Speaking of Audiobooks: Romance Audio Bests for 2011

ShadowfeverIt’s time to take a look back at 2011 and choose my favorite romance audios released over the past year.  Writing the Speaking of Audiobooks column provides me with a good deal of exposure to what’s new in romance audio as I perform the research required to put together each month’s new releases and organize audio reviews for the column.  Now it’s my honor to talk about a few of those titles I consider outstanding.  I made myself stop at ten – my list of deserving audios was actually closer to twenty.  I’m providing greater detail for the Top Five.  After all, there is a lot to say.

I’m following up the Top Ten with a few other fun categories:

Best Romance Listen Released Prior to 2011

Best Relisten of 2011

Best Surprise

The Top Five:

1. Shadowfever – Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante

As the fifth and final in the Fever Series, Shadowfever was so highly anticipated and surrounded by such an impressive media blitz that I’m still amazed to this day.  And the fervor only made the listening all that much more satisfying.  If you want to fully experience Shadowfever, listen to all of the series books first – in order and skip my summation.

Shadowfever captivated, thrilled, and surprised me to the very end.  The series contains no promise of a romantic ending but as a romance diehard, I needed one.  The chemistry between the leads was strong and the emotional impact of their romance even stronger.

And, oh, for those who are lucky enough to know we should listen to such books – not just read!  A female/male team performs Shadowfever and who could hope for more in the chosen performers of this urban fantasy romance?  Natalie Ross narrates the majority of the audio vividly bringing to life every aspect of Mac’s character while Phil Gigante performs the male roles with panache and perfection.  His rendition of Jericho Barrons in particular had Fever audio fans swooning!

2. Prince of Dreams – Lisa Kleypas

Narrated by Susan Duerden

A 1995 print release, Prince of Dreams isn’t a sweet little romance framed by the political correctness of today’s romance industry.  Hero Nikolas is an exiled Russian prince and he is as dark and brooding as they come.  Nikolas has been waiting for Emma Stokehurst to come of marriageable age and just why he’s so interested in such an unlikely woman is all part of the tale.

A new-to-me narrator in 2011, Susan Duerden is simply outstanding performing both English and Russian accents while clearly differentiating all characters with flair.  I found myself lost in the tale without once being jerked out of the story with some inconsistency in the narration.  And as far as romance narrations go – I felt the confusing love and angst that surrounds Nikolas and Emma.  Ms. Duerden delivers a fully fleshed out tale and takes Prince of Dreams to a higher level than mere print.

Note: Prince of Dreams does work as a stand-alone.  However, for maximum enjoyment, I urge you to listen to Midnight Angel first.

3. Dead Reckoning – Charlaine Harris

Narrated by Johanna Parker

Choosing Dead Reckoning as a Romance Audio Best of 2011 is reason to celebrate the entire Sookie Stackhouse series in audio as well as praising the book itself.  I’m not a fan of True Blood (HBO) – I find the series as told by Johanna Parker some of the finest entertainment around and see no need to improve on perfection!

When I started the series (Dead Until Dark), I thought there was little chance an open ended storyline with the possibility of more than one romantic hero would hold my interest.  However, my thorough enjoyment of the series continues with each installment as well as my amazement that a tale of vampires, werewolves, humans, fairies, shapeshifters, etc. does hold my attention so completely.

To say Johanna Parker excels in her narration almost seems an understatement – the pacing is tight, the characters clearly distinguished, the story delightful, and I have rarely (if at all) experienced a single boring audio moment after eleven books.  Dead Reckoning brought it all home to me again.  Johanna Parker plus Charlaine Harris equals an absolute audio thrill!

4. Call Me Irresistible – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Shannon Cochran

I’m one of those Susan Elizabeth fans who relistens to her audiobooks on a regular basis – that is, if they are narrated by Anna Fields.  Replacing Ms. Fields was not an easy job for Ms. Phillips but Shannon Cochran proved herself one dynamic contemporary romance narrator with her performance of Call Me Irresistible.  Dare I say she sounded like Anna Fields at times?  That’s all good here as I felt an immediate comfort with her narration. Ms. Cochran’s pitch, rhythm, timing, and ability to deliver humor when needed and drama when required were exceptional.

