If you’ve been a regular reader of Speaking of Audiobooks this past year, you’re probably aware that our upcoming releases list is compiled from a variety of sources. Building this month’s list proved to be more challenging than usual. Although there are dozens of genuine first-time releases, it’s also a month full or rereleases in hiding, so beware. Amazon seems to be taking great pains to hide previous audio releases. For years, I’ve started with Amazon when building our upcoming releases list before gathering release dates from various production company/publishers sites. Over the past months, I’ve noticed that Amazon is increasingly introducing old titles as new (a long-time practice in publishing – I know) while also including larger numbers of non-romance audios in the romance category. Don’t trust Amazon’s upcoming romance audio release list for that HEA romance listeners expect.
FictionDB and I are spending more and more time together these days ascertaining a book’s category and the whole process feels a bit like looking under every rock to find a simple piece of information. So, here’s to those truly new romance audio releases…I think. Please let me know if one slipped by me! Now if we could only convince Audible to share a complete list of its upcoming titles.
We have eight audio reviews for you today including Kristan Higgins Somebody to Love, Jeaniene Frost’s Once Burned, Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone, Jill Smolinski’s Objects of My Affection, Susan Wiggs’ Table for Five, Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Werewolf in Seattle, Fanny Merkin’s Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, and Amanda Quick’s Mischief.
August’s Romance Audiobook Releases
Includes releases of audiobooks in new formats
Alers, Rochelle – Angels Landing Narrator unknown
Banks, Maya – Sweet Persuasion Narrated by Caroline Wintour
Barth, Christi – Planning for Love Narrated by Gayle Hendrix
Carrington, Tori – Guilty Pleasures Narrated by Zach Herries
Castle, Jayne – The Fatal Fortune Narrated by Kate Rudd
Castle, Jayne – The Sinister Touch Narrated by Kate Rudd
Castle, Kendra Leigh – Midnight Reckoning Narrated by Pete Bradbury
Chapman, Janet – Charmed by His Love Narrated by Allyson Ryan
Connealy, Mary – Over the Edge Narrated by Hillary Huber
Cornelison, Beth – The Reunion Mission Narrated by Bailey Bruneaux
Dees, Cindy – Breathless Encounter Narrated by Robin Ann Rapoport
Feather, Jane – An Unsuitable Bride Narrated by Jill Tanner
Fisher, Suzanne Woods – The Haven Narrated by Amy Rubinate
Fossen, Delores – Branded by the Sheriff Narrated by Katharine Louis
Fossen, Delores – Trace Evidence in Tarrant County Narrated by Kristin Watson Heintz
Fossen, Delores – Undercover Daddy Narrated by Romy Nordinger
Frank, Jacquelyn – Ecstasy Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Frankel, Laurie – Goodbye for Now Narrated by Kirby Heyborne
Fuller, Kathleen – Faithful to Laura Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Fuller, Kathleen – Treasuring Emma Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Gaines, Alice – The Devilish Duke Narrated by Faye Adele
Garlock, Dorothy – By Starlight Narrator unknown
Garwood, Julie – Sweet Talk Narrated by Angela Dawe
Grant, Donna – Midnight’s Master Narrated by Arika Escalona
Hauf, Michele – Moonspun Narrated by Karen White
Haymore, Jennifer – Pleasures of a Tempted Lady Narrated by Kate Reading
Hoffman, Kate – The Mighty Quinns Narrated by Rachel Siegel
Holland, Debra – Starry Montana Sky Narrated by Natalie Ross
Holland, Debra – Wild Montana Sky Narrated by Natalie Ross
James, Eloisa – Duchess by Night Narrator unknown
James, Eloisa – The Ugly Duchess Narrator unknown
James, Julie – A Lot Like Love Narrated by Karen White
James, Lorelei – One Night Rodeo Narrated by Scarlet Chase
Joyce, Brenda – Persuasion Narrated by Angele Masters
Kenyon, Sherrilyn – Time Untime Narrated by Holter Graham
