A Bit Belated… But Lauren Blakely Impressions

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Hereby “outing myself” as a one who partakes of so-called “trashy” romance novels on a regular basis. I’m not ashamed of my reading habits, but I will say that there are some romance novels I might recommend to almost anyone, including Hubby and other non-romance fans, but a great many more that I would not. I never read except for entertainment, so you won’t often find incredibly literary material on my reading lists. I only read fiction, and I tend to skip around between historical and contemporary romance, (with occasional forays into steam punk, fantasy or sci-fi romance), mysteries/detectives/police procedurals, action thrillers (espionage/counterterrorism), historical fiction, and the very occasional straight fantasy or sci-fi, and other fiction that has some kind of buzz. I consume so many books that it’s not unusual for me to forget what I’ve read within a week or two of reading it. Before I had a smart phone, I would typically have 3 books going at once- my book at work, my book at home, and my audiobook in the car. Since getting the smart phone, I’ve transitioned to one book at a time, almost exclusively in audio format, and I listen all the time- I start in the morning during my hair and makeup routine, continue whenever in the car, during my lunch breaks, when I’m sewing, and when I’m cooking, doing laundry or dishes, etc. My audiobook habit has actually really broadened my horizons, as I will frequently try new authors and even genres, based only upon the narrator.

For many years, I have visited a website called All About Romance, which offers reviews on mostly romance novels. Over the years, this AAR site has expanded from historical and contemporary romances, to now include many reviews of subgenres (romantic suspense, sci-fi romance, M/M romance, YA) as well as some “women’s fiction”, and after some sleuthing into my Audible library date of purchase information combined with an author search on the AAR website, I am certain that I first tried Lauren Blakely after reading a review of Mr. O in June 2016. Another AAR review of Lauren Blakely coincides with the next book purchased, Full Package in Jan 2017, (B+ overall ratings by the AAR reviewers for both, and narrator Sebastian York is one I like). I remember the broad outlines of Mr. O and that I enjoyed it, don’t remember much of anything about Full package, but evidently I didn’t hate it because I later purchased Big Rock in May 2017, and Joy Ride in June 2017, and The Sexy One in Sept 2017. For whatever reason, I listened to Joy Ride next, and after reviewing the blurb, I recall I didn’t connect with the characters or story, and my failure to connect may have something to do with why I hadn’t downloaded any Lauren Blakely titles in my library since.

Therefore , Big Rock and The Sexy One were untouched until a couple of weeks ago, when news of RA’s new audio project reached me. I get emails from Audible on a regular basis, and I remember that there was an email with a link to a Romance Editor’s Select page, and Wanderlust is at the top of the page, with a hint from the Audible editor that fans will “freak out” when the male narrator is announced. Funnily enough, I distinctly remember thinking something along the lines of “I doubt I will FREAK OUT because I doubt it will be Richard Armitage”, but I did wonder if it might be a celebrity narrator, and then low and behold, it WAS Richard. So now I’m just as excited as the editor!

After finishing The Drowned Girls by Loreth Ann White, which was too suspenseful to abandon even in pursuit of Lauren Blakely research, I did go and listen to Big Rock and The Sexy One, but I was too busy catching up on my charts from work to write reviews while they were still fresh in my mind, and I have since listened to 4 more audiobooks (the sequel to The Drowned Girls, my first Anne Perry Inspector Monk novel, the newest Deanna Raybourn novel, then a really long one called The Verdict by Nick Stone)… all that to say, there were many words since I listened to the Lauren Blakely novels, and all I can recall is that I thought they were both decent, but not even close to memorable. For comparison, I can immediately recall the plot and the characters names for all four of the intervening audiobooks, but I’m having trouble remembering the Lauren Blakely novels. So they failed to make a big impression.

I do recall that the first few paragraphs in Big Rock had me shocked. It’s a male-only POV, and the main character starts right off with an ode to his genetalia. What was so shocking was that I was thinking about it in the context of Richard Armitage reading similar material, and I was just completely flabbergasted that he would “go there”…. of course, since that time, Ms. Blakely has made efforts to reassure her followers (or Richard’s?) on Twitter that Wanderlust will not be as “bawdy” as her male POV books, and I confess that while this type of language doesn’t bother me, per say, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of Richard narrating similar material. Why?

