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Tease: Duking It Out

Admit it—we’re fascinated with royalty. Just look at the commemorative plates/snowglobes/spoons your relatives scooped up to celebrate the marriage of William and Kate. In the British peerage, dukes are in the direct line of royal succession, and many ducal titles were originally created for the ruler’s siblings. In the Regency period (1811–1820), for example, a popular setting for historical romances, King George III’s progeny enjoyed the dukedoms of Cornwall, Rothesay, York, Albany, Clarence, Kent, Strathearn, Cumberland, Teviotdale, Sussex, and Cambridge, to name a few. For romance readers, dukes are the best of both worlds. They are figures of immense wealth and power (and, of course, they are handsome to boot), with the freedom to pursue outside interests—and maybe, in the world of romantic fantasy—to marry a commoner! Far from common, these six audiobooks about dukes will be a royal treat for listeners.

Between the Devil and the Duke

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DUKE: Season for Scandal, Book 3
by Kelly Bowen, read by Ashford McNab
Hachette Audio

Ashford McNab creates a believable cast of characters spanning from the highest to the lowest members of society, with dangerous dealings with the “devil” in a gambling parlor. A recommended title for those who prefer their romances unabashedly feminist and a little mysterious. You can start the series with DUKE OF MY HEART or dive right into BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DUKE!

If the Duke Demands

IF THE DUKE DEMANDS: A Capturing the Carlisles Novel
by Anna Harrington, read by Justine Eyre
Hachette Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Justine Eyre’s voice is textured and full of emotion as she narrates the first in this Regenecy romance trilogy. Eyre gives each character a unique voice, from the determined-sounding Miranda Hodgkins to the deeper, more forceful tone of Sebastian Carlisle, the Duke of Trent.

The Truth About Love and Dukes

THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE AND DUKES: Dear Lady Truelove
by Laura Lee Guhrke, read by Carolyn Morris
Harper Audio

Narrator Carolyn Morris draws listeners into the historical romance of Henry, Duke of Torquil, and Irene Deverill, a publisher who has printed provocative columns. Morris helps listeners envision the world of the aristocracy that the characters inhabit and leaves them rooting for Henry and Irene to overcome their differences to find love together.

Duke of Sin

DUKE OF SIN: Maiden Lane, Book 9
by Elizabeth Hoyt, read by Ashford McNab
Hachette Audio

The Duke of Montgomery, Valentine Napier, is uncertain in his love of Bridget Crumb, his housekeeper. Narrator Ashford McNab convinces listeners that the despicable duke has hidden depths and motivations to redeem him as he and Bridget join forces to deal with secrets in both of their lives.

While the Duke was Sleeping

WHILE THE DUKE WAS SLEEPING: The Rogue Files, Book 1
by Sophie Jordan, read by Carmen Rose
Harper Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Carmen Rose narrates heroine Poppy Fairchurch’s vulnerability and hero Struan Mackenzie’s no-nonsense temperament and virility in this historical romance. In Rose’s capable voice, the story, set in London and at the duke’s country home at Christmastime, is a satisfying romp.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished

NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED: The Third Rule of Scoundrels
by Sarah MacLean, read by Rosalyn Landor
Harper Audio

Rosalyn Landor’s lovely British accent and engaging delivery provide the perfect pairing for this appealing historical romance. Handsome William Harrow is dubbed the “Killer Duke” after the apparent murder of his soon-to-be stepmother, young heiress Mara Lowe. If you love NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED, listen to the next in the series, NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER!

Do you have a favorite duke whose tales you love? What is it about dukes that keeps you coming back for more stories? Share your favorites with us in the comments!

Solve: Moms of Mystery

Sunday is Mother’s Day (don’t forget your mom!), so I wanted to highlight some of my favorite moms in crime fiction. Let’s face it, in detective fiction, the moms are usually relegated to smaller supporting roles, with some exceptions. It’s hard to fight crime and raise kids at the same time. Not impossible, though, as Deborah Crombie’s Gemma James illustrates. Granted, she has some help from her husband and partner in crime, Duncan Kincaid.

Garden of Lamentations

Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan is a mother with a grown daughter. That frees up more of her time to investigate all those bones!

Bones Never Lie

Olivia Spellman in Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files series can be a questionable mother at times, but she definitely provides plenty of humor.

The Spellman Files

Mysteries with amateur sleuths feature more mothers, such as Diane Mott Davidson’s single mom, Goldy Bear Schultz; Karen MacInerney’s stay-at-home mom, Margie Peterson; and of course Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow, mother of twins.

Die Like An Eagle

And the thriller sub-genre often puts the mother front and center—sometimes in disturbing ways. Thrillers show us just how fierce mothers can be, like Marcus Sakey’s Anna Reed in GOOD PEOPLE, Carla Buckley’s THE DEEPEST SECRET, or Gregg Hurwitz’s DON’T LOOK BACK.

Don't Look Back

Moms help make the world go ’round, and that’s certainly true in the mystery and suspense realm. Who are some of YOUR favorite moms of mystery?

 

Tease: Hot Picks

This month’s hot picks are some of the most diverse, intriguing titles I’ve seen in a while . . . all gathered together! For romance lovers who like to delve deeply into exotic worldbuilding, these titles are unusual gems. Each title listed below has a brief description and a quote from the review as well as a link to the full review. Props to our awesome team of romance reviewers who selected and reviewed these titles. 

Breathless

Breathless (Old West, Book 2)
by Beverly Jenkins, read by Kim Staunton
HarperAudio

It’s all about… Hotelier Portia Carmichael finds a peripatetic cowboy from her past too tempting to resist.
Audiobook love: “Kim Staunton makes the journey comforting and familiar, thanks to her heartfelt delivery.”

The Colonel's Lady

The Colonel’s Lady
by Laura Frantz, read by Laura Jennings
Books & Such Literary Agency

It’s all about… Set on the Kentucky frontier in 1779, Colonel Cassius McLinn reluctantly welcomes a group of women to Fort Endeavor, becoming intrigued by Virginian Roxanna Rowan.
Audiobook love: “Narrator Laura Jennings’s use of accents and pacing brings the various characters to life, moving deftly from the twang of the Kentucky soldiers to the pensive cadence of Roxanna and brusque Irish brogue of McLinn.”

Devil in Spring

Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, Book 3)
by Lisa Kleypas, read by Mary Jane Wells
HarperAudio

It’s all about… Lady Pandora Ravenel prefers the board games she creates to society’s games, but her unwilling association with Lord St. Vincent involves high stakes for both of them.
Audiobook love: “Mary Jane Wells perfectly captures Pandora’s naïveté, outspokenness, and frustration with a society that marginalizes women.”

Ha'ven's Song

Ha’ven’s Song (Curizan Warrior, Book 1)
By S.E. Smith, read by P.J. Ochlan
Susan E. Smith/ Blackstone Audio

It’s all about… Earthling Emma Watson falls for extraterrestrial warrior Ha’ven Ha’darra on their way to his home planet.
Audiobook love: “P.J. Ochlan’s framing builds anticipation when Ha’ven’s spaceship crashes in unknown territory and when Ha’ven’s enemies kidnap Emma.”

How The Duke Was Won

How the Duke Was Won (Disgraceful Dukes, Book 1)
by Lenora Bell, read by Beverley A. Crick
Tantor Media

It’s all about… Charlene Beckett impersonates her half-sister in her dealings with James, the dashing Duke of Harland.
Audiobook love: “Beverley Crick’s upper-crust British accents are spot-on for Bell’s romance.”

Knight's Caress

Knight’s Caress
by Lynette Vinet, read by Elaine Claxton
Dreamscape

It’s all about… Norman keep holder Amberlie accepts an arranged marriage to Saxon warrior Tedric of Woodrose.
Audiobook love: “Narrator Elaine Claxton delivers both the sophisticated French accents of the Normans and the distinctly more plebian English accents of the Saxons.”

Salt Hendon

Salt Hendon Collection: Salt Bride, Salt Redux, Salt Angel
by Lucinda Brant, read by Alex Wyndham
Sprigleaf Pty Ltd

It’s all about… These Georgian romances full of villains and historical detail should not be missed.
Audiobook love: “Alex Wyndham takes Brandt’s romantic suspense, set in England in the late 1700s, and creates a vocal tapestry of characters, from the highest nobility to the lowest of servants…”

What the Heiress Wants

What the Heiress Wants
by Kristina Knight, read by Carly Robins
Audible, Inc.

It’s all about… Miranda leaves her family’s business to work for rival Connor Reeves. What will happen when he discovers her true identity?
Audiobook love: “Carly Robins’s narration reflects the sensual charm and determination of publishing heiress Miranda Clayton.”

Here’s the hard part — choosing which one to listen to! (My advice — don’t limit yourself to just one!)

Want even more ideas? Visit our site to find more new romance audiobooks here!

Solve: Why listen to mystery audiobooks?

I’m often confronted with the question of what draws me to the mystery/crime genre. The first time I heard the question, I was taken aback. I didn’t have words to answer the query; I just knew I enjoyed the stories. So I started to think about it, to analyze what drew me to these plots full of murder and mayhem. But what about the narrations of these books? What makes them worth listening to? Audios in this genre possess some qualities that make them especially great options to listen to. Here are my top five reasons why I listen to mystery and suspense audiobooks plus some to titles to get you started:

Swift Pacing
It’s not a given, but suspense plots often demand quick pacing to keep the audience engaged in the mystery. And thrillers by their very nature are a race against something: the villain, time, danger. This fast pace helps to keep the mind from wandering to other things. And for those who listen to audios while walking or running, it keeps you moving briskly as well, like an up-tempo song.

Need a title to exercise with? Try Siobhán MacDonald’s TWISTED RIVER, with a cast of exemplary narrators. The changing perspective helps the pacing on this one, too.

Twisted River

Clues
Listening to mysteries requires one to pay attention so as not to miss clues. When I have that strong motivation to figure out the puzzle, I’ve found I don’t get distracted so easily. Of course this means the author has to have written a mystery I want to solve, so the burden is intensified for them in audiobooks. Weak plots are blatantly obvious in mystery audiobooks.

Ready for your next puzzle? Try something from John Verdon, like his brilliant THINK OF A NUMBER, narrated by George Newbern.

Think of a Number

Intensity
When life and death are at the core of the story, the stakes are high. Emotions run high and action is fierce, and a good narration means you hear every bit of that intensity. But on the printed page, if you’re tired or distracted or just in a bad mood, you’re more likely to simply see flat words on a piece of paper.

If you’re ready to ramp up the intensity, give January LaVoy’s reading of THE COMPETITION by Marcia Clark a try.

The Competition

Social Issues
In many ways, the crime novel has become the social novel. But what difference does that make for listening to those stories? Emotional investment. When the author is passionate about what they’re writing, they transfer that passion to their audience, making the act of listening much more instinctive.

The range of issues is enormous, but a recent favorite of mine is Thomas Mullen’s DARKTOWN, narrated by André Holland.

Darktown

Nuance

OK, this isn’t necessarily limited to the mystery/crime genre, but when you combine it with my other reasons for listening to these stories, it makes the whole experience exceptional. As with intensity, a print reader might miss nuance on the page. Subtle or dry humor can be overlooked completely, and the smallest of adjustments in tone can change meaning in monumental ways. Happily, there are many masters of nuance narrating books in the crime genre, and it’s spine-tinglingly wonderful.

One of the most brilliant examples of this is MacLeod Andrews’s narration of THE LOCK ARTIST by Steve Hamilton. Nuance is vital because Hamilton’s protagonist doesn’t talk. And Andrews’s performance is so spot-on, this audiobook remains one of my all-time favorites.

The Lock Artist

There are all kinds of reasons to love listening to mystery/suspense on audio. I picked these five reasons because after we learn to read for ourselves, many of us forget how amazing listening to stories is. Unlike with television or movies, listening to audiobooks still engages our imaginations, allowing us to build the setting and envision the characters. We’re still active participants in the storytelling process. I often hear people say that they don’t listen to audiobooks because they aren’t able to pay attention, but for all the reasons I highlight above, mysteries are naturals at keeping your attention. Especially with a phenomenal narration.

These are just a few of my reasons for loving this genre—feel free to share yours in the comments!

The Handmaid’s Tale Revisited—Audiobook Edition Updated

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood‘s 1985 classic dystopian novel THE HANDMAID’S TALE debuts April 2017 as a streaming series on Hulu.com. The book has been a bestseller for decades, but has had a resurgence in the months since the 2016 election. The New Yorker calls her “the Prophet of Dystopia,” and the title is fitting. Her story of Offred, a Handmaid who is enslaved to bear children for a government leader and his wife, studies the role of women in a society that has slowly and quietly stripped them of their rights. The tale remains chilling today.

Atwood and the team at Audible have created a special new audiobook edition, adding new content from Atwood to the sparkling performance by Claire Danes released in 2012. Back then, AudioFile reviewer Leslie Fine gave the performance an Earphones Award—you can read her review of the “timeless and timely” audiobook here.

We reached out to Leslie to see what she had to say about the new content:

The Special Edition audiobook of Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE offers some thought-provoking new material, outlined below.

Questions and Answers
The original novel ends with a keynote lecture from the “12th Symposium on Gileadean Studies,” framing Offred’s disturbing story as a curiosity from the past and ending with the eerie “Are there any questions?” Atwood uses this Special Edition as an opportunity to ask and answer those questions, with an eye for current events in the United States. A full cast performs this section, and for the most part, the performances here are fine, with the keynote speaker assuming a lofty, supremely erudite tone that suits the content. The questions culminate in the ultimate one: “What sort of political climate do you think could potentially break apart our current stasis and deliver us back in time, so to speak?” Listeners may indeed be interested in that response.

Afterword
The Special Edition audiobook gives listeners insights into the author’s purpose, thanks to the new afterword by Atwood herself. The author’s measured reading of her essay calmly offers a brief history of the novel’s origins and reflects on its historical and social context. Her pacing is such that the listener has time to absorb her words without feeling pressed. Perhaps best of all, Atwood mentions questions readers have posed over the years and offers her thoughts on the answers. Listeners can almost feel like confidantes of an active, imaginative, perpetually-prescient mind.

Essay
Following Atwood’s excellent afterword is an additional critical essay by Valerie Martin, the content of which is quite thoughtful and enlightening as it explores the role of THE HANDMAID’S TALE in our culture since its publication. The listener is offered only “Essay” as a preface, and the pacing here is much more hasty, which does detract somewhat from the experience. However, the ideas themselves are worth hearing. On another production note, this section would benefit from a more distinct separation from the Atwood piece, one that would include the author’s name at the outset, rather than leaving Martin’s name until the end.

If you haven’t yet read THE HANDMAID’S TALE, this audiobook is an excellent way to challenge your mind and perceptions. If you are already a fan of this novel, this Special Edition will offer you even more to think about.—Leslie Fine

What are your favorite book-to-screen adaptations? Share yours in the comments!