The Best of the Year
in Audible Escape
The Audible Romance Editors
More than human
You don’t need to be a sci-fi fan to get swept up by Alyssa Cole’s fun, twisty rom-com with a strong and diverse cast of narrators, including Regina Hall, Feodor Chin, and Mindy Kaling. But The A.I Who Loved Me has a thrilling, futuristic plot that certainly helps bump this listen into best-romance-of-the-year territory! We especially enjoyed the intermingling of Hall’s solo narration with scripted audio chapters—complete with dramatic sound design—that made for a standout audio experience. Trinity Jordan is a badass heroine who has a crush on her new neighbor, Li Wei, but she soon discovers he’s not quite what he seems. Even then, she can’t help but fall for his charmingly robotic demeanor and powerful desire to keep her safe. Who knew A.I.s could be this sexy?
Who is Verity Crawford?
We haven’t been able to get Verity’s story out of our minds since Colleen Hoover came at us with this goosebump-inducing romance. In Verity, a down-on-her-luck author, Lowen, takes a job as a ghostwriter for Verity Crawford, a famous author who was recently paralyzed in an accident. Lowen finds a secret manuscript written by Verity that paints a dark picture of her home life. Soon Lowen is questioning everything about Verity, her books, and the circumstances around her mysterious paralysis. The alternating narration of Vanessa Johansson and Amy Landon weaves the two character perspectives together in a way that makes the tension build and build until the end when there’s a twist that’s so darn good we’ve had the heebie-jeebies about it for months. You’ve been warned!
Learning something new
Alexandria House’s steamy romance between a buttoned-up professor and a retired football player has everything we want in a great escape: familiar tropes (opposites attract, workplace romance) and enough heat to push your boundaries. Narrators Jakobi Diem and Adenrele Ojo bring all the sexy as they embody Nathan, brilliant and caring single father with a secret kink (spoiler: it’s BDSM), and Nadia, whose own complicated backstory means she’s ready for Nathan to shake up her structured life. The language is spicy and hilarious. The flirtation between the main characters is delightful. All in all, Ms. House’s engaging storytelling expertly exploring African-American characters is fast-becoming a fan favorite, and the reason is so clear: it’s addictive.
The #ownvoices love story we’ve been waiting for
For the past few years, it’s been pretty clear that listeners are hungry for a more diverse array of love stories. And where diverse representations are concerned, there’s nothing more exciting than an #ownvoices story. With I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, listeners get a glimpse into the life of a nonbinary character navigating the trials of first love, coming out, and mental health, all while coming of age in a world that can be less than understanding. Ben De Backer’s story is filled with all of the good and the bad of the LGBTQIA+ experience. Proving that family is whatever we make of it and that a happy ending is always possible, narrator MW Cartozian Wilson helps to bring this incredibly important story to life. And ultimately, it’s exciting to see more aspects of LGBTQIA+ love being explored through storytelling.
You’ll ugly cry your way to the HEA
L.J. Shen’s Sinners of Saint and All Saints High series are ones to get lost in, and the latest installment—Broken Knight—is definitely the best one yet. Shen makes you feel all the feels in this love story between bad boy Knight Cole and his childhood best friend, Luna Rexroth. The audio version in particular is so special because Luna is a selective mute. She underwent a trauma in her youth and hasn't spoken since she was a toddler, so as listeners we're privy to her inner thoughts and emotions in a way that those around her simply aren't. The dual narration with C.J. Bloom as Luna and Jacob Morgan as Knight is excellent, but what will really pull at your heartstrings is the guest appearance from Savannah Peachwood and Christian Rummel. They narrated the love story between Knight's parents in Ruckus, and they reprise their roles to give us the end of their fairytale. It's so special and moving, and just a wonderful listening experience all around.
Another winning charmer from Helen Hoang
Helen Hoang blew us out of the water with her debut, The Kiss Quotient, so there were high expectations for this one, and she, along with narrator Emily Woo Zeller, did not disappoint. In this standalone sequel, Khai Diep (who we first met as a side character in Kiss), believes that romance not only isn't in the cards for him, but that it's just not possible due to his autism. His mother, undeterred, heads to her native Vietnam to find him the perfect girl, certain that Khai wouldn't turn away someone who's travelled so far. Esme Tran can't pass up the opportunity to start a new life in America, but her seduction plans for Khai are thrown off course by her complicated beau and her very real feelings for him. If you love an arranged marriage story, you're going to adore this nuanced and cleverly funny take on that trope.
It’s music to our ears
Lauren Blakley’s motto seems to be 'more is better,' as her audiobooks have all the bells and whistles that her fans adore. With Satisfaction Guaranteed she is back to expanding her universe of lovers, this time with a music-tinged romance between veterinarian Malone and his business partner’s daughter, Sloane. (Yes, the Sloane/Malone rhyme does not go unnoticed in the story.) As if their simmering attraction and affection aren’t enough to suck you into their steamy romance, there’s also the fact that Malone is an amateur nightclub singer prone to crooning to the woman he loves. Narrator Jason Clark records a full album's worth of music to go with the audiobook and it’s a real treat for those of us listening in.
An ode to audio and Minnesota
Co-written by best-selling author Tara Sivec and award-winning narrator Andi Arndt, Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words is an ode to Minnesota. Complete with the accents, regional colloquialisms, and hotdishes, this story was written by and for audio lovers. While listening to this Minnesotan love story, listeners get a peek behind the curtain of the romantic audiobook world. Shy ex-kindergarten teacher Heidi Larsen finds herself working in a recording studio for erotic audiobooks and then accidentally starts a steamy podcast reading erotica aloud. Unexpectedly, she finds a new sense of confidence and sex-positivity. It’s a wildly funny ride that’s not only made for audio, but all about audio and the joys that it can offer.
Let’s all go to Lakeside
Getting Played, the second audiobook in Emma Chase’s Getting Some series, proves that this series has staying power. We all know that Emma is phenomenal at crafting a narrative, and narrators Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber are always magical together, but there's something so special about this series because it's visceral. You can see the town of Lakeside, you feel like you know its inhabitants, and it’s almost as if you're a member of the community. In Getting Played, you get the opportunity to see the town from an outsider's point of view. Lainey, a lifestyle blogger, moves to Lakeside to redo an old house as part of a web series. She ends up falling for the local math teacher, football coach, and all-around stud, Dean…who also happens to be her one-night stand from the summer. This is a listen and a love story that stays with you, and we really hope we get to see more from Lakeside.
A fresh dose of magic from our favorite supernatural small town
Here’s to another year of singing the praises of this author/narrator duo! Amanda Ronconi and Molly Harper are back at it again melting our hearts and putting smiles on our faces with the anticipated return to her fan-favorite Half-Moon Hollow series. In Peace, Blood, and Understanding, free spirit Meadow, who runs a home remedies shop, crosses paths and wills with Eric Weston, an investigator sent by the World Council to assess the productivity of Half-Moon Hollow’s local vampire council, which is now run by Jane Jameson. There’s also a few murders to investigate, and Eric seems to think Dick Cheney might be hiding a few secrets… in other worlds, a generally regular day for Jane, Meadow, and the vampires of this small Kentucky town!