‘The Duchess’ by Danielle Steel

td dsSTORY: Angelique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angelique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources–and one bold stroke of fortune.

Unable to secure employment without references or connections, Angelique desperately makes her way to Paris, where she rescues a young woman fleeing an abusive madam–and suddenly sees a possibility: Open an elegant house of pleasure that will protect its women and serve only the best clients. With her upper-class breeding, her impeccable style, and her father’s bequest, Angelique creates Le Boudoir, soon a sensational establishment where powerful men, secret desires, and beautiful, sophisticated women come together. But living on the edge of scandal, can she ever make a life of her own–or regain her rightful place in the world?

From England to Paris to New York, Danielle Steel captures an age of upheaval and the struggles of women in a male-ruled society–and paints a captivating portrait of a woman of unquenchable spirit, who in houses great or humble is every ounce a duchess.

REVIEW: Lets start this review by admitting that I’ve never been a huge fan of Ms. Steele, but I did read a few of her books which I liked. I’ll not go so far as to say that this story wasn’t written by the author, as some other reviewers have suggested, but for an accomplished author as Ms. Steele, this book is unacceptable.

Now, let me tell you what didn’t work for me in this book.

I believe if the story was told only from the heroine’s POV, it would have resonated better, but the thin plot made this story not just improbable, but totally unbelievable and most of the story, especially the ending, predictable. It annoyed me to no end that the story was told from everyone’s POV. But what was most annoying was that the whole book read more as a movie script and not as a novel.

As for romance? Well, there wasn’t much of it throughout the story and when finally our heroine falls in love, the story is rushed through and I felt absolutely no connection between the two. If I was the editor of this story, I would have made the author rewrite the ending. Huge disappointment there!

There are only two things that I thought were done well, and that’s the heroine’s character development and growth. I liked watching her grow into a woman of principle and strength, however improbable her journey was. The second thing was Gideon Emery’s narration.

In the end, I do not recommend this read. I’m truly disappointment in it.

Melanie for b2b

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‘Romeo and Juliet: A Novel’ by David Hewson

rajan dh raSTORY: It’s a story you think you know: the age-old tale of “star-cross’d lovers”; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It’s a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare’s work quite like this….

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson’s talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way – with an ending you might not expect.

Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

REVIEW: First, I must say that I’ve never really read the “original”, but I’ve seen many, many performances and reimagining’s of it, and liked most of them.

Since this was exclusively offered to us through Audible only, and narrated by one of my all time favorite actors [I still say RA stole every scene in Robin Hood the series and overshadowed the main character] Richard Armitage, I just had to have it.

That’s why I am loathe to say how disappointed I was with the narration. I was conflicted between the retelling and narration. One I liked and the other not so much. And here’s why.

I liked the way all the characters were written. They all had a personality and were fun to get to know. The feel of the novel was fresh, yet old and familiar. And the ending came as a surprise and pleasant at that.

That said, Richard Armitage’s narration wasn’t bad, but for some reason most of the characters sounded the same, old and decrepit. That bothered me to no end! His voice is deep and memorable while conveying the story, but as soon as he goes into the dialogue, I just cringed.

Do I recommend it? You bet! It had enough humor that I’ll forgive RA for his less than stellar performance 😉

Melanie for b2b

‘The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie’ by Jennifer Ashley [Audiobook]

TMOLIM JABOOK BLURB: The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family–rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn’t be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them–of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He’s also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama–an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

REVIEW: I read this book awhile ago and decided to get an audio of it because I was curious to find out how the story would play out through Lord Ian’s voice. I should have been better left off  still wondering about it and not putting myself through ‘torture’ of listening to a most horrific narration I’ve ever heard. I’m not being mean here. I’m telling you the truth as I see it [or rather ‘hear’ it’].

Let me tell you  a bit about this book. The author did an outstanding job in creating this man, and a brilliant strategy in starting her new series with such a complex, sexual and tortured character. KUDOS Ms. Ashley!

north-and-south-ending[1]

I can’t pass up a book about a tortured hero, and Lord Ian MacKenzie definitely was that. He was not a ‘normal’ little boy as his brothers were and because his father thought him ‘mad’ he was locked up at an early age in an asylum.

There they subject him to all sorts of ‘modern’ techniques, such shock treatments and ice baths, which were supposed to ‘cure’ him. That is until his brother the new Duke, rescues him after their father’s death.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as BethAll those years behind the asylum’s locked doors left Ian having trouble dealing with crowds, yet his mind is sharp, genius like. His speech tends to be blunt, but is precise and he never speaks unless there’s something to say and worth hearing. He is a connoisseur of everything and anything that is perfect in shape, color or form, and can spend hours upon hours just staring at it; deconstructing and admiring it.

