Speaking of Audiobooks: Older Romance Gems I Discovered through Listening

Kiss of the HighlanderWhen I started writing the Speaking of Audiobooks column in 2009, romance listening was still a rather new, if not unheard of, experience for the majority of romance fans. We may have heard of audiobooks, and even tried one, but romance? Possibly we had listened to an instructional audiobook or a children’s book when vacationing with the family but that was it.

Although I know there are huge numbers of yet-to-be-converted romance audio fans out there, audiobook listening is definitely on the rise. The selection, ease of access through downloads, and the affordability of today’s audiobooks brings in new audio listeners every day. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Top Ten 2013 Romance Listens

FFTS and MM -final coversAlthough we’re seeing the audio romance section over at Audible brimming with unknown authors and narrators these days, it’s an indication that romance audiobooks are more popular than ever and the number of quality titles is on the rise as well. 2013 offered the best selection yet of highly entertaining, exceptionally written and performed audiobooks. My Top Ten List could easily number twenty-five.

When choosing the year’s Top Ten romance titles, it goes without saying that the author’s writing and the narrator’s performance are the most influential factors. With the proliferation of home studios, production plays a bigger role each year as those who take the time to give us a seamless listen without awkward corrections, noisy intakes of breath, or poor sound quality deserve recognition as well. And although all of these elements were taken into consideration when making my selections, there’s another dynamic that sometimes comes into play and overrides all the others – it’s that sense of being swept away – a gut feel that tells me “This was a perfect listen for me.”  Here’s hoping that my Top Ten Listens will provide you with the same. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: November 2013 Audio News

DeadlineWe have general romance audio news today as well as an announcement from AAR. We also have something new for Speaking of Audiobooks – sound clips from several promising audios.

Speaking of Audiobooks Review News

You know all those audiobook reviews you have seen in the Speaking of Audiobooks columns through the years? There are hundreds and we have mourned the inability to search or even find a listing of those reviews we know are there but are seemingly just out of our reach. Oh, they are all still there, tucked away in a Speaking of Audiobooks column somewhere. Well, the good news is – things are a-changing.

Slowly but surely, we are moving those audio reviews into AAR’s review database. As with any review of a print book, you can now go into the Power Search and search by author or title. You can also choose to view our entire selection of audiobook reviews – select Audiobook under Book Type and it will bring up all audiobook reviews ordered by most recent. Right now there are 61 reviews but we will have more than 300 from the past 4 ½ years when we have transitioned all over to the reviews database.

In many of those reviews, you will find more information than that which was included in the original Speaking of Audiobooks review thanks to a number of audio reviewers, both past and present, who have volunteered to provide an overall grade, separate grades for narration and content, and sensuality ratings for a good number of their past reviews. On all audio reviews, you’ll find the length of the audio and prices for both hard copies (if available) and Audible.

Future Audio Review News

And more big review news. We are now writing new audio reviews and publishing those right along with AAR’s print reviews. Regularly, you will see audiobook reviews mixed in with print reviews six days a week in our New Reviews area.

Our audio reviewers at this time are LinnieGayl, Caz, and myself. Our first new audiobook review ran this past Saturday – Caz’s review of Laura Kinsale’s My Sweet Folly. Each column, I’ll provide links to audiobook reviews published since the last column. All reviews included in the current and future Speaking of Audiobooks column are written by me – Lea Hensley and will be shorter in length than the general audio reviews. These SOA reviews will be added to the reviews database after each column runs.

Coming Soon Audio Reviews

Although we have around 25 audio review titles in the works at this time, here are a few you will soon be seeing:

RealClare, Pamela – Striking Distance  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

Evans, Katy – Real  Narrated by Charlotte Penfield

Heyer, Georgette – Sylvester (unabridged)  Narrated by Nicholas Rowe

Kinsale, Laura – Shadowheart  Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Milan, Courtney – The Duchess War  Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Shalvis, Jill – Always on my Mind  Narrated by Annie Greene

Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project  Narrated by Dan O’Grady

Willig, Lauren – The Passion of the Purple Plumeria     Narrated by Kate Reading

 

Sound Clips – a Welcome Addition to Audio Reviews

As romance listeners, we want to hear interaction between the hero and heroine in sound clips yet, that’s rarely the case. Since Audible’s sound clips typically feature the first few minutes of an audio, we usually hear the intro to one of the characters or the prologue. Starting with today’s Speaking of Audiobooks column, we’re offering a few sound clips you won’t find at Audible. Each will contain that hero/heroine interaction and hopefully help you decide if a particular audio is of interest to you.

We’re featuring all male narrators today (it just happened that way – not purposefully): Stephen Lang – narrator of Sandra Brown’s recent Deadline, Kaleo Griffith – narrator of Pamela Clare’s Defiant, and Nicholas Boulton – narrator of Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart and My Sweet Folly.

Deadline – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Stephen Lang

I’m a big Sandra Brown fan who eagerly anticipates each of her new releases while relistening to my Brown favorites to keep my bouts of Brown fever at bay. Not only can I rely on another entertaining romantic suspense each year, but I rest in the knowledge that her new title will be released simultaneously in print and audio formats with the audio featuring an experienced talented narrator. Stephen Lang adeptly delivers Deadline with all the suspense one could hope for while paying homage to the romance within.

