Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Rating: 4 out of 5.


“A stunningly average woman the wrong side of thirty on her way to Vegas, wearing an eye patch, sitting in a broken seat, listening to porn” – Julia Whelan, Thank You for Listening.*

Technically a romance, but with contemporary fiction writing style and quality. Slightly outlandish at times as romances are, but ultimately a sweet and uplifting tale of finding love among the coincidences. Fans of stereotypical formula romance may find it a little tame, but others like me who despise the formula and mass-produced writing style will enjoy it more than they think they will.

*Quote from ARC so may not be final copy (though I really hope it is!)

Full transparency, I enjoy the occasional romance novel but rarely ever READ them (as opposed to listening to them). They are part of my “guilty pleasures” category, that is typically relegated to audio-only so multitasking can occur; my inner book snob can’t quite accept giving up productive life time for something with less meat.

Julia Whelan is one of my favorite audiobook narrators, though, so I couldn’t resist the urge to check out her writing chops and found it a very fun and engaging time.

In a nod to her own profession (and must be at least somewhat semi-autobiographical, right?), Thank You for Listening stars former actress and hit audiobook narrator Sewanee (pronounced Swa-nee) Chester, as she hits her “face the demons and come into her own” stage of life. After a tragic accident altered both her appearance and self-confidence, Sewanee found she could easily hide from the demons in a sound booth, translating her acting talents into narrating audiobooks. She lives in a prime spot in the Hollywood Hills, her best friend is a successful actress, and she gets to be near her elderly grandmother. All well and good, except she’s still essentially hiding. When a famous romance author whose books she narrated in her earliest days passes away with a wish for Sewanee to perform her last book, she sacrifices her never-again rules on reading romance in exchange for the handsome payout that will allow her to upgrade her grandmother’s care. What follows is a classic romance trope of mistaken identities, improbable coincidences, and a lead character forced to accept she deserves happiness.

It is not without its cliches – a damaged lead with some family skeletons, a successful best friend unintentionally rubbing success in their face, and a creative meet-cute are clearly requirements to be given the romance genre label. With few exceptions, though, Whelan overcomes the predictability that is a big part of why I don’t devote much time to romance and women’s drama…er…fiction. You still know where you’re going because happily ever after is an actual requirement, but little twists and snappy, engaging dialogue and scene settings keep you from knowing too far in advance how you’re going to get there. A large part of this should be credited to there being more attention to the quality of the writing than is often given to romance novels, where the machine of cranking out 2-3 books a year sometimes leaves you feeling like you just read a story full of steamy flirtation written by a 5th grader.

The other bonus was learning more about how audiobooks actually come to be. Whether any bits of the story are autobiographical or not, Whelan’s extensive experience as a narrator lends credibility to details. At heart I knew there was much more to a successful audiobook performance than just sitting down and reading a book to a microphone, but reading the little tidbits added a great extra layer to the quality.

While not perfect (biggest complaint is the source of Sewanee’s trauma, it is just a skosh too outlandish for me) and technically a romance, the creativity of the story and quality of the writing make it an enjoyable read. And because it will be Julia Whelan reading Julia Whelan, I will very likely reread when the audio is released.

Details

Thank You for Listening
By Julia Whelan
Avon and Harper Voyager
Format: Kindle
Publication: August 2, 2022

Thank you to NetGalley, and Avon and Harper Voyager for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

#JulieWhelan #ThankYouforListening #NetGalley

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