This reader’s getting pickier in her old age: Harlequin Blaze on audio

I love audio books, but as with non-audio books, there are dry spells. For all of 2012, I couldn’t get into an audiobook. I even cancelled my Audible subscription. It was Stephen King’s The Stand that got me out of it a while back. I’ve never read The Stand (haven’t read any King since a glom in 7th grade) and am really enjoying listening to it, mainly on the 2 hour each way car ride to my thirteen year old’s soccer practices. Sometimes, he wants to listen to something, and in that case I put on Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which he is also reading in paper. Although neither narrator rises to the heights of Jim Dale, the late great Anna Fields, or Gabra Zackman, they are more than adequate to the purpose.

Last night, on the way home from Connecticut (soccer tournament, naturally), I wasn’t in the mood for post-apocalyptic horror, but I only had a bunch of Harlequin Blazes on my ipod, courtesy of a subscription I had a few years back. I listened to three.

I started with While She Was Sleeping, by Isabel Sharpe. I quit after about ten minutes. Why? Here’s the set up: heroine is about to relocate to Florida from Wisconsin, but her kid sister, known for her bad judgment, is allowing some random guy to stay in the family home, which the sisters have just inherited. It’s full of three generations of memories, and so the heroine just has to drive there immediately, take a sleeping pill – or at least that is what she thinks it is. She’s not sure but pops it anyway — and go to sleep. Hero climbs into the same bed after a night of partying. Coincidentally, someone has slipped him a roofie. He wakes up and blurrily notices a hot woman in bed with him. He thinks, incorrectly, that she is the good looking brunette he met at last night’s wild party.

Commence double nonconsensual sex. Just no.

Also, the narrator had an annoying habit of emphasizing the words HE and SHE wherever they appeared in the text. As in, “Alana closed HER eyes, dread and fear lifting their little heads inside HER, trying to decide if they’d be needed or not.”

I moved on to Cara Summers’ A Sexy Time of It. While I recognize time travel is unusual for Blaze,  I was not too keen on the set up: Neely Rafferty has realistic dreams of traveling back to the time of Jack the Ripper, and there is a sexy cop from the future who’s time-shifting, too. But I DNF’d it when I got to this part:

It was such a crazy idea—but she hadn’t been able to shake free of it. Night after night, she returned to the places in London where Jack the Ripper had left his victims. The only person she’d confided in was her best friend and business partner, Linc Matthews. She and Linc had been friends since junior high when they’d both been outsiders at school. She’d never quite fit in with the cool crowd, and Linc’s sexual orientation had alienated him from their more conservative classmates.

Summers, Cara. A Sexy Time of It (Harlequin Blaze) (Kindle Locations 129-130). Harlequin Enterprises. Kindle Edition.

She’d never confided in them. Linc always listened, never judged. He’d taken seriously her theory that she was traveling to the past and that had made her take it more seriously herself. He’d even recommended a new book that had come in as part of a promotion from self-published author Dr. Julian Rhoades, who had been getting local TV coverage for his theory that psychic time travel might be…

The perfect gay best friend. Just no.

That one, incidendally is narrated by Isabelle Gordon, whom you come to know well if you listen to romance on audio. She’s good, but she has this habit of turning the end of a sentence into a hasty whisper. As in,

She’d been having vivid dreams for years—usually triggered by something in a book that had capturedherimagination.

It’s odd.

Anyway, I had somewhat better luck on the third try: Tori Carrington’s Private Parts. The set up was a bit dull: the hero, Greek magnate of the Pacific Northwest, Troy Metaxes, is trying to close a deal to turn the family lumber mill into a manufacturing plant for solar panels. Just as I was falling asleep over that scintillating scenario, in walks Kendall Banks. She is a leggy blonde, a hot shot lawyer, and she wants Troy. I was surprised, in a good way, that Kendall wanted a one night stand. Is that allowed in a Harlequin Blaze? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop: she’s into casual sex because… past abuse? Fear of commitment? Daddy issues? Bad marriage? Nope. She’s just a normal healthy woman who is too busy for a long term commitment.

Alas, what gets my political approval doesn’t necessarily make for a good story. Troy is about as thrilling as a pile of lumber, and this book was about as exciting as waiting for the solar panels to dry using Troy’s revolutionary “thin film” method. At one point Kendall is wracking her brains trying to explain why she likes Troy so much — poor thing — and she stumbles on “he’s really present in the moment.” This might have worked on paper, where I could skip through the boring descriptions of an open house the Mataxes family was planning, or the constant re-appearance of the heroes and heroines of the earlier volumes in the series.  But on audio, no.

One last point about this one: I almost fell out of the car window when I heard one of the characters say that the patriarch of the Mataxes family had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but had decided to forgo aggressive treatment because he recognized that it was a slow growing cancer and that he would likely die from some other cause first. He didn’t want to subject himself to invasive interventions of dubious benefit. Shocked at this left-field, unexpectedly accurate and subtle depiction of medical decision making after detection of an elevated PSA, I checked the author: sure enough Tori Carrington is a husband wife writing team, and while I don’t know anything about his medical history, the husband half is about the age to know these things first hand…

4 responses

  1. Tori Carrington are (is? How does it work when it’s two people?) really good at writing women who like sex, with no armchair psychoanalysis to explain their desires. I haven’t read them in a while–I need to check out what they’ve been writing lately.

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    • Hey Las. I had no idea that was a common theme in Carrington’s books! I was thinking I might go back in this series (Private Scandals). I think earlier books were the more exciting ones, and at least the narrative wouldn’t be interrupted every five minutes by the earlier happy couples showing up.

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  2. 1. I am such an urban bunny that the thought of driving 2 hours each way for my sons’ soccer horrifies me. You are a better mother than I am 🙂
    2. I have tried audiobooks many times yet none hit the spot for me.
    3. I loved Tori Carrington’s debut books. As Las says there is no armchair psychoanalysis to explain their desires. The husband half is Greek and the medical decision you describe above may be a cultural influence. It is certainly one that I am familiar with in my close and extended family.

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    • 1. It was a big decision to move him down to a southern Maine team, but six months later I can say it was the right one. And yes, these are the perils of living in a rural state!
      2. That’s too bad, but at least you do a spot of reading on occasion. 😉
      3. Interesting. In the US, many men will immediately go for surgery and/or radiation, encouraged by their urologists for reasons that aren’t too hard to explain, and be convinced forevermore it saved their lives. It might have done for some small percentage, but for most it was an unnecessary risk and the side effects are worse than the disease.

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