To mark June is Audiobook Month, I and my fellow AudioGals have been choosing some of our favourite audiobooks in our favourite genres, and this week it was my turn to choose my Top Five Historical Romance audios. Which wasn’t easy. Last week saw Kaetrin picking her Top Five Contemporary Romances, and the week before that, BJ chose her Top Five Urban Fantasy/Paranormal listens. There’s still time to enter the giveaway for earbuds and downloads – head over to AudioGals and scroll down to the bottom of this week’s post for details.
In the meantime… my Top Five.
I might as well say this right now. I am utterly HOPELESS at choosing favourites. The minute anyone says to me “what’s your favourite (something)?” my mind goes completely blank and I struggle to think of ANYthing, let alone the ones I’d rate above all others. Then after the initial panic has subsided, I can think of too many. But because, when it comes to audiobooks, I’m someone who always places the narrator ahead of the author in terms of importance when it comes to choosing the ones I want to listen to (sorry, authors!), choosing five audiobooks I think would be a good introduction to historical romance in audio for someone who wants to take the plunge but doesn’t know where to start didn’t prove too difficult. My choices are therefore selected by narrator first; and as such, feature my “Fab Four” – four narrators I would quite happily listen to if they were reading the phone book.
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper-class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old, but in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
Rating: Narration – A; Content – A
Sherry Thomas kicks off her new Lady Sherlock series of historical mysteries in fine style with A Study in Scarlet Women. In it, she introduces listeners to the main players in a way that is engaging and extremely effective while also setting up and resolving an intriguing, self-contained mystery that paves the way for what look set to be interesting developments in future stories.
Charlotte Holmes, the youngest of the four daughters of Lord and Lady Holmes is… different. She never spoke much as a child, preferring to speak only when she had something of importance to say, and she never quite understood the need to behave as other people did. As she grew to adulthood, she began to employ learned behaviours when her own instincts didn’t tell her the right thing to say or do, recognising the need for at least the appearance of fitting in if she was going to be able to achieve her ambitions.
Over in my Classics Corner at AudioGals this week, I listened to two of the many versions of Pride and Prejudice. There are something like twenty different audiobook versions of P&P available from Audible, some using well-established and recognisable narrators, some using less familiar names. I listened to two different versions – so I just scratched the surface – one from 2015 narrated by Alison Larkin and the other from 2003 narrated by Kate Reading, both of them well-known and accomplished audiobook performers. Ultimately, as with any narration, making a choice is going to come down to a matter of personal preference; the difference between literary classics and new titles is that there is usually more than one version of the former. This obviously affords the listener more choice but it also means it can be difficult to decide which version to go for if you’re not familiar with any of the performers.
When kidnapped English heiress Zoe Lexham daringly escapes from captivity, her problems have only begun. After 12 years in a harem, she knows far more about erotic practices than how to conduct a proper conversation in civilized parlors.
Her reception from London society’s ladies is arctic; the proposals from their husbands and brothers exceedingly warm; and her loving, but overwhelmed, aristocratic family fear she’ll be an outcast forever – unless someone can launch her to success (and a good marriage)!
Enter Lucien de Grey, the Duke of Marchmont. Lucien is no knight in shining armor; he’s cynical, easily bored, dangerous to women, and utterly indifferent to popular opinion. But good looks, combined with money and title, make him welcome everywhere. The most popular bachelor in the Beau Monde can easily save Zoe’s risqué reputation, if he can prevent the chemistry between them from getting so out of hand…so often…and so deliciously!
Rating: Narration – A+; Content – B
Wonderful as it is to have another new-to-audio story from the terrific team of Loretta Chase and Kate Reading, I’m a little bit sad, too, as Don’t Tempt Me and Your Scandalous Ways complete the set of recordings of Ms Chase’s backlist titles. In case someone with clout is reading this, I’m sure fans won’t object to recordings of the novellas – The Mad Earl’s Bride would be at the top of MY list! But in the meantime, we have a number of terrific recordings to listen to while we wait for something new : )
Don’t Tempt Me tells the story of a young woman, Zoe Octavia Lexham, who, at the age of twelve was abducted while on a trip to Egypt with her parents. Over the past dozen years, there have been many women turning up on Lord Lexham’s doorstep claiming to be his missing daughter, but all have been frauds. Until now. The real Zoe has at last managed to escape from her captivity and has made her way home with the assistance of the British Consulate – and her family is now faced with the prospect of re-integrating her into society and acclimating her to the position that is her due as the daughter of a peer of the realm.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.
