I haven’t reread this Regency-era historical romance for years but remembered it fondly – so much so, that it was #64 on my recent Top 100 ballot. And when I learned it was available in audio format, I was eager for a reread. Unfortunately, it didn’t stand up quite as well as I expected, and I doubt if I’ll include it on my next Top 100 ballot. While I enjoyed many parts, the audio version highlights problems that I was able to gloss over while reading in print.
The print version of this 1990 publication received a DIK reader review at AAR from Liana, who does a great job describing the plot. In a nutshell, Jade and Caine meet in the first chapter when Caine is pretending to be the notorious pirate, Pagan, who he blames for the death of his brother, Colin. Jade, in turn, appears to be a damsel in distress who wants to hire “Pagan” to kill her. In reality, Jade has been sent to protect Caine by his not-so-dead brother Colin.
Some readers find fault with Ms. Duerden’s narrative technique of whispering when characters are supposed to whisper, and yelling when characters are supposed to yell. This doesn’t bother me. In fact, I completely enjoyed her narration of my favorite Garwood romance – The Secret. But if Ms. Duerden’s whispering bothers you, you’re going to want to avoid her narration of Guardian Angel. When we first meet our heroine, Jade, she spends a fair amount of time whispering to Caine, who whispers right back to her.
The book has numerous, memorable scenes that I still adore, most notably when Black Harry and the crew show up at Caine’s estate, when Caine discovers who Pagan really is, and when Jade tells Caine’s stepmother that she should love Caine as much as her other children. But despite these scenes, parts of the book dragged and I had problems with the translation of the printed word to audio.
Part of my problem with the audio version is the excess of emotions displayed by Caine and Jade in the opening chapters, which seem over-the-top for a first meeting. I didn’t notice the excessive emotions while reading in print, but they’re brought home very clearly in audio format. It’s not that Ms. Duerden adds emotions that aren’t there; it’s that they stand out when you hear, rather than read, the author’s words. Caine roars, he drawls, he growls, he whispers, he uses a husky voice, his voice turns tender, etc., etc., and each of those emotions comes through in Ms. Duerden’s narration. When reading in print I generally ignore dialog tags. But it’s impossible to do so in audio. After a while I found myself longing for the simple “he said,” “she said.”
I also think that Ms. Duerden gave some of the minor secondary characters – such as the tavern keeper in the opening scenes – over-the-top voices. Combined with those overly emotional dialog tags, this distracted from the actual story. At times I lost track of the story, focusing instead on these annoyances. As a result, I had to backup and listen to the parts of the story I’d missed again; not a good thing.
In her DIK review, Liane comments that this is “a story with a fairy-tale realism (anacronistic as this may sound) that will capture not only your attention but also your heart.” I think my problem this time around is that Ms. Duerden’s narration didn’t allow me to ignore some annoying parts of the book. I still like it overall, but am not certain I’d be able to ignore the emotional dialog tags were I to read it again even in print.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: B and Book Content: B
Unabridged. Length – 12 hours 21 minutes