First – I don’t know much about modern romance novels of this sort. If there are romance novels that are better written, I’ll be happy to take suggestions and read one more just to compare. Second, long story short, most of this short ( 7 1/2 hour) book was a snooze-fest, poorly written and 50% poorly narrated. I only gave one listen to most of it , so I’m afraid I may be a little vague or incorrect on some of the details. But then, so was the author.
The Plot – Joy something or other is a chemist, living in Austin before she takes a job for a fragrance company in Paris. She doesn’t speak French, so her new company arranges for a professional translator to shadow her. Initially, the reader doesn’t know what her job is.
Griffin is a British/French hunk who works as a translator for a company. He’s on the verge of collecting his last bonus and taking off for Indonesia to run a marathon. The bonus is cancelled and he gets a different assignment – to translate for an American scientist.
In Paris, Joy meets a British man in a boulangerie (bread bakery) who helps her order a croissant ( really? she couldn’t say croissant?) [ ETA – actually, pan a chocolat. The croissant comes later) She’s immediately bowled over because of his British accent (and he’s gorgeous). She tries to guess his name, and comes up with Daniel. ( Daniel!). He tries to guess hers, and and never gets it, settling on Judy. The joke here is that they’re selecting typically British or American names. Really quite silly. The physically attraction between them is hot, (“because, breasts” and British accent) and after talking about and eating croissants, they depart.
He bumps into her again just before he’s supposed to meet his client, the lady scientist. They have coffee together, start to talk and because the attraction is so strong, decide to go on a date. She asks him to text her his real name. Oops – turns out, Griffin is her translator – she’s the lady scientist. She’s a fragrance specialist in Paris to work for a fragrance company and develop new scents. Despite their mutual attraction, they both determine that it would be inappropriate for them to have an affair under the circumstances.
Joy is red-headed, green eyed and has long legs and great tits. Griffin is tall, dark-haired, clean shaven, exceptionally well built ( 6 pack abs) and has wonderful blue eyes. Later we learn he also has a nice cock. That’s all we know.
So, the next 1/3 of the book is how they spend their days working, fantasizing about being with each other sexually, masturbating when fantasizing, exploring Paris and learning about each other. In addition, Joy convinces Griffin to give her private, immersion-style French lessons.
There’s a lot of talk about flowers and floral scents ( turns out Griffin’s sense of smell was diminished after spending so much time with his dying brother in the hospital). Hey Joy – there are more than floral scents in perfume! Throughout the book, in different locations, they stop to smell the flowers – but the scents are never really described. This was probably beyond the author’s ability. Chocolate, ice cream and pastry also play a big role. Cheese – not so much.
Eventually, they do sleep together and they become a couple. The problem is that Griffin has made a promise to his dying younger brother that he would fulfill their bucket list, which includes Griffin running a marathon in Indonesia, and then traveling around the world. He’s already got his ticket. He’s given up his apartment. He’s made his promise. He doesn’t know if he’ll return and the clock is ticking.
As it turns out, Joy’s Paris boss tells her she has an opportunity to run the perfume lab at their Austin, Texas parent company – her dream job. So now she has to decide whether to leave Paris or not. Why not? After all, Griffin is leaving and she’s not going with him.
They say good-bye with the understanding that he will give her some space while he’s away (?) and then probably get in contact – after all, there is always email.
Mind you – they have both declared their undying love for one another – pure bliss.
Instead of going to Austin, Joy arranges to stay in Paris to develop her new scent for her current employer. Although she’s claimed before that honeysuckle was her favorite floral scent, she doesn’t think of adding it to her concoction – until they go to the Monet gardens and she finds some. Voila. Perfect new perfume.
Griffin runs his marathon in Indonesia and realizes that his dying brother gave Griffin the bucket list to help Griffin live without him, and to fulfill his own dreams. Joy planted this seed and Griffin came around to her theory. He wasn’t really imbued with wanderlust anymore. Having tossed the idea that the bucket list was actually his and not his brother’s, he decides his dream is to be with Joy, so he’ll go to Texas to be with her. Presumably, by now he knows her last name, because I don’t.
Joy emails Griffin asking him to return. Griffin misses the email, but is on his way back to Paris instead. He gives her engagement ring, in front of her apartment building which has a hot pink door, and they get married.
That’s all folks.
Thoughts– The story is plainly ridiculous for a few reasons. For one, the author manufactures a conflict, forbidden love, which I don’t think exists under the circumstances. He’s not employed by her directly. There’s no particular reason why they can’t be a couple if he’s her translator. About a third of the book is spent on this sort of sexual repression/tension, which isn’t successful. Hence, they’re left with the option of masturbating to fantasies of each other. There is a very uncomfortable ( but somehow erotic) scene where Griffin masturbates in the shower while fantasizing about Joy. More about this later.
And anyway, eventually, the two of them also agree it’s ridiculous to be apart and start a full blown public romance.
Also ridiculous, in my opinion, is the second conflict which is supposed to prevent them from being together despite their love – he has to fulfill the bucket list, and that means, not only going to Indonesia to race, but also spending a good part of his life traveling the globe. I mean, get real. He could do a lot of that and still arrange to come back to her. She could visit him. There are so many ways to stay in contact. The author sets up a deadline by which they have to make their decisions – all based on the plane ticket he’s already purchased. There is no tension or suspense about this. It’s plainly obvious, or was to me, that they would end up together.
In which case, it means the whole book was nothing more than steamy sex and very unsatisfying descriptions of Paris, not to mention, I don’t think we even ever got Joy’s last name! A better author, or maybe, just not a modern romance author, would have given us scrumptious descriptions of the cheese shops, patisseries, tourist sites ( they hit most of them) their flats ( all I know is Joy had a green lamp) their clothes. There was next to nothing. The author hit the highlights – cafes, the river, the Monet’s gardens, Paris in the rain, Paris at night, Paris in the morning, a view of the Eiffel Tower – but no real flavor of Paris or its neighborhoods. What there was, was trite. I was left with only imagining Griffin as Richard Armitage.
I thought it was trash. There have to better Romance novels than this one.
The bright pink door doesn’t play a very big part in this. Joy loves her building because of this door. Griffin is amused and charmed by the colorful things Joy loves, like the bright pink door. The door, as a bright pink entrance must be, as another fan noted, a vagina. But that doesn’t really work, because Griffin gets into Joy’s apartment a few times before they ever have sex so, I don’t know.
The book alternates between Joy chapters, read by Grace Grant, and Griffin chapters, read by Richard Armitage. Most of the time, each character is relating conversations he or she has had with the other. This means that Grace Grant does both Joy’s voice and Griffin’s, and Richard Armitage does the same. So there are four voices for two main characters. This was a problem for a number of reasons, primarily because the voices were dissimilar, as was the manner of speech and the personalities given by the readers to the characters. In other words – they didn’t match up. I don;t know if the narrators had an opportunity to listen to each other – but even if they did, I don’t think Grace Grant could have matched Armitage and he probably didn’t want to match her. But the upshot was that the personalities of the characters were different on account of accent, cadence, and overall reading.
Ms. Grant’s rendition of Joy is youthful, unsophisticated, perky and lacks acting ability. She sounded like some California high school cheerleader. She is often over excited about trivial matters – like pronouncing a French sentence or negotiating the purchase of a piece of chocolate. She can pop up with a “Yay” when she gets a French word correct and her texts back and forth to her sister in the U.S. are like high school nonsense. Even worse is her attempt at Griffin’s voice and his British accent. Of course, it’s an impossibility for a woman, (or maybe even a man) to come close to Richard Armitage’s voice, but I found her British accent to be terrible – at times just not there – and she chose an upper crust dialect, which Armitage did not. He seemed to be speaking very close to his own voice and accent. additionally, Ms. Grant seemed unable to get to a lower register a lot of the times, so I was often confused about which one of them was talking ( Joy or Griffin).
