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Three Gals Talking: Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight

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The Prince of Midnight Audiobook Cover

Laura Kinsale’s first audiobook, The Prince of Midnight, is due to hit Audible any day now. Her entire backlist will be released in audio format in 2013 and into 2014. That’s twelve Kinsale titles and we’re excited in a big way about these sure-to-be treasures. All three Gals have listened to The Prince of Midnight and are eager to talk about the experience but first let’s start with the publisher’s blurb:

He was once a legendary highwayman. Now he’s a recluse, living out his life in a ruined hideaway. When Lady Leigh Strachan comes looking for a man who can teach her how to wreak revenge on her enemy, she’s disgusted and disillusioned to find that the famed Prince of Midnight can hardly stand steady on his own two feet. S.T. Maitland wants nothing to do with his former criminal career, or with this fierce, beautiful, unhappy woman, until the old thrill of living on the cutting edge of danger begins to rise in his blood again.  

Three Gals Talking

Brenda: I’m starting a little off topic but my very first thoughts as I downloaded these precious Laura Kinsale audiobooks were … if the many dedicated Laura Kinsale plus audiobook fans knew we had access to early listens (and where we lived) they’d get together and hire a hit man to get pre-release copies for themselves – and I’d understand. :D

Melinda: LOL. I’m ready to wax eloquent about writing and you’re imagining a riot of audiobook lovers

Lea: LOL – I’d feel the same!

Lea: I knew the combination of Laura Kinsale and Nicholas Boulton would prove to be a success but I still found myself a little stunned at the sheer perfection of the pair as I listened to The Prince of Midnight. And although I finished it several days ago, I remain in withdrawal.

Melinda: I don’t think “stunned” is the word I would use – enthralled, maybe. How about “swept away”?

Lea: Maybe stunned that an audio I had looked forward to for so long could prove to be even more than I hoped for? And my hopes were set high.

Brenda: After listening to The Prince of Midnight, I’d say shell shocked in the best of ways. I had to relisten to other favorites for a few days before I could start anything new so I understand that feeling of withdrawal.

Melinda: I was already expecting wonderful – the sample we had was wonderful.

Brenda: The sample was wonderful but for me it didn’t provide the intense emotional aspect which is something I crave in a listen. But I found it was definitely there right from the start.

Melinda: Although to be honest, until I read The Prince of Midnight in print (right after hearing the first sample), I found the sample hard to follow. I think that might be due to the sample itself – weird out of context, I think. (second sound sample here)

Lea: For me it was a case of expecting excellence and receiving more than that.

Melinda: Boulton’s skills: phenomenal. His delivery, his pacing, his tone, genders, accents – a perfect storm of excellence.

Melinda: Add those skills to Laura’s writing and it’s an experience not to be missed. She shows us so much, in so many ways, without beating us over the head with words. Nemo the wolf bounds and twists; the women in Heavenly Peace bow and scrape, but Kinsale doesn’t have to define those moments for us – she wraps us in the actions and reactions and we just know. We just know. And Boulton verbalizes them. And we are there. The action. The emotions. It’s all there – not in black and white, but full Technicolor = 3D

Brenda: I couldn’t agree more Melinda – it is an audiobook gem.

Lea: Ahh Melinda, well stated!

Lea: When I saw on Twitter that Laura Kinsale was beginning the process of producing her books in audio, I was absolutely thrilled. She’s one of the most sophisticated romance writers of all time and each of her books is truly unique. Although I hadn’t read every single Kinsale title, each one I had, stood out in my mind as a brilliant piece of writing.

Melinda: I am not as avid a fan as you, Lea, but a fan nonetheless. However, hearing that she was picking her own narrator: I had doubts, to be honest. Was it serendipitous that she chose so well? Luck? Uncommon talent?

Melinda: I don’t know that I would encourage authors in general to do this because I don’t think it’s a skill most possess. Even perfectionists.

Lea: It’s what we fear – authors picking their own narrators but if you read Laura’s account here at AudioGals, you know she not only understands what she is doing but is a perfectionist in the doing.

Brenda: Laura speaks often of being an avid audiobook fan and I think that is a large part of what gave her the ability to choose so well. Plus having the knowledge as a mother over the beloved children she’s written and how each needed to be portrayed to get her written words across – we are getting Her vision of these characters – not a narrator’s interpretation and I think that is awesome.

