MtSnow and Dana review the audiobook Return to Zero (Shatterproof Bond #3) by Isobel Starling (Published by Decent Fellows Press, June 6, 2016, 311 pages. Released on audio July 27, 2017. 6hrs 42min length. Narrated by Gary Furlong)
To read the audiobook review of As You Wish (Shatterproof Bond #1) click here.
To read the audiobook review of Illuminate the Shadows (Shatterproof Bond #2) click here.
The thrilling sequel to As You Wish and Illuminate the Shadows.
Pulled into a world of secrets and lies for the man he loves, Declan Ramsay’s life has changed immeasurably in the eight months since meeting, and falling for his boss’s son, Sam Aiken. Declan journey of personal discovery is about to take a darker turn, and for Sam, the world becomes more treacherous than he could ever have imagined.
Two agents are missing – presumed dead, while on a reconnaissance mission at an outdoor adventure centre in the Scottish Highlands. Sir James Aiken sends his son and Declan to follow the trail, and discover the fate of the agents.
As the mission offers his first chance to use the skills he learned on the MI6 training course in Morocco, Declan is keen to get started. However, Sir James sees to it that the seeds of doubt and discord have been sewn between the couple as they begin their mission.
The journey to their Highland location, and the discoveries they make when they reach the G’wan Adventures center, prove that Sir James Aiken has been less than honest with his son. Events in the Highlands force Sam and Declan to face their greatest fears, and understand what they both really want from life – and from each other.
MtSnow – The title to this third installment of the Shatterproof series is actually a reference that Sam tells his lover Declan in respect to ever impressing his father. He basically says after a successful mission, everyone ‘returns to zero’, meaning nothing is celebrated or acknowledged, as with his expections, everyone should be an outstanding spy, and nothing less is acceptable.
After all the years Sam tried to impress his father, he has become quite cynical about it, and you can almost hear bits of the little boy that idolized his father and would do anything for a tiny speck of his approval underneath the sarcastic wit. And a surprise visit from his past brings forth some horrific events. So sad. Not such a lightweight series, this one.
So the plot thickens and we really get to see what our guys are made of, professionally and privately. The theme of this book could be call ‘Secrets, Lies, and Lack of Trust’ which, especially when you are partnered for life or death, is even more noticeable in a new relationship.
Declan starts this story feeling a bit more confident and chomping at the bit to prove himself to both his boss and his young lover, Sam, after successful graduation best of class from an elite 6-week course at MI6 headquarters. Well, careful what you ask for. Hurt feelings and misunderstandings abound between these two.
When they finally do get to go on a mission, Declan gets to use his knowledge of his homeland in the Scottish highlands, and he gets to see Sam at his most professional AND his most vulnerable. More sneaky characters come in from the background and they are given a rescue and recovery task that will try every one of their survival skills.
This story was even more eventful than the previous and we get to see the introduction of a trans character, as well as another layer to Sam’s father, Sir James Aiken.. a.k.a. bastard extraordinaire.
As far as narration goes, Gary Furlong is top notch, and helps me look forward to each new adventure with these guys. I love his accents, pacing, and timber and he will forever in my mind be Sam and Declan.
A top notch addition to the Shatterproof series, with an ending that drives you to run and grab the next. Awesome job and comes highly recommended from me.
9.5/10 pots of gold equivalent to 95% recommended or 4.75 of 5 stars
The narration: Every book I listen to by this narrator, I become a bigger fan. Every accent he performs sounds authentic to me. I would definitely listen to him again in the future.
The story: During the first two books of this series, I felt that Sam and Declan had strengthened their relationship and were pretty solid. Declan’s training made him a good partner for their undercover work and in their personal relationship. At the beginning of this book, though, Sam’s father, James drives a wedge between them and everything is up in the air. Declan is angry and Sam has some difficulties sharing information after working alone in the past.
I can’t really blame either of them, but I also didn’t want to see them slide backward so this was frustrating to me for sure. I am definitely not a fan of James Aiken. Even with the distrust between Sam and Declan, the two do still have to work together, and their next mission is to find two missing agents who went missing at a retreat. The business retreat company is quite shady but whether they are behind the disappearances or just milking people of money with little return is unclear in the beginning.
There were two burning questions I discussed in my review after listening to the previous book, Illuminate the Shadows. One was Declan’s strange presence at several undercover jobs that James’s company worked. In this book, it appears that it may be just coincidence. I’m waiting til the end of the series to accept that completely. The other mystery – who was leaving Sam and Declan bits of red paracord? This is answered in this book. Someone has unfinished business with Sam and now the two men are in danger.
This is some really messy business and one of them will not leave the situation unharmed. Sam’s father might have willingly put his son and his partner in harm’s way to teach a lesson and his despicability in this situation makes me downright loathe him. There is so much I want to say, but I am already skirting the spoiler line and I want everyone to discover what happens for themselves. At the end of the day, Declan and Sam are much closer than they were at the beginning of the book and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Born in Germany, Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.
The ‘Shatterproof Bond’ series is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller. Isobel has just completed her eleventh book and signed French and German and Italian, translation and publishing rights deals for the whole Shatterproof Bond series. The ‘As You Wish’ translation “Comme Vous Voudrez” is a best seller on Amazon France. It was released in German in March 2017, and as an audiobook in May 2017.
Isobel’s greatest love is writing M/M relationships, and she hopes one day to actually finish the fantasy novel that she put ‘to rest’ three years ago.