Speaking of Audiobooks: Listening to those Sex Scenes

{ABCC187A-DCEF-4628-A2A6-32579C9C5684}Img100I can’t think of a better companion for walking on a treadmill than a good romance audiobook to help fight off the sheer boredom of it all.  Before discovering audiobooks, I’d tried music, TV, movies, and even reading a book (I don’t advise it), but all failed to provide the level of distraction I craved to complete my day’s walk.  But one thing I quickly realized as I listened to my first audiobook was that my ears demanded a higher volume level to catch each detail as the story unfolded.  That didn’t prove to be much of a problem since I lived on two acres and needn’t worry about bothering my neighbors and I let my little boom box blast away.  With an extra pep in my step, knowing I had found the answer to my treadmill boredom, I walked on, thoroughly enjoying Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had to Be You…that is, until I started hearing the love scenes. Suddenly words such as moaning, plunging, hard, and nipples were echoing around the room and I thought of my friends who tended to stop by without notice.  What if one chose this very moment and heard as she walked up the step “He wanted her on her knees, on her back, straddled, spread, any way he could get at her, right here where the heat from their bodies would burn up the floorboards and send them plunging straight down to the fiery center of the earth”! And I knew that was just the warm-up love scene!

Those scenes I thought such great fun in print now had me looking around every few minutes to assure myself I really was the only one at home.  Recalling that there were usually only two to four love scenes in a book, I tried to plan my strategy for surprise visitors to no avail since I soon noticed those pages featuring nothing more than an ardent kiss seemed downright racy as well when it was the spoken word rather than the quiet reading.  Listening to The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory, a simple get-to-know-you kiss sounds like so much more – especially if heard out of context.

He could feel their hearts knocking against each other where their chests met, the softness where his weight flattened the roundness of her breast.  At her thin wrists, he could feel how much stronger he was than she.  He found himself wanting to assert his strength, show her.  He wanted her to feel his potency.  God help him, in every sense.

Call me chicken, but the thought of someone overhearing this simple kiss (that doesn’t sound so simple by non-romance standards) was undeniably mortifying!

Tooling down the road with my dear hubby on a long trip to Colorado, I had big plans to introduce him to romance by listening to Nora Roberts’ Rising Tides and prove to him that romance could be as good as or better than the occasional Nicholas Sparks book he read.  After all, the book is told more from a male perspective and is part of a series about four brothers (and is labeled fiction as well).  I knew the lovemaking scenes might prove challenging to my flustered senses, but I had always considered Roberts to be a little tame on the sensual side.  However, the first indication of a physical relationship between Ethan and Grace had me cringing as I envisioned my four year campaign to convince my husband that romance was not all about sex crashing down all around me.  As I smiled and attempted to fast forward through the scene while explaining that sex scenes embarrassed me “out loud”, DH told me he wanted to listen to the entire book.  In the end, he enjoyed Rising Tides although – I didn’t.  I continued to cower anytime anything was close to a passionate kiss.  All I could think about was how these love scenes must sound to the non-romance reader.

t4_imageAs I listened to Suzanne Brockmann’s Over the Edge and Catherine Anderson’s Phantom Waltz recently, I was surprised at my differing reactions to their sensual scenes.  Both are personal DIKs and both received a Hot rating when reviewed by AAR.  Brockmann’s writing combined with narrator Laura Hicks smooth lilt was a real winner.  Part of that was due to the fact that Stan and Teri’s lovemaking scenes flowed effortlessly and seemed, if not totally realistic, at least realistic by romance standards.  Conversely, Anderson’s gentle romance proved to be the more cringe worthy of the two with wording that literally yanked me out of the story.  “…his hot breath whispering across the throbbing peak to intensify her yearning” or “he was taking her on a tour of paradise” – well, it all sounded so silly out loud and it wasn’t narrator Julia Gibson’s fault.  Had I simply overlooked this love talk while reading this beloved book?  It made me want to look around yet again and make sure there was no one measuring my IQ.

