Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley

Audiobook narrated by Angela Starling

I’ve eaten up quite a few books by a Kristen Ashley (including this one) so I knew what to expect — over the top sexy biker dudes and their old ladies, the drama, the lingo, the overall crazy, the sex. Ashley is an enormously popular author for good reason. She knows how to deliver the the whole package.

So I’m wondering why this plum package was entrusted to a new and inexperienced narrator. Angela Starling is no better than adequate. Specifically, she does not differentiate between characters at all. Her male voices all sound just alike as do her women. No. No. No. Smooth-talking Shy is read in a staccato monotone in obvious contradiction to book Shy.

Ashley’s books are hero-centric and a narrator who fails to get that isn’t up to the job. Audiobook narration requires its own skill set and I hope the day arrives soon when producers realize they can’t stick just anyone in a booth and hope for the best. 

Ashley’s book is a hoot and I call it an A. Narrator Starling came thisclose to ruining it. She gets a D and a lump of coal. I doubt I’ll listen to Own the Wind again or buy the next one. Too bad.

The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks

Audiobook narrated by Harry Berkeley

I was in the mood for a rip-roaring jungle rescue romance and I thought that’s what I was buying. Sadly, that’s not what I got. The first hour or so was promising with a band of extreme commandos rushing in to save the day and I wondered if I’d been wrong in avoiding Banks’ popular romantic suspense series. (The sharing and caring Colter brothers erotica — yurk.) But all too soon the story congealed into mawkish goo once the Kelly clan completed the actual adventure part of their big adventure.

I know that authors write formulaic books because those books sell well. But the cliches in this book are so worn out that I have a mental image of Banks selecting interchangeable tropes from a drop down menu in constructing her book. Here’s what she picked:

* Idealized small town
* Adorable mom and dad to litter of hunky military black ops brothers
* Helpless, fluttery heroine in need of rescue
* Amnesia (yes! amnesia!)
* Protective warrior brothers suffocating and stifling the little woman

But wait! There’s more! Banks proves that just because an author uses well-worn banalities, that doesn’t mean she’ll get it right. For example, after the boys rescue Rachel and swear they’ll protect her with their very lives, they’re careless enough to let the bad guys get to her and do her harm on three (3!!!) occasions. What kind of superhero is that inept? Hero Ethan is a patronizing jerk right up to the very end, although he’s right about his brothers wanting to do his wife. It’s creepy how all the brothers drool over Rachel while infantalizing her. Run, Rachel, run.

So why did I finish it? Narrator Harry Berkeley makes these guys sound so much better than they are. While listening to his sexy, gravelly voice I kept forgetting that I didn’t like the book — at all. How’s that for a narrator win?

Banks’ erotica leaves me cold and now her romantic suspense. Nice cover, though.

Grade D for a disappointing book and an A for Harry Berkeley’s heroic narration.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Audiobook narrated by Angela Dawe

Slave to Sensation

When I read Slave to Sensation in 2006 I closed the book and thought “Wow! This is the best paranormal romance ever.” Revisiting the origins of Singh’s Psy/Changeling series in audiobook format reminds me of all the reasons to admire the clever, deceptively simple world-building that imagines how things might be in 2079. The Psy are a race of cerebral beings who for the past hundred years have enforced Silence, a protocol implemented to breed all emotion out of the populace. The Changeling are the antithesis, shapeshifters who embrace life with passion.

Psy and Changeling view each other with suspicion and disdain while coexisting within an uneasy truce. Happy to report that humans are still around in Singh’s future, but we’re just a footnote and a fairly boring one at that.

When Lucas Hunter, Alpha of the Dark River leopard pack becomes certain that the serial killer preying on young changeling women is Psy, he proposes a joint business venture to the Psy ruling council hoping to ferret out the killer. Sascha Duncan, daughter of powerful council member Nikita Duncan, is assigned as liaison and Lucas wastes no time in employing his considerable charm getting close to this female who appears to embody the cold Psy ideal.

In truth Sascha is not the perfect Psy. She knows that she’s broken because she feels far too much. Sascha lives in constant fear of discovery and a rehabilitative mind wipe. When Lucas introduces Sascha to his warm and loving packmates, her icy barriers begin to crack. She yearns to love and be loved and Lucas knows he’s the man to make it happen. What follows is a heart-clutching romance between two polar opposites.

