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"Apple Boy" by Isobel Starling

Author: Isobel Starling

Narrator: Gary Furlong

Length: 9 hours 43 minutes

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press⎮2019

Genre: LGBT Fantasy Romance

Series: The Quiet Work, Book 1

Release date: Apr. 24, 2019

A new LGBT fantasy series from award-winning author Isobel Starling

A lost lordling, a farm boy, and a tale of mystery, magic, and murder!

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer's beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off Adam, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

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**I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Isobel Starling. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it. **

I haven’t read many LGBTQ romances and I’ll admit that the cover art had me wondering if this was going to be a YA romance (it isn’), I’m glad I took the plunge. The characters were unique, the pacing was decent, and I adored the narrator! There were a couple of little things that annoyed me about this book, but overall, it was a great read.

I was a little shocked at just how well Winter handled the circumstances in which we find him: broke, in rags, and stranded in a less-than-friendly community in a less-than-familiar realm. For a young man used to leisure and privilege, I expected a lot less backbone and a lot more whining! He seemed to think well on his feet, however, and his willingness to take care of himself so he could continue his journey was admirable. Adam was the sweet, softer counterpart to Winter’s hard-edged determination. While no less set on seeing his goals through to the end, Adam seemed less jaded by life than Winter. I loved them both as individuals and as a blossoming couple. Their romance was definitely a slow-burn; after the initial flash of mutual attraction, the reader is teased with hints and almost-happenings for most of the story.

Here’s the part that keeps me from giving this book 5 stars across the board: A few of Ms. Sterling’s attempts to draw out the suspense and length of the overall story were so clearly contrived that they were painful. The most first example of this was the stagecoach heist. Why didn’t the coach driver just take off once the bad guy had killed the guard? Seriously, the villain was outside the carriage, with no longrange weapons, so what was he going to do if the driver had just decided to nope it out of there with the rest of the passengers safely inside? He’d have just been stranded on the side of the road, next to a dead man, in the middle of nowhere, being mad, that’s what. There were other instances of clear filler, but this one bothered me the most for some reason.

Gary Furlong did a fabulous job bringing "Apple Boy" to life! His accents were smooth and natural-sounding, and it was easy to tell the characters apart in an overwhelmingly male cast. His pace and tone were spot-on, and his performance lent a hold-your-breath quality to the romance. I've always been a little weirded out by male narrators reading romances (don't ask me why, I'm just odd like that, ok?) but Mr. Furlong did such a phenomenal job that I forgot I was listening to a third person narrator rather than the characters themselves. The audio was clean and professional, with no distracting pauses or background noises. I’ll definitely be looking for more by this narrator.

Bottom line: “Apple Boy” was a unique fantasy romance brought to life by a fabulous narrator. If you’re new to LGBTQ romance or just looking to dip a toe into the genre, this would be a good place to start.

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