It’s another day of looking at future releases and sharing more of your favorites from the past. In addition to our list of November’s new romance releases, we’re featuring Part Three of Beyond the Winners and seven audiobook reviews. Up for review today are J.D. Robb’s New York to Dallas, J.D. Robb’s Chaos in Death, Paula Quinn’s Ravished by the Highlander, Maya Banks’ Sweet Possession, Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, Heather Graham’s An Angel for Christmas, and Jessa Slade’s Seduced by Shadows.
Beyond the Winners – Paranormal Romance
Our recent Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll featured some big name winners such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Both series swept a number of categories making us wonder what other favorites are out there beyond the big poll winners. Over the remainder of 2011, we’re taking a number of the poll categories one by one and asking you “What are your other favorites?”
We’ve already shared our other favorites in Contemporary Romance as well as Romantic Suspense. Now we are taking a look at Paranormal Romance – those romances in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings play an integral part in the plot. This genre is often confused with Fantasy Romance with a romance thrown in. To differentiate Paranormal Romances, look at the attention paid to the romance as well as a HEA for the lead couple. Our poll winners were Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward in first place with Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning taking second.
Share with us some of your other Paranormal Romance favorites. Let us know in our comment area below. If another listener states one of your favorites, write it down again because we’re taking an unofficial count.
As a tribute to these favorites that don’t hold an official place on the winning poll results, we are utilizing our Goodreads audio bookshelf to summarize those most often mentioned. Our Goodreads audio bookshelf is actually a number of bookshelves. You’ll find a Mini-Review shelf (reviews from our columns), a Romance Audiobook Poll Winners shelf, an Upcoming Reviews shelf and a Beyond the Winners shelf. We’ll add to the latter each time we discuss a poll category.
Let us know your other Paranormal Romance favorites!
Audiobook Romances on Sale in November
Includes new formats of existing audiobooks. Only unabridged versions are included.
Andrews, Ilona – Fate’s Edge Narrated by Renee Raudman
Barton, Beverly – Dead by Nightfall Narrated by Karen White
Bond, Stephanie – Baby, Don’t Go Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Brockmann, Suzanne – Future Perfect Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
Brown, Sandra – Rainwater Narrated by Victor Slezak
Chandler, Elizabeth – Soulmates Narrated by Renee Raudman
Coulter, Catherine – Prince of Ravenscar Narrated by Anne Flosnik
Evanovich, Janet – Explosive Eighteen Narrated by Lorelei King
Gerritsen, Tess – Keeper of the Bride Narrated by Montana Chase
Guhrke, Laura Lee – Scandal of the Year Narrated by Anne Flosnik
Hooper. Kay – The Fall of Lucas Kendrick Narrator unknown
Howard, Linda – Son of the Morning Narrated by Natalie Ross
Hunter, Kenyon, Kurland, Moning – Tapestry Narrated by Phil Gigante & Chloe Campbell
Johansen, Iris – The Bronzed Hawk Narrated by Christina Traister
Mallery, Susan – Sweet Spot Narrated by Therese Plummer
Mallery, Susan – Sweet Trouble Narrated by Therese Plummer
Neill, Chloe – Drink Deep Narrated by Cynthia Holloway
Perini, Robin – In Her Sights Narrator unknown
Roberts, Nora – The Next Always Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
Shalvis, Jill – Animal Magnetism Narrated by Karen White
Steele, Danielle – Hotel Vendome Narrated by Fred Stella
Tyler, Stephanie – Lie with Me Narrated by Johanna Parker
Tyler, Stephanie – Promises in the Dark Narrated by Johanna Parker
Warren, Christine – Not Your Ordinary Faerie Tale Narrated by Kate Reading
White, Karen – The Strangers on Montagu Street Narrated by Aimee Bruneau
Romance Audio Reviews
New York to Dallas – J.D. Robb
Review written by LinnieGayl
Narrated by Susan Ericksen
In this latest entry to the In Death series, a particularly vile criminal Eve encountered early in her career (before the In Death series) comes back to haunt her. The criminal abducts, tortures, and rapes young girls – behavior hauntingly similar to Eve’s father. Eve and Roarke quickly leave for Dallas to try and locate the criminal, bringing back memories not only of the original case, but flashbacks to Eve’s horrific childhood experiences in Dallas.
