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D. Mark

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The series takes a darker turn.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-01-20

I haven't really been one for historicals with a magical element, but I came across the first book in this series- Unmasking Miss Appleby- via the narrator, and really enjoyed it. Resisting Miss Merryweather was also enjoyable, but after Trusting Miss Trentham, I do wonder where this series is leading.

I don't usually relay a lot of the storyline in my reviews, but I do think it is important that you know that Icarus is suicidal for the majority of the book. He has a mission to accomplish, and has decided that he will end his life when it is over. If I had known that, I probably wouldn't have listened to the book.

I have read one book previously where the hero was suicidal (again, I didn't know until I was well into the book) and with both books I have been extremely frustrated by the selfish behaviour of these men. Icarus is very selfish. He uses Letty, for her gift and for emotional support. He takes and takes from her, allowing her to be in a situation that could negatively impact her for the rest of her life. As he plans on ending his life, he doesn't intend to do anything to help her should trouble descend upon her as a result of assisting him.

I also didn't like how bad he made Letty feel about herself. She already has low self esteem from being proposed to by nearly 200 men who don't actually want her, only her money. I felt like this made her disregard her own needs, and focus so completely on how she could help Icarus, and save his life. When she told him that her gift was magical, and the story about her fairy godmother, he made her feel ashamed because the thought that magic existed made him feel "uncomfortable". Never mind that he was using her gift for his own quest. He didn't seem to mind making her uncomfortable by mentioning his death every opportunity he got.

When he did decided that he wasn't suicidal after all, he won't marry Letty because he isn't "ready" for a wife. Then he has sex with her, and realises that she's the love of his life.

The backstory of Icarus' experience at the hands of the french, and description of his illness, PTSD and depression are powerful and convincing. I just don't think they belong in a romance, unless the book spans several years. It is unconvincing (and insulting to sufferers) to insinuate that within two weeks, a man can go from being physically and mentally ill, sleep deprived, obsessed, isolated and suicidal, to healthy, happy, in love, sociable and ready to build a future. In spite of the (rather rushed) epilogue casting a rosy glow over everyone, I find it hard to believe that Letty has ended up with a husband that she can rely on. It is far more likely that she would spend the rest of her life watching and worrying over him.

Rosalyn Landor is always superb, although the tone of the whole book is rather solemn so her performance is flatter than usual. There isn't a laugh in the whole book, and actually I'm surprised I didn't abandon it. Letty and Icarus collect a motley crew on their travels, and it would have been good if there characters had been used to provide some light relief.

A big positive is that a homosexual relationship is acknowledged in this book. I would rather it had been introduced in an emotional rather than a sexual way, but to my joy it is the subject of the next book in the series, Claiming Mister Kemp.

1 person found this helpful

Sexy, sexy, sexy!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-08-19

My goodness, what a revelation. This was a rare impulse buy for me. I came across this series and decided to buy it on the strength of the sample, without reading anything about it. Luckily I happened to download the first trilogy of the series. There are three sets of three novellas in the Highland Historical series:

Unleashed Trilogy: Unspoken, Unwilling, Unwanted- about The MacLachlan Berserkers
Reclaimed Trilogy: Released, Redeemed, Reluctant- about The MacKay Banshees
Invoked Trilogy: Insolent, Indecent, Incarnate- about The de Moray Druids

In the past I have not had a taste for magic in my historicals, I don't even do time travel. However, I have tried a couple recently, and found I am more tolerant if the magical elements are more subtle, and there are not magical creatures all over the place.

The first story in this trilogy, Unspoken, is just delicious. The only complaint I have is that it is way too short! Sensual and tender, with a hearty dose of blood and gore! Unwilling was not for me as exquisite, but Unwanted tied it all together nicely.

This is my first book read by Derek Perkins, and his reading was perfect.

Get ready to fall in love with this trio of berserkers, creatures of violence, vengeance, gentleness and passion. I'm jumping straight back in with Reclaimed...

Devastating

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-04-19

I will try to convey how utterly disappointed I am with this audiobook.

As a child I was a huge Enid Blyton fan, and The Secret Island was my absolute favourite book. I still have the extremely tattered copy I first read, and it is a story that I have introduced to many children over the years. I think the themes of independence and self-sufficiency are incredibly empowering for children, and the imagery conjured up sublime. This is Blyton at her best.

I used to have an abridged version of this book on tape, read by Jan Francis (who perfectly narrated the Famous Five series). Sadly this was eaten by the tape player a long time ago. I had requested this book on Audible, and so I was very excited to learn that it had been recorded. I still cannot quite believe how badly it turned out.

