Burnout – More than a Reading/Listening Slump
If you have been reading one genre or another consistently for years, I imagine it has happened to you – genre burnout. After reading and listening to romance for around twelve years, it finally happened to me earlier this year. Previously, I had experienced a sort of reading fatigue from time to time with one romance sub-genre or another but found that if I changed up my romance choices, my interest would return. But when my romance burnout occurred this year, it was all encompassing. I completely lost interest in romance. Possibly it was due to the fact that I explore a good deal of audiobooks written by new-to-me authors or with new narrators, in an attempt to stay up with the current romance audio trends. That means a good deal of DNFs (did not finish) and frustration as well.
How did I fix it? Well, unless you are a wannabe Civil War buff like me, I doubt my exact burnout treatment would be yours but I think you’ll understand the direction. I returned to my favorite genre prior to discovering romance – historical non-fiction – and chose Shelby Foote’s three-part 132 hour The Civil War: A Narrative narrated by Grover Gardner. Yep, I imagine I heard the details of just about every even-slightly significant battle but it was like spreading soothing medication on an abrasion. The Civil War lacked in production quality but held my interest for all 132 hours!
Then I threw in an old favorite from Stephen King – The Stand (47 hours) also narrated by Grover Gardner. I hadn’t listened to any of King’s older titles nor had I listened to any Grover Gardner narrations. But somehow, listening to these two Gardner narrations – alternating from one to the other – worked. The Stand was easily an A listen although Gardner’s narration showed its era of recording – it was recorded by Books on Tape in 1987.
When I finished with my Grover Gardener therapy, I felt a niggling of interest for some paranormal romance/urban fantasy (not my usual first choice for romance listening) and delved into Patricia Briggs’ Silver Borne (Book 5 in the Mercy Thompson series) narrated by Lorelei King. Fortuitously, the romance isn’t front and center but rather an arc over the entire series. Each entry primarily features Mercy battling and outsmarting creatures of one sort or another. It was a success and a solid B+ listen.
Next up was Ilona Andrews’ Clean Sweep (Book 1 in the Innkeepers Chronicles) narrated by the remarkable Renee Raudman and, although there were a couple of love interests for the heroine Dina, it’s mainly action and another B+ listen – mostly based on Raudman’s narration. Still, the almost-non-romance worked for my romance-weary mind but I could sense it was definitely on the mend so I moved on to a paranormal romance…
Ilona Andrews’ Steel’s Edge (Book 4 in The Edge series) is narrated once again by Renee Raudman. It’s definitely romantic and I enjoyed every minute of it – romance and all. The narration held me captivated and it was a complete A listen.
Finally, I selected yet another paranormal romance, Jeaniene Frost’s Eternal Kiss of Darkness narrated by one of my narrator favorites – Tavia Gilbert. Featuring Mencheres’ romance (you’ll recognize him from the Night Huntress series), Gilbert wrapped me in a tale I doubt I would have read in print format. Although the writing didn’t capture me as completely as that in the Night Huntress series, I still considered it a B+ listen and, after finishing it, I found myself ready to return to romance.
As I look back, I see a common element in my romance audio recovery – with each carefully chosen book, I listened to highly talented narrators. That too was ever so key in getting back on track.
Over the Edge – Suzanne Brockmann
Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank
If you are a Brockmann fan and aren’t aware that there are now (or soon will be) new audio versions of the first six entries in her Troubleshooter series, I’m telling you now, you don’t want to miss out! Years ago, these books were recorded by various narrators (none equal to the task) and made for challenging (or almost impossible) listening. Now the Lawlor/Ewbank team, who have narrated many of Brockmann’s other titles, are rerecording/have rerecorded the six and the result is simply fantastic. Over the Edge is one of my favorites in the series and hearing it performed, as it deserved, was a delight.
One Plus One – Jojo Moyes
Narrated by Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, and Steven France
I had a feeling One Plus One would have that special bit of magic and it did. I completely enjoyed this multi-cast audio performance and, although there is a very slight similarity to Little Miss Sunshine, it strongly stands on its own. And there is a satisfying romance tucked in. I highly recommend.
