Speaking of Audiobooks: It’s All Reviews – March 2013

It Must Be Love It’s time for another All Reviews column here at Speaking of Audiobooks. Six audiobooks are up for review including Rachel Gibson’s It Must Be Love, Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point, Julie Garwood’s The Secret, Jayne Ann Krentz’s Dream Eyes, Diana Miller’s Dangerous Affairs, and Maya Bank’s Rush.

It Must be Love by Rachael Gibson

Narrated by Rebecca Tripp

Review written by Carrie

I’ve read all Gibson’s books and was excited about listening to It Must Be Love on audio. I’m pleased to say the narrator is a win, but certain aspects of the plot make the book less enjoyable than I remembered.

Gabrielle, our heroine, mixes herbal remedies and essential oils and talks about auras and karma. She meditates and chants and attempts to find her peaceful center. The street festival in our local university town would be an ideal place to find Gabrielle, and perhaps that’s also true for Boise, Idaho where the book is set. While many of the beliefs Gabrielle espouses are still quite popular, the New Age phenomenon was much more prominent in pop culture when the book was published in 2000. That, along with no inclusion of cell phones or computers, makes the book feel a little dated now.

Our hero, Joe, is unlikeable for much of the book. The way Joe and his boss bully Gabrielle into being a confidential informant and Joe’s patronizing attitude afterwards is unpleasant. He thinks she’s a kook, but this doesn’t stop Joe from coming-on to Gabrielle. His advances show a lack of professionalism, especially since he says he doesn’t even like her. That Gabriella keeps “melting” when he kisses her disappoints me. Although she does stand up to him more than the average romance heroine, she is still too vulnerable to his charm.

Thankfully, Rebecca Tripp’s narration helped me enjoy the book even when I felt unhappy about the characters. Her characters are distinct and she’s pleasing to listen to. Tripp doesn’t change her voice a great deal for most characters, but the characters are easy to tell apart, even in conversation. The only voice that gives the narrator any trouble is the parrot, but I won’t hold that against her! It’s not easy to mimic. My only recommendations to Ms. Tripp is that she speed up her reading just a bit and add a little more animation to her performance.

Throughout the book, Gabrielle is stressed about being disloyal to her friend, about lying, and about being forced to be a confidential informant for the police. She is anxious and conflicted, and both the writing and the narration help the listener share those emotions.

Joe has to do some major groveling to redeem himself, but Gabrielle makes him work for it at the end. It’s obvious he feels the weight of what he stupidly let go, and he has doubt about his ability to make it right. It Must Be Love isn’t so much a light romantic comedy for me. It’s the story of a vulnerable openhearted woman and a fairly shallow man finding each other. That’s a recipe for pain, and poor Gabrielle goes through pain. But I did like it because the ending is realistic. Even though the reader expects the happy ending, Joe doesn’t, and I like that his confidence was finally shaken.

Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

Review written by Kaetrin

When Breaking Point was released in print, I waited excitedly for my copy to arrive in the mail and read it as soon as I opened the package. I liked it very much but didn’t love it quite as much as I was hoping to. Perhaps it was just what happens sometimes when a book is so highly anticipated. But, that doesn’t explain why, when I knew what was going to happen, I enjoyed the audiobook version even better than the print and possibly more than all of the previous books in the series. However, that’s exactly what happened.

Natalie Benoit, I-Team member, is part of a group of journalists touring areas of Mexico. Their bus is attacked by members of Los Zetas (a drug cartel) and Natalie is taken hostage. She ends up in a cell next door to Zach McBride, an undercover Deputy Chief US Marshal, who is being tortured by the Zetas because they believe he stole a shipment of their cocaine. Natalie helps Zach escape and Zach helps her make her way home across the Sonoran desert – with all the force of the Zetas following them to try and recapture the escapees. Because Zach is undercover, Natalie doesn’t know he’s on the side of the angels – in fact she thinks he’s a drug runner – but she decides to trust him with her safety. Despite her concerns, their sizzling attraction is something she cannot ignore and pretty soon she and Zach are getting hot and bothered by a lot more than the desert, if you take my meaning.