The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford – an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honour clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:
All is fair in love and war.
Rating: Narration – A+; Content – B
I don’t mind admitting that Eloisa James is one of those authors who is a bit hit and miss for me. I know she’s got a huge following who absolutely adore her books, so this is probably one of those times when “it’s not you, it’s me”, but of the books of hers I’ve read (which is by no means all), there have been more misses than hits. As a result, I wasn’t intending to pick up My American Duchess, thinking that I’d just move on to something else rather than risk another disappointment – until I saw that Kate Reading had been engaged to narrate it.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.
Almost six weeks into 2016, and I haven’t been able to get around to writing up a post about my favourite reads and listens of 2015. I’ve written one each for All About Romance, Romantic Historical Reviews and AudioGals (running soon), and of course for each one, I could have chosen different titles or more titles… I had a good year last year when it came to books and audiobooks which made choosing the ones I enjoyed the most a difficult task.
I’m only including those books for which reviews appeared in 2015, as in most cases, I don’t put them here until they’ve appeared at the outlet for which they were initially written. This means that some of the books and audiobooks are ones I might have read or listened to at the end of 2014; similarly, there are a few missing from the end of 2015 for which reviews didn’t appear until 2016. Confusing perhaps, but if I had to go and check the date I’d actually finished each title it would have made the job of compiling this post an even longer one and given me another reason to put it off!
Of the 231 books I read and/or listened to I gave 57 of them 5 stars; 97 of them 4 stars; 52 of them 3 stars; and 16 of them 1 or 2 stars.
As Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars and I know that a large number of my 5 star ratings are actually 4.5 stars, here’s how I work them out. At AAR, we use a letter grading system; B+/B/B- and so on, so for me, an A is automatically a 5 star book (I’ve only given one A+ so far). A- and B+ equate to 4.5 stars, but I round an A- up to five and a B+ down to 4. B- and C+ equate to 3.5 stars, but I round a B- up to 4 and a C+ down to 3 and so on.
– ones I’ve given 5 stars or 4.5 stars and rounded up (A+/A/A-)
– ones that have received 4.5/5 stars or an A/A- for narration AND at least 4 stars/B for content. This will naturally exclude a few titles where an excellent narration hasn’t been matched by a story that was equally good, OR where a really good story hasn’t been paired with a narrator who could do it justice.
I’ve also (finally!) got around to updating my 2015 TBR Challenge post with the list of books I chose to read last year. I completed the Mount TBR Challenge at Goodreads, too, knocking 32 or 33 books off my pre-2015 TBR pile.
(There are some overlaps with the TBR Challenge, and as I’ve been compiling this post, I’ve realised I missed a few out!) But I’m back into both challenges again this year and shall attempt to update my progress more regularly than I managed in 2015.
To sum up, almost half the books I read and/or listened to last year got at least 4 stars, which I think is a pretty good strike rate considering the numbers of books put out (and the amount of dross that’s out there to wade through). 2016 is also off to a good start, so keep watching these pages (or find me at my other haunts!) to find out what’s making me happy 🙂
Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, may have survived the deadly perils of Egypt, but back in Regency London, he faces the most dire threat yet: his irrational, emotional family…and the completely uncontrollable Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington! Descended from a line of notorious – but very aristocratic – adventurers, Olivia has a long history of driving Peregrine to distraction, and her debut into polite society hasn’t lessened her flair for drama, or her ability to drag him into her scandalous schemes. All Peregrine wants to do is escape back to his research and the lesser evils of poisonous snakes and tomb robbers, but his family has guilted him into an impossible mission in the Scottish wilds; and Olivia – who is keenly aware that a respectable future of marriage and rules and propriety looms – decides that accompanying him will be the perfect chance for one last adventure. Besides, she really only wants to help, which is why Lisle and Olivia find themselves in a gloomy Scottish castle inhabited by grumpy servants, spiteful ghosts, and craven murderers…and possibly the greatest peril of all: the wayward commands of their very unruly hearts!
Rating: Narration – A; Content: B
When offered the choice of reviewing this or Not Quite a Lady, I immediately made grabby hands in the direction of Last Night’s Scandal because I’m a fan of the childhood-friends-who-meet-again-after-a-long-separation-and-think – “wow, you’re really hot now you’re all grown up!” – trope. That is, in essence, the plot of the book, but this IS Loretta Chase, so it’s expertly done, with plenty of her trademark deadpan humour and quick-fire banter, as well as a subtle exploration of the inner lives and motivations of her protagonists.