We’re continuing our Gals’ Romance Audio Favorites talks. We started in October with those romance audios that rate an A for all three of the Gals. Earlier this month, we took a look at those favorites shared by Melinda and Lea. Later we’ll have a third discussion featuring Lea and Brenda’s Shared Favorites. Also, for quick reference, you’ll find those Three Gal Favorites below as well as those featured in Melinda and Lea’s favorites talk.
Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
From Audible: Casey Ellis has arrived at a lonely place in her life. Her mother remains in a comatose state several years after a terrible accident – and now her father has died. Although Casey never met him, she held an oblique hope that someday her father might acknowledge her. She watched from afar as the illustrious Dr. Cornelius Unger became a celebrated psychologist and teacher. Through it all, she clung to the illusive dream that someday he might take notice of her – and now it is too late…
Melinda: I recently listened to and reviewed Flirting With Pete. You already know Rosenblat is one of my favorite narrators, so the fact that I liked it so well wasn’t really a surprise. What was a surprise was that you liked it, Brenda! You’re the one who loves paranormal! When did you first listen to it?
Brenda: I’ve been listening to romance audio long enough to say that there was no paranormal genre when I began, ouch. I checked Flirting with Pete out from the library shortly after it was released (publication date 2003). I hadn’t read it beforehand and was repeatedly surprised as the plot was revealed. Was this your first listen?
Melinda: Yes – I’m a Delinsky fan, and her backlist is pretty long so it’s taking me a while to get to all of them. I know we don’t want to spoil the suspense for Lea, since I refused to even name the hero in my review – so my cryptic question for you is, “Do you agree with my assessment that it’s truly romantic suspense and not just women’s fiction?”
Brenda: Yes I do! There’s a heavy romantic suspense angle and though the romance is a slow build, you know it’s there and it’s a whopper by the end. It really was a great audio experience. I think Lea is going to really love it!
Melinda: The combination of the unusual plot and the A+ narration really made this a great listen. Lea – better put it on your TBL list!
From Amazon: Who said, “you can’t go home again”? In Veronica Davis’s case, who’d want to—especially when you hail from Fossil, Washington? But now she’s back among the kooks and crazies, the small-time losers and the jerks who think she’s fair game just because she’s in a waitress uniform. The truth is, Veronica’s the boss—at least until she can sell the family saloon and skip town again as fast as her pretty legs can carry her—and nobody knows that better than Cooper Blackstock. From his place behind the bar, the former Special Forces Marine sees everything. And his undercover agenda has made the feisty boss-lady’s troubles his own…
Skintight narrated by Johanna Parker
From Amazon: Professional poker player Jax Gallagher should have known better than to wager a World Series baseball that wasn’t his to lose. Now the man who won the collectible is demanding his prize…or else. Trouble is, the ball is owned by his estranged father’s widow—a flamboyant Las Vegas showgirl. Jax will do whatever it takes to get it back. Yet Treena McCall is anything but the ruthless gold digger Jax expects. She’s built a life for herself filled with good friends and hard work. And she’s got enough on her plate trying to hang on to her job as a dancer without being wined, dined and seduced by sexy Jax Gallagher…
Brenda: Melinda, I know you and I both agree that Susan Andersen is a terrific author as two of her audiobooks are in both of our top favorites list: Head Over Heels and Skintight. I discovered Andersen through her Romantic Suspense (RS) books, like Exposure, Present Danger, and On Thin Ice and I thought she was the next best thing to Linda Howard.
Melinda: That’s funny, I did the opposite but had the same reaction – I started with her lighter books, and glommed her backlist before reading her RS. And yes, she’s still right up there with Linda Howard!
Brenda: I find that often people who read her RS titles, after reading her lighter books, are disappointed in the suspenses. For me it was going from darker to sunnier with laughs.
Melinda: I think you’re right about that – I have read several reviews of her RS books with lower ratings, but I am still a big fan of her entire work.
Brenda: When I found Head Over Heels on cassette and learned it was Anna Fields narrating, I didn’t even blink – I had to have it. Ex-Marine Cooper Blackstock comes to life as all Anna Fields’ men do, and I enjoy hearing his no nonsense attitude only to hear it melt away around his niece Lizzy. And heroine Veronica and her best friend provide some great laughs, too, while Aunt Ronnie takes her first steps into being a full time parent of her sister’s daughter. As usual, when Anna Fields is narrating, you forget that one woman is behind all the characters!
Melinda: Totally agree – for me the audiobook is flawless (I also digitized it from cassettes!) and raises my print version grade of A- to a definite A+. Anna Fields really made this one shine.
Brenda: It was well worth the time spent converting it to MP3. I also did that with Skintight, but I’ll admit I was first in line to get the digital download at Audible! I’m a big fan of Johanna Parker too, and felt her narration kicked this story up a notch for me too.
Melinda: I like Johanna Parker ok – she’s the voice of Sookie Stackhouse – but she’s no Anna Fields. I did like her reading of this and felt she gave each character a unique and consistent voice.
Brenda: There is no other Anna Fields! I enjoyed all the characters too, but this one has the Big Misunderstanding written all over it, which usually sends me running in the opposite direction. I actually dreaded the hidden identity reveal for a good part of the book. I realize now that was part of the “edge of my seat” RS feeling I like! I was pleasantly surprised at how Andersen handled it. I also liked the secondary romance between the older couple, residents at Treena’s apartment complex. Johanna Parker’s excellent skills added just the right touches of emotion for me – it’s a favorite relisten.
Note: Both of these Andersen titles are hard-to-finds. Skintight is no longer available at Audible (as best we can determine).
Mr. Perfect narrated by Laura Hicks
From Audible: What would make the perfect man? That’s the deliciously racy topic that Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends are pondering one night at their favorite after-hours hot spot: Mr. Perfect. Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warmhearted – or will just muscular do? As their conversation heats up, they concoct a tongue-in-cheek checklist that becomes an overnight sensation… But what began as a joke among friends turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered… Turning to her neighbor, an unpredictable police detective, for help, Jaine must unmask a killer to save her friends…
Open Season narrated by Kate Forbes (abridged) or Deborah Hazlett (unabridged)
From Audible: Daisy Minor is bored. Worse than that, she’s boring. A plain, small-town librarian, she’s got a wardrobe as sexy as a dictionary and hasn’t been on a date in years. She’s never even had a lukewarm love affair, let alone a hot one. So when she wakes up on her 34th birthday…she decides it’s time to get a life – and a sex life. And as far as she can tell, good girls don’t attract nearly as many men as bad ones… One makeover later, Daisy has transformed herself into a party girl extraordinaire…But on her way home late one night, Daisy sees something she’s not supposed to see. Suddenly (she’s) the target of a killer…
Melinda: I guess that brings us to Linda Howard – I know you and I both love a good Howard RS story! You had already told me that Mr. Perfect was going to be good, but I had to wait for the recent Audible release to get the full appreciation. It was PERFECT!
Brenda: Hah! I knew you were going to love it!
Melinda: I have read and re-read it so many times I have it practically memorized, and I still found new things to laugh about! When she explains that her name was supposed to be Janine, but the hospital left the N off the birth certificate, so it’s Jaine – and her mother decided she liked it better – I dunno, that really got me chuckling.
Brenda: That’s because it’s pretty much non-stop laughs for a big part of the book. Jaine thinking she’ll have to boil her finger after poking Sam in the chest when thinking he’s a drunken sot and then her swearing meltdown when she finds out he’s a cop – hilarious. It’s pretty incredible that LH can take a very serious subject and write a gripping, suspenseful murder mystery that is so frigging funny! Take another of her romantic comedy/suspense books, Open Season. I wasn’t expecting the abridged version to be so great, but with Kate Forbes as narrator I gave it a chance. I was excited to see the newer, unabridged version released recently, with Deborah Hazlett, though.
Melinda: I have listened to the abridged version of Open Season more than a dozen times. When I finally read it in print, so I’d get the full story, I realized it was a brilliant abridgement – kudos to whoever did it! But like you, I was looking forward to the full version, and was, well, sort of disappointed. Hazlett was good – but Forbes was soooo much better!
Brenda: I totally agree that Forbes’ reading has all the little pluses, including that “southern” feel that she used in the general narration, which made Jack’s northern-ness stand out even more. Another plus: a much more manly sounding Jack. She catches his personality exactly as I envisioned when I read it. It’s the best abridged book I’ve ever heard!
Melinda: See, and here I thought you were all paranormal, all the time – turns out you’re a closet romantic comedy listener too!
Brenda: I may listen to a lot of paranormal and urban fantasy these days but romantic comedy is high on my list of favorites as well. Actually there isn’t a romance audio I won’t try when an author and narrator team come together offering a great listening experience no matter the sub genre. The abridged version of Open Season is an excellent example of this.
Now for those favorites we have already discussed:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Narrated by Davina Porter
Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas Narrated by Virginia Leishman
The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
Death Angel by Linda Howard Narrated by Joyce Bean
Cry No More by Linda Howard Narrated by Joyce Bean
After the Night by Linda Howard Narrated by Natalie Ross
Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips Narrated by Anna Fields
Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips Narrated by Anna Fields
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley Narrated by Angela Dawe
Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer Narrated by Kate Forbes
Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts Narrated by Stechschulte
One Summer by Karen Robards Narrated by Anna Fields
Kill and Tell by Linda Howard Narrated by Natalie Ross
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris Narrated by Johanna Parker
All four Julie James titles narrated by Karen White:
Just the Sexiest Man Alive
Something About You
A Lot Like Love
About That Night
And although we featured Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me If You Can and Natural Born Charmer in our discussion, the entire Chicago Stars series are Three Gal Favorites narrated by Anna Fields:
It Had to Be You
Nobody’s Baby But Mine
Dream a Little Dream
This Heart of Mine
Match Me If You Can
Natural Born Charmer
Brenda & Melinda