Angela Dawe’s narration has a smooth, steady cadence. Her reading of Sascha’s initial monotone is spot on and I heard her gradual thawing. Her voice for Lucas and the Changeling pack members is decidedly off kilter. I did not hear Lucas’ playful nature, his warmth, his growliness, and his sexy charm. Nor his strong alpha leadership. Key to these characters is how very different they are from one another. It’s clear in Singh’s text that this is a relationship of polar opposites, but I didn’t hear it in Dawe’s reading. I’m not sure that Dawe got it. Seems like a missed opportunity that I hope will be rectified as Dawe becomes more familiar with Singh’s premise.

I’m thrilled that the Psy/Changeling books have come to audio and I loved, loved, loved listening to Slave to Sensation.

Grade A for the book. Grade B for the narration.

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose

Audiobook narrated by Marguerite Gavin

 Karen Rose’s romantic suspense has set the high bar for tightly plotted, realistic police procedurals with a romance organically woven in. You Belong to Me kicks off a new series set in Baltimore and as anyone who is familiar with her style knows, the action starts with the discovery of a murder victim and the tension doesn’t let up until the last page. Medical examiner Lucy Trask and homicide detective JD Fitzpatrick literally meet over their victim’s corpse and team up to solve what turns into a series of brutal murders. Soon it becomes apparent that all of the victims hail from a nearby small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which just happens to be the home town Lucy left behind as a teenager. JD realizes that convincing Lucy to spill the town’s secrets is the key to stopping the murder spree. But as much as Lucy wants to help, she’s as much in the dark about what turned someone she may know into a mad serial killer as the detectives are. Reluctantly agreeing to return to the place that holds dark secrets and memories for her, Lucy and JD work together, get their man, and fall in love. The entire book takes place over the course of a few days and the pace is frenetic.

All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard

Unabridged Audiobook narrated by Kate Forbes

Abridged narrated by Megan Gallagher 


I’ve often said that I came to romance through the door marked Romantic Suspense and All the Queen’s Men is that door. Back in 1998 I picked up the paperback on a mass market table in a mall bookstore. I’d been reading a steady diet of man thrillers and my joy knew no bounds as I sat in that mall food court falling in love with my new discovery. A thriller with romance, a hero who falls hard when he zeroes in on his woman and…sex! Do I love it as much now as I did way back then? Why, yes, even more now that I own two audio versions, a Kindle book, and more than one paperback (just in case).
John Medina is the sexiest, coolest, most mysterious, and darkest special ops guy ever. He’s hotter than James Bond; a hero that every woman can love. I’ve read countless romantic suspense series  with covert ops guys who are pale shadows of the original iron man John Medina. There is nothing he doesn’t do better than anyone staying cool and composed as he stares down and outsmarts the baddest terrorists. All while clad in his tailor made Armani tux. Oh yeah, baby. It’s a new world order.

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Lethal by Sandra Brown


Audiobook narrated by Victor Slezak

Sandra Brown specializes in the wronged, seemingly villainous hero who strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of everyone but that one special woman, and she sure has a knack for tortuously testing his heroism until justice prevails. In Lethal, deep undercover FBI agent (c’mon, you didn’t really believe he was a mass murderer) Lee Coburn is about to discover the identity of a particularly nasty criminal mastermind known as The Bookkeeper when all hell breaks loose. Coburn is set up as the shooter when seven people are executed by the Bookkeepers’ minions. He flees straight into a Louisiana swamp, to be found lying muddy and blood-smeared in the yard of widow Honor Gillette by her four-year old daughter Emily.

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Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Audiobook narrated by Holter Graham

If you like dark werewolf tales told in a darkly sexy voice, I urge you to start at the beginning with Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series. In this third book alpha dominant Charles Cornick and his newly mated bride Anna Latham are settling down with his remote Montana mountain pack. Their uneasy relationship is about to be tested anew. Charles’ father Bran is the Marrok, ancient alpha of all North American werewolves. Charles had been the Marrok’s lone wolf enforcer for hundreds of years when he rescued Anna from an abusive pack and his wolf claimed her for his mate. Since Bran recently revealed the presence of werewolves to the world he’s adopted a zero tolerance policy for impolitic misbehavior. Charles has become reluctant executioner of immature werewolves for malfeasance that would have allowed them a second chance in more lenient times.

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