Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 5 hours, 41 minutes
Darius Hawthorne has gone by many names throughout his life and each one is tied to one part of his past. But now he’s been made The Vault, and because of it, he can finally be himself again. Or at least, the man he’s become after all these years. Darius is surrounded by people he can count on to watch his back and he does important work, but there’s one thing missing: the only man he’s ever loved, Efrem Lahm.
Sixteen years ago, Darius and Efrem were on the verge of starting a life together, until one event changed things forever. By chance, they cross paths again and that sets both men on a journey of discovery. It’s been a long time, but the spark that once flared between them is still present and burning. Now that Darius has entered a new chapter of his life, can he and Efrem finally have the happily ever after denied to them so many years ago?
I’m a fan of this author and this narrator, so it was a no brainer for me to pick this one up for review. Calmes has a way of drawing me in with her characters—and here there are plenty of Easter eggs of secondary characters and connections to keep me engaged—and Boudreaux is an outstanding narrator. While I had a few issues with the story as a whole, there’s no doubt it was an enjoyable time listening to this book.
So this first part of this story is heavy on details and deals largely with Darius as he assumes his new role as The Vault and what that entails. I’ll be honest here and say that this part was the hardest for me to get through. As interesting as all the aspects were, I also felt like it was way too drawn out and explained. I could have done with a lot tighter writing throughout this section and didn’t need to know all the nitty gritty details for the story to make sense. There was one scene, in particular, where Darius was getting all the information on being The Vault that I actually found a bit tedious. I couldn’t wait to get through it, so that the story could pick up.
But pick up it did. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of familiar secondary characters if you’re a fan of this author’s work. I happen to truly enjoy all these little connections and seeing them from different points of view. Calmes also has a great way of giving all the information needed for these characters, and their stories, to make sense, even if you haven’t read their books. It’s also used to great effect to flesh out Darius’s character and the connections he’s made in his life. It really showcases the place he’s in mentally and how he’s able to take the next step in his journey.
The romance in this story was epic and sweeping…and also a tad underwhelming. Which I know seems like a contradiction, but let me explain. When Darius and Efrem meet again on page, the tension between them is insanely good. After that, we get flashbacks to their life before, which I think was necessary information in order for the reader to understand the depth of their connection. I loved all these parts, and I loved seeing them together again. But then, just as they’ve gotten their explosive reunion and have finally had the conversations they needed to have, the book is ending. Judging this solely as a romance, I felt like I didn’t get enough time with them as a couple, and that too much focus was on other parts of Darius’s life. Now, this book isn’t just a romance, and as a whole, it all works and kept me engaged, but I definitely felt like I was missing something with this story.
The narration is amazing and spot on. I could gush all day about Boudreaux and he’s one of my favorite narrators. He has this amazing way of portraying the characters so thoroughly and bringing them to life that has me practically seeing the story in my mind. His narration is smooth and easy to listen to, and his character voices are always spot on and consistent. That’s the case here again, and in fact, has a consistency from the first book. The accents are character appropriate and each emotion is amazingly depicted. In fact, this is one where the narration of the book elevated the story for me, and I enjoyed it more than I think I would have had I just read it. So this is definitely an easy recommendation from me for the audiobook, especially if you’re a Calmes fan.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.