Joshua Higgot is simply not suitable as an audiobook narrator. All of his female voices sound the same, like an ancient pantomime dame! The whole performance lacks emotion, and the wonder and beauty of the story has been lost.

In stark contrast, Blyton's Adventure series was released on Audible at the same time, but recorded by Thomas Judd. Oh my goodness what an incredible narrator! I was never very interested in the Adventure series, but Judd absolutely brings it to life. He is one of those rare performers who allows you to be carried away by a story, without jolting you back to reality with jarring voices or strange pronunciation. I am delighted that he has further recorded the Five Find-Outers series with which he will have you howling with laughter!

My advice is if you love, or want to love The Secret Island, stick with the book. The rest of the Secret series is not great, and I think this book works best as a standalone.

For Blyton audiobooks to enjoy I thoroughly recommend the Famous Five books (read by Jan Francis not Ann Beach) the Secret Seven series (read by Sarah Greene, not Esther Wane) and the Adventure series and Find-Outers series read by Thomas Judd.

4 people found this helpful

What happens in Scotland... should stay there.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-07-18

I've had this book on my to-listen list for quite a while, but have put it off. I have previously listened to another McQuiston book 'Diary of an Accidental Wallflower' which had quite an unlikeable heroine, and did not incite me to seek any other of her books. However, I liked the premise of 'What happens in Scotland' so eventually gave it a listen.

I almost turned it off and returned the book within the first five minutes of listening. Mispronunciation of words such as 'penchant', 'dishabille', and most unforgivably, 'ton' as 'tone' had me wondering if anyone ever listens to these tihngs before they are sold to the public. Added to that the frankly awful voicing of James, and I was certain that this title was destined to languish on the Did Not Finish list. I decided to try to ignore these glaring problems, and soon found it surprisingly easy to keep listening.

The structure of this book is very different to most in the genre. The whole book takes place during a single (extremely eventful) day. Aside from the first five minutes, Georgette and James spend the first half of the book apart. Unfortunately, I enjoyed that time much more than when they do eventually come together again.

I quite liked Georgette, she is intelligent, resourceful, and with a dark sense of humour. James on the other hand is irritating in the extreme. We are given reason from his past as to why he is so distrustful and wilfully independent. I would have had more sympathy for James if he had expressed that this attitude was a regrettable result of his past experiences. But he has almost no self awareness, and doesn't appreciate how much his behaviour has hurt his parents, his brother, his best friend and now Georgette. He comes across as juvenile, petulant and resentful.

He throws accusation after accusation at Georgette, and demands hard evidence of her innocence before he will believe her. His training as a solicitor is cited as reason for this. This ignores one of the basic tenets of the law, that it is not for the accused to prove their innocence, but for their accusers to prove their guilt. At one point he tells Georgette that he loves her, but does not trust her. This clearly shows that the man is immature, and does not understand what love is. There is no love without trust, only some warped power game.

Georgette's response to James' behaviour just doesn't ring true. Her interactions with other characters are funny, quick witted and no-nonsense. With James she is constantly understanding why he might be distrustful of her, rather than raking him down as he rightly deserves, Considering the trials of her first marriage, the last thing she needs is an insecure, emotionally demanding second husband who feels her money is a threat to his masculinity, and will accuse her of wrongdoing anytime anything goes wrong. James and Georgette seem to bring out the worst in each other, he becomes angry and suspicious, she a doormat. I just can't see that a happily ever after is on the cards for these two.

As to Lana Weston's narration... I have already mentioned the glaring issues I had with the narration that almost had me switching off. I will say that on further listening, Weston's female voices are very good. She reads in an entertaining way, and her comic timing is excellent. Her male voices however, are just terrible. Somehow she reads the men's voices in a higher pitch than her normal speaking voice. Add to that her idea of a Scot's accent, and the result is rather whiny and irritating. This wasn't too much a disaster for a beta male like James, but would not do for a big strapping Scotsman.

One other important thing you should know about this book is that there is a character called DAVID CAMERON. Yep. They don't just call him David or Cameron, he is full-named all the way through the book. In this book, he is not a nice character (so not the greatest stretch in the world), but he is the HERO of the next book in this series, 'Summer is for Lovers'. A review of that book says that he is full-named 55 times throughout. I'm not sure I'd be able to ignore that.

I finished this book in two days, and it is good for a bit of light listening. However, there are many better books for that.