A few years ago, my children gave me an iPod primarily for listening to audio books after witnessing my attempts to exercise with my 1990 sports cassette player or the portable CD player that performed badly anytime my walk turned into a jog.  As I listened to Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me If You Can on my new iPod and I heard Heath making his first move on Annabelle, I finally understood that this was the secret to my enjoyment of those lovemaking scenes – total privacy.  If no one else can hear, I don’t care.  With my iPod I now fearlessly listen to those love scenes even while waiting in a line at the bank.  But if that same iPod is playing those same scenes through my car’s speaker system?  I look around and lower the volume anytime I pull up to a stoplight.  I know, in many ways I am still a real coward.

Latest Reads

9780061466229Tangled Up in You – Rachel Gibson

One of my favorite Gibson books, I had read this one twice by the time I listened to the audio version.  Nicole Poole’s voice is pleasant but fails to effectively differentiation between the voices of the hero, heroine, and narrator.  Although I enjoyed this tale once again, it may be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the storyline.

Over the Edge – Suzanne Brockmann

Only recently released in MP3 format, this 2001 romantic suspense is one of my most loved Brockmann books.  My first impression was the need of a male narrator since there are so many male characters.  Many of narrator Laura Hicks’ male voices sounded girlish but I was soon so engrossed by the four story plot that I accepted the voices as portrayed.  One complaint – Gina sounded way too New York-ish and knowing she is a reoccurring character in the series with an eventual starring role, it didn’t sit well.

Seducing an Angel – Mary Balogh

Having read two of the three previous Huxtable books, I was looking forward to Stephen’s book, wondering how such a very nice, perfect man could be made into an effective hero.  Balogh was successful in that aspect but this was definitely an “otherwise occupied” audiobook experience for me.  There were too many times that I just wasn’t all that interested and was thankful I had more than one thing to keep me occupied.

Recent Additions to my Audio Library

Burn: A Novel – Linda Howard

It’s playing on my iPod now.  Joyce Bean’s narration combined with Howard’s writing seldom fails me.

When He Was Wicked – Julia Quinn.

Narrated by one of my favorites, Simon Prebble.

When He Was Wicked: The Epilogue II – Julia Quinn

This 53 minute audio add–on is available for $2.00 and I see this more as a last chapter – can’t read the book without the epilogue.

Reckless Love – Elizabeth Lowell

Continuing to feed my love for western romance, this one’s been around for a while.

Mary Jo Putney’s newest book, Loving a Lost Lord was high on my list of purchases but I’m exercising a bit of caution here – it’s the only book I can find for narrator Kate Rawson and I can’t determine much of her style from the audio sample.  That combined with Sandy’s recent B- review has caused me to place this one on hold.

And Now for Your Thoughts

Does it bother you to listen to lovemaking scenes?

Do you use ear phones or turn the sound down low?  Do you plan around the possibility of someone else hearing?

What are your most memorable audio lovemaking scenes?  Do you think a narrator makes a difference?

What are your latest audiobook hits or failures?

If this is your first time reading our Speaking of Audiobooks column, you may want to check our audio archives for previous entries.

See you in a couple of weeks when it’s time for our discussion of August’s Audiobook Romance releases.

-Lea Hensley

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38 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: Listening to those Sex Scenes”

  1. Cindy W says:

    Does it bother you to listen to lovemaking scenes? Not at all!

    Do you use ear phones or turn the sound down low? I use earphones. I love the privacy of the ipod! I listen when I walk and clean, I don’t think anyone else hears!

    What are your most memorable audio lovemaking scenes? Eve and Rourke in Naked in Death, Kiss of the Highlander all scenes, Match me if you can by SEP- at the cabin, Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie- at the cabin

    Do you think a narrator makes a difference? ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!! I’ve taken them back to the library if I can’t listen to the reader.

    What are your latest audiobook hits or failures? I have a credit, almost 2 waiting to be used, but I don’t know what I want. I’m listening to It had to be you, and loving it. Not sure what I am in the mood to listen too next!

