On Friday I gave you a brief overview of all the different categories of the Audies and the books that had been nominated as finalists in each of them. Now its time to dig down into my specific categories that I will be reviewing for the Armchair Audies. This is my 4th year reviewing books that have been nominated and I’ve gone back to my roots with the romance category (in addition to the erotica and paranormal catagories that I added in last year). For me, the decision was simple – when I saw that the 5 nominees for romance were traditional romance (with the required happily ever after – as defined by the RWA), compared to the literature with romantic themes that has made an appearance the last couple of years (with books by Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson and others), I knew that it was time to go back to where my reading and listening interests predominant lie.
And the ROMANCE Nominees are…
The Duke’s Holiday – Maggie Fenton
Narrated – Sue Pitkin
Audio Publisher – Brilliance Audio
The Duke of Montford, cold, precise, and more powerful than the Prince Regent himself, wants things the way he wants them: cross-referenced, indexed, and at his beck and call. And he always gets what he wants.
Until he meets Astrid Honeywell. And a giant pig. And a crooked castle in the middle of Yorkshire.
Astrid Honeywell, staunch bluestocking, has struggled for years to keep her family together by running the estate and family brewery after her father’s death. She is not about to let the tyrannical Duke of Montford steal away all she has worked for because of some antiquated contract between their families. So when the priggish Duke comes to call, she does everything in her power—including setting the family pig on him—to drive him away.
She didn’t expect him to be so… well, infuriatingly attractive. Every time he scowls at her, she has the most improper desire to kiss him—and a whole lot more.
Montford can’t decide whether to strangle Astrid or seduce her. The one thing he knows for a fact is that he must resist his powerful attraction for her at all costs. He has a very proper, very demure fiancée waiting for him back in London, after all. But when Astrid is kidnapped by a disgruntled suitor and whisked off to Gretna Green, Montford will do anything to get her back.
Will these two drive each other to Bedlam… or can they make it to the altar without killing each other?
Both the author and the narrator for this nomination are new to me, so i’m kind of going in blind here on my thoughts. The description sounds interesting, Astrid is likely one of those quirky historical heroines, who doesn’t really fit in the time and place that you would expect – sometimes that works in a romance, other times, not so much. Also sounds like it has the potential to be an enemies to lovers type theme, which is one of my favorite tropes in the romance realm – I just hope that the author does it justice.
The Highwayman – Kerrigan Byrne
Narrator: Derek Perkins
Audio Publisher: Tantor Media
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?
While both this author and narrator is also new to me, they aren’t unknown, I’ve heard the series mentioned in the Goodreads Romance Audiobooks group that I moderator several times and people seem to really enjoy the narrator. They’ve indicated some potential issues with some writing in the books, but nothing that totally killed their enjoyment. I like the whole redeemable hero theme in historicals (Sebastian St Vincent from Lisa Kleypas Wallflowers series is one of my all time favorites), and from the description, Dorian fits right into that mould. I found the name Farah to be intriguing and not sure if its entirely historically accruate name(yeah, I like checking those things out), but for now, i’m taking it at face value.
Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover – Sarah MacLean
Narrator: Justine Eyre
Audio Publisher: HarperAudio
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.
Both Sarah MacLean and Justine Eyre are known qualities to me – Sarah is one of my current go-to authors for historical romance, because for the most part her heroines are kick-ass and push the bounds of society – I’ve actually had this book sitting on the to-be-read pile for a little while, so maybe its a sign that I was supposed to listen rather than read. Justine Eyre is one of the narrators that I’ve been coming across more frequently – while i’ve never listened to any of her historical romance narrations, I do like her performance in Nalini Singh’s Archangel series.
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy – Julia Quinn
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Audio Publisher: HarperAudio
Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can’t be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family’s infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She’s the type of girl you don’t notice until the second—or third—look, but there’s something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she’s the one.
Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can’t quite believe it’s all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can’t help thinking that he’s hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.
Julia Quinn is also a known quantity for me – i’ve probably read her entire backlist of the years and while she’s had a few misses here and there, most of her books are solid reads. that being said, i’ll readily admit that I haven’t been totally enarmoured with Rosalyn Landor’s narration in the past (I think i’m probably one of the few in the romance community). I think in part that is because the books i’ve attempted to listen to that she has narrated, have been multiple read favorites and her voices just didn’t match up with my characters. But since I haven’t read this one, here’s hoping, I enjoy more.
A Sorceress of His Own – Dianne Duvall
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Audio Publisher: Tantor Media
Since the day Lord Dillon earned his spurs, rumors of his savagery on the battlefield have preceded him into every room, stilling tongues and sparking fear. Weary of battle, he wishes only to find a woman he can wed who will approach him not with fear, but with the tenderness that has been absent from his life for so long. Yet only the wisewoman seems invariably at ease in his presence. Perhaps because she garners the same fear in others that he does himself.
For seven years, Alyssa has been by Lord Dillon’s side, counseling him from the shadows, healing him with her hands, and staving off the worst of his loneliness while his fearsome reputation keeps others at bay. Blessed–or cursed–with gifts that label her a sorceress, she is forced to conceal her youth and the love she harbors for him beneath umbral robes that lead Dillon and his people to believe she is the same aged wisewoman who served his father.
All is revealed, however, and passions flare when an enemy threatens Dillon’s life and Alyssa sacrifices everything to save him. When Dillon discovers that the wisewoman is far from elderly, he is instantly entranced. And, as he and Alyssa work together to defeat an enemy bent on destroying them both, Dillon will risk anything–even the wrath of his king–to be with her.
Dianne Duvall is also a new to me author, although I’ve seen her mentioned many times in different discussion forums. I’ll admit to being intrigued by the idea of a novel that mixes historical with paranormal romance, since those seem to be on the rarer side. I’ve listened to Kristen Potter previously (ironically a couple of years ago when she was nominated for another Audie in the romance category) and I remember enjoying her narration, but for some reason, hadn’t sought out any more books by her.
Initial Prediction of Final Rankings
1. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy – Julia Quinn, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
2. The Highwayman – Kerrigan Byrne, narrated by Derek Perkins
3. Never Judge a Lady by her Cover – Sarah MacLean, narrated by Justine Eyre
4. A Sorceress of His Own – Dianne Duvall, narrated by Kristin Potter
5. The Duke’s Holiday – Maggie Fenton, narrated by Sue Pitkin
*initial rankings are based on my thoughts on the book description/author; knowledge/experience with narrators
Stay Tuned for posts on Erotica and Paranormal