Speaking of Audiobooks: A Beginner’s Guide

Natural Born CharmerSo, you’re a romance fan who’s new to audiobooks.  Where do you start?  Or, say you are an audio fan and want to explore the romance genre.  Yet, when you look at the overwhelming number of available romance audiobooks, you have no idea where to start.

In our April column, Friends Helping Friends, we discussed the importance of seeking recommendations from those who have similar tastes to your own.  As a beginner, it is all the more important that you seek solid recommendations since outstanding audiobooks are a combination of an author’s talent and a narrator’s skill.  If a narrator can’t effectively deliver an author’s work, the audio version suffers.  On the other hand, a talented narrator can transform a ho-hum read into an above average listen.  And, as a beginner, you should consider these facts before committing to an audiobook.

Since the choosing can be difficult for the romance audio beginner, I’ve joined together with our audio reviewers to develop A Beginner’s Guide to Romance Audio.  It’s a list of audiobooks by sub-genre that we consider easy listens.  Not only is the story of high quality, but the narration is of such high quality as well that it flows effortlessly to a new listener’s ears.

But first, let’s look at some beginner tips starting with a word of advice that I first included in our Friends Helping Friends column:

Convincing yourself that audio format is the thing for you is rarely a case of listening to just one audiobook.  Don’t give up after one, two, or even five audiobooks.  You’re exploring an entirely new way for your mind to absorb reading material.  You are literally fine-tuning your ear.  In the process, you are exploring a large selection of narrators.  And it can’t be emphasized enough – seek a recommendation before choosing an audiobook.

Enriching Your Audio Experience

As you ready yourself to make your first romance audio choices, consider these factors that make the process easier and the experience richer.

1. An MP3 player makes buying and listening to audiobooks easier and faster.  If you have the ability to listen with an MP3 player but are uncertain about the particulars of how it all works, just ask us here and we will be happy to guide you.

2. Newer audiobooks are the best place to start your listening.  There are some wonderful older audiobooks (some listed here today) from the 1990s, but there is a greater likelihood of success with the newer audios.  Not only is the production quality far greater, but the narration is likely to be far superior as well.  It’s not said too often but I firmly believe that the art of audio narration is taken much more seriously these days and is now more sophisticated.  Where as narrators were once readers, they are now performers.

3. Your ear will develop the ability to absorb audio content the more you listen.  One trick is to start with an audiobook that you have read in print.  You can then concentrate on the flow of the book and its performance rather than straining to hear every detail.  The more you listen to audiobooks, the less you need to be concerned about the details – your mind learns to pick up those many facts without you realizing it.

4. It is a wonderful journey.  And we are here to talk with you about it and share your audio successes as well as those that just didn’t work for you.

Our Official Beginner’s Guide to Romance Audio

First, determine your favorite romance sub-genre.  Do you prefer contemporary settings and, if you do, do you want it heavy on suspense?  Or do you prefer historical settings?  If you start with your favorite romance sub-genre, your chances for success are all the greater.  Our categories by sub-genre include Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, Fantasy Romance, and Urban Fantasy with a thread of romance.

Joining me in recommending beginner audiobooks are reviewers Brenda, Carrie, Melinda, LinnieGayl, Diana, and Kaetrin.  All these ladies are audio savvy and have listened to romance audio for years.

Keeping your favorite romance sub-genre in mind, check out our recommendations and challenge yourself to start listening to romance or, if you are already a romance audio fan, just discover some great audiobooks!

Contemporary Romance Beginnings

One thing that remains constant when you see a discussion of favorite Contemporary Romance audios is the pairing of Susan Elizabeth Phillips with Anna Fields.  And that is quite evident in today’s beginner recommendations.

LinnieGayl and Lea

Match Me If You Can – Susan Elizabeth Phillips  Narrated by Anna Fields

LinnieGayl – I love nearly all of SEP’s books in audio, but this is the best I could recommend for an audio beginner.  There’s nothing controversial about this SEP. It’s fun from beginning to end.  And this is the late Anna Fields at her best.  She brings life to each of the characters, and clearly distinguishes their voices.

Lea – A lovable, laugh-out-loud story of a want-to-be-successful matchmaker and a sports attorney too busy to find the perfect wife is excellently narrated with perfect timing.  Ms. Fields understands romance and it shows.

Also recommended by Carrie, Brenda, Melinda, and Kaetrin.

