Our first annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll results are in and it’s time to share! While many of the standard favorites shine through as expected, I was delighted with all the other books, narrators, and series that received a good amount of notice as well. The Poll is divided into five categories:
- Absolute Favorites
- Sub-Genre Favorites
- Narrator Favorites
- Other Favorites to Ponder
- Let’s Let the Audiobook Industry Know…
And with that…drum roll please!
The Absolute Favorites Categories
Favorite Romance Audiobook
Winner – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Narrated by Davina Porter
If you hang around a romance audio group, it won’t be long before you hear praise – or that should be – lots of praise for Outlander. Carrying 15% of the votes, Outlander is not only one very fine tale but it also features a dynamite narrator. Our November, 2009 Speaking of Audiobooks column was dedicated to the Outlander series and this is only a bit of the praise I had to offer:
It goes without saying that Diana Gabaldon’s writing is the basis of the love herein. Without her exceptional storytelling, where would we be? However, when it comes to audiobooks, there is a second star in the wings who vividly brings these books to life and that is narrator Davina Porter. Much of today’s column is high praise of one sort or another for Ms. Porter’s ability to so completely engage my emotions while providing easily distinguished characterizations.
As audiobook enthusiasts, we love Jamie and admire the ever so sensible Claire even more when hearing it performed by Ms. Porter. An unforgettable tale, its length discourages many listeners but those who do choose to tune in, usually come out thinking it is one of the best – if not the best. And it seems as though you can’t listen to just one. I’ve listened to the first four in the series and plan to do so again and probably yet again.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips also figures largely in our favorite romance audiobook selection. Coming in second and third are the last two entries in her Chicago Stars series, Natural Born Charmer and Match Me if You Can – both narrated by the beloved Anna Fields. And overall, Ms. Phillips showed her strength by garnering 26% of the total votes in this category.
Favorite Romance Narrator
Winner – Anna Fields
With 39% of the vote, Ms. Fields easily comes in at number one and is best known by romance audiobook fans for her narration of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books (sixteen to be exact). Most who have listened to one of these gems agrees that the pairing of Phillips and Fields is one of the best, if not the best, romance audiobook teams. It’s often said that the strength of Anna Field’s performance can transform an average book into an above average listening experience. Also known as Kate Fleming, Ms. Fields died unexpectedly in 2006 at the age of 41. We miss her greatly and treasure her many audiobook performances.
Coming in at second place with 11% of the votes is Davina Porter, most recognized in the romance audio world for her narration of Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Phil Gigante is close behind with 10% (more about Phil later) and Honorable Mentions go to Renee Raudman and Susan Ericksen who each received 7% of the votes.
Favorite Romance Author in Audio
Winner – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Phillips easily takes the crown with 30% of the vote. Combined with the talent of narrator Anna Fields, her books are a treat to be enjoyed again and again by many a romance listener. Phillips’ latest audio release, Call Me Irresistible, features a new-to-Phillips narrator, Shannon Cochran, who resonates well with SEP audio fans and we’re hoping to see her return. Phillips entire backlist is available in audio with simultaneous releases of her new titles in print and audio. That all makes for some pretty loyal fans.
Another favorite romance author in audio is J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts with 15% of our respondents giving her their favorite nod. Diana Gabaldon makes another appearance with 10% of our votes.
Favorite Romance Audiobook Series
Winners – Susan Elizabeth Chicago Stars Series tied with J.D. Robb’s In Death Series
Each of these revered series garnered 20% of the votes and it should be noted that both series have the same narrator throughout – Anna Fields for the Chicago Stars Series and Susan Ericksen for the In Death Series. Honorable Mentions go to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series with 11% of the votes followed by the comparatively new Ilona Andrews Magic Series (Kate Daniels) with 7% of the votes.
Favorite Abridged Romance Audiobook
Winner – Open Season by Linda Howard Narrated by Kate Forbes
Easily capturing first place with 22% of the vote, the unabridged version of Open Season is one of those hard-to-finds but our listeners are quite happy to settle for the abridged version.
But we can’t talk about abridged romance these days without mentioning Georgette Heyer. Heyer’s Sylvester came in second with 17% of the votes and I must surmise that it has something to do with narrator Richard Armitage (at least it did for me)! In fact, Armitage narrations of Heyer books commanded 33% of the overall voting for favorite abridged romance.
