The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
Grade : A

I’m a big fan of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, but was skeptical several years ago when I learned that Pink 12 would feature Miss Gwen as the heroine. Admittedly Miss Gwen has been with the series since the beginning, first as chaperone, and then as an eager participant in the exploits of the Pink Carnation. But how could this older, sarcastic woman serve as a heroine? I began listening in the early morning and my doubts quickly vanished. So much so, that I ended up squeezing every bit of time I could that day to listen. Caz gave the print version an A and it’s a straight DIK for me as well, both for the narration and the story.

I enjoyed the modern story in which Colin and Eloise search for hidden treasure in Colin’s home and face a crossroads in their relationship. But for me, the true gem is the historical story in which Gwen and Jane return to England to locate Jane’s missing younger sister, and encounter Colonel William Reid, whose daughter has gone missing with Jane’s sister. Caz does a marvelous job in her AAR review of the print version describing the main plot points. In this review I’m going to focus on the narration.

As always, the marvelous Kate Reading gives each character a unique age- and personality-appropriate voice. I was never confused as the story switched between the 2004 and 1805 stories. In the “modern” sections, Eloise speaks with a decidedly American accent. When we switch to 1805, Gwen speaks with an older, clearly English accent. And oh, does Gwen sound exactly as I expected her to sound. She’s sarcastic, caustic, and often sharp with others. But as the book progresses and we gradually learn Gwen’s full backstory, we also hear the vulnerability and regret in her thoughts, and at times the pain as she’s hurt by the words and actions of others.

There is so much I love about The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, but while I think it might work as a standalone, I just don’t feel a reader would fully appreciate the change and growth in characters that occurs here, because this book is very much about change. Colin and Eloise’s relationship is changing as Eloise faces returning to the United States. The relationship between Gwen and Jane (the Pink Carnation) is clearly at a crossroads. And William has to face some hard changes in his beliefs about his family and himself over the course of the book. And these changes are where the narration particularly shines. As with all the books in the series, there is a lot of humor, and Ms. Reading’s narration brings the humorous situations to life. But her skill truly shines as she narrates the more difficult passages, as Gwen reflects on her past, as William realizes just the type of life he gave his daughters, and as Eloise agonizes over her impending separation from Colin.

Are you afraid of listening to a romance between “older” characters? Don’t be. Gwen (45) and William (54) are not given the doddering voices often given to middle-aged secondary characters by narrators. Ms. Reading does make their voices clearly older than those of the younger characters. But while she has Gwen and William speak with mature voices, they are also vibrant and sparkle with the vitality and intellect of the characters.

How good is the story and narration? It brings a smile to my lips and tears to my eyes each time I listen to the ending. And like Caz, I hope this isn’t the last we time we see Gwen and William in the series. What a marvelous ending Ms. Willig has created for this book!

How much do I love this audiobook? Well, I’ve listened to it three times in the last four months. And I now have my votes for Best Romance, Best European Historical Romance, and Best Heroine of 2013 for AAR’s Annual Reader Poll in January. And my fourth listen (yes, coming up in December, if I can hold off) may just put Colonel William Reid over the edge for Best Hero. Yes, the story and narration are just that great.

Breakdown of Grade - Narration: A and Book Content: A

Unabridged. Length - 12 hours 33 minutes

Reviewed by LinnieGayl Kimmel
Grade : A

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : November 29, 2013

Publication Date: 2013/08

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LinnieGayl Kimmel

My first memory is sitting with my mother on a blanket in our backyard surrounded by books and she is reading one of them to me. My love of reading was encouraged by my parents and it continues to today. I’ve gone through a lot of different genres over the years, but I currently primarily read mysteries (historical mysteries are my favorites) and romances (focusing on contemporaries, categories, and steampunk). When I’m not reading or working, I love to travel, knit, and work on various community projects.
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