It looks like 2013 will be one of the best years yet for historical romance listening with many popular print books finally scheduled for audio release.

Julie Garwood
It starts this month with the release of Julie Garwood’s The Secret, a book that has made every AAR Top 100 Romances Poll since it started in 1998. It’s classic Julie Garwood and one many recall from their early days of romance reading with its original 1992 publication date. And it is being narrated by one of my favorites for historical romance – Susan Duerden.

Brilliance has scheduled the majority of Garwood’s backlist (that is not already in audio format) for release in 2013. A month ago, we saw the release of Prince Charming (Rosalyn Landor) with projected release dates for:

The Lion’s Lady (Susan Duerden) 3/30/13

Ransom (Susan Duerden) 3/30/13

Guardian Angel (Susan Duerden) 5/30/13

Saving Grace (Rosalyn Landor) 6/25/13

The Gift (Susan Duerden) 7/30/13

Castles (Narrator TBA 9/30/13

The Wedding (Narrator TBA) 9/30/13

For the Roses (Narrator TBA) 11/30/13

Elizabeth Hoyt

Romance listeners have been asking for Elizabeth Hoyt’s Prince Trilogy and Hachette is stepping up to the plate with releases of The Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince, and The Serpent Prince on January 22nd with Moira Quirk narrating. Following that on February 22nd,Hachette will release Hoyt’s next Maiden Lane book, Lord of Darkness, simultaneously with the print release.

Loretta Chase

There’s news from Loretta Chase, our listeners’ number one choice for the Romance Author’s Backlist You Most Want to See in Audio category in our 2011 and 2012 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll. Here’s what we found on Chase’s FAQ page:

When will your books be available in audio format?

Answer – We’re looking into some opportunities, and may have books in audio format sooner than we’d anticipated that is, before Never.

Okay, it’s not a definite date but we’ll take whatever news we can get. At least we’ll be seeing Chase in audio sometime and maybe even this year!

Laura Kinsale

Of course, we can’t forget Laura Kinsale’s fantastic news – all twelve of her titles will be released in audio format during 2013. To find out more, take a look at our December 11th Speaking of Audiobooks column, Laura Kinsale Is Coming to Audio!

Robyn Carr

Did you know that Robyn Carr’s backlist includes a number of historical romance titles released in the 1980s? Until their recent eBook release (not all have been released in eBook format), these were hard-to-find books but ones romance readers remember fondly. Dates below refer to the audio release:

The Blue Falcon (Nicola Barber) – 12/18/12

The Troubadour’s Romance (Anne Flosnik) – 1/29/2013

By Right of Arms (Nicola Barber) – 2/26/13

The Everlasting Covenant (Nicola Barber ) – 2/26/2013

Chelynne (Alison Larkin) – 4/30/13

The Bellerose Bargain (narrator TBA) 9/30/13

The Braeswood Tapestry (narrator TBA) 9/30/13

Rogue’s Lady (narrator TBA) – 12/1/13

So, how’s that for a grand audio start to the New Year? Thanks to audio pal Brenda for finding these upcoming historical releases!
Romance Audio Reviews

Hard Evidence – Pamela Clare

Review written by Kaetrin

Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

Ladies and gentleman, meet Julian Darcangelo. He of the raspy voice, long dark hair, and 6 foot plus of muscles and testosterone. Sigh. Julian has been trying to bring down a sex trafficking ring run by Mafioso Alexi Burien for years. Skirting just inside the line of the law and sometimes stepping over it, he’s been working for the FBI and the Denver PD spending much of his time undercover, pretending to be friends with child rapists and violent thugs. So when Julian meets I-Team reporter Tessa Novak, he is unprepared for his reaction. Where his life is dark, she is light. She is feminine to the point of girly, (virtually) innocent, blond and pretty, and unaware of the horrors of the sex trade – at least until she witnesses a murder and starts digging. Pretty soon the sparks are flying between Julian and Tessa and, as she pursues her investigation, it puts her in danger and also jeopardizes

Julian’s case. Julian doesn’t believe marriage, kids, and a white picket fence are in his future but Tessa’s appearance in his life gives him new hope – she sees in him what no-one else ever has. Can he catch the bad guys, keep Tessa alive, and have a happily ever after?

Well, this is a romance audiobook, so of course, we know the answer is a resounding yes. But, as always, the journey is what it’s all about.

Julian is dark and sexy and tortured. He is tormented by the girls he has to leave in the hands of monsters in order to catch the kingpin. The dirt from the scum he hangs with while undercover sticks to him and makes him feel unclean too. Kaleo Griffith voices Julian’s tension and darkness and gives his voice the rasp readers of the book expect to hear. In the scene at the end where Reece and Julian are talking, there is a noticeable difference between the two voices. When a narrator reads an entire series and one listens to those books close together, the main voices can tend to sound all the same. But Mr. Griffith has established a distinct voice for each of the I-Team members and it was gratifying to hear clearly distinguishable heroes as well. Fingers crossed he has more hero voices in his repertoire for Marc (Unlawful Contact), Gabe (Naked Edge) and Zach (Breaking Point) as they are all alpha protector types with similar (but not identical) personalities.

Because I don’t want to be a gushing fangirl, I’m going to point out that there are a few small errors in the narration – one on the pronunciation of a KaBar knife and the others had to do with the narrative voice drifting into Julian’s lines. However, those are just niggles. Hard Evidence is another excellent performance by Mr. Griffith. I-Team fans will not be disappointed and those new to the series will be crushing on Julian Darcangelo just like the rest of us.

Private Scandals – Nora Roberts

Reviewed written by Carrie

Narrated by Julie Finneran

Deanna Reynolds is a TV journalist at a small Chicago station. She has a lot of ambition including a step-by-step plan for her career – in writing. In the beginning, Deanna is eagerly working extra hours for the station’s brightest star, Angela Perkins, hoping to gain knowledge and experience from this older, successful mentor. She’s also dating a psychologist who sometimes acts as an expert for Angela’s popular talk show. But Deanna, with her Midwestern work ethic and values, is naive about Angela’s true character. Angela knows Deanna is potential competition and plans to keep her close. She’s also working to sabotage Deanna’s bright future by undermining both Deanna’s relationship with the psychologist and her job. When Deanna unknowingly crosses Angela, a series of events begins that leads to revenge, betrayal, sabotage, blackmail and eventually murder.

Finn Riley is Angela’s ex-lover and a daredevil on-the-spot reporter for the station. The handsome, charismatic reporter is known for going anywhere to obtain a story and braving anything to get it on air. He even succeeds in getting live coverage of the emergency crash landing of the airplane in which he’s traveling. His growing fascination with Deanna only fuels Angela’s anger and jealousy. In the beginning, Deanna keeps Finn at arm’s length for several reasons but she eventually finds herself falling in love with him. Finn works to help Deanna defend herself from Angela’s subtle sabotage and to identify Deanna’s secret admirer, who has been leaving her anonymous love notes. Finn’s intentions are good but he sometimes acts pushy and overbearing. Deanna, in turn, is occasionally stubborn just for the heck of it. Overall these are two very likeable people, but they can act in stereotypical “romance character” fashion at times. The novel’s original publication date of 1994 might contribute to that.

Julie Finneran narrates Private Scandals. Her voice is pleasant and her style may appeal to many listeners. I find her mode of speaking – her reading cadence as it were, to be affected. I don’t always agree with Ms. Finneran’s choice of words to emphasize in a sentence, and at times, her delivery seems inconsistent with the mood of the text. All this may reflect more on my personal preferences than on Ms. Finneran’s skill as a narrator. However, there are a few other things that bother me about the narration. While most of Ms. Finneran’s character voices are fine, there isn’t always a great deal of difference between the men and women. During dialogues between Finn and Deanna, it can be difficult to tell who is speaking. One exception is Deanna’s friend, Fran, who is easy to distinguish because she is voiced with a truly terrible New York accent.

