Private ArrgParticipating in AAR’s recent Annual Reader’s Poll and reading that Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was chosen Best Romance of 2009, my audio-thinking mind immediately started wondering about my favorite romance audiobooks of 2009.  And then I realized that I didn’t want to stop with favorites from just one year.  What about our all time favorite romance audiobooks – say, the Top Ten?

As many of us have discovered, sharing our favorites with others is one of the best means of increasing our own listening enjoyment.  Not only do we have the opportunity to express our thoughts regarding a particular audiobook, but we also provide solid recommendations for our fellow audio lovers who, in turn, are inspired to share as well.  Another aspect of sharing our favorites is that of identity.  In finding another listener with similar tastes to your own, you discover a trusted source for future recommendations.

This dynamic is already occurring here at Speaking of Audiobooks.  Through past sharing, I now know several regular posters whose listening tastes are similar to my own and, therefore, I pay closer attention to their recommendations.  The more we share our likes (and dislikes), the better chance to identify with other listeners.

Choosing a favorite audiobook is a multi-level task for most since audiobook enthusiasts must take into consideration story content, narrator performance, and production quality as well as the mere fact that not all writing styles transition effectively into good listening.  And then, of course, there is that magic mix that sometimes works for you despite a narrator’s average (at best) performance or a production quality that provides an occasional echo or crackle in the background.

My Vote for Best Romance Audiobook of 2009

Let’s start with 2009, a year rich in new romance audiobook releases, especially considering the fact that many older romances are now being released in audio format for the first time.  It was difficult to choose just one favorite so I’ve included a few other titles that were so, so very close.

My favorite romance audiobook produced in 2009:

Private Arrangements – Sherry Thomas

Narrated by Virginia Leishman

Although the narrator rates in the excellent category, the sequence of events may be a bit confusing for those who have not yet read the book in print.  However, this magic mix worked extremely well for me and left me tempted to experience it all over again – immediately.

Others in the running:  Son of the Morning – Linda Howard

Narrated by Natalie Ross

One of the best combo Medieval/time-travel romances out there, Natalie Ross does a first rate job depicting both Niles and Grace – just as my mind perceived them when reading the print version.

First Comes Marriage – Mary Balogh

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

It is definitely my love of this story that places this one high on my favorites list as Flosnik performance rates no better than average.  This is not only my kind of romance but the leads fall into preferred categories as well.

Black Ice – Anne Stuart

Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck

Man oh man – bad boy Bastien.  Stuart’s writing combines extremely well with Van Dyck’s performance to provide an edge of the seat experience.

Of course, my pick for favorite audiobook is only one voice.  Please, let us hear your choice as well!

Top Ten Favorite Romance Audiobooks

Looking at my audio library, I was thrilled to realize I had dozens of favorites but, of course, that made the task of choosing only ten more difficult.  And although I knew the first and second choices without thinking twice, determining the remainder of the final list took a good bit of consideration.  So, here it is – my Top Ten Favorite Romance Audiobooks:

1.  Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon

Narrated by Davina Porter

Although more than single book, the Outlander series’ episodic nature qualifies it as my number one choice and is, specifically, the first four in the series: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn.  Rarely have I been entertained to this degree for such a sustained period of time and that’s quite a statement given that these four books represent 159 hours of listening enjoyment with barely a boring moment.  If you want to read more, our November, 2009 Speaking of Audiobooks column is devoted entirely to this beloved series.

2.   It Had to Be You – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Anna Fields

Both the author and narrator are extreme favorites of mine and It Had to Be You is at the top of that already highly favored list.  Dan Calebow officially rates as one of my top heroes and pretend bad girl, Phoebe Summerville, isn’t far behind.  Full of sophisticated humor, this one has the added allure of being one sexy book.

Suddenly You3.  Suddenly You – Lisa Kleypas

Narrated by Jill Tanner

I have been hesitant to praise this, my favorite of all Kleypas historicals, overly much in the past since it is only available in audio cassette format.  However, I discovered that Recorded Books is releasing it in CD format May 13!  Jill Tanner is an outstanding narrator and Amanda Briars is on my official list of favorite heroines.  Add Jack Devlin to that mix and you have quite the winning combination.

4.   Dream of Me – Josie Litton

Narrated by Josephine Bailey

Dream of Me was the first true romance I read and therefore holds a special place in my list of romance favorites.  I was enthused to discover it in audio format but after listening to Josephine Bailey’s excellent performance, I was absolutely enthralled.  Now a comfort listen for me, this Viking tale is a typical romance in many ways but will always be a winner of my heart.

5.   Kiss of the Highlander – Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Phil Gigante

Narrator Phil Gigante is largely responsible for the outstanding success of this particular time-travel romance.  Although fifth is the series, this one stands on its own with a certain bawdiness that speaks to me as well as many laugh-out-loud moments and one very sexy hero.

6.    Match Me if You Can – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Anna Fields

Another hit from that winning combination of author and narrator, Anna Fields portrayal of the self-deprecating Annabelle plays perfectly against the entirely convincing depiction of Heath – complete with attitude.  Both fit perfectly with the image in my head while reading the book in print and rates as an unqualified success.

7.    Leaving Normal – Stef Ann Holm

Narrated by Andrea Gallo

This one reached DIK status when I reviewed for AAR and the audiobook is DIK worthy as well.  Andrea Gallo delivers a superb performance of this rather serious book.  It’s one romance that feels like the real thing.  And, oh yeah, there is that firefighter beta hero Tony to take into consideration – wow!

8.   Nobody’s Baby But Mine – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Anna Fields

Yet another Phillips/Fields combo that rates “comfort listen” status for me.  I chose to ignore the whole “nerdy genius using football player for baby” setup and just let the resulting story line flow.  A tremendously entertaining romance full of laughs, this is one wherein the entire cast is integral to its success.

9.   Private Arrangements – Sherry Thomas

Narrated by Virginia Leishman

My favorite audiobook of 2009, (detailed above) narrator Virginia Leishman gets an A.  This is one audiobook that may work best for those who have read the print version first.

Death Angel10.   Death Angel – Linda Howard

Narrated by Joyce Bean

Many Linda Howard audiobooks provide a great deal of entertainment for me but Death Angel touched me as no other.  It’s an unusual setup with a hit-man hero and a drug lord’s mistress as the heroine but it worked for me on many levels and brought more than a few tears to my eyes.  Added to that was Joyce Bean’s exacting delivery of each character.  Bravo!

Now let’s hear from you!

Time for Your Thoughts

What was your favorite romance audiobook produced in 2009?

What are your all time favorite romance audiobooks?  Please share your top ten or your top three or your single favorite.  The more we share with one another, the better!

And, as always, what is your latest audiobook success or failure?

Ending Notes

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, please check out our audio archives as well as AAR’s main site for monthly lists of upcoming audiobook releases.

Feel free to contact me through my Meet Reviewer Lea Hensley page should you have questions about audiobooks.  I may not know the answer but we’ll try to at least point you in the right direction.

I’ll be back later this month when we discuss March audiobook new releases.

– Lea Hensley