I mean, really… why? I can’t say. It’s not as if I’ve never considered him in an erotic context, and I have a strong feeling that he is going to deliver a wonderful performance no matter the material. I love his Georgette Heyer narrations; I love the sensual nuances he has often delivered there, as well as in Romeo and Juliet, and even at times, to Uhtred’s thoughts in Lords of the North. But somehow, explicit “cock talk” from RA was borderline alarming to me, so I confess I was glad to hear that Wanderlust is going to be a little “tamer” by comparison. LOL

Anyway, back to Big Rock. The premise is pretty silly- the main character, Spencer, knows his father is trying to sell his big jewelry franchise to a buyer who is all about “family values” and is having reservations about buying the business because the seller’s son (Spencer) has a reputation as a “player”. That in itself was pretty unrealistic, as Spencer isn’t involved in the business at all- he owns several bars in NYC with his best friend and business partner, Charlotte. But somehow Spencer is roped into having dinner with the two families involved in the jewelry store purchase, and he ends up telling everyone that he recently and at long last has entered a committed relationship; he tells them he is, in fact, engaged to Charlotte. His parents, who know and love Charlotte, are really excited, though his sister (who I remember as the heroine in Mr. O) suspects he’s lying. He figures that as best friends, he and Charlotte can fake an engagement for the next week or two until the deal is signed for his father, and then break it off.  It’s a friends-to-lovers romance from Spencer’s POV, with a lot of sex along way. It was funny in a few places, but definitely not one that I would place on my “keepers” list.

I liked The Sexy One less. I listened to that just a couple of weeks ago, and yet at the time of this writing, I still had to go back to the audible blurb to remember what it was even about. This one was a dual POV, and it was a “nanny/single father” scenario, which just didn’t work for me. I don’t tend to like books about certain taboos, and boss/employee is one of those. I can’t think why I even bought it, but looking my library and the fact that there were 4 other books purchased on the same date, I think it must have been on sale. Anyway, it was really short, only about 5 hours, and it was just barely ok.

Confession- when I’m wanting to take a nap on my lunch hour, I listen to Lords of the North, because it doesn’t matter if I drift off to sleep- I don’t have to back up and figure out where I was in the story, since I know the story forward and backward. I’ve been doing quite a lot of that recently, mainly due to my MS fatigue, and I can confirm that LOTN is my all-time favorite RA narration. Today, Lauren Blakely released a couple of short excerpts from Wanderlust, and fresh from drifting off to Uhtred’s adventures, I could perfectly hear Richard’s voice delivering the lines from Wanderlust. I’m quite confident that this one is going to be the most memorable Lauren Blakely title in my library. While I may not want to hear him rave about his boy bits, I’m extremely willing to hear that voice in a seductive context. Pretty sure I’ll be substituting a slightly different image than the one above in my head as I listen, too….

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19 comments

  1. linda60 · January 31, 2018

    Wow, you read a lot!!!!!!! And fast!!!!! Now I’m in the picture! Absolutely, ‘Lords of the North’ is soooo brilliant!! Thanks!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      I do! I was always the “bookworm” as far back as I can remember, and the world of audiobooks has only made it worse. It’s impossible to do all those daily tasks such as driving or folding laundry or loading the dishwasher with a book or e-reader in hand, but with the book in the ear… whole different ball game! LOTN was one of those that I probably wouldn’t have discovered if not for the narrator (at least not prior to The Last Kingdom coming out- I might have discovered Bernard Cornwall in absence of the RA connection if I watched that, hard to know- I love the series even if A. Dreymon didn’t fit my picture of Uhtred, but it’s hard to say if I’d have chosen to watch that if not for already knowing and loving the story!)

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  2. zan · January 31, 2018

    *high fives* another “trashy” romance reader. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      *high fives* I’ve been reading them since I was about 12 or 13 years old. I can still remember my first one… I found it on my step-aunt’s bookshelf and read it while we were vacationing… I remember how wonderful I thought it was, and how my mom really shamed me and used those exact words “trashy romance” (but when I got home, I went to the bookstore and secretly bought it)- probably 20 years later I dug it out and re-read it and it wasn’t NEARLY as good as I remembered. (Joan Johnston, Comanche Woman, 1989). It holds a special place in my heart despite its deficiencies… LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

      • zan · February 6, 2018

        I was 18 when I was introduced to Rosemary Rogers writing about Virginia Brandon and Steve Morgan in the aptly named Sweet Savage Love. (Steamy being an understatement. LOL) That was mumble-mumble decades ago. My habit grew exponentially from there. 😉

        I’m about halfway through Wanderlust now. I’m loving it. Heck, I’m even writing a post about it. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · February 7, 2018

          I haven’t read that one, but it sure sounds like a title from mumble-mumble ago! LOL. Same with Comanche Woman. *snickers*

          Liked by 1 person

  3. CraMERRY · January 31, 2018

    High Five, sister! I have the same reading habits 😁

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    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      Oh really? Well maybe you can make some recommendations! =)

      Like

  4. Pingback: More on Lauren Blakely from a Richard Armitage | Me + Richard Armitage
    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      Thanks for the link, Serv! Not sure my reviews are worthy of a lot of attention, but the discussion is fun!

      Like

      • Servetus · February 1, 2018

        I was interested to read something from someone who reads a lot of this stuff and compare it to other works in the genre. I have no issue with it (I read a lot of fanfic), I just tend to read other things (and as is well known, don’t care for audiobooks).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Servetus · February 1, 2018

    It’s an interesting problem, isn’t it? I think about these things, I think about Armitage in that context, I don’t object to them, I use those words, too — and yet when it comes to Richard Armitage saying those things … not sure.

    Like

    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      I can’t quite put my finger on it… I’ve been wishing for something swoony from RA for quite some time, as my first “preoccupation” developed from North and South which is a love story… but here now we are about to have something quite steamy, and I’m both wildly excited, and afraid I’ll be uncomfortable. Weird!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. nellindreams · February 1, 2018

    I am curious tbh, but I am completely with you thinking of “But somehow, explicit “cock talk” from RA was borderline alarming to me”! 😄 Thanks for your interesting report!

    Like

    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      It’s definitely going to be an entirely new experience… I hope it lives up to my expectations. And I’m curious to see how the fandom variously reacts. Should be entertaining on multiple levels, come to think of it. =)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Guylty · February 1, 2018

    Great to hear an in-depth evaluation here, Jen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And by the way – no need to apologise for reading romance. It’s a great genre, it definitely fulfills a need, and I certainly enjoy reading romance novels, too. Sure, they tend to be formulaic and predictable. But they also provide an escape route from day-to-day strife, and that is not to be sniffed at.
    I really need to get into the audiobook habit like you describe it – I am doing much more cooking than I used to (the diet…) and have also been sitting at my new sewing machine quite a bit, with not even the radio playing. Audiobooks are the solution. That said, ‘Wanderlust’ is already pre-ordered, so I’ll find out whether I can sew/cook and listen at the same time, soon.
    As for RA reading “meaty bits” *coughs* – it’s a really weird thing, this thought. I’ve been wondering why so many people are unsure about that, myself included. It’s not that I think that RA is a squeaky-clean, innocent snowflake. At 46 years of age the man must have said his share of “dirty” words… Also, while his oeuvre is not exactly that of a p*rn star, he’s had his share of sex scenes; and a couple of rather exposed, hot ones at that. So in a way, having him say some sexy things should not really make me feel uncomfortable. However, I have noticed that in those scenes he hasn’t had to speak (much). IDK why the standalone voice feels different than the full-blown visuals. – As for him reading it in the studio, I am actually wondering whether this was something that has always been on his list to do. I remember hearing a German actor once say that it was really fun doing steamy scenes when dubbing a film – just because it is so artificial when you are in a recording booth, on your own, fully clothed, having to moan and groan. Like an out-of-body experience 😉 . I can just about imagine RA thinking the same. Maybe that is that ‘voice challenge’ he was talking about in that Paris interview recently *hehe*…

    Liked by 3 people

    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      What an interesting thought- a “voice challenge”! And what, if any, were his thoughts when deciding to do it? Surely he is aware that there is a big audience for romantic fiction, and surely he is aware that many of his fans have been hoping and wishing for a romantic role for him. I wish I knew how much pressure was applied, if any, by Audible, or his agent, or whether like you said, it was something he’d been interested in doing all along? Let me know how it goes- your audiobook listening as you sew and cook… I’m really good at multi-tasking. Hubby says he could never try to work outside in the yard and listen to an audiobook at the same time- he thinks he really has to concentrate to follow the plot. He’s in awe of me that I get so much done while in the midst of a story. =)

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  8. KellyDS · February 1, 2018

    I’m not opposed to reading romance novels, I read them myself from time to time. I only let myself indulge in them now & then though b/c once I start reading them, I cannot put them down! I will finish it in a day, which is very unusual for me. part of my problem with this audio book reading is that I’m not an audio book kind of person. I’ve tried. I listened to Richard read two of the Heyer novels and I enjoyed them, but Lords of The North? I’m probably the only person in all of RA fandom that didn’t enjoy it. it’s the kind of book that I would rather read myself; it loses something when I hear someone else read it. my other problem with this upcoming audio book is that books like this have a certain tone to them (as do a lot of the fanfiction that I read, so it’s not that I’m cutting it down for that reason) and I’m having a hard time with the fact that Richard wants to go there in his professional career. if someone like Matthew Mcconaughey were to read this, it would be much more enticing to me. I don’t mean to knock MM when I say that, it’s just that I’ve seen him in all those romantic comedies and so I find it much more believable for him to be voicing a character like this. so I guess, as Guylty touched upon, Richard more than likely sees it as an acting challenge. I want to give him the chance to change my mind about it, but I can be stubborn 😉

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    • jholland · February 1, 2018

      Well, it’s true that a bad narrator or even a different narrator can absolutely ruin a good story- I have been SO PISSED before when a narrator is changed mid-series, for instance. The rare occasions when I do read physical books at this point usually involve a series I’m invested in where the narrator is not up to my standards, so the voices in my head are preferable. But RA is one of the best I’ve ever heard. I really would listen to him narrate anything, though having said that, I still haven’t gotten around to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It didn’t occur to me to imagine this as an acting challenge, but I suppose it is, in the same way that dropping the pants and performing a sex scene must be- it’s definitely a different kind of exposure, but an exposure all the same. And I don’t mean that in a lewd sense, just that narrating really intimate material must call for a certain level of vulnerability.

      Like

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