Really, really good – I loved it! Thought-provoking and romantic, this straddles the line between women’s fiction and romance, with a heroine-centric storyline that effortlessly weaves in a rich and dynamic love story. It also balances light and playful moments with heavier, sometimes somber, scenes for maximum impact. I’m so glad that I went in completely blind; the story unravels in such an interesting and unexpected way, following our heroine as she works to find herself again. I’m not always the biggest fan of third person/single perspective romances, but it works here. It’s truly the heroine’s story, and she changes course as certain things are revealed. Her chemistry with the hero was fantastic, and I loved how their relationship progressed. From moments of smile-inducing banter to epistolary chapters, this has a little of everything, and the book is richer for it. If you’re a romance-lover who appreciates a story that also entails significant personal growth, then this is sure to be a memorable read.
The story follows Sewanee, a former actress who began narrating audiobooks after an accident left her without an eye. She lost a lot of confidence after the accident, but narrating books has been a great way of putting her acting skills to work – without having a camera involved. While Sewanee started out narrating romance, she’s too jaded to love the genre and she’s since shifted into narrating other types of books. But when a beloved romance author passes away and Sewanee is asked to narrate her final work… it’s nearly impossible to refuse. As Sewanee begins communicating with her co-narrator on the book, the two connect in a way that neither one expected. They’ve been hiding from the losses in their lives, and talking things out opens their eyes to what they truly want.
This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the powerhouse of a performance from author and narrator, Julia Whelan. This is meant to be listened to on audio, and it’s clear that this is deeply personal to Whelan – without being autobiographical. Her insight into the industry adds a richness to the story that breaths life into it, and there are so many moments that will be poignant to fans of the genre. While I’ve listened to many audiobooks that Whelan has narrated, this is my first time reading something that she’s written, and it was such a great experience. There’s enough romance woven into the story that it never veered too far into women’s fiction territory for this romance-lover, and Whelan is also aware of the expectations that come with each. I kinda loved that she teases us about which one this story will end up being, and that certainly kept me on my toes. Yes, Sewanee learns and grows throughout the book, but the romance is also integral to her journey. I’m sure that I’ll be thinking about this book for months to come, and that’s the sure sign of a great read.
The audio was fantastic! Whelan is both the author AND the narrator, so she infuses so much into her performance. While I typically prefer duet or dual narration, Whelan does an excellent job of differentiating between the characters. She’s a pro for a reason. This is also much more than just someone reading the book to you – there’s a performance element to every scene, with plenty of emotion to keep things interesting. The story also lends itself well to audio, with the exception of the epistolary chapters. It did get a little awkward having each email read out in full, but that was a very small part of the book. There’s just a touch of steam and it’s not overly descriptive, so you should have no trouble if you want to make this a workday listen. The runtime might go a bit long for a single day at the office, but I happily binged this in one sitting. All in all, I highly recommend this on audio.
Find it on Libro.fm here
From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.
For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.
On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.
As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.
If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.
About the Author:
Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.
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