Favorite Audio Romance Hero
Winner – Jamie Fraser – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Jamie easily commanded first place with 25% of our votes and that comes as no surprise to me. If you have listened to Outlander, it is highly likely that Jamie is your number-one guy. That’s certainly the case with me.
Indicating that our listeners tune into those heroes who appear in more than one book, second place goes to Roarke from J.D. Robb’s In Death series (Book 1 – Naked in Death) with 12% of the votes. I’ve only listened to the first two in the In Death Series, but after this poll, you may be certain that I’m tuning in for more.
Honorable Mention goes to our third place winner, Tucker Longstreet of Nora Roberts’ Carnal Innocence. Tucker’s popularity is particularly notable for two reasons. First, Carnal Innocence is a stand-alone book from 1992 with no repeat performances for Tucker. But greater in my mind is the fact that the unabridged version is most definitely a hard-to-find audiobook and Tucker’s character must ring strong with those who have been lucky enough to listen.
Favorite Audio Romance Heroine
Winner – Eve Dallas – In Death series by J.D. Robb
Futuristic homicide detective Eve is our favorite heroine with 17% of the votes, once again supporting the theory that listeners enjoy getting to know characters through extended series.
Tied for second place with 9% of the votes each are Annabelle Granger of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me if You Can and Claire Fraser of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Following in third place is another tie between Blair Mallory from Linda Howard’s To Die For and Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites – each with 7% of the votes.
Favorite Audio Romance Couple
Winner – Jamie and Claire Fraser - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
By now, I think those of you who have yet to experience Outlander in audio may be giving it a second thought! The favorite couple brought in 16% of the votes – we love those Frasers!
Following very close behind at 15% are Eve Dallas and Roarke of J.D. Robb’s In Death series. And once again, Ilona Andrews’ Magic Series makes the cut with Kate and Curran from Magic Slays carrying 9% of our votes.
Favorite Contemporary Romance Audiobook
Winner – Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips Narrated by Anna Fields
The latest (and last?) book in the Chicago Stars Series earned 12% of our votes and its hero is the irresistible Dean Robillard we first met in Match Me if You Can. It’s Anna Fields last performance of a Phillips’ book.
Not far behind at 8% of our votes is Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me. Deanna Hurst narrates this Crusie favorite that keeps bringing readers back in both print and audio.
Once all the votes were tallied for Favorite Contemporary, it became obvious that we have definite author favorites in this genre as well. Susan Elizabeth Phillips carried 36% of all votes in this category while Jennifer Crusie carried 14%. Lisa Kleypas’ short list of contemporaries scored well with 12% of all votes.
Favorite Romantic Suspense Audiobook
Winner – Envy by Sandra Brown Narrated by Victor Slezak
Okay, I have to admit a certain thrill here since Envy was my choice for romantic suspense and it carried 15% of our votes. This book represents my new view of Sandra Brown as I left her old romances behind and entered her world of romantic suspense.
Second place goes to Linda Howard’s Dream Man narrated by Phil Gigante and it brought in 7% of our votes.
More significantly is the number of votes by author. Linda Howard definitely proves to be the queen of romantic suspense with 34% of all votes.
Favorite Paranormal Romance Audiobook
Winner – Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward Narrated by Jim Frangione
The third in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Awakened probably holds the title of favorite in the series among readers and this definitely flows over to the audio version as well with 11% of the vote.
Not far behind at 9% of the vote is Karen Marie Moning’s Kiss of the Highlander. Voting, however, in this category was scattered. It’s best summed up by saying Karen Marie Moning’s titles carried 17% of the vote while J.R. Ward’s titles carried an equal amount.
Favorite Historical Romance Audiobook
Winner – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Narrated by Davina Porter
Since we didn’t have a category for time travel, Outlander took first place for historical romance with 17% of the vote. Even the modern portion of the book barely misses the RWA historical cut of 1945.
Second was Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady with11% of the votes. A vastly popular book when released in print, it’s proven to have quite the following in audio as well.
Favorite Urban fantasy with Romance Thread
Winners – Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews Narrated by Renee Raudman
One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Both Magic Strikes and One Foot in The Grave carried 10% of the vote. However, I think this category is best described by the percentage of titles per author.
Ilona Andrews’ titles represented 20% of the votes while Patricia Briggs’ books garnered 17%. Jeaniene Frost and Karen Marie Moning both brought in 13% of the votes.