Many of the previous cast members appear in this book too – there was a scene in Chapter 6 where the I-Team staff past and present, along with Reece, Julian, Marc and Gabe are all talking. Let me say that Kaleo Griffiths’ narration of this scene was superb. I knew who was talking without having to listen for dialogue tags and there were, like, 10+ people in the room.

There were some technical issues, which stopped this from being a perfect listen. Some of the words were mispronounced (grasp instead of gasp, dock instead of rock) and there were a couple of occasions where the wrong voice was used (e.g., Natalie’s instead of Zach’s). There were also three or four repeated sentences/phrases and at least one missing part (I believe it was only about a sentence). At first I thought it might have been only my copy until I saw another review noting a similar problem.

However, Griffith brings it, absolutely, with Zach, to whom he gives what sounded to my ear like a very faint New York accent. It was even easy to tell when Zach was thinking to himself! Natalie’s New Orleans drawl made her very easy to identify and the Mexican characters were very well voiced too.

I have loved all of the I-Team books in audio format but I will say that they were favored not so much because of the suspense aspects – after all I had read them previously. Imagine for example seeing The Sixth Sense for the second time. The “bang” is not the same even though one may love it. The I-Team books aren’t at all like The Sixth Sense of course. But in Breaking Point, even knowing, I was still captivated by the suspense, still worried for the characters – almost as if things could have turned out differently in the audio version (they don’t). I can only credit Kaleo Griffith with that. And I think it helped that I had had a break from listening to the I-Team books – it made my ears fresher.

Pamela Clare doesn’t pull her punches in this book – there’s plenty of suspense and drama and angst, even if the epilogue was still on the sappy side for my preference. There is also more bromance between Marc and Julian and Gabe and that can never be a bad thing.

An excellent addition, highly recommended.

The Secret(1) The Secret by Julie Garwood

Narrated by Susan Duerden

Review written by LinnieGayl

In the early days of AAR, The Secret (first published in 1992) received a DIK in a reader review. I read the review soon after I discovered AAR and immediately bought the book. I’ve read it so many times since that my old paperback is falling apart. I was a bit nervous to listen to it in audio. Would the narrator do this magical story justice? Or would she make the story seem a bit silly (as some readers now accuse some of Ms. Garwood’s books of being?). Within minutes
of listening, my worries were put to rest. If anything, the narration enhanced the reading experience for me.

The narrator’s skills shine through in the magical opening sequence when the four-year-old English Elizabeth meets little Scottish Frances Catherine at a border festival. Within moments the two girls are fast friends. In Ms. Duerden’s hands this introduction is just wonderful. Each girl is given a unique voice, appropriate for her age and origin. They cry, they whisper, they laugh, and these come through in Ms. Duerden’s voice.

While this is clearly a romance, it’s also one of my favorite stories of female friendship, and it’s through that lifelong friendship that Elizabeth, years later, ends up in Scotland to help her dear friend with the birth of her child. And it’s through that friendship that Elizabeth meets the gruff Laird Ian Maitland, Frances Catherine’s brother-in-law.

Once in Scotland, Elizabeth not only helps her good friend and eventually marries Ian, she influences and changes the entire clan. And Ms. Duerden gives all of the members of the clan unique, age- and gender-appropriate voices.

Is the book realistic and true to the time? Probably not. Do I really think that an innocent young English woman could make all of the changes in a clan that Judith did? No, of course not. But do I love this book? Absolutely. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Secret in the past, I highly recommend that you give it a try in audio. I know I’ll be listening to it again in the near future. I didn’t think it possible, but Ms. Duerden’s narration has made one of my personal DIKs an even better reading experience.

