Narrator: Michael Lesley
Length: 17 hours, 5 minutes
I absolutely loved T.J. Klune’s The Queen and the Homo Jock King when I first read it, so I was thrilled to get a chance to listen in audio. Especially with narrator Michael Lesley, whose work I adored in Klune’s The Lightning-Struck Heart. So I figured I’d be in for a treat here, and I was not disappointed. The story is so much fun, so full of unresolved sexual tension it practically leaps off the page. Sandy and Darren are so clearly meant for one another, but can’t seem to get past hating one another. Or at least Sandy can’t; Darren pretty obviously wants to move things forward from the start, but the two just can’t get it together until an absurd plan developed for a good cause turns into hijinks that lead to love. It is such a wonderful story, full of fun and humor, but also some nice poignancy as well.
So I loved pretty much everything about this audio, and there were so many things I wanted to mention. So I decided rather than a traditional review, I would give you all my top ten list of awesome things about this audio book.
- Darren’s sexy smugness: One of the things Sandy simultaneously loves and hates about Darren is his smugness. It just taunts Sandy and makes him crazy. But that little bit of arrogance also just does it for him. And Lesley manages to convey it so well here in the audio.
- Darren’s vulnerability: On the flip side, Darren has a vulnerability that it takes Sandy a while to see, but that is apparent to the reader from the start. We can tell he desperately wants Sandy, that he is a little bit insecure and unsure, and that he is fearful of being rejected as he has been so many times in the past. And again, Lesley is spot on.
- Continuity from the first book: I listened to Tell Me It’s Real in audio as well, and I really appreciated how well Lesley carries over the voices of all the characters so nicely from that first story.
- Huge cast of characters: Speaking of all the characters, this series has a TON of side characters. Between Sandy’s adopted family, along with all of his friends and Darren’s, there are just a slew of people here. I am amazed and impressed at how well Lesley handles acting out all these different characters, giving them distinct voices, and showcasing their personalities so well through the narration. I love how Vince and Darren even sound alike, as befitting brothers, but not identical. You can easily tell who is who, even in conversation with each other, but they sound enough alike to show their connection.
- Vince’s bad Spanish: This is just a little thing, but the details make the story. There is a scene where Sandy and his friends are dressed up in (horrible) disguises and Vince is faking a Spanish accent. And of course, because it is Vince, it sucks. And I was so entertained by how Lesley manages to depict Vince attempting (and failing) to do a Spanish accent and it just makes the scene.
- The hottest sex scene that is not a sex scene: That is how I always think of the scene where Darren is helping Sandy to undress in the Queen’s Lair. It is intense and crazy hot and all kinds of sexy, even though nothing specifically sexual even happens. It is the time where we really see that crazy chemistry between these guys full force, and Lesley handles it so well.
- And the real sex scenes: This isn’t a particularly sex-filled book, but again, Lesley does a great job with these scenes. He really gets the intensity and emotion from these guys, as well as how hot and bothered they make each other.
- Sandy’s flailing crazy: I don’t know how else to describe it. If you read this book, you know what I am talking about. Sandy is kind of nuts, excitable, frazzled, feisty, and goes from strong and confident to totally falling apart from one minute to the next. It is what make him such a great character, and part of what gives the story so much humor, and Lesley does it well.
- Helena/Sandy: So much of this story is looking at the duality of Sandy — his real life self and his Helena persona — and seeing how intertwined they are, and how much a part of him Helena is. I loved the way Lesley manages to convey both parts of Sandy here. We can tell pretty much right away whether it is Sandy or Helena speaking. The voices are overlapping, but there are some distinctions between the two that set Helena apart. I loved how even within a scene, the voice can subtly change depending on whether Sandy or Helena is in the forefront.
And for number 10, I give you one of the single greatest pieces of audio narration I have ever heard, and that is the Great Texting Scene (so named by me). There is a point where pretty much every character in the book is involved in a giant texting conversation. In the written version, there are dialog tags to show you who is speaking. But in the narration, we rely solely on the voices to tell who is who. And seriously you guys, it was amazing. I mean this scene is pages long with about seven different characters all talking at once and I never had any trouble telling, just from the voices, who was speaking. Just think about how much work that had to take to make these characters so distinct and recognizable that you can tell who is who in the midst of crazy fast dialog. It was incredible to listen to, and cements Lesley as one of the great audio narrators out there in my mind.
So clearly I loved this one, both the book and audio. I can confidently recommend either version to anyone and am really glad I got a chance to listen to this story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.