Melinda: I agree she did incredibly well. I’m still sticking with my opinion that she has an unusual talent for it.

Lea: She knew how she wanted her words performed as she understood the power of an audiobook.

Brenda: It takes a genuine audiobook fan to know all the ins and outs of what a listener wants to hear IMO.

Melinda: Brenda, it takes more than that! It’s a talent.

Brenda: We’re saying the same thing – just in different words – I dare say the three of us as avid audiobook fans could pick the right narrators for our favorite books. Like our wishlist/favorite combos page.

Lea: Have either of you read many of Kinsale’s books?

Melinda: Of course, Flowers from the Storm, The Shadow and the Star, For My Lady’s Heart. I’ll have to pull up my Kindle list to recall them all. I have read several at this point – some years back, and more recently I’ve been picking up ebooks.

Lea: Brenda, I believe you are new to her books?

Brenda: I hadn’t read Laura Kinsale and thought “Wow, audio is the way to go” after listening to the sample of Nicholaus Boulton. The Prince of Midnight was my first Kinsale and I was right – audio is the way to go for the full experience.

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Flowers from the Storm Audiobook Cover

Lea: What excites me is that a whole new generation of readers/listeners will discover Laura’s books. Since she doesn’t publish as frequently as she once did, I think she has dropped off the radar somewhat and new romance readers/listeners are in for such a treat!

Melinda: Definitely – I only read her because she continually stands in the AAR Top 100.

Brenda: I agree about a new generation/a new audience as another thing that impressed me. The Prince of Midnight is a 22-year-old (RITA award winning) book and it is timeless. After looking it up, I didn’t give another thought to the publishing date. It is as fresh and unique as anything written last year.

Lea: Yes – a fresh voice then and now!

Lea: My favorites are The Shadow and the Star, Uncertain Magic, and Flowers from the Storm. And now The Prince of Midnight. I wonder if that will happen to me each time I listen to one of her books!

Lea: You see, although I enjoyed The Prince of Midnight in print, it was not a fave. Nick Boulton changed that.

Melinda: Let’s talk about that. The plot – the characters

Lea: The Prince of Midnight features what I consider to be a rather atypical hero – he’s lost his hearing on one side, he’s hiding in France spending time painting yet never finishing a single piece, he can’t swing a sword or ride a horse without losing his balance, and his best friend is a wolf. Yet, he’s hero-ish all the same! What did you all think of S.T.?

Melinda: I think Leigh is one of my least favorite heroines, in spite of my complete love of the book and the audio. But S. T. is one of my favorite heroes. He’s flawed. He’s wounded. He’s vulnerable. And Leigh picks at him in a thousand hurtful ways, over and over. I wanted to throttle her!

Lea: Leigh was not a heroine I cared for either – at least in the first half of the book. She definitely didn’t have me on her side.

Brenda: Yes, she was all of those things but I consider her a Tortured Heroine allowing me to cut her some slack. And I like that Laura turned the standard on its head. I never understand why reversing just who is tortured upsets so many? Heroes are fine/acceptable if they are jerks and struggle to accept the love offered to them but heroines are hated when they struggle over a past that haunts and hardens them?

Melinda: Heroes who are jerks and struggle to accept love are not my favorites either.

Brenda: I don’t care for the tortured hero either (unless he comes around fairly early in the story) but I liked the role reversal since “tortured” is a standard trope.

Melinda: Leigh doesn’t just struggle over a past – she’s cruel. She seeks him out and is immediately disappointed in him. He nurses her to health and she hates him.

Lea: I saw the cruelty but I also saw how her refusal of S.T.’s help (or insulting him to get him to go away) changed over time. Leigh is trying to protect him. She truly thinks he will be hurt because of her request for help.

Brenda: I never felt that Leigh hated S.T. – she was afraid to feel again and as she realized S.T. was awakening feelings in her again, she struck out in fear and pain. No, she wasn’t nice and I wanted to boot her more than once but I understood her – especially after learning her back story in detail.

Lea: Exactly Brenda! But it took the narrator performing the author’s words to understand that – my brain kept trying to turn her character into something it was not. She wasn’t a spoiled girl throwing a hissy fit.

