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Audiobook Review – Girl in the Blue Coat – Monica Hesse

girl-in-the-blue-coatGirl in the Blue Coat
Author: Monica Hesse
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Natalia Payne
Run Time: 9hrs, 42min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Description:
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

Review:
It’s always hard to try and capture thoughts for books that engage you so emotionally that you are just left wondering what happened? For me Girl in the Blue Coat did just that – as soon as I started listening to the fabulous audiobook narrated by Natalia Payne I was sucked in. Historical fiction set during in Amsterdam in 1943, a time period where the Jewish population were required to wear the yellow star of identification and where significant portions of the Jewish population were starting to be forcibly rounded up and sent to various concentration camps. Hanneke is one of those members of the Jewish population, trying to maintain some normalcy of a life with all the restrictions being placed on them, and attempting to stick it to the Nazi’s by buying and selling goods on the blackmarket. All of that changed when she was asked to help locate a Jewish teenager who was being hidden by one of her customers and who had seemingly disappeared into thin air. What follows is a mystery of who is the girl in the blue coat and where did she go?

But this wasn’t just a story of the girl in the blue coat – it was a story of bravery, resistance, growing up in the face of adversity, betrayal of friends and so much more. I’ll admit that Hanneke drove me kind of nuts at times – for a 19 year old, especially one who had been doing some of the work that she had been doing seemed remarkably naive at times – especially when faced with working with the resistance. Her behavior at times reminded me kind of a spoiled brat – taking risks with no care for others, especially when she was Jewish in a community where Jews were being rounded up daily and sent to concentration camps – it just seemed like at times she was almost asking to be caught. It was the interplay between Hanneke and the other characters – Bas/Elspeth/Mirjam/Amalia that really added depth to the story. I really what to know what happens in the future with Hanneke and Elspeth’s relationship as well as Bas and Hanneke.

Natalia Payne was a new narrator to me but i can’t wait to listen to more books narrated by her in the future. I have to admit that I don’t really know how a dutch accent should sound to be able to judge her on accuracy, but it seemed pretty close to what i’ve heard in other historical fiction/movies set in the same time period. She was able to instill the right amount of fear into me during certain portions of the book, as well as making me cry in other portions. There were definately a few times where I almost needed to pull over because I wanted to cry. I want to thank Hachette Audio for allowing me the opportunity to listen to this book and as an added bonus for the audiobook listeners, there is an interview at the end with Monica Hesse (the author); the narrator and one of the Hachette producers who was responsible for bringing this book into both print and audio. I’m excited to see what more Monica Hesse writes about in the future. A solid 4 stars for both the story itself and the narration.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Underground in Berlin – Marie Jalowicz Simon

underground-in-berlinUnderground in Berlin
Author: Marie Jalowicz Simon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Ellen Archer
Run Time: 11hrs 47min
Narrator Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Description:
In 1941, Marie Jalowicz Simon, a nineteen-year-old Berliner, made an extraordinary decision. All around her, Jews were being rounded up for deportation, forced labor, and extermination. Marie took off her yellow star, turned her back on the Jewish community, and vanished into the city.

In the years that followed, Marie lived under an assumed identity, forced to accept shelter wherever she found it. Always on the run, never certain whom she could trust, Marie moved between almost twenty different safe-houses, living with foreign workers, staunch communists, and even committed Nazis. Only her quick-witted determination and the most hair-raising strokes of luck allowed her to survive.

Review:
I’m a little bit belated in posting this audiobook review (like 6 months late)…but it was a book that made me think about the lengths people go to avoid getting caught. When most of us think about Jewish people who managed to survive the Holocaust, we think of Anne Frank and her family who lived in the Attic until they were turned in; or people like Corrie Ten Boom who helped hide people in a crawl space – but there were others that managed to survive by just staying a step ahead of the Germans – Marie Jalowicz was one of those people.

What made her story remarkable (at least to me) was how unremarkable it really was – it wasn’t sit on the edge of the chair thrilling, but more of a roller coaster ride – sometimes gentle and lulling and other times ricocheting you around the track…mostly wondering if she could actually manage to avoid the Nazi’s for 4(ish) years until the war ended…obviously since she wrote a book about her experiences she did (does that count as a spoiler?) So much of the story seemed just ehhh, she went here and stayed on a couch and had to keep really quiet so she wasn’t discovered during the day and the moved to another location and did the same thing. I think that the story being remarkedly unremarkable is why I only gave it 3.5 stars – I enjoyed portions of the story but the internal me wanted a bit more excitment (isn’t that kind of pathetic?)

