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The Royal Conquest by Stacy Reid

The Royal Conquest by Stacy ReidNarrated by Anna Parker-Naples

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Stacy Reid’s The Royal Conquest is far and away the front runner for the title of “Worst Audiobook I Have Listened to This Year”. I’ve listened to mediocre stories performed by excellent narrators and excellent stories ruined by poor narrators, but this one has it all – a mediocre story performed by an inept narrator. It rarely gets worse than this.

But such is the reviewer’s lot. Sometimes when looking for titles to review, I think – “oh, I’ve not listened to that author/narrator before, so let’s give it a go”, and sometimes I’m lucky – like when I thought “oh yes, Alex Wyndham – I’ve seen him on the telly, so let’s see what he does with an audiobook” – and sometimes I’m not. This is one of those times.

Normally when I write a review of an audiobook, I spend a bit of time talking about the plot and characterisation and leave the discussion of the narration until the end. This time, however, I am going to reverse that, because even if this book had been the best ever written – and that isn’t the case by a long chalk, I assure you – the narration is so dreadful it would have rendered it completely un-listenable-to. (I may have made that term up – put it down to my still being traumatised!)

I’ve listened to Anna Parker-Naples just once before – in Deanna Raybourn’s Night of a Thousand Stars (when I gave her performance a C-) – but that was two years ago, and I had hopes that someone who continues to work as a narrator would have improved over that space of time. Yeah, just call me Ms. Over-Optimistic. In that review, I referred to her “incredibly girlish, overly bright” tone and called her American accent execrable, and nothing has changed; her voice is still girlish and her American accent is still execrable. Strangely enough, however, those aren’t the worst things about her performance.  No, the hero, who is a Russian prince in disguise, sounds like a Nazi from an old black-and-white B movie, and any moment I was expecting him to say “Ve haf vays off mekking you tok!” Ms. Parker Naples can’t lower the pitch of her voice very much at all, so she resorts to some weird cross between a vocal fry and a croak in order to try to make him sound masculine and sexy, but instead he sounds about as sexy as a pair of baggy Y-fronts and every time he spoke, I cringed.

Feisty American heroine Peyton Peppiwell (oh, good grief!) is an unconventional, breath-of-fresh-air (yawn) heroine who doesn’t want to be bound by convention or to marry the sort of man she is expected to marry, especially as she had her heart broken by one such gentleman who jilted her when he learned of a scandal in her family. The hero is Mikhail Konstantinovich, aka Prince Alexander Konstantinovich Dashkova, Duke of Avondale and Count of Montgomery, who is hiding in plain sight as a mere horsebreeder because he has recently inherited an English dukedom and wants to enjoy a few weeks of blissful anonymity before he is flung into the social whirl. (The fact that he’s presumably leaving behind the responsibilities associated with his being a Prince in his homeland in order to take up the reins of this dukedom is never addressed.) The pair meet when Peyton steals his horse late one night and ends up falling off in the midst a storm; unwilling to let her make off with his prize stallion, he has (luckily for her) followed her and takes her unconscious form to a conveniently located cottage in the forest. When she comes round, she is concerned at the impropriety of his having undressed her in order to keep her warm, but is not at all bothered by the impropriety of having, in effect, stolen his horse.

And here, I can’t resist letting you sample some of the choice writing at the beginning. At just over two minutes in, Peyton comes out with this doozy:

You beautiful, magnificent beast; I want to ride you so desperately… I want to feel your power and strength between my thighs. Will you allow me to mount you?

My friends, that doesn’t even qualify as a SINGLE entendre, let alone a double one. And by the way, in case you were wondering, she’s talking to A HORSE. (Also, Ms. Parker Naples pronounces strength as “strenth”, and talks about Mikhail’s hardening “lenth”, both of which are profoundly irritating).

We already know that Mikhail is in the shadows listening, and of course, overhearing that renders him more fired up with lust than he has ever been before – we’re told this a LOT – even though for the past ten years, his heart has been encased by ice, and he pretty much makes his bed-partners fill out a questionnaire to make sure they don’t want more than he’s prepared to offer. Oh, and he only does it doggy-style. Following an abduction by a notorious courtesan some ten years earlier (because Reasons) and the sexual abuse that ensued, Mikhail cannot bear to be touched. I had to roll my eyes at the idea of a kidnapping courtesan, but the real problem is that the narrator makes Mikhail sound so utterly ridiculous that it’s impossible to have any sympathy for his situation or to take him at all seriously. I want to say here that I am absolutely not making a joke about sexual abuse, which is a terrible thing. It’s the narrator’s interpretation of the character that’s the problem – for all I know the author has written about a tricky subject in a sensitive manner; but I don’t know because it was nigh on impossible to pay attention to the words. I just wanted that stupid, squeaky-door voice to stop droning on.

Basically then, we have a heroine who doesn’t want to marry a man with a title and a prince with intimacy issues in disguise as a commoner who can’t possibly court Peyton because (almost) everyone thinks he’s a nobody. No problem – all Mikhail has to do is reveal his real identity. But wait! Peyton won’t want him if he’s nobility, and her parents won’t accept him if he’s untitled, so he’s stuffed on both counts.

