When Whiskey Beach was released earlier this year, I declined to review it. I had read some early remarks about the original narrator and listened to the samples, and I decided it wasn’t going to be the type of experience I would enjoy enough to finish the audiobook. The original narrator was not inexperienced – he has over a hundred titles at Audible. It just didn’t seem like a good fit for romance, even romantic suspense.
Imagine my surprise when I got the announcement from Audible that the book had been re-recorded because of customer complaints! Really, I don’t know of any audiobook withdrawn and re-issued with a new narrator in a few months time. I recall that Fifty Shades of Grey was remastered to change the narrator’s voice because there were so many complaints that she sounded too young. But withdraw and hire another voice artist? Color me amazed!
I hadn’t read the book in print even though I am a Nora Roberts fan and finding more and more that I like to read a book before listening to it, so that only the author’s words influence my rating of the actual story. It’s romantic suspense, with one of Nora’s stock beta-type heroes.
Here’s the publisher’s blurb: For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets. But to Eli Landon, it’s home… A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigations after being accused of—but never arrested for—the murder of his soon-to-be-ex wife.
He finds sanctuary at Bluff House, even though his beloved grandmother is in Boston recuperating from a nasty fall. Abra Walsh is always there, though. Whiskey Beach’s resident housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist, Abra is a woman of many talents—including helping Eli take control of his life and clear his name. But as they become entangled in each other, they find themselves caught in a net that stretches back for centuries—one that has ensnared a man intent on reaping the rewards of destroying Eli Landon once and for all…
My take on the story: It’s pretty standard NR suspense. Her writing, phrasing, plotting, is all excellent. I had no idea whodunit until the last hour of listening, which is always a good testament to a suspense plot. She brings in a lot of great characters – neighbors, family, grizzled cops with a grudge, a couple of great dogs. It makes for a 3-to-4 star story. My one quibble might be narrator-driven. I really, really disliked and was annoyed by the heroine.
Abra is a Dharma to Eli’s Greg. A free-spirited, tarot-reading, yoga-teaching massage therapist who is eternally optimistic. Did I say optimistic? I meant know-it-all busybody who thinks she knows what is best for everyone, even when they don’t (and they never do). And I’m not 100% sure if NR wrote her that way, or Luke Daniels just created her with his voice and mannerisms.
My take on the narration: Let’s talk about Daniels’ narration here. His Eli voice is perfection personified. I felt him slip into Eli, become Eli, create Eli, live, breathe and feel Eli. Really! He was great with Eli. And his narrative voice was excellent – he was matter-of-fact, straight-forward but with emotion and depth needed in romance. His Abra, however, was a pushy, annoying know-it-all who giggled too much. Daniels seemed to dig deep into his inner diva for her voice – not in falsetto pitch, but in attitude. I heard Abra as someone who paid no attention to what other people had to say – why should she, when she knew what was best for everyone? Hands on her hips, shaking her head at the common folk, she just did and said whatever she felt like. Was that Daniels’ character or Nora Roberts’ character? I guess I’ll never know, but whoever she was, I didn’t like her.
Daniels also does that Thing – he gives voice to sounds that are not written out. The giggles, the throat-clearing, the tsks, the sighs. In fact, the phrase “chewing the scenery” kept popping into my head as I listened. He couldn’t just read the book – he had to Act. Every single character except Eli had some kind of accent and mannerism – all of Eli’s relatives (mother, father, sister, grandmother) had pronounced Boston accents, but not Eli. Those character-driven Acting bits really started to get on my last nerve. There’s a difference between creating enough differentiation in characters to make them distinct and creating full-blown, heavily-accented character voices for every single person in the book. I’ll give him this: he was consistent. Every time Grandma spoke, she had the same uppercrust elderly Boston sound. Every time Detective Wolf had something to say, it was in his gritty south Boston voice. I could envision his squinty eyes trying to see through the fog ala film noir.
Was Daniels better than the original narrator? I didn’t go back and listen to the first one, but I did listen to the clips Brenda posted. Honestly, although they were very different, I can’t say from the clips that one was better or worse than the other. Peter Berkrot seemed to have a good suspense novel voice – slightly gritty. He approached women’s voices differently but not with the dreaded falsetto. Did Daniels use a breathier voice for Abra? Maybe, a little. But it wasn’t the breathiness that I objected to – it was the sighs, the giggles, the not-part-of-the-narrative vocalizations that I didn’t like, and the attitude he exuded that I’m not sure was written into her character. And the dreaded heavy over-use of regional accents. And the endless scenery-chewing, which, by the way, he did well, in his own over-the-top way. It wasn’t bad acting, it was over-acting.
OK, maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe it was bad acting.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in – but tame
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Brilliance Audio