Brenda

Natural Born Charmer – Susan Elizabeth Phillips  Narrated by Anna Fields

Anna Fields’ flawless delivery – the humor –the four different storylines that all intertwine  – the cranky neighbor – the younger sister and the two developing romances (one of which features the aging rock star, who I always picture as Bruce Springsteen so that’s an added bonus).

Also recommended by LinnieGayl, Carrie, Kaetrin, Melinda, and Lea.

Melinda

Just the Sexiest Man Alive – Julie James  Narrated by Karen White

JTSMA is another good intro book, because the content is fresh, truly contemporary (aka not the 90s), funny, sophisticated and very well narrated by Karen White.

Also recommended by LinnieGayl, Brenda, and Lea.

Kaetrin

Blue Eyed Devil – Lisa Kleypas  Narrated by Renee Raudman

Wonderful narration which brings out the romance between Hardy and Haven (warning – contains domestic violence but not by the hero)

Also recommended by Diana, Brenda, Melinda, and Lea.

Diana and Kaetrin

Welcome to Temptation – Jennifer Crusie  Narrated by Aasne Vigesaa

Diana - Aasne Vigesaa nails Sophie Dempsey’s dry, wry wit.  The town is full of oddball characters and Vigesaa gives each a voice.  It’s a great book perfectly executed in audio.

Kaetrin – Laugh out loud funny, great narration.

Carrie

Anyone But You – Jennifer Crusie  Narrated by Susan Ericksen.

Trademark Crusie humor without the angst she throws in some of her books.  Susan Ericksen does a great job with the narration.

Also recommended by Melinda, Brenda, and Lea.

Romantic Suspense Beginnings

Carrie

Carnal InnocenceCarnal Innocence – Nora Roberts  Narrated by Tom Stechschulte

A good example of the RS genre with a nice balance between romance and suspense, with a strong male narrator.

Also recommended by Brenda, Melinda, and Lea.

Lea

After the Night – Linda Howard  Narrated by Natalie Ross

I like my romantic suspense mild and After the Night is more romance than suspense.  Natalie Ross’ narration is superb, differentiating all characters and keeping to Howard’s intent.

Also recommended by Melinda, Carrie, and Brenda.

Brenda

The Search – Nora Roberts  Narrated by Tanya Eby

Tanya Eby does a very good job if you listen for the abundance of humor in the one-liners.  It’s not heavy or graphic.  It has dogs to love, interesting details on Search and Rescue training, and women as friends with entertaining banter as well as the romance.

Also recommended by Melinda, LinnieGayl and Kaetrin.

Kaetrin and Diana

Naked in Death – J.D. Robb  Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Kaetrin – Susan Ericksen’s sexy Irish accent for Roarke makes this series beginner a winner.

Diana – Susan Ericksen owns these characters.

Also recommended by
 Carrie, Melinda, and Brenda

Diana and Lea

Envy – Sandra Brown  Narrated by Victor Slezak

Diana – Envy has the perfect synchronous mix of author and narrator.  Serendipity.  It’s cerebral romantic suspense where the listener gets to figure out the mystery along with the heroine.  Sandra Brown’s trademark jerk hero and jaw-dropping plot twists.

Lea – Outstanding male narration – Slezak’s characterizations are distinct and he fully fleshes out the storyline.  It’s a hard tale, but one that totally captivated this romantic suspense sissy.

Melinda

Into the Fire, Dark of Night, Hot Pursuit,  & Breaking the RulesSuzanne Brockmann  Various narrators

These represent Books 13 – 17 of the Troubleshooter Series and all are good examples of romantic suspense with dual narrations by top-notch narrators.  I recommend reading them in order.

Diana

Kill and Tell – Linda Howard  Narrated by Natalie Ross

Natalie Ross understands this book.  Gritty mystery and very hot romance.  Dancing on a balcony on a misty night in New Orleans – one of the sexiest scenes ever.

Also recommended by Lea, Melinda, and Brenda.

Paranormal Romance Beginnings

It’s obvious that Molly Harper is a definite paranormal hit among our reviewers.  She came to my attention during our 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobook Poll when she received many votes from our listeners.  So, let’s start with her.

Carrie

How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper  Narrated by Amanda Ronconi.

I’ll go light with this selection.  This book is fresh and funny, and the narration fit the writer’s style perfectly.

Also recommended by Brenda.

Brenda and Kaetrin

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs – Molly Harper  Narrated by Amanda Ronconi

Brenda – If you want a series that flows with the same couple and a thread of romance, the Jane Jamison series features a superior narrator who catches all the humor along with any other vibe implied in each book.  Ms. Ronconi is really fun and excellent to listen to, especially good for a newbie.

