Dead by MidnightIt’s a triple treat at Speaking of Audiobooks today.  In addition to our list of September’s new romance releases, we’re featuring Part Two of Beyond the Winners and five audiobook reviews.  Up for review are Karen Robards’ Justice, Kay Hooper’s Zach’s Law, Mary Balogh’s The Secret Mistress, Sherryl Woods’ Flirting with Disaster, and Kelley Armstrong’s Men of the Otherworld.

Beyond the Winners

Our recent Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll featured some big name winners such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  Both series swept a number of categories making us wonder what other favorites are out there beyond the big poll winners.  Over the remainder of 2011, we’re taking a number of the poll categories one by one and asking you “What are your other favorites?”

Last month we shared our Contemporary romance favorites and today we’re taking a look at Romantic Suspense.  This category includes romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.  In our poll, Sandra Brown’s Envy took first place while Linda Howard’s Dream Man came in second.

So, what are your other Romantic Suspense favorites?  Let us know in our comment area below.  If another listener states one of your favorites, write it down again because we’re taking an unofficial count.

As a tribute to these favorites that don’t hold an official place on the winning poll ballot, we are utilizing our Goodreads audio bookshelf to summarize those most often mentioned.  Our Goodreads audio bookshelf is actually a number of bookshelves.  Currently we have a Mini-Review shelf (reviews from our columns), a Romance Audiobook Poll Winners shelf, and an Upcoming Reviews shelf.  We’re adding another shelf, Beyond the Winners, and will add to it each time we discuss a poll category.

Let us know your other Romantic Suspense favorites!

Audiobook Romances on Sale in September

Includes new formats of existing audiobooks

Unabridged

Alexander, Victoria – His Mistress by Christmas Narrated by Susan Duerden

Barton, Beverly – Dead by Midnight Narrated by Karen White

Bond, Stephanie – Baby, Drive South Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Dodd, Christina – Danger in a Red Dress Narrated by Angela Dawe

Douglas, Anne – The Kilt Maker Narrator unknown

Feehan, Christine – Dark Predator Narrator unknown

Frank, Jacquelyn – Noah Narrated by Xe Sands

Graham, Heather – An Angel for Christmas Narrated by Christina Traister

Herron, Rachael – How to Knit a Heart Back Home Narrator unknown

Heyer, Georgette – The Grand Sophy Narrated by Clare Willie (Abridged)

Howard, Linda – Prey Narrated by Abby Craden

Johansen, Iris – Capture the Rainbow Narrated by Angela Brazil

Johansen, Iris – Magnificent Folly Narrated by Parker Leventer

Kenyon, Sherrilyn & Love, Dianna – Alterant Narrated by Holter Graham

Kenyon, Sherrilyn – Audio Coffin Box Set Narrated by Carrington MacDuffie & William Dufris

Laurens, Stephanie – In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster Narrator unknown

Macomber, Debbie – 1225 Christmas Tree Lane Narrated by Sandra Burr

Macomber, Debbie – First Comes Marriage Narrated by Angela Dawe

Mallery, Susan – Only His Narrated by Tanya Eby

Mallery, Susan – Sweet Talk Narrated by Therese Plummer

McCarty, Sarah – Caleb Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

McCarty, Sarah – Jared Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

McDonald, L.J. – Queen of the Sylphs Narrator unknown

Quick, Amanda – The Perfect Poison Narrated by Anne Flosnik

Robb, J.D. – Chaos in Death Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Robb, J.D. – New York to Dallas Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Roberts, Nora – Treasures Lost, Treasures Found Narrated by Therese Plummer

Roberts, Nora – Tribute Narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck

Roberts, Nora – Untamed Narrated by Kate Rudd

Singh, Nalini – Archangel’s Blade Narrated by Justine Eyre

Singh, Nalini – Bonds of Justice Narrated by Angela Dawe

Singh, Nalini – Play of Passion Narrated by Angela Dawe

Warren, Christine – One Bite with a Stranger Narrated by Kate Reading

Warren, Christine – Walk on the Wild Side Narrated by Kate Reading

Woods, Sherryl – An O’Brien Family Christmas Narrated by Christina Traister

JusticeRomance Audio Reviews

Justice – Karen Robards

Review written by Lea Hensley

Narrated by Angela Dawe

After listening to an hour of the newly released Justice, I was wondering more about the TSTL behavior of heroine Jessica Ford than the plot.  She’s in the Secret Service’s witness protection program (of sorts) after witnessing the murder of the First Lady.  Now that she is established with her new identity, she only takes the slightest of precautions and has more an attitude of “Why are you making me do this?” than anything else.  But I digress because this is one good romantic suspense tale made even better in audio by Angela Dawe’s narration.

Mark Ryan is the Secret Service agent attempting to keep Jess safe – not an easy job.  He’s also her former boyfriend and their established relationship (they called it quits only months before) was quite a plus as I felt an immediate connection between the two despite the fact that they were no longer an item.  Mark pushes to keep Jess safe and give their relationship another chance while she pushes back (with good reason I might add).

But the suspense was, for the most part, just like I like it – with little to no gore and a true mystery.  I had no idea of the villain’s identity and the mystery plays from three separate angles – all intriguing.  Although there are a number of secondary characters, Mark and Jess’s relationship still receives ample attention – another requirement for my idea of a successful romantic suspense.  The part I wasn’t too crazy about?  The final suspense scene – Robards seemed to lose her originality.

Prior to Justice, my only experience with narrator Angela Dawe was Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation and I wasn’t overly impressed with her ability to distinguish characters.  However, she won me over with Justice.  Although I was unable to differentiate secondary female and male voices at times, I had no difficulty with Mark and Jess and, I must say, at times that’s all that matters to me.  She understands Mark and Jess and is especially spot on with her performance of Mark.  I had no doubt he was the character Robards intended him to be and that was evident with his first lines.

After I finished Justice and rushed off to Audible to find more of Robards’ romantic suspense backlist, I discovered that Justice is actually the sequel to Pursuit.  I never guessed – Justice stands on its own that well.  Robards’ Web site is not up to date so I can’t be sure of the fact but it appears that Mark and Jess will have at least one more book.  A few unsolved bits remain here although I was quite satisfied with the ending.  I’m definitely backing up and listening to Pursuit.

Zach’s Law – Kay Hooper

Review written by Brenda

Narrated by Rebecca Gibel

The good news is that if you’re a fan of Kay Hooper’s old category romances, narrator Rebecca Gibel is very good.  She provides a number of distinct voices for the variety of characters that populate this adventure.  As is common, the men could have used deeper voices but distinct is the next best thing.  Gibel’s pacing is excellent as is the range of emotions she covers.  I felt she had an excellent handle on the feel of Zach’s Law.

Unfortunately, the feel of the story was not to my liking.  Zach Steele is staking out gun runners in the Rocky Mountains when Theodora (call me Teddy) Tyler’s car dies nearby.  Zach gags her, ties her to a tree, rolls her car into a lake, then hauls her back to his cabin to prevent her from revealing his set up.  Twelve hours later they’re half naked together.  An hour after that Teddy knows, due to a Scottish ancestor with the second sight, that she’s in love with Zach.  Then you add in several amazing coincidences and a romance is born?  Not even I can buy this one!

The action scenes and the other agents becoming involved, along with the eventual conclusion, is okay if you discount the above. I discovered after finishing Zach’s Law that it is one of a running series that features Hagen, a man manipulating events to get the staring couple together. With that foreknowledge, the coincidences may not have seemed so ridiculous but the sudden jump from kidnapped to I love you was a deal breaker.

 

 

The Secret MistressThe Secret Mistress – Mary Balogh

Review written by Lea Hensley

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

When Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward, rescues Lady Angeline Dudley from the consequences of her impetuous actions, he sees an improper young woman who is far from any lady he could ever consider marrying.  Angeline sees Edward as the man she will someday marry.