Dawson, a well-known journalist who has just returned from Afghanistan, overwhelmed and still suffering from his experiences there, follows a close FBI contact’s suggestion that he cover the presumed murder case of a soldier who looks to be the biological son of infamous terrorists. Amelia is the dead soldier’s wife and mother of his two children. Their romance builds slowly and believably as each discovers Amelia is being targeted – someone wants her dead. Deadline is more romantic that Brown’s other more recent releases and provides complete satisfaction in more ways than one. Aside from some noticeable production issues, Lang’s narration combined with Sandra Brown’s storytelling is a complete winner. My grades – an A- for narration and an A for content. Sensuality: Warm

The following sound sample features one of Dawson and Amelia’s first encounters.

 

 

Defiant – Pamela Clare

Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

The third in the Mackinnon’s Rangers series, Defiant delivers an above average American Historical tale set during the French and Indian War. To better visualize this time frame, think Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans. Although I see Lewis as Iain (the hero of Surrender), the action and politics seen in that movie are present as well as cruel treatment from a Native American tribe – this time the Shawnee.

At times, it’s tough to listen to Connor and Sarah’s experiences with the tribe (and it reminds me of Clare’s Ride the Fire) but the bigger story lies beyond those trials. Pamela Clare doesn’t write wallpaper historicals and Defiant is rich with historical facts blended with tender romance. Kaleo Griffith, narrator of Ms. Clare’s audiobooks to date, continues to bring to life these engaging tales with easily distinguished characters while imbuing each scene with the appropriate tension, humor, and attention to tenderness – an absolute requirement for this at-times heart wrenching tale. Grade: Narration – B+ and Content: A.  Sensuality: Hot

Our sound clip features one of those tender scenes between Connor and Sarah.

For My Lady’s Heart – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

I was hesitant to listen to For My Lady’s Heart as I read that it contained (horrors) Middle English. I want my listening to be easy but the lure was strong with all the highly favorable comments I was reading and … it’s a Medieval, a sub-genre I thoroughly enjoy. And that Middle English? I barely noticed it after hearing the first bit of dialogue as the author seamlessly blends the more archaic language into the overall text.

Nick Boulton, a stage actor more than a little familiar with Shakespeare, delivers it all with such great skill that I only thought about the beauty of the story, it’s complex characters, and the sheer intrigue Kinsale’s words convey. Facing a difficult heroine once again (Prince of Midnight featured such a heroine as well – an A listen for me), I didn’t run away as is my tendency. I have learned that in the hands of this author, it will work for me. I’m sure I’ll accept her character well before the story’s end and appreciate its inclusion. My grades – A+ for narration and A for content. Sensuality: Warm

Here’s a taste of what is waiting for you in For My Lady’s Heart:

My Sweet Folly – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Folie (Folly) is quite simply an endearing heroine. A widow and responsible yet loving stepmother, she’s faced the difficulties in her life with great aplomb. She’s paired with what can best be described as a challenging hero who, while at times seems the ultimate in kindness and consideration, can also appear a bit unhinged and downright difficult.

Nick Boulton, once again, gives an outstanding performance and helps the listener understand Robert’s trials and uncertainties. I have learned that Laura Kinsale’s books usually contain an arduous character or plot element that I must accept fully while trusting her to turn it around and deliver an excellent tale in the process. My Sweet Folly is no exception and I reveled in the mystery surrounding Robert and his relationship with Folly that starts so innocently and beautifully only to veer way off the beaten path. In her audio review, Caz gave My Sweet Folly an overall B+ grade. My grade is higher – an overall A with an A+ for narration and an A- for content. Sensuality: Warm

This sound clip features one of their more challenging conversations – Nick Boulton gets every nuance and performs each character even better than my mind can envision:

 

Romance Audiobook News

Linda Howard

Dare we hope to see her unpublished (after 1986) audio titles soon? In particular, we are talking about Duncan’s Bride and her Kell Sabin series, which includes Midnight RainbowDiamond BayHeartbreaker, and White Lies.

Well, Midnight Rainbow is scheduled for release on December 1st by Dreamscape Media! I’m smiling but concerned about the choice of unknown narrator Brenda Sweeney. I was hoping for one of the audio industry’s best narrators with this Linda Howard jewel. Let’s hope Brenda Sweeney fits that bill.

All Through the Night BockwayConnie Brockway

Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night will be released in audio format on November 19th. We are hoping this is an indication that her entire backlist will soon be released in audio format as her debut novel, Promise Me Heaven, is also being released on the 19th. Both are narrated by Alison Larkin, she’s well-known and trusted. Fingers crossed for more audio releases.

