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An Improbable Pairing

Narrated by: Rosemary Benson
Length: 10 hrs and 14 mins
4 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

It began as a simple flirtation....

In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland, when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee; he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess’s ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess’s friends of European high society. 

A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something’s got to give. It won’t be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.

An Improbable Pairing is a historical romance that chronicles the enduring themes of a young man’s coming of age and the rebellious love of the mismatched. This pas de deux, set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, provides an insider’s peek into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites - the domains of rank and privilege. But society’s privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure.

©2019 Gary Dickson (P)2019 Gary Dickson

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

Fantastic!

This is the best audio novel I've enjoyed, yet. Delightful! I can hardly wait for the sequel!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • JP
  • 05-21-19

Three stars.

I enjoyed the thorough descriptions of all the settings, elaborate foods and clothing in the book. I was able to picture the scenes quite clearly as I listened. This attention to detail did not carry over into the rest of the story. The dialogue was a bit flat and predictable. I didn’t feel like I was pulled into the story and invested in the lives of the characters. I did like the story being told from the view of a younger man who falls for an aristocratic woman, but their relationship just didn’t ring true to me. I do prefer audiobooks to print, and the reader did a nice job, which probably led me to enjoy the book more than I would had I been reading it.
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A True Romance

I found this story enchanting. The “improbable pairing” of an American graduate student and an older aristocrat is the center of this story. Scott Stoddard meets an older woman, Countess de Rovere, on a ship heading to Europe. He is to attend graduate school in Geneva and she is a wealthy member of high society. They find themselves attracted to each other and soon begin a love affair. At first you wait for Scott to become tired of the affair or the Countess to give up her relationship under pressure from her friends and her over protective mother, but love seems to win both of them.
The author wrote about the social life of the wealthy in the 1960’s of France and Switzerland. The descriptions of the balls, the fashion, the fancy cars, and the glamorous homes were very vivid. I felt like I had been transported.
Although they are planning to marry, Scott and Desiree have trouble with Desiree’s ex-husband, a powerful man, who mistreated her. The story ends with a question about what will happen next. Another book perhaps?

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just an Okay book for me

This book was just okay for me. Not bad, but not very memorable. It did have some great description, especially of the beautiful foreign places the couple visited. Gstaad, Geneva, and Paris to name a few. The author painted these places in such beautiful, thorough detail. The clothing and jewelry I wanted to drool over, once again, such beautiful detail was given. The characters were alright. I didn't really find myself rooting for the Countess and Scott, but I wasn't really hoping for their demise either. Over all, not a bad read, if you haven't got much to do. I don't think I will read this again though.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good Audiobook for distracted listening

I was so excited to listen to this audiobook. I'm a bibliophile. I have a hard copy book in my purse to read during wait times anywhere, I have a hard copy book in my living room for wind-down reading, I have a hard copy book in my nightstand for before lights-out reading, I always have a Kindle book in relation, and I always have an audiobook to listen to on my treadmill and while I sew. This book started off with a bang. I LOVE descriptive narration. I always give kudos in my mind when an author pays tribute to food that characters eat by giving details so great my mouth waters, fashion that adorns them so detailed that I can envision them in my own life, and, above all, scenery that comes to life due to the author's ability to create the moment accurately. I was disappointed, however, that in An Improbable Pairing, that was ultimately the only areas of the book that had any substance. The story was a continual circulation of the protagonist, Scott, who was attracted to equally-attractive and well-off women, their going to eat, at times with other socialites and rendering nothing of worth in the dialogue, and repeating. There was a repetitive cycle of Scott being in the company of a woman, their flirtatious banter being recanted by the narrator, their eating something described in detail while wearing period-appropriate garments (also described in detail), parting ways, a brief narrative about Scott's thoughts about said social encounter, lather, rinse, repeat. There was so much potential in this story. There was a moment when a European tells Scott something about how he must be beside himself after JFK was assassinated. There was SO much potential in this time period, and even this topic alone. What a lost opportunity to get readers to connect to a main character; this slight blurb about JFK was the only moment it was mentioned. The narrative was very impersonal and I felt I was never given an opportunity to get to know and care about ANY character, let alone Scott and the Countess. I never felt like I was rooting for or looking forward to anything because the story was laid out continually like this: Scott meets a girl or a friend (i.e. Jean), the narrator tells what they talk about, what they are wearing and what they eat. The conversation the narrator relays is boring or predictable. They part ways. Scott meets with a female or goes to 1) his apartment 2) school 3) his lover's place. Repeat. I love the author's ability to bring things to life, but I need more than food and fashion to enjoy a book. Also, the voice actor for this audiobook is good, but after a while, Scott's "voice" lent to my not enjoying him or rooting for him even more; she gave him this annoying "American" deadpan to all of his dialogue, conveying no emotion. Also, her French accent was spot-on, but the Italian dialect was strained and painful to listen to. The book offers a variety of American and European accents, but the actor only really nails the pure French. All in all, the book has so much potential, and if you want an audiobook to play while you do something on autopilot and not really need to pay attention to the narrative, this will be an easy listen. If you require substance while listening to your audiobook, you may need to rethink this. To be fair, the book will fulfill many listener's needs, just be sure you are in the right category.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • KM
  • 05-21-19

An Improbable Pairing

An Improbable Pairing follows Scott Stoddard, an American young man, on his travels to Europe to pursue graduate studies in Geneva in the early 1960’s. His education spreads into an incredible entrance to high society and culture, where he catches the eye of a young divorcee, a countess, with whom he develops an immediate, intense infatuation. Eventually Scott falls deeper into her orbit, needing to navigate his responsibilities with the relationship and all the complications that come with being involved with the rich and worldly woman.

Through Scott’s entrance to the high society of early 1960’s Europe, you get to experience the incredible world of the wealthy, and the author captures the opulence from the discos, to the ballrooms and the palaces visited. There is a great focus on the food, wine, and culture, giving the story the same feel of grand escapism Scott experiences while in the relationship that dominates his focus, and brings a depth of interest to the story. I think the detail elevates the setting and sense of place to equal the allure of the countess herself.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • JADAS
  • Pennsylvania
  • 05-18-19

Good book, okay audio

A Titanic like romance, a young American, Scott, sees a beautiful aristocratic woman, Desiree, and she becomes his main goal. They meet on a trip across the see, where Desiree is returning home and Scott is headed to Geneva for grad school. Though several other ladies come into Scott's life, he always has the Countess at the back of his mind. Then the meet up again, and it's kismit. They begin an affair and Scott's school suffers as he tires to keep up with Desiree's busy and elegant life. But as he is pulled farther into love with this amazing woman, he pushes everything else aside, even the obstacles that they face as a couple. Neither of their parents approve, and Desiree is Catholic, while Scott is Baptist. Will their love make it?
I was excited to get this audiobook to listen to on the way to work. Many of the other books I've listened to have had very expressive readers, and although Ms. Benson is wonderful with French, I felt the characters lacking in the way the story was read; especially Scott, the main character who I seemed rather expressionless. So many of the other characters seemed full of life, and I had a hard time with listening due to this. The story itself was entertaining and because everyone reads characters differently I would recommend this book, especially for those who like romance. The story was reminiscent of an older style of writing where there are little to no graphic scenes, and one is left to imagine what is happening between sections and chapters. This audio book would be suitable for young adults and mature readers who like a good "old school" romance.

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

Descriptive Delight That Leaves You Satisfied

I was happy to delve into a light read after spending the last few months immersed in non-fiction. Gary Dickson delivers in this book about a U.S. student studying in Europe in the 1960s. It was really easy to follow along, and I had a hard time putting it away when my kids came home from school!

Rosemary Benson does a great job with the accent for the Countess Desiree -- I really loved how she always sounded a bit mysterious and so seductive.

Dickson does is wonderful at weaving issues of the decade (particularly religion, money, the American Dream and class) into the book. The story is old world charm and money, meeting new world ideals.

I waffled between liking Desiree and not. I felt she was a bit selfish when it came to Scott's schooling, and that if she really loved him, she'd have let him meet his own obligations. I guess I expected a few more twists, turns and drama (it almost seemed to end too soon)... but Dickson's writing is almost poetic in its descriptions, which nearly makes up for any shortcomings in the story.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Love and royalty

When I think of the ’60s, my mind automatically goes to the war, protests, free love, hippies and fashion. After all, it was an era of change and historical movements. But the author focus’ more on the travel experience, the radiance of upper-class events and the ambiance of a good time.

In this story, we meet Scott who is a graduate student traveling abroad to continue his education. His first realization of how freeing his life is to become is when he’s on the ship getting ready to sail off to another country. He is thrilled to be letting go of the life he’s had up until then. His life has been good, but now he can really experience life. On the first leg of his journey, he catches sight of whom he finds out later is the Countess. He instantly knows she is in first class, while he is in the lesser space. Through his befriending abilities, he is able to make acquaintance with the Countess and a friendship begins. It’s one of those, “ if you're ever in…. Look me up” kind of situations.

Through another leg of his journey, he befriends yet another young girl who becomes a good friend who unknowingly is another connection to the Countess he is enthralled by. Once he’s settled into his new home, he puts off communicating with her as he’s not sure of what to say or do.

He settles into his new life, making friends, going to school and attending various events that put him in the presence of the Countess. Through all of this its like a game of cat and mouse, the Countess wanting to pursue him and the chase being the thrill in many ways. But because of the way that society is at that time, they have a battle before them. Not only is it not “right” to be with someone who is of different ethnicity as your own but a different “class” has highly frowned upon even more. They have to answer to those who view their pairing in a harsh light while navigating their new relationship. In the end, their love shines through and brings a happy ending.

I loved the descriptive nature the author brings throughout the whole book. It really makes you feel like you're there with them and you can picture the grand ballrooms, the difference in “classes” on the ships and even the fashion sense. It’s very posh and exciting. Their romance was well played out, although it could be a little slow at times. Overall I liked the characters and the storyline. The way the narrator read the story gave another lovely layer and depth to the love affair. Well done!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Captivating Audiobook!

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this audiobook. This was my first time using Audible and I am thrilled I stumbled upon An Improbable Pairing.
I was hooked! I listened during my commute each way and on my nightly walks. The story of "love at first sight" that then unfolds in such great detail that you won't want to turn the audio off. Desiree is Scott's love interest but he must overcome immense hurdles just to get her attention. Schooling, family, social standing, language - all stand in their way but listen as they meander through each roadblock.
The great detail that Gary Dickson goes into for his characters was really impressive. I felt like I was right there, sitting next to Desiree in an expensive French restaurant, sharing a bottle of red wine, watching her blonde hair sweep across her neckline only to have our outing rudely interrupted by Desiree's many acquaintances.