It’s easy to name my 2012 favorites but it’s hard to rank from 1 – 10 as that order often fluctuates, influenced by my most recent favorite, my current listen, or simply my mood for a particular genre.
That said, I have given my rankings a lot of thought over the past few days as I relistened to parts of each book. Of these ten books, I read three in print before listening which influenced my thoughts as well.
Narrated by Karen White
Despite the fact that this author/narrator combo ranked high on my list of favorites with Just the Sexiest Man Alive in 2010, I hadn’t read Julie James other titles in print. I went into Something About You with high expectations that were met sublimely with its storyline and delivery. Cameron and Jack’s story grabbed my attention from the beginning as I listened to Karen White skillfully deliver Cameron’s humorous inner monologue. Then there are those multiple sound effects including “Wheewammawamma – Wheewammawamma” which are voiced in a way that is forever etched on my brain bringing an inner chuckle each time they come to mind.
Assistant U.S. attorney Cameron Lynde is staying overnight in a luxury hotel during some home renovations when she overhears what ends up being a high-profile murder involving a U.S. Senator. The unfortunate incident brings Special Agent Jack Pallas back into her life when he is assigned to the investigation. Cameron and Jack have a past working relationship which ended with Jack blaming her for nearly ruining his career three years ago. Now they need to work together once again keeping Cameron as the one valuable witness safe while trying to ignore the spark of attraction that has always existed between them.
Karen enlivened each of the character with enviable skill. Cameron’s standoffishness comes through in the beginning as does Jack’s anger over past events but you also hear each of them eventually thaw as the story progresses. The personality of Jack’s new partner, Wilkins, jumps off the page vividly and provides the perfect counterpoint to the tension. Deep-toned Jack remains my favorite male character as performed by Karen White – fabulous.
Narrated by Angela Dawe
The third book in Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasure series, The Many Sins of Lord Cameron features the second oldest Mackenzie brother, Cameron, and Ainsley Douglas, a woman he has found searching his bedchamber not once, but twice. The now widowed Ainsley possesses skill as a lock pick and the Queen is using her to recover personal letters that would cause a scandal if made public.
Cameron and Ainsley’s story edged out the well-loved The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. That may be due to the fact that their story was new to me in audio while I had experienced The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie in print before listening.
Having oft times mentioned a particular nit I have had with Angela Dawe’s narrating style, the fact remains that Ms. Dawe brought each of Jennifer Ashley’s Mackenzie men alive in a spectacular way making the entire series a highlight of my 2012 listening. I am so impressed with her distinct and incredibly delicious voices for each of the Mackenzie brothers. Then there are the effectively voiced heroines as well as the large cast of valets and ladies maids that add much depth and character to the listener’s enjoyment as their personalities shine forth.
Melinda’s review of The Many Sins of Lord Cameron provides in-depth details and insights. My thoughts echo hers – those button scenes were so simple yet so seductive.
Narrated by Angela Dawe
Coming in a close third for all the above reasons, Jennifer Ashley’s way with a story grabs me and this one contains a genuinely unique romance hero. Combined with Angela Dawe’s ability to deliver him beyond expectation (even managing to enhance him with an addictive Scottish brogue), The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was a pleasure to the ears.
Beth Ackerley is told that Lord Ian Mackenzie is mad and, if she hadn’t looked into his eyes, she might have believed it after he gives her a note upon their first meeting warning her to not wed her despicable fiancé and then follows it with a proposal of marriage within the hour. Beth quits London for France after breaking off her engagement and Ian follows her, both to escape being framed for murder and to follow the woman who entranced him with one look. Beth knows that Ian is not dangerous and is soon willing to indulge in a scandalous affair with the sexy Scottish nobleman as well as help prove him innocent.
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
No Rest for the Wicked ranks high for me because the fabulous narration took a story I had been ambivalent about and made it into an engrossing listen from page one. I heard so many more details than I’d read in print during even the smallest of scenes such as the numerous creatures gathered at the opening of the Hie. The majority of those creatures don’t make another appearance yet they remain vivid in my mind with their vast array of accents and the humor Petkoff exhibits simply with his tone. His performance of Sebastian’s patient determination to do what was needed for his “Bride” despite her rebuffs, convinced me that Sebastian is heroic and appealing while adding an understanding to coldhearted Kaderin’s actions. A man who won’t give up on his destined mate despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find her heart, is a true hero. I gained all of that and more with Robert Petkoff’s off-the-charts talent. He accomplishes the same with the next two entries in the Immortals After Dark series making them some of my 2012 listening gems as well.