Its kind of weird – I could have sworn that i’d listened to something narrated by Ellen Archer before, but looking through my audiobook files – I can’t find anything by her (which means, i’m either going nuts, or simply didn’t log it)…anyways, one of the good things about listening to non-fiction/biographies is that narrators don’t need to deviate too much from a normal reading voice (differentiating characters etc) – so it was a solid listen with no frills – a story that was relatively simple, with a relatively simple narration style – i could easily get used to something like that.

Overall, I gave Underground in Berlin 3.5 stars and the narration 4 stars. Its a solid autobiography that while not exciting is insightful into how people survived persecution during World War 2.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover – Sarah MacLean

never judge a lady by her coverNever Judge a Lady By Her Cover
Author: Sarah MacLean
Series: #4 in the Rules of Scoundrels series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Justine Eyre
Run Time: 11hrs 55min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Audiobook Publisher

Description:
By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a Duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking—in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear… including her heart.

Review:
Sometimes I just have to laugh at how I end up listening to different audiobooks – specifically, I’ve had the ebook of Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover on my kindle since it was released in 2014 and yet, I hadn’t read it…so it was kind of like fate when it showed up as a nominee for the romance category on the Audies (yeah, I know this review is a little bit late, overcome by events has been a standard term of phrase in my life recently). It seemed like perfect timing because I was in the mood for some historical romance and I’ve been a fan of Justine Eyre’s narration in the past.

If you had been reading (or listening) to the Rules of Scoundrels series then we knew who Chase was (as it been revealed in a previous book) – but even before that, I had wondered who Chase and looking back there were hints that were there but that I had kind of glazed over. And Duncan West…what can I say about him – its hard because I hated him at first, then grew to like him, then hated him again and then liked him again – it was a very love-hate relationship. But that just made the ride to their HEA all the more enjoyable. There were a few times where I just wanted to scream (and it is probably good that no one rides in my car with me while i’m listening to audiobooks)…and other times, where I just wanted to sit and wait to see what happened (causing me to be slightly late to work).

Justine Eyre’s narration fit the story perfectly as it had will the previous books I’d listened to by her – her narration style just fit perfectly with Sarah MacLean’s writing – there is a witty banter style to her narration that just is perfect. As I hadn’t listened to the previous books in the series – I had my own idea of how I thought Chase/Georgina would sound and amazing enough, Justine’s narration was actually pretty close to how I envisioned Chase would sound. Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover was a solid way to close out the series and overall, I gave it 3.5 stars and Justine Eyre’s narration 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Opening Up – Lauren Dane

opening upOpening Up
Author: Lauren Dane
Series: #1 in the Ink & Chrome series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Sasha Dunbrooke
Audiobook Length: 9hrs, 55min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Description:
The men of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop are great with their hands… and they’re not afraid to get dirty.

PJ is exactly the kind of woman Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn’t need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ has some of the best custom detailing he’s ever seen. But the chemistry between them won’t be denied, and soon he’s introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she’s ever experienced. PJ finds she can’t get enough, but how far is too far before he consumes her completely?

Review:
I’ve lost track of how many Lauren Dane books i’ve read over the years, but in all that time, I’ve never actually listened to one (that actually surprises me because of the amount of audiobooks that i’ve listened to over the years). Typically, I know when I pick up a book of hers, i’ll be immediately sucked it – that it will be hot and steamy at times (and oh wow, was it!), that will likely be a quick read (mostly because once I start reading, I can’t stop!).

In Opening Up, we meet Asa Barrons, one of the owners of Twisted Steel – a custom car business – he is the kind of tough guy with a soft interior that Dane does really well as a character – he’s all tough and business, but that right woman, just makes him fall to his knees. And that right woman, is PJ…I’ll admit that having a woman go by her initials isn’t necessarily a common occurance, in real life or in books, but she countered Asa’s hardness in all the right ways. its hard for me to describe what I liked and didn’t like about PJ – I think for the most part it was how she continued to face shit (for lack of a better word) from her family (specifically her father) and yet, didn’t let that deter her from her dreams/wishes of doing custom paint work on cars (which is just perfect considering the business that Asa owns). she also wasn’t a dainty flower, as seems to be the common character in romance novels – she wasn’t a virgin and knew exactly what she wanted from men and in bed. While there were a few times that I wanted to scream in fustration about how her family treated her, I loved seeing PJ grow and overcome their objections and find her way towards Asa.

