Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War 1 by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Audiobook) – Narrated by Alex Wyndham, Billie Fulford-Brown, Morag Sims, Gary Furlong, Derek Perkins, Greg Wagland, Antony Ferguson, Jane Copland and Mary Jane Wells

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes – as everyone does – that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafés of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently….

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict – but how? – and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war, he also faces personal battles back home, where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears – and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris – a cherished packet of letters in hand – determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Rating: Narration – A+ : Content – B+

Last Christmas in Paris is a beautifully written, superbly narrated epistolary novel which centres around the correspondence exchanged between three friends during the years of the First World War. I suspect the degree to which any listener will enjoy the story will depend on whether one enjoys novels that consist entirely of letters; personally, I’m a big fan of that literary device, so that, added to the fact that I have a particular interest in the history of the period, plus the list of excellent narrators attached to the project pretty much ensured my enjoyment of this audiobook. And enjoy it I did, although ‘enjoy’ seems rather a feeble word to describe how I feel about it now that I’ve finished listening to it. I was so caught up in this story of friendship, emancipation, love, loss, tragedy, hope, despair… a real gamut of emotions, that I couldn’t bear to set it aside; I listened to it in only two or three sittings and, when I finished it, felt that strange sense of emptiness that always seems to descend when I’ve finished reading or listening to something really good – that feeling of “what do I do now?”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells


This title may be purchased from Amazon

When the Duke of Ashbury returns from war scarred, he realises he needs an heir – which means he needs a wife! When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress visits wearing a wedding dress, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars. 
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has secrets and some rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

When a girl meets a Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Rating: Narration – A- Content – B

Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal is the first book in her new Girl Meets Duke series, and – oh, joy! – it’s narrated by Mary Jane Wells. Her ability to bring out the humour in the texts she narrates combines very well with Ms. Dare’s ability to put the humour there in the first place, and – if you can get past the somewhat implausible premise of a duke marrying a seamstress – the combination makes for a very entertaining listen.

Emma Gladstone is a seamstress in dire financial straits who had relied on the fact the wedding dress she made for the future Duchess of Ashbury would be seen by the entire ton, thus garnering her a hefty fee, and, more importantly, bringing her more work from the great ladies who saw it. But the wedding has been called off, and with her rent due and creditors thumping on her door, Emma takes the bull by the horns, puts the dress on and marches right into the no-longer-bridegroom’s house to ask for her fee.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

In Celebration of June Is Audiobook Month

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.

You can read the rest of my list at AudioGals.

Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

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An eccentric wallflower
Most debutantes dream of finding husbands. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy – and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

I think it’s fair to say that Devil in Spring is the most highly anticipated historical romance of 2017. I know that I – along with practically every other fan of the author and the genre – was excited at the prospect of meeting Lord St. Vincent mark II in the form of Gabriel Challon, eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Kingston; aka Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter, surely one of the genre’s most beloved couples.

In the book’s prologue, Sebastian – who is as gorgeous at sixty as he was at thirty – and Evie discuss the fact that a couple of nights earlier at a ball, Gabriel was found in a compromising position with Lady Pandora Ravenel. Pandora, who had been attempting to do a favour for a friend, became stuck in the ornate scrollwork of a piece of furniture, and when Gabriel was helping her get free, they were seen at the worst possible time by their host, leaving Gabriel no alternative but to offer marriage.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence (anthology) by Julia Quinn, Laura Lee Guhrke, Elizabeth Boyle and Stefanie Sloane (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux’s Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings…

“Something Old”
Julia Quinn’s prologue introduces her heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for Four Weddings and a Sixpence.

“Something New”
In Stefanie Sloane’s unforgettable story, an ever-vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday. But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

“Something Borrowed”
Elizabeth Boyle tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed. Now she’ll need to borrow one to convince them she’s found her true love.

“Something Blue”
In Laura Lee Guhrke’s story, unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

“… and a Sixpence in Her Shoe”
Julia Quinn finishes with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin-until it led all of her friends to true love. But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!

Rating: Narration – A- ; Content – C-/C/B+/B

I’m not a big fan of anthologies or novellas in general, because I find there are few authors who really understand how to use the shorter form to greatest effect, and I most often come away from them feeling a bit disappointed. And anthologies tend to be uneven; there will usually be one really good story and the others will be of lesser, variable quality. So why did I listen to this one? A look at the narrator’s name will answer that question. Mary Jane Wells can make even average material enjoyable to listen to, and while two of the stories here do fall into the average category, the other two – from Julia Quinn and Laura Lee Guhrke – definitely transcend that qualification. Each story in Four Weddings and a Sixpence features one of a group of four friends who, while at school, find an old sixpence in a mattress and, based on the words of the old rhyme:

Something old, something new

Something borrowed, something blue… and a silver sixpence for your shoe

– decide to keep the sixpence on the chance that it may lead them to true love.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Date at the Altar (Marrying the Duke #3) by Cathy Maxwell (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

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This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Twice he has been close to the altar and still no duchess. Will the third time be the charm?

A duke can’t marry just anyone. His wife must be of good family, be fertile, and be young. Struggling playwright Sarah Pettijohn is absolutely the last woman Gavin Whitridge, Duke of Baynton, would ever fall in love with. She is an actress, born on the wrong side of the blanket, and always challenges his ducal authority. She never hesitates to tell him what she thinks.

However, there is something about her that stirs his blood, which makes her perfect for a bargain he has in mind: In exchange for backing her play, he wants Sarah to teach him about love.

And he, in turn, has a few things to teach her about men.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B-

It’s no secret that I’ve been rather disappointed with the previous books in Cathy Maxwell’s Marrying the Duke series; my reviews of The Match of the Century and The Fairest of Them All have praised the performances given by Mary Jane Wells, but the stories themselves have been lacklustre. Part of the problem was that, in both cases, the major secondary character of Gavin Whitridge, the Duke of Baynton, was far more interesting and attractive than either of the heroes and I was at a loss as to why either of the heroines would have thrown him over for someone else!

But throw him over they did, and now, in this final book in the trilogy, Gavin finally gets his HEA. In the latter stages of The Fairest of Them All, Gavin met Mrs. Sarah Pettijohn, a widowed actress and playwright, when the pair had to join forces to track down her niece, Lady Charlene, who had run away with Gavin’s twin brother. The sparks flew between them, with Sarah labelling Gavin an arrogant stuffed-shirt, and Gavin insisting Sarah was an infuriating harpy. Both of them were extremely relieved when their journey came to an end, and they did not expect to see each other again.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Fairest of Them All (Marrying the Duke #2) by Cathy Maxwell (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

fairest of them all audo

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

The penniless orphan of a disreputable earl, Lady Charlene Blanchard thrives on the adventure of picking the pockets of unsavory gentlemen to survive. But due to her extraordinary beauty and prized bloodlines, she is hand-chosen as a potential bride for the Duke of Baynton, who is on the hunt for a suitable wife to provide heirs. All Char has to do is act the part she was born to play and charm a duke she’s never laid eyes on into proposing. Except the duke turns out to be the tall, dark and sexy stranger who just caught her red-handed as a thief!

Or is he? Jack Whitridge is the duke’s twin who had “gone missing” over ten years ago. Now back in England, he knows that the supposed Lady who has his brother’s love is hardly duchess material—except he needs her to save his adopted country from war. He is willing to bargain with her heart, until he finds himself falling for Char . . .

Rating: Narration – A; Content – C-

I’m going to confess upfront that the only reason I chose to listen to this second book in Cathy Maxwell’sMarrying the Duke series, The Fairest of Them All, is because Mary Jane Wells is the narrator. I was singularly underwhelmed by the first book, The Match of the Century, which was where we first met Gavin Whitridge, the Duke of Baynton. That book tells the story of Gavin’s younger brother, Benedict, and Elin Morris, the young lady to whom Gavin had been betrothed for a number of years. Ben and Elin had been young lovers who were torn asunder when their fathers discovered them, and the book tells the story of their finding their way back to each other.

Although he genuinely cared for Elin, Gavin clearly saw that she and Ben were meant for one another and graciously stepped aside. But he is still in the market for a wife, and in the manner of handsome princes everywhere, holds a ball to which all the eligible young ladies of the ton are invited. He is instantly captivated by the most beautiful young woman he has ever seen, Lady Charlene Blanchard, the daughter of an earl who gambled away everything he owned and then took his own life, leaving his wife and daughter practically destitute. Even so, Charlene is lovely, demure, poised and everything Gavin is looking for in a duchess. He quickly secures her hand for the first dance, but things don’t get that far because the ball is suddenly interrupted by a group of American gentlemen, one of whom turns out to be Gavin’s long-lost twin brother, Jack, who disappeared from Eton when they were fifteen and from whom nothing has been heard for the last seventeen years.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.