Beth Acklerly, the heroine of the book is not your typical heroine either. She may have been brought up in an impoverished home, left a poor vicar’s widow, but after a rich employer leaves her all of her fortune, Beth finally feels in charge of her life.

She accepts a proposal from a man not because she loves him, but because she doesn’t want to be alone, and that’s when she meets Lord Ian, a man who intrigues her, and someone who she is sexually attracted to.

Both Ian and Beth are as flawed as two characters can be, but both of their pasts have thought them to ‘read between the lines’ and forgo the pretense, thus grabbing the opportunities presented to them in what life is offering them now.

I highly recommend you read NOT listen to it, and here’s why I don’t recommend you listen to it.

First, I wish this was narrated by a male narrator with a Scott’s accent. That would have beenRichard Armitage as Lord Ian ideal and pleasurable. It would also have made me buy all the books that have come after it.

Second, the female narrator is … [I’ll try to be as gentle as I can and maintain my cool here; I don’t want to be cruel, but I must be honest!] laughable. Her narration was stilted as she tried but failed miserably in her Scottish accent; her voice is highly pitched almost every time she ends a sentence and extremely annoying. I ask you to listen to it and dare you to tell me I’m wrong.

Honestly, I wanted to cry from frustration as I know that this should have been an awesome Audiobook if only

And speaking of ‘if only’ here are the actors that I would have cast as Lord Ian and Beth, Richard Armitage  and Daniela Denby-Ashe. Have you ever seen either of those actors before? I loved them in ‘North and South’ and I think you will too. Check it out!

And here’s my Audible review:

Enter a headline for your review:

Touching romance ruined by narration.

If you could sum up The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie in three words, what would they be?

Unique; Romantic; Sensual

What did you like best about this story?

It’s the hero that makes this story unique. Reading it, I could feel his pain. I also loved the relationship portrayed between the brothers.

Would you be willing to try another one of Angela Dawe’s performances?

No.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Meet the woman who tamed the mad Lord Ian Mackenzie

Any additional comments?

I was very, VERY disappointed with the narration of this wonderful and well written book. Ms. Dawe was not able to portray the most important character of this story which was Ian. His character came across too wooden, stoic, That is not what he was.Ms. Dawe’s narration is too fast, too forced and I’m sorry to say, extremely annoying. Every sentence has a high pitched ending.

Frankly, I am surprised that a woman was chosen to narrate this story. If this story had been narrated by a male narrator, I believe it would have been better. I would be willing to buy it again in that case.

Melanie for b2b

TMOLIM JA AThe Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie: Highland Pleasures, Book 1

by Jennifer Ashley

UNABRIDGED

Narrated by Angela Dawe

Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 1

Whispersync for Voice-ready

‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’ by Grace Burrowes [Audiobook]

TBWP GBBOOK BLURB: In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her.

When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…

REVIEW: Reading, or in this instance listening to Grace Burrowes story,Emun Elliott and Elaine Cassidy as Ian and Augusta is a pleasure I never want to give up. It really doesn’t matter whose story she tells, because she tells it so well that I’ve become a part of every story and every family she introduces me to.

She creates a world that I as a reader do not want to leave. And now that I can ‘hear’ the words acted out, it’s become even harder to leave that world behind once the story is finished.

I think all her books should be turned into a TV series, and every book she’s written so far, I’ve tried to imagine as a TV movie.

This particular story would have been a pleasure to cast because of so many wonderful characters, especially the MacGregor brothers. Can you imagine all those men in kilts?!

I envision  Emun Elliott and Elaine Cassidy from 2012 TV series ‘Paradise’ as Ian and Augusta. If you haven’t caught this wonderful series yet, please try to catch up with it on You Tube. It really is fascinating.

And here’s my Audible review of ‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’.

Enter a headline for your review:

Romantic; Intriguing; Entertaining

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Without a doubt! My main reason for recommending it would be the solid writing of this interesting love story, and the second would be narration. I truly enjoyed Roger Hampton’s narration and talent in covering multitude of characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Bridegroom Wore Plaid?

There really are many, but the first one to come to mind is the scene from Chapter One in which Ian is showing Augusta the taps in the water closet. His thoughts about her were very entertaining and revealing, but the narration of that scene was priceless!

“The next few moments happened in a series of impressions.

First came the sensation of the door thwacking into Ian from behind. A stout blow more unexpected than painful, but enough to make him stumble forward.