Oh, and the story? The too perfect Ted matching up with the far from perfect Meg was pure SEP magic.  I paid little attention to the former (and mostly irritating) leads from Fancy Pants, First Lady, Lady Be Good, and Glitter Baby and concentrated fully on this opposites attract tale.  It’s in line with my other SEP listens – a highly coveted spot for sure.

5. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer

Narrated by Clare Wille

I’m not what one could call a Georgette Heyer aficionado and that may be one of the reasons I so enjoy these abridged versions of her works by Naxos Audiobooks.  I don’t recognize missing content.

Although Richard Armitage first drew me to Naxos with his narration of Heyer’s Sylvester, Clare Wille’s narration of The Grand Sophy convinced me I’ll keep coming back for more of these abridged works.  I was delighted to find that I enjoyed her narration even more than Armitage’s!  Ms. Wille’s performance, in a word, is exceptional.  Whereas Armitage’s performance of the female voices on occasion left something to be desired, Ms. Wille has a full range of pleasing voices for both male and female characters.  Her narration combined with a sweet, funny story set in Regency England, made for some great entertainment albeit of a calmer sort than the other Top Five picks.

The Rest of the Top Ten

6. Archangel’s Blade – Nalini Singh

Narrated by Justine Eyre

The fourth in the Guild Hunter series, I was crazy about the first, Angel’s Blood, enthused with the second, Archangel’s Kiss, and completely disappointed with the third, Archangel’s Consort.  But I just knew Dmitri’s story would restore my faith and boy, did it ever.

7. Lethal – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Victor Slezak

More suspense than romance, Lethal is top notch with a mystery that had me hanging on until the end.  Victor Slezak is one of the best male narrators around and his performance only adds to tension.

8. The Secret Mistress – Mary Balogh

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

After tiring of a seemingly endless number of European historical romances, The Secret Mistress reminded me of my first days of reading romance when I was captivated by teas, balls, and afternoon visits.  Ms. Flosnik helped me envision the true spirit of the time with her lyrical British accent.

scandalous desires9. Scandalous Desires – Elizabeth Hoyt

Narrated by Ashford MacNab

A favorite due to Hoyt’s tale (I read in print first), it was made all the richer by Ms. MacNab’s delivery.  A pirate hero who needs a lot redeeming and a heroine who demands respect, Scandalous Desires is actually a tender love story.  Ashford MacNab’s voice is clear, soothing, and easily differentiated – usually with accent or rhythm.

10. Fire and Ice – Anne Stuart

Narrated by Xe Sands

A fast paced audiobook, Xe Sands brought characters, accents, and settings to life in a way my mind couldn’t begin to imagine.  Fire and Ice was sheer excitement and Ms. Sands delivered it with perfection.

Best Romance Listen Released Prior to 2011

Morning Glory – LaVyrle Spencer

Narrated by Kate Forbes

Unabridged

Morning Glory is easily available in abridged format but it is one of those hard-to-find audios if you are interested in the unabridged version.  When readers list their Spencer favorites, Morning Glory nearly always makes their list and it’s on the top of mine.  Finding it in audio was quite a thrill especially as I listened to narrator Kate Forbes delivers a crisp, emotion-packed performance.  She understands just what readers need to hear when delving into this sensitive and most unusual romance.

Best Relisten of 2011

One Summer – Karen Robards

Narrated by Kate Fleming/Anna Fields

Ahhh…Anna Fields performing Johnny.  I can’t imagine anyone doing it better – not even that voice playing in my head.  As the former local bad boy now ex-con working for Rachel, his former high school teacher, One Summer is all about Johnny.  I gave this one an A+ in print and it earns every bit of that grade in this hard-to-find unabridged audio version as well.

Best Surprise

More Than a Mistress – Mary Balogh

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Rosalyn Landor’s female characters are usually totally to my liking but that’s not the case with her male characterizations.  I usually run the other direction.  But her portrayal of the arrogant Duke of Tresham not only was the same voice that played in my head but also true to his character as written.  I so enjoyed this in print years ago and can happily say I enjoyed it once again – this time in audio.

Let us know your Romance Audio Bests for 2011.  We’re also looking for your Best  Romance Listen Released Prior to 2011, your Best Relisten of 2011, and your Best Surprise!

