Effeminate heroes or drag queen heroines?

Lady Dearing's Masquerade by Elena GreeneNow that I’m finally close to having a version of the balloonist story (title coming soon, I promise!) to send to my critique partners, I’m looking into yet another project. I’m considering doing an audio book version of Lady Dearing’s Masquerade.

I have a good friend who swears by audio books, since she spends a lot of time on the road. On the other hand, I have never listened to one. I’ve just never had the need. But the popularity of audio books is growing, so I’m working on getting educated.

I’ve listened to a number of samples from romance audio books, just to get an idea of how narration works. Since there’s usually just a single narrator, he or she has to do the dialogue for all the characters: hero, heroine, and everyone else, developing distinct voices for each. It seems quite the challenge.

Some authors choose to narrate their own books, but I know I’m not up to it! I can’t even do a British accent, which is one thing I know I want.

Another choice is whether it’s best in romance to have a female or male narrator.

This issue was discussed pretty thoroughly at the All About Romance blog post Speaking of Audio: Male versus Female Narrators. The question was, if one had to choose, would one “prefer to listen to an effeminate sounding hero or a drag queen heroine”?

As it turns out, with a good narrator, one can avoid either extreme.

Though I’m sure these actor/narrators are out of my reach, here are two examples I really liked:

The first is a sample from Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, narrated by Nicholas Boulton. Please listen. You will enjoy it!

As an example of a talented female narrator, here’s a sample from Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Susan Duerden.

Do you listen to audio books? For romance, do you prefer a male or female narrator? Or does it really depend more on how the narrator handles each character?


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9 years ago

I listen to a lot of audiobooks. If you do decide to go down this route, employ a professional narrator to read them – don’t try to do it yourself! Remember that any problems with the audiobook will be associated with (and taint) the reputation of the book itself. Those who listen to audiobooks frequently are very critical of amateurish productions. You could look at Amazon’s ACX service, since they gather together all the different steps in the process (or so I understand from other authors’ blogs). Also have a look at what Josh Lanyon has to say about the whole process of audiobooks – he’s recently spent time getting his books “done” (very successfully). http://joshlanyon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/breathtaking-cinemascope-and.html and http://joshlanyon.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/audio%20books

As to the gender of the narrator – for me, it depends on the main POV. If it is the heroine’s (as it usually is in m/f romance), then I prefer a woman. If it is the hero, then a man. If mixed (i.e. we see the point of view of both, fairly equally) then I don’t mind. As you say, good narrators have no problem with using different voices for different characters, whatever their gender.

The nationality of the narrator matters to me. If the book is set in Regency London and the characters are English, then it really jars with me if the narrator has an American accent. Indeed, I won’t buy an audiobook which is read in the wrong accent. (This is why much of Librivox is useless for me – I can’t listen to an English classic read in an American accent.) The same is true vice versa – a contemporary romance set in America would sound all wrong read in an English accent.

If you want to find out more you could look at the various audiobook groups on Goodreads – for example, Romance Audiobooks group and Audiobooks group. There is also a very useful website: http://www.audiogals.net

Good luck! Don’t be put off by all this – there’s a large and increasing market for audiobooks, especially since Audible made it so easy.

Gail Eastwood
9 years ago

So many of our books have both the hero and the heroine’s POVs –has anyone listened to audio books where two narrators (man & woman) were used? If so, did you like it? Or if not, what do you think about that approach? I have been considering this –if or when I might be ready to go that route with my books. (I am fortunate to know a lot of talented actors, but they might or might not be good narrators.) Just wondering…. I expect it isn’t commonly done just because it would double the cost!

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