Then, Fiona’s voice, muttering the Gaelic equivalent of “Beg pardon!” followed by a patter of retreating footsteps.

And then, in Ian’s male brain, the woman with the pretty, anxious eyes became the woman who was soft, lush, and still beneath Ian’s much greater weight.

She didn’t push him away. She didn’t even touch him. The sole indication that his weight was any imposition as he flattened her to the wall, that the impropriety of the moment was any imposition, was her closed eyes.

The final impression threatened to part Ian from his reason: her breasts, heaving against his chest. In preparation for her bath, she’d left off her stays, and the feminine abundance pressed against Ian ambushed his wits.

Shrewd, noticing, and astoundingly well endowed.

When he wanted to press closer, Ian pushed himself away with one hand on the wall and made sure both feeder taps were open. “I do beg your pardon, Miss Merrick.”

 “A mishap only. I stumbled upon leaving the coach.”

She would recall that, while Ian had thought nothing of it. His damned male parts were thinking at a great rate now, and all because…”

What does Roger Hampton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Mr. Hampton did an excellent job with Scottish accent and that’s something I could never manage! I also loved the way he portrayed the villain of the story, Willard Daniels, Baron of Altsax and Gribbony.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but alas it was not to be. I did listen to it within two days.

Any additional comments?

This book’s well written story and Mr. Hampton’s brilliant interpretation of multiple characters had contributed to some hours of priceless entertainment for me.

TBWP GBUNABRIDGED

by Grace Burrowes

Narrated by Roger Hampton

Series: MacGregor Trilogy, Book 1

Whispersync for Voice: Enabled

‘Flowers from the Storm’ by Laura Kinsale [Audiobook]

FFTS LK pcBOOK BLURB: He’s a duke. He’s a mathematical genius. He can’t talk and he’s locked in a lunatic asylum. Only a modest Quaker girl can reach him, but when she helps him to escape, she’s swept into his glittering aristocratic world, her life torn apart by his desperate attempt to save himself.

Laura Kinsale personally chose the exceptional talent of Nicholas Boulton to narrate her classic romance Flowers from the Storm – cited by readers of The Washington Post and Glamour magazine as “one of the greatest love stories of all time” – creating a fresh and unique work that brings all the power and intensity of the original to audio.

REVIEW: Is there anyone out there that has NOT read or reread this book in the past 20 Toby Stephens as Christianyears? If there is, then for God’s sake, what are you waiting for?! Find it! Read it! PLEASE! Or better yet, listen to it. It is as much enjoyable as reading it because of the brilliant narration of Nicholas Boulton. Trust me!

I honestly don’t remember when was the first time I read this book, but I make the time to reread it at least once a year, and every time I do, it’s like the first time. It never fails to bring me to tears on exactly the same scenes as the first time I read it.

Everything about this story is brilliant. Laura Kinsale wrote one of the greatest love stories of my time and not many can come close to knocking it down from the pedestal I placed it on.

Christian and Maddygirl

If I were casting this as a TV movie, there would be only one couple that would do justice to the roles of Christian and Maddy, and that is Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, who were awesome as Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre in 2006’s mini series adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’.

If you’ve never seen it, here it is, the first two episodes and the other two will follow…

Ruth Wilson as MaddygirlAnd now, here’s my Audible review of ‘Flowers From the Storm’.

Enter a headline for your review:

Brilliant story and brilliant narration!

If you could sum up Flowers from the Storm in three words, what would they be?

Heartbreaking; Romantic; Sensual

Who was your favorite character and why?

That would be the heroine, Maddy Timms. The conflict she went through between her religious beliefs and the responsibility and strong attraction to Jarvaulx was extraordinarily written, which tells me that the author did her homework when it came to the knowledge of Quaker Beliefs.It was fascinating watching her character grow and develop right in front of me!

What about Nicholas Boulton’s performance did you like?

Nicholas Boulton was brilliant as each character emerged, especially the hero. He made meToby Stephens and Ruth Wilson as Christian and Maddy from Flowers From the Storm cringe as I felt the frustration The Duke of Jervaulx was going through; he made me laugh as I listened to the Duke’s friends and servants; he melted my heart as he read the sensual scenes….*sigh*…

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The scene in which Maddy tries to bring some dignity to Christian by dressing him in his own clothes and then realizing that she had him all dressed in his riding outfit complete with spurs, is heartbreaking as he is devastated to realize that he’s not to leave his cell….

Ruth Wilson and Toby stephens as Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre 2006Any additional comments?