1 person found this helpful

So many plot holes, you could use it as a sieve.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-07-18

PROS: The premise of this book- a couple accidentally handfasts themselves to each other in Scotland-is a good one. The main characters, Charlotte and Anthony are fairly likeable and have a moderate amount of depth. The narrator, Marian Hussey, is easy to listen to and does a good job.

CONS: The writing is so lazy with very little attention to detail, such that there are gaping holes in the plot that Ridley does not even try to close. She writes as though Scotland consists of one small town. In fact, I don't even think she gives them a location, other than being "in Scotland". Charlotte and a number of other people seem to be making an extended stay at a posting inn, as though it is some kind of holiday resort. Why?

The reliance on coincidences to move the story along is outrageous. Charlotte's father's solicitor just happens to come across her "in Scotland". He doesn't even say he's been looking for her, for some unknown reason he is "in Scotland" and just happens to come across her. There is also no explanation as to why Charlotte's mother allows her to go all the way to Scotland, when she knows her father does not in fact live there. The smallest amount of effort could have resolved these issues, which makes it particularly irritating.

The everyday actions of the characters is just wrong. Charlotte's determination to join the card game and stake money she can't afford to lose doesn't make sense. Anthony's reaction to owing a great deal of money in a short period of time doesn't make sense. He starts doing odd jobs for pennies because it makes him feel useful. What? Charlotte and Anthony are very concerned about not wasting money, and yet they travel from Scotland to London by hiring private carriages instead of travelling by the mail or the stage, staying at numerous posting houses along the way. A pair of "ruffians" from London have a rather impressive amount of knowledge about Scottish law. How? Ridley's understanding of the era seems to be minimal.

You always have to suspend your disbelief a fair amount for books like these, but I think Ridley is asking far too much with this one. If you like to have some authenticity and attention to detail in your historicals, avoid!

1 person found this helpful

Surprisingly good.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-04-18

Despite enjoying the first book in this series, If The Earl Only Knew, I wasn't sure if I wanted to listen to this second book. From the description it sounded like a retelling of the first book, encompassing the same time frame, characters and events. So I didn't have the highest hopes for Earl Interrupted, but I was pleasantly surprised. First, I will say that it is essential that you have read or listened to the first book, and recently too. Kate and Robert's past is only briefly recapped in this book, and your knowledge of the sequence of events as laid out in the first book is essential to understand what is going on. I had listened to the first book twice so found it easy enough to follow.

Since Robert barely talks in the first book, there is enough unrevealed in book one to fill a second book. I enjoyed the scenes that had appeared in book one but from a different perspective. Tbh, Emma grated on my nerves in the first book, and seemed a bit dim, but her seemingly senseless optimism is explained. Emma is a Christian and you are not allowed to forget it for the entire book. I was raised a Catholic, but even I found it a bit hard to stomach all the God stuff. It got to the point where she was actively trying to convert Robert.

Carolyn Morris is a well established narrator, and if you have enjoyed her other work you will enjoy this. I won't say that she has the greatest range in the world, but she is a lively narrator and puts a lot of life into the book.

If you enjoyed If the Earl Only Knew, treat yourself to this book to complete the story. I don't think the series is properly named, being 'The Daring Marriages' when neither of the marriages are at all daring. Robert is the Earl of Darington, and his nickname is Dare, so I suppose it came from that. It would make a bit more sense if Darington was Robert and Kate's surname rather than just Robert's title.

1 person found this helpful

Disappointing

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 31-03-18

Due to a change in publisher, this title came out several months after its original date. Having finally been able to listen to the book, I'm very sorry to say that it has come as something of an anticlimax.

I have read or listened to several Tessa Dare books, including the Castles Ever After, and the Spindle Cove series. Mostly (but not always) her books have been a hit with me, witty, well paced, and with really lovable characters. The first three Spindle Cove books are wonderful, after that, not so much. The cross-over book Do You Want To Start A Scandal was frankly bizarre.

When I read the blurb for The Duchess Deal it sounded like Dare had finally got back on track. When I found out that Mary Jane Wells was narrating the audiobook I was delighted. I am a big fan of Wells, and so waited the extra few months for the audiobook to come out, though the hard back was available much earlier.

The beginning section of this book is just as I had hoped. Lots of witty dialogue with two good quality leads, and some laugh out loud moments. Ash and Emma both have a lot of emotional baggage, but are both quite pragmatic with a shared dark humour. Ash's attempts to enjoy his wedding night are wonderfully calamitous, and his determination to keep a 'stiff upper lip' quite adorable.

