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….