Kleypas, Lisa – Dream Lake Narrated by Jeff Cummings
London, Laurie – Seduced by Blood Narrated by Eve Bianco
Macomber, Debbie – The Inn at Rose Harbor Narrated by Lorelei King
Macomber, Debbie – Learning to Love Narrated by Andi Arndt
Macomber, Debbie – Love by Degree Narrated by Andi Arndt
Macomber, Debbie – Sugar and Spice Narrated by Andi Arndt
Marvelle, Delilah – Forever a Lady Narrated by Cynthia Barrett
McGuire, Jamie – Beautiful Disaster Narrated by Emma Galvin
Michaels, Fern – Beyond Tomorrow Narrated by Pamela Tomassetti
Morey, Jennifer – Seducing the Colonel’s Daughter Narrated by Jan Wilson
Neill, Chloe – Biting Cold Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
Novak, Brenda – When Lightning Strikes Narrated by Amy Rubinate
Palmer, Diana – Wyoming Tough Narrated by Phil Gigante
Probst, Jennifer – The Marriage Bargain Narrated by Coleen Marlo
Robards, Karen – The Last Victim Narrated by Ann Marie Lee
Roberts, Nora – Mysterious Narrated by Ashley Adlon and Gayle Hendrix
Sharpe, Isabel – Light Me Up Narrated by Karen White
Slade, Jessa – Dark Hunter’s Touch Narrated by Karen White
Smith, Kathryn – Taken by the Night Narrator unknown
Stewart, Mariah – Coming Home Narrated by Xe Sands
Stewart, Mariah – Home Again Narrated by Xe Sands
Thompson, Vicki Lewis – Feels Like Home Narrated by Allyson Ryan
Vanak, Bonnie – The Covert Wolf Narrated by Jim Frangione
Walker, Julie Ann – Hell on Wheels Narrated by Abby Craden
Wiggs, Susan – Return to Willow Lake Narrated by Joyce Bean
Wittig, Laurin – Daring the Highlander Narrated by Ralph Lister
Wittig, Laurin – Charming the Shrew Narrated by Ralph Lister
Woods, Sherryl – Where Azaleas Bloom Narrated by Janet Metzger
Wright, Laura – Eternal Beast: Mark of the Vampire Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Romance Audio Reviews
Somebody to Love – Kristan Higgins
Review written by LinnieGayl
Narrated by Justine Eyre
I love this book. Pat gave the print version a B at AAR. I would give the audio version a higher rating. I was so absorbed with both the story and the narration that I listened to it every chance I got over a two-day period.
Justine Eyre is one of my go-to narrators, and she doesn’t fail in this outing. There are a lot of characters in this book and Ms. Eyre does a wonderful job giving even minor characters a unique, appropriate voice. The men sound decidedly different than the women, and Parker’s son sounds like the child he is. I was particularly taken with Lavinia, Parker’s older, hard-living cousin – she sounds exactly as I’d expect.
Ms. Eyre’s interpretation of Parker’s Holy Rollers is just fantastic. The Holy Rollers are the fictional child-angels featured in Parker’s children’s series. Parker hates the series, hates the Holy Rollers, and is annoyed that they’ve become something of a Greek chorus for her, speaking in her head at the most inopportune moments. Over the course of the book the Holy Rollers age in Parker’s mind, and Ms. Eyre’s narration clearly indicates their aging with slightly older tones as well.
Somebody to Love is full of emotion and Ms. Eyre gets it right each time. When Parker’s son is pouting, he sounds like a petulant little boy. When Parker is afraid, hopeful, or wistful, Ms. Eyre conveys those emotions through her voice as much as the words.
By the end, I really didn’t want this to stop. I wanted to stay with Parker and James. And their last scenes? The tears were flowing as I listened. For me, the ending was just perfect.
I truly loved Somebody to Love and know I will listen to it again, probably very soon. This is definitely a contender for my vote for Best Contemporary Romance of 2012.
Once Burned – Jeaniene Frost
Review written by Kaetrin
Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Once Burned is the first in the Night Prince spin-off series based on characters from Frost’s Night Huntress novels featuring Cat and Bones.
