Lady Be Bad (The Duke’s Daughters #1) by Megan Frampton (audiobook) – Narrated by Jilly Bond

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

In the first book of The Duke’s Daughters series, the Duke of Marymount’s eldest daughter, Lady Eleanor, knows the burden of restoring her family’s good name is hers to bear. So a good but loveless match is made, and her fate is set. But then Eleanor meets her intended’s rakish younger brother. With his tawny hair, green eyes, and scandalous behavior, Lord Alexander Raybourn makes her want to be very bad indeed. And since his very honorable sibling is too busy saving the world to woo Eleanor, Alexander is tasked with finding out her likes and dislikes on his behalf. But the more time Alexander spends with the secretly naughty Eleanor, the more he knows that what they both want and need is each other.

Rating: Narration – B-: Content – C-

I’ve enjoyed some of Megan Frampton’s historical romances in print, so when I saw her latest book, Lady Be Bad, pop up in audio format, I decided to give it a listen. Ms. Frampton’s work is in similar vein to that of authors such as Tessa Dare and Maya Rodale; generally light-hearted and peppered with witty dialogue and with a slightly more serious undercurrent that lends a bit of depth and colour to the story overall. In the case of Lady Be Bad, that undercurrent is to do with the lack of options available to well-born young women in the early nineteenth century and how stifling it was to know that one was being brought up to have no individuality, no opinions and no choice in the direction of one’s own life. That’s a theme often explored in historical romance, but it’s been done much better than it is here, and this first instalment in Ms. Frampton’s The Duke’s Daughters series falls very flat. The storyline is clichéd and predictable, the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes, the writing is stodgy and repetitive; and while Jilly Bond is a very experienced narrator, her somewhat quirky delivery generally proved to be more hindrance than help.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer (audiobook) – Narrated by Jilly Bond

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When young and beautiful governess Kate Malvern finds herself unemployed, she is taken in by Minerva Broome, the aunt she has never met, and whisked away to the majestic country home of Staplewood. However, things are not as they seem: strange things start to happen in the manor and Staplewood soon turns from an inviting stately house to a cold and gloomy mansion with a dreadful secret!

Rating: B for narration; B- for content

If you pick up Cousin Kate expecting to listen to one of Georgette Heyer’s trademark romantic comedies of manners, then I’m afraid you might be a little disappointed, as this book is somewhat of a departure from her usual vein.

Cousin Kate is more of a gothic mystery than a romance (although there is one), in which the orphaned Kate Malvern is taken in by her aunt, only to discover that there is perhaps more to that lady’s motives than simple generosity.

Kate is twenty-four, and at the beginning of the story has just returned to London following her dismissal from a post as governess because one of the young men in the household couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Having followed the drum for more than half her life, she has no airs or graces about her, even though she’s a well-born young lady – which is just as well because when her father died, leaving her with nothing, she had to make her own way in life. In London, she stays at the home of Sarah Nidd, her former nurse, who is outraged at Kate’s latest idea of trying to find herself work as a ladies maid, which is, in Sarah’s opinion, no occupation for a young lady of quality.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

Vicar’s Daughter to Viscount’s Lady by Louise Allen (audiobook) – narrated by Jilly Bond

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Dutiful daughter Arabella Shelley is bitterly unhappy at home with her tyrannical father. Both her sisters have run away and the future looks bleak until handsome Rafe Calne, Viscount Hadleigh, sweeps her off her feet. A few weeks, later pregnant and abandoned, Bella sets out to force Viscount Hadleigh to do the right thing. And he does – the problem is, it isn’t the viscount she had been expecting…

Rating: B

In my opinion, Louise Allen is one of the consistently good authors in the Harlequin Historical stable, so I will usually consider buying her books as they come out. Last year, I think it was, I got a Kindle version of this title, but haven’t got around to reading it; so when I saw it was on my library’s digital audio service, I thought I’d give it a listen.

With audiobooks, of course the choice of narrator is crucial as they can make or break the book. Here it’s Jilly Bond, and I thought she was pretty good. Her voices for the male characters didn’t make me cringe and she was especially good as the dutiful and insecure heroine, Arabella Shelley.

I believe this is the second in the series of books about the Shelley sisters, and although I haven’t read or listened to the others, I don’t think you have to do that in order to enjoy this one.

Arabella and her two sisters live with their tyrannical father, a vicar, who expects them to remain unmarried and to look after him in his old age. Her other sisters have run away from home, leaving Arabella to bear the brunt of her father’s displeasure and despotism. Desperate to escape herself, she is blinded by the good looks and charm of Rafe, Viscount Hadleigh – and naïvely believes his protestations of love and promise of marriage. He seduces her and leaves her pregnant.

A few weeks later, Arabella sneaks away from the vicarage and makes her way to Hadleigh’s estate. Arriving tired, cold and hungry, she confronts her seducer – only to discover that the man she thinks is Rafe is actually his brother, Elliott, Rafe having died a few days earlier.

Unlike his brother, Elliott has a strong sense of honour, and feels he must do right by Arabella in order to atone for his brother’s irresponsibility and to bring up her child – if it is a son – as his heir.

The story is unoriginal, but well-told and I thought the author handled the conflicting emotions of the hero and heroine very well indeed. Both Elliott and Arabella are so intent on doing what they perceive their duty by each other to the extent that each fails to realise that the notion of doing one’s duty – whether in the bedroom or the breakfast-room isn’t going to be enough to make their marriage work.

Arabella’s lack of self-confidence in her ability to satisfy her husband in bed is quite natural given her experience with Rafe, who was not only manipulative, but cruel; and I liked that this part of the story wasn’t allowed to drag on for too long. Arabella and Elliott begin to feel comfortable with each other and to work as a team over improvements to the estate; and Elliott begins to realise that he has married a woman who is more than capable of maintaining her position as his viscountess. But the rot begins to set in when Elliott starts to resent the fact that, should Arabella’s baby be a boy, Rafe’s son will inherit his title and estate rather than a son of his own. He knows his feelings do him no credit and actually I thought this was very realistic; Elliot is not perfect, but a man struggling to do the right thing. He is open with Arabella about his feelings – for the most part, lack of communication is not an issue between them – but even so, he cannot forgive himself for feeling as he does. But despite his misgivings, he is there for Arabella when she needs him, and surprises himself when he discovers the love he has for the child once it’s born.

Of course, all is eventually worked through and Arabella and Elliott get their HEA, including, right at the end, the reappearance of one of Arabella’s long-lost sisters.

I thought this was a decently-written story, which, while predictable in outcome, had depth to it in terms of the way it dealt with some of the more difficult emotional aspects of the narrative. The fact of Arabella’s previous relationship with the hero’s brother was not put easily aside, but wasn’t made so much of it that it was difficult to reconcile with the eventual HEA. And I liked that Allen didn’t shy away from showing Elliott in a less than heroic light over his feelings about the baby.

All in all, I liked the story and I thought that the chosen narrator did a very good job. I would certainly not be averse to listening to more audiobooks read by Jilly Bond.