The portions of the book that focus on Eve and Roarke are fantastic. I know that sometime soon I’ll listen to Naked in Death just to remind myself of how very far they’ve come both in their relationship and as people. As always, narrator Susan Ericksen is fantastic as well, bringing all of Eve and Roarke’s emotions and feelings to life.
Several books ago I switched completely from print to audio for the series. I like the voices Susan Ericksen gives to each of the series’ characters – distinct and fitting my image of how the characters should sound. And Ms. Ericksen does not disappoint in this book. The characters’ voices remain true from the previous books and I had no trouble figuring out who’s speaking.
However, I had serious problems listening to passages told from the criminal’s and the abducted girls’ points of view. At times it felt almost as if they were speaking directly to me and these weren’t conversations I wanted to be involved with. Yes, the criminal was excellently portrayed and described. Yes, he was pure evil. But no, this isn’t the type of story that works well for me in audio. If I’d been reading in print I might have skimmed those passages. And I suspect that even reading them in print wouldn’t have felt quite so personal.
Portions focusing on the search for the criminal suffered by comparison to those that focused on Eve and Roarke’s relationship. I wasn’t surprised by the “big reveal” of the criminal’s accomplice but thought it was a bit too coincidental. I also missed Eve’s usual interactions with Peabody and the rest of the NYC police, as they all stayed back in New York, and appeared only in limited calls.
I will definitely continue reading the series but am going to be more cautious in my decisions about the audio versions. I don’t normally listen to romantic suspense or mysteries involving graphic scenes. In the future I’ll wait to read more details about the crimes involved in the book before jumping into the audio versions of the In Death series.
Chaos in Death – J.D. Robb
Review written by Kaetrin
Narrated by Susan Ericksen
As the most recent novella in the In Death series, Chaos in Death follows immediately after the events of New York to Dallas. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend listening to it until after you’ve read NY2D as the novella contains spoilers.
I enjoy the In Death novellas, but they are a bit light in the romance department. There’s always Roarke and there’s always some sexy times but the focus is not on the relationship – it’s about solving a crime. For that reason, I like the full length releases better. I’m an Eve/Roarke junkie and a novella isn’t enough for a fix.
Speaking of fixes….in Chaos in Death, Dallas investigates the nasty homicide of three former drug addicts where the killer signs his name in blood as Dr. Chaos. A witness describes him as a green monster and it made me wonder if we were dealing with the paranormal or something else? I didn’t immediately determine the villain’s identity although looking back all the clues were certainly there.
While it could have been my ears playing tricks on me, at first, I thought Ms. Ericksen sounded a bit harsh and stilted. That was a surprise since she’s usually very, very good, especially with this series. But, after the first few chapters, she reverted to the characterizations I know and love. All in all, Chaos in Death is another enjoyable novella in one of my favourite series.
Ravished by a Highlander – Paula Quinn
Review written by Diana
Narrated by Carrington MacDuffie
Produced by Blackstone Audio
In 1685 Scotland, highlander Robert MacGregor and his kinsmen happen upon a convent under attack by unknown soldiers, arriving just in time to rescue two lone survivors. Rob feels honor bound to take novice Davina and her guard Edward Asher to safety at his family’s well-guarded keep hidden in the mists on the Isle of Skye. Asher confesses that Davina’s life is at stake and that she will continue to be hunted down by the King’s enemies. Davina’s true identify is a Big Secret, but the warning from the King’s Guardsman regarding the King’s Enemies is, well, a Big Clue.
Rob and Davina, of course, fall in love and their romance along with some interesting political intrigue is what I enjoyed most. Rob is a big, strapping, alpha highlander with a six-pack of steel, flowing tresses, and blue eyes. Davina is the most beautiful, sweet, innocent maiden ever. She is quite the weeper and even weeps tears of joy, but Rob seems to like it. And therein lies my problem. Quinn’s prose is wordy and florid, crossing into purple too often for my taste. This point of view from a man bent on seduction and possession does not ring true in my world.
“…a forgiving, guileless angel spun from the harp strings of Heaven.”
This is what a man thinks when he’s about to crawl on top of her?
