s MountainAs much as I like to include Mini Reviews in each column, it’s not always possible especially when our columns feature highly entertaining interviews with personalities such as Phil Gigante and Anne Stuart.  We want all the attention focused on our guests.  Since both of those interviews occurred in 2011, we decided to do something a little special this time around at Speaking of Audiobooks and fill a column with nothing but reviews.    We know our listeners love to read them and we love to write them.  Thanks to Brenda, Melinda, Kaetrin, and LinnieGayl for contributing today.

Mackenzie’s Mountain – Linda Howard

Review by Lea AAR

Narrated by Christina Traister

A favorite Howard from 1989 for many a romance fan, Mackenzie’s Mountain certainly has what I would call an “old school” feel to it.  I’m afraid the romance elements filling this book, while popular in 1989, may seem clichéd today to the first time reader.  But for me, Mackenzie’s Mountain represents my first days of reading romance and I remember it with great fondness.

The big solitary half-breed by the name of Wolf who lives on his mountain and is rejected by the local community finds himself captivated by the new-to-town dowdy (yet very “good”) school teacher, Mary, and fights his attraction in an effort to protect her.  Although I’ve read this the book a few times over the years, I saw Mary’s character in a new light with the audio version.  This Mary has an extreme Southern accent (I just never thought that one through) and Traister’s interpretation of her character is one of a pert and feisty Mary rather than the calm and controlled one in my mind.  The rather gravelly narrative swings from a monotone to a bit of a sing-song but lines are delivered with good timing and understanding of the romance within.  Although the male voices are difficult to distinguish at times, Wolf’s deep voice and Mary’s southern drawl were easy to follow.  Wolf sounded like the voice that has played in my head for many years now and Mackenzie’s Mountain definitely falls into my relisten category.  A word of warning for those who shy away from love scenes – there are a good number here.

This unabridged audio version is not available in digital format.

Archangel’s Consort – Nalini Singh

Review by Brenda

Narrated by Justine Eyre

(Spoiler warning if you have not read/listened to the first two books in the series.)

Archangels Consort, the third book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series, continues in the interesting world where Archangels rule the vampires they make, other angels, and humans in general. Raphael and Elena are back in New York, facing painful family dynamics on both sides and escalating threats with the help of Raphael’s Seven and Elena’s Guild Hunter friends.

Justine Eyre narrates and I like the accents she uses for Dmitri, Illium, and Aodhan based on their backgrounds. Her voices for Elena, and the rest of the peripheral cast, continues to work well but I don’t hear the slight thawing in Raphael that has begun. I enjoy her narration but it could be even better if more of the emotion written into the stories (I read and listen) was fully expressed.

Singh has a beautiful way with word pictures.  That being said, I could do with a lot less of them. One example – after a search on Kindle, I counted 20 different ways used to describe the blue of Raphael’s eyes. I get it, they’re blue! Now give me more background on the Seven and more dialogue in general with the word count that could be saved by deleting all the repetitive flashbacks and descriptions.  I only need Dmitri’s sex on a stick scent and its effects described one time per installment.

Despite my criticism I really enjoyed this addition to the series. Raphael is learning that love may weaken him physically, but the benefits are life affirming. Elena is gaining in strength as an angel while slowly earning the respect of Raphael’s loyal Seven. The storylines developing underneath all the pretty words are cleverly done and continue to be intriguing.

Call Me IrresistibleCall Me Irresistible – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review by Lea AAR

Narrated by Shannon Cochran

When I hear of an audiobook by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I immediately think Anna Fields, the extremely talented narrator of sixteen SEP books.  Sadly, Ms. Fields is no longer with us and her shoes have certainly been quite difficult to fill.  With subsequent audiobooks, Glitter Baby and What I Did for Love (books produced after Ms. Fields’ death), it was obvious listeners wanted more in their narrator and Phillips became active in the choice of her future narrator.  And the result is one dynamite narrator by the name of Shannon Cochran.

Dare I say that Ms. Cochran actually sounds like Anna Fields in many ways?  Well, that’s okay by me.  I felt an immediate comfort with her narration.  Her pitch, rhythm, timing, and ability to deliver humor when needed and drama when required are exceptional.  Occasionally her male and female voices blended together a bit but I never found myself at a loss wondering what character was actually speaking.  Overall, I’m quite enthusiastic about future Cochran-narrated books.

Listening to the sample Harper audio provided late last year, I recall being puzzled over Ted’s super perfection – this was the hero?  It was a long two months while I waited for the answer to my question but after listening to Call Me Irresistible for half an hour, I was filled with enthusiasm for Ted’s character and thought him great hero material.  Meg plays his imperfect opposite perfectly.  While the inclusion of the former leads from four of SEP’s previous books, Fancy Pants, First Lady, Lady Be Good, and Glitter Baby didn’t work for me, the romance between Ted and Meg was a hit.  Call Me Irresistible is not my favorite SEP but it certainly rates as one I will listen to again.