Nora Roberts writes solid romantic suspense and for those who love the genre, her audiobooks can offer many pleasant hours of listening. In this case, however, the sometimes-convoluted plot is predictable, and one villain is way too easy to figure out. The romance is entertaining and watching Angela self-destruct is fascinating in a “train-wreck” sort of fashion. I recommend the book for die-hard Nora Roberts or romantic suspense fans, but don’t expect the narration to add much to your listening experience.

Iced – Karen Marie Moning

Review written by Kaetrin

Narrated by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante

NOTE: Review contains spoilers for the Fever series.
Following on very shortly after the events of Shadowfever, Iced picks up the story from Dani “Mega” O’Malley’s point of view. Dani is 14 and it shows. She’s overconfident, brash, immature, and generally annoying. But Mac in Darkfever was annoying and simpering at first and look what happened to her?

If you haven’t read the Fever series, don’t start here. I enjoyed the series quite a bit and recommend the audios but if you try and start the series from here, all you’ll get is a big pile of confusion.

The Sinsar Dubh in the form of Cruce has been imprisoned below the Sidhe Seers Abbey (which is now overseen by Kat). Dani is hiding from Mac who knows her part in Alina’s death and is feeling fairly sorry for herself about the loss of her friend. Dancer (a man with a big secret, I’m convinced), Ryodan, and Christian MacKeltar (who is turning into an Unseelie Prince aka Death-by-Sex Fae and blames Mac for it) – all, one way or another, have a fascination with Dani but it is Christian whose motives are the most clear – he is waiting for her to grow old enough to be his woman (which, frankly, is a little, ew). Ryodan and Dancer’s designs on Dani are less obvious. Perhaps Dancer just wants to be Dani’s friend. Sure. I do think that Ryodan’s motivations aren’t the expected. But I could be wrong about that.

Something is icing parts of Dublin – instant freeze and everyone dies – and then the crystals suddenly explode. Ryodan ropes Dani into helping him investigate and Dancer and Christian are brought in because they are in Dani’s orbit.

There are some sections from Kat’s POV, who is having her own difficulties with Cruce under the Abbey and from Christian’s as well. I’ve seen reviews of the print version complaining that it was difficult to determine the POV at times. But in audio, it is clear. Phil Gigante performs all the male voices and they are distinctly different (although I did expect Dancer to sound nerdier) and Natalie Ross’s voices for the various female characters are as well. When Kat’s POV appears, it is obviously not Dani so it is easy to shift gears.

Dani is annoying and I had to listen in small bites until about the 2/3rds mark where the story really picked up and she began to show evidence of growth (she has a lot more to go). There is a bit of squealing and overuse of “Gah” and some of Dani’s verbal explosions were hard on my ears. When the general narrative states that a male character laughs, Phil Gigante laughs, then speaks. That, I’m afraid, is a pet peeve of mine.

In terms of portraying Dani as the annoying 14-year-old she is, Natalie Ross is exceptional. And Phil Gigante knows this world very well and his voices are just wonderful.

Some people have been squicked out by the interest of three adult (well, Dancer is 17) males in Dani but there really isn’t any romance for her in Iced. There is a skerrick of romance for Ryodan and Jo and for Kat and her Sean as well, but it’s straight up urban fantasy for this story, so don’t expect any huge romance.

I didn’t love Iced. I found it difficult to get into. But, the last part of the story made me excited for the next installment and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Moning does with Dani as she grows up.

Key of Knowledge – Nora Roberts

Review written by LinnieGayl

Narrated by Susan Ericksen

I enjoyed Nora Roberts’ Key series when it came out in 2003 and was delighted to discover that Susan Ericksen, one of my go-to narrators, was the narrator. Unfortunately, the first hours of this second entry are a bit rocky for me in audio.