  2. MJ says:

    I listen in the car, alone. My favorite love scene was in Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie. I was on my way to the dry cleaners and ended up taking another route so I wouldn’t interrupt the scene ;)

    I don’t usually like the male narrators, though. I would rather hear a woman read.

  3. MarissaB says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audiobook without headphones. I don’t think people around me would have appreciated the noise, much like I don’t appreciate people talking on their cellphones around me.

    I wouldn’t listen to a love scene with anyone else. That would just be too embarrassing. I feel the same way about watching love scenes in movies. Just call me inhibited, but that stuff is PRIVATE.

    I liked the first love scene between Michael and Francesca in When He Was Wicked. I have the paperback, too, but it took listening to Simon Prebble’s reading it that made me see the passion in the scene.

  4. Katie Mack says:

    I’m fairly new to audiobooks, so I’m still acclimating to the love scenes — even in books I’ve already read. For some reason, hearing someone speak the words makes me feel like a voyeur. But the more I’ve been listening, the more this feeling has been dissipating.

    The most recent audiobook I finished was “Welcome to Temptation” by Jennifer Crusie, and I loved it. I was forewarned (by reading this column) that Crusie’s style of writing (he said, she said, they said) wasn’t optimal for an audio version, and I think knowing that going in greatly improved my reaction to the audiobook. Of course it also helped that WTT is probably my all time favorite romance. My only complaint was that the narrator didn’t change her voice for Phin, so that took some getting used to.

  5. Lea/AAR says:

    CindyW – you ever feel the need to test the sound coming out of your ear phones although they’re in your ears? I felt that way when listening to both Dream Man and Spell of the Highlander recently. Both are narrated by Phil Gigante and his booming voice made me wonder how much others were hearing.
    I predict you will be spoiled after listening to IHTBY – I know I was. But agree with you on Match Me If You Can and Kiss of the Highlander. Both really deliver on the sensual side.

    MJ – DH rolled his eyes at my request to have a device that allowed use of my iPod on my car’s speakers but, sweetheart that he is, he agreed. That is my second favorite place to listen

    MarissaB – Well, since I just purchased When He Was Wicked, I’m going to be paying special attention. When I did listen to audio books without ear phones, I HAD to be by myself regardless of the scene playing. I guess reading or listening is a personal activity for me – I don’t want anyone else’s opinions (or eye rolling).

    Katie – If you look on my profile, you will see WTT as my favorite contemporary. I too think it is worth it to listen to all the “saids” to get to hear it again. Although I don’t think it’s the greatest starting place for someone totally new to audiobooks, it remains on my re-listen shelf.

  6. Azure says:

    I’m not bothered by the love scenes when I’m in the car by myself. But my mother once asked me to put on Immortal in Death while on a long car ride, and…well…she laughed when I hit the fast-forward button.

    Favorite audiobook love scene–definitely the first time between Roarke and Eve in Naked in Death.

    The narrator makes the difference, but so does the author! I may have mentioned this before, but the love scenes in Stephanie Laurens’ books go on and on and on…and get boring. I find myself skipping those bits, not because of Simon Prebble but because I’d rather get back to the story.

    The last audiobook I finished was Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, read by Jennifer Wiltsie. I really enjoyed it and thought the narrator did a good job of differentiating the characters. I take a week or two off between audio books, but I plan to start on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies next.

  7. MaryK says:

    “With my iPod I now fearlessly listen to those love scenes even while waiting in a line at the bank. ”

    No way! I’d get a goofy look on my face and everybody would know something was going on.

  8. Julie L. says:

    I don’t mind listening to them at all, I have my iPod and have it up high, I’m never worried, and it does while away the time at the gym! If I’m in the car I’m fine as well, but if I drive up to the bank teller or something, I turn the volume down, or just turn it off if it’s a sex scene – LOL!

    I must say, When He Was Wicked and Spell of the Highlander were the two best one’s I’ve listened to yet, all the love scenes in them were great because of the narrators more than anything else. I think the narrator makes all the difference. I’ve listened to some real clunkers that I could barely tolerate, the sex scenes were just horrible – I cringe at the memory of them!