Kaetrin - Hilarious and fun.

Also recommended by Carrie.

LinnieGayl

Soulless – Gail Carriger  Narrated by Emily Gray

While officially steampunk, I count this as paranormal for these purposes as it definitely includes werewolves, vampires, and other creatures.  Emily Gray does a wonderful job as narrator in this first of the series.  Each of the characters sounds exactly as I expected.

Also recommended by Brenda and Lea.

Brenda

Dragon Bound – Thea Harrison  Narrated by Sophie Eastlake

A single romance with a good narrator that delivers a very popular story.  There are more books to follow, with different couples, if you like the first.

Also recommended by Kaetrin.

Kaetrin

Halfway to the Grave – Jeaniene Frost  Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Kaetrin – Excellent narration and a fast paced sexy listen.

Lea – Vibrant love story with close to perfect narration.  There’s little descriptive gore compared to other paranormals and Gilbert keeps you interested every minute with her energetic performance.

Also recommended by Brenda.

Lea

Kiss of the Highlander – Karen Marie Moning  Narrated by Phil Gigante

A rollicking, hilarious, and bawdy audiobook, Moning writes a fantastic time travel tale while Phil Gigante literally brings in to life.

Also recommended by Brenda.

Historical Romance Beginnings

Carrie, Lea, and Kaetrin

The Spymaster’s Lady – Joanna Bourne  Narrated by Kirsten Potter

Carrie - Almost perfect.

Kaetrin – Wonderfully crafted romance that is only enhanced by the narration.

Lea – I liked this highly popular book in print, but loved in audio.  Ms. Potter adds another layer of entertainment taking this to the outstanding audio class.

Lea and Kaetrin

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie – Jennifer Ashley  Narrated by Angela Dawe

Lea – A vastly popular romance, Ms. Dawe delivers an extremely well performed audio that didn’t disappoint the legends of print fans that expected the unusual Ian to sound a certain way.  She understands romance and her narration is spot on.

Kaetrin – Excellent narration made this story better for me on audio than in print.

Also recommended by Brenda.

Melinda

The Indiscretion – Judith Ivory  Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

It’s funny, it’s masterful narrating.  I think it’s a great intro to audio.

Also recommended by Lea.

Brenda

Unclaimed – Courtney Milan  Narrated by Rebecca De Leeuw

The narrator is identified as Polly Lee at Audible but in actuality (and on the recording itself) it’s Rebecca De Leeuw aka the extremely talented Bianca Amato.  She delivers a different and very enjoyable storyline.

Also recommended by Lea.

Kaetrin and Lea

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon  Narrated by Davina Porter

Kaetrin - Don’t be put off by the length of the listen – think of it as value.  Davina Porter’s characterizations and accents are amazing.

Lea – I can’t emphasize enough to listen to Outlander despite its length.  One of the best narrated books ever and hero Jamie is so much more alive (and delectable) in audio than print.

LinnieGayl

The Mischief of the Mistletoe – Lauren Willig  Narrated by Kate Reading

While this occurs far along in the Pink Carnation series, it works as a standalone.  As always, Kate Reading is a delightful narrator.  There’s never any confusion as to which character is speaking, and each character has a unique voice.

A Fantasy Romance Beginning

Pure Fantasy Romance is hard to come by.  It’s usually fantasy with only a thread of romance.  Our reviewers didn’t have a lot to recommend for beginners but three heartily agreed on one book – or rather should I say a series of four books (The Sharing Knife series) since you will want to listen to the next each time you finish the previous.

Brenda, Kaetrin, and Lea

The Sharing Knife: Beguilement – Lois McMaster Bujold  Narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Brenda – Masterfully narrated, it was my personal first foray into Fantasy and I loved every minute of it!

Kaetrin – The world building is easy to follow and Bernadette Dunne captures the emotions of the story wonderfully.

Lea – A feel good type of book that is reflected in its narration.  It’s not over the top or as violent as you often see in fantasy.  Very well delivered by Ms. Dunne, it’s a slower pace that I still recall fondly after two years.

Urban Fantasy with a Thread of Romance Beginnings

Ilona Andrews ranks high with Urban Fantasy romance fans here at Speaking of Audiobooks and her Kate Daniels series earned a number of awards in our 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobook Poll.  She proves her popularity again here with a few recommendations from our reviewers.

Carrie, Kaetrin, and Diana

Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews  Narrated by Renee Raudman.

Carrie - Great writing, amazing world-building, and an excellent narrator.

Kaetrin – The romance takes a few books to heat up, but the world building is excellent and Kate Daniels is kick-ass.

Diana – Renee Raudman has me addicted to and loving a series I probably wouldn’t have tried in print.

Also recommended by Brenda and Lea.

Brenda and Kaetrin

Bayou Moon – Ilona Andrews  Narrated by Renee Raudman

Brenda – Narrated by the awesome Renee Raudman, be ready for an adventure, some truly imaginative descriptions of bad guys, and a hero who will steal your heart.  The heroine and her large close family add variety and drama but it’s Renee Raudman who pulls it all together and makes it even better as an audiobook.  And it includes an HEA.

Kaetrin – More romantic than the Kate Daniels series, the interesting world building, great characters, and Raudman’s narration add to the story.  I enjoyed this more in audio than print.

Lea and Diana

Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris  Narrated by Johanna Parker

Lea – My recommendation for Urban Fantasy must be for Sookie and her gang.  I can’t recall another audio series that has so consistently and completely entertained me – even after twelve installments.  In this first of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Harris introduces a new world of highly entertaining creatures that Johanna Parker performs to perfection.  Expect not a boring minute with this lively narration.

Diana - Gotta go with Sookie.  Johanna Parker brings it to life.

Romance Audio Reviews

We continually hear from listeners their preference for dual narrations featuring male and female narrators playing their respective roles.  We long for more such narrations where men can sound like men and women can sound like women.  But what about those dual male/female narrations where each narrator takes turns performing all the characters?  Personally I find them challenging and usually choose to run the other way.  Diana accepted the challenge of reviewing such a narration today with Born to Darkness.

Born to DarknessBorn to Darkness – Suzanne Brockmann

Review written by Diana

Narrated by Melanie Ewbank and Patrick Lawlor

Set in an exceedingly grim near future, Brockmann has created a world where the economy is broken and private parties have taken over law enforcement.  The Obermeyer Institute is a privately funded entity actively engaged in wiping out a deadly drug epidemic.  The drug wreaking havoc is Destiny, made from the blood of captive adolescent girls; instantly addictive and likely to cause the user to “Joker,” the street term for murderous violence.  Joker is only one word in a long list of special vocabulary that drove me bonkers in its audio repetition.

This audiobook is on the long side, running over 18 hours.  Because Born to Darkness launches a brand new paranormal series, it is heavy with world building and the introduction of ongoing primary characters.  In addition to the (unintentionally funny) vocabulary, there is a full-blown thriller plot as well as three romances.  OI personnel are known as Greater-Thans because they have greater mental powers (telepathy, telekinesis, etc.) than Less-Thans (regular people); this is termed Neural Integration.  The fluctuation of Neural Integration levels is terribly important to the OI characters and they talk about it excitedly and incessantly, but my eyes glazed over and my ears cried at having to listen to hours of it.

Mac (don’t call me Michelle) Mackenzie and Shane Laughlin are the couple pictured on the cover and featured in the blurb.  They meet in a bar where each is trolling for a one-night stand.  Mac is a Greater-Than commando in OI’s drug enforcement unit and Shane is a new recruit slated to report to OI the next morning.  When Mac realizes she’ll be working with Shane, she freezes him out, displaying her macho, nasty-to-everyone side, and that’s pretty much it for this couple until well past the halfway point when they indulge in another decidedly unromantic bang.  Mac is initially read by Lawlor as one tough bitch – which she is – but I was cringing as he read her girly, orgasmic squeals.  Mac is a little softer in Ewbank’s interpretation, but there isn’t much a narrator can do with a character who’s written as cast iron.  Shane’s personality is vapid – Mac is definitely the dominant one – whether Lawlor or Ewbank is reading him.  Lawlor gives him a golly-gee-I’m-in-a-comic-book tone.

The heart of the book and the primary couple are Dr. Elliott Zerkowski and Dr. Stephen Diaz who finally act on the mutual attraction they’ve been silently nurturing for seven years.  They are at center stage for the bulk of the book and Brockmann has lavished loving care in developing their romance.  It’s a perfectly perfect romance for such a perfectly perfect couple, if you get my drift.  These two are conspicuously missing from the cover and the blurb and I call that deliberately deceptive.  As sincere and as justified as the author is in her campaign to rid the world of homophobia, bait and switch is not the way to do it.  Lawlor voices Elliott as a lovable goofball and Diaz as a very basso he-man.  Ewbank has only one male voice, requiring close attention to dialogue tags.