Dream Eyes by Jayne Anne Krentz

Narrated by Tanya Eby

Review written by LinnieGayl

I began my love of romance novels about fifteen years ago with one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s romances and immediately went on a huge glom of her backlist. Unfortunately, her recent books are a bit hit or miss for me. While I like Tanya Eby’s narration of Dream Eyes, I have mixed feelings about the story itself: I enjoyed parts of it, but was bored by others.

This is the second in the author’s Dark Legacy series. Judson Coppersmith is the brother of the hero of Copper Beach, the first in the series, while Gwen Frazier is best friends with the heroine of Copper Beach. A month earlier, Judson was instantly attracted to Gwen when they went out for dinner with his brother and her friend. But Judson’s dreams of a night of hot sex ended when Gwen, a paranormal counselor, told him “I fix bad dreams.” Judson suffers from violent, vivid dreams, but that’s not the type of relationship he wants with Gwen. Judson can’t get Gwen out of his mind, and soon has a chance to see her. He’s a psychic investigator with his brother, and gets called in to help Gwen when she’s the primary suspect in a series of violent murders.

In addition to fixing bad dreams, Gwen has another interesting paranormal talent: when we first meet her, she’s talking to the ghost of her mentor at the scene of her violent death. It turns out Gwen can pick up signals from the victims of violent deaths, a type of “ghost” signal.

I’ve listened to several books narrated by Tanya Eby, and she has yet to disappoint. She clearly distinguishes between the characters; I was never in doubt as to who was speaking. I find her pacing excellent and her tone appealing. She realistically conveys the emotions the characters are feeling.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the story quite as much as the narration. The early chapters were interesting, and I found both Judson and Gwen intriguing. As with virtually all of Ms. Krentz’s heroes and heroines, they’re witty and intelligent. But once Judson and Gwen begin investigating the murders, the story dragged. I like dialog, but it seemed as if hours of the story focused on endless discussions between Judson and Gwen; I just wanted something more to happen. I definitely didn’t hate it, but I found it all too easy to stop the audio to do something else.

Dangerous Affairs by Diana Miller

Narrated by Karen White

Review written by Lea Hensley

Unfamiliar with Diana Miller’s work, I was hesitant to give Dangerous Affairs a try (although I found the synopsis intriguing) until I realized it was narrated by Karen White. Karen is one of my auto-buy narrators – if I think a book may interest me, her narration will sway me to give it a try. So, I must give credit to her narration for leading me to this very enjoyable listen of Diana Miller’s debut novel.

Dangerous Affairs Although I have watched few daytime soap operas over the years, for some reason I find their female stars work well for me as romance heroines, something I rarely see. Abby Langford has left her soap star days and her cheating ex-husband behind, moving back to her hometown in Minnesota where she hopes to provide a better quality life for her nine-year-old daughter. Then mysterious incidents start to occur – an old bloody knife is found in her new home, she starts receiving threatening letters, and someone breaks into her home. But Chief of Police, Josh Kincaid, believes Abby is creating the events for publicity and has a hard time believing there is a real threat to her life. It’s the beginning of a romance that reaches beyond the typical heroine-returns-home/cop-hero scenario.

My first experience listening to Karen White was her 2010 performance of Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive. My audio reviews were much shorter in those days and I summed up my thoughts on the narration with, “Karen White excels in her narration.” And somehow, Karen just keeps improving which is a little amazing. First of all, she “gets” romance and understands the importance of the byplay between the leads and the timing needed for an effective delivery. Second, she clearly distinguishes her characters and has improved her ability to provide the romance listener with that longed-for male deep voice. In Dangerous Affairs, she once again “excels in her narration” – just at a higher level.

Miller delivers a taut mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. In addition, it is quite romantic. For a debut author’s effort, it’s impressive and combined with Karen White’s performance, it’s likely an audio I will listen to again.