  9. Katie Mack says:

    I just remembered that I can’t do the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series in public — reading or listening. Snorting with laughter is a good way to draw lots of stares!

  10. misty says:

    My mother and I listened to part of a romance novel in the car years ago, and it felt seriously awkward. lol I’m almost blushing thinking about it now. It was also really silly because the female narrator’s “manly” voice was just hilarious. I love audiobooks, but I don’t get much of a chance to listen to romances because I have a five year old, and I mostly listen to them in the car.

    I would definitely have to have earphones to listen to sex scenes, even if alone.

  11. LinnieGayl says:

    I listen to audio books alone, either while driving, or now on my iPod while working out at the gym. I do turn the sound way down when I go through the Starbucks drive thru each morning, “just in case.”

    The narrator definitely makes the difference for me as well.

    I’m currently listening to The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig, and so far am enjoying it in audio version more than I did in the original print version. Kate Reading is the narrator, and she does a great job with all of the different characters. It’s also instantly apparent when the story switches from the contemporary, chick lit part to the European historical part.

  12. willaful says:

    How weird – the first and last romance with sex scenes I tried listening to was When He Was Wicked. I thought it was TERRIBLE – I couldn’t bear the thought of listening to those awful voices during the sex scenes. I also found them too embarrassing to listen to in public (even with headphones) so haven’t tried another since and am sticking to Jane Austen for now.

  13. Liz V. says:

    I listen to them in the car when I’m by myself.

    Absolutely, the narrator can make or break a book!! It is a real talent for a narrator to be able to differentiate male and female voices. If they can’t, I won’t usually finish the book.

    I just recently listened to Natalie Ross do Linda Howard’s Angel Creek. She did an excellent job, so I’ll try and find some more like her.

    Susan Erickson is the gold stand in my opinion. I so miss Anna Fields.

    Looking forward to the August discussion.

  14. framebabe says:

    I love Anna Fields reading anything Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I enjoy listening to her more than reading the book myself. Her male voices are just the best, I really miss her.

    I have to llisten privately with my ipod, can’t enjoy otherwise.

    I must mention Davina Porter, narrator for the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. On the box it says “preformed by Davina Porter” and boy is that the truth, she is fabulous.

  15. kmredd says:

    I love the “Outlander” books with Davina Porter!! She makes the books so much more. I too love this discussion and am looking forward to the next one also. I love audio books and it’s so nice to have a place to discuss them.

  16. Leigh says:

    I am not sure how to say this without sounding like a prude because I am not. But honestly I get bored reading sex scenes in a book and it is worst when someone reads them out loud. I just think that they sound very corny.

    I almost never listen to romance audio books. I much rather listen to a mystery or suspense. And it is because of the sex scenes.

    I have always been more into the emotional connection rather than the physical attraction so I got in the habit early of skimming over the scenes. I had a rude awakening when I took over ordering books on tape for the blind for my grandmother. I would tell her oh, you will love this book. She would get it, and start listening to it without a earplug, and I would be in shock, not realizing how graphic the love scenes sounded out loud. . .

  17. Lea/AAR says:

    Listening to love scenes in a romance audiobook is an acquired taste, IMHO. Not only did I have to learn to hear rather that read these scenes but it also was challenging in the beginning to hear a narrator verbalize sometimes scandalous dialogue. But romance is my favorite sort of entertainment when alone and therefore well worth the effort to accustom myself to hear such scenes. But privately (with ear phones) IS the only way for me – no doubt about it.

    Liz V – I just finished listening to Angel Creek last week. Agree about the narrator’s excellent job although plot-wise, Lucas sounded meaner than in print and the narrator’s presentation of Dee fortunately made her appear stronger. I thought it a very different experience on audio.

    I have to say that I am SO glad to hear many of you say it is difficult to listen to these scenes out loud! I feared I was rather prudish.