The third romance between OI’s man in charge, Dr. Joseph Bach, and Anna Taylor, a woman seeking help from OI to locate her kidnapped younger sister Nika, consists of soulful looks and mental lusting.  It never gets off the ground; not much of a loss in an already overstuffed book.

Ewbank and Lawlor take turns reading in 30-40 minute stretches before handing off to the other.  They never interact and just when you get used to hearing seven primary characters voiced by Lawlor, Ewbank takes over with her own style and just as you get used to her, Lawlor’s back.  I found this jarring in the extreme and I’ll never voluntarily listen to another audiobook that utilizes this technique.  Lawlor tends to get loud and overwrought and I keep coming back to the comic book analogy.  Ewbank has a staccato, no nonsense style and sometimes it’s a relief to hear her after Lawlor’s shouting, but she isn’t exactly soothing either.  Sorry to say that neither is a very accomplished or convincing actor, but they are certainly enthusiastic readers, well suited to the author’s style.

Celebrity in Death – J.D. Robb

Review written by Brenda

Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Not being a fan of descriptive violence means I’ve played a lot of hopscotch over the years when listening to installments of J.D. Robb’s In Death books.  Susan Ericksen’s superb narration skills along with Eve and Roarke’s relationship and the core group of characters that make this series, have kept me a devoted fan even when details of Eve’s past or the criminals’ crimes have me jumping to the next square.  That said I was happy to know I wouldn’t need to pick up my markers before starting Celebrity in Death after reading LinnieGayl’s print review here at AAR.

Hearing Susan Ericksen’s narration always takes this series to a higher level of enjoyment and with Celebrity in Death I zeroed in on the facets of her narration that make it the excellent performance it is.  Let’s start with the fact that she inhabits these characters, bringing them to life.  As friends, their perfect bantering back and forth always makes me laugh.  But it’s the atmosphere she brings to the narration that most impressed me as I listened closely – those emotions that emanate from a scene that goes beyond the written word.  How do I put that in a way you can hear without a sound clip?  Maybe with some examples?

First – The murder victim in Celebrity in Death is not a likeable person, even to her own family.  Her brother comes from Iowa to take her back to be buried.  He shares with Eve, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.  My ma’s grieving, but I can’t.  I can’t grieve for my sister.”  A simple enough sentence to read but with Susan Ericksen’s delivery of the scene, those words make you want to lay your head down and cry.  You hear Iowa, you hear farm boy manners, you hear bewilderment, and you hear such grief – grief over the fact that he can’t grieve for his sister when he thinks he should.

Second – Roarke gives Eve a present.  She’s uncomfortable getting presents and you hear that in her voice but then she opens the box to see a leather coat, “Oh…” There was a flavor to the sound she made, as a woman might make eating soft, creamy chocolate.  “Nice” and with that, Susan Ericksen has you tasting that chocolate on your own tongue.

Third – Eve’s leaving work after convincing PA Cher Reo to get her a warrant, “…Eve grabbed her coat.  ‘Oh my God.’  Reo made a hum of almost sexual pleasure.  ‘Really?’  Keeping some distance Eve shrugged into the coat.  ‘Seriously, sex noises over a coat?’’’  Yes, Susan Ericksen adds that hum of pleasure vibrating through Reo’s voice along with her greedy awe for something beautiful.  Eve’s sarcastic bafflement over the reaction to a coat is clearly heard too.

Listening with the knowledge that you will hear not only the spoken words but also the feeling implied by how a scene is written – right down to the smallest nuances – doesn’t get better than Susan Ericksen’s performance of Celebrity In Death.

Lyon’s Bride by Cathy Maxwell

Review written by Carrie

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

A family cursed long ago, it’s believed a Chattan male will die if he finds his true love.  The present Earl of Lyon, Neal Chattan is looking for a wife – not for love but for the children he desires.  A widowed childhood friend who is now a matchmaker, Thea Martin, agrees to help Neal find an “unlikeable but acceptable” woman to marry.  Thrown into close proximity, old hurts and new misunderstandings cause instant friction and the two have a difficult time focusing on the wife hunt.

The first third of Lyon’s Bride is full of wonderful details, character development, and conversations that Rosalyn Landor only enhances further with her talented narration.  She’s at her best here – her voice is well modulated and clear while her narration is unhurried without being slow.  While some listeners have remarked in the past that her male voices can sound too gruff or old, that is not a problem in this book.  Her male characters sound strong and are easily differentiated.  The sound quality is excellent with smooth editing and clear chapter and scene breaks.

