Bold Angel by Kat Martin (audiobook) – Narrated by Lucy Rayner

bold-angel

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

They were enemies in a divided land…

Saxon beauty Caryn of Ivesham longed to escape the chill gray cloisters of the convent to which she’d fled – but not in marriage to the towering, feared Raolfe de Gere, the Norman knight they called Ral the Relentless. Even though he had once saved her from a fate worse than death, she could not forget he’d raised the grim battlements of Braxston keep on her dead father’s lands or that his men had dishonoured her sister. If she wed him to bring peace to her people, he would have to lay siege to her bed. But their destiny was more powerful than the clash of swords. The darkly handsome warlord’s blood coursed with desire for Caryn’s burnished crimson lips, and his passion would not be denied. But in the wild ecstasy they shared Ral feared more than his heart was in danger. Could his rebellious bride be a traitor deadlier than the wolves and brigands prowling deep in English forests?

Rating: Narration – C; Content – D

I suppose I should have known what I was letting myself in for when I read the title and synopsis of Bold Angel:

“Saxon beauty Caryn of Ivesham longed to escape the chill gray cloisters of the convent to which she’d fled-but not in marriage to the towering, feared Raolfe de Gere, the Norman knight they called Ral the Relentless.”

It goes on to tell how the

“darkly handsome warlord’s blood coursed with desire for Caryn’s burnished crimson lips”

… yeah, I should probably have moved on at that point, but I had decided I wanted to listen to Lucy Rayner, who has been listed as the narrator of several Julia Quinn romances being released in December (Splendid, Dancing at Midnight and Minx), in order to get an idea of her abilities and performance style.

The result is a mixed bag. It probably didn’t help that the story is unoriginal and the heroine made me want to wring her neck for pretty much the entire (seemingly interminable) fourteen hours and forty minutes of the audiobook. And I couldn’t help thinking that Ms. Rayner’s crystal-clear tones – while not unpleasant – are rather too bright for a romance. I kept expecting her to shout “jolly hockey sticks!” à la Joyce Grenfell whenever things got heated, difficult or angsty.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Happily Bedded Bliss (Rakes of Cavendish Square #2) by Tracy Anne Warren – Narrated by Charlotte Anne Dore

happly bedded bliss audio

When Lady Esme Byron happens upon a gorgeous naked man sleeping beside a secluded country lake, she can’t resist the impulse to sketch him. But when her highly improper drawing is mistakenly revealed at a party, she finds her once-pristine reputation in tatters.
Gabriel, Lord Northcote, may be a notorious rakehell, but he is still stunned to find himself accused of despoiling a duke’s sister – especially since he’s never set eyes on her. When Esme’s six irate brothers demand a hurried trip down the aisle, he has no choice but to comply. He thinks that he can forget about his inconvenient bride, but Esme Byron is no ordinary woman, and Gabriel is about to learn just how unforgettable she can be.

Rating: Narration – F; Content – B

I enjoyed Happily Bedded Bliss when I read it a couple of months ago and was looking forward to listening to the audiobook version. The previous book in the series, The Bedding Proposal, boasted both an unusual and deliciously angsty storyline and was also excellently narrated by Barrie Kreinik. I had been hoping for more of the same, but for some inexplicable reason, Tantor has used a different narrator for this second book. I have only listened to Charlotte Anne Dore once before – her lacklustre narration more or less ruined Sherry Thomas’ My Beautiful Enemy – but I believe in giving people a second chance, just to see if maybe I was having a bad day when listening, or if they have improved. I can’t remember what sort of mood I was in when I listened to My Beautiful Enemy, but I’m afraid that Ms Dore’s performance here is every bit as uninspiring as it was the last time I listened to her, and her narration has completely ruined what is, in print, an enjoyable, well-developed romance.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

add-to-goodreads-button

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes (audiobook) – Narrated by Rebecca Rogers

Lady Sarah's sinful desires

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff’s conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she’s hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher’s kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

Rating: Narration – D; Content – D

Sometimes – if you’re lucky – you can start a book or audio and know pretty much straight away that you’re going to enjoy it. And sometimes – if you’re UNlucky – you pick one up and immediately know the opposite. That’s what happened to me when I started listening to Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires. In the (almost) three years I’ve been reviewing for AudioGals, I think I’ve only DNFed one, perhaps two titles, but this came close to being the third. I know part of the reviewer’s lot is to take the rough with the smooth, so along with the “OMG, awesome!” listens, there are going to be a proportion of “Meh, okay, but won’t listen again” ones. This one, however, was one of the “OMG, why am I subjecting myself to this?” kind.

