Fictional romance comes in many forms, catering to many different tastes. How do you like your romance? Are you eager for Richard Armitage’s upcoming audiobook project? In case you missed it, RA will be co-narrating a contemporary romance novel by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blakely. Thanks to Perry and Servetus for bringing the news to us! There is a lot of interesting discussion over on their sites.
I have to say that my personal taste does not usually lead me in this direction
, although years ago I did read a few Harlequin Romances when there was nothing else available. Servetus took one for the team and quickly read an earlier book, Nights with Him, to get a feel for Blakely’s style. I headed over to iTunes, where they have some audiobook samples (I wasn’t keen on the particular male narrator) and also some free downloads of Blakely’s written work. I downloaded the free 75-page Most Irresistible Guy, which is a mini-prequel to Most Valuable Playboy and part of the Ballers and Babes series.
Most Irresistible Guy is about a hairdresser and a professional football player who have been friends since they were kids. Of course, she has an unspoken crush on him but is firmly in the friend zone, despite being able to diagnose and fix his problems on the football field. My take on it was, no substance, not much plot, and not people I cared about at all. In fact, I could not make myself care enough to read it word for word but skimmed through it instead. The prequel was fluff, but was not steamy, even though I understand her style generally is. It also wasn’t funny at all, which would have helped in the readability for me.
Somehow, though, there was a teaser for the second book on my phone, so I clicked and read a sample. Most Valuable Playboy is told from the guy’s POV, and I actually found the male voice a bit more compelling, allowing me to read the excerpt instead of skimming it. So, that’s a bit hopeful for RA’s narration. Although the football player kind of lost me when he mentioned that he really enjoys getting his hair cut so that he can look down the hairdresser’s top as she leans over him. (Eww.) Not going to spend the $4.99 on this.
North and South
I appreciate some subtlety in fictional romance. Just after the New Year began, I once again fell under the influence of my “gateway drug” into Armitage-appreciation, the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’sNorth and South. I thought that after so many viewings, I might find it boring, but far from it! I was again mesmerized by the small gestures and fleeting touches, as John and Margaret spar with each other but are still irresistibly drawn together. The atmosphere is drawn so well, with the contrast of Helstone’s light against Milton’s darkness, and the cotton filling the air like snow. It’s also really important that the characters around them are not just cardboard cut-outs and that there is a story of the times, with strife and tragedy, to make the romance not be the sole focus. I was noticing again how fine the acting is, particularly Richard Armitage and Sinead Cusack. Daniela Denby-Ashe is fine in the dialogue, but seems to only have one facial expression (stunned) whenever she has to be absorbing some new discovery about John. Of course, the ending is lovely, but it is the slow build that makes it so.
Georgette Heyer Audiobooks
I could (and do) listen to these audiobooks over and over again. These Regency romances were written in the twentieth century, but with the style of an earlier age. Again, there is no overt sexuality and there is a lot of humour, both in the writing by Heyer and in the narration by Richard Armitage. The female protagonists are strong and set their own path, and the scrapes they get into add to the humour. Strong women and humour are also things I like in a romance.
Modern Romantic-Comedy Books
For a while I was reading some female-centric romantic comedies. English author Catherine Alliott is a favourite of mine in this genre, starting with her first novel, The Old-Girl Network. Humour and relatable female protagonists make these books a really fun read. Yes, the girl gets the guy, but not without a lot of scrapes along the way.
I also had a lot of fun with Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, which are in a similar vein. I was so excited when they made a movie of the first book, and then so disappointed when the wonderful female lead was portrayed as such a bimbo, instead of the really cool character in the book. (Kinsella’s later books, I find, just somehow miss the mark.)
Oh and I really love Graeme Simsion‘s two-part series, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. Very funny, with a strong female character. But what makes it so great and so unique is the male narrator, who is a brilliant genetics professor and seemingly has undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. This is of course the basis for a lot of hilarious miscommunication, but you are really rooting for him. Kind of like the so funny and endearing Doc Martin British TV series starring Martin Clunes.
While we’re on the subject of romantic comedy, I enjoy Richard Armitage’s turn on The Vicar of Dibley, too. It is nice to watch him in a lighter, comedic role, even if he essentially plays the straight man to Dawn French’s comedy.
Other Romantic Stories
There are certainly many other fictional romantic stories I have enjoyed, but I really like them to have an interesting plot, well-developed characters in more than just the two leads, a strong relatable woman, and often some humour. I don’t mind some steamy scenes either, depending on how they are done — I much prefer classiness to crassness.
Will I buy the new audiobook when it comes out? Probably, eventually, although I haven’t bought The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde yet. And I’m really looking forward to the scripted podcast, Wolverine: The Long Night, coming out in the Spring.