While the writing is strong and the character development is excellent, Lyon’s Bride is not an action-driven book.  Maxwell often interrupts scenes with the internal thoughts of a character.  Thankfully, the listener has no problems following the interruption since Ms. Landor clearly distinguishes the dialogue portions from the internal musings.

Thea is a strong woman making the best of a situation caused in part by her own poor choices.  Her stubbornness, which Ms. Landor captures well in her narration, is the source of much conflict in the book.  While I admired her, it took me a while to warm up to Thea.

From the beginning, Neal is the more likeable of the two and Ms. Landor succeeds in capturing his strength of character.  The secondary characters are well developed, especially Neal’s brother and sister, who I expect will each get a book since the issue of the curse is not resolved in Lyon’s Bride.

Other than the gothic-esque plot line involving the witch’s curse, Lyon’s Bride is a fairly predictable story of a nobleman falling in love with a woman who is “beneath” him.  That gothic twist tilts this story off its axis, creating an uneasy marriage of paranormal and…well…normal, that didn’t work for me.  Thea and Neal are just too English – too solid, practical, and sensible.  Perhaps the curse story line will prove more effective in The Scottish Witch which stars Neal’s angst-ridden brother, Harry.  Even with my reservations about Lyon’s Bride, my interest has been piqued enough for me to find out what happens next.

Ending Notes

We now have a Facebook page – just look for Speaking of Audiobooks.  We’ll be updating at least daily with the latest in romance audio news, links to reviews, column notices, and great discussions currently at our Goodreads group.

I’m also announcing news for the Speaking of Audiobooks column and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for SpeakingofAudio.

To find a full listing of all of our audiobook reviews since the beginning of our Speaking of Audiobooks column, go to our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads Mini-Review bookshelf.  We have around 250 romance audiobook reviews.

Be sure to check out our Speaking of Audiobooks archives here at AAR.  We now have around 80 columns complete with discussions.

Enjoy your listening!

- Lea Hensley

34 thoughts on “Speaking of Audiobooks: A Beginner’s Guide

  1. We are just now getting our Facebook page up and running so you will see that we are in the building stage of adding links, photos, and other extras. However, we are posting a number of romance audio updates daily, so come join us as we begin our Facebook journey!

    Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/SpeakingOfAudiobooks

    We hope to see you there daily!

  2. When writing this column, I considered giving a violence warning (gruesome scenes) to some of the recommended books. But since stating such can fall in the personal opinion category, I decided to post here.

    Those that contain violent scenes, in my opinion, are:

    Naked in Death (or possibly the In Death series since this warning came to me from a reviewer – I’m not an In Death listener)

    Outlander

    Magic Bites

    Carnal Innocence

    I am unsure of Bayou Moon – can someone else give an opinion?

    And Blue-Eyed Devil, while having no gruesome scenes, it does contain domestic violence.

  3. OK, I have only listened to 1 audio book (which had a gazillion cd’s) and am not up for that again. Where do you get most of your audio books? They always look so expensive on Amazon. Example, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, paperback 7.99, ebook 7.99, audible audio unabridged 23.95.

  4. Thanks for this topic – it comes ever so timely, as I am just now assembling an audiobook library for the summer vacation during which I will have to sit through extremely long coach trips.

    • Rike: Thanks for this topic – it comes ever so timely, as I am just now assembling an audiobook library for the summer vacation during which I will have to sit through extremely long coach trips.

      So glad to know we helped. Let us know if one worked particularly well for you, okay?

    • Karen White: Great idea for community building, Lea!And thanks for including JTSMA.Such a fun book!

      How could we NOT include JTSMA?

  5. Gail I agree about the pain a gazillion CD’s are, especially now that inexpensive MP3 players are so easily available.

    If you just want to try The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie in audio Audible offers a 30 day free trial membership which gives you two free audiobooks and some other perks for a month. The books remain yours to keep even if you don’t commit to a membership after that.

    Here are some details from the Amazon page for the Ashley book that apply to any Audible audiobooks.

    Your Amazon-exclusive Audible.com 30-day free trial membership includes:

    This audiobook free, plus a bonus audiobook of your choice
    30% off any additional audiobooks you purchase
    A free daily audio subscription to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal
    Members-only sales and promotions

    Learn more about your trial membership at Audible.com

    If you become an audiobook junky err, Fan :) then the way to go with Audible is to keep the membership, depending on which plan you choose the audiobooks average from $9.60 to $14.95 a piece.

  6. Oh and Gail many libraries now offer free Audiobook Downloads via Net Library or OverDrive Library – a great way to try out a large variety of audiobooks at no cost.