(The answer to that question, by the way, is so that I can tell you, dear readers, which audiobooks to avoid with a ten-foot pole. Or, in this case, a twenty-foot one.)

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals. Sadly, it won’t make the book any better, but it might afford you a laugh or two.

add-to-goodreads-button

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn (audiobook) – Narrated by Anna Parker-Naples

night of a thousand stars audio

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing – she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita – east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan – one that stretches to the very heart of the British government and one that could endanger everything and everyone she holds dear.

Rating: C- for narration; A- for content

I read and loved this book last year, so I was delighted to see that it had recently been made available in audio and eagerly snapped it up, even though the narrator is not someone I have listened to before. Night of a Thousand Stars is one of Deanna Raybourn’s set of three loosely connected novels set in the 1920s, and in fact links back to her Lady Julia books in that the heroine is the daughter of Julia’s youngest brother, “Plum” – a fact revealed early in the story and which may have caused just the slightest squee from yours truly upon reading.

As an audiobook, however, Night of a Thousand Stars is a very different prospect, and I struggled to finish it.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

add-to-goodreads-button

Trapped by Scandal by Jane Feather (audiobook) – Narrated by Jill Tanner

trapped  by scandal

Lady Hero Fanshawe has chafed at society’s dictates since the death of her fiancé taught her that joy can be fleeting. When her brother disappears in Paris at the height of the Terror, she has no hesitation in disguising herself as a boy and risking her life to find him—or in joining forces with a chance-met ally, the enigmatic William Ducasse, Viscount St. Aubrey. And no regrets in indulging in a passionate affair with the dangerously handsome stranger in the shadow of the guillotine…

Half French, half English, William is committed to his shadow life, flirting with death to rescue imperiled aristocrats, and marriage is an indulgence he cannot afford. Once Hero returns to London, he refuses to risk her good name by continuing their liaison. But he has reckoned without the determined Hero’s disregard for propriety…or the dictates of his own treacherous heart.

Rating: C- for narration; D for content

The blurb for this book proudly trumpets the author’s “return to the Regency” – about a story set in 1795. If that had been the only thing wrong with Trapped by Scandal, I might have enjoyed it, a story of adventure and espionage on the streets of London and post-Revolutionary Paris with an intrepid heroine and a dashing hero intent on rescuing aristos from Madame La Guillotine. What I actually got was a pair of bland, unlikeable protagonists with zero chemistry, a non-existent romance and a pointless kidnap plot involving a cartoonish villain with a stupidly-shaped eyebrow. Sadly, he didn’t twirl it around while emitting an evil “Muahahahah!”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

My Wicked Marquess (Inferno Club #1) by Gaelen Foley (audiobook) – Narrated by Annette Chown

my wicked marquess audio

With the war against Napoleon winding down, the Marquess of Rotherstone decides it’s time to restore his family’s tainted reputation. But as a member of the Inferno Club, he knows there is only one way to redeem himself in society’s eyes: marry an impeccable young lady of beauty and breeding, whose behavior is well beyond reproach.

Someone quite unlike Miss Daphne Starling. True, she is temptingly lovely, but a whiff of scandal suggests the blond beauty may be a jilt who enjoys toying with her suitors’ emotions. Still, Max cannot resist her allure – or the challenge of proving London’s gossips wrong. Pursuing her with a spy’s cool, calm calculation, he is soon swept up in the chase. He would do anything to win her hand…and prove that even a very wicked marquess can become the ideal husband.

Rating: C- for narration; D for content

My Wicked Marquess is the first book in Gaelen Foley’s Inferno Club series, and having enjoyed reading some of the later books, I was pleased to see this appear in audio format. Annette Chown is a new-to-me narrator (and from reading an interview with her posted on Ms Foley’s website, it seems she’s fairly new to the world of audiobook narration, too), but I like to give new narrators a chance – everyone has to start somewhere, after all!

