Halfway to the GraveOurs is a different sort of poll this year.  After all, our listeners selected their all time favorite romance audiobooks in 2011.  Once the results were published, I heard from more than a few of those listeners – all asking a similar question.  What other audiobooks, audio authors, and narrators received votes besides the few that dominated the poll and took first in eight of the nine Absolute Favorites categories as well as the majority of Favorite Narrator categories?

Reflecting on those requests, our 2012 Poll is taking a beyond the winners approach declaring last year’s runaway winners, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, J.D. Robb’s In Death Series, Susan Elizabeth Phillips Chicago Stars Series, and narrators Anna Fields and Phil Gigante are still just that – first place winners.  In our first three Categories – Favorite Audiobook, Favorite Narrator, and Favorite Audio Author, we asked our listeners to provide us with some of their other favorites.

And, as promised, our poll results include more than the usual first, second, and third place mentions.  We hope our results inspire you to try more than just a few new-to-you audiobooks.

The poll results are divided into four categories:

  • Your Favorite Audiobook Choices
  • Your Narrator Favorites
  • Favorite Audio Authors and the Like
  • And All the Extras

Your Favorite Audiobook Choices

Favorite Romance Audiobook

Honorary first place is awarded to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.



Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Night Huntress Series – Book 1

Vampire Romance

Second – a two-way tie

The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne

Narrated by Kirsten Potter

Historical Romance


Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante

Fever Series – Book 5

Urban Fantasy Romance


The Witness by Nora Roberts

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Romantic Suspense

Fourth – a five-way tie

Magic Bitesby Ilona Andrews

Narrated by Renee Raudman

Kate Daniels Series – Book 1

Urban Fantasy with thread of romance

Moon Calledby Patricia Briggs

Narrated by Lorelei King

Mercy Thompson Series – Book 1

Urban Fantasy with a thread of romance

Dream Man by Linda Howard

Narrated by Phil Gigante

Romantic Suspense


Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

The Hathaways Series – Book 1

Historical Romance


The Secret History of the Pink Carnationby Lauren Willig

Narrated by Kate Reading

Pink Carnation Series – Book 1

European Historical and Contemporary

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Audiobook


A Hunger Like No Otherby Kresley Cole  Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie  Narrated by Aasne Vigesaa

Fatal Affair by Marie Force   Narrated by Felicity Munroe

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison   Narrated by Sophie Eastlake

Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James   Narrated by Karen White

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas   Narrated by Renee Raudman

One Summer by Karen Robards   Narrated by Anna Fields

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh   Narrated by Angela Dawe

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh   Narrated by Angela Dawe

Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward   Narrated by Jim Frangione

Favorite 2011 Romance Audiobook



Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante

Fever Series – Book 5

Urban Fantasy Romance

Second – a three-way tie

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

Narrated by Susan Duerden

European Historical

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Paranormal Romance

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Narrated by Sophie Eastlake

Paranormal Romance

Honorable Mentions for Favorite 2011 Audiobook


Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Shannon Cochran

How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

Narrated by Amanda Ronconi

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Narrated by Faye Adele

New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb

Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Your Narrator Favorites


Favorite Narrator

Honorary first place is awarded to Anna Fields and Phil Gigante


Susan Ericksen

Best known for her narration of J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Susan has also narrated Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan series, Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear Family series, Lorraine Heath’s Scoundrels of St. James Street series with Antony Ferguson, Linda Howard’s Dying to Please, Nora Roberts High Noon and Key Trilogy, and an oldie but goodie, Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You.


Renee Raudman

Although I became familiar with Renee through her earlier recordings of Linda Howard books, she really hit it out of the ballpark for me when she narrated Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil in 2008.  Her narration of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels Series continues to receive rave reviews from our listeners.  Renee’s romance performances also include Larissa Ione’s Demonica Series, Jessa Slade’s Marked Souls Series, as well as numerous other romance authors including Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Brown, Carly Phillips, and Jennifer Crusie (remember Manhunting?).