Romance Audio Reviews

Bad Boys Do – Victoria Dahl

Review written by LinnieGayl

Narrated by Lauren Fortang

Contemporary romance is one of my favorite romance genres.  After reading a lot of buzz about Victoria Dahl’s contemporaries, I decided to take a chance on the audio version of Bad Boys Do.  While it’s the second in the Donovan Brothers series, I didn’t feel at a loss by starting the series here.  Blythe gave the print version a B+ at AAR and that’s pretty close to my feelings about it.

Still recovering from her recent divorce, good girl Olivia Bishop decides she needs more fun in her life.  Despite her resolve, she’s not quite prepared when Jamie Donovan, a sexy younger bartender, hits on her.  Resisting him, even when he shows up in her continuing education class as a student, Olivia finally decides to spend time with Jamie in an attempt to show up her ex-husband.  Soon, Jamie and Olivia strike a bargain: She’ll help him with his plans to expand the family pub into a restaurant and he’ll help her learn to have fun.  The fun soon becomes a hot affair with Olivia trying to convince herself it’s only sex and Jamie clearly interested in more.

This is my first experience with Lauren Fortang and I had a few minor quibbles with her narration.  At times, her portrayal of Jamie’s brother, Eric, sounded too soft and breathy.  Since I didn’t care for Eric’s character to begin with (he was too unforgiving of Jamie’s past discretions), the voice didn’t help.  At times, Jamie’s voice was problematic as well.  While he is youngest of the siblings, he’s not a teenager.  At times, I had to remind myself that he was in his late twenties.  Fortunately this wasn’t a consistent problem.

Overall I enjoyed Bad Boys Do – both the story and the narration as my minor complaints didn’t completely take me out of the story.  I’m definitely looking into other Lauren Fortang narrations.

Tribute – Nora Roberts

Review written by Melinda

Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck

Tribute has the best of La Nora – a yummy beta hero, a dynamic appealing heroine, a suspenseful crime/mystery, a slight touch of paranormal, and a romantic love story.  Ford, the yummy hero, is a small-town boy turned famous graphic novelist.  Cilla is a former child star who is now in the business of flipping houses.  She’s renovating her grandmother’s home conveniently located across the road from Ford.

Although Cilla never met her grandmother (who died of apparent suicide), she dreams of her, especially after finding a stack of love letters in the attic.  As Cilla works on the house, a series of pranks and vandalism grows more threatening with time making Cilla (and the listener) wonder who could harbor such ill feelings towards her.

Van Dyck is truly a top-notch narrator.  She grabs on to the story while giving each of the varied characters distinct personalities.  Her genders are clear and she utilizes accents to differentiate characters as well.  Although Ms. Van Dyck’s narration drives the story forward, I was challenged at times by her rapid-fire delivery.  Twice I double checked my programming to make sure I wasn’t listening at time-and-a-half speed!  It sounded as though Cilla was on speed or, perhaps, Ms. Van Dyck had limited time available at the studio.  But other than that quirk, I found the narration of Tribute quite pleasing.

Storm’s Heart – Thea Harrison

Review written by Brenda

Narrated by Sophie Eastlake

Anyone who thought listening to Thea Harrison’s second entry into The Elder Races series, Storms Heart, would be like Dragon Bound with different characters has nothing to fear.  Storms Heart is completely different, starting with the personalities of Tiago Black Eagle and Niniane (Tricks) Lorelle to the setting and issues at hand.  Thea Harrison has a modern turn of phrase in her writing that appeals to me and narrator Sophie Eastlake knows how to deliver it with just the right emphasis.

Tiago has been sent to find and then protect Niniane, the new heir to the Dark Fae crown, as an attempt has already been made on her life.  Tiago is old – really old – compared to Ninienne’s mere 200 years and he has a very “I know what’s best” attitude.  After giving him some grief over his attitude Niniane decides he’s her best bet at staying alive as she takes the dangerous steps leading up to her coronation as Queen.  I enjoyed the sparring between these two.  Niniane sounds like a little fairy while Tiago sounds overbearing at times and indulgent at others.

Storm’s Heart is full of action and it keeps the story moving quickly as Tiago and Ninienne start to realize there is something more between them.  Niniane fights it knowing the Dark Fae won’t accept Tiago (he’s Wyr) as co-ruler but Tiago doesn’t care how others perceive him.  After living as long as he has, he recognizes a gift when it falls in his hands and nothing else matters to him as long as his “Faerie” is safe, and that is job enough.

