test of valor audiobook coverStory Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars

Narrator: Iggy Toma
Length: 8 hours, 14 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Rafa and Shane are settling into their new lives in Australia. When the sun is up, they go surfing, and when it’s dark, they go to bed in their bed in their house. After so long being on a national stage, this quiet life of waking up and going to sleep next to the man he loves is … well, it’s everything Rafa could ever dream of. For Shane, his nights are filled with dreams where he didn’t get to Rafa in time, dreams of blood and pain and loss. Rather than deal with this, Shane is gritting his teeth to get through it, much like he’s going to be gritting his teeth and getting through the visit by Rafa’s parents — the former President and First Lady — who still don’t approve of his relationship with their son.

Shane’s nightmares aren’t the only problems he’s dealing with. Because it was his partner that committed treason, plotting to have Rafa kidnapped, Shane is under even more scrutiny. Add to that the question of when, exactly, he and Rafa took their relationship beyond heated glances and flirting to the next step of consummation. Was it while he was still protecting Shane as a Secret Service Agent? Did he coerce or groom Rafa? Was he part of the plan to kidnap him? All of this and more are questions he’s had to answer again and again, to various agencies, and even to Rafa’s own parents. And Rafa, for one, is tired of it.

If anything, it’s Rafa who seduced Shane, but no one believes him. Just as no one seems to believe that he’s an adult capable of making his own decisions. He’s not a kid anymore, for all that Shane’s best friend keeps calling him Shane’s “boy” and for all that his mother treats him like he’s still a child, and he’s getting more and more tired of being treated like one. Having been such a quiet, obedient child when he was younger, this rebelling — that’s what his mother seems to see it as — is hard. Because he wants them to accept his new life and his love for Shane.

Set after the events of Valor on the Move, the first book in the Valor duology, this story deals with the aftereffects of Rafa and Shane’s decision to take their relationship to the next level. There’s no more hiding the fact that Rafa is gay and that he’s sleeping with his ex-Secret Agent, a man almost twenty years his senior. And neither of them want to hide it. They’re happy, they’re in love, and that’s just something Rafa’s parents will have to accept. As with the first book, the action scenes are well done and the pacing is mostly tightly focused. However, more so in this book than the first, the sheer amount of details — what each cup looks like, the various steps taken to remove jewelry and what the jewelry looks like and what happens to it after it’s removed, a description of a recipe card that has stains on it, as well as a segue as to where those stains came from and what happened the night those stains got on the card — feel unnecessary and add to the story length. The volume of detail detracts from the scenes and from the emotions of the characters.

I was given the audio version, read by Iggy Toma, to review. I generally enjoy his work and here he does an amazing job as Shane, giving a believable weight of stress and pain to his voice. The other characters though, especially the female characters, are weaker, though Toma does manage to convey their emotions and personalities.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first one, but I appreciate the way the author takes the time to show the results of Rafa and Shane’s actions, and how if affects their families, their careers, and even their own emotional growth.