  7. @Lea- re: Bayou Moon

    Yes, the entire Edge series (Bayou Moon is the second book in the series, although it can be read as a stand alone) have a fair amount of violence. (I’ve read them all in print, and they are excellent!)

  8. So enjoy reading this column. It’s a treasure of info and thoughtful pointers. It’s got me thinking back to my first listening experiences, and many of the things that I take for granted when listening to the masters and mistresses of the craft. This group’s caring and commitment to the craft of Romance Audio is exciting, uplifting and illustrative. There is a wealth of good advice to be gleaned here, and many eye opening observations. Delighted to have found you, and excited to keep up with latest. Thank you so much for all you do :-)

    • Anne Flosnik: So enjoy reading this column. It’s a treasure of info and thoughtful pointers. It’s got me thinking back to my first listening experiences, and many of the things that I take for granted when listening to the masters and mistresses of the craft. This group’s caring and commitment to the craft of Romance Audio is exciting, uplifting and illustrative. There is a wealth of good advice to be gleaned here, and many eye opening observations. Delighted to have found you, and excited to keep up with latest. Thank you so much for all you do

      Anne – thanks for the good words. That’s what I aim for and thrilled to hear you think it all works.

    • Gail: Thank you very much Brenda!!

      Gail – keep asking questions if you need help with downloading or have difficulty with your MP3 player. Although we can’t answer every question, we can answer many you may have.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  9. Our very first day at Facebook and many of you have already stepped up with a “Like.” Thanks for the support. I have great plans of keeping you all up to date.

    And I want to thank Melinda for coming up with the idea and performing the initial setup of our page. Now to see if I can get it looking good with photos and that other stuff.

  10. I have been listening to audiobooks for over 10 years, and your recommendations are, in my opinion, spot-on. Match Me If You Can and Natural Born Charmer are the very best in contemporary romance and Anna Fields was an incredible reader. I think I have listened to both of those at least five times each.
    Susan Ericksen absolutely brings Eve and Roarke to life, as well as Feeny, Shebody, McNab, and the rest of the crew. I also enjoyed a couple of Suzanne Brockmann’s book narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank.
    I want to add that the fellow who does the Harry Potter novels is incredible. I will continue to read this thread with interest and I appreciate the time y’all spend to bring us this information.

  11. @Diana I think I enjoy Patrick Lawlor’s narration better than you. Melanie Ewbank did nothing for me and I found it difficult to differentiate the characters (both male and female) when she was narrating. I agree with many of your comments about Born to Darkness though – I was disappointed with where the Bach/Anna storyline (didn’t) end up and Mac was a very hard character to like. I enjoyed the Diaz/Elliot storyline at first but it didn’t really have anywhere to go – as you noted, they were perfectly perfect! :)

    As for beginner’s recommendations, I’d also add Angela Dawe’s narration of Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation.

  12. I went and ordered Natural Born Charmer, which was available second hand for a reasonable price, on the strength of your recommendation.
    I mostly like to listen to English audiobooks, just as mostly read books in English, so there is next to no choice for me at my (German) library. I could order audiobooks from German Audible, but the choice of English books there is much smaller than at US Audible. Does anyone here know if I can join US Audible as an international customer?

  13. @Rike I’m glad I’ve found someone like myself who likes to read/listen to English books better than one’s native language.
    I’m Japanese and have a membership of US Audible (we don’t have Audible Japan).
    I just visited http://www.audible.de to see about how much English romance audios were available there. My little concern is that you might find there isn’t a big difference of the choice between @audible.de and audible.com because of geo-restrictions…

  14. @Kaetrin – I agree with you on the Lawlor/Ewbank narration of Born in Darkness. I think Lawlor is great with the Brockmann style, but Ewbank’s narration in this book didn’t work for me. I’m going to give the series a chance although I wasn’t exactly hooked from the beginning. I get the sense that it builds on the current trend of dystopian futures, not one of my favorite scenarios in fiction, so it’s already outside my comfort zone.

    I also want to add that the “various narrators” in Brockmann’s Troubleshooters that I recommend for romantic suspense are Patrick Lawlor and Renee Raudmann doing the dual narration in all 4. I actually enjoy hearing them done this way – Raudmann speaks from the female POV and Lawlor from the male POV. it’s generally pretty clear in Brockmanns writing whose POV she’s writing from.