With her sophomore effort, narrator Sophie Eastlake continues to impress.  Her ability to deliver the emotion that drives the words these characters utter reminds me of what I like best about Renee Raudman.  My enjoyment of both the narration and the story adds up to an audio win with Storm’s Heart.

Lady Sophia’s Lover – Lisa Kleypas

Review written by Lea Hensley

Narrated by Susan Duerden

Thank you, thank you audio powers-that-be!  Susan Duerden now narrates four Lisa Kleypas books.  Brilliance Audio recently released Lady Sophia’s Lover and its sequel, Worth Any Price.

It’s been years since I read Lady Sophia’s Lover in print during a Kleypas glom.  At the time, I graded it an A and can recall it being quite sensual compared to previous Kleypas books.  As I listened, I realized my memories concerning the sensuality were correct – there are more than just the token two-three scenes.  However, this time around, Sophia’s planned method of taking Ross down seemed, well, quite silly. As a story, the grade moved from an A to a B.

Much to my delight, as with her other Kleypas narrations, Ms. Duerden brings 19th century England to life and she easily distinguishes one character from another.  But as I listened to Lady Sophia’s Lover, I realized its action is fairly subdued which pitted Ms. Duerden’s narration skills against what I now consider a sagging middle.  Fortunately her narration kept me engaged when my mind wanted to wander during periods of little action.

One of the most intriguing aspects was the introduction of Nick Gentry, the hero of Worth Any Price.  Each passage containing Nick seemed to shout potential.  I’m even more thankful that his story is now available for listening – no waiting involved.

Although I did enjoy Lady Sophia’s Lover as “good” entertainment, I don’t think it fully demonstrates Duerden’s talent.  I couldn’t help but reflect on her narration of Kleypas’ Prince of Dreams and Midnight Angel.  Both required multiple Russian and English characterizations.  She shines when challenged in such a manner

Cold Truth – Mariah Stewart

Review written by Brenda

Narrated by Anna Fields

I wanted to listen to this Mariah Stewart book primarily for narrator Anna Fields.  I expected to enjoy her narration but I was also hoping there might be a thread of romance in this suspense story.  I was right about Anna Fields but I was wrong about a possible romance angle.

Though I see the word thriller associated with Cold Truth, it falls into a slot just above cozy mystery – maybe serious cozy mystery?

At the age of six, Cassie Burke came home to find her parents and sister murdered.  A vagrant was tried and convicted of the murders, but shortly thereafter a serial killer, dubbed The Bayside Strangler, began killing women in the general area.  Then the murders stopped as abruptly as they had started.

Now 26 years later, Cassie is a police officer and a copy cat of the Bayside Strangler is murdering women in the vicinity – or could it be that the original killer is back?  FBI agent Rick Cisco joins in the hunt while Cassie’s past tragedy haunts her in the wake of these new murders.  The killer is eventually identified through some interesting means before he’s taken down.  Cassie and Rick do become attached and walk into the sunset together at the end, but that’s it for the romance.

For me, Anna Fields was the saving grace.  Her ability to define characters and deliver a story made Cold Truth an easy listen while I sat back, admired her talent, and wished for a dollop of romance to go with my mystery.

Time for Your Thoughts

What are your favorite romance audio releases from 2011?

What is your best romance listen this year released prior to 2011?

What is your best relisten so far this year?

What was your best surprise listen?

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook successes or failures to share with us?

Ending Notes

We have a list of all our Mini Reviews from our Speaking of Audiobooks columns over at our Goodreads group.  There are 215 romance audio reviews for your perusal.

I’m announcing new romance audiobook releases 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 173 members.  It’s easy to join and it’s a great place for discussion in between our columns.

Enjoy your listening!

- Lea Hensley

23 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: Romance Audio Bests for 2011”

  1. Xe Sands says:

    @Lea – I am honored to be included with such an illustrious group of books and narrators, and thrilled to hear that I was able to bring FIRE AND ICE to life for you in such a way. Reno’s often hilarious inner dialog has made him my favorite romantic bad boy :)

    Thank you!

  2. Anne Flosnik says:

    Being included in this list of Best of Romance Audio 2011 is a very great honor indeed, and I feel so blessed to be in the company of the finest Talents in the business.

    I owe your column a very great debt. Reading the thoughtful and incisive comments of highly sophisticated listeners has helped me in more ways than I can say.