Rush by Maya Banks

Narrated by Adam Paul

Review written by Kaetrin

Rush is the first in Ms. Banks’ Breathless trilogy featuring three billionaires who run a hotel empire – Gabe, Jace, and Ash. Gabe Hamilton has had his eye on Jace’s sister, Mia Crestwell, for about four years, but waited until she was twenty-four to make his move. He’s very, shall we say, demanding and he thought Mia needed a few more years on her to be able to handle him. Gabe was previously married and is gun-shy after a nasty divorce. He had a D/s relationship with his wife and when she left she made accusations in the media and in Divorce Court to the effect that it was non-consensual. All of Gabe’s relationships since have been bound by a standard contract. Yes, that’s right; this is Ms. Banks’ foray into Fifty Shades-land.

The contract itself is ridiculous. We are told Gabe is the detail man of the trio but the terms of the contract are vague and nonspecific so I had concerns for his business. It basically says that he’s in charge and he gets to do whatever he wants for as long as the relationship lasts. Her time is his; her body is his, etc. To enjoy the book, you really have to get over the vague and ridiculous contract. It’s unashamedly over the top, pretty much like I expect from Maya Banks.

Mia is not a total doormat – she has her own terms to add to the silly contract (e.g., mutual fidelity) and she insists that her brother, Jace, not know of their affair. Mia has had a massive crush on Gabe since she was sixteen; she’s under no illusion that their fling will last, but she’s decided to get out of it what she can.

Gabe and Mia start an intense relationship where she works for him (at a desk inside his office!) – he’s a billionaire and he doesn’t usually have a personal assistant(!) – and makes her body available to him morning, noon and night. I haven’t listened to a lot of erotic romance on audio – much of what I have listened to made me somewhat uncomfortable, as I discovered there were some words it was best not to hear out loud. But I have to say that even though the subject matter was hot enough to scorch my ears, it mostly worked for me this time. Perhaps hearing the dirty talk from a male voice made it easier for me to hear?

I can’t say that overall Adam Paul hit all my buttons from a narration perspective. He mostly gets the tone and expression right and I appreciate that he doesn’t use a drag-y voice for the female characters. He merely softened his tone for Mia and her friends – this doesn’t exactly sound “female” to me but it’s better than a falsetto from a guy. I think of it as an aural signal that the girl is speaking rather than a character voice as such, if that makes sense. I was hoping Gabe’s voice would be deeper, I admit, and there was no discernible difference between the voices of Gabe, Jace and Ash, which was disappointing. Also, at the beginning, there was a touch of Kermit the Frog about Mr. Paul which, when you think of the erotic content was kind of ick, but it faded out and only popped back up occasionally through the listen.

Unlike in a couple of Banks’ previous books which have contained some uncomfortable-for-me sex scenes, in Rush, Gabe acknowledges that he has treated Mia like an object instead of a woman he cares about and after a scene involving other men goes wrong, his emotional turnaround (from being cold to actually having some emotions) was significant and, because of that, I was happier overall with their relationship. The conflict at the end was contrived and made me roll my eyes but the grovel was pretty spectacular as grovels go.

It’s explicit, it’s over the top, and if you don’t think about it too much, it’s mostly fun.

Ending Notes

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Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley

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6 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: It’s All Reviews – March 2013”

  1. Carrie says:

    Lea-
    Dangerous Affairs sounds very tempting! I love a good mystery.

  2. JuneD says:

    So glad to read that The Secret was not a letdown. It’s one of my favorite Julie Garwood stories.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was while listening to The Secret, JuneD. I was so nervous about it, and it was just delightful. I know I’ll listen to it again.

  3. Renee says:

    I love this column. I’ve had so many excellent listening experiences based on your reviews. I just downloaded both The Secret, which I’ve read and Breaking Point. I really like Kaleo Griffith’s narrations.

  4. Lea Hensley says:

    Renee – glad you love what you see here! You will have to let us know what you think of The Secret and Breaking Point. I’ve listened to Breaking Point and thought it extremely good – I’ll relisten to the entire I-Team series at some time. Pamela Clare announced today that the next book in the series, Skin Deep, is now available at Tantor for preordering. Kaleo Griffith will be narrating it as well.