Sasha Dunbrooke is a new to me narrator, but i can guarantee it won’t be the last time that I listen to her. She managed to hit all my emotional buttons at various times during Opening Up – I both laughed and cried in several places, sucked into the storyline that I was. I was so glad that I had a substantial amount of time that I was out and running and errands because i got to essentially binge listen a good half of the book in the space of a couple of days, rather than just getting to listen in fits and starts. I honestly have no real complaints about Sasha’s narration – its hard to pick if there is anything that I disliked about her narration…she had a good range of voices for the various characters, her men sounded like men (and not like women with a really bad falsetto)…overall, just a solid and enjoyable listen.

Overall, I gave the book itself 3.5 stars and the narration 4 stars. Fans of Lauren Dane will enjoy Opening Up and I recommend to people who like hot, sexy romance with a bad boy and slightly bad girl.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Seven Years – Dannika Dark

Paranormal nominee banner

seven yearsSeven Years
Author: Dannika Dark
Series: #1 in the Seven series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Nicole Poole
Run Time: 11hrs and 24min
Audiobook Producer: Tantor Media
Audiobook Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Tantor Media

!Warning Spoilers!

Description:
Seven years ago, my world ended.
Seven years later, my new life began.

It’s been seven years since Lexi Knight lost her brother in a tragic accident. On the anniversary of his death, her brother’s best friend shows up unexpectedly – a man she hasn’t seen since the funeral. He is no longer the boy Lexi once knew, but a dangerous-looking man with tattoos and dark secrets. He broke her trust and abandoned her family, yet what he reveals makes it impossible to stay angry. Lexi has been secretly infatuated with Austin since childhood, so finding out he’s a Shifter just makes him sexier. Dammit.

Austin Cole has returned to the city where he grew up, and just in time. He’s lived a hard life these past seven years, and the shadows of his past are threatening to destroy Lexi’s family. It’s time that she learned the truth about her brother, but there is a shocking twist that Austin never saw coming. Now he must protect her family when her mother and sister wind up in mortal danger. Will Lexi learn to accept the truth about who he is, and can Austin salvage a relationship from the ruins of their past?

Destiny will find you.

Review:
Out of all the books in the paranormal category for the Armchair Audies, this is the one that had me worried the most about the listening – which is kind of funny, since this kind of paranormal romance is normally right up my alley – but I had previously tried to read the book last year and ended up putting it aside around 50%. Most of my concerns about the book had to do with the world building (or lack there of) and where the story was going. However, earlier this year, the audiobook started to be mentioned more and more in several of the Audiobook groups on Goodreads and people seemed to really like the narration. So when it was nominated for an audie, i figured that i would give it another chance, since I know that often not so good books can be made more enjoyable with the right narrator. Unfortunately for me, while Nicole Poole made the book slightly more enjoyable, it was a struggle for me to finish listening.

For me, my biggest issue with this listen was (as with my previous attempt) the world building. Lexi was just a normal girl (or so she thought) and then all of a sudden, she discovers their are shifters in the world and not only that, that she is one. And she just takes it all in stride…i mean, i don’t know about you, but if i found out that I was a shifter, I would probably freak the shit out. From there, I just had trouble with any suspension of disbelief – i mean, i know that is required when reading books with paranormal elements, but yeah, I just didn’t understand the world that the author had created and that for me made the book a struggle. Honestly, I do think that the story in general had potential, if the world building had been stronger/more developed. But with the number of people that enjoyed this book, then maybe its just me.

I feel kind of bad for Nicole Poole, because to me no matter what she did, I felt that she was working with a substandard book and I had a hard time judging her fairly because of my lack of enjoyment for the storyline. That being said, I think she has a lot of strengths as a narrator – she had a diverse range of voices for the different characters. Her pacing seemed to be spot on (but that being said, i did consider speeding it up in a few places to just get the book moving). I even didn’t really have an issue with her male narrations, which for me, is often where I have issues – male narrators sometimes struggle with female voices and vice versa. But her narration of Austin was solid – it didn’t seem to be too wishy-washy (for lack of a better word) with solid tenor intonation throughout. She also did a good job with the narration of Lexi’s little sister, which is also something that I have found narrators struggle with, the little kid which out it being too high-pitched and babyish. The audiobook production by Tantor Media was the same high quality that I’ve come to expect from them, based on my previous experiences.

Overall, while Nicole Poole’s narration was solid and I gave it a solid 3.5 stars, unfortunately, it couldn’t counter-act a substandard story, which I only gave 2.5 stars. While others enjoyed Seven Years and the subsequent books in the series, it just didn’t work for me. But hey, that is what makes reading (and listening awesome), not everything works for everyone, which is why its great that there are so many options out there.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Duke’s Holiday – Maggie Fenton

Romance nominee banner

the duke's holidayThe Duke’s Holiday
Author: Maggie Fenton
Series: #1 in the Regency Romp series
Rating:

Narrator: Sue Pitkin
Run Time: 15hrs 11 minutes
Audiobook Producer: Brilliance Audio
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
The cold, precise Duke of Montford demands things his way: neatly ordered, in place, and adhering closely to the rules. So he is furious when he learns that the tenant of his ducal estate has been dead for a year, and a stranger has been running the Honeywell business–which, by contract, is now Montford’s. When he arrives in Yorkshire to investigate, he discovers that the estate is being run by an unruly, tomboyish woman–and a bluestocking at that!
Fiery redhead Astrid Honeywell is independent and educated. She’s been handling the Honeywell family business for years. And she’s not about to relinquish it to anyone–not even Montford–because of some archaic contract.
Montford and Astrid have an instant hatred for one another…and an undeniable, unspeakable attraction. They must resist this improper desire–after all, Montford has a fiancée in London. But when Astrid’s life is placed in terrible danger, Montford finds he may be willing to risk everything to save her.

Review:
It’s hard to describe my overall reaction to The Duke’s Holiday, with the exception of, it was totally not what I expected. I mean, I went into the audio of this book, expecting a very traditional historical romance, staid characters with a fairly predictable storyline (because unfortunately after reading/listening to so much historical romance over the years, it all starts to blend together). What I got was a historical romantic comedy that had me laughing out loud for a good portion of the book and by laughing out loud, I mean like serious, belly clutching laughter.

Not only was The Duke’s Holiday full of antics that reminded me of something you would see on a comedy show, but it departed from the norms of the time period with Astrid, the heroine, running her families brewery, under the guise of her father, who was unable. Enter, the Duke of Montford (because he was NEVER called by his real name of Cyril…not that I blame him), who owned the estate (although that was up for debate if you asked any of the Honeywell’s) and who liked things very proper – in fact, at times, I wondered if he maybe had a touch of obsessive-compulsive behavior with his need to control things. It was fun listening to the Duke shed his properness (is that a real world) as he became more relaxed and free at the Honeywell’s. I’ll admit the scene where the author went into great detail about the foot race that is held every year and involves drinking a pint of Honeywell Brew approximately ever 1/4 mile, made me nearly run the car of the road, i was laughing so hard. That is totally something I would sign up to do in my insanity and the following scenes where the Duke is singing druken limericks was just as entertaining. The author had the raunchy nature of drunken shenanigans pegged perfectly. As another reviewer on Goodreads stated, both Astrid and the Duke were perfectly unperfect (or was is unperfectly perfect)…either way, that statement sums up my thoughts almost perfectly on the book.

Once again in my Audie’s listening I came across a new to me narrator (which seems to have been the theme for this year). As with others, I can safely say that I will be adding more narration by Sue Pitkin to my listening future. Its honestly hard to pinpoint exactly what i liked about her narration though – it wasn’t one specific thing (you know, somehow its how the narrator differentiates characters or how they handle pacing of the story etc)…for me, it was just a solid combination of everything that made The Duke’s Holiday an all-around solid romance audiobook. As mentioned above, one of my favorite scenes, due in part to the narration, was the druken duke – in fact, i remember tweeting the narrator after I had gotten done listening to that chapter because I had to let her know how much I had enjoyed it. While I know that voices of the opposite gender are at times a struggle for narrators, I thought Sue Pitkin handled not only Monford’s narration perfectly, but also that of his companions (one a well described fop and the other a walking train-wreck). I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to them because I have a feeling the other two books in the series will be about them.