After an accident involving a downed power line at the age of thirteen, Leila Dalton developed psychometric powers and the ability to channel electricity through her right hand. Anyone she touches gets a jolt, possibly fatal, and she sees their worst sin. At times, she may even discover something about their future. If she touches any modern technology she fries the circuits and even taking a shower is a problem for Leila unless she uses a lightning rod to release excess energy beforehand. To make money while blending in, she’s joined the carnival where she performs in a trampoline/gymnastic act.
Leila is kidnapped by vampires who want her to locate Vlad “the Impaler” Tepesh (whom fans of the series know as a very old and powerful vampire who can control fire). Leila and Vlad “talk” psychically when she links to him through touching an object with which he’s associated. Knowing that her kidnappers plan to kill her when the job is done, she throws her lot in with Vlad and aids him in his quest to locate the vampire behind the attack on him. Sparks fly. (Pun intended.)
Tavia Gilbert narrates – which is a blessing and occasionally, kind of a curse. She is an excellent narrator, with the ability to differentiate multiple character voices and one who understands the world Frost has created and its characters. Vlad is voiced consistently in past Frost audiobooks but Once Burned is told from Leila’s first person POV and her voice is Cat’s voice. Leila is not Cat – they are quite distinct personalities but I had to keep reminding myself “not Cat, not Cat” because she sounded the same. I was able to put it aside for the most part though I think it’s worth mentioning. But it was probably that which had my ears pricking up anytime Leila referred to “bones”.
Vlad is a man of his time – aka brutal – and hasn’t evolved into a politically correct 21st Century hero. I liked that he wasn’t prettied up too much. I also appreciated the effective use of profanity in the book – more noticeable for its rarity. The first time I heard Vlad say “fucking” to Leila, I had an almost visceral reaction – kind of shocked and thrilled at once.
Leila and Vlad’s story is not complete in Once Burned. That Vlad believes he is unable to feel love is just one of the barriers they have to work through and the ending did seem a bit abrupt. But, I flew through this audio. Tavia Gilbert is a wonderful narrator and I loved the Vlad/Leila pairing. I’m excited about the series and looking forward to the next installment.
A Gentleman Undone – Cecilia Grant
Review written by Carrie
Narrated by Susan Ericksen
In A Lady Awakened, Ms. Grant demonstrated her ability to take commonplace themes and give them a new twist. When I discovered that Grant’s latest book, A Gentleman Undone, was narrated by Susan Ericksen, I knew it had the potential to be a winner.
Lydia, a young lady of good birth, is the mistress of a wealthy gentleman. Several things make Lydia a unique character, including the fact that she enjoys sex, unashamedly and unapologetically, even with her protector. The author resists any attempts to make Lydia a tortured soul even with the heroine’s difficult backstory. As the story begins Lydia is trying to find ways to earn enough money to secure her future once her protector tires of her. With a unique mind for math and a knack with cards, Lydia plans to win enough money gambling. However, since ladies are not allowed to gamble, she needs help with her scheme.
Will has just returned from Waterloo with the death of a fellow soldier on his conscience. He is desperate to raise enough money to provide the man’s widow with independence, and the only way he sees to do that is by gambling. Will and Lydia meet and eventually form an uneasy alliance, each needing the help of the other to obtain their financial goals.
Will and Lydia are both proud and honorable in their own ways. Despite Will’s deep belief in honor and duty – a belief that may have resulted in the soldier’s death – he now feels like a fake and a failure. There are no simple solutions or complete absolution for sins—either perceived or real. The story moves a little slowly at times, but I enjoyed the leads’ unfolding relationship and the details of the card playing strategies.
Lydia remains in the relationship with her protector for much of the book and is still engaging in sex with him. This makes the developing attraction more interesting as both characters struggle to keep their relationship within acceptable boundaries.
Susan Ericksen is one of my favorite narrators. After listening to Ericksen narrate many books with American characters, it took me a while to get used to the pseudo-English accent she employs for A Gentleman Undone. I did get used to it and I enjoyed her typically polished and professional delivery. Her sense of timing, especially on dialogue, is perfect, and her voice is clear and easy to listen to. However, in this instance, I found myself confused about who was speaking several times as her character voices are less distinctive than with her other performances. I couldn’t help wondering if the accent contributed to that lack of distinction.
Ericksen also fails to adequately distinguish the characters’ internal musing from their spoken word. That’s especially important here as the characters often think one thing during a conversation but say something different. It was less problematic as the book progressed and I came to know the characters’ habits.
Yet in the end, A Gentleman Undone turned out to be a winner for me with those few minor caveats about the narration. I look forward to Grant’s next book.
Objects of My Affection – Jill Smolinski
Review written by LinnieGayl
Narrated by Xe Sands
I enjoyed both this story and its narration but it’s a bit difficult for me to pinpoint the book’s genre. Chick lit? Women’s fiction? Straight fiction? I’m just not sure. Objects of My Affection is told completely from heroine Lucy’s POV. And while Lucy gets a happy ending in terms of romance, things are far more uncertain for her son. The story is more about Lucy’s personal growth and her relationship with an older, reclusive artist, than it is about romance. But while I’m confused about the genre, I’m not confused about my feelings; I heartily recommend this audiobook.
Lucy Bloom recently split with her lover. Her 19-year old son is a drug addict, and she’s sold everything she owns, including her home, to keep her son in rehab. She’s offered a job that seems too good to be believed – clean up the clutter in reclusive artist Marva Meier Rios’ home (too good being key). She’s desperate and takes the job, but to call the artist difficult would be an understatement, and to call her a “hoarder” might be kind.
Lucy’s desperation and frustration with the problems she encounters shine through narrator Xe Sands’ performance. There are numerous flashbacks to Lucy’s struggles with her son’s drug addiction, and he sounds like what he was at the time, high on drugs.
Much of the story features encounters between Lucy and Marva and, thanks to Xe Sands’ narration, there’s never any doubt who is speaking. Marva’s voice sounds older, cigarette-tinged, and generally a bit imperious while Lucy’s sounds younger, striving to be polite no matter what outrageous things Marva says.
Lucy has dealings with two primary men – her ex-lover Daniel and the much younger Niko, who’s doing work around Marva’s home. Ms. Sands clearly differentiates the two. Daniel sounds older than Niko. While Niko generally sounds flirty (which is exactly what he was doing), Daniel goes through a wealth of emotions with Lucy, all perfectly expressed by Ms. Sands.
I haven’t listened to many books narrated by Xe Sands, but I’m now actively searching for others; she’s just that good. And if you’re willing to step a bit outside the traditional romance genre, Objects of My Affection is a very good listen with a satisfying ending.
Table for Five – Susan Wiggs
Review written by Melinda
Narrated by Amy Rubinate
My first Susan Wiggs was one of the later books in her Lakeshore Chronicles series and I liked it. It’s one of those small town series where everyone knows and likes everyone and you just want to pack up and move there, similar to Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. Since then, I’ve listened to two of Wiggs’ standalone books and found both disappointing. I wonder why I can be drawn so much into the lives of Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles, but want to strangle the main characters in this standalone – Table for Five.
It’s the story of a two single people, Sean and Lily, whose lives are changed when Lily’s best friend and Sean’s brother are killed in a car accident, leaving their three minor children orphans. Well, it would be Lily and Sean’s story, except it’s as much the story of the deceased couple, divorced and unhappy, and the effects of their dysfunctional lives on their children both before and after their deaths. The accident happens almost halfway through the book and Wiggs wasn’t content to just let them die. Sean finds the wreck and we see the scene from his POV, including the bodies.
If the narrative had been more compelling or any of the characters more genuine (and perhaps congenial), it might have added to Table for Five. The children’s voices – both Wiggs’ prose and the narrator’s voicing of them – are wooden, unnatural, and not child-like at all. Lily is uptight, bitter, and very unlikeable throughout. I liked the Sean’s girlfriend Mora better. Yeah, his girlfriend. Go figure. The “chemistry” between the hero and heroine is so forced and incredible, that when Sean starts wondering what Lily is wearing under her priggish high-necked blouse, I wondered why. Mora was bright, personable, and more interesting than Lily. I kept waiting for Lily to get a clue. Still waiting.
As narrator, Amy Rubinate is, in a word, adequate. She isn’t brilliant but technically she would rate a solid 3 out of 5. She is consistent with her character voices. Although her 2-year-old sounds more like a grade-schooler and her 3rd grader comes across sounding more like a middle-schooler, at least it is consistent. Her narration doesn’t contain any annoying mannerisms. There were no intimate scenes, so I can’t speak to Ms. Rubinate’s narration of such, but she did get a teeny bit breathy when the narrative seemed to call for more drama.
I’m not sure exactly what it says that an A-list narrator, Joyce Bean, narrated the first book I listened to of the Lakeshore Chronicles. Was it a better story, or did Bean give the book life, or perhaps it’s both? Table for Five wasn’t a complete fail as I did finish it. It’s just another sort-of-women’s fiction/contemporary almost-romance that just didn’t quite rise to its promise of the genre.
Werewolf in Seattle – Vicki Lewis Thompson
Review written by LinnieGayl
Narrated by Abby Craden
While I enjoyed the narration of Werewolf in Seattle, I found the story less than compelling. It’s not a bad book; it’s just one that will be easy to forget. It’s also strange in that it feels more like a contemporary than a paranormal romance. Sure, most of the characters are werewolves, but they could almost as easily all be from France or have red hair or blue eyes. There’s no elaborate world-building, and the paranormal aspects are buried for much of the book.
Abby Craden gives each character, no matter how minor, a distinct voice and she reads the narrative text in a pleasant, non-accented voice. That works well as the hero and heroine have distinct accents. Luna, the heroine, is originally from New Orleans, and Ms. Craden gives her a slightly Southern accent. In contrast, Colin, the hero, is performed with a soft Scottish accent, which is appropriate since he’s from Scotland.
Perhaps if the paranormal aspects were stronger, it would be easier to accept Luna as the virgin heroine and all she does and experiences the first time she has sex. But since the paranormal aspects are so weak, the sex felt a bit absurd, as she has multiple orgasms. The sex also felt almost clinical as things are described in extensive detail, with Luna talking through much of it. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t find it so. Again, this is really the story itself, and not the narration. Ms. Craden reads the words exactly as they should be read.
In terms of minor quibbles, I was thrown out of the story several times when Luna says, “bless your heart” to Colin. While I’m not from the South, I’ve been told by numerous friends who are that it’s basically an expression used in speaking of someone who you think is an idiot (or worse) but don’t want to call them names. Luna says it to Colin at numerous points when she’s meaning to be kind and complimentary.
I’ll definitely give Ms. Craden another try as a narrator. However, I’ll pass on more paranormals by the author; there was just nothing remarkable about the story.
Fifty Shames of Earl Grey – Fanny Merkin
Review written by Lea Hensley
Narrated by Allyson Ryan
Any review of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (Fifty Shames) should start with the fact that it is a parody of Fifty Shades or Grey (FSOG) by E.L. James. That runaway best seller in print has sharply divided romance readers – those who love it and those who don’t. Further, it is very much in the public eye and has caused controversy in general as it continues to fly off bookseller’s shelves even while it is lambasted for its erotic content, light BDSM scenes, and fanfic roots.
Andrew Shaffer pens the tale so pay no attention to the Fanny Merkin credit. Although I’m not familiar with Shaffer, he does know something about romance as he reviews romance and erotica titles (as well as some women’s fiction) for RT Book Reviews.
How much you enjoy Fifty Shames will likely depend on two things – the magnitude of love you have for FSOG and your tolerance for buffoonery combined with an ewww factor. I’m not a fervent fan of James’ Fifty trilogy but I did enjoy it for the most part to the tune of a B- rating. But my tolerance of the ewww factor when reading what I consider slapstick comedy has never been great. There’s a world of other genres I’d prefer to read or listen to.
Nonetheless, I started listening to Fifty Shames with an open mind – I have no problem with the idea of making FSOG sound ridiculous and I imagined it would probably be quite funny. But within an hour, I was rolling my eyes wondering how I was going to make it through the entire audio. As the proper audio reviewer I envision myself to be, I decided to focus on the narration and continued on. That’s when the surprise came. I found myself laughing. Yeah, it may not be my flavor of audiobook, but it did entertain more than irritate.
Allyson Ryan sounds young but she needs to – after all, Ana Steal is only 22 while Earl Grey is 27. Her voice rings clear for Ana while she performs Earl in more of a deep whisper, both, which are effective. Plus it’s quite evident that she understands the satirical nature of the book and knows how to stress Ana’s comical surprise and Earl’s devious intentions. As they make love for the first time, she delivers “turgid python” with just the right tone followed by Earl passionately telling Ana his need for custom tailored condoms as “one of the perks of being part of the .0001%.” And I did have to laugh (something I’m certain I would not have done while reading in print) as Ms. Ryan performs Ana sighing as she thinks, “It’s too much like a wet dream about Robert Pattison.”
I did tire of the silliness of it all at times but Allyson Ryan delivers a performance that is close to perfection for satire. Too bad the producers of FSOG didn’t take the time to choose a more appropriate narrator for James’ Fifty series as I thought their choice a sheer disaster. That’s one place where Fifty Shames has a definite advantage over FSOG. It’s all about the narrator in this instance. I doubt I would have finished the print version of Fifty Shames but I did it with laughs in audio.
Mischief - Amanda Quick
Review written by LinnieGayl
Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
I love Amanda Quick’s older romances, so was excited to discover that many of them are available at Audible. I jumped at the chance to download this one. Not only is it one of my favorites by the author, but Barbara Rosenblat is one of my favorite narrators as well. In her review of the print version at AAR, Laurie wrote, “Mischief is the kind of humorous, sexy, light, and romantic novel fans of Amanda Quick have come to cherish.” I heartily agree.
I first came to know, and love, Ms. Rosenblat’s work through her narration of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, and this book, with amateur archaeologist Imogene and a hero with some actual archaeological experience, reminds me of that series. Substitute ancient Zamar for Egypt and add sex to the mix, and this definitely has the flavor of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. And Ms. Rosenblat doesn’t disappoint with her narration of this book. Although I have to admit that at times her Imogene sounded so much like Amelia, and her Matthias sounded so much like Emerson, that I thought I was listening to an Amelia Peabody.
Ms. Rosenblat brings each of the characters to life with voices appropriate for their characters. In Matthias’ words, Imogen has a “commanding” manner. She’s determined and self-confident, and those characteristics shine through in the narration. I was never confused as to which character was speaking as Ms. Rosenblat gives each, no matter how minor, their own voice. There’s a lot of humor in Mischief and it’s enhanced by Ms. Rosenblat’s narration. I found myself laughing out loud over some of the dialog.
My only quibble with the narration is very minor. At times the pauses between chapters seem unusually long, leaving me wondering if something was wrong with the file. But the pauses did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.
Do you long for Amanda Quick’s older, non-paranormal historical romances? I heartily recommend you give this one a try. It’s a very fun listen. As for me, I’ll be looking for other older Amanda Quick’s narrated by Ms. Rosenblat.
If you are following the Surprise by the Quarter track for our Listening Challenge, it’s past time for the third quarter choices. These were posted earlier in July on our Listening Challenge thread over at Goodreads.
Complete two of the following four:
1. Listen to a romance audio by an author who has at least ten books in their audio backlist.
2. Listen to a romance book narrated by one of the top five winners of the Favorite Narrator award from the 2012 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll. Those five narrators are:
3. Listen to a romance audiobook featuring one of the following: a vampire, an author, a soldier (historical or contemporary), an untitled hero in a historical setting, or an attorney.
4. Listen to the first in a series that is either categorized as romance or has a romantic thread.
Have you seen our new Facebook page? We’re posting daily audiobook tidbits about romance audio or the industry in general, upcoming releases, and fun or interesting links to follow. Look for Speaking of Audiobooks.
For those new to Speaking of Audiobooks, we’ve been around for more than three years and this is our 90th column. Check out our archives and you’ll see that we have discussed just about everything that has to do with romance audio. If you are looking for a specific topic, just ask in our comment area below and, if it is something we have discussed in a past column, I’ll point you in that direction.
Enjoy your listening!
- Lea Hensley