Narrator Carrington MacDuffie lays on the Scottish accent with a trowel and there is no shortage of doonas and dinnas. My jaw hit the floor, though, when the enemy Dutch soldiers spoke with a Jersey Shore accent. I wouldn’t know a proper Dutch accent, but I suspect that “dis, dem, dose” for “this, them, those” just isn’t right. The accents began to sound cartoonish and that detracted heavily from my concentrating on the story.
I’m giving Ravished by a Highlander a guarded recommendation if you’re in the mood for a hunky, honorable highlander and a maiden in need of a protector. The love story is sweet, the plot well-constructed, but in the end I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it.
Sweet Possession – Maya Banks
Review written by Kaetrin
Narrated by Caroline Wintour
I wanted to listen to Sweet Possession for two reasons. I wanted to revisit Gray and Faith and I wanted to try an erotic romance on audio to see whether that level of explicitness worked for me in this medium. Sadly, this is not Gray and Faith’s story (that is Sweet Surrender). This is Lyric and Connor’s story and the most recent release as well as the most “vanilla” of the series. The sex scenes are tamer than the previous books – e.g., they only involve two people and there are no whips or props. Connor Malone is the “straight” one of the “sweet” men and by straight, I don’t actually mean heterosexual – he’s just not into any kind of kink. He’s hired to sort out security for singer Lyric Jones, who is (unbeknownst to her) being threatened by a stalker.
I read Sweet Possession earlier this year and despite it being vanilla, I did really enjoy it. The suspense subplot was a bit of a bust but as I read for the romance, that wasn’t a huge deal for me. On audio though, it didn’t work so well. I can’t necessarily put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy the narration even as I consider the fact that Ms. Wintour’s pace was too fast for me and she didn’t sound all that emotionally attached. The male/female voices were well differentiated but I nevertheless found this a very difficult listen. I already knew the story, so there was no “I wonder what will happen next” to compel me forward and the more I listened, the more the narration grated on me. I didn’t feel the characters and as a result, I didn’t care all that much. That was a surprise since I did enjoy the paper version. So, either I was that disappointed it wasn’t Sweet Surrender or this narrator is simply not for me.
A Hunger Like No Other – Kresley Cole
Review written by Brenda
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
A Hunger Like No Other is the first book in Kresley Cole’s very popular Immortals After Dark series. Simon and Schuster recently released the audiobook version which I had really been looking forward to. The tenth book in the series, Lothaire, will be released in hardback and audio January 10th, 2012.
This was my first experience listening to narrator Robert Petkoff and I sincerely hope it won’t be my last. His skill at creating distinct voices for a large cast of characters is impressive. The accents, including a delicious Scottish brogue for the hero, his brother, and a cousin are a pleasure to hear as were the pleasing female voices. Add to this his impeccable delivery of emotion, the humor, desperation, fear, passion, happiness … and one could assume that Petkoff is a long standing fan of this series. More likely he has done a lot of homework. He was perfect!
As with most paranormal romance, the fated mate theme appears, though it is one sided in this case. Lykae clan leader, Lachlain MacRieve, has been held prisoner and tortured by the Vampire hoard for the past 150 years, but when he scents his one true mate there is nothing that will stop him from claiming her. Emmaline Troy is one of a kind, half valkyrie/half vampire. She is an odd mix of easily frightened vulnerability and underlying strength due to the upbringing the Valkyrie gave her.
Cole took a page from the early bodice rippers with hero Lachlain’s opening attitude, I want – I’ll take. The narrator really showcases that caveman approach, along with so perfectly portraying Emma’s initial fright that it almost put Lachlain beyond the pale. But later the narration also makes Lachlain’s regret over his actions nearly palpable, while you also hear Emma getting even in her own way.
I found humor in the fierce and deadly Valkyrie proving that you’re only as old as you feel. Their use of the latest slang in conversation as well as their love of video games, nail polish and a good party added a fun aspect to the story. Hearing Emma dig out her strength to become someone that willingly faces off with werewolves and vampires alike was a significant part of what made this book work for me.
Whether the overall story works for you, or not, hearing Robert Petkoff’s outstanding narration would never be regretted.
An Angel for Christmas – Heather Graham
Review written by Melinda
Narrated by Christina Traister
The MacDougal family meets each year for Christmas at a mountain cabin. Stacy and Mike are the parents of Shane, a divorced doctor and father of two; Morwenna, a single career woman from Manhattan; and Bobby, a college student. Each sibling has a cross to bear – Shane is facing his first Christmas without the children; Morwenna’s most recent boyfriend would rather spend the holidays with co-workers in Cancun; and Bobby is a disappointment to his parents as he has once again dropped out of college.
