Upon release of Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil in 2007, I ran to the bookstore, eagerly purchased a copy, and then headed home to dive into this greatly anticipated sequel to Sugar Daddy. Later, when I reviewed it for AAR, I granted it a grade of B+ and was a little amazed it had missed that DIK mark. I had been snapping at the bit to read more about Hardy Cates and although I was thoroughly satisfied on that point, it was Haven’s characterization that failed to meet my expectations in some manner. Despite my great sympathy for her sufferings, Haven carried an aura of entitlement that kept me from totally engaging in the romance.
Slight spoiler follows…
Last month I listened to rather than read Blue-Eyed Devil and my initial impression wasn’t highly favorable since the voices of the male characters left something to be desired. But then I started seeing and hearing the character of Haven, as portrayed by narrator Renee Raudman, in an entirely new light – one that greatly moved my heart. Listening to Haven talk when she could hardly form words after Nick’s beating engaged me emotionally in a manner far deeper than the mere reading. Once her physical wounds were healed, I continued empathizing with this woman who was in need of emotional and mental healing as well. I heard rather than read her hesitancy with Hardy – I heard her fears and vulnerability – I heard her gaining much needed confidence on the job. As Blue-Eyed Devil evolved more into Haven’s story rather than Hardy’s, my grade for the audio version came in at a solid A. Soon I wasn’t noticing the less than spectacular male voices and the romance between Hardy and Haven became much more intense than when I had read it in print. In other words, the narrator spoke to me on a whole new level and I was blown away.
Many times I have found myself close to tears while listening to an audiobook with a moving story told by a talented narrator but I can think of only a few individual characters who spoke as deeply to my heart as Haven from Blue-Eyed Devil. And as I searched through my audio library, looking for those other characters whose portrayal touched me in this same manner, I was a little surprised to see that second place was easily taken by a little boy with the name of Edward. Anna Fields, narrator of Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, tenderly portrays Edward, a young son trying to get his mom to live in one place, in a realistic, heartrending manner. While reading these portions of Dream a Little Dream, I fought tears but as I listened, my heart literally lurched a number of times as I dropped everything and paid attention to Edward negotiating his way through a life surrounded by adults.
Lisa Kleypas must write characters I believe are worthy of great compassion since it is another of her heroines, Win, from Seduce Me at Sunrise, who had me cheering her on more in the audio version than in print. Although, once again, I can’t brag on the voices of the male characters, narrator Rosalyn Landor wonderfully depicts the sickly, empathetic Win and I felt her hurt or rejection or building strength with almost every line she spoke.
Certainly other audiobooks have touched me deeply as well. Linda Howard’s Cry No More is one that easily comes to mind. It is a poignant tale of a mother’s search for her kidnapped son over many years. However, as I listened closely, I realized it is mostly the narrative, rather than the narrator’s performance, that successfully drives this heartbreaking scenario. Mila is a character who thinks much more than speaks and therefore little of her hurt is verbalized.
Heart-wrenching scenes that deliver a good deal of dialogue combined with the ability of a narrator to effectively perform those emotionally riveting words is rather a rare find it seems. But it is certainly a memorable experience when it is found.
Recent Additions to My Audio Library
Strange Bedpersons – Jennifer Crusie
After reading a recommendation on AAR’s Let’s Talk message board, I decided to indulge in another of Crusie’s light humorous tales especially since I so thoroughly enjoyed Anyone But You recently. This one takes an upcoming yuppie lawyer and matches him with a commune-raised liberal educator.
First Comes Marriage – Mary Balogh
I granted this one DIK status when I reviewed it for AAR. I’m listening to it now and truly believe this has the best proposal scene ever. It’s the first of Balogh’s Huxtable series (four were released in 2009) and by far my favorite of the series.
Start Me Up – Victoria Dahl
I have yet to read one of Dahl’s books and I’m not too enthused with the sound sample I heard on Audible. But a number of readers with similar tastes to mine have recommended Start Me Up and narrator Wanda Fontaine is new to me so I decided to take a chance.
Let Me Be the One – Jo Goodman
I’ve been impressed with the two Goodman books I’ve read to date and am ready to tackle her considerable backlist. Let Me Be the One is the first of four books in the Compass Club series and I must say that it was encouraging to find all four available for a reasonable cost at Audible. Two or three of the others in the series can be found sporadically in either cassette tape or CD format but are rather expensive. I’m looking forward to digging into the Compass Club.
Black Ice – Anne Stuart
By far my favorite of Stuart’s books, I remember being totally absorbed with over-the-edge hero Bastien yet aghast at some of his actions, when I first read Black Ice in 2005. Now more accustomed to Stuart’s dark romances, I was thoroughly caught up while listening to this tale a few months ago when it was released in audio format. Narrator Jennifer Van Dyck does a fine job keeping the listener on the edge of their seat in this fast paced romantic suspense. Also of strong note is the narrator’s ability to effectively differentiate the characters’ voices, particularly Bastien with his French accent compared to Chloe’s purely American one. If you can take dark romance, this is a great experience I highly recommend.
What I Did for Love – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Disappointment in more ways than one is the best description of my thoughts on the audio version of What I Did for Love. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has rarely failed to thoroughly entertain me but I didn’t perceive all that much magic between Georgie and Bram and greatly missed her customary laughs. After finding myself actually a bit irritated while listening, I finally gave up at the halfway point on narrator Julia Gibson and started reading the print version I had on hand. By reading rather than listening, I was able to salvage some enjoyment and suddenly found myself wanting to finish a book I was barely tolerating in audio. Ms. Gibson’s interpretation of the characters was far from my own and I noticed a few of the gem type moments this author is known for float by unnoticed since the needed emphasis was lacking. The modulation of the characters voices continually resembled one another in a sort of spaced out manner that reminded more of Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure than varied adult characters. Yes, a definite disappointment
Tempting Torment – Jo Goodman
An oldie from 1989, Tempting Torment does have a taste of those 1980s romances but I found it thoroughly enjoyable despite my usually dislike of books from that decade. This expansive tale with more than 17 hours of audio contains more than one crossing from Europe to America and back again. Narrator Jill Tanner is excellent as she provides clear distinction between the leads’ voices without having to pitch her voice either too high or unnaturally low. Her English accent playing against mostly NE American accents also works well in distinguishing her numerous characters.
Time for Your Thoughts
What audiobook(s) have you listened to wherein the narrator’s portrayal of a character moved you greatly?
Is there an audiobook that has delivered a greater impact emotionally than when you read the book in print?
What are the latest additions to your audio library?
And, as always, do you have any general tidbits to share with us about your latest audio successes or failures?
I’ll see you again later this month when we discuss February audiobook new releases. Also, feel free to contact me through my Meet Reviewer Lea Hensley page should you have questions about audiobooks. I’ll try to rally an answer.
- Lea Hensley