Unfortunately, however, My Wicked Marquess is a bit of a mess. The pacing is very uneven, the heroine is annoying to the point of being TSTL and there is a lot of info-dumping going on, whether as back-story or setting up future books; and Ms Chown’s narration, while decent, isn’t sufficiently engaging as to be able to carry the listener through those portions of the story that are, shall we say, less than interesting.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Dancing in the Wind by Mary Jo Putney (Audiobook) – Narrated by William Kirby

dancingwind

Like his nickname, Lucifer, Lord Strathmore is know for unearthly beauty and diabolical cleverness. A tragic past has driven Lucien to use his formidable talents to protect his country from hidden enemies. It’s a job he does superbly well—until he meets a mysterious woman whose skill at deception is the equal of his own. By turns glamorous and subdued, his enchanting adversary baffles his mind even as she dazzles his senses.

A perilous mission has forced Kit Travers into a deadly gave of shifting identities and needful lies, where a single misstep might cost Kit her life. But her disguises are easily penetrated by the Earl of Strathmore, who may be a vital ally—or a lethal enemy.

Unwilling to trust, yet unable to part, Kit and Lucien join forces to search the dangerous underside of London society. Yet even two master deceivers cannot escape passion’s sensual web—or from an impossible love more precious than life itself.

Rating: Narration D- Content B-

Some of Mary Jo Putney’s books have been available in audio format for a number of years, but the author has recently begun self-publishing some of her back catalogue in audio format.

So far, she has released books one and two (or three, depending on which listing you read!) in her Fallen Angels series – Thunder and Roses and Dancing on the Wind, and the standalone book, The Bargain, which is a personal favourite in print. Each title has used a different, unknown narrator, and although I haven’t listened to Thunder and Roses, I have listened to the other two and find myself sadly unable to recommend either of them because the performances are very disappointing.

The story of Dancing on the Wind is an intriguing mix of espionage, romance and mystery, laced with a bit of the (IMO, rather silly) paranormal. The hero, Lucien Fairchild, Earl of Strathmore has, for a number of years, worked for British intelligence, and at the beginning of the story is attempting to infiltrate a group of men known as the “Hellions Club”, a society dedicated to the pursuit of debauchery of all kinds – because he believes that one member of their inner circle is a French spy.

While he is engaged in proving to the Hellions that he’s worthy of initiation into the group, Lucien comes into contact on several occasions with a mysterious young woman masquerading as, variously, a servant, a buxom barmaid, an actress and a courtesan. Not a man to be easily swayed by female charms, Lucien is nonetheless intrigued by the woman, and becomes more and more determined to find out who she is and what she’s up to. After several encounters, she realises that Lucien is nothing if not persistent, and eventually discloses something of the truth; that she is in fact the radical journalist L.J. Knight who has penned a number of reformist articles for London newspapers. She is also writing an exposé of the Hellions Club, following claims that they are far more depraved than the original Hellfire Club, and that they are involved in kidnap, torture and murder.

That, however, is not the whole story. Lady Katherine (Kit) Travers is an extremely determined young woman, who, for the last few months, been living a double life. Her identical twin sister, Kira (Kristine) – who is a celebrated comic actress – has disappeared, and Kit is desperate to find her. Reasoning that the best way to learn about Kira’s life is to actually live it, Kit spends her time either pretending to be Kira on stage, or in disguise, investigating her sister’s disappearance. She suspects that one of the members of the Hellion Club is responsible, and being unable to find anyone to take her concerns seriously, has taken the investigation into her own hands.

The story is quite complex, especially in the first half, when Lucien isn’t quite sure which of the two sisters he is pursuing or falling for; and there are some rather odd “interludes” which have a definite S&M bent – that seem at first to be dreams or memories of Kit’s – although as the story develops, it emerges that is not the case.

I wasn’t convinced by the slightly supernatural nature of the connection between the sisters. I know people often say that twins have more than a sixth sense when it comes to their sibling, but the psychic connection between Kat and Kira and their ability to experience each other’s dreams was a little too far-fetched for my taste.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals