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March Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Drawing of a Post-Regency gentleman - only just below the shoulders and on down is shown, on a white background. He's holding a top hat and under the titles (on the right) is a purple flowerFlowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale, narrated by Nicholas Boulton – A I was inspired to listen to this one again after reading this post over at Close Reading Romance. I’ve listened before (I reviewed it here for the old Speaking of Audiobooks column when it first came out) and I’ve read it in print as well but it’s a book that reveals something more on each encounter. There is something especially about Boulton’s portrayal of the characters (most especially Maddy) that makes them more complicated and sympathetic and nuanced than even they were on the page.

The things that struck me most about this listen apart from, again that I felt more in sync with Maddy on audio than I did in print, was that the deception Jervaulx practiced on Maddy was not ever addressed. The first part was, kind of but the main one? Not at all. Maddy didn’t confront him about it and therefore Jervaulx never specifically apologised for it.  Ordinarily that would be a thing that would bother me but in this case, by the end it was superfluous. My take was that Maddy never raised it because it didn’t really matter. She understood why Jervaulx did what he did. She loved him for all of his sins and, ultimately she wanted to be with him. It’s not that it didn’t matter exactly – but also it kind of didn’t matter. What the deception did was provide her with a way out and that led to her revelation that she didn’t want one after all. If not for that, she may have felt trapped forever and would never have been able to embrace her HEA. Not that Jervaulx’s actions were justified – just that it’s a neat bit of plotting to bring that silver lining out.

House of Cads by Elizabeth Kingston, narrated by Nicholas Boulton

A blonde woman in a pink satin gown reclines on a chaise, hiding her lower face behind a white lace fanWhy I read it:  I received a review copy via the author.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Vivez la vie pleinement…Live life to the fullest.

That’s always been Marie-Anne de Vauteuil’s motto. As a Frenchwoman of highly questionable upbringing, she was shunned by genteel society when her fiancé died years ago, leaving her a penniless, fallen woman. Almost married, almost a widow…She retreated to an isolated village where no one knows or cares about her sordid past. And with no one to answer to, she will do as she pleases, including eating cake until her corset strings pop if she so chooses. But then, an invitation to London on a mission of mercy from the very family that cast her aside lands Marie-Anne back in society—and into the arms of a man who can be nothing but trouble.

When life gives you lemons…Make petit fours.

Wealthy American businessman Mason is a) accidentally engaged, b) desperate to get out of it, and c) neither wealthy nor a businessman. Marriage is the last thing on his mind. Money, however, is always of utmost importance. He’s only in London to gather material for the gossip pamphlets he illustrates, his scheme to make as much money as he can before he’s found out and skips town. But when he meets the irresistible Marie-Anne, she makes him rethink his life as a fraud, and for once consider his true talent as an artist. Her carefree attitude about life in general—and sex in particular—has Mason hoping for something he never believed possible: A proper life with a not-so-proper wife.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Unlike the other books from Elizabeth Kingston I’ve listened to, House of Cads is much lighter fare. It’s not angsty or tortured. It’s a charming confection, with a dash of farce and a huge dollop of sizzling chemistry.

Fair Bright & Terrible by Elizabeth Kingston, narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Torso of a woman in medieval dress, holding a dagger, point down, at her waistWhy I read it:  I’ve been waiting and hoping for this one to come out on audio. So when it did, I bought it stat.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Wales is conquered, and Eluned has lost everything: her country, her husband, her hope. All that remains is vengeance, and she will stop at nothing to have it. Certain there is no trace within her of the idealistic girl who loved Robert de Lascaux a lifetime ago, she agrees to marry him to advance the fortunes of her son, to avoid the nunnery, and most importantly – as an easy way to gain access to the man upon whom she will avenge Wales.

When Robert is asked to marry the woman he has loved for eighteen years, he never hesitates. But the lady who greets him at the altar has so little in common with the girl he adored that he begins to doubt that there is anything left of her bold and passionate younger self. Marriage to her might gain him the fortune and status his family has always wanted, but no wealth has ever mattered to him as much as Eluned has. And she, it seems, does not want him at all.

Trapped in a web of intrigue, revenge, and desire, they cannot forget their past – but can they share a future? The fascinating world of medieval Wales is continued in this riveting companion novel to The King’s Man.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  When I listened to the first book in this series, The King’s Man, I called it a “creditable debut, boosted by excellent narration”. I certainly enjoyed it but felt a little distanced from the characters. I wasn’t sure if some of that was because I had though the story would be more about Welsh independence/rebellion (and I have a soft spot for Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman). I wishlisted the ebook of Fair Bright and Terrible when it first came out didn’t immediately one-click. However, when the audiobook was released I was all over it like white on rice. Nicholas Boulton is a powerful draw card.

Favourite audiobooks from 2015

I mentioned in this post that the audiobooks listed at AudioGals were my favourite listens where my reviews were posted there and I planned to do a post here to make up my top ten. My sense of fairness was pricked by leaving out the excellent romance audios I listened to from my own library or provided direct to me by publishers/authors. In no particular order, the other top five are:

Noble Satyr audio

Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant, narrated by Alex Wyndham. My list could not have been complete without at least one Brant title. Alex Wyndham was my “find” of 2015 in terms of excellent new narrators. His work here is stellar and the story is excellent too. Georgian romances featuring rakish and mysteriously enigmatic heroes are my catnip.

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