    Thank you so much @Lea, and all the devoted listeners, for your passion and caring, and for doing so much to keep Romance alive and well :-)

  3. Carrie says:

    I didn’t listen to many books released in 2011, but I did enjoy When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James and narrated by Susan Duerden (4*). (On the same Beauty/Beast theme, I enjoyed To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt, as well. I wasn’t as fond of Simply Love by Mary Balogh but still enjoyed it.)

    My five-star listens this year included Ice Blue by Anne Stuart, Natural Born Charmer by SEP, Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro, Curse of Chalion and Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, and Naked in Death by JR Robb.

    My favorite “relistens” were Georgette Heyer books, including The Corinthian, The Grand Sophie, These Old Shades, and Devil’s Cub.

    A few surprises were:
    Black Ice by Anne Stuart. My first book by this author and i didn’t expect to like the hero, but I did. Great book.

    Spymaster’s Lady by Johanna Bourne narrated by Kirstin Potter. I wish more of her books were on audio. The narrator did a fantastic job.

    The Unexpected Millionaire by Susan Mallery. This was perhaps my biggest surprise since it’s a category romance and was less than $4 at the time on audible. It’s the middle book of a trilogy, and the 1st and 3rd books are just fine, but this one is funny and so well narrated by Catherine Carr.

    I just realized as I looked over my goodreads reviews that most of my 5-star books this year were audiobooks. ;-)

  4. Justine Eyre says:

    To echo Xe and Anne, ’tis indeed a great honor to be listed alongside these other wonderful ‘listens’!
    Thank you to Lea for being such a wonderfully passionate proponent of the world of romance audio, thank you to the listeners for your keen ears and considerate comments and thank you to the authors for writing tales that we can all sink into with such joy!

  5. Brenda says:

    Melinda I really enjoyed NR’s Tribute when I listened to it, excellent review.

    Lea I haven’t listened to Dead Reckoning yet but now I really want to.

    I organized my favorites a little differently, and I lean heavily towards UF with a thread of romance or straight up PNR in my listening choices.
    The lists aren’t in any order.

    Top 5 Favorite Audiobooks Released in 2011 but written ??
    Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh – narrated by Angela Dawe
    Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart – narrated by Xe Sands
    A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole – narrated by Robert Petkoff
    Howl at the Moon by Christine Warren – narrated by Kate Reading
    Damien by Jaquelyn Frank – narrated by Xe Sands

    Top 10 Favorite Audiobooks Written & Released in 2011
    Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning – narrated by N. Ross & P Gigante
    Fate’s Edge by Ilona andrews – narrated by Renee Raudman
    Magic Slay’s by Ilona Andrews – narrated by Renee Raudman
    River Marked by Patricia Briggs – narrated by Lorelie King
    Savage Nature by Christine Feehan – narrated by Karen White
    Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison – narrated by Sophie Eastlake
    This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost – narrated by Tavia Gilbert
    Treachery In Death by JD Robb – narrated by Susan Erickson
    Prey by Linda Howard – narrated by Abby Craden
    Unclaimed by Courtney Milan – narrated by Rebecca de Leeuw

    Favorite First Time Listens of 2011 regardless of release date
    Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas – narrated by Renee Raudman
    Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer – narrated by Kate Forbes
    Shards of Honor & Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold – narrated by Grover Gardner

    Favorite Re-Listens of 2011
    Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh – narrated by Justine Eyre
    One Summer by Karen Robards narrated by Kate Fleming/Anna Fields
    Anything Ilona Andrews narrated by Renee Raudman

    Favorite Audiobook Publisher – Tantor Audio – for pursuing so many great back lists along with current releases and getting them produced in Audio with some outstanding narrators!

  6. melinda says:

    man, I feel like I need to jump in here and give a plain ol’ listener’s reaction!!

    [kidding - I have a weird sense of humor]

    great column, and my biggest takeaway – besides the ever-pulling-peer-pressure to enjoy Kleypas which I rarely do – is Carrie’s suggestion about The Unexpected Millionaire. I love funny contemporaries – but Mallery has usually been a 3-star listen for me. However, the recommendation makes it sound like it’s worth a credit*!

    *note to authors and narrators: “worth a credit” is high praise indeed for an audio book. We audible.com listeners hoard credits like they are gallons of water in the desert.