Third – a two-way tie

Angela Dawe

Think Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series and Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasure series.  You’ll find out more about Angela below.

Xe Sands

Xe has arrived on the romance audio scene with smashing success.  And further down the page, you’ll find more about Xe.

Honorable Mentions for Favorite Narrator – by rank


Rosalyn Landor

With many romance narrations to her name, she’s best known around here for her seventeen narrations of Lisa Kleypas historical titles.

Robert Petkoff

Listeners hear the four audio entries to Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark Series and we hear nothing but praise for Robert Petkoff.

Amanda Ronconi

The voice of Molly Harper, Amanda has narrated eight Harper books including her Nice Girls and Naked Werewolf series


Tavia Gilbert

If you have heard of “Cat and Bones” in our many discussions, Tavia’s voice is the narrator who delivers these fantastic characters.

Natalie Ross

With numerous Linda Howard titles and two audios in the Karen Marie Moning Fever Series, Natalie has many fans around here.  She’s another one we’re featuring in a fuller profile below.



Most Impressive Romance Narrator Discovery Since 1/01/11


Xe Sands

Our 2011 Debut Author winner continues.  Since Xe placed in several categories, you’ll see more about her a bit further down the page.


Robert Petkoff

I’m sure Kresley Cole’s recent releases have a role in this choice.

Third – a two-way tie

Amanda Ronconi

She’s the voice of Molly Harper for starters

Kirsten Potter

Numerous romances including Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady

Fourth – a two-way tie

Angela Dawe

Ten 2011 Nalini Singh Psy-Changeling audio releases

Susan Duerden

Four 2011 Lisa Kleypas releases and Eloisa James tells the tale

Narrator You Gave a Second Chance and You’re Glad You Did



Anne Flosnik

Anne won this category with a large margin and she definitely deserves the honor.  In October of 2011, Anne talked with Speaking of Audiobooks about the changes she implemented in her narrations after reading listeners’ feedback.  She’s narrated a few of my personal favorites such as Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast and Mary Balogh’s First Comes Marriage.

Anne is well known for narrating historical romances with approximately 70 to her name.  She narrates some of the biggest romance authors’ work including Mary Balogh, Elizabeth Hoyt, Laura Lee Guhrke, Julie Garwood, Jo Beverley, Julia London, and Catherine Coulter.


Susan Ericksen

Third – a three-way tie:

Susan Duerden

Tavia Gilbert

Renee Raudman

Narrators Who Are Especially Good at Performing Love Scenes



Phil Gigante

There’s more than one reason Phil is a favorite among romance listeners.  And there’s more about him further down the page as well.


Susan Ericksen

Also winning the Favorite Romance Narrator spot.

Third – three-way tie

Tavia Gilbert

2012 Favorite Romance Audiobook winner

Natalie Ross

2011 Favorite Romance Audiobook Narrator

Xe Sands

Hmm – how many wins now?


Robert Petkoff

He narrates – others listen just because he is!


Xe Sands

And the Overall Big Winners in Narration

As I tallied the votes in all categories, I couldn’t help but notice that a number of narrators kept showing up again and again in both the narrator categories and as narrators of the winning audiobooks.  These are the narrators who received the most overall votes in all categories and, therefore, are the biggest winners of all.



Xe Sands

Winning the Favorite Debut Narrator is our 2011 Poll, Xe has continued to wow romance listeners with her well-studied characterizations and her ability to perform multiple easily-distinguished male voices.  It’s hard to believe Xe appeared on the scene less than two years ago (November, 2010) and has narrated only eleven romances.  But it definitely speaks to the loyalty she inspires after a single listen.

