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The Wenches

  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam

  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

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June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)

    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Bestseller Lists:

    NY Times

    • Wall Street Journal

    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

    • Amazon.com

    Chicago Tribune

    • Rocky Mountain News

    • Publishers Weekly


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Just had to pop in right away with a comment because I am such an avid (read "rabid") audiobook fan! Mary Jo, I loved getting inside the narrator's head and learning how she approaches the preparation and narration of an audiobook. And Emma, thank you for explaining the process!

I have a large personal library of audiobooks (around 300+) and I've always wondered how the narrator prepares for the reading. Over the years I've listened to many narrators. Davina Porter is one of my all-time favorites. I haven't heard you, Emma, so I am looking forward to the experience.

Thank you, Mary Jo, for making your backlist available via audiobook. Listening to audiobooks suits my lifestyle, and there's nothing that makes chores go faster than having a good audiobook to listen to!

Laura Resnick

"Being British I am, of course, embarrassed by almost everything,"


Very interesting account of how the process works!

Laura Resnick

"Being British I am, of course, embarrassed by almost everything,"


Very interesting to learn about the audio process!

Cathy P

Mary Jo, thanks for a very interesting and informative interview. I like to listen to a voice that shows emotion in their reading of the story. It makes me feel more like I am in the story myself.


I "tripped" over Emma Newman last year, when a friend of mine, who's not known to go into full on, frothing at the mouth,fanboy mode,presented me with a copy of her first novel;and the command to "read this, it's brilliant" :D ...and it is.So to find that she is narrating audio books..And The Bargain, at that, is wonderful.
I love audiobooks, I travel a fair amount, and even Radio 4 can be annoying sometimes, so I love to have audiobooks inthe car.At the moment I'm listening to the superb Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter novels...what a voice !


I listen to quite a few audiobooks, and if the story holds me, most narrators are OK. There is one woman who came very near ruining a few books by a favorite author by being like one of those kids who made it excruciating when we read aloud in elementary, by pausing at the end of lines on a page, not at periods. But I have, with trepidation, listened to her with another favorite author, and she was better, so maybe she just didn't have enough time to prepare.

Then there's the guy I heard reading _Walden_ who thought it was a race, and he would win it by reading as fast as he could, with no pauses whatsoever! Only audiobook I ever turned back into the library after only two pages.

So I appreciate a mellifluous voice, and the amazing work with accents and multi-person dialogs that some readers do so well. But it's enough just to not get in the way of the author's story.

Thanks for the interview.


Thank you for a fascinating interview! I love audiobooks, and listen to them both in the car and while I'm doing anything at all mundane like cooking, hanging the washing etc.. They're also great for knitting, which I don't find interesting enough on its own.

I'm so pleased to see you taking care in selecting the narrator. It makes all the difference, but some publishers seem to have an odd selection system. For me, the worst thing is getting someone with the wrong accent, and this is usually when they engage an American to do an English accent. He or she may sound great to another American, but an English listener can usually tell within minutes, if not straight away, and then I find it really grates. One of my favourite authors writes books set in the North-East, so they got an American to do a Geordie accent! Impossible for him to do or for me to listen to. But the one which annoyed me most was getting an American to read in American a book which is completely Australian. It isn't just incidentally set there; it stars an Aussie rules footballer! Why do that? There are one or two Australian actors they could have used.

And it does sound very odd to hear a Regency set in England narrated in American, which I have also come across. Or in American faking an English accent, which is actually worse. I won\t listen to either again - I want genuine English accents.

Sometimes the English accent isn't quite posh enough for the book - for Regencies set in the haut ton one would expect a cut-glass accent, in the old style! But as long as the accent isn't too broad that's a minor niggle.

Sorry for the rant, but you did ask... Apart from choice of narrator based on true and appropriate nationality and accent, I don't actually mind whether the narrator differentiates between character voices, as seems to be almost de rigueur now. I'm used to the old-style reading of the Heyer novels, and I'm quite happy with that.

I'm not keen on music in audiobooks - some have it coming in to mark the beginning of a chapter, and I prefer not. It often breaks the mood, or is at the wrong volume.

Keep up the good work! Emma sounds great in the sample I listened to.


I've read The Would Be Widow and loved it. Is The Bargain an expanded or revised version, or are they identical?


I love it when the narrator takes on different voices for the dialog. It add more interest for me. Some narrators do this remarkably well.

Dee F.

Narrators are the most critical piece of the production of an audiobook, I think. My favorite narrators (currently Kate Reading, Rosalyn Landor, Simon Prebble, Kristen Potter--to name the top few)have the talent to bring to life all the characters in a book, both male and female, and keep me listening even when the book itself may be one I already have read in print. Their interpretations give new life to familiar favorites. I am thrilled to find that you are producing audiobooks of some of your backlist.

Annette N

I believe making the book as wonderful as the author planned and to make that same book listenable for so many different types of listeners, must be one of the most difficult things ever tried. I thank you for letting me see....it is probably even more difficult than I thought.