  7. Carrie says:

    Melinda~ Don’t spend a credit on The Unexpected Millionaire!!! It’s less than $4 and only about 5 hours long. I bought it, saving my credits for more expensive purchases. It’s definitely worth $4.

    I agree with you, with few exceptions, Susan Mallery has been a 3 star author, and books 1 and 3 of this little trilogy were 3 star books. But for some reason this one made me feel good! But remember, it was in the back of my mind that I’d paid just a few dollars for the book, so that might have made me go easy on the critique. (Although maybe not, because the other two were the same price and they were just okay.)

  8. Lea Hensley says:

    Carrie – most of your five star books this year were audiobooks?! What a great thing to realize – and say…here! Right now, I’m listening to When Beauty Tames the Beast (it is the first time I have read or listened to James) and so thoroughly enjoying it. Susan Duerden is proving that she really knows her art when narrating historical romances.

    Brenda – you have really influenced me favorably when it comes to UF and PNR and I think my list shows just that! You were the one who coaxed me to read both the Guild Hunter and Fever series.

    Melinda – I’m afraid to recommend a Kleypas to you but if you want to try something that is different from her average fare (and has a definite 1990s romance feel), I’d suggest Midnight Angel. If you like it, I don’t think you’ll want to pass up its sequel, Prince of Dreams.

  9. Lea Hensley says:

    Xe, Justine, and Anne – you are all so gracious! Thank you for providing us with so many hours of wonderful entertainment.

  10. Kaetrin says:

    I’ve become a fan of Courtney Milan and I’d love to get my hands on the audio of Unclaimed – it was a great book, but I think it is geo restricted.

    My top listens for this year include (but are not limited to), Dragon Bound, Magic Slays (like Brenda, anything Ilona Andrews/Renee Raudman), River Marked, Maybe This Time and Shadowfever.

    Top listens not released this year include, Cry Wolf, Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson series, To Die For and the Edge series. I’m listening to Fate’s Edge now and am LOVING it.

  11. Lea Hensley says:

    Karen H from our Goodreads group had this to share with us:

    What are your favorite romance audio releases from 2011?

    Courtney Milan’s Unclaimed
    Anne Stuart’s Ruthless
    Anne Stuart’s Reckless
    Coleen Gleason’s The Vampire Dimitri
    Julia London’s The Courtesan’s Scandal
    Gayle Forman’s Where She Went
    Mary Balogh’s More Than a Mistress

    It has been a good year!

    What is your best romance listen this year released prior to 2011?
    One Day by Davis Nicholls
    One of my 3 all-time favorite audio books

    What is your best relisten so far this year?
    Julia London’s The Summer of Two Wishes
    Another one of my top 3.

    What was your best surprise listen?
    Katie Lane’s Going Cowboy Crazy
    Narrator did an excellent job giving a different voice to each person in a large cast of characters.

    And as always, do you have any recent audiobook successes or failures to share with us?
    Audio books by Rachel Gibson & Lisa Kleypas continue to be 5-star caliber…their narration is pretty close to perfect.

    Another pleasant surprise was the “True Vows” series…real-life romances good enough to be published:
    Judith Arnold’s Meet Me in Manhattan
    The story is about 2 people who were together in high school, broke up and went their separate ways, ran into each other 17 years later, and are now married with children!

    Tara Taylor Quinn’s It Happened on Maple Street
    The author’s own story about her first love whom she met in high school, they parted for 20 years, reunited via the internet and are now happily married.

    I had fun googling these 2 couples – seeing pictures and reading articles about their extraordinary romances!

  12. Lea Hensley says:

    Kaetrin – After reading your comment about Courtney Milan’s Unclaimed and receiving advice from both Brenda and Karen H that I should listen to it, I purchased it today. 3 recs in one day – all unrelated. Too big of a coincidence to ignore! Now if they would only open it up to Australia!

  13. Nina says:

    Brenda I think you and I might have been separated at birth because so many of my “listens” this year were on your list. In fact, it is this column that encouraged me to branch out into the UR and SFR genre and that is what I mostly listened to in 2011.

    What are your favorite romance audio releases from 2011?
    Shadowfever – without a doubt! In fact I had a six hour drive this past weekend and decided to relisten to Shadowfever since I basically devoured it like a greedy child with Halloween candy when it was released. I am enjoying once again while savoring it.
    Magic Slays-Kate Daniels series Kate Reading (Ilona Andrews)
    River Marked-Mercy Thompson series (Lorelie King) by Patricia Briggs
    Treachery in Death & New York to Dallas-Susan Erickson (JD Robb)
    The Spymaster’s Lady narrated by Kirstin Potter (Johanna Bourne)

    What is your best romance listen this year released prior to 2011?
    Psy/Changling series even though I don’t care for Angela Dawe. (Nalini Singh)
    Cat & Bones-Tavia Glibert (Jeanine Frost)

    What is your best relisten so far this year?
    Midnight Breeds (Lara Adrain), Leopard Series (Christine Feehan) & Black Dagger Brotherhood (JR Ward)

    What was your best surprise listen?
    Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels series. Absolutely loved it!

    Best Guilty Pleasure Listen? I added this myself ;-)
    Lora Leigh’s Breed Series and Anita Blake (I know some people have given up on this series but I still enjoy it)

    And as always, do you have any recent audio book successes or failures to share with us?
    I also listened to Lady Sophia’s Lover & Worth Any Price in November. I remember reading these both way back when and really liked them. The listen was a mixed success for me. I was SO happy to not have Roslyn Landers narrating them and was excited to hear Susan Duerden since I have not listened to her narration before. I would say the voices/dialogue was good, but, for me, the narration between dialogue was sing-song. Each sentence ended on an uplilt and it drove me crazy.

    Brenda-I saw that Damien was one of your favorites this year. I have to admit that I’m stuck about ¼ of the way in this book and just stopped listening. I’m not sure why I’ve put it on the back burner right now but there it sits. I do think Xe Sands is a wonderful narrator. I’ve also got Fire & Ice on my iPod and it too has been languishing there. I have read/listened to Black Ice, Cold as Ice, Ice Storm but not Blue Ice (which is also sitting there in my iTunes). Do I need to listen to Ice Blue before I can listen to Fire & Ice?

    Thanks again for all who contribute to this column – it is wonderful to hear what others are listening to and have to say about it.

  14. Brenda says:

    Thanks Nina – I could use a twin here. :) I often wonder if I’m speaking into the wind with the majority of my now favorite authors / books being in the non standard romance categories. It’s good to know I have company. :)

    Kaetrin totally gets my Ilona Andrews/Renee Raudman addiction – Fate’s Edge was an awesome addition to the series wasn’t it? I wanted Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi on my list – but I was really trying to contain myself …

    And I’ve coaxed Lea over to a couple of my other favorites – Lea your next adventure to the dark side really needs to be the Jeaniene Frost / Tavia Gilbert combo – I dare you to make it part of your 2012 challenge. :)

    Nina with our like tastes I see I need to add more Lara Adrian to my TBL pile. I already have The Spymasters Lady on it thanks to Kaetrin and Lea but I have yet to pull the trigger – but it sounds like I should. My goal in 2012 is to get back to a few more historicals after my recent Unclaimed/Courtney Milan success. Laura Lee Guhrke is a fellow resident of my state so I’m going to start with her after more Milan. :)

    I loved Damien, but I am the queen of fast forward when a book is dragging due to storyline or violence, regardless of an excellent narration. So that’s my tip if your stuck …

    Last but not least I had only listened to the first two in Anne Stuart’s Ice Series before Fire and Ice. I knew there were connections I was missing but it didn’t make a difference to my understanding or enjoyment of Reno and Jilly’s story – I was too caught up in my audio glimpse of Japan along with the story to worry about past books. And now – On Thin Ice is my most anticipated next listen!

    I may need to think about that Guilty Pleasure listen category more – but off the top of my head it is Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalkers – Leopard People – Drake Sisters, and now the related Bound series, love them all despite my need to FF through the smex! :D

  15. Brenda says:

    I’m not sure I have enough smiley faces in that last post????

  16. Vikisha says:

    Like many of the posters, I share in their fondness for the following audiobook of 2011, here are some of my favorites:

    Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
    What are your favorite romance audio releases from 2011?

