Forever His by Shelly Thacker

Audiobook narrated by Julia Motyka

The very idea of Forever His — a time travel romance set in medieval France — is so applealing to me that I jumped at the chance for a review copy. While I can say at the end of the day it was an okay listen, an unfortunate combination of plot devices I dislike, a hard-to-forgive hero, and a narrator who doesn’t sound very intuitive or invested in the story combined to ease my grade over into C- territory. For differing views, note that Forever His, originally published in paper in 1993, has an impressive number of glowing reviews at Amazon and Audible, so this may very well be a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Having read through a ton of Old School romance novels since I fell in love with the genre way back in 1997, I’m very familiar with the hero who views all women as marriage trappers, the natural enemy of the honorable man. Sir Gaston de Varennes believes that accidental time traveler Celine Fontaine, dropped into his bed from 700 years in the future, is really his intended bride, selected from the enemy camp by the king in order to end a bitter, bloody feud. No matter what Celine says or does and despite evidence to the contrary, Gaston refuses to believe that she isn’t an infiltrator from the house of his archenemy, sent to spy, seduce, and steal his lands. 

You know when you hear “This audiobook has been divided into multiple parts to make the download faster…” and there has been no forward movement in the story or progress in the romance since the beginning? Yeah, that. The book is halfway over and he STILL believes she’s a lying, conniving spy but he’s all in favor of bed sport? This is where I wanted to quit because I just don’t seek out romance novels with distrust and hostility in lieu of romance anymore. I guess I can’t fault a book written in the popular style of its time, except this has been reissued and produced for today’s readers. (I certainly raced through Elizabeth Lowell’s backlist of “all women are lying, betraying bitches” category romances, gobbling them up like candy!) But, sadly, what’s missing here is passion — smoldering sexual tension. I didn’t feel Gaston falling in love with Celine. He treats her rather cavalierly, ignoring her as much as possible, and that does not tickle my romantic fantasies. 

Narrator Julia Motyka’s reading is servicable but not scintillating. She reads slowly and rythmically, often reminding me of library story time. She uses appropriate changes in pitch to signal which character is speaking. I increased playback speed to get through it faster, but I don’t much like the unnatural speed-reading cadence you get from that function. I lost interest when Gaston’s dickishness went on waaaay too long and nothing happened to pull me back in. 

Grade C-. I won’t seek out more books from this author or narrator. It wasn’t terrible and clearly a whole lot of reviewers liked it more than I did.

Review copy provided by the author through Audiobook Jukebox.

Darker After Midnight by Lara Adrian

Audiobook narrated by HIllary Huber

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I’d listened to seven titles in Adrian’s Midnight Breed series before dropping out, so I thought I’d catch up with the gang in what was billed as the grand finale. Only oops! apparently minds were changed among TPTB and it was announced that this isn’t the last book after all. There will be at least three more which neatly explains the overwhelming presence of a younger generation of vampire in this book.

In fact, it seems that every character who ever set foot in a Midnight Breed novel has a featured role in what is ostensibly chase and Tavia’s book. Poor Tavia and Chase have to compete for air time in their own book with a boatload of HEA’d couples, all of them sappy with baby vampire fever.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that the Breed’s super evil archenemy Dragos is finally vanquished, albeit pretty easily after nine books of buildup. Normally I’d issue the standard warning not to start a series at book number ten, but I think you could with this one. Adrian painstakingly recaps the entire series mythology and you get to meet the whole Breed gang.

There is one significant difference between Adrian’s series and its obvious inspiration — JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. Ward’s vampires get it that they’re high camp wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. Adrian’s Breed take themselves very, very seriously lacking even a lick of humor. A surprise Very Important Event for the Breed Nation occurs in the epilogue. I won’t spoil it — it’s a doozy — but I laughed out loud in a room by myself, in the dark and I don’t think I was supposed to.

Narrator Hillary Huber has consistently done a fine job with the entire series. She’s handled a good number of accents with aplomb. So many characters from previous books appear here that I often lost track of who was on stage at any given moment, but that’s not Huber’s fault and she kept as firm a grip on the narrative as was possible. I was not comfortable with the child Mira sounding so babyish but she’ll probably be all grown up and ready for her very own fated mate in the next book.

I enjoyed the first four or five Midnight Breed books before repetition and seriesitis set it. Number ten was a bit of a slog for me and I won’t be around for more of the same with the younger generation.

Grade C- for the book and a B for Hillary Huber’s spirited narration.

Sleepwalker by Karen Robards

Audiobook narrated by Kate Rudd

Karen Robards has written some of my favorite books and I’ve long counted her as a favorite author. Sadly, those juicy books that stir my blood were written a long time ago.

Sleepwalker is romantic suspense that is lackluster in the romance department and short on the suspense. It has plenty of action — car chases and shootings and such — that fall flat. There are elements of romantic comedy that aren’t all that comedic. I can think of dozens of contemporary romances with cute bickering couples that are far more entertaining.

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