Richard Armitage, on the other hand, master of narration, gave me a more convincing Joy than did the female narrator. I thought this one of his best attempts – completely successful in my view, of an American accent. Moreover, he gave Joy a better voice. His Joy was not perky, too youthful or immature. She sounded more sophisticated ( despite the terrible writing) more like a real business woman in her 30’s, and much more convincing – again, despite some terrible writing. The male voicing of her was sexier than the female’s attempt.
His Griffin seemed to me to be in his own Richard Armitage voice, or very close, using his own dialect. He came off ( oops) more like a regular bloke than did Grant’s version. Also, and not surprisingly, he acted better and he did all other voices much better than did Grant.
His narration of the sex scenes – well, what can I say? When the best sex scene to listen to in the entire book is Richard Armitage as a man jerking off, what does that say about the sex scenes in general? I found this particular scene so difficult to listen to. Here was Richard Armitage in his own voice describing his character masturbating to a fantasy. I thought it interesting ( and a little disappointing) that his fantasy focused on shoving his cock into Joy’s wet mouth and thinking of her fabulous tits. His words. My skin crawled – all 6 times.
I haven’t read many romance novels – especially modern romance. I was laughing to a friend that I hoped there weren’t too many references to “throbbing manhood” – I shouldn’t have worried. This author likes to go for every day and modern words -progress ? Griffin is definitely a tit man – only one or two references to Joy’s long legs or ass. On the other hand, there are also a number of scenes where he was more than willing, and did, use his tongue expertly to eat her. ( I want to eat you, he ate me, I want to taste you, he went down on me, etc.) These are the author’s words.
I also found it interesting that throughout the sex scenes in the book, the characters referred to doing and thinking “filthy” and “dirty” things. The word filthy just kept coming up. Perhaps it has a new use these days to mean erotic. IDK.
There some fun call backs in this book – for one, Griffin loves ice cream, Joy loves chocolate – both favorites of Richard Armitage. Joy’s love of the male British accent – which is what attracted her to him in the first place, is something many Armitage fans share. At one point they go to Monet’s gardens, a call back to Monet, starring you know who.
My recommendation – Well, this is a terrible book that I might have liked better had I read it, so that I could give Joy my own voice and reading instead of Grace Grant’s. I would have imagined the male voice as Richard Armitage anyway. It’s got lots of steamy sex that didn’t really move me – maybe because there was no sexual tension between the characters – no successful build-up to their coupling ( no wall sex, though it’s mentioned) – just lots of tingling, sweating, sucking, licking, cock talk, kissing, eating and one actual blow job for good measure.
On the other hand, I think Richard Armitage fans should give it a try. It will be a novel experience as he’s done nothing remotely like this either in audio or otherwise. Further, as Richard Armitage fans, a listener can picture Griffin as RA himself, though you won’t get much description of Joy – so you’ll have to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks between long-legged, long-haired, big titted, green-eyed redhead. Sounds a little like the actress who plays Abby on Scandal or maybe Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza in Poldark.
Why, Richard Armitage? Why? Why would Richard Armitage agree to participate in this project? Why we would he want to read porno trash, poor writing and be teamed up with an inferior partner? One reason may that he’s now under contract with Audible for a specific number of books – they certainly know he’s a winner – and another is that he just wanted to have fun while shocking his fans. Maybe he even wanted to give some of his fans what they’ve been pining for – another romance. From Audible’s point of view, so far, they’ve given Richard Armitage only public domain classics and direct to audio by Audible Studios books. This may have given them best-sellers, but a good part of that audience was probably Armitage fans. By having him narrate a book by a big-selling romance writer, Audible and Armitage might reach a much larger audience.
I want to think he was obligated to do it, but who knows? I’m disgusted that he took on this project as I think it’s 10 steps beneath him.