Audiobook quick takes: An Austen retelling and some less-than-perfect “getaways”

With a trip coming up and limited time this week, I decided to listen to a bunch of Audible’s free short stories rather than start a full-length audiobook. It was a mixed bag overall — here’s what I listened to and what I thought:

Imagine if you made one little mistake when you were young and were punished for it for the rest of your life. Well, that’s what happened to Lydia (yes, that Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice), and she’s here to set the record straight. Hold on to your teacups and get ready for sophisticated (and a little bit naughty) hot takes and witty banter that’ll make you laugh—and think.

We meet Lydia just as she is denounced by her family, exiled miles from home, and married to the rogue George Wickham, who seems to love all women…except his own wife. She must learn to summon great bravery to carve out a place for herself in the society that has brutally rejected her.

Lydia isn’t the traditional Austen heroine, and this isn’t a traditional, polite period drama. Lydia is a badass. A trailblazer. She’s fierce and fiercely funny. And she might inhabit the Regency period, but she’s fighting the same battle many of us are today—having to defend the decisions she’s made and the person she chooses to love, to shut out the “trolls” and gossips, to hold her head high in a world that will judge her for any mistake she makes.

Starring Academy Award nominee Jessie Buckley (Fargo, The Lost Daughter) and Johnny Flynn (Lovesick, Stardust), this hilarious and timely listen is for fans of classics with a twist. Writer and creator playwright Sarah Page says that she wrote Mrs. Wickham to “entertain people with a romantic, optimistic, and seductive comedy,” but that there’s also a “message held at its heart to treat each other with kindness.”If you binged Bridgerton, this one’s for you.

I’m always up for a Pride and Prejudice spin-off, and was intrigued by the idea of following Lydia after her marriage. I’m not sure that this story actually needed Lydia Bennet, though — it’s a cute gimmick, but really, this could be the story of any woman surviving scandal and finding redemption (and somehow, even falling in love with her own husband). I didn’t realize in advance that this would be a full-cast audio play, rather than narrators reading an audiobook. The cast as a whole is entertaining and funny, but some of the production elements are decidedly weird (loud rock music in bar scenes, for examples) or icky (hearing Lydia vomit after a bout of ill-advised drinking). Overall, I was entertained enough to finish, but that’s about it.

Audible Original: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Three more from Amazon’s Getaway collection — six short stories described as:

Perfect vacations or last resorts? In this collection of short psychological thrillers, bestselling authors bring trouble to paradise. Today’s itinerary: surfing, sailing, hiking, facing your worst fears . . . Most dream vacations never live up to expectations—but few cause this many nightmares.

Of the six, I picked stories by authors I already was familiar with:

On the New England coast, an irresistible vacation rental draws a woman into the sinister secrets of her past in a cunning short mystery with a gothic twist by a New York Times bestselling author.

Clea McAllister returns to the Newport haven of her childhood, a gilded mansion by the sea once owned by her beloved grandmother. Now she is a paying guest at her own ancestral home, and Clea’s vacation hides a darker intention: to confront the estate lawyer who stole her rightful inheritance. But wicked games are still being played at Belle Mer, and Clea uncovers more than she ever intended.

Quick entertainment — this is a suspense story about a stolen inheritance, a fight to regain control of the family mansion, loyal servants, a missing lawyer… There’s a lot going on here, and it all comes together well by the end. This is a fast listen, and the author uses the short story format to quickly build tension and intrigue before a sudden shock at the end.

Audible Original; 1 hour, 21 minutes
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An extravagant anniversary trip turns into a desperate scramble for survival in an unsettling short story about desire, manipulation, and revenge by a New York Times bestselling author.

Psychiatrist Olivia Cole is a shell of herself after only two years with her tyrannical husband, the outwardly perfect Sebastian. On their two-year anniversary, she’s subjected to one power move too many when Sebastian whisks her away on a surprise trip—first to the charming capital of Sweden, then to an unexpected final destination. Miles from home and help, the only way for Olivia to wrest back control of her life is to give Sebastian an even bigger, shocking surprise.

Ummm, not sure what to make of this one. It’s suspenseful and creepy, but overall, it’s such a disturbing look at a woman whose lost all semblance of self-determination to her cruel, controlling husband that it’s impossible to actually enjoy listening to the story. Then again, I’m not particularly a fan of thrillers in general, so this may have been just a step too far for me in a genre I’m not always comfortable with. Your mileage may vary, but I found the plot details too awful to actually consider it entertainment.

Audible Original: 1 hours, 11 minutes
Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

“Speak your truth.” An icebreaker leads to unintended consequences for two strangers aboard a luxury yacht in this seductively twisty short story by the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister.

When Ella boards a sumptuous charter off the coast of Australia, she feels…dread. Her husband, Mac, the social butterfly who makes these wellness retreats so much easier to navigate, is stuck at work, leaving her exposed to the other passengers. Luckily, she forms an instant bond with the charismatic Chloe, a newly single woman salving a broken heart. But as the friendship grows, Ella discovers they share more than the need for an escape, and their devastating connection has the power to forever alter their lives.

Sally Hepworth is so terrific at creating interpersonal dynamics that are something other than what they initially appear to be. In this short story, the main character’s sea voyage takes a dramatically different direction when she meets another passenger whose story has just a few too many familiar elements to it. The psychological drama and tension build throughout, although I was expecting a much darker resolution to it all. I wasn’t entirely comfortable once I realized that infidelity would be a major theme — that’s not something I particularly enjoy or look for in fiction, but given that the Getaway collection seems to be squarely in the thriller/suspense genre, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Overall, this quick listen held my attention and was well performed — not a bad piece of entertainment, for what it is.

Side note: I would absolutely hate to go on this wellness sea voyage! Only eight passengers, too many touchy-feely sharing sessions, intrusive challenges… so not my idea of a fun vacation!

Audible Original: 1 hours, 44 minutes
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As I’ve said many, many times on this blog, I am not a big fan of short stories. I deliberately chose to listen to shorter works this week, but I’m not particularly surprised that none of them actually wowed me. Still, they passed the time and held my interest! Who knows? Other readers may really enjoy these, especially (with the Getaway stories) for those who love suspenseful fiction.

7 thoughts on “Audiobook quick takes: An Austen retelling and some less-than-perfect “getaways”

    • I’ve read one great retelling (Unequal Affections was the title), and a couple of interesting spin-offs (like the P. D. James book). In some ways, I think the best ones are the ones that go in a completely different direction or new setting. I’m still a big fan of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies!! 🙂

    • Thanks! I’m traveling with my husband for the next few days, so I didn’t want to start something I couldn’t finish (he won’t do audiobooks with me, sadly) — but when I get back, I have a couple of full-length audiobooks I’m eager to start!

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