    @Gail – you really need to check out your library (no pun intended!) both in person and online for free audiobooks. In person you’ll be facing the multi-cd issue again unless it’s an MP3 version. Online the downloads can be easily put on your listening device. I put mine on my iPhone but you can also get inexpensive Mp3 players. once you’re hooked, you’ll be like the rest of us – multiple library cards, Audible membership, trolling eBay for older hard to find cassettes…!

  15. Thanks for the beginners guide! I just started getting heavy into audiobooks a couple of months ago and appreciate the pointers. My library’s digital resources often have an audiobook available, but a waiting list for the print version, so I am choosing the audiobook more often. And after a dozen or so audiobooks, I am getting over a lot of my beginner issues and learning my preferences. It was a bit awkward at first with some real clunkers making me doubt the medium. But I am really starting to appreciate audiobooks and now occasionally choose the audio over print. So I appreciate the recommendations for good narrations!

    I loved the narration in Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost! It was the first one for me where everything clicked and I was able to really feel immersed in the story.

  16. Mia, geographical restrictions are just what I am worried about. There is some choice in romances at Audible.de, but of course not by far as good as at the US site. If I signed up there, and wouldn’t be able to order half of the books, I would be really disappointed.

  17. Just one more Like over at our Facebook page and we’ll have that magic 30 Facebook is tempting me with. I have no idea what the payoff will be but hopefully we’ll see soon!

    Thanks everyone for your 29 likes (since Monday morning). Someone please give us the 30th!

  18. @Gail I have an Audible basic membership- $9.99/yr with books at member pricing, including special sales. Here’s the bad news- it’s no longer offered to new members. OFFICIALLY, that is. I know one person who asked for it and was told they could no longer offer it. I know another that, after her trial membership was over, called to cancel because she couldn’t afford the monthly membership and they offered her the $9.99 basic membership. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a try since you’ll get yourself some audio books during your trial membership anyway.

    Also, check with library systems from a large city in your state. I’m a member of my local library, but as an Ohio resident, I also qualify for Clevenet membership. They have an extensive downloadable audio book section. Oh, and here’s a sooper sekret tip: know someone who already downloads audio books from their library or whose library offers a better selection of dowloadable audio book? Ask them if you can share their membership. Hypothetically speaking (ahem), I MIGHT know a small group of people from different states that do just that all the time.

  19. @Lea “One trick is to start with an audiobook that you have read in print.”

    Absolutely spot on advice. That’s how I started. One caveat though- you might not want to start with a beloved, read-it-a-hundred-times book because no narrator, no matter how talented, will ever match up to the… er… voices in your head. ;-p The flip side of that is that you will often find yourself understanding characters/scenes in new ways, particularly historical romances (love me some Brit and Scots accents!)

    Also, I have to disagree with the rec for the “In Death” series, particularly for beginners. I tried it early on and found Susan Ericksen’s narrator voice too close to Eve’s voice. Since the series is NOT written in 3rd person, I found myself constantly backtracking to figure out whose thoughts she was narrating.

    Other than that, you’ve nailed many of my “Better than Print” selections!

  20. “Since the series is NOT written in 3rd person,”

    er… NOT written in 1st person.

  21. Karen White just informed me via Twitter that she will be narrating Julie James’ SOMETHING ABOUT YOU! We’ve been waiting for a second James audio and hoping for it to be narrated by Karen as we loved her performance of James’ JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE (one of our beginner’s recs).

  22. @Rike-Romance audiobooks are way limited with geo restrictions. I don’t think I ‘d keep my membership if there’s no way to enjoy the variety. Audible checks your credit card, so…. the gift membership with a US address should work.

  23. One more recommendation–I think Xe Sands’ reading of On Thin Ice by Anne Stuart ranks up there with the classics in romantic suspense.

    Kaetrin and Melinda, I was so disappointed with Born to Darkness because I went into it prepared to love it. This is one that would probably be better in print for me with so many passages that NEED skipping over, especially the shouting out of integration levels. 52! 68! 72! Joker, joker! It was so annoying that I really had a hard time forgiving it. I may some day try Lawlor paired with my Raudman. In the distant future. :)

  24. Pingback: Audiobook Blog – Audiobooker, by Mary Burkey – Booklist Online » Blog Archive » News You Can Use

  25. @Diana – thanks so much for your support! I adored voicing Finn – love him! Went around talking like him for a week (my husband was not amused).

  26. My favorite book is Fire and Ice and On Thin Ice by anne stuart read by Xe sands. She makes Reno and Finn come alive.

  27. Barbie – agree totally on the combo of Anne Stuart and Xe Sands. Anne writes highly intriguing heroes and Xe knows how to make them come to life.

Comments are closed.