Dark romance fans are surely familiar with Pepper Winters, who returns with a duet named Truth and Lies which, though not as dark as some of her prior works, mixes some of these dark elements with a strong suspense plot sure to keep the listener guessing. Please note though that from a character development perspective, the heroine is a bit inconsistent: strong in some aspects of her life (like her business savviness), but a bit helpless in her personal life. This left me overall with a bit of unease at the conflicting nature of her character, including some of the actions that she takes regarding the hero. I would say this book is best enjoyed by listeners who enjoy the “heroine needs to be saved” trope. One additional cautionary note is worth mentioning: Crown of Lies does a good job of introducing the background of the story, but ends in one huge cliffhanger. So only start this book if you’re also willing to commit to listening to book 2, Throne of Truth.
Noelle (“Elle”) Charleston has been groomed to take over her father’s retail empire (a lucrative chain of retail stores called Belle Elle) since she was a child. She has never had much of a real life since she spent nearly every waking moment learning the ropes from her Dad. She even dropped out of school at 16 to work full time at Belle Elle. As you can imagine, given this stoic and work-filled life, Elle longs to do basic things that most of us take for granted, such as walking the New York streets without her body guards and wearing “fashionable” clothing for girls her age rather than the designer suits she wears to fit her role as a top-level executive at Belle Elle.
So one evening, to celebrate her 19th birthday, she does just that. She slips down to the department store, takes clothes appropriate for her age (though she does leave an IOU in the cash register!), and slips away from her security detail to experience what a normal girl her age would in New York. Unfortunately, what she never could have imagined is that she would become the victim of a mugging and an attempted rape in a dark alley. Fortunately for her, however, she is saved by a mysterious stranger, a man who she shares her first kiss with and who will remain a mainstay in her mind for years. Unfortunately for her, however, since that evening ends in an arrest of that same mysterious stranger, who never even told her his name, all she has of him are memories. Try though she might, in three years of looking for him she turns up empty-handed.
Then one day her father decides that it’s time she finds a husband and sets her up with the most conceited man she has ever met, Penn Everett. Penn arrogantly believes, and lets her know, that she will capitulate to him and surrender control to him. However, he’s incredibly stingy with any information about himself. Nonetheless, when he offers her a proposal she can’t refuse, Elle’s life takes a turn, and she slowly begins to realize just how much she doesn’t know about Penn and how dangerous he may be, even if he does strangely remind her of the hero who saved her all those years ago. Can there possibly be a HEA under the circumstances?
One factor that influenced my decision to review Crown of Lies was the unusual narration style used. I have always been a big fan of audiobooks that have dual narrations where the female narrator voices all of the heroine’s (and other female characters’) dialogue and the male narrator voices all of the hero’s (and other male characters’) dialogue. To me this just sounds more natural (like a play or movie) and makes it very easy to differentiate the characters. So when I listened to a short sound sample and heard this narration style, I was instantly sold.
Unfortunately, however, one thing that I did not notice in the small sound sample (perhaps because I was so overjoyed that they were employing this method) is that Kylie Stewart’s narration was somewhat flat overall. In this regard, she sounded more like she was reading than acting, which in my mind, for the most part, negated the advantages of using this narration approach. What I love the most of this technique is that it gives you a sense of being in the scene and overhearing the characters interact and, in the case of the narratives, listen in to the character’s thoughts. With other books that have used this approach (and indeed, even with an A-styled narration by one narrator) you can feel the emotion of the scene, and each character has a distinctive, distinguishable voice. While I enjoyed Eric Rolon’s parts quite a bit more, because he did impart emotion into his characters and had a very sexy voice to boot, Ms. Stewart’s subdued style really dampened my enjoyment considerably from what I had hoped for.
All in all, Crown of Lies was a decent start to a dark romance duet. While the heroine’s helplessness and somewhat inconsistent nature wasn’t my favorite, and I questioned some of her actions, I did generally enjoy the suspense angle which kept me guessing as to what Penn’s true motivations were. All that said, the narration was real mixed bag, so if you plan on listening, I suggest you listen to the sound sample and really pay attention to Ms. Stewart’s parts to see if her style suits you.
Narration: Kylie Stewart C; Eric Rolon B
Book Content: B-
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Fighting, Domestic violence (attempted rape)
Genre: Dark Romance
Publisher: Pepper Winters
Crown of Lies was provided to AudioGals for a review.