Into their lives drops a stranger, Gabe, who has been struck in the head and left to die but still manages to crawl to the cabin. He explains he’s a state trooper looking for a criminal. Then Luke comes on the scene stating he’s the state trooper and Gabe is the criminal.
That’s the setup for An Angel for Christmas. The reader knows Gabe is telling the truth so there’s no mystery. Apparently he’s all-knowing which inspires great confidence in them all. He manages to not only get each character to bare his or her soul to him, but gives each one sage advice to solve all their problems. (Hint: Angel. Gabriel. Lucifer. Duh.) The storyline makes little to no sense; the coincidences strain credulity; and that’s just the first couple of chapters.
Christina Traister’s narration is unexceptional. She does have variations in voicing characters, but in general her reading is uninspiring. I’ve bemoaned her narrations before – her inability to time pauses stands out for me. This tendency was evident in An Angel for Christmas as Traister took short breaths mid-sentence several times. In addition, her intonation and emphases often completely changed the meaning of sentences.
I felt I was constantly assaulted by both the incredible plot and jarring narration. I don’t even know why it’s classified as a romance. With ten minutes left in the story, Morwenna kisses Gabe on the lips while he’s laying half-conscious in the snow. That sums up the romance – it left me and them out in the cold. It wasn’t a good experience.
Seduced by Shadows – Jessa Slade
Review written by Brenda
Narrated by Renee Raudman
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Jessa Slade builds a world with a new and interesting twist in Seduced by Shadows. Repentant demons cross the veil and possess humans that have a weakness, whether physical, mental or both. It’s considered a symbiotic relationship. The human gains in strength and abilities and that is a good thing for Sera Littlejohn. A car accident has left her with serious health issues, but with the new vitality is the obligation to fight against the dark spirits.
Ferris Archer is taylan, one who has been possessed and has fought this battle for centuries. In all that time he has not known of a female taylan, until Sera. She brings unique views and skills into this men’s club as well as the beginning of needed changes if good is to prevail. There are attempts at levity but overall this is a dark mix of Urban Fantasy with some romance.
Narrator Renee Raudman has the tone down perfectly as she portrays these characters; each with a distinct voice making it easy to follow along with who is who. I’ve appreciated Raudman’s skill at pulling the humor/drama/action out of a book and with this listen I see she is just as skilled with angst. It pours out of her in dark waves as she brings this story to life. It may not be my cup of tea but I can attest to the fact that she is just as good with this angle as she is with the others.
Time for Your Thoughts
What Paranormal Romance audiobooks are your favorites?
What new releases are you looking forward to?
Do you know of a new romance release that didn’t make the list?
Have you listened to one of today’s review books? What were your thoughts?
And, as always, what are your latest audio successes or failures?
Recorded Books Announcement
Brenda shared with me earlier this week an announcement from Recorded Books.
“Due to a broad change in strategic direction, we have decided to exit the “direct-to-consumer” audiobook market and concentrate exclusively on our institutional and digital business lines. This was not an easy decision for Recorded Books, which was founded over 30 years ago as a direct-to-consumer audiobook rental business. We have enjoyed bringing the world of audiobooks to our dedicated customers and are proud of how our efforts have helped the audiobook industry grow. However, we recognize that we are no longer competitive in the consumer space and it is time for a change.”
At times, we have wondered in our discussions why Recorded Books was so out of sync with their non user friendly site. We have complained when they chose to keep a particular delicious romance title all to themselves – offering it neither to other retailers or in digital format. But, in the back of my mind, I always knew I could find it there. This announcement actually makes me a bit sad. Recorded Books has consistently offered an excellent selection of romance audios often claiming some of the best authors. We can only hope that we will now see those in the digital market.
The winner of our six audiobook giveaway that ran with our Anne Flosnik interview was Jax WP. Congratulations!
I’m announcing news for the Speaking of Audiobooks column and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for SpeakingofAudio (formerly LeaAAR).
For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.
Our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group keeps growing and we now have 159 members. It’s easy to join and it’s a great place for discussion in between our columns.
Enjoy your listening!
- Lea Hensley