Favorite Fantasy or Sci Fi with Romance Thread
Winner – Naked in Death (first in the In Death Series) by J.D. Robb Narrated by Susan Ericksen
All winners in this category (and thereby most votes) were primarily for the series – not the individual books. Rather than a specific title within the In Death Series, listeners more often just stated In Death and brought in 24% of the votes.
The same can be said for the second place winner (with 12% of the votes), The Sharing Knife: Beguilement (first in the Sharing Knife Series) by Lois McMaster Bujold. Votes appear to actually be for the entire Sharing Knife Series.
And third place goes to Karen Marie Moning’s Shadowfever, the fifth and final in the Fever Series.
Favorite Female Romance Narrator
Winner – Anna Field
Ms. Field takes the favorite female category as well as Favorite Romance Narrator with 37% of the votes. In addition to her narration of Susan Elizabeth Phillips books, she has other jewels in the romance audiobook genre such as the hard-to-find-but-highly-worth-it One Summer by Karen Robards.
Others receiving votes of approval from our listeners include Susan Ericksen at second place. Susan is known for J.D. Robb’s In Death Series and more recently, Anne Stuart’s Rohan Series. Davina Porter (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series) tied with Renee Raudman (Ilona Andrews’ Magic Series) for third.
Favorite Male Romance Narrator
Winner – Phil Gigante
We do so love Phil Gigante and he brings in the largest numbers of all our poll categories with his two wins. Here he receives a whopping 52% of the votes. In romance audio, Phil is best known for his performances of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander Series and Fever Series as well as books such as Linda Howard’s Dream Man. Phil talked with Speaking of Audiobooks in January, 2011 and, if you’ve not read it, you should definitely check it out. Phil is a versatile narrator performing in many genres but he remains faithful to the romance genre as well and we always love to see his return. Have you ever heard of buying an audiobook because of the narrator? I know this applies here!
Following in second place is Tom Stechschulte with 13% of the votes. He is best known for his Christine Feehan narrations and his performance of Tucker Longstreet in Carnal Innocence. Victor Slezak comes in at third with 10% of the votes. Personally, I remember Slezak first and foremost for his outstanding performance of Sandra Brown’s Envy (our Romantic Suspense Poll Winner).
Favorite Debut Romance Narrator
Winner – Xe Sands
Xe is best known in romance audio for her narration of Anne Stuart’s Fire and Ice. Her performance gave new meaning to the word “narrate” and she brought in 31% of the votes. Xe shared her preparation for an upcoming book with Speaking of Audiobooks last month answering many of our listeners’ questions. She is now on fire narrating Jacquelyn Frank’s Nightwalker Series and I’m already hearing of her excellent performance in Jacob, the first in the series. (It should be noted that Xe had already gained first place in this category before talking with Speaking of Audiobooks listeners in late June.)
Other debut narrators whose votes deserve mention are Shannon Cochran, narrator of Susan Elizabeth Phillips Call Me Irresistible and Kirsten Potter, narrator of Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady. Unfortunately Shannon Cochran doesn’t meet the guidelines for this category since she actually debuted prior to 2010.
Best Male/Female Dual Romance Narration
Winners – Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante
Our Favorite Male Narrator, Phil Gigante, pairs up with the highly talented Natalie Ross and brings in 56% of the vote – the largest number of votes in any of our categories. Their joint narration of Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever includes an excellently characterized first person narrative by Natalie which means she performs the greater part of each book as MacKayla. However, Phil captured much of the attention playing the unforgettable Jericho Barrons.
Natalie and Phil also pair up in Christine Feehan’s Dark Series.
Another team our listeners enjoy is Patrick Lawlor and Renee Raudman performing the works of Suzanne Brockmann. They bring in 15% of the votes and recently joined up for Brockmann’s latest release, Breaking the Rules.
Most Disappointing Narration of a Highly Anticipated Romance Audiobook
I can’t say that there are any winners in this category. First, a vote in this category represents a disappointment. Second, there were many different choices by our listeners and little consensus. However, Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas did garner 10% of the votes. We’ll be reworking this category for next year’s poll to make a better statement to the industry.
Romance Narrator You Learned to Like
Once again, I don’t see a winner for this category but rather a personal win for each of us as we train our ear to appreciate a fine narrator who didn’t work for us initially. 17% of our respondents in this category state that they have learned to like the narrations of Anne Flosnik with 14% saying it’s Renee Raudman. This represents more of a challenge to you to “Give a Narrator Another Chance.” It’s actually a category in our 2011 Listening Challenge!
