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June is Audiobook Month! Caz’s Top 5 Historical Romance Audiobooks – and a Giveaway!

June is Audiobook Month!

Caz’s Top 5 Historical Romance Audiobooks

I might as well say this right now. I am utterly HOPELESS at choosing favourites. The minute anyone says to me “what’s your favourite (something)?” my mind goes completely blank and I struggle to think of ANYthing, let alone the ones I’d rate above all others. Then after the initial panic has subsided, I can think of too many. But because, when it comes to audiobooks, I’m someone who always places the narrator ahead of the author in terms of importance when it comes to choosing the ones I want to listen to (sorry, authors!), choosing five audiobooks I think would be a good introduction to historical romance in audio for someone who wants to take the plunge but doesn’t know where to start didn’t prove too difficult. My choices are therefore selected by narrator first; and as such, feature my “Fab Four” – four narrators I would quite happily listen to if they were reading the phone book.

As part of the Audio Publisher’s Association June is Audiobook Month celebration, there will be 4 winners of a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post!

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn1. Without question, the finest narrator of historical romance working today is Rosalyn Landor. She has an instinctive understanding of the romance genre and an inherent affinity for historicals; her beautifully modulated voice and intonation make her a natural for stories inhabited by well-to-do gentlemen and ladies of the ton. She’s incredibly versatile and can slip easily into different characters from all walks of life, young and old, male and female, and I’ve never been disappointed when listening to her; even when a story is below par, her performance makes it at the very least worth listening to.

It’s difficult to pick just one narration of hers as she has probably recorded more historical romance than anyone else, but if I have to pick, I’m going for the recent recording of Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me, the second of the author’s Bridgerton books. I have a soft spot for it, as it’s the first of Ms. Quinn’s books I read and one of the first historicals I ever read, plus it employs my favourite trope when the hero and heroine are compromised into marriage.

 

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1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, this author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better… – Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry – he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield – the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams.

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands – and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate is determined to protect her sister – but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself.

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Honourable mentions: Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga and Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series

 

Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale2. No list of favourite historical romances would be complete without the name of Laura Kinsale and no list of outstanding narrators could be taken seriously were the name Nicholas Boulton not to appear on it. Mr. Boulton’s recordings of Ms. Kinsale’s books really raised the bar in terms of what listeners have learned to expect from narrators of historical romance, and deservedly so, because these twelve audiobooks should be at the top of anyone’s list of audio HR favourites. The problem then becomes which one to choose. Flowers from the Storm is, quite rightly, one of Ms. Kinsale’s most beloved books, and the audio version is, quite simply, stupendous. This story of the debauched duke brought low in the worst possible way and the young Quaker woman with whom he falls in love is tragic, heart-breaking, spellbinding and gloriously romantic. Nicholas Boulton’s superb performance brings an extra dimension to the story as he literally inhabits the character of the once-proud duke brought low by illness and disability, and his interpretation of Maddie Timms gave me a new insight into her character. You could happily choose any one of these outstanding collaborations to begin with**, but this would be my recommendation.

 

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The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant – and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the “D of J” in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives the shocking news – the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely – and bind them together in need, desire…and love.

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Honourable mention: Seize the Fire boasts probably the most heroic anti-hero ever and is my personal favourite, but perhaps not the best place to start**.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase3. Another writer without whom any list would be incomplete is Loretta Chase. There’s a reason Lord of Scoundrels is a perennial favourite among historical romance readers; it’s funny, sexy and features two superbly matched-characters in the Marquess of Dain and Jessica Trent who enchant readers (and listeners) as they bicker their way to true love. But this is so much more than an historical romantic comedy; the chemistry between the central couple is hot enough to strip paint and their verbal interactions simply sparkle with wit and humour, but there’s a real depth to the story, too, especially when Dain’s past comes back to haunt him. Up until a few years back, Lord of Scoundrels was at the top of our most wished-for audiobooks, and I don’t mind admitting that I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when Kate Reading was engaged to narrate it. Besides being a truly excellent vocal actress, she really ‘gets’ Ms. Chase’s humour and has a wonderful way with the deadpan comebacks that are such an integral part of her writing. Ms. Reading has since gone on to record many other Loretta Chase titles (all but six, I believe) and does a fabulous job in all of them. But Lord of Scoundrels is hard to beat.

 

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Tough-minded Jessica Trent’s sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain’s reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction…

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him… and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can’t wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place—and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it!—Though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof… and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady’s considerable charms.

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Honourable mentions: Loretta Chase – The Last Hellion; Sherry Thomas – His at Night

A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley4. Stella Riley has long been a favourite author of mine and my introduction to her work, over thirty years ago was a book set during the English Civil War called A Splendid Defiance. It’s a perfect blend of historical fiction – the book details real events and features characters who actually existed – and historical romance; and is one of those books that has stayed with me over the years. The romance between a cynical cavalier officer and a young puritan woman is a slow burn, but it’s beautiful, sensual and romantic, and the book’s hero, the complex, irascible but incredibly sexy Captain Justin Ambrose, continues to hold pride of place at the top of my list of book boyfriends.

Christmas came early last year when A Splendid Defiance finally came to audio, narrated by the extremely talented Alex Wyndham, who has rapidly become a firm favourite with all of us at AudioGals. He’s a superbly gifted narrator who frequently makes me forget I’m listening to just one person performing and if you haven’t listened to him yet, you really are missing out.

 

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For two years, England has been in the grip of Civil War. In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the Castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans. Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable. The key to both the fate of the Castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance … but will it be enough?

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Honourable Mentions: Stella Riley’s Rockliffe series; Lucinda Brant’s Alec Halsey mysteries

Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James5. My last choice is another narrator-lead one, because I wanted to include something performed by Mary Jane Wells in this list. She’s a firm favourite and another extremely talented narrator and has been chosen to narrate Lisa Kleypas’ current Ravenel series – her work on each of the books so far has gained her A grades here at AG. But I’m going to recommend something a bit different, an historical mystery by Simone St. James called Silence for the Dead. Ms. St. James has all but reinvented the gothic romance in the past few years, and I’ve enjoyed many of her books, but this one made a lasting impression. Set in 1919 at a remote psychiatric hospital in the north of England, it’s a creepy, atmospheric story of things that go ‘bump’ in the night with a healthy splash of romance, and I was gripped from start to finish.

 

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In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

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Audiobooks.com link

Honourable Mentions: Simone St. James – The Other Side of Midnight

Caz


 

JUNE IS AUDIOBOOK MONTH – GIVEAWAY! All month long, bloggers will be sharing their favorites around the world in a Blog Tour organized by the Audio Publisher’s Association. Look for AudioGals’ favorites on Fridays in June and let us know your favorites in the comments – series, narrators, authors – plus visit the other blogs for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Fine Print:

Enter for a chance to win. No purchase is necessary. The giveaway is open from 12 am CDT Friday 2 June 2017 through 12:00 am CDT Monday 26 June 2017 (which is midnight Sunday). This is the same giveaway as the one posted June 2 and June 9; if you entered on that post, you are already entered in the giveaway drawing.
Four winners will be chosen. The prize is a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads at Audiobooks.com (approximate value: up to US$45.00), which expire 15 July 2017. The codes have been provided by the Audio Publisher’s Association and Audiobooks.com. Entrants are restricted to US addresses only, please.
One entry per person, please. Winners will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter software. Winners will be notified by email used for entry by 11:59 pm Monday 26 June 2017, and will have 24 hours to respond. If no response is received, another winner will be chosen.

AudioGals earns commissions on purchases made through links to Amazon.com in this post.

 

13 comments

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  1. Bea

    Great selection, Caz, I could’t agree more. Awesome giveaway. I can’t participate cause I’m not un theUS but wish the best to the AG tribe!

  2. kimbacaffeinate

    I completely agree that Rosalyn Landor. did a stellar job with the Viscount Who Loved Me. I am listening to the series on audio and it’s delightful. I absolutely loved Lord of Scoundrels on audio. One of my favorites!

  3. Sheila/Bookjourney

    How fun! I have been a huge audio fan for years and a big advocate as well. Thanks for some new titles!

  4. mel burns

    I’d vote for Kate Reading narrating Loretta Chase or Davina Porter for the St.Cyr mysteries or Outlander. Most of the time when I listen to Rosalyn Landor she puts me to sleep, though I did enjoy her narration of Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh. :)

    1. Caz

      I like Davina Porter in the C.S Harris books, but I kept specifically to historical romance, and she hasn’t recorded many of those.

  5. Lynn A. Reynolds

    These all sound like good audios to add to my ever growing TBR list. In getting this in my inbox, I realized that I don’t listen to too many historical romances. Thanks for the reminder that I need to change that.

    1. Caz

      There is a lot of HR out there, although I’d say that less than half of it gets a given a really good narrator. But you can’t go wrong with my Fab Four – or Five :)

  6. Dee Feagin

    It’s a tossup between Kate Reading and Rosalyn Landor for me, but all the titles and narrators are ones I would agree are worth looking for. My first intro to the Quinn audiobooks was When He Was Wicked narrated by Simon Prebble (who I like but his female voices just don’t do it for me) so I’m glad they are being redone.

    1. Caz

      Fortunately, I could choose both :)

      I don’t think the three last Bridgerton books are being re-recorded, unfortunately. I like the Prebble versions of books 6,7 and 8, but it would be nice to have a new “set” as it were, especially as those three titles aren’t available outside the US, so for us Brits – or at least those Brits unlucky enough not to be able to access review copies – the series will seem unfinished.

  7. Molly Wilsbacher

    Mary Jane Wells is a favorite of mine as well. She narrates a lot of Cathy Maxwell’s books and the more recent releases for Lisa Kleypas. And I just love Simone St. James – The Haunting of Maddie Clare was very memorable.

    1. Caz

      That’s right. I didn’t include any of the Maxwell books because the stories were so very weak. Similarly, the Kleypas stories haven’t wowed me, although in both cases, MJW has been superb. For some strange reason, the publisher switched narrators for the last St. James book (they used Justine Eyre, who I really don’t like) – but the two narrated by MJW are excellent.

  8. Emily

    I’m going to bookmark this page, Caz! Great recommendations for someone (me) who has never listened to an audiobook before and wants to start. Plus you’ve given me some new authors to hunt down. Thanks!

    1. Caz

      You’re very welcome – I hope you find something from among this lot to enjoy!

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