Mary Jo Putney

Sherrie--isn't it interesting to go behind the scenes? Especially since your and audio fan.

Mary Jo Putney


I agree about wanting some emotion, not a flat reading. Finding a balance between two little and too much emotion is part of the narrator's art.

Mary Jo Putney

Isn't Emma multi-talented? As for Stephen Fry--as you say, what a voice!!!

Mary Jo Putney

Abigail--too fast and too slow are both irritating--though for me, too slow is worse. *G* I like a voice to flow well, which probably fits under mellifluous.

Mary Jo Putney

HJ, I TOTALLY agree about making the effort to find the right narrator! I've chosen British narrators for both of the audio books I've produced because I know that Brits often don't do good American accents, and I suspect that Americans doing British accents sounds equally off. Luckily, there are lots of great British born narrators available.

Mary Jo Putney


The books are similar but not identical. I revised The Widow into a historical by smoothing my verbose Heyerisms, narrowing points of view, and expanding a subplot or two. It's certainly the same story, though.

Mary Jo Putney

Karin--the story is the same, but The Bargain is smoothed down and expanded a little, particularly in the secondary romance subplot. No major changes, though.


I agree, the narrator makes or breaks a book for me. Simon Prebble and Davina Porter as mentioned earlier are great. I'll listen to them any day. I also love to listen to Barbara Rosenblat, Lisa Burget (read Winter Solstice), George Guidall (all the Cat Who books).

Since I'm American I don't notice when an English voice isn't right or not. But if a book is read in a southern accent and it is wrong, I do notice (since I am from the south) and it causes me to go ugghhh. So I agree on that point, it grates when the "wrong" accent is used.

And definitely having a reader who can differentiate between characters helps the listener "see" who is listening.

There was one series I listened to (Jan Karon's Mitford books) that used the same narrator the entire way through, except on the last book. I couldn't stand the reader so abandoned the audiobook and went and checked out the book just to find out what happened.

I think that is one reason I've enjoyed the Mrs. Pollifax and Hamish Macbeth series so much, they kept the same narrator so the visual/audio image stayed the same.

Emma's comment about reading her book aloud during editing makes sense. I remember my sister saying she hated reading books to her kids that weren't smooth. After that, when I choose books for small children, I've taken the time to read all the words because you didn't want their mothers and fathers to think bad thoughts about me while reading a book to their kids. The illustrations might be wonderful but if the words are "bad" and they are reading the book for the 50th time...


I am only recently getting into the audiobooks. I had the audio versions of Harry Potter and they were fabulous. I feel the narrator's interpretation of the character and their voice adds an interesting dimension to characters that we have already experienced in the reading format. It is tricky and I am so glad that allowed us a glimpse into how they are created. Seems so much more complex and theoretical. But listening to an audiobook.. especially one as popular as Thunder and Roses should be interesting.

Mary Jo Putney

Dee--I'm delighted that the tools are now available for authors to produce their own audiobooks. It's still work and it's not cheap, but it's POSSIBLE!

Mary Jo Putney

It's definitely a highly skilled endeavor. Even trained and talented actors aren't always good narrators. Its a gift, and requires a careful tech team.

Mary Jo Putney

Vicki--Simon Prebble, Barbara Rosenblatt, and Davina Porter have all been narrators for some of my books done by Recorded books, and they are all top drawer.

Mary Jo Putney


I agree that listening is a different experience from reading. I should probably do as Emma does and read my own writing aloud as part of the process!


I tried audio books many times since the late 80's I always could not finish the book due to the narrators.
The accents were false or the men's voice did not sound like men and the same with the women's voices.
I did not try anything but biographies in audio for years. (Loved and now miss Tim Russert)

Then last year I tried fiction again. I agree wih many about Barbara Rosenblat and others. I enjoy Holter Graham, Susan Erickson, Khristine Hvam among them.

I hate it when narrators try to do the opposite sexes voice and their voice grates on hearing them. I like it better if they just read the book changing the pitch for voices.

My other pet peeve is when the narrator reads the book without the punctuation. No pauses, rising in voices, questions not sounding like questions. Read the book as written!

Roseanna Crawford

I love audiobooks, I could drive to work without them.
My favorite narrators are Phil Gigante, Rosalyn Landor,
Simon Prebble and Ann Flosnik. I think the narrator is essential to bring the book to life. A couple of times I have stopped listening because I can't get past the voice. I have read The Bargain and loved it.
I would love to listen to the audiobook and relive it!

Louisa Cornell

I have just started listening to audiobooks and I find them very soothing after an awful day at work. Thank you for some fascinating insights into how it is done. And I do LOVE The Bargain, one of my favorites of yours, Mary Jo.

I wonder if narrators run into the same oddity as singers. When I listen to recordings of myself singing my voice sounds SO different than what I hear. Do narrators encounter the same quirk?

Mary Jo Putney


A agree that it's usually best if a narrator doesn't try to sound like a character of the opposite genre--the effect is almost always wrong. Subtler changes in the intonation usually do the job much better.