Xe first came to my attention when she narrated Anne Stuart’s Fire and Ice and I was completely impressed with her ability to bring Stuart’s Japanese setting to vivid life as well as perform male characters like few other female narrators.  Since that time, Xe’s romance narrations have included a second Stuart, On Thin Ice, Jacquelyn Frank’s Nightwalkers Series, and Kristan Higgins Catch of the Day.


Phil Gigante

You saw that right – Phil Gigante!  We instructed our listeners to vote for someone else as favorite narrator (as his popularity was so wildly evidenced in last year’s poll) promising to give him honorable first place status up front.  However, Phil received so many votes in other categories that he was only one vote away from first place in this overall category.  Romance listeners adore him and seek out his romance narrations first and consider the author second.

Phil has given romance audio fans other rich performances since the Highlander Series, such as Linda Howard’s Dream Man, six Christine Feehan titles, and his unforgettable portrayal of Jericho Barrons in Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever.  I interviewed Phil in January, 2011 as we waited for the release of Shadowfever – I bet you’ll enjoy seeing another side of Phil.


Natalie Ross

When I think of Natalie Ross, I think first of a number of my Linda Howard favorite audios (After the Night, Kill and Tell, Son of the Morning, etc.), second, her performance in Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever and Shadowfever with Phil Gigante, and third, one of my contemporary favorites – Julia London’s Summer of Two Wishes.

Among Natalie’s work you’ll find eight Linda Howards, a joint narration of Christine Feehan’s Dark Peril with Phil Gigante, two Julia London contemporaries, and a number of Christina Dodd and Diana Palmer titles.


Tavia Gilbert

Best known around here for her narration of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series (the first in the series, Halfway to the Grave, won Favorite Romance Audiobook in our poll).  I talked with Tavia about her performance of the ever-so-popular Bones in January of 2012 that you may want to check out as well as our interview with her just last month in celebration of Audiobook Month.

You will also remember Tavia from a few Karen Rose audios as well as Jordan Dane and Sarah McCarty.  And we are still looking for those five mysteriously missing Suzanne Enoch audiobooks.


Angela Dawe

Angela first gained my attention with Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation, the first of the Psy-Changeling Series.  In fact, she has narrated all eleven in that series in the past year.  More recently I was entranced by her performance of Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.

If you missed it, I think you will enjoy Angela’s interview with Speaking of Audiobooks in March 2012.  Angela has also narrated the remaining three entries in Ashley’s Highland Pleasure – all released within the past month.

Favorite Audio Authors and the Like

(all titles are unabridged unless otherwise specified)

Favorite Audio Author

Honorary first place is awarded to Diana Gabaldon, J.D. Robb, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips


Linda Howard

Earlier this month, we featured an All Linda Howard column here at Speaking of Audiobooks.  Her audio backlist released over the past fourteen years is large with 36 unabridged titles and another seven in abridged format.  At least 24 narrators have had the privilege of narrating one of those Howards and while that can be challenging when it comes to choosing your next audiobook, it is also immensely rewarding when you uncover one of these many audio jewels.

Below you’ll find Linda Howard audio favorites – it’s an official category in this year’s poll.  Combine those with the reviews in our earlier Linda Howard column, and you’re sure to find some dynamite recommendations.


ShadowfeverKaren Marie Moning

Two series comprise KMM’s entire audio backlist.  First, the Highlander Series is time-travel romance and consists of eight books narrated by Phil Gigante.  Second, her more recent Fever Series is urban fantasy with a thread of romance and features Joyce Bean as narrator of the first three in the series and Natalie Ross teamed with Phil Gigante as narrator of the final two.

I discovered Phil Gigante through KMM’s Highlander Series and the combination of this talented team is laugh-out-loud entertainment.  The Fever Series differs greatly but contains superb writing with outstanding narrations.  Shadowfever’s popularity in our poll (fifth in the Fever Series) attests to the fact that romance listeners love these books.

Third – a four-way tie

Jeaniene Frost

Winner of the Favorite Romance Audiobook category with Halfway to the Grave, Jeaniene Frost is a treasure I discovered just this year.  Her audio backlist consists of six books in the Night Huntress Series (Halfway to the Grave is book one), two books in the Night Huntress World Series, and the first book in her new Night Prince Series.  All three series are connected in some manner and each should be read in order.  And, a special treat – all are narrated by Tavia Gilbert.

Molly Harper

Another audio author I discovered in 2012, Molly Harper is delightful.  Her audio backlist includes one stand-alone, And One Last Thing, the Nice Girl Series (Jane Jameson) consisting of four books, the Naked Werewolf Series with two books, and the recently released Driving Mr. Dead (a spin-off from the Nice Girls series).  All are narrated by the dynamic Amanda Ronconi and it’s simply a good time filled with laugh-out-loud moments.

Lisa Kleypas

A favorite author is romanceland, Lisa Kleypas’ audio backlist now contains twenty-six titles (five contemporary and twenty-one European Historical) and we’re hoping for more.  Although narrators vary on her contemporaries, Rosalyn Landor narrates seventeen of the historical titles with Susan Duerden narrating the other four.  You’ll find a list of our Kleypas favorites below as it was another category in our poll.

Ilona Andrews

You’ll find two series on this popular author’s backlist – the Kate Daniels Series has five entries while The Edge Series has three.  Renee Raudman narrates Andrews’ entire backlist and she gets credit for taking these books from popular to wildly popular.  Listening to the Kate Daniels Series, I sat in amazement at times at the sheer genius of Raudman’s performance.  Yes, Ilona Andrews writes a great book but Renee Raudman makes it all gold.

Fourth place – a two-way tie

Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh’s audio backlist includes two series – The Psy-Changeling Series with eleven entries (Slave to Sensation – Book 1) and The Guild Hunter Series with four (Angel’s Blood – Book 1).

Jennifer Crusie

When I think of Jennifer Crusie audiobooks, I think fun.  Sixteen humor-filled books sit on her audio backlist.  For Crusie newbies, I recommend you start with Welcome to Temptation, Anyone But You, Bet Me, or Manhunting.

Favorites by Author


Four romance audio authors with large backlists – Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard, Lisa Kleypas, and Nora Roberts.  Sometimes a new listener just doesn’t know where to start or those of us who listen to their work just love to vote for our favorites.

Favorite Susan Elizabeth Phillips Audiobooks – ranking by votes

Anna Fields narrates all five books


Match Me If You Can


Natural Born Charmer


Heaven, Texas


It Had To Be You


Lady Be Good

Favorite Linda Howard Audiobooks – ranking by votes


Dream Man

Narrated by Phil Gigante


After the Night

Narrated by Natalie Ross


Mr. Perfect

Narrated by Laura Hicks

Fourth – a two-way tie

Death Angel

Narrated by Joyce Bean

Open Season

Narrated by Deborah Hazlett (unabridged) Kate Forbes (abridged)

Favorite Lisa Kleypas Audiobooks – ranking by votes


Blue-Eyed Devil

Narrated by Renee Raudman


Devil in Winter

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor


Smooth Talking Stranger

Narrated by Emily Durante

Dreaming of You


Narrated by Rosalyn Landor


Sugar Daddy

Narrated by Jeannie Stith

Mine Till Midnight


Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Favorite Nora Roberts Audiobooks – ranking by votes


Carnal Innocence

Narrated by Tom Stechschultze

The Witness


Narrated by Julia Whelan

The Search


Narrated by Tanya Eby

Chesapeake Blue


Narrated by James Daniels

To many, Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb are the same author (and I admit they are) but their backlists definitely differ.  For this Nora Roberts list, we received many votes for the first in J.D Robb’s In Death series, Naked in Death.

Romance Author’s Backlist You Most Want to See in Audio.