It’s hard to divorce the story from the terrible narration, but The Royal Conquest offers nothing new plotwise, the dialogue is clichéd and often downright cheesy, (“though your kisses are sublimely wonderful, I yearn for a life without the glitter of high society.”) Peyton is naïve and intent on cutting off her nose to spite her face – she could truly not tolerate the idea that the man she was falling hopelessly in love with may forever be taken from her grasp if he proved to be a lord – and I couldn’t get a handle on Mikhail because I wanted to scream every time he opened his mouth. The Duke of Calydon (Mikhail’s close friend) makes a few appearances in the story and he is portrayed … decently, although of course, given what he’s up against, it may just be that I was relieved to hear a voice that sounded vaguely normal and missing the crappy accents.

I listen to rubbish like this so you don’t have to – do yourself a favour and go and watch some paint dry.

Caz


Narration: D-

Book Content: D

Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in

Violence Rating: Yes, the accents assaulted my ears! (None otherwise)

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

The Royal Conquest was provided to AudioGals by Brilliance Audio for a review.

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

13 comments

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  1. MelindaP

    That cover tho!! Is he trying to strangle her? LOL!

    1. caz

      I dunno, but I wish he had. Then he’d have been arrested and I wouldn’t have had to listen to either of them!

  2. Wendy Loveridge

    Haha! It’s almost worth the listen just for a laugh!

    1. Caz

      Listen to the sample at Audible – that quote about mounting the magnificent beast is in the first couple of minutes, and you might even get a sample of Mikhail towards the end – and then count yourself lucky you didn’t have to listen to the rest of it :P!!

  3. Kate Marshall

    Caz
    The book and narration may be rubbish but your review is priceless and great entertainment. There is an author I really like called Jane Lark who wrote a series call Marlowe Intrigues. I have never seen any reviews you have written of her work. Is she someone you have read or listened to? I would be really interested in your opinion of her books which cover a forty year period from Waterloo to the Crimea. The last book then ties in to the first in a quite intriguing way.

    1. Caz

      Thanks, Kate :)

      I’ve come across Jane Lark but have never read one of her books. It’s a case of there just not being enough hours in the day…

  4. Maria

    Your job isn’t always nice. I thought , just few days ago, how nice must be your work.
    But now I think that reading an awful book and listening to a horrible audio must be
    a torment. The sample you left is simply incredible. (hope you forgive me for my english,
    because I am Spaniard and english wasn’t my second language. Btw Daskova is never a
    second name for a man in Russia, except you are declining the genitive ,then it ought to finish in “a”
    the first name and patronymic too: Konstantinovicha- Well, not very important point- )

    1. Caz

      Maria, your English is better than my Spanish, which is basic at best!

      I’m lucky to be able to listen to a lot of good books, many of them read by very good narrators. But yes, sometimes, all of us here at AudioGals have to force ourselves to listen to things like this. At least I can then write a review to tell everyone how terrible it was so they can go and spend their hard-earned money on something else!

      The name is taken exactly from the book – I have a printed copy, so I could check it and make sure I wrote it down correctly. The author must not have done her research correctly.

  5. Maria

    I’m sure you took the name from the book. And you listened to it.
    But is the same problem that you remark some times when a foreigner
    writer set the plot in England, in the Regency Era but the characters speak
    as they were in Kansas today. Its very difficult the immersion in another culture
    and country because there are small or big details you don’t know.
    And I don’t know why, but when the main character is Russian in a romantic novel,
    I usually don’t read the novel. For me it is like the sound of a fake note.
    But as I am an old lady I have read everything that has been written and translated into Spanish
    about spies– my favorite genre – (I just got “A Foreign Country”, by the British writer Charles Cumming,
    but translated).

    Thank you for answering me. Have a nice evening. I enjoy very much your reviews.

  6. Lady Wesley

    Very entertaining review, Caz. Thanks for taking one for the team — a double hit, so to speak.

    I agree with Maria about novels with Russian main characters. The typical HR author doesn’t seem to know much about Russia, and they may assume that society there was similar to England. Wrong.

    Also, they get the names wrong. A man in Russia would not have a surname ending in a vowel; only feminine surnames end in vowels. If his last name was Dashkov, for example, the surname of his wife or mother or sister would Dashkova. (Example: Anna Karenina was the wife of Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin.)

    I can’t tell if it’s the case here (and I’m not going to read the book to find out!), but many authors assume that a Prince in Russia was royalty. Not so. Old Russia was lousy with princes. Members of the royal family were Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses.

    And really, I don’t care if she is supposed to be an American, any author who would name her 19th-century heroine “Peyton Peppiwell” can’t be too interested in verisimilitude.

    Please forgive the rant, but I spent years studying Russian history, and I’ve never found current-day historical novel that didn’t give me hives.

    1. Caz

      I confess to being aware of the name thing, and of that fact about Russian Princes, but to be quite honest, there were so many other things wrong with this book, I just couldn’t fit them all in!

      Same goes for the name. Peyton is so 21st century that it’s completely ridiculous in this context. All the 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads clearly disagree with me, however.

  7. Bea

    Caz, I feel for you, I really do, but your suffering resulted in this priceless, witty review and you made my day! Thank you so much for this!

    1. Caz

      Thank you, Bea. If my suffering has made your day, then it was worth it!

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