Mary Jo Putney


I've also quit audiobooks when a voice is just SO WRONG! Usually bios and memoirs read by the author are good, like Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. But I couldn't stand listening to an author read her memoir of European life in the most godawful, draggy Southern accent. I can like a Southern accent just fine, but she was way too slow. and the accent really didn't fit the material.

Mary Jo Putney


Entering a different and better world on the commute home is definitely one of the best ways to use an audiobook.

I suspect that narrators do sound different from what they think of their own voices--but like singers, they get used to the cognitive dissonance.


I LOVE audio books. I listen to about 50 per year - if not more. My favorite narrator for historical romance is Ann Flosnik - and yes, I'd listen to her read the phonebook. :)


I like a clear voice that brings the characters and words to life. The worst experience is not being able to understand what is being read.

I remember one book the narrator sounded as if she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. It was distracting and I could not focus on the story. Another time the narrator was using a heavy British accent (believe it was a regency) and it was almost impossible to understand what was happening.

The right narrator is key. It makes the difference between a listener anxiously picking up another audiobook by the same author or avoiding the author altogether to avoid the narrator.

Mary Jo Putney


I've not heard of Ann Flosnick, but if she can make the telephone book worthy, I need to look her up! Thanks.

Mary Jo Putney


Good narration, like good writing and good design, tends to be unobtrusive. It makes us notice the story without calling too much attention to itself. I agree with you that clarity is of supreme importance.

Mary Jo Putney


I agree that it's almost impossible for a narrator to convincely mimic the opposite. Subtler intonations work a lot better to differentiate characters.


Honestly, I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to audiobooks. I much rather read a book myself and imagine the characters voices. :-) If I had a long commute, I'd probably do more audiobooks.

However, for an audiobook to be successful for me the narrator has to be able to accurately portray the emotion and different characters. The first audiobook I tried out was horrible. I don't remember the narrator but he used a monotone most of the time and the same falsetto for the females. Hmmmm he may be the reason for my not being a fan. ;-)

Anna Jacobs

What an interesting blog. It was fascinating to hear how much goes on behind the scenes.

May it sell a zillion!

Emma Newman

Just wanted to say thank you for your kind words about my book, they made me smile! I am a huge fan of Stephen Fry. I fell in love with his work when I was a young teen and he has played a large part in my love of language.

Emma Newman

(blushes) Thank you.

Emma Newman

When I first started to record my narration I was mostly freaked out by the sound of my voice. I'm used to it now, and more sensitised to how it sounds when warmed up, when relaxed, when in the narration flow etc. However, that's only when I'm in the studio with my reading being piped live into my ears. It's very hard to hear it properly without that, which is why we always get that dissonance when first hearing our own voice. Processing the sound we make in our throat through bone and muscles and skin as well as our ears does make a surprising amount of difference!

Terese Ramin

Great article, MJ! I never realized the British were embarrassed by almost everything. ;-) Terrific guide to creating audiobooks on a budget that I'll bookmark.

Diane Tod

I haven't tried many audio books. I have a hearing problem and hearing aids. What I find is important to me is crisp diction which helps me understand the words spoken in an English or Australian accent. It is relaxing to put my feet up, close my eyes and be read to !

Mary Jo Putney


Very likely that bad audiobook put you off the breed. The first historical romance I tried to read was ghastly, and I didn't pick up another for years. *G*

Mary Jo Putney


Didn't Emma shine light into previous hidden corners? Fascinating!

As for selling a zillion copies--from your lips to God's voicemail. *G*

Mary Jo Putney


Indeed yes on the British capacity for embarrassment. *G*

Mary Jo Putney


Clarity is vital. A good British accent is usually nicely crisp, but some of the regional accents can be heavy going!

Mary Jo Putney

And the British do crisp so well! Though some of the regional British accents can be difficult for an American to follow!


Hi, Mary Jo, what a great post! Your introduction was fun, and Emma Newman's interview was fascinating. Great fun to hear about everything going on during recording an audiobook. I LOVE audiobooks and this insight will just enhance my appreciation. Who knew the narrator was hearing it back as she read?! It must be distracting!

It was also interesting hearing about Emma Newman's experiences starting out as a narrator.

Thank you!

Mary Jo Putney


Isn't it cool to look behind the curtain? *G*


I am currently listening to "the Bargain" and really enjoying it. Mary Jo, you are one of my favorite authors and I am delighted that you are putting your backlist into the audio format. Have you selected the next book you will be putting into audio? Your choice obviously but I would love to listen to the Rake in audio; one of my all time favorites.

Mary Jo Putney

I'm glad you're enjoying The Bargain, Renee! THE RAKE is definitely on the list, but I'm looking for the perfect British male narrator. I'm might do the second Fallen Angels book for my next audio project, but I haven't decided. Everything takes time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I love forward to the Rake in audio whenever it arrives, LOL!
I would image finding the right narrator who captures what you have
conceived in print is not easy.

Mary Jo Putney


You're right. I do intend to do an audiobook of THe Rake, but not until I've found the right, blow-my-socks-off narrator. These things take time!!!!

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