Narrated by Josh Goodman
Sweet Sinful Nights begins with a prologue set a decade before the main events of the story. College graduate Brent Nichols returns home to his Boston apartment and his fiancée, former-dancer-turned-choreographer, Shannon Paige. He’s excited because he’s been offered his dream job in LA, on the hit show Late Night Antics (which I think is a kind of Saturday Night Live TV show). Shannon can no longer dance because of an ACL injury and has turned her attention to choreography but is currently unemployed. Unthinkingly, Brent accepts the job without talking to her first.
As it happens, Shannon had been searching for work in New York (where she and Brent were planning to move) and has been offered an assistant choreography gig there, which then moves to London for a few months. Shannon hasn’t given her answer because she was waiting to talk to Brent first.
They have a huge fight and Brent, again unthinkingly, makes a rash and stupid ultimatum: “Come with me to LA or we’re over”. It’s the worst mistake of his life and something he regrets every day thereafter. Shannon was the love of his life and he threw it all away.
The introduction is told from Brent’s POV which was clever because it helped to be in his head when he was acting like an ass. It gave me a little sympathy for him, even though I still thought he was being a jerk. I saw him as immature, rash and scared – he made a big mistake and instead of fixing it, he only made the problem worse. He didn’t cheat on her (nor she on him) and he wasn’t abusive but he did prioritise himself over her and their relationship. That’s something that happens so it felt realistic, while at the same time, not being so irredeemable as to make it difficult for me to buy their eventual HEA.
In the 10 years since those events, Shannon has changed her name to Shay Sloane (for family reasons) and moved back home to Las Vegas where she runs a successful business providing dancers for shows and clubs, and choreographing their performances.
Brent had a successful career as a comedian, even hosting his own late night TV show at one point, but left to pursue new opportunities. He didn’t want to wear out his welcome. Now, he runs Edge, a chain of successful nightclubs and he’s trying to expand into New York and elsewhere.
When Brent’s business partner arranges a meeting with Shay to discuss her providing dancers for Edge, Brent is suddenly faced with “the one who got away” and he’s determined not to let it happen again. He still loves Shannon/Shay and he will do whatever it takes to prove he’s grown up and he can be trusted with her heart again.
The chemistry between the couple is combustible and, as they circle around the past, they get up to some steamy action. Brent does good grovel. He takes full responsibility for his past mistakes and, over the course of the book, proves to Shay, with real life actions, that he puts her first. There are a few stumbles along the way of course. The course of true love never did run smooth and all that.
The main story is told over only a few short weeks. That Brent and Shay already loved each other helped me buy into their whirlwind second romance.
There is also a broader story arc which I believe will be told over the course of the four book series (Shay has three brothers), involving Shay’s mother, who is in jail for the murder of Shay’s father.
Josh Goodman is a new to me narrator. I enjoyed his performance quite a bit. I think he may have gone to the “Grover Gardner School of Narration” because there is little in his voice to differentiate the male characters from the female ones. Rather, Mr. Goodman changes his tone and affect slightly. I wasn’t ever confused as to who was talking but I think that was probably more from dialogue tags and context than anything else. While I didn’t hate the way he portrayed Shay (in particular) by any stretch (and of course, it’s way better than a bad falsetto), it didn’t quite reach the level of Grover Gardner performing Cordelia Vorkosigan. (Grover Gardner is one of the rare narrators who doesn’t have to try to do a female voice in order to please me.)
As to the rest of the narration, it was very good. The tone, pacing and emotions were well done and Mr. Goodman didn’t overplay the sex scenes, letting the words do most of the work. While it wasn’t quite an erotic romance, it is certainly at the steamier end of contemporary. The sex was inventive and creative and plentiful.
If I had my druthers, Mr. Goodman would develop his female character/character voices more but even so, I did enjoy the listen.
I should probably also mention that there is pregnancy loss referenced in the book and this may be an issue for some listeners. I know it’s a storyline I prefer to avoid.
Nevertheless, I liked Sweet Sinful Nights and I’m looking forward to reading and/or listening to more of Ms. Blakely’s books.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Minimal
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lauren Blakely Books
Sweet Sinful Nights was provided to AudioGals by Lauren Blakely for a review.