Speaking of Audiobooks: Notable August Releases, MOBY, and STARZ Outlander

Heroes Are My WeaknessAugust is always a strong month for romance audiobook releases and this year is especially strong evidence of such. Here are just a few titles worthy of your attention in August.

Heroes Are My Weakness – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Erin Bennett

A lover of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books for at least a dozen years now, I always eagerly anticipate each of her new releases. I’m unfamiliar with Erin Bennett but she’s not new to narrating. At Audible, I found close to sixty titles over the past two years with a number of romances in the mix. Her samples sound good. It’s my understanding that SEP is involved in choosing the narrator of her books so I’m placing my faith in her as she knows the meaning of an outstanding narrator with Anna Fields, one of the all-time contemporary romance greats, narrating fourteen of her earlier titles. I’m crossing my fingers for a truly spectacular listen.

Mean Streak – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Jonathan Davis

Mean Streak is Sandra Brown’s annual new Romantic Suspense (not another rerelease of her older titles made to look new). Those of you who have followed Speaking of Audiobooks for even a year know that I anxiously await each of these releases. Ms. Brown writes superb tales that are usually light on romance but satisfying nonetheless. And each year, as the release date of her latest release approaches, I’m so longing for another Brown listen that I find myself warming up by relistening to one of previous releases (original publication date 2000 or later). So Play Dirty is playing on my iPod right now as I wait.

Jonathon Davis has been narrating for years and has more than 150 titles to his name. He’s only narrated one romance but you often find that with Brown’s titles – they are usually performed by narrators with few past romance titles. The samples of his previous work sound very, very good. I’m excited!

The Beautiful Ashes – Jeaniene Frost

Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Jeaniene Frost launches her new series with The Beautiful Ashes and although it is paranormal romance, it’s also categorized as New Adult, a sub-genre that is becoming rampantly popular in romance audio. Although I absolutely love Ms. Frost’s Night Huntress series with Cat and Bones, I must admit that it is Tavia Gilbert’s performance of that series that makes me a complete and utter fan. I’ve listened to a good number of New Adult romances and enjoy the sub-genre; combined with my complete confidence in Tavia’s ability to masterfully deliver the content, I’m expecting an A listen.

My Beautiful Enemy – Sherry Thomas

Narrated by Charlotte Anne Dore

I always enjoy Sherry Thomas’ books but she’s been seen only sporadically in audio format. That looks to be changing with My Beautiful Enemy as it is being released simultaneously in print and audio format. I’m unfamiliar with Charlotte Anne Dore but the samples of her other recordings sound promising. Audible lists twenty titles over the last two years with the majority being titles by Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton. If Ms. Dore delivers the content in an above average manner, I’ll be completely enjoying the audio – I enjoy Sherry Thomas’ writing that much. However, if I find the narration only average, I’ll switch to print format, as I don’t want anything interfering with my enjoyment of a Thomas title.

The Defiant Hero – Suzanne Brockmann

Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank

Blackstone is rerecording the first six entries to the Troubleshooter (TSS) series utilizing two narrators who have become known as the Brockmann narrators. These books were previously recorded with what I consider less than adequate narrators – or at least poor choices for romantic suspense titles. For years, I’ve been hoping to hear that these books would be rerecorded. The Defiant Hero is Book 2 in the TSS series and although I anticipate being adequately entertained, I’m most excited about Book 3, Over the Edge (releasing 9/15) and Book 4, Out of Control, (releasing 10/15). Both are among my all time favorites in print format and I’m expecting Patrick and Melanie to make these already spectacular stories even better.

The Pirate Prince by Galean Foley

Narrated by Elizabeth Wiley

The Pirate Prince is an old favorite from the 1990s. I believe it will compare favorably to today’s historical romance market especially with Elizabeth Wiley’s narration.

What I Love About You – Rachel Gibson

Narrated Emma Bates

This is a cautious August choice as I’m a little wary of Emma Bates. She has only narrated one other book that I can find – Gibson’s Truly Madly Yours in 2013. I wasn’t crazy about her narration (a B-) then but since this author is an auto-buy for me, I’ll definitely give it a try in audio before print.


STARZ Outlander – Will You Be Watching?