Loretta Chase

Our first place winner last year, she leads the pack with an even larger percentage this year.  Can you imagine listening to Lord of Scoundrels or Mr. Impossible?  We can only hope that some production company is taking a serious look at her large backlist.

Judith McNaught

With the exception of one, McNaught’s backlist has yet to be released in eBook format.  We’ll cross our fingers and hope they release the eBook version simultaneously with the audio.  How about placing Paradise or A Kingdom of Dreams in your imaginary audio shopping cart?

Pamela Clare

Another top choice from last year, Pamela Clare writes both historical and romantic suspense tales.  Some prefer one genre over the other but then many just love Clare – no matter the flavor.  Now let’s see…Untamed or Unlawful Contact – what to choose first?

Rachel Gibson

Even with six of her titles in audio, there is still a great longing for the remainder of her contemporary romance backlist.  She made a showing in the 2011 poll as well.  I’m longing for True Confessions or See Jane Score.

Joanna Bourne

Yea, we’re talking more of the author who wrote The Spymaster’s Lady.  How about The Black Hawk or The Forbidden Rose?

Laura Kinsale

She’s been around since the mid-80s and still has a legion of fans.  Anyone up for placing The Shadow and the Star or Flowers from the Storm on their future audio wish list?

Julia Quinn

Even with eight of her titles in audio, listeners are hoping for more.  How about The Duke and I or The Viscount Who Loved Me (there’s an audio epilogue but no book)?

Kresley Cole

Looks like this wish is being addressed.  Since last year’s poll when Cole appeared on this list, five books have been released.  Are there more in the works?

And All the Extras

What is a print romance book that you found better in audio?

We received many votes, but little consensus.  However the two that made a showing are books I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and heartily agree they’re gold in audio:

The Spymaster’s Ladyby Joanna Bourne

Narrated by Kirsten Potter

Released in 2010, The Spymaster’s Lady is the Bourne’s only audio title.  We’re hoping for more to say the least.

Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts


Narrated by Tom Stechschulte

Originally released in 1999, Carnal Innocence has been one of those hard-to-finds until its released in digital format earlier this year.

Biggest Fail of a Favorite Romance Print Book in Audio


Once again, this category received many votes, but little consensus.  However, The Fifty Shades of Grayby E.L. James was clearly the biggest fail for those who thought the print version was a favorite.

Do you prefer a man or woman’s narration if both perform male and female characters well?

52% Woman

27% Man

21% either no preference or depends

How do you find new romance audio releases?

The first go-to place for our listeners is Audible followed by Speaking of Audiobooks (of course, we are the site that hosted the poll).  Goodreads was the next choice followed by Amazon.  I was surprised by how many of our listeners rely on their libraries for new audio releases – that is a source I must start paying more attention to.  Audiobook publishers’ Web sites are another place our listeners think to check.

What are your favorite activities when listening (driving, walking, cleaning the kitchen, etc.)?

We do so love to drive and listen – by far the preferred activity for audio listening.  Cleaning the house, laundry, and making beds is the second activity most often mentioned followed by walking and exercise of some sort.  Those are definitely my top three activities for audio listening.

Next, a group listens while working on the computer or playing video games, which is followed by those who think yard work, and gardening provide good listening time.  The same number of listeners chooses to listen while doing needlework or knitting.  Some listen while working, some fall asleep to an audiobook, and some shop while listening.

But there’s one statement I found especially entertaining.

“Anything that doesn’t involve potentially cutting off limbs if I get too involved in the book.”

That’s the spirit.

And for information purposes, I asked, “Have you listened to any of the 2012 Audie Romance finalists?  If so, what are they?”

The list of finalists included The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, Notorious by Nicola Cornick, The Darkest Surrender by Gena Showalter, New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb, and Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews.

Approximately one-fourth of our respondents have listened to When Beauty Tamed the Beast followed closely by New York to Dallas.  A small percentage listened to The Darkest Surrender.  And that’s it.

Ending Notes

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

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

Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley

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