Monday, March 8, 2010

Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning ***

I was perusing All About Romance the other day, and read with interest a recent post about audiobooks. One of the ones mentioned was this book, read by narrator Phil Gigante. The posters (more than one) mentioned what a good narrator he was, and how his voice was so perfect*. I guess I set myself up for disappointment - at least I got this one free from the library.

It wasn't so much that his Hawk voice wasn't perfect - he does have a deep, rich voice for the hero. It was his other voices that weren't so great, including heroine Adrienne. He does a funny falsetto thing for the women's voices that made Adrienne and Lydia, Hawk's mother, sound odd. His Scots accent for Hawk was good, but for other characters his accents - including Scots - were not that good. Marie, the Cuban housekeeper - what was her accent (and since when is Marie a Cuban name?)

The story itself leaned toward Sandra Hill's type of prose - kind of funny, not taking the fantasy story of a Puck-like fairy throwing a 20th century women into 16th century Scotland too seriously most of the time. So Gigante's mostly serious reading sometimes came across as odd as well.

And every time he said Sam Hane for the feast day Samhain I cringed - how hard is it for the narrator or at least the producer to look up the proper pronunciation of a word this widely known? There are several accepted pronunciations - Sam Hane isn't one of them.

Adrienne is a modern (1990s) woman on the run from her ex-fiance - the bad bad Eberhard something or other from New Orleans. Since she doesn't reveal all the details of their relationship right away, I hesitate to include them - for a nanosecond. She was an orphan; he was a gangster, using her to traffic drugs across international borders. Go figure. She's hiding out in Seattle when we meet her - however, the fact that she had a housekeeper living in a garage apartment and a fairly intricate security system that included dogs told me she had some $$. She's bemoaning beautiful men who just use her when Adam aka Puck-ish Fairy decides to use her as revenge against Hawk - the most beautiful man in Scotland. He throws her into Hawk's path as his bride-to-be, the madwoman Janet Coman. His plan: to destroy Hawk by giving him a woman who actually says no to him.

See, the plot has room for some light humor - and Moning puts a fair amount in (not quite as much as Hill does in her books), even if Gigante reads it fairly straight. I still managed to laugh a number of times - it's not just the fish-out-of-water stuff either. Hawk does seem to be quite full of himself, even if later we're meant to feel sorry for him that he's had thousands of lovers... (yeah, too bad about that, huh?) I can picture a sort of Dudley Do-Right quality about him.

Of course, they actually want each other a lot, but Adrienne keeps remembering her vow to never fall for a beautiful man - plus she figures eventually she'll get back to the 1990s - and stops Hawk cold. He quotes Shakespearean-type language to her, and her knowledge of Shakespeare is good enough that she can finish the quotes. She speaks 3 languages. She can actually read and write - something rather unusual for anyone, much less a woman, in the 16th century.

Just when she decides maybe she should just give in, the fairy king tells the Puck character to send her back - and whoosh, she goes back (and forth and back and forth). They manage to do that to her a couple more times - argue over which century to leave her in - and confuse the heck out of everyone around her.

Her wishing to stay in the 16th century was something I tried to comprehend - she didn't want to hear traffic sounds. I kept thinking, but don't you miss all the comforts? I mean, if one wanted to be isolated from noise, one could move to the country - it's real quiet.

Enough of my criticisms. I liked Gigante's voice for male characters but not much for female. I found his narration mostly good, but I wasn't completely satisfied with the story itself. I liked it - 3 stars - but didn't love it. As I said, it was FREE from the library, so I did get my money's worth, even if I did have to burn it to disk to get it on my iPhone.

It's a little frustrating that the library and OverDrive Media now have software to put the WMA audiobooks into iTunes for Windows but not for Mac! I have a Sansa Clip specifically for this reason (to get WMA audiobooks), but have become so enamored of my Halo bluetooth headset that I prefer to listen on the iPhone. Sorry, just a little rant.

*I re-read the column for Phil Gigante mentions, and it seems it's Dane from Linda Howard's Dream Man that the poster said was so good, not Hawk from this book. However, more than one person mentioned this series (Highlanders) as one of their favorite audio series.

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