Narrated by Nicholas Boulton
It’s finally here. I’ve been talking about The Shadow and the Star since I first discovered Laura Kinsale’s plans to release her books in audio format. In case you haven’t heard (which is doubtful if you hang around AudioGals), this is my favorite Kinsale book, so much so, that it also ranks as one of my all-time favorite historical romances.
Through Nicholas Boulton’s performances of Kinsale’s titles, my appreciation for her writing has increased. Where before, I may have been a bit resistant to her difficult lead characters (especially heroines) in print, with Boulton relating each tale so superbly, I’ve learned to rest, even as the tension builds to almost uncomfortable heights or the personal suffering of a lead character makes me want to shy away. In doing so, I’ve learned to trust the author to consistently deliver a riveting story that, while I may be a little worn out from the anticipation or worry, I’ll be tremendously pleased with in the end.
Compared to the intensity found in Flowers from the Storm or For My Lady’s Heart, The Shadow and the Star is soothing. It’s simply an exceptional romance story without the extreme angst or emotional lows.
Samuel Gerard lives with the Ashlands, a wealthy family with origins in England residing in Hawaii. Lady Ashland rescued Samuel from an intensely abusive environment when he was a boy and the family has since accepted him as one of their own. Dojun, the family’s Japanese butler, has played a large part in Samuel’s life, teaching him martial arts and how to train his mind to be a formidable weapon. Embracing chastity, he’s now a highly skilled warrior although in his every day life, no one suspects such – not even the Ashlands.
With these rigorous years of training, a sharp intelligence, and his quiet forceful manner, Samuel excels in anything he sets his mind to. Uncertain of his exact age (mid to late twenties), he does know it’s time to move to the next stage of his life and marry the Ashlands’ daughter, Kai. It’s something he has always felt was both his fate and his duty. Now in London, accompanying the Ashlands on an extended visit, Samuel secretly keeps himself busy throughout the nights, on a mission of reprisal.
Leda Etoile is a properly raised English woman on the fringes of London society. With no family or funds other than that which she earns, she works as a shopgirl at a fashionable London dressmaker. Leda meets the Ashland women and Samuel when they accompany visiting Hawaiian royalty to the shop.
Leaving her job that very day after the owner places her in an untenable position, Leda hopes to find work as a typist. She quickly discovers there is no such work for a shopgirl without a reference and desperation starts to sink in. Waking up one night to find Samuel in her room, Leda’s world starts to fall completely apart. However, it’s Samuel who offers her a lifeline with an offer of employment as his secretary.
True to my experience when listening to previous Kinsale audios, Nicholas Boulton injects another level of enjoyment with his delivery – it’s as though he takes the story to a higher level. I doubt I will return to merely reading a Kinsale title. Each event comes alive with clearly distinguished characters and a telling that draws you in closer to each and every scenario no matter how small.
When you listen to as many audiobooks as I do, it’s impossible not to compare one narrator to another, always on a silent search for the “best”. And although Davina Porter voicing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Anna Fields performing Susan Elizabeth Phillips contemporaries remain at the top of my most beloved narrations, it’s now a three way tie with Nick Boulton’s remarkable telling of these Kinsale tales. It’s rather amazing as he’s relatively new to narrating but he comes armed with impressive acting credentials (see our interview with Nick and Laura).
My previous Kinsale listens (five to be exact), have received an A or A+ grade for narration. With The Shadow and the Star, however, I’m taking the grade down a small notch to an A-. Samuel is the first hero to speak with an American accent and I felt it – not in a good way. Was it me or was it the narrator? It took me at least half of the audio to wrap my mind around his interpretation of the hero. Samuel just sounded so nice most of the time even when I thought he should be sounding a bit stern. Now, is this evidence of Samuel’s extreme discipline over his mind? Did he use a polite way of speaking to disguise his feelings – good or bad? Possibly. I so trust Boulton’s characterizations that he had me wondering rather than complaining.
Leda is a lovely heroine – vulnerable, kind, and intelligent. Samuel is a compelling hero with just the right mix of mystery and honesty overlaid with his struggle to keep rein on his desire for Leda. Set in both England and Hawaii, it’s a beautiful story and one not to be missed.
Book Content: A+
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Hedgehog, Inc.
The Shadow and the Star was provided to AudioGals for review by Hedgehog, Inc.