Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Darcy Stark
Length: 8 hours, 43 minutes
Manipulation is one of the standouts for me in Eden Winter’s fabulous Diversion series. I am a huge fan of this romantic suspense series featuring an opposites attract couple in narcotics agents Lucky Lucklighter and Bo Schollenberger. Throughout the series, we have seen the two men falling hard for one another while battling to keep illegal drugs off the streets. The series itself has reached the 8th book in ebook (Decision) and I love it enough that I have been re-experiencing it in the audio format (though I am behind a little as they have almost all come out in audio as well). This particular story is one of my favorites as it is a real lynchpin that connects a lot of the series threads that come both before and after this book. From the suspense end, we have watched Bo slowly slip further into his undercover persona of a hardass biker, always a little wary as we see the toll it takes on him. In Manipulation, Bo ends up not only having to live as Cyrus, he is forced into some dangerous situations that have serious ramifications in the future. For Lucky, he comes face to face with his past and questions about his former lover, Victor, and whether he truly died as everyone was lead to believe. And on the relationship front, the men make some major progress in moving forward with their romantic partnership. On top of all that, this one is super exciting, suspenseful, and thrilling, as the guys go undercover to Mexico to try to stop the drug trafficking they began exploring in Corruption. So this story is really one of my favorites in the series (and you can see my full ebook review here).
I continue to enjoy the audio by narrator Darcy Stark. After four books, Stark just really has become the voice of these characters for me. He captures Lucky’s prickly nature really well, along with his moments of softness and self reflection. I still think at times Stark has a tendency to learn a little hard into the biting, angry tone for Lucky that doesn’t always fit the scene, but overall, I feel like Lucky’s voice fits the character. I think Stark gets Bo spot on, and there is a nice distinction between Bo and his alter ego, Cyrus. They are clearly the same man, but we get a nice vocal transition that fits Bo’s personality change. Most of the side characters work here, but Stark’s speciality seems more the various Southern dialects than the Mexican ones. Drug lord Nestor sounds more like a young kid than a 60-year-man, and his accent seems to waver in tone a lot. Stephan and Cruz, two other side characters, feel notable for their lack of any accent, making them sound a bit flat in comparison to everyone else who has some sort of regional accent. But overall, I feel like the voices work.
I’ll also note that Stark has a real flair for picking up the cues in the scene and really capturing tone, intonation, and emotion in the text and bringing it to life in the characters’ voices. Stark also often plays with bringing in other sounds, like heavy breathing, and it really gives an extra punch to the narration.
So I am really enjoying re-experiencing this series through audio. It is one of my favorite romantic suspense series and Bo and Lucky are one of my favorite romance couples. I can definitely recommend this one in either ebook or audio.