Favorite 2010 Romance Audiobook
Winner – Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews Narrated by Renee Raudman
The Magic Series continues to show its strong following with 11% of the vote. Tied for second are Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie, Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James, and The Search by Nora Roberts.
Favorite Funny Romance Audiobook
Winner – To Die For by Linda Howard Narrated by Franette Liebow
With 11% of the votes, To Die For is one of Linda Howard’s more unusual tales and, I can personally attest, is hilarious as well. I’ve listened to it several times and still laugh out loud each time.
Jennifer Crusie’s titles account for 25% of the funny romance votes followed by Molly Harper with 14% and Susan Elizabeth Phillips at 11%.
Best “Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat” Romance Audiobook
There is truly no clear winner for this category. However, there are three authors who each claim 15% of the votes for books that keep us on the edge of our seats – Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Brown, and Karen Marie Moning.
Romance Author Whose Backlist I Listen to the Most
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Roberts/Robb and Phillips each carried 25% of the overall votes. Their strength not only lies in the number of audiobooks on their backlists but also as desirable books for relistens. Shall we say comfort listens?
Tied for second place are Linda Howard and Lisa Kleypas, each with 8% to their name.
Author’s Romance Backlist You Most Want to See in Audio
Winner – Loretta Chase
With 16% of the votes, a wish for Loretta Chase books means some fine European historical romance listening should it happen. Now, how can we help make this happen?
Pamela Clare With 8% of the votes, I’m hoping that Clare’s historical titles as well as her romantic suspense make it to audio.
Rachel Gibson Also carrying 8% of the votes, Gibson received my vote. Although a number of her books are already in audio, Gibson is one entertaining author who translates well to audio.
Anne Stuart As another author who already lays claim to a significant number of books in audio, I imagine this is a cry for Stuart’s extensive historical backlist. If only!
Kresley Cole Also receiving 6% of the vote, I hear this is one wish that may come to pass soon. The first in her Immortals After Dark Series will be released in August.
A Short List of the Winners for Easy Reference:
First – the Absolute Favorite Categories
Favorite Romance Audiobook – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite Romance Narrator – Anna Fields
Favorite Romance Author in Audio – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Favorite Romance Audiobook Series – Tie between J.D. Robb’s In Death Series and Susan Elizabeth Phillips Chicago Stars Series
Favorite Abridged Romance Audiobook – Open Season by Linda Howard
Favorite Audio Romance Hero – Jamie Fraser – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite Romance Heroine – Eve Dallas – In Death Series by J.D. Robb
Favorite Audio Romance Couple – Jamie & Claire Fraser – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite Contemporary Romance Audiobook – Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Favorite Romantic Suspense Audiobook – Envy by Sandra Brown
Favorite Paranormal Romance Audiobook – Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward
Favorite Historical Romance Audiobook – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Favorite Urban Fantasy with Romance Thread – Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews tied with One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Favorite Fantasy or Sci Fi with Romance Thread – In Death Series (Naked in Death) – J.D. Robb
Favorite Female Romance Narrator – Anna Fields
Favorite Male Romance Narrator – Phil Gigante
Favorite Debut Romance Narrator – Xe Sands
Best Male/Female Dual Romance Narration – Natalie Ross & Phil Gigante
Most Disappointing Narration of a Highly Anticipated Romance Audiobook – Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Romance Narrator You Learned to Like – Anne Flosnik
Other Favorites to Ponder
Favorite 2010 Romance Audiobook – Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
Favorite Funny Romance Audiobook – To Die For by Linda Howard
Best “Keep you on the Edge of Your Seat” Romance Audiobook – No real winner – see column
Let’s Let the Audiobook Industry Know…
Romance Author Whose Backlist I Listen to the Most – Tie between Susan Elizabeth Phillips and J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts
Author’s Romance Backlist You Most Want to See in Audio – Loretta Chase
Time for Your Thoughts
Did any of your favorites make it to the final list?
What is one or more of your favorites you wish had made it to the list?
Do you have questions on any of the categories?
Have you found new audiobooks to add to your personal wish list?
Our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group keeps growing and we now have 129 members. Come join in the discussion and share your audiobook shelf with us.
I’m announcing new romance audiobook releases and other audio tidbits on Twitter. Look for LeaAAR.
For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.
I’ll be back later this month with another Reviews Only column.
Enjoy your listening!
- Lea Hensley