Author Kathleen Woodiwiss (1939-2007) owns the signature honor of creating the historical romance in its 20th-century form. Her alpha heroes dominated every situation and often gave her vivacious, intelligent heroines no end of trouble. Her novels were known for their length—happy doorstoppers every one—and her sweeping prose that delved as deeply into setting as they did into characterization. Her first novel was THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, but I would equally draw your attention to ASHES IN THE WIND, a worthy read-alike to GONE WITH THE WIND, and A ROSE IN WINTER, a Beauty and the Beast-motif historical. Always in Woodiwiss’s writing was an insurmountable difference of opinion between the hero and heroine. He married her sister first, he evicted her father, he invaded her country . . . I could go on.
The genius of Woodiwiss—and of this group of audiobooks—is the delicate negotiation from adamant disagreement to common ground and lasting affection. Romance truly is a negotiation. All you have to do is decide which title to try first.
FAIR, BRIGHT, AND TERRIBLE: Welsh Blades, Book 2
by Elizabeth Kingston, read by Nicholas Boulton
Hedgehog Inc. Productions
AudioFile Earphones Award
Narrator Nicholas Boulton’s imposing presence lends authority to the scheming heroine of this historical novel. Facing the utter collapse of Wales, which has fallen to the English, Eluned accepts an arranged marriage in order to avenge her late husband’s death by killing the man most responsible for it. But she soon discovers that her fiancé is an old flame. Boulton commands this medieval romance doused in political warfare.
It’s back-to-school time, and August is National Crayon Collection Month. I didn’t know about this until I started researching blog topics—don’t ask, my mind works in scary ways sometimes. Anyway, there’s this cool non-profit organization aptly named Crayon Collection that gathers gently used crayons and distributes them to schools in high-poverty areas. This does two things: keeps perfectly good crayons out of landfills and puts them in the hands of children to encourage their creativity. Who knows, they may be the masterminds writing our mysteries of tomorrow!
Based on titles in the genre, our past and current scribes were likely influenced by the wax art supplies of their childhoods. Although they don’t get quite as creative as the marketing gurus at Crayola—laser lemon?—crime writers (and their publishers) make use of color frequently in titles. John D. MacDonald started the themed series fad using color names for his Travis McGee titles (THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY, A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING, etc.). David Handler followed suit with his Berger and Mitry mysteries (THE COLD BLUE BLOOD, HOT PINK FARMHOUSE), while many other crime writers had single titles featuring a veritable rainbow of color names.
Daniel Silva is a writer I follow in both audio and print, but it’s hard to beat George Guidall’s performances of the escapades of master spy Gabriel Allon. HOUSE OF SPIES is the 17th in the series, and even with the recurring characters, I think a newcomer could drop in anywhere. If globe-trotting spies are not your cup of tea, consider Ann B. Ross’s Miss Julia series. MISS JULIA WEATHERS THE STORM is #19 in a series “owned” by narrator Cynthia Darlow. I’ve not tried one myself, but I do love Cynthia Darlow.
Another tempting series is the Lady Hardcastle mysteries from T.E. Kinsey. DEATH AROUND THE BEND (#3) sounds like it might quell my sadness in saying goodbye to all the DOWNTON ABBEY folks, although these mysteries are set a decade or so earlier. A lady’s maid and her mistress as sleuths sounds pretty grand.
My last suggestion this week isn’t exactly a new installment in a series—but if you think “new” can also extend to a new narrator having a crack at a well-loved series, check out Stephen Fry’s SHERLOCK HOLMES—and it’s not just another performance of the many Holmes stories. Fry not only narrates each one, but interjects a short essay before each novella and the major collections of stories. Fascinating for fans, but also a perfect way to get a little context before leaping into ‘the game.”
Which series are you keeping an eye on for the next installment?
As a kid, I spent hours perusing an illustrated coffee-table book about ancient Egypt, imagining myself as Queen Nefertiti. Then I went through a period of wearing wooden clogs, not because they were trendy, but because they were favored footwear in 16th century Holland. Clearly, if a functioning time machine were invented, I would hop aboard. Until then, I voyage into the past on S.S. Audiobooks.
Barbara Cleverly’s mystery series about Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands is set in India, England, and France in the 1920s and 30s. It’s replete with high adventure, murder, a tiger or two, edgy social commentary and comedy, and dressing for dinner – which everyone did, don’t you know. I wear my best after-dinner outfit (aka bathrobe) to listen. Two of my favorites are ENTER PALE DEATH read by Matthew Brehner and THE DAMASCENED BLADE read by Terry Wale, but if you, too, love this time period, go for it and read all thirteen (and counting!). Read more…
Our team here at AudioFile Magazine is excited to introduce you to our latest venture, The Download! We’re going to be highlighting new audiobooks for you to discover, talking to narrators and authors about making audiobooks, and giving our listeners insights into the medium that we all love.
To start it all off, we have an interview to share with you between author James Patterson and narrator Edoardo Ballerini. This team has produced a number of excellent audiobooks together, and their latest, THE BLACK BOOK, is a great example of how they can create dynamic and fast-paced thrillers that listeners love. Listen in to Patterson and Ballerini as they discuss the making of THE BLACK BOOK and other compelling works, creating hyperreal worlds for readers to dive into, and the art of storytelling.
“I often feel like I’m watching a movie when I’m reading these books. Everything comes so alive, and I can really see the clothes and the buildings and the cars . . . I’ve always believed that the narrator is in service to the author, that it’s my job to present the book as the author intended it.”—Narrator Edoardo Ballerini
You can find a print excerpt of their conversation in the latest issue of our magazine, and if you’re looking for more insights into this pair, you can read interviews with both Patterson and Ballerini on our website!