    Paranormal Romance(PNR)-
    Dragon Bound, Storm’s Heart and Serpent’s Kiss by Thea Harrison(This the next big series in PNR)
    Lover Unleashed by JR Ward

    Historical Romance –
    More than A Mistress and No Man’s Mistress by Mary Balogh
    Ruthless and Reckless by Anne Stuart
    Then Came You, Somewhere I’ll Find You & Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
    How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries
    The Harlot by Saskia Walker-Incredible audiobook. The book is HER(Historical Erotic Romance) but don’t be fooled it contains romance, magic, suspense, a strong female and male lead who are made for each other. Its a sophisicated, sensual novel that happens to be an erotic novel too. I highly recommend it for those who are fans of Lisa Kleypass, Anne Stuart, Nalini Singh and Lora Leigh give this book a try, you won’t be sorry.

    Contemporary Romance –
    Bad Boys Do and Read Men Will by Victoria Dahl
    The Model Man by Nicole McCaffery

    Best Surprise Listen of 2011?
    Shadowfever by KMM, Iron Crowned by Richelle Mead & Hard Bitten by Chloe Neill

    I had to literally stop what I was doing and just think about the experience after listening to all of these audiobooks. Shadowfever and Iron Crowned took me on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs throughout the course of listening to them. I literally listened to shadowfever non stop the last 5 hours of the audibook. Lets just say my beauty rest was diminished while listening to these books.

    I was emotionally upset after listening to Hard Bitten. The last 20 minutes of the audiobook is heartbreaking and shocking.

    Most Anticipated Release(s) That Lived Up To The Hype in 2011?
    Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
    Spider’s Revenge & Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep
    Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
    Hard Bitten & Drink Deep by Chloe Neill
    Iron Crowned by Richelle Mead

    Favorite Previously released books finally debuting in audiobook format of 2011:

    The release of Love at Stake Series by Kerrelyn Sparks
    One of the best PNR romantic comedy series that feature vampires. Sparks is the master in romantic paranormal comedy genre with a hint of suspense. I think she may have invented the specialized genre. Here books are must read for those who are interested in PNR.

    The Warlord Wants Forever and A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
    Tanner’s Scheme by Lora Leigh

    Larissa Ione’s Demonica Series

    What are your best romance listen this year released prior to 2011?
    Just The Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

    My most disappointing audiobook releases of 2011?

    Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
    The last few books in the series have been disappointing in regards to the storyline. I think Joanna Parker is still great but the plots are just weak and disappointing. I get the feeling that Ms Harris is not really vested in the characters anymore and is ready to put this series to bed.

  17. Phil Gigante says:

    Thank you so much!! This is indeed an honor. I am very thrilled to be included in the ranks of such good books and so many talented narrators!

    Natalie Ross feels the same, and we can’t thank you enough! It’s amazing to have a site so dedicated to promoting the Romance genre in audio. I am especially appreciative of all the listeners who let our “warm words and hot whispers” into your iPods. ;-)

    Bless you all! Have Happy and Passionate Holidays!

    Many Kisses….

    Phil

  18. Phil Gigante says:

    PS—I told Karen Moning about this today as well, and she is absolutely thrilled!

  19. Sally says:

    Instead of listing my favorite audiobooks for 2011, all of which have been listed at some point in a list above, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the people involved in the creation of this blog. Whenever I begin anything, I research it. My job involves quiet a bit of research, so I was disheartened that I could find little to no guidance on which romance authors to listen to. I finally stumbled on this AAR blog and everything I was looking for was found in one spot; i.e. reviews, new releases, and the surprising industry information. So in that spirit, I wish-listed several audiobooks off some of the above top ten lists. The first one I listened to was a winner, so I will mention “Going Cowboy Crazy” by Katie Lane and narrated by Nicole Poole. This is a debut Texas novel with plenty of crisp, funny dialogue and great pacing. A difficult narrator job because of all the heavy-accented characters, Ms. Poole manages to keep the characters distinct. The book is not perfect and is sometimes over the top, but this town the author has created promises many stories ahead, thanks again for another great recommendation.

  20. Lea Hensley says:

    Sally – thanks for the good word! This column, while work at times, is a sheer pleasure and provides me with a great amount of satisfaction. It means so much to hear your praise and that we are helping listeners make wise choices.

    A big thanks also goes to our reviewers (I’ll list in order of time spent reviewing for SoA):
    Brenda
    LinnieGayl
    Melinda
    Kaetrin
    Diana

    And, many thanks to my editor, Sandy.

  21. Lea Hensley says:

    Karen H and Sally – I just purchased Going Cowboy Crazy by Katie Lane after reading your favorable comments. I hadn’t given a second thought to it when I saw it at Audible but I’m very interested now.

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