The Lost Suzanne Enoch Audios

For a couple of years, we have talked about Suzanne Enoch’s five lost audiobooks originally released by Harper Audio, specifically:

The Rake

London’s Perfect Scoundrel

England’s Perfect Hero

Always a Scoundrel

The Care and Taming of a Rogue

This is (and was) especially significant news since the highly talented Tavia Gilbert narrates these lost titles. Released in 2011, these audios were available at Audible for a matter of only months. We discovered in February 2012, that the audios had disappeared. The search was officially on at our Romance Audiobooks Goodreads group and Tavia jokingly referred to it as The Goodreads Disappearing Audiobooks Smackdown Possee.  Well, we have news! Tavia reported on October 21st that Harper had confirmed their rerelease of these titles sometime this fall. In fact, two are already available at Audible – The Rake and London’s Perfect Scoundrel. You’ll also see Ms. Enoch’s newest series, Scandalous Brides, (released in 2012-2013 by Tantor) with Anne Flosnik narrating.

Laura Kinsale

For those of you who have been waiting for For My Lady’s Heart or wondered what happened to it, it is now available at Audible once again. Audible inadvertently left Chapter 14 out of the audio and had to remove the book. Replacement took weeks causing listeners to ask in frustration “Where did it go?!” Surely there is a better way than to just remove an audio in such a situation (the same happened with Pamela Clare’s Surrender earlier this year although it was Tantor making the changes).

Nora Roberts’ Whiskey Beach

Brilliance released Whiskey Beach earlier this year with Peter Berkrot narrating. The reviews were mixed but apparently caused concern for Brilliance as they rereleased Whiskey Beach in October with a new narrator – Luke Daniels. Apparently, there were complaints about Berkrot’s narration and action was taken. Reviews are also mixed on Daniels’ performance. I noticed that the unabridged MP3 CD at Amazon still includes Peter Berkrot as narrator while the abridged version names Luke Daniels as the narrator as does the Audible unabridged version. Confusing as that is, we must applaud Brilliance for their move – they responded to listeners’ complaints.

ALS AuctionThe Fight Against ALS

The audio community is rallying around one of their own, Bob Deyan, who is battling ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease). His company, Deyan Audio, has probably produced at least one if not dozens of the audiobooks you have listened to. In support of his battle and to help him raise money to research ALS, two fundraisers are planned – one a live 24-hour read-a-thon in Los Angeles and the second, an online auction of unique audiobook related items. The online auction is currently underway. The flyer to the right will direct you to the online auction. If you want to know more about the read-a-thon or Bob’s story, visit here.

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks keeps growing and now has 629 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

-       Lea Hensley

 

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Haley’s Picks

texasdestiny When I sat down to put this list together, I thought this would really be a piece of cake. Well, I was wrong. It turns out, I had more like a top twentysomething list and narrowing it down was not all that easy. Another thing I noticed is that so many of the books represented were some of the very first I ever read. My love of the romance genre began when I was a pre-teen and started pilfering books off my mother’s bookshelf. I knew she wouldn’t be happy with me reading them because I was so young, so I hid them under my bed or in the window seat. I got caught once while reading a book I loved, but now I can’t remember the title, and was told I was forbidden to read the romances. That didn’t stop me. I only grew more and more sneaky. I made sure to only take one book at a time and to shift the other books around to hide the missing one. I wonder now if the forbidden fruit aspect fueled my love of those books. I’ve made an effort as an adult to track down the books I read then and make sure they still appeal to me. Some have help up, and others not so much.

Had I not trimmed this list down significantly, there would be many, many more Westerns represented. That is because all my mother reads are Western romances, with the occasional other historical if it is by an author who also writes Westerns,and I’ve ended up loving those Westerns, too. I also noticed that I enjoy more unusual heroes, not just the alpha male you typically see. Continue reading

Before They Were Authors

career The recent Labor Day weekend had friends and I discussing the changing job market. Many of us had launched into second (and even third) career paths, something that certainly wasn’t expected when we initially graduated from college. This got me to thinking of others who have a secondary career path (or sometimes even just a second job!); the writers who keep me supplied in romances.

Contrary to what many in the media may think, an author does not, as Eileen Dreyer so succinctly put it, choose this path because she is “a sexually frustrated loser dressed in a robe and bunny slippers who lives in a dreary apartment with my cat and lives vicariously through my devastatingly beautiful heroines.” Most seem to choose it because it is a girlhood dream. And many, many, many of them come to writing only after having pursued another career first. I am fascinated by the diversity of what those careers are and thought others might be to. So here it is, a cataloging of what several of the greats did before they were romance writers.

Linda Howard worked at a trucking company, which explains to me at least why she can create such realistic men. I would imagine working in a male dominated field like that would show one a great deal about how the opposite sex thinks. Susanna Kearsley was a museum curator, and I think that is reflected in the wonderful historical settings of some of her novels. Justine Davis was in law enforcement before being a writer. She writes authentic romantic suspense with an authentic flavor now.  And Inez Kelly was a 911 dispatcher and Linnea Sinclair worked as a private detective and also a news reporter before taking on romantic science fiction. Sandra Brown also worked as a reporter, and Pamela Clare “went to work for a newspaper and held almost every position in the newsroom before becoming the paper’s first woman editor.” Karina Bliss, who has received a DIK here at AAR for Here Comes the Groom, worked as a travel journalist. And Carla Kelly? Well, among her many and varied careers, she has worked as a park ranger and was a Valley City Time Record feature writer.

Continue reading