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.

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Ravished by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

Audiobook narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

Why is the image so large? Well, duh.

In 1685 Scotland highlander Robert MacGregor and his kinsmen happen upon a convent under attack by unknown soldiers, arriving just in time to rescue two lone survivors. Rob feels honor bound to take novice Davina and her guard Edward Asher to safety at Camlochlin, his family’s well-guarded keep hidden in the mists on the Isle of Skye. Asher confides to Rob that Davina’s life is at stake and she will continue to be hunted down by the King’s enemies. Davina’s true identity is a Big Secret, but the warning from the King’s Guardsman regarding the King’s Enemies is, well, a Big Clue.  Continue reading

Knight Awakened by Coreene Callahan

Audiobook narrated by Susan Crowley

The promise was there and there were some spectacular moments but this book never came together the way a book should. It read like a series of blackout sketches that left me feeling punked. Add in the nonsensical “history” and the author’s penchant for referring to her characters by different name and allowing them unchecked navel gazing plus hour after hour of irrelevant detail — all of which should have been cut by half — and I’m not a happy listener. I never thought I’d wish for an abridged audio but I sure did with this one. I can’t figure out why the author bothered to provide a 14th century date since this is straight up fantasy complete with magic and dragons. There wasn’t even a wink and a nod given to historical accuracy; every character speaks in 21st century slang.

While I liked a lot about Susan Crowley’s narration, the text kept getting in her way. Excessive repetition is even more annoying when read out loud. The phrase “nape of her neck” is clearly one of the author’s favorites as it seems to appear thousands of times and hearing it over and over again stepped on my last nerve. By the way, we have only one nape and it’s “of” our neck. It is analogous to saying “nose of her face” or “fingers of her hand.” And while I’m nitpicking, every time I heard the heroine’s name Afina my brain heard a mispronunciation of Athena. Was the hero’s name Xavian or Ram? And I have to mention one of my top ten romance novel pet peeves: the sheltered virgin who instinctively knows how to give a world class blow job. Please. Knight Awakened is the first in a paranormal series published by Amazon’s Montlake digital imprint. Montlake gave the series a big PR push when they should have given it a ruthless editor. It’s bloated and lacks continuity and coherency. Too bad because the author is an imaginative storyteller. Grade D for a book that coulda been a contender and grade B for a narrator who enhanced it as well as she could.

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