Deep in the middle of my current relisten of Blue-Eyed Devil, I had to simply sit down and write about this exceptional romance audio. It’s too much to contain otherwise. After all, how many romance listeners can resist its opening lines? Especially when performed by Renee Raudman:
He stood with the insolent, loose-jointed slouch of someone who’d rather spend his time in a pool hall. Although he was well-dressed, it was obvious he didn’t make his living sitting behind a desk. No amount of Armani tailoring could soften that build – big framed and rugged – like a roughneck or a bull rider… But it was the eyes that seized my attention, blue even at a distance, a volatile color you could never forget once you’d seen it… Those blue eyes glinted with an uncivilized suggestion.
As much as I adore Kleypas’ historicals, I love her contemporaries even more. And that love is firmly rooted in her Travis Series. Starting with Sugar Daddy, it’s a little off the beaten track for Kleypas with a women’s fiction feel for more than half the book. But then it really delivers in the romance department and leads directly to the door of Blue-Eyed Devil (BED).
Although BED works as a stand-alone, it’s all the richer if you first listen to Sugar Daddy – skillfully narrated by Jeannie Stith. That said, if you’re trying to decide if you want to go straight for BED, this review contains spoilers for the first.
Hardy Cates is one of those heroes in need of redemption. He’s a good guy turned shady and, even with his oversized ego weighing him down, you want to see that good guy return – but this time with a definite edge. Renee Raudman, known for her ability to perform romance heroes to perfection, doesn’t fail here in the least. Hardy sounds all male, all long tall Texan (re: that perfect cover – doesn’t it say it all?), and all self-made millionaire.
Written in first person, Haven Travis tells the story and Ms. Raudman gives her a genteel southern accent that’s both lovely and entrancing. Haven is a rich girl who marries a man her daddy doesn’t like and subsequently is not on the best of terms with her family. When her marriage disintegrates into spousal abuse, Haven finds herself living a desperate life. Listening to Haven talk when she can barely form words after a beating, moved me far deeper than when I had merely read the print version. Through Raudman’s delivery, I heard her pain and desperation and the fears lurking in her mind. I heard her vulnerability and hesitancy as she reentered her old life, the workplace, and Houston society. And I heard her regaining much needed confidence on the job. Raudman made me feel Haven.
Although Haven and Hardy met before her disastrous marriage (those opening lines are delivered in Haven’s voice as she sees Hardy for the first time), they don’t meet again until she is past her marital breakup and into her recovery stage. Their relationship proceeds gently, yet realistically, and is purely romance – something that surprised me after the women’s fiction feel of Sugar Daddy.
Renee Raudman clearly distinguishes her male characters (and there are five with significant roles), each matching their personality. The same goes for Haven, Liberty (heroine of Sugar Daddy), and Vanessa (Haven’s boss). That means it’s smooth listening, emotionally-wrenching listening, exuberant listening, and audio entertainment at its best.
Book Content: B+
Steam Factor: For your burning ears only
Violence: Domestic violence
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Brilliance Audio