The anticipation that some people feel about nominee announcement day for the Oscars, the Emmys, or the Golden Globes pales in comparison to the thrill I feel when the announcements arrive for the Audie Award finalists. Being a part of AudioFile, I sort of feel like Little Women’s crotchety Aunt March: I have a high bar for audiobooks in terms of sound quality, accents, and narrative excellence, but when the finalists are announced, I feel this wash of pride and excitement for the work that went into creating and judging these tremendous titles. I voraciously read up and down the finalist list for titles and narrators in every category, and then my scrolling hand slows as I reach the Romance finalists (they’re alphabetically near the bottom of the list). I pause. I get breathless. My brain goes blank as I struggle to remember every good title I’ve listened to or read about, wondering if any of my favorites became finalists. And then I read the titles, the authors, the narrators, the publishers . . . and time shifts from the moment before I knew to the moment of knowing which titles we will be specially honoring in this annual blog post. If this is that moment for you, I won’t delay it any longer. Let’s celebrate romance audio!
2020 Audie Awards Finalists – Romance
THE BRIDE TEST
by Helen Hoang, read by Emily Woo Zeller
AudioFile Earphones Award; 2019 Best Audiobook
I would be lying if I said this Audies finalist was a surprise. It has raked in the accolades since its publication. Zeller tugs on the heartstrings as Esme and Khai move incrementally closer over time. Zeller utilizes a thoughtful voice for Esme as she navigates her self doubts and the family she left behind in Vietnam. She uses a masculine, declarative style for Khai, and she makes their love story seem both real and wondrous.
by Lisa Kleypas, read by Mary Jane Wells
Narrator Mary Jane Wells frolics through Kleypas’s historical romance, ensuring that listeners are fully engaged. Her arch dialogue delivery empowers Phoebe as a force to be reckoned with and gives her equal stature with love interest West Ravenel. The brisk pace matches her lively reading to a T.
THE FRIEND ZONE
by Abby Jimenez, read by Teddy Hamilton and Erin Mallon
Want humor? Narrators Erin Mallon and Teddy Hamilton have it in spades. Embarrassment, desperation, and wedding hijinks challenge Josh and Kristen’s vow to keep their interactions strictly in “the friend zone.” Listeners will relish the couple’s hilarious banter, which has found its perfect home in the audio format.
GIMME SOME SUGAR
by Molly Harper, read by Amanda Ronconi
AudioFile Earphones Award
Lucy’s return to Lake Sackett, Georgia, is cause for celebration — at least for Duffy, Lake Sackett’s bait provider and Lucy’s good friend. Ronconi uses her vocal talents for superb characterization, blending humor and romance with a slight twang. Small town life is alive, well, and ready for good gossip in Ronconi’s signature reading.
RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE
by Casey McQuiston, read by Ramon de Ocampo
2019 Best Audiobook
Narrator Ramon de Ocampo mixes propriety with humor in this royal romance. Alex, first son of the United States, enters into an epic — and secret — romance with Prince Henry of England. Ocampo has a lot to juggle here between British and Texas accents as well as the geopolitical and personal challenges involved in Alex and Henry’s happy ever after. This one is an AudioFile staff favorite.