This is without a doubt one of the most romantic stories I have ever read [and I have read a lot of them], but it’s not just that. This is a love story of epic proportions; a story of conflict of not so much good and evil, but of one’s inbred religious beliefs versus one’s faith in humanity.

I applaud the author for her brilliant writing of Christian’s speech impairment which made me acutely aware of his pain, frustration and impotence.

As for narration…The voice of Nicholas Boulton was mesmerizing as he read every character in the book to perfection. He was brilliant as Christian, showing me the frustration and rage so well written by the author, and as Maddy, with her thee/thou Quaker speech. And then he acted out to perfection Christian’s friends, Maddy’s father, Christian’s Aunt….and on and on…What a range this man has! Awesome job Mr. Boulton!

FFTS LKUNABRIDGED

by Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Whispersync for Voice: Enabled

‘Thunder and Roses’ by Mary Jo Putney [Audiobook]

TAR MJP CEBOOK BLURB: They called him the Demon Earl. They said he could do anything. Son of a rogue and a gypsy, Nicolas Davies was a notorious rake until a shattering betrayal left him alone and embittered in the Welsh countryside. Desperation drives quiet schoolmistress Clare Morgan to ask the Demon Earl to help save her village.

Unwilling to involve himself in the problems of others, Nicholas sets an impossible price on his aid – only if Clare will live with him for three months, letting the world think the worst, will he intervene. Furiously, Clare accepts his outrageous challenge, and finds herself drawn into a glittering Regency world of danger and desire.

As allies, she and Nicholas fight to save her community. As adversaries, they explore the hazardous terrain of power and sensuality. And as lovers, they surrender to a passion that threatens the foundations of their lives.

Thunder and Roses was nominated for a RITA award and was a finalist for the RWA Golden Choice award for best audiobook of the year.

Clare and NicholasREVIEW: Before I let you to read my Audible review, let me just say that the system of reviewing the audiobooks there, leaves a lot to be desired. Because their system is vastly limited to their own questions [which vary from one reviewer to the next], I thought to write one up here.

First, I just loved this story. Everything in it worked for me. I’m a huge fan of a ‘tortured hero’ and while Nicholas was hurt as a child by everyone that was close to him, he wasn’t physically abused. Thank God for small favors! Never the less, he went through years and years of suffering, by keeping a family secret while letting rumors fly about his ‘immoral character’ and rakish reputation, for which he didn’t give a damn.

Claire on the other hand was someone who valued her reputation above all else, and yet wasNickolas willing to risk it when it came down to loosing it to help community she loved and thought of as her only family.

Second, I adored the voice of the narrator, Peter Bishop.

I think narration is extremely important when it comes to ‘reading’ and ‘listening’ to a book. For example, the voice of Davina Porter from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is truly amazing and I enjoy it a lot. She’s doing all of DG’s books in O/series because it’s told from first person’s POV and it works great for that series. She also has a deep enough voice to ‘read’ male parts as well. That is rare, trust me!

I passed up a lot of books only because the narration put me off.

Third, as I listened to the story, I had a clear vision of Clare and Nicholas as if I was watching a movie.

Awhile ago I saw ‘A Hazard of Hearts’, a 1987 romantic film that was based on a novel by Barbara Cartland. It had Helena Bonham Carter and Marcus Gilbert playing Serena Staverley  and Lord Justin Vulcan, and they were my perfect casting of Clare and Nicholas.

By the way, if you’ve never seen it, it’s on You Tube and when you have the time, I hope you give it a chance. I liked it.

In the end, I loved everything about this story which was fast paced, had plenty of twists and turns and  interesting secondary characters, but what I loved the most was the friendship between the Fallen Angels and passion between Clare and Nicholas.

And here is what I left on Audible site as my review…

TAR MJP icEnter a headline for your review:

Great start to a series!

If you could sum up Thunder and Roses in three words, what would they be?

Well-told / Poignant / Entertaining

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the characterization of every character in the book.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene in which the heroine meets the hero for the first time is very memorable. I loved the way they conversed in that scene and how they went after one another.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Definitely, but as always what we want and what we can do is sometimes not one and the same. I managed to listen to it within three days.

Any additional comments?

I liked the narration a lot. I was actually glad that the narrator had only slight nuances between male and female voices. I hate when a male/female narrators butcher the dialogue by sounding ‘cartoonish’ as they try to sound male/female.

Job well done by Peter Bishop!

TAR MJPUNABRIDGED

by Mary Jo Putney

Narrated by Peter Bishop

Series: Fallen Angels (Putney), Book 1

Whispersync for Voice-ready