden’s voice had a very Andy Rooney quality, like he sounded in his wrap ups for 60 Minutes. I found it so jarring and ill fitting, I had a lot of trouble listening to it at the start of the book.
As the story continued, and as I was able to listen for longer periods of time, I got used it Nate’s voice enough that it didn’t bother me nearly as much. But many of the other characters who come in and out of the story continued to be jarring because I never really had a chance to get used the voices Crisden uses for them. For example, I found Shawn, a man Nate dates early on in the book, to also have that snide, sarcastic tone to his voice that didn’t fit at all with his personality and was hard to listen to.
Other characters fared better for me. I think Crisden did an amazing job with Dreo, and I really liked how he voiced Michael and Melanie as well. I also think he does a fabulous job with the love scenes and manages to capture all that heat and intensity really well spoken aloud, something that can not be easy to do. So as the book progressed, the narration worked much better for me, but I am not sure I’d rush to pick up another book with this narrator.
Other than that, I think the audiobook is done very well. Chapter and scene breaks are clear. The story downloaded quickly and the pacing of the book felt very good. At 6 1/2 hours, it is not super long for an audiobook and I was able to listen to most of it during an afternoon.
So I can tell you, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Acrobat. It is a wonderful book with great characters, some nice suspense, and a really beautiful and sexy relationship between the men. I loved the importance both these men place on family. And they are both sweet and crazy hot together. My feelings are more mixed on the audiobook. The narration became less of an issue for me with time, but I never really felt like it fit with many of the characters and I found Crisden’s voice hard to listen to a lot of the time. I’d suggest listening to a sample of the book and seeing how it works for you. But either way, this is an excellent story and one definitely worth checking out.
P.S. Melanie also reviewed Acrobat in book form. You can check out that review here.
Cover Review: Oh, this is so beautiful. Just love it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.