A Secret Affair– Mary Balogh

Review by Melinda

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

I am a fan of Mary Balogh’s writing.  I downloaded the first four in the Huxtable Series before receiving A Secret Affair, the fifth and final book, for review because I prefer to read a series in order.  Generally I really enjoy series – I like reading about the characters’ families and friends and getting to know them better in each successive book.

In this case, however, I endured 43 hours of one of my least favorite narrators before even getting to this book.  At least I was prepared.

The first half of the book was dreadful.  It’s surely a matter of personal taste, but to me, Flosnik’s cold, dry, clipped reading made listening incredibly tedious. It took me about three weeks to slog through the entire book.  The first love scene must be the coldest, most clinical seduction and foreplay I’ve ever heard. Flosnik’s reading of the duchess made me despise this frigid, calculating bitch.  By the second half, when the secrets began to unfold, I started to thaw towards the characters probably more because of the prose than the narration.  By the end, I wanted a HEA for Con and Hannah and even want to know how they fared but please don’t make me listen to Flosnik anymore!

Then Came You – Lisa Kleypas

Review by Kaetrin

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Then Came You is the story of single mother Lily Lawson (the child is not only a secret but has been abducted by her evil cad father – boo hiss), who, in trying to stop the marriage of her sister to Lord Alex Raiford, Earl of Wolverton, finds herself the object of his attentions instead.  Lily has an outrageous reputation.  She rides to hounds (astride no less), gambles at Cravens, and is always up for adventure.  Much to Alex’s initial dismay, he finds Lily fascinating and lovely.

My first Kleypas historical in audio, Then Came You is also my second audio narrated by Rosalyn Landor.  In fact, it is my pick for the “give a less than favoured narrator another try” category for the Speaking of Audiobooks Listening Challenge.

Good news:  I liked it!  I doubt Landor will ever be a favourite narrator but this book suited her better than my previous try, Julia Quinn’s farcical What Happens in London.  Landor’s slowish and kind of toffy style is a better fit for a more angsty book such as Then Came You as she doesn’t do humour well. Although her voice isn’t super pleasing to my ear, her male voices are easily discernable and I didn’t struggle to identify who was talking. I quite liked her female voices.

Derek Craven (Dreaming of You) is a secondary character and while I didn’t like his voice much, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be – cockney with many “h’s” dropped.  It is clear that he isn’t well spoken and I can’t fault Landor for her performance of Derek.  He doesn’t sound sexy or hero-ish to me so I don’t think I’ll be listening to Dreaming of You (I may read it though).

I found the story quite engaging and although Landor isn’t my favourite narrator, she did a good job with this one.


Charlie All NightCharlie All Night – Jennifer Crusie

Review by LinnieGayl

Narrated by Aimee Jolson

A new release of Ms. Crusie’s much loved 1995 category romance, the print version is a particular favorite of mine.

A successful producer at a radio station, Allie has been reassigned from the star DJ’s show to Charlie’s – the station’s newest DJ.  Allie is determined to make Charlie a star, while Charlie is determined to stay in town for just a few weeks.

I’ll have to admit that I approached the audio version with some trepidation. Readers are split on the audio versions of Ms. Crusie’s recent releases finding her frequent use of “he said” and “she said” jarring in audio. While this book didn’t suffer from that problem, I did have some problems with the narrator. She has a very pleasant, deep, almost throaty voice but, unfortunately, I had a difficult time distinguishing between characters.  That’s not a problem when the action is solely in Allie or Charlie’s head and, thanks to verbal clues, I was able to distinguish Allie and Charlie characters’ voices.  But there were a number of scenes featuring three or four characters, and I found myself lost, having no idea which character was saying what.

I still love this book but if you haven’t read Charlie All Night, I recommend that you pick it up in print rather than audio. That being said, I’m willing to give Ms. Jolson another try because I really did like her voice.

Lord of the Desert by Diana Palmer

Review by Brenda

Narrated by Amy Kaechel

Once I recovered from my shock at finding out this storyline had been written in this decade, I focused on narrator Amy Kaechel’s abilities. Overall I was impressed – she imbued the narration with the pacing and emotion required to bring a romance to life. The naiveté written into Gretchen Brannon’s character came out vividly as did her Texan roots.  Philippe Sabon’s light toned French accent was okay, I’d prefer deeper though. The Sheikh and wide eyed innocent theme didn’t appeal to me, but I’d easily give the narrator another listen.

Time for Your Thoughts

Have you listened to any of these audiobooks?  What are your thoughts?

Do you have an update on your 2011 Listening Challenge?  If you have posted an update elsewhere, will you please share your update here as well?

And, as always, do you have any recent audiobook successes, failures, or general romance audio news to share with us?

Ending Notes

Coming in June – our first ever Favorite Audiobooks Poll!

If you’re considering joining our 2011 Listening Challenge, we have a quick start up guide for you.  It’s not too late.

I’m announcing new romance audiobook releases and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for LeaAAR.

Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley