You don’t hear much these days about some of the best romance audiobooks out there – books that aren’t offered as downloads or hard copies either at retail outlets. In fact, you have to search Amazon in an almost detective-like manner to find many of these books. And some that I successfully tracked just a few years ago are now beyond my finding skills. But I know they are out there by the simple fact that I have an old set of cassette tapes or CDs sitting in the closet that holds audiobooks from my early days when I used a boom box or Sony Walkman cassette player for listening.
You can find some of these hard-to-find (HTF) jewels by shopping for used copies on Amazon, Half.com, and eBay – for starters. But expect to pay big bucks. And, of course, you may be lucky and find a set of cassettes or CDs at your library. However, these library audiobooks have been listened to for years now and quality is a big issue. But think about it…an excellent combo of author and narrator – a dynamite team with an outstanding romance – and it’s just out of your reach hiding in some publisher’s archives.
Hunting for Hard-to-Find Audios will be a regular feature here at AudioGals. Each month we’ll take a HTF romance audio and, not only talk about it, but provide audio samples as well. Why tempt you with an audio that you may never be able to listen to? Well…we have a plan – one that hopefully means you may see the HTF title of your choice rereleased some day. We’ve been inspired by recent rereleases of a number of those former HTFs including Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect, Nora Roberts’ Carnal Innocence, and Amanda Quick’s Wicked Widow.
As we talk about the HTF audio of the month, we hope to create a group of listeners who will join us in crying out for the featured audio to be rereleased as a download at Audible at the very least, if not hard copy formats as well. But there’s a catch. We need YOUR help in finding the contact person necessary to make such a request. We’ll provide you with the original release information. You all then send us an email with possible contact info and we’ll publish it for all to see once we have it verified.
The Gals will send emails requesting the book and we’ll ask you, as romance listeners, to send the same request. In turn, we’ll mention to audio publishers our interest in the audiobook.
And, of course, we will provide you with avenues for finding the month’s HTF with some pricing (if we can find it). Be prepared for a buying challenge and probably a library quality issue. If you find a library copy of good quality, let us know and we’ll spread the word.
Our First Hunt – Now Available!
One Summer by Karen Robards
Narrated by Anna Fields/Kate Fleming
EDITOR’S NOTE: As of January, 2014, One Summer by Karen Robards is available from Blackstone Audio, Inc. at Audible.com and Downpour.com.
We’re rallying the troops this month for Karen Robards’ One Summer. It is an extreme favorite for both Brenda and Lea (landing on their “bests” of romance audios again and again). It’s narrated by none other than Anna Fields (Kate Fleming) and you’re safe in assuming this is Fields at her finest.
Released in September 2000 in audio cassette format, Amazon lists John Curley & Associates as the publisher. FictionDB catalogs the publisher as Sound Library – are those one and the same? Both provide the ISBN 978-0792723899. FictionDB gives the CD version a publication date of 2002 by Sound Library – ISBN 0792726383. One Summer’s original print release was January 1993 in hardcover and was published by Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0385308366
Can you find a contact person for us? We find no recent information on John Curley & Associates and finding the Sound Library looks to be more than a little challenging.
If you are hunting for your own copy, look at Amazon, Half.com, and eBay. We found one copy at Amazon for $50.97.
Two Gals Conversing – Lea and Brenda
Lea: I read One Summer nine years ago during my first days of reading romance. Although I’m not what you could call a Karen Robards fan, I immediately marked it an A and knew it was one I’d reread more than once.
Eight years ago, I started listening to audiobooks. As you know Brenda, at that time it was more a game of hunting for romance audio treasures as new releases weren’t near as plentiful as we see today. In fact, I’m pretty sure we both thought searching for those HTFs was quite fun! I discovered two used cassette tape copies of One Summer at Half.com but couldn’t bring myself to pay the $55.00 price tag (the cheaper of the two) and put it on my Wish List waiting for notification of an affordable copy. I waited for FIVE years before giving in and asking for it as a gift. It was only then that I discovered Kate Fleming was Anna Fields! Yep, we paid that full $55.00 and I was thrilled.
What were the particulars of your hunt Brenda?
Brenda: I read One Summer shortly after it came out having borrowed it from the library as a hardback. By the end I was wowed but I’d had a niggle with Rachel having a boyfriend in the beginning. That must be why I didn’t add it to my keeper shelf when the paperback was released. Fast-forward to the July 2010 Speaking of Audiobooks column where you mentioned One Summer was available as an audiobook. My mind told me “you really did like that book” with the clincher being that it was narrated by Kate Fleming/Anna Fields. I hit Amazon within minutes grabbing the least expensive of the three sets of cassettes available at the time. It remains one of the best audiobook discoveries ever and I’d been treasure-hunting favorites for years via eBay or Amazon. I wasn’t daunted by the thought of listening on cassette as I had many keepers in that format already. What about you Lea, did the thought of having to drag out your Walkman again have you hesitating to listen or regretting the investment in a cassette copy?
Lea: I had to wonder why the heck I waited five years! I was completely entertained – so what if I had to listen on my old Sony Walkman Sports cassette player? If I’d only known that Kate Fleming was Anna Fields, I would have jumped on it immediately. Shows what a difference research makes. A favorite book and Anna Fields? Irresistible!
Now for the Review and Sound Samples
One Summer features schoolteacher Rachel Grant, now in her mid-thirties, and former student Johnny Harris, five years younger, who has spent the last ten years imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit. An extreme bad boy in high school from the other side of the tracks, Rachel sensed a deep intelligence beneath Johnny’s rough façade and knew there was more to this particular student who enjoyed reading and poetry.
The book opens with Johnny’s release from prison. Rachel has agreed to employ him at her family’s hardware store as a condition of his parole. The chemistry sparks between the two as soon as he steps off the bus and Rachel sees Johnny for the first time in eleven years:
Then there he was, in the doorway. Johnny Harris. He wore scuffed brown cowboy boots and beat-up jeans and a white cotton T-shirt. His shoulders were wide enough to stretch the knit shirt taut across them. His biceps bulged with muscle, and his skin was surprisingly tan. He was thin. No, that wasn’t the right word – lean was the one she wanted. Lean and hard and rough as leather. His hair was the same color, coal black, as it had always been, though it was longer than he used to wear it, almost touching his shoulders, and wavy. His face was the same – she would have recognized him anywhere once she looked into it, although several days’ worth of stubble blurred the lines of his jaw and chin. The sullenly handsome boy she remembered was still sullen, still handsome, but no longer a boy. He had matured into a dangerous-looking man.
Lea: What an intro! I thought it effective in print but hearing Anna Fields set up Johnny’s appearance was like a drumroll of things to come. Brenda, where do you think we should start with the sound samples? There’s so much to choose from.
Brenda: Lets start at the beginning. Johnny walks off that bus with a chip on his shoulder a mile wide (and rightfully so) while Rachel’s surprise at seeing a “man” exiting the bus mixed with his seeming disrespect of the only person willing to befriend him keeps her off balance. Anna Fields portrays this perfectly in their first interactions as you can hear in this short montage of conversational clips.
Lea: Oh yeah, he’s still the total bad boy and a man rather than the boy she remembers which he thoroughly proves in this opening scene. His attitude towards life jumps off the page with just the right amount of emphasis.
Okay, let’s try to tempt romance listeners further to cry out with us in asking for the rerelease of One Summer. Here’s more from that opening scene that starts at the bus station – tell us where we’re coming in Brenda.
Brenda: Rachel is now driving him to his new home and trying to come to grips with Johnny treating her as a woman instead of a teacher. He revels in continuing to bait her with one shocking comment after another.
Lea: Anna Fields adds greatly to this scene with her expressive performance of Johnny and Rachel. Rachel’s “What?” says it all.
What’s up next for our listeners?
Brenda: We’re skipping a few descriptive passages that let us know Rachel has a backbone but here she once again pulls her calm around her determined to stay in teacher mode just before delivering Johnny to his apartment.
Lea: We’ve been concentrating on setting up Johnny as the bad boy he was – and still is – to those who don’t care to look deeper. It’s not long before we see that Johnny has a tender spot for Miss Grant and a shift occurs in their interaction with one another. I know we are approaching one of your favorite lines in the narration Brenda.
Brenda: As Johnny settles into his new apartment and job, we find out his true motivation in turning to Miss Grant to help him gain parole. Johnny goes from irritating to cajoling Rachel and that is when he won my heart keeping me riveted to the story to hear “this” voice woo her time and again.
Lea: I appreciate the fact that Johnny doesn’t play games. That sound clip made me totally tune into his character. Johnny sounds just like I imagined when reading the print version and Rachel sounds just as Johnny describes her – a lady.
Robards allows her characters to be real and she effectively avoids any big misunderstandings, which I appreciate to no end. I’m relistening to One Summer for the third time as I write this and I feel the romance as strongly as the first. It’s a love between two mature adults despite the age difference. In one scene Rachel reflects, “At that moment it was Johnny who seemed the more mature, the more in control of the situation.” He may still be that bad boy with a few partying ways but his love for Rachel is based on wisdom combined with choices.
What were your overall thoughts on the romance?
Brenda: Although it surprises Rachel, the chemistry between her and Johnny is clear from the start. Her hesitation is understandable especially given the situation. But what makes Johnny a hero is not only his determination to win Rachel despite the odds, but his true understanding of her nature. He knows the dreamer she keeps locked inside and he’s willing to bare his past and rise above it to prove he is the man for her. The marriage proposal scene shows he’ll always be that bad boy but underneath is the heart of a man truly in love – who can resist that combination?
Lea: Since One Summer was written in 1992, one would expect an aged contemporary. I didn’t notice the aging all that much – no lack of a cell phone when needed or an out-of-date computer (none at all). However, I did notice Rachel’s wearing of pantyhose nearly every day, the music, and the reference to Johnny’s long hair. None of those details distracted from the story even one bit. But I guess I should add that I tend to favor romances written in the early 1990s. Did the original date of release take away from your 2012 listening experience?
Brenda: I generally notice immediately that a book is from a decade or more back and take the time frame into consideration while I listen. But I agree it didn’t actually cross my mind except in the “Dirty Dancing” scene – One Summer was released after the movie. You have to wonder if Ms. Robards was inspired a bit with that one. ;)
When the question of favorite Romantic Suspense comes up, One Summer hits my list because from the beginning you know the true murderer is still in town and not happy to see Johnny back. But that angle plays in the background for the most part. Lea, I know you don’t see this one as romantic suspense although I can see why you feel it’s Contemporary Romance instead.
Lea: Yes, it’s always a little fun to see you and I list our favorites on some public forum – you reference One Summer as Romantic Suspense while I mention it as Contemporary Romance! I have always considered it a contemporary but I too understand your thoughts about the suspense. I guess I get so lost in the whole Johnny and Rachel thing that the suspense (which was the weakest part of the book IMO) just fades into the background.
We hope to hear from you about One Summer. Even if you can’t provide suggestions as to contact info, please let us know if you wish to see this HTF rereleased in audio as well!