Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 4 hours, 56 minutes
Declan Ramsay and Samuel Aiken are in love. For a year, they’d communicated via email, helping to plan the wedding of Declan’s brother and Sam’s sister. When they first met, it was awkward, but then sparks flew when they discovered their mutual love of the movie The Princess Bride.
Illuminate the Shadows picks up pretty much right where book one, As You Wish, ended. Sam has returned from a mission, and he and Declan are catching up…in bed and out. Sam tells Declan his father, the horrible James Aiken, formerly of MI5 and current head of his own intelligence agency, wants to bring Declan on board and make him an agent as well.
This is the story of Declan’s difficult initiation into the senior Aiken’s agency. He’s put through a tremendous amount of stress, drugs, hallucinations, etc., but he eventually proves he’s up to the challenge. It’s also a chance to get to know Declan and Sam better, and delve deeper into their relationship. Also, it explores James Aiken’s homophobia and the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to push Declan and Sam apart.
I’m going to start by telling you I’m a huge fan of the Shatterproof Bond series. I find it to be exciting, funny, and sexy. They’re damn near perfection. I don’t usually listen to audio books, but because I loved this series so much, I gladly took this one. I was not disappointed whatsoever.
The narrator, Gary Furlong, is perfect for this story. He’s clear and concise, and he’s able to change his tone in order to give each character their own voice. He’s able to pull off every type of situation…angry, frightened, judgmental, sexy…he even pulls off two women with ease. I found myself being (and I know it’s going to sound like a purple kind of prose) seduced by his style. I sat back in my recliner, closed my eyes, and just…listened.
Furlong completely nailed Declan and Sam. As I mentioned in my review of book one, As You Wish, I had my own ideas of how they’d sound and he gave them to me. Declan was rather raspy, very Scottish, and when he’s making love to Sam, breathy and nearly a purr. Sam’s British accent was almost like a teenager’s. There was real feeling in it. His emotions were easy to read just by the way he talked.
There are five background characters who play a role in the story. Two of them are women, and they’re narrated nicely. I suppose it would be easy for a man to try to go a little over the top when giving them a voice, but here, they’re subtle and able to be told apart. It’s the same for the men, but more than any of the others, James Aiken is so powerful, even though the character retains a very steady, carefully dignified tone, I was actually able to see James’ face just from the sound.
The pace of the story is great. For nearly five hours, I was able to sit still and be entertained. There were no lulls or boring parts. Each chapter flowed easily from one to the next. There were no awkward pauses or audio issues, and it’s obviously mixed/produced well.
There are a few scenes in Illuminate the Shadows (the book) that left me emotionally exhausted. I don’t want to give the plot away, but I can share that the scene ran the gamut from humor to terror…and everything between. Thanks to being able actually hear them read aloud, it made me feel even more blown away. My fists and jaw clenched. I held my breath. I got teary. I am beyond impressed by Furlong’s ability to bring that out of me.
I’m going to give a brief mention of the sex in this story. There is a lot of it. It’s not overwhelming, and every scene is important to the plot. They’re not gratuitous whatsoever. Thanks to having listened to the audio of book one, I knew what I was in for as far as hearing the graphic descriptions. What can I say but, I can’t even?! Oh my goodness, you guys. Reading the scenes was hot, but actually hearing them aloud? I melted into a puddle and stayed that way for large amounts of time. WHEW!!!
I highly recommend this audio book. What I don’t recommend is starting with this one. I suppose you could because there is some exposition, but in order to get a true handle on everything, I think you should start with book one, As You Wish, which in itself, is a charming, sweet, and sexy story. I’m so happy to have gotten the chance to listen to this. Definitely pick this (and the first) up.