In this trilogy, three young women are summoned to a mysterious mansion and asked to complete a quest. Three half-goddesses/half humans were imprisoned thousands of years earlier. Each woman will have 30 days to locate a magical key to unlock the prison. If they succeed, they will receive a great deal of money. If they fail, they will lose one year of their life. Blythe gave the print edition a C+ here at AAR, noting that the, “Dana/Jordan relationship is a little too familiar for Roberts fans. Dana is like an amalgam of Eve Dallas, Maggie Concannon, and, well, several other mouthy Roberts’ characters.” I liked Key of Knowledge in print more than Blythe, but in audio, my assessment is close to Blythe’s.

Susan Ericksen does a marvelous job reflecting the characters’ emotions; normally that works, but this time proved problematic. Let me be clear, the problem isn’t with the narration; it’s with the novel’s conversion to audio. Throughout much of the first few hours many of the characters are angry, chief among them Dana, our heroine. As Blythe noted, Dana is mouthy. She’s also sarcastic. And she’s really angry. Dana’s mad about the deterioration in her job at the library, she’s angry that her former lover Jordan has returned to town, and she’s frustrated that she’s having problems finding the second key. Early on Dana’s alternately snarky, sarcastic, and angry, and Ms. Ericksen gives these emotions full weight. I didn’t notice this when I read the book years ago in print, but in audio it’s readily apparent and it wasn’t enjoyable.

After the first few hours I once again was sucked into the story. I enjoyed Dana’s interactions with her friends Malory and Zoe (the heroines of the other two books) as well as Jordan’s interactions with the other heroes. There are many scenes featuring multiple characters, and I never questioned who was talking. And one of the climactic scenes with Jordan at his mother’s graves brought me to tears; Ms. Ericksen can definitely pull out my emotions as well as those of the characters.

If the trilogy sounds interesting, I strongly suggest that you start with the first, Key of Light; I’ve recently listened to it in audio and can heartily recommend it. As for the second, if I choose to reread, I’ll opt for the print version rather than the audio.

Lord’s Fall – Thea Harrison

Review written by Kaetrin

Narrated by Sophie Eastlake

I must admit when I first heard that Lord’s Fall featured, once again, Pia and Dragos as the main characters, I was kind of worried. Partly my concern was the tension – could it be maintained in a story where the pair already had an HEA? But mostly, it was because I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed Dragon Bound. The characters are the best element of this audiobook. Catching up with Pia and Dragos was such good fun. In terms of conflict, there was a low-key storyline having to do with the meaning of their “partnership” and Dragos learning to temper his autocratic nature when it comes to Pia. But primarily, the story is about the prophecy of doom given to Dragos in Oracle’s Moon.

Having read reviews of the print version, I expected Pia and Dragos to be separated for much of the story, meeting up for alone times in dream spells cast by the dragon. So it was with pleased surprise that I discovered the separation was only for the first half of the book with the couple together in the latter half.

Sophie Eastlake is a wonderful narrator for the Elder Races series, capturing not only Dragos’ stern arrogance but also his baffled wonder at Pia and the changes he’s prepared to make for her. Her performance of the other characters is also very good and they’re fairly easy to differentiate.

Pia’s bodyguards on her trip to Lorithriel Wood include Eva and Hugh, two new recurring characters. Eva is a sassy black woman and, at times, Ms. Eastlake sounds spot on as such, while at other times, she sounds very much like a white woman trying to speak in African American idiom. I found Hugh’s Scottish accent faltered a bit at first but strengthened as the story went on. Occasionally the wrong character voice was used but it didn’t greatly impact my enjoyment of the listen.

I was so entertained by this audiobook and its characters that I finished it very quickly although I have to say that it is light on plot. The Wyr games were mainly window dressing and not a separate source of story or conflict and the Elven threat ended with a whimper, not a bang. Then, in a shift that felt strange in audio (but may have been signaled in print by an obvious line break), there was a jump forward to Pia and Dragos’ wedding some months later.

I continue to be enthralled by the world Ms. Harrison has built and which Ms. Eastlake delivers so well to my ears. But Lord’s Fall is very much for fans of the series and the joy of it is in the characters rather than the story.

Ending Notes

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– Lea Hensley
Enjoy your listening!

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.