Narrated by Holter Graham
Fair Game is the fourth book in the Alpha and Omega series. Featuring the reclusive Charles and his new mate, Anna, in a spinoff of Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, the writing shines bright. Narrator Holter Graham is a master in delivering every nuance of the story in a striking way bringing this listen to my top favorites list despite my abhorrence of the serial killer POV angle. I have to skip that aspect in order to revel in the excellence that remains as Anna proves to be Charles’ savior this time.
Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
It might have taken me an hour to settle into listening to Extreme Exposure but once under the spell of Kaleo Griffith’s narration, I was lost to both the story and the pleasure of hearing Reece and Kara delivered in a way that pushed my preconceived notions out the window and boosted my enjoyment to a remarkable level. For more details see my review… I am both eager and hesitant to move on to the next books. They’d most likely be on this list as I’ve taken a few bites but I’m hoarding them like a stash of the best chocolate waiting for the perfect time to devour them in uninterrupted glee in a back-to-back extravaganza.
Narrated by Karen White
Again this combo brought me a delightful listening high with the trademark witty banter and dry humor delivered just right. Kyle and Rylann’s backstory was a splendid way to fast forward their current attraction while still allowing for the full development of both characters. Hearing Kyle fleshed out with the details of what makes him hero material (beyond being a rich man’s son with a pretty face) and Rylann’s determination to hold tight to her work ethics despite the renewed attraction to her star ex con witness was captivating. All three of Julie James 2012 audio releases are full scale listening parties that I look forward to attending often.
Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
Oracle’s Moon makes my list with another unique storyline as only Thea Harrison can write. Khalil, a big bad man, well – a Djinn actually – falls for two very small children so completely that he is willing to learn what it takes to be part of a world he considers beneath him. Grace is a young heroine learning to use a gift she shouldn’t have received while standing as a parent in a faceoff with Khalil over the safety of her niece and nephew no matter how powerful he is. Sophie Eastlake’s narration of this pair and the children was ideal with the inclusion of Grace’s southern accent, a well portrayed four-year-old and Khalil’s inherent arrogance. Listening to Oracle’s Moon with its mix of humor, unlikely romance, and surprising twists and turns was a first rate success.
Narrated by Renee Raudman
Neither Ilona Andrews nor Renee Raudman can do wrong in my eyes/ears so Gunmetal Magic was a slam dunk on my top ten list. Listening to Renee Raudman take us through Andrea’s struggle to gain her footing after being kicked out of a job she loved and her lover’s life brings new depth to this masterfully created post shift Atlanta world.
Andrea is pulling herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, the investigative firm she runs with her best friend Kate. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda and the man Andrea thought was her mate—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. As always, Renee Raudman is able to express all the delicate shadings of the story with her consummate portrayal of Andrea and Raphael as they work together to find the killers. The romance slowly finds a way to triumph (after slights that would have destroyed a weaker love) and while that angle untangles, there is plenty of action, hard to imagine monsters, a few snippets of Kate and Curran, and the frequent appearance of Ascanio (my favorite full of himself teenager) making this audiobook nothing short of a blue ribbon winner.
And 10… The clamoring for number ten has been driving me nuts … Susan Ericksen is always top notch in her performances of J.D. Robb’s In Death series and there are two 2012 entries to the series. Amanda Ronconi’s perfection in delivering Molly Harper’s laugh out loud funny Driving Mr. Dead (which I see is considered a 2012 release). How about Courtney Milan’s novella, The Governess Affair, with its rich story and the thrilling fact that I loved Rosalyn Landor’s hero voice? Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts was finally digitally released in 2012 so everyone can enjoy the wonder that is Tom Stechshulte as Tucker Longstreet. Or shall I listen to one I’m predicting to be a favorite before this year is really out and see where the chips fall then? Such a dilemma – but it’s a dilemma I’ll happily deal with each year to have this bounty to choose from.