  18. MaryK says:

    LinnieGayl: I’m currently listening to The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig, and so far am enjoying it in audio version more than I did in the original print version. Kate Reading is the narrator, and she does a great job with all of the different characters. It’s also instantly apparent when the story switches from the contemporary, chick lit part to the European historical part.

    That’s good to know. I’ve been meaning to try them.

  19. MaryK says:

    Lea/AAR: I have to say that I am SO glad to hear many of you say it is difficult to listen to these scenes out loud! I feared I was rather prudish.

    Very difficult. Do you have any recommendations for someone trying to acquire the taste?

  20. Lea/AAR says:

    MaryK: Very difficult. Do you have any recommendations for someone trying to acquire the taste?

    I guess you could say I jumped in the deep end because my first few audiobooks were written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, most of which had Hot ratings. During the racier scenes I fell into my “otherwise occupied” mode and didn’t pay close attention. But as you contemplate the choice of your next audiobook, you may want to check AAR’s sensuality rating (if it is reviewed here) and start with a Warm or Subtle rated book. I think that would be very effective when trying to “acquire the taste”.

    Sorry I don’t have a specific book to recommend!

  21. Ellie says:

    If you want to listen to the best books on audio tape try the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon read by Davina Porter. They are marvelous! The best I’ve ever heard. I’ve read all the books in hardcover and am now listening to them on CD in preparation and anticipation of An Echo in the Bone due out in September.

  22. Keira says:

    I have listened to sex scenes with a ex-romance reader (ex only because she doesn’t read anymore and I was trying out audio books as an alternative for her an me). It was interesting – I was indeed more prone to “blushing” but it was quickly conquered because I realized sex scene read out loud is fun to listen to.

  23. Leslie says:

    I have had good books spoiled by bad readers – or at least readers who don’t match my version of the author. The best reader I have ever run across is Jenny Sterlin – I fell in love with her versions of the Laurie King mysteries and now glom whatever I find with her reading.

  24. Christina says:

    What fun to find this column! Although I frequently look at the website, I hadn’t noticed this before.

    I absolutely love audio books, and I see many of my favorite narrators mentioned by others. I’ll be making notes on some of the recommendations.

    I have to admit that I always listen to my books with earphones or in the car by myself – I sometimes cringe during some of the more explicit scenes. And sometimes they do seem to go on forever.

  25. Lea/AAR says:

    Christina – I assume you discovered the blog’s audiobook archives that include a number of audiobook columns from the past few months (with many recommendations for both narrators and audiobooks). The first week of each month you’ll find a new commentary & discussion audiobook piece followed by a mid-month column featuring new audiobook releases. Hope you’ll keep checking in and sharing with us.

  26. Christina says:

    Lea/AAR: Christina – I assume you discovered the blog’s audiobook archives that include a number of audiobook columns from the past few months (with many recommendations for both narrators and audiobooks).The first week of each month you’ll find a new commentary & discussion audiobook piece followed by a mid-month column featuring new audiobook releases.Hope you’ll keep checking in and sharing with us.

    Yes, I did go back and look at the other columns. Great info in all of them.

  27. elainec says:

    For those who in a previous blog on audio books regretted the change of narrator in Deanna Raybourn’s 3rd book in the “Silent” series, it’s been re-recorded with Ellen Archer. Audible sent out a notice that anyone who paid for downloading “Silent on the Moor” with Margo Westwood could download it with Ellen Archer at no further charge. My husband did that for me and burned them to CDs. How great is that?
    elainec

  28. elainec says:

    Leslie,
    Jenny Sterlin is great with the Mary Russell series. My favorite narration by her is of Mary Balogh’s “More Than a Mistress. I’ve listened to it many times and even my husband listened to it on a trip and loved it. We sat in the driveway to hear the end without interruption when we arrived home.
    elainec

  29. Liz V. says:

    Thank you to those of you who recommended Jenny Sterlin. I’ve been listening to her narration of Simply Divine. Looking forward to listening to her narrate other books, she’s fabulous.

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