Edward is, in fact, looking for a wife and his family is eager to help in the process.  Arranging for him to share a dance with a most appropriate young lady, Edward is shocked to find she is Angeline.  He’s what one could call a stick-in-the-mud and believes in following the rules – and that includes marrying the ultimate lady who is proper in every way.  And so the fun begins.

After tiring of a seemingly endless number of European historical romances, I listened to few until my interest revived a few months ago with books such as The Secret Mistress. It reminded me of my first days of reading romance when I found teas, balls, and afternoon visits charming rather than overdone.  Narrator Anne Flosnik helped me envision the true spirit of the time with her lyrical British accent.

In the past, I have occasionally found myself challenged by Ms. Flosnik’s interpretation and performance of her male characters but that wasn’t the case here.  Flosnik has acknowledged consciously reworking her male characters and it clearly shows.  I understood Edward’s character more than any other.  Her performance of his thoughts gives the listener an even deeper look into Edward than his words proclaim since he is such a dependable, proper man and it is quite humorous at times.  Edward, as performed, worked for me.  Anne Flosnik has always performed her female characters beautifully and there is no exception here.

Although my interest waned a bit in the last third, I still recommend The Secret Mistress for some fine European Historical entertainment.

Flirting with Disaster – Sherryl Woods

Review written by Melinda

Narrated by Tanya Eby

Art gallery owner Maggie, recently dumped at the altar, tries hiding out to recuperate from the blow.  Her friends find her, drag her back to reality, and involve her in a plan to build a house for a widowed young mother.  If you’re here for the romance, there’s a hot young project foreman named Josh who seems to be just the one for Maggie.  If you’re not interested in the couple, it’s okay, because Flirting with Disaster suffers somewhat from attention-deficit disorder and there are plenty of plots and characters around to keep everyone entertained.

The narrator, Tanya Eby, is talented and experienced – she manages to keep up appearances that the story makes sense. She has an extremely pleasant narration voice and dozens of character voices to keep everyone separate. But the book still meanders around with the various parents and friends of Maggie and Josh popping in and out.  Maggie’s mind weighs if Josh might be better off with the young widow and then there are Maggie’s assorted assistants and their troubles, one of which dominates the last part of the book.  Was it a book about Maggie and Josh?  Was there a secondary romance, and if so, was it Josh’s mother and one of the several villains?  Or was it the assistant and her, uh, former teacher or boyfriend?  Was it suspense?  If so, who was the actual bad guy?  And did they ever finish that house for the needy young widow?  These were my questions after I finished the book.

I enjoyed the first part of Flirting with Disaster and Eby’s narration.  About halfway through the plot started splintering and never really regained shape for me. Flirting with disaster, indeed.

 

 

Men of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong

Review written by Kaetrin

Narrated by Charles Leggett

A collection of four tales in Kelley’s Armstrong’s popular Women of the Otherworld series, Men of the Otherworld is not really a romance.  It fleshes out the background of some of the series’ pivotal male characters.

The first and last stories feature Jeremy – the first on how he was conceived.   The other two are told from Clay’s point of view – he’s the hero (hmmm – is that the right word?) of Bitten, the first book of the series.  Charles Leggett does a great job with the narration, using different accents and pitches to differentiate the various men in the story.  Given werewolf society in the Otherworld, there aren’t that many women but the female voices that Leggett uses aren’t bad actually.  I particularly enjoyed the last three (the first features Malcolm who is an ass – so it’s hard to enjoy it).  I’ve read the stories in print as well and they translate very well to audio – although I would caution that this is really for fans of the series and if you’ve not read any before, I wouldn’t recommend starting here.

Time for Your Thoughts

What Romantic Suspense audiobooks are your favorites?

What new releases are you looking forward to?

Do you know of a new romance release that didn’t make the list?

Have you listened to one of today’s review books?  What were your thoughts?

And, as always, what are your latest audio successes or failures?

Ending Notes

I’m announcing news for the Speaking of Audiobooks column and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for SpeakingofAudio (formerly LeaAAR).

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

Our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group keeps growing and we now have 138 members.  It’s easy to join and it’s a great place for discussion in between our columns.

Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley