Melinda: On March 25, Men of Romance Audiobooks will talk to the Virginia Festival of the Book – narrator Andi Arndt has gathered a group of male narrators to talk about creating performances that carry romance listeners from first blush to happily ever after – one of our favorite topics, right, Gals? Who are some of your favorite male narrators, or should I say, Ear Boyfriends?
Caz: I’ve got to start by saying that while there are some really great male narrators of romance out there, THERE AREN’T ENOUGH OF THEM! Earlier, BJ said she often felt that male narrators couldn’t always perform the female characters to her satisfaction and Shannon had similar concerns – whereas with a few exceptions, I would generally prefer to listen to a man who is more likely to sound masculine enough to portray the hero than to a woman who isn’t able to sound suitably/relatively “manly”.
Kaetrin: I tend to prefer female narrators as well. I agree with BJ that it seems easier (or at least more likely to be successful) for a female narrator to deliver a good male voice than the other way around.
BJ: That’s not to say I dislike male narrators – for instance, I would put Alex Wyndham in the best in class category for Historical Romance. And there’s one male narrator who I consider above average but whose one top performance definitely comes to mind: Sebastian York in Emma Chase’s Tangled. I think he nailed the hero’s character (Drew), a cocky investment banker whose sarcastic humor sounded like it was written for his voice!
Melinda: Yes, I’m really enjoying the combination of York reading Chase. He really does get the humor in her writing, and portrays it wonderfully!
Caz: Agreed on that. I listened to Tangled recently, and loved it. Sebastian York really has cornered the market on the sexy, alpha guy’s PoV stories à la Chase and Lauren Blakely, to name just two. There’s just something about that laid-back almost drawl of his…
Shannon: I’m a huge fan of York’s voice, but his female depictions don’t quite do it for me. People like Nicholas Bolton, Holter Graham, and Jim Frangione are the ones who fill my heart with joy.
Kaetrin: I think Sebastian York has vastly improved his female character voices since his early narrations. I can’t help but think this is something he’s actively worked on. And to Wyndham and York, I’d add Nicholas Boulton, Shane East, and, my most recent “discovery”, Lee Samuels (who I recently rated highly in Melanie Harlow’s Man Candy).
Caz: I’m with Kaetrin on Wyndham, Boulton and York, but haven’t heard the others mentioned. Nicholas Boulton would make my top five – his recordings of Laura Kinsale’s books are real highlights in the genre, but he’s incredibly versatile, too. His narration of Alexis Hall’s Glitterland is – quite simply – brilliant (and is up for an Audie this year.) Listening, as I do, to historicals around 90% of the time, the choices are really limited when it comes to finding books read by men. I’ve enjoyed many of Simon Prebble’s romance narrations, but he’s “retired” from the genre now, so other than Nick Boulton and Alex Wyndham, my go-to chap is Derek Perkins, who is someone I know I can always rely on for an excellent all-round performance. James Langton is another favourite, although his female voices can sometimes be a bit problematic. But that goes back to what I said at the beginning, which is that I’m prepared to sacrifice a bit on the women’s voices (unless they’re really dreadful) in favour of listening to a hero I find believable and attractive! (Yeah, I’m shallow…)
Shannon: Caz has definitely picked a winner with Derek Perkins. His voice makes me practically swoon whenever I listen to him. His performance of Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman is truly masterful.
Caz: I’m so glad you think so, Shannon – I think he’s just got better and better over the last few years, and I’d definitely put him on my “A” list of narrators.
Melinda: Agreed, all of those are great! I would add Patrick Lawlor reading romantic suspense by Suzanne Brockmann. And Kaleo Griffith reading Pamela Clare! Both of them are great at making me feel the urgency of the suspense angle, as well as doing the sex scenes just right. Both are a bit inconsistent in delivering women’s voices, though – sometimes spot on, sometimes not. Still, lots of great choices!
Shannon: Melinda, you’re totally right about Kaleo Griffith. I love the way he emotes. He excels at making me really feel every scene, which is difficult for any narrator to do. I admit, I’m picky about male narrators in romance. I want them to do female voices without using falsetto, and that’s not something I hear a ton of.
