As you may or may not know, most of the books I read are in audio form. And since I also primarily read romance, I’ve become pretty picky with the narrators and performances I prefer as I listen.
It’s very easy for a narrator or the performance to take me out of a story, but there are many times either of those two things bring the story to life.
Here are the things that make an audiobook performance great for me:
1. Perfect casting
I so appreciate authors/publishers who take the time to cast a narrator thoughtfully. (Here’s lookin’ at you Lauren Blakely). Particularly when a novel is written in first person, it’s important that the narrator sound like how I picture the character would – there have been many times, especially in YA, where the narrator sounds far too old for the character and it takes me completely out of the story.
2. Comedic timing
Another thing that a lot of the narrators of these books get right is comedic timing. A great comedic performance can have me laughing out loud.
3. Differentiation between characters
I love books with a lot of dialogue, but it can easily get confusing remember who is speaking if the narrator does not make differences (even subtle) in their voices when they speak for different characters.
4. … But The Voices Have to be Believable
An accurate accent is important, but so is male narrators using female voices and vice versa. I’ll never forget listening to Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time and hearing the narrator change her voice for Christian… I nearly burst out laughing at a part that was supposed to be intense because it sounded exactly like the voice I use to make fun of my husband. In contrast, I’ll never forget letting my husband listen to XE Sands narrate and then telling him it was one person narrating for the male and female parts and he didn’t believe me!
5. Any audio nuances/extras are always appreciated
Even if it is just music for the chapter transitions (like in King of Code) or special music played when magic is being wielded (like in Vampire Academy) or full-cast/duet/duel narration. I also love, love, love it when there are extras at the end of an audiobook such as interviews or music.
Now it’s time to share my list of books that did everything right.
My Favorite Romance Audiobooks
Let’s get these first two out of the way, shall we?
Every Single Lauren Rowe Book
Why? Because Lauren narrates all of her books alongside John Lane. There is something to be said for authors who narrate their own books because you know that the way it is read is how it was intended to be heard. Also, she’s a fantastic voice actress with on-point comedic timing. As for John Lane, his deep, gruff voice somehow works perfectly for every single character in all of her books, no matter how different.
Every Single Mariana Zapata Book
This is my love letter to Callie Dalton. Mariana Zapata’s books are full of internal dialogue, most of which is incredibly hilarious, and Callie Dalton absolutely nails it every single time. Recently, Mariana has had her books done in duet narration – my favorite second only to full cast – in which there are two narrators narrating for their characters throughout the book. (Please see: From Lukov with Love and Luna and the Lie)
Birthday Suit by Lauren Blakely
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Lauren Blakely is my favorite audiobook author simply because she so avidly loves her audiobook-reading fans. So much so that she orchestrated this amazing Full Cast narration – purposely casting all of the most-loved Romance Audio Narrators. This also included a hilarious and fun interview at the end!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series by Jenny Han
Laura Knight Keating’s voice is absolutely perfect for Lara Jean. She doesn’t sound too old and not too immature. It truly sounds like she IS Lara Jean!
Pucked Off by Helena Hunting
This entire series has pretty fantastic narration, but the 5th book in the series was my all-time favorite. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with Jacob Morgan, but Jacob Morgan doing a Scottish accent? Yes. Freaking. Please. Also… we can’t forget Rose Diorio’s sweet voice which was so perfect for Poppy.
Darkly, Madly Duet by Trisha Wolfe
But, like, Joe Arden is doing an Irish accent… also this is one dark, sexy novel… the combination is almost too much to bear.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Such a swoon-worthy performance by Deacon Lee and Kyle Mason. There really isn’t much more to say about that. Also, there is a really great interview at the end of the book between the authors and narrators.
King of Code by CD Reiss
This was my first introduction to CD Reiss and Christian Fox and it was almost too damn much. Christian’s voice may just be perfect and it was perfect in this performance. I also heard that he played the transition music for each of the chapters as well (he’s a musician and a singer).
With Visions of Red by Trisha Wolfe
I will never forget the first time I listened to this book. I read the eBook before the audio came out and the second I got to Christian Fox’s chapter, I legit had to hit pause and pull the car over to take a breather because I could not handle how perfect his voice was for one of my all-time favorite heroes.
Tangled by Emma Chase
SebYo (Sebastian York) is well-loved in the romance audio world for good reason. The comedic timing was so important for this novel in particular and Sebastian absolutely nailed it.
By Your Side by Kasie West
Another YA book well cast with Caitlin Kelly as the narrator for this sweet story. Her voice fit the book and the character so well.
American Queen by Sierra Simone
Stephanie Rose’s voice is a great combination of innocent and sexy – which was, in turn, perfect for this super steamy book.
Priest by Sierra Simone
Ok. So, can we talk about how a book this freaking on fire is almost too much to handle when narrated by Jacob Morgan? Hearing Sierra’s words come out of Jacob’s mouth is bordering on excessive.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Never has an audiobook been cast as perfectly as The Hating Game. Katie Schorr’s adorable, quirky voice made me love Lucy even more. She nailed all the subtle inflections and comedic timing.
A Little Night Magic by Lucy March
OMG no one could have made A Little Night Magic as hilarious as Amanda Ronconi. She absolutely nails the sarcasm and self-depreciation like no one else.
Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank
I swear, XE Sands is a freaking magician with her accents and ability to do a man’s voice. All of the characters sounded different and there were SO MANY characters in this book!