Melinda: On to S.T. – he’s one of my favorite tropes: the besotted hero.

Brenda: I love the besotted hero and we also have the isolated castle and a road trip both of which means one-on-one time for our two protagonists – another favorite of mine. Along with memorable pets – all good.

Lea: The road trip aspect is also a favorite of mine as it guarantees lots of time between hero and heroine.

Melinda: Oh the Notable Pets! Love love love Nemo and Mistral.

Lea: The relationship with the wolf – how great was that? I love the cover as it projects the relationship between S.T. and Nemo so clearly. And seeing S.T. work with the horses (all are challenges) or romping with Nemo – priceless.

Melinda: And the horse in France, the blind mare! Ahhhh!

Brenda: S.T.’s magic touch with the horses and Nemo, who was a great character in his own right, made him very appealing. The nearly blind horse added insight into Leigh’s character – she had a heart – wanting to comfort the horse by using her herbal knowledge to bathe its eyes and hurting when it was time to part ways with said horse.

Lea: S.T. is lovable yet strong. In print, I failed to fully pick up just how strong he is. Nick Boulton made me see that strength – easily.

Melinda: S.T.’s whole past is so shadowy – we are left wondering why is he in France? Why is he wounded? What happened? It’s revealed so slowly.

Melinda: It’s not even fully revealed until near the end – we are just given small pieces of his past.

Lea: The Prince of Midnight definitely gather steams as it goes along as the leads’ behaviors are understood.

Melinda: Even the demise of Silvering is only one more stepping stone to unraveling both their pasts.

Lea: And S.T.’s evolvement was enhanced by the performance. After all, Nick Boulton understood where S.T. was coming from. Therefore his faultless interpretation of his character – filling in some of the details I overlooked in print.

Melinda: Let’s talk about Nick. Sigh!

Brenda: Nick was perfect all the way around but I’ll start with my first “OMG this is going to be great” – the accents. There are a lot of French and Italian words spoken by S.T. which I would have stumbled – mumbled my way over in reading on my own but hearing the foreign words pronounced correctly and beautifully added to the perfection in listening. Both the French and British accents were detailed right down to portraying class levels which added a great deal to my enjoyment, even if I still had to look up the meanings at times.

Melinda: This.

Lea: Agreed.

Brenda: He also filled in more than the details – he provided atmosphere.

Lea: I hadn’t thought about the atmosphere he created Brenda but he did just that! It’s that atmosphere that I’m missing right now.

Melinda: I hate to fall back on the “Nick Boulton can read the phone book to me any time” line, but yeah, he can.

Melinda: He had total control of every voice in the book. Every. Character.

Melinda: Every. Accent.

Lea: And…he performs the female characters with such class.

Melinda: Exactly.

Melinda: A mere softening of the voice – one or two were raised in pitch just slightly.

Brenda: Yes to the females – they should all be performed like this – maybe he could teach – give hints. ;)

Melinda: I want to hear Boulton narrate Marsha Canham now.

Brenda: The man does not miss a voice cue – not even the smallest of them – I love that. When the text says “Between a laugh and a sob, he said,” – that’s exactly what you hear in the spoken words that follow.

Brenda: I was relistening to one of my favorite scenes, one made me laugh but also left me in awe of his skill … The scene (trying for no spoilers here) where S.T. is angry – gallops off on the first horse he sees – has an adventure and comes back too drunk to stand – carrying into the next morning’s hangover. Perfect –

Lea: Enjoyed how S.T. could go in and out of that act as needed, never missing a beat.

Lea: And just to think we have eleven more audio tales coming our way!

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Midsummer Moon Audiobook Cover

Lea: We’ll see two more Kinsale titles in July – Flowers from the Storm and Midsummer Moon. I literally can’t wait. As Melinda mentioned, Flowers from the Storm has consistently ranked high among AAR’s Top 100 Romances polls over the years. Held every three years, it ranked #6 in 2010, #5 in 2007, #2 in 2004, #4 in 2000, and #15 in 1998.

Lea: I haven’t read Midsummer Moon but I strongly remember my reaction to Flowers from the Storm even though ten years has passed since I read it. I was completely unaware of the force that was about to hit me. Never had I read such a no-frills romance with such a serious plot, solemn characters, and heart-wrenching situations. It remains the most unusual romance I have read and it left me gravely considering, not the romance, but the plight of a stroke victim in the 1800s.

Brenda: Now you’re scaring me – heart wrenching added to knowing Nick will pull it off perfectly – gripes I’ll be walking around with a box of tissues permanently in hand!

Lea: It’s wonderful – I promise!

Melinda: I haven’t read Midsummer Moon either – do you think I should read it first? Sometimes I think it helps to already have it in my head. I often want to get the audiobook after reading a book, or get the audio of a favorite.

Lea: With Laura’s books, there are so many details that I may treat myself to a read before a listen. But knowing me, I’ll listen first. I’ll be too anxious to get on with it. Nick Boulton can deliver better than my mind can project

Melinda: You are right about the details – I don’t necessarily “hear” a book in my head when reading but after listening to the first sample, then reading the book in print, I think her words work as well visually as aurally.

Brenda: I agree Melinda – her writing is so vivid on its own that the details are easy to picture and then having Nick added was like double wow!

Lea: I do read often – just not in long spells as I once did. I now listen to much more than I read – a true audio devotee. I really need to use Whispersync. That’s what I would prefer with the upcoming Kinsales. However, I purchased a good number of Kinsale titles in eBook format late last year when they were running $2.99 each.

Brenda: With this type of intensity I need to do my “read a while – listen awhile” routine so I know what’s coming and can just enjoy the perfect delivery.

Melinda: Brenda, that’s exactly my thinking – get the book details in place, then enjoy the listen. I can’t get the Whispersync concept, switching back and forth. However, I buy Whispersync deals because the price is right!!

Brenda: Amen on the Whispersync deals – but I don’t switch back and forth – I read and then listen to the exact same portion – amazing what that process adds to the experience. My eyes skim but my ears don’t.

Brenda: I see audiobooks as a movie in my head and with Laura Kinsale’s evocative writing style filling in the smallest of details and Nick Boulton bring them each to life, The Prince of Midnight was a 3D experience as was mentioned earlier. I only have to think briefly to be there again.

Brenda: I see S.T.’s gold dusted hair and lashes

Brenda: I see the painting of Charon with its worn spot from where S.T. drew his fingers over it each time he passed it.

Brenda: I see Nemo’s personality.

Brenda: I see that Leigh’s beauty can’t be hidden behind men’s clothing

Lea: I’m with you totally on that movie playing in my head! I think it quite entertaining to be one who naturally falls into the visual listening/reading crowd.

Melinda: Brenda, this is why I think Boulton would do justice to Marsha Canham’s historicals – her writing is so movie-worthy!

Lea: Agree on the Canham – missed your earlier comment. Could he portray a swashbuckling tale or what?!

Melinda: Yes ma’am! Think of Pale Moon Rider – similar to The Prince of Midnight in some ways.

Brenda: Yes a movie worthy experience. I’m excited that many first time audiobook fans will be trying an audiobook of this caliber. You couldn’t ask for a better introduction to audiobooks.

Lea: Yes, this combo certainly has the power to convert print readers to audio listeners.

Melinda: Anyone have any technical issues with the audio?

Lea: No. Technical seemed flawless.

Brenda: I didn’t have any tech issues – quality all the way.

Melinda: I didn’t either – just thought I would get that question out there.

Lea: A professional studio with a director and all – quality all the way round.

Lea: Any final thoughts before we sign off?

Melinda: Great author – excellent narrator – top notch production quality.

Melinda: Win-win-win!

Brenda: Agreed The Prince of Midnight is a grand slam homer!

Lea: I don’t want to quit talking about my experience. Maybe I need to listen to the last half once again.

Brenda: LOL – I made so many bookmarks and was trying to skim from one to another as I prepared for our talk and thought, “Heck – just listen again!”

Lea: One final thing…

Melinda: Yes?

Brenda: Okay what’s the final?

Melinda: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”?

Lea

Lea: What grades for you? Book Content and Narration?

Lea: For me, it’s an A- for Book Content and an A+ for Narration.

Brenda: LOL Melinda – Yes I agree on your score Lea 100%.

Melinda: Yes A- and A+, perfect.

Lea: Thanks my fellow Gals – love when all three of us can talk!