A solid 4 stars for both the book itself and the narration – this is a book that probably never would have caught my eye if not nominated, but will be an author that I watch out for in the future. Warning to all listeners, driving while listening to this book may result in distracted driving from laughing so hard you card (just so you have been warned…)

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review (reblog) – Curing Doctor Vincent – Renea Mason

Erotica nominees banner

curing doctor vincentAuthor: Renea Mason
Series: #1 in the Good Doctor Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrators: Noah Michael Levine, Erin Deward
Run Time: 6hrs, 10 min
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Audiobook Provided by Author

This is a reblog of my review that originally appeared on October 29, 2015; with a couple of initial thoughts about her Audie nomination

Description:
One kinky doctor + one indecent proposal = one life-changing week in Paris

Elaine Watkins, Public Relations Advisor, is surprised when she receives a summons from the very attractive and enigmatic Dr. Xavier Vincent. She worships the talented physician and company icon responsible for developing the cure that saved her sister’s life and isn’t immune to his charm. Even though puzzled by his request, she is excited and eager to get started on his latest project.

But Dr. Vincent has other ideas. Instead of discussing cures, drugs and marketing strategies, he asks Elaine to join him in Paris to indulge his unique sexual appetites.

Torn between gratitude for saving her sister, her attraction for the powerful man and compromising her pre-conceived notions of sexuality, she must decide if it’s easier to feed his desires or walk away. Until she devises a plan of her own.

Review:
In light of Renea’s nomination for an Audie in the Erotica category, I’m reblogging my review as part of the Armchair Audies. I was so excited to see Curing Doctor Vincent make the list of nominees because it is by far one of the best erotic romances that I have listened to (and read) in the recent past. The storyline was well development, there wasn’t an overabundance of sex without story (also known as porn without plot) and I don’t think she could have picked two better narrators to represent Xavier and Elaine. This is my strongest contender to date for the winner in the erotica category.

I’d never heard of Renea (which is pronounced Renee) Mason until I got an email from her a few months ago about reviewing the audiobook for her erotic romance, Curing Doctor Vincent. But she managed to catch my attention from the get-go when she compared the narrators of her audiobook (Noah Michael Levine and Erin DeWard) to one of my favorite pairings, Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross (who narrated Karen Marie Monings Fever series). I mean, my initial reaction was like, no one is better than Phil and Natalie – i mean, they totally rock all their narrations. But boy was I wrong – I sat in the car listening pretty much slack-jawed and Noah and Erin rocked this audio and they both earned a place in my top 5 narrators/pairings.

But back to the story itself…if you were offered one week in Paris on a trip of sexual exploration, would you take it? I know that I would probably have to stop and think about it and would probably wimp out, but Elaine did none of those things. Curing Doctor Vincent was a roller-coaster ride of emotions, I know that I experienced pretty much the whole spectrum from anger to sadness; from excitement to deep and abiding love. There is something about Renea’s writing that just made me feel like I was in Paris with Xavier and Elaine, and experiencing all the sexual satisfaction that Elaine was feeling.

the story itself didn’t unfold the way I expected it to when I began. I’ll be honest – my initial thoughts when I read the description would be that Elaine’s experiences with Xavier and his sexual appetites would be the majority of the story. In fact, I was kind of shocked when there was actually more story than sex – haha. I know that probably sounds weird, but its true – there was a lot more to Curing Doctor Vincent than just the trip to Paris and lots of sex – I was actually expected that that would somehow be the cure that was alluded to in the title. But boy, was I wrong! The ending of the story was sweetly satisfying (although there was definitely a scream of agony that resonated when I finished my road trip with 30min remaining on the book – the torture of having to wait until the next day to finish it up…has to fall under cruel and unusual punishment).

I will say holy hotness on the writing of those sexual experiences – so often in erotic romance, those scenes just feel like insert Tab A into slot B, very mechanical or on the other end of the spectrum, overly flowerly purple prose, but Renea managed that fine balance between the two. I will say that I found myself fanning my face several times during my car ride as I was listening. I could probably gush about the audiobook all day, but I will say, my favorite thing about the narration was that it was a true alternating POV narration – where Noah read all the male parts and Erin all the female – so often in dual narration audiobooks (at least in my experience), it ends up being male reads one chapter, including any female dialogue and vice versa – so this was a pleasant surprise.

I gave Curing Doctor Vincent 4 stars and the audio narration 5 stars. I’d recommend this to people who like erotic romance with a solid storyline and satisfactory conclusion (with no cliff-hanger). Unfortunately, now I have to wait for the next book in the trilogy to come out (or at least the audio version)…hopefully that will be relatively soon…

 

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