The Fiery Cross – Diana Gabaldon
Narrated by Davina Porter
Inspired by the STARZ Outlander series, I finally decided to continue listening to the series. For five years, I have purposefully avoided proceeding beyond the first four Outlander entries as I was perfectly happy with the ending of Drums of Autumn (and I didn’t want to see Jamie suffer anymore). I had also heard repeatedly that The Fiery Cross (Book 5) wasn’t as interesting as the previous books and was hard to get through. It did meander a lot and I found it a little tedious but overall was pleased I made the effort as I’m now enjoying Book 6, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Davina Porter continues to excel in her narration but the book content was more in the B range – especially notable as the previous Outlander audios each earned an A for content as well as narration.
Heroes Are My Weakness – Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP)
Narrated by Erin Bennett
The first word that comes to mind is “disappointment”. However, I am finally accepting the fact that SEP has changed directions – deliberately or not. Easily my favorite contemporary romance author, I regularly relisten to at least ten of her titles performed by the incomparable Anna Fields. The last few years though, her writing has lost its humorous edge but I still expect (hope) to find it in each new release. Heroes Are My Weakness did contain some quirky puppet characters (which I didn’t find funny), a dark brooding hero (for a while), and an overall gothic feel which I generally appreciate but the laughter just wasn’t there. I finally made myself step back and enjoy it as just another contemporary romance rather than the new SEP and discovered my level of enjoyment increased.
Erin Bennett is good – not doubt about it – although she misses many of the romantic opportunities giving Heroes Are My Weakness a sort of blandness in audio format. I found myself thinking again and again that the narration was missing needed emphasis on the little details (even between secondary characters) that could have made it a vibrant listen, regardless of humorous content. It’s a B listen for both content and narration but next time I’ll reread the print format rather than relisten to the audiobook.
Mean Streak – Sandra Brown
Narrated by Jonathan Davis
Longing for my next Sandra Brown fix, I immediately listened to Mean Streak upon its release and found myself completely engrossed. The suspense was tightly woven as I expect from Brown and the identity of the villain was a mystery until close to the end. The romance is satisfying and more intricate than most of Brown’s recent releases. It features an inscrutable yet highly desirable hero (you don’t know his name for at least half of the book) paired with a sensible pediatrician heroine who is also a marathon runner.
With each of her new releases, you can expect top-notch narration. Jonathan Davis delivers in that aspect as well. Compared to other romantic suspenses on the market these days, Mean Streak is an A listen. However, compared to Brown’s other audiobooks (those originally released 1999 or after), it’s more in the B+ range as the narration doesn’t quite reach the quality of its predecessors. But you better believe I’ll be relistening and probably more than once.
Rainshadow Road – Lisa Kleypas
Narrated by Tanya Eby
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many of Lisa Kleypas’ historical and contemporary tales although I find I’m not as taken with her Friday Harbor series. I put off listening to Rainshadow Road for two years although it remained on my iPod, ready to play. When I finally started listening, my interest kept waning and I found myself repeatedly starting another book before returning to listen to few more chapters. There just wasn’t a “wow” factor to encourage me to return to the audio much less the series. Tanya Eby’s narration is commendable – the quality of her performance exceeds this average-at-best story. Her narration rates a B+ while the content comes in at a B-.
Titles I’m Looking Forward To:
Out of Control – Suzanne Brockmann
Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank
I voiced my excitement for this series above in Recent Listens so I imagine it is clear why I’m eagerly anticipating this one. Out of Control was actually my first Brockmann (I didn’t read the series in order – at all) and I was so completely captivated when I read it ten years ago, that it ranked #4 on my AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites list last summer. It won AAR’s Best Romance and Best Hero awards in 2002 and I thoroughly enjoyed leads Kenny and Savannah as well as the WWII romance. But most intriguing to me was time spent with Molly and Jones, my favorite-secondary-couple-who-never-got-their-own-book. With the Lawlor/Ewbank team, I fully expect Out of Control to become an all-time audio favorite.
Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
Narrated by Ashford MacNab
Although I enjoy Hoyt’s writing, it is Ashford MacNab who made the audio version of the Maiden Lane series. When two different narrators were chosen for Books 5 and 6 of that series, I tried listening but just didn’t find the high quality of performance I had grown to expect with MacNab’s delivery. As Book 7 of the series, I’ll be returning to Daring Beast in audio format as I trust this author/narrator team to deliver.
Tied by Emma Chase
Narrated by Sebastian York
I totally loved Chase’s 2013 Tangled, also narrated by Sebastian York. In that book, the hero Drew is an absolutely awful stinker but in a kinda lovable, self-deprecating way that is primarily due to Sebastian York’s excellent interpretation and delivery. He literally made Tangled. I’m trusting he’ll do the same with this final entry to the Tangled series as Drew and Kate prepare to tie the knot.
It Happened One Wedding – Julie James
Narrated by Karen White
Julie James is another one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Paired with narrator Karen White, the two are a romance audio dream team. Karen understands the nature of contemporary romance and makes the most of every opportunity, catching both the humor and emotion. It Happened One Wedding was released in audio format this past May – right as my romance burnout started to make itself evident so I have saved it for the right time and that is soon, very soon. I know it will be a great time!
Burn for Me – Ilona Andrews
Narrated by Renee Raudman
The first in the Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, I’m ready to jump in as I have enjoyed both The Edge and Kate Daniels series. I’ve heard this series may weigh in more on the romantic side and I’m crossing my fingers for just that. Of course, I know I can trust Renee Raudman to make the most out of every written word. I feel a guaranteed good listen coming on.
Promising Listens on the Horizon…
Gone Too Far – Suzanne Brockmann Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank
Another of my favorites in the Troubleshooter series, this is Sam and Alyssa’s book. I struggled through the earlier audio version and finally turned to print for a reread. This time, I’m sure the audio version will delight. Releases 12/01/2014.
His at Night – Sherry Thomas Narrated by Kate Reading
Sherry Thomas always satisfies and continually makes my DIK list. His at Night made that list and I’m sure with Kate Reading’s narration, I’ll be thinking the same in audio format. Releases 11/18/2014.
Rogue Spy – Joanna Bourne Narrated by Kirsten Potter
We waited for years for another Bourne audio release after The Spymaster’s Lady (also narrated by Kirsten Potter). Now we have the pleasure of not only seeing more titles from her backlist in audio format but experiencing a simultaneous release of Rogue Spy in print and audio format. Releases 11/04/2014.
Someone to Believe In – Kathryn Shay Narrated by Jeffrey Kafer
I reviewed the print format of Someone to Believe In for AAR in 2005 and gave it a B+. However, it is one of the few romances from that year of which I actually remember the details of the plot line – something that makes me think it is closer to a DIK. I have high hopes for Jeffrey Kafer’s performance. Releases 12/01/2014.
One of my favorite historical writers, I’m thrilled to see these historicals released in audio format, especially with the ever-so-reliable and effective Kaleo Griffith (the narrator of Clare’s existing audio titles) narrating. Releases 11/2014 – 1/2015.
AAR’s Latest Audio Reviews
Our audio reviewers have been busy. Here’s what you’ll find in our reviews database:
Bourne, Joanna – The Black Hawk Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Brown, Sandra – Mean Streak Narrated by Jonathan Davis
Crownover, Jay – Better When He’s Bad Narrated by Mia Barron and Leland King
Frank, Ella – Exquisite Narrated by Mackenzie Cartwright
Frost, Jeaniene – The Beautiful Ashes Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Gray, Juliana – How to School Your Scoundrel Narrated by Carmen Rose
Howard, Linda – Diamond Bay Narrated by Brenda Sweeney
MacLean, Sarah – Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord Narrated by Mary Jane Wells
Sorensen, Jessica – Saving Quinton Narrated by Stephanie Willis and Jed Drummond
And… these audio reviews are already written and waiting for publication – Sophie Jordan’s A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin, Ilona Andrews’ Clean Sweep, Julie James It Happened One Wedding, Laura Kinsale’s Lessons in French, Kate Noble’s The Game and the Governess, Rebecca Shea’s Unbreakable, Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian, and Mariah Stewart’s At the River’s Edge.
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For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.
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Enjoy your listening.
– Lea Hensley