For me, the book dipped terribly in the middle. Here, we are introduced to some of the characters who will become main characters in later books in the series. I felt this section was so obviously about setting up future books, and really broke the flow of Ash and Emma's story. These characters appear heavily in this middle section, and then disappear before making a brief reappearance near the end of the book. It just didn't feel natural, and I lost interest in the book, and didn't return to it for a few weeks.

The final section of the book was better, but to be honest I just didn't feel that there had been much emotional development between Ash and Emma. They seem to have sex every other minute, but there were no real moments of intimacy between the two. There were no proper descriptions of the two eating meals with each other, reading books, talking about their childhoods, laughing, sharing non-sexual touch... any of the scenes that normally make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Throughout they really struggled with intimacy, and 'witty banter' characterised nearly all of their conversations, which got really tedious.

It is quite a short book, and it felt like there wasn't time for some of the better elements to really shine. Ash's relationship with a local lad Trevor had the potential to be comedy gold, but it flagged until it became necessary as a plot device.

Wells does a good job, but as the book lacked emotional depth, so did her performance.

All in all, I don't think this will be a re-listen for me, and I'm not too fussed about listening to the rest of the series either.

10 people found this helpful

The Taming of the Pain in the Arse

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-09-17

This book is about half the length of a normal novel, and is only just about bearable for that time. If it were any longer, I would have abandoned it as a Did Not Finish. The storyline is ok, although nothing original, but the main protagonists are so unlikeable that it's difficult to care about what happens to them. Nicholas starts off as a repellant character who talks to- and about- women in a disgusting manner. His character does improve throughout the story, but conversely, Katherine gets worse and worse. I find childish couples very wearing, and the almost constant bickering of these two is not enjoyable. 'The benefit of the doubt' is an unknown concept in this book.

The book references The Taming of the Shrew several times, and this-along with constant references to her "Irish temper"- apparently justifies Katherine's erratic behaviour. She flies into a temper in seconds and without warning. I find a woman's violence against a man as repellent as a man's towards a woman, but unfortunately this is treated as acceptable. I really hate it when a writer's idea of an "independent", "spirited" or "feisty" female is an unreasonable, argumentative, irrational woman. Her lack of manners and ingratitude are just awful.

The supporting characters are not very well fleshed out, and there isn't a laugh in the whole book.

Anne Flosnik is a narrator you can either bear to listen to or not. The narration of this book is neither better nor worse than any other she has read. Other than the general strangeness of her narration, the only thing that stood out was when she pronounced 'Don Quixote' phonetically. Other than the pure wrongness of this, it ruined a gag.

1 person found this helpful

Oh dear

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-09-17

Any additional comments?

I thought the reviews on audible.com must have been a bit harsh... they were not. This Michelle Ford is the reader otherwise known as Carolyn Morris. I have listened to quite a few books read by Carolyn Morris, and while her male voices are not really her strong point, they don't detract from the enjoyment of the book. I can totally understand why she would record this book under a different name. The result of her attempting male Scottish voices is frankly horrible. Strangely high-pitched and whiny, and she has difficulty trying to maintain the accent. There are few books that I deem unlistenable, but I'm afraid this is one of them. The story seems promising enough, but there is no way I'd be able to concentrate on it. Return!

A nice story, but not a romping Highland yarn.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-09-17

Any additional comments?

This book is easy listening at its best (you really don't have to pay that much attention to it). Annabel and Ross get along from the start, and don't have a disagreement throughout the entire book. She gets along with his soldiers, his clan, his family... it's all just a bit blah. To liven things up, Annabel and Ross both get whacked over the head a few times by a mysterious attacker, then some older women do too for good measure. Surprisingly, in spite of sustaining several head injuries within just a few days, Annabel does not seem to have any lasting damage. Ross doesn't seem too bothered that his wife keeps getting attacked, mostly when she happens to be naked. He's super-chilled, and nothing really stirs him up- except annoying sisters.

I was surprised when I had only two chapters left of this book, because it felt like the story hadn't yet got going. If you're looking for hot-blooded, passionate highlanders, look elsewhere. This is my first experience of Lynsay Sands, and I'm not sure I'll be seeking out her other titles.

The book is ably read by Mary Jane Wells, who is always a pleasure to listen to. The only problem I had was that she pronounced plaid as "played" rather than "plad". I have noticed this is another book she narrated with a Scotsman in it, but then the work was hardly used and therefore easily ignored. Here it crops up all the time, so was much more distracting.

2 people found this helpful