Put a Kilt on ItThe audio version of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has brought a healthy number of fans into the fold. Davina Porter brings these characters so perfectly to life that Outlander is considered the golden standard of romance audio (although, yes, it’s not supposed to be a romance…but it is).

Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a good deal of excitement among romance audio fans for the upcoming STARZ series. I could write hundreds of words describing just a portion of what is going on both among Gabaldon’s fans and at STARZ with its impressive promotions. But I’ll just point you in two directions where you can find all you ever wanted to know about the TV series:

STARZ Outlander Facebook Community page

Put a Kilt on It

Although Outlander premieres August 9th on STARZ, you can access Episode One in a number of ways now as STARZ is making it available to all viewers regardless if you are a STARZ subscriber. In addition to viewing at On Demand this week for no charge, one of the other options is YouTube

I watched the first episode on Saturday night and I’ll definitely be following it all season long. STARZ is broadcasting the first season’s 16 episodes in two segments. Episodes 1 – 8 start August 9th and will air eight consecutive Saturdays through September 27th. Episodes 9 – 16 will air in early 2015. I’m one among many who ardently hope for Season Two and on!


Diana Gabaldon’s Latest

To add to all the Outlander frenzy this summer as the TV series was drawing near, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, the eighth book in the Outlander series, was released on June 10th. Now for the review and a big “Welcome Back” to Kaetrin, one of our original Speaking of Audiobooks reviewers:

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood – Diana Gabaldon

Narrated by Davina Porter

Review written by Kaetrin

I’m a fan of the Outlander series, particularly in audio format. Davina Porter is one of the best narrators I’ve ever heard and only Nicholas Boulton’s performance of Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm (and all her other books) has made her preeminent position somewhat precarious.

I’ve been following along sporadically to the Daily Lines Ms. Gabaldon tweets and I felt I’d kept in touch with enough of the series that I didn’t need to do much swotting before diving in. All I did was read the Wiki on An Echo in the Bone but I think that wasn’t strictly necessary. Despite the fact that Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (MOBY) has a very large cast of characters, I didn’t have any trouble orienting myself in the story. One of the things Ms. Gabaldon does exceptionally well, is to write enough of the background to refresh one’s memory but not too much so as to be boring and repetitive.

It’s difficult to talk about the plot without giving away spoilers. It’s safe to say that Jamie and Claire are back together in this book and Jem is not left in the tunnel long. But beyond that, I’m a little at a loss as to what I can safely impart.

While I was sucked back into the vortex almost immediately and found the listen the usual immersive and satisfying experience, there were some things I noticed that puzzled me (and which I thought had been missed in the editing process).

s BloodMOBY is separated into nine parts. All except Parts Two and Six are set between June 1778 and the first half of 1779 and feature Claire, Jamie, et al. Parts Two and Six are split between Brianna in 1980 and Roger and Buck and when they are (those who have read A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows from the A Trail of Fire anthology will not be surprised at the when however). The last paragraph of Part Two didn’t sit well with the beginning of Part Six – there was something of a problem with continuity. Further, there was no information given about how a particular letter from Roger in the past came to be where it was and none too, about how the letter Brianna had recently placed in the same spot came to have apparently disappeared.

Most of MOBY covers about three months in 1778 and the latter bits of the book take slightly bigger jumps in time, up until mid-1779. The last portion has a somewhat disjointed feel to it; more a series of little vignettes than a coherent storyline, whereas the first two-thirds of the book covered a period of less than a month.

Some of the scenes didn’t appear to have a clear purpose, appearing to be there merely to move the various players to different locations. But if that was the case, a sentence or two could have done. And there were other times when the players moved but there was no explanation given for how it had happened.

At one point, the Duke of Pardloe expresses pleased surprise at the health of a character when he had only seen the man in question, recovered from a battle wound, at a wedding mere weeks before. That is to say, he ought not to have been surprised at all.

Some of the characters were stereotypes – the whore with the heart of gold for example, who was part of William’s storyline.

So, there were some things which weren’t perfect. Truthfully, those things weren’t a big deal in the scheme of things but it is easier to talk about them than other aspects I enjoyed (but which would be too spoilerish to detail). I love the Outlander world and I find listening to the books a completely immersive experience. I don’t actually mind listening to scenes which detail minutiae about the lives of Jamie and Claire and the rest, as my wish is to spend more time with them and I am always a bit sad when I finish a book (and terribly tempted to start the series again just to stay with them but alas, time does not permit).

There was one thing to do with the treatment of a slave girl late in the book which I Did Not Like but that was my only strong negative reaction within the book.

While I had some criticisms of both the text and (smaller ones of) the audio, I basically made the happy book noise the entire listen. As much as I love the world and the characters, there were some (minor) flaws, no matter that I lapped it up with a spoon.

For the most part, I found this book to be much happier in tone and I’m pleased to report that it was way less personally violent than other books. I had become concerned about the gratuitous nature of some of the sexual violence in particular. Some parts of Echo in the Bone delved in to soap opera territory in my opinion. MOBY brought the story back from those excesses. While there is some tragedy in the book, overall, there is a lot of happiness, some reconciliations, and even a couple of weddings.

Davina Porter’s performance was magnificent. I did note some occasional vocal errors (quelle horreur!!) – where something wasn’t said in quite the right tone. For example, there is one time where Jamie is saying to Claire “I mean that” and the vocal emphasis was on “mean”. But in the text, the emphasis was on “that” – Jamie was pointing to and touching a particular place on Claire’s body at the time (I have the print version of MOBY too and I’m such a tragic that there were times I read over parts just because I wanted to experience them again).

There were some parts where Ms. Porter tripped over her tongue a little but this did not happen often. Her performance, while not flawless, was nevertheless, stellar.

Her accents are so good – perhaps Brianna’s American accent slipped into Scots sometimes but this may merely have been her interpretation of Bree after living in Scotland for some time and that’s entirely valid. Ms. Porter’s depiction of Jamie is a particular favourite but all of her male characterizations are believably masculine and well differentiated (albeit sometimes only subtly).

Where she truly excels though is in the emotion of the story. There were times when she had a burble of laughter underlying the dialogue, or, in a sad moment, a genuine wobble in her voice, as if trying to hold back tears. Not all of these vocalisations were explicit in the text but almost always, they were just right in the context of the story and the characters. And, especially the parts from Claire’s first person POV – I really felt like Ms. Porter was Claire, talking to me.

The audio is around 45 hours long but the time flew by for me. I regularly looked for excuses to keep listening and even when I stopped, I found myself flicking through the print book. Fans of the series will be very happy with this instalment – I have no doubt.

Overall Grade: B+     Narration: A-     Book Content: B+

Sensuality: Warm

Publisher: Recorded Books


AAR Latest Audio Reviews

Our audio reviewers have been busy. Reviews are listed by oldest first.

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Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Jill Mansell Narrated by Alison Larkin

London’s Last True Scoundrel – Christina Brooke Narrated by Elizabeth Wiley

The Forbidden Rose – Joanna Bourne Narrated by Kirsten Potter

Concrete Evidence – Rachel Grant Narrated by Meredith Mitchell

Sweet Revenge – Diane Mott Davidson Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Rumor Has It – Jill Shalvis Narrated by Karen White

Silence for the Dead – Simone St. James Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

The MacGregor’s Lady – Grace Burrowes Narrated by Roger Hampton

Defiance – Shelly Crane Narrated by Kyle McCarley and Cris Dukehart

King Hall – Scarlett Dawn Narrated by Chandra Skyye

One Night in London – Caroline Linden Narrated by Gildart Jackson


Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks keeps growing and now has 827 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening.

– Lea Hensley









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08/05/2014 10:03 pm

I never read any of the Outlander books, but I did listen to the first three on audio. Having said that, I must admit that I do not consider myself to be an avid follower. When Starz announced they were making it into a series, though, I was intrigued enough to want to tune in. And tune in I did! I just finished the first episode On Demand. It was a little slow, but that’s to be expected as the stage has to be set. I didn’t mind the pace bc it’s been years since I listened to the books so I was a little shaky on details.

I consider myself in the minority when it comes to this series bc, while I enjoyed the story, I lost interest after a while. Furthermore, everyone talks about Jamie, but for me, the important casting was Claire. So far, all the casting is good for me. I’m on board for more episodes!

08/05/2014 11:18 am

Although I have made a conscious choice not to watch the television Outlander, I have enjoyed the excitement and anticipation as reported here, on Audiogals and others. It looks like a good effort and I hope it lives up to billing.

MOBY was much better than anticipated (feared?)- despite the 44+ hours, the story didn’t drag much for me. I have always enjoyed the odd details the author loves to explore- IN DEPTH. I need to read it (first time I hadn’t read the book before listening to the audiobook) to absorb much of what makes the series good for me- the complexity and intermingling of the relationships.

This month’s Speaking of Audiobooks column has thrown me into a tizzy- so much I want to listen to- so little time!

08/04/2014 2:26 pm

I am looking forward to the Outlander series very much! I haven’t listened to the unabridged audio books, but back when we listened to cassettes (!!), I listened to abridged versions of the first three books which were narrated by Geraldine James. If Ms. James’ name sounds familiar, that’s because she was in that wonderful series “”The Jewel in the Crown”” (as was Charles Dance, for you “”Game of Thrones”” fans””!)

At any rate, I have read the first five books of the Outlander series; unfortunately, I found the fifth one, “”The Fiery Cross”” a really difficult one to get through (no editor??), and I just haven’t felt a great desire to get back into the series. Maybe the TV version will rejuvenate my interest!

As for the casting, I’ve seen various promos, and I think that the two leads fit my image of what Claire and Jamie would like, so I””m fine with that. Does anyone know if there are plans to televise the entire (so far) Outlander series?

Reply to  RobinB
08/04/2014 11:14 pm

As far as I know Robin, there have been no announcements of a second series yet. I expect if it rates well enough they will continue on but I’m sure it depends on $$. There’s enough early hype to be hopeful but I guess we won’t hear anything until at least the first few episodes air and the tv executives check the ratings and revenue.

Katie (kat)
Katie (kat)
08/04/2014 11:25 am

I loved the scenery but I’m not sure how I feel about Outlander yet. It’s too early. With the exception of Robert Duvall’s Gus from Lonesome Dove and Gregory Peck’s Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird (my favorite book- Peck is the only thing I liked about the movie), I find movie adaptations of books that I really love rarely live up to my casting expectations. I’m definitely going to keep watching but I get the feeling it will take me a few viewings before I can appreciate the miniseries for what it is and not be disappointed that the characters are not portrayed as how I imagined them from the books.

Lea Hensley
Lea Hensley
Reply to  Katie (kat)
08/04/2014 12:33 pm

I understand your thoughts about the characters not being portrayed as you (or me) envisioned them in the books (audio). I have to look at it this way – it’s another way to experience Outlander’s story and its characters. Sam and Cait can’t become the Jamie and Claire in my mind’s eye from all those hundreds of hours spent listening to the series. So I gave myself permission to reserve that Jamie and Claire for relistening or listening to new books in the series.

And now I’m opening myself up to TV Jamie and TV Claire. I expect a different adventure of sorts. From what I hear, they are going to be pretty loyal to the book’s content (and DG is listed as an Co-Producer in the credits) so I’m determined to enjoy a different Outlander – one with a solid storyline and the characters I know so well. It is a different medium after all – I’m actually seeing as well as hearing! So, hopefully this formula works for me cause I sure want to love this TV series.

Saying that, I thought the first episode was slow. All that background on Frank and Claire was necessary but for those who haven’t read or listened to the series, I’m concerned that it will be viewed as a bit boring. Hope they don’t give up before Claire time travels.

Reply to  Lea Hensley
08/04/2014 11:12 pm

I have to wait until August 14 to watch it but I CANNOT WAIT. I think Caitriona Balfe is quite close to my vision of Claire (although Claire is curvier, her face and hair seem right to me). Sam Heughan doesn’t look like I imagine Jamie to look exactly but when I think of Jamie in my head his face is really vague so I’d be hopeless if I had to do an identi-kit picture. That said, I’ve seen enough of Sam Heughan’s clips and pictures from the show that I can see him in the role and hopefully, as the show progresses, it will become easier. I think they got Frank/Black Jack pretty right, from what I’ve seen, though. Dougall and Colum don’t look anything like their descriptions in the book and I expect Murtaugh will be very different also but like you say Lea, it’s a different medium. I really liked the book Hunt for Red October and I really liked the movie of it but they were very different things and for me to enjoy the movie I had to regard it as a very separate thing. I expect I will have to do at least some of that with Outlander. I’m just glad it’s a tv series and not a 2 hour movie!