I have been counting down the days until I could get my hands on Julia Whelan’s sophomore novel. My Oxford Year is one of my favourite books and I couldn’t wait to see what Whelan was going to come out with next. When I read the synopsis and saw that it was a book about a person who narrates audiobooks (which, for those that don’t know is also something Whelan does and is apparently very good as, though I’m not an audiobook fan), I was ready for something meta…and mega.
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, make 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.
Surprise to no one, I absolutely loved this book. It’s quite long, but I flew through it in a matter of hours. It’s been a while since I’ve carried a book around the house with me so I could grab a few minutes here and there to finish it. Whelan’s voice is humourous and heartfelt and I couldn’t get enough of it. Every character in this story is so well-developed and three-dimensional that I wouldn’t be surprised if Whelan was just fictionalizing people that she actually knows.
I don’t want to spoil the plot at all so I’m going to leave the review pretty vague, but like Whelan’s first novel, My Oxford Year, there is a twist that comes about halfway through the book that changes how everything is going. Unlike the first one, I did see the twist coming, but it didn’t bother me at all (weirdly, I thought I’d be mad about it, but I wasn’t). And I love that Whelan pushes the story beyond where traditional plotlines end—we get a little bit beyond the HEA. Plus, I learned a lot about the audiobook/narrator business!
I’m not saying anything else, but just do yourself a favour and read it.
“Feelings are temporary. They stick around as long as you believe in them and then they’re gone, waiting to be believed again. If they were permanent, then we’d only have to say I love you once and be done with it for the rest of our lives.” —Julia Whelan, Thank You For Listening
Thank you to Alphacolor on Unsplash for the featured photo.