Lea: I’d add Will Damron to the list. Rarely do I pre-purchase an audiobook but when LaVyrle Spencer’s The Fulfillment was released, I did so knowing he would deliver this old romance decently. Often when an old favorite is finally released in audio, the listener is ultimately disappointed in the narration but not so here. I was completely satisfied with his performance of this Spencer oldie.
BJ: In general, I tend to enjoy male narrators when they perform the hero/male PoV in a dual narration with a female narrator who performs the parts of the book from the heroine’s PoV. There are also a number of male narrators who perform romantic suspense very well. For example, Melinda mentions Patrick Lawlor who narrates Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series – he’s really good in those.
Caz: This is true. I recently listened to a new-to-me narrator, Greg Tremblay, in a romantic suspense story (Tinderbox by Rachel Grant) and he was absolutely superb.
Melinda: Shannon brings up falsetto – actually, that’s my biggest pet peeve. When a male narrator slips into “head voice”, I think he sounds like Julia Child – arg! I’m a fan of the men just slightly raising the pitch and maybe changing the tone to indicate women. One of my first favorite male narrations wasn’t romance, but actor Will Patton reading James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series; he does it right.
Caz: I have no idea what Julia Child sounds like, (*goes to look it up on You Tube* – eeek!) but yes, I agree there. Greg Tremblay, who I mentioned upthread, does some of the best female voices I’ve ever heard. No falsetto – which I also find hugely off-putting – but that softening and lightening of timbre and pitch that generally works really well – for me, anyway.
Brenda: I’m a big fan of Luke Daniels. He’s the Renee Raudman of male narrators for me in “living” a story. He’s narrated a few of Nora Roberts’ series romance titles – Time Was and Times Change and The Mackade Brothers quartet. Best of the lot was The Heart of Devin Mackade – if you don’t cry at the end with his portrayal of Cassie’s little girl you don’t have a heart. :D
Lea: Same here, Brenda. I first discovered Luke Daniels when he narrated Nora Roberts’ Whiskey Beach and was so impressed with his performance that I decided then and there that he was a narrator I would follow to other books. I saw another side of Luke when he participated in our Narrator’s Forum in March 2015. Not only is he a greatly talented narrator but he so clearly articulated his observations on the audio industry. I was thoroughly impressed with his overall knowledge and understanding of the industry and what listeners want to hear – not just in romance but all genres.
Melinda: I’ll be interested to hear the panel talk about their experiences as romance narrators – maybe there’s a gender bias at the publisher (or author) side that chooses more women? So far, I’m open to either gender reading it well. I was a little surprised recently by a book in first person from both protagonists point of view, all read by the same female narrator – generally I like women narrators, but I’ve gotten used to hearing the dual narrations, when it’s written in first person. This isn’t new and not specific to romance, either – my first dual narration in first person was The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which was a 5-star listen for me in 2006.
Shannon: I’ve become a fan of the dual narration thing too. I think it allows narrators to truly shine in the areas in which they excel. They still perform opposite-gender dialogue, but they can really “become” the character whose PoV they’re representing.
Caz: Once again, I’m a dissenting voice, because I tend to prefer one narrator who can do it all ;) But then I suppose it’s a case of what you’re used to; I don’t think I’ve come across an historical romance that uses dual narration, but then the writing style tends to be different. While the reader/listener does get to experience both the H/h’s PoV, 99.9% of the books are written in the third person (which I prefer) while many contemps are first, so perhaps a single narrator works better. But you mentioned gender bias, and I can’t help wondering the same thing. Are there fewer men narrating romance because they’re just not asked? And if that’s the case, audio producers take note: I’m sure I can’t be the only audiobook fan in existence who would like to hear more men narrating romance novels.
Melinda: I think the one thing we would all agree on is this: when Romance narration is top-notch, no matter who it is – male or female – we love it! Please tell us in the comments what you think about male narration in Romance – yay or nay? Who are your go-to Ear Boyfriends? And what questions do you have for the Men in Romance Audiobooks narrators?