Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley, Narrated by Tilly Hooper #AudioReview

Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley, Narrated by Tilly Hooper #AudioReviewWildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley

Narrator: Tilly Hooper
Series: #1 Fantasyland
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Published by Audible Studios on June 21, 2016
Length: 18 hours 45 min
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      three-half-flames

I’ve read several of this author’s contemporary books, but had yet to try her older fantasy series.  When it released in audio, I was eager to take this chance to satisfy my curiosity about Kristen Ashley’s flexibility between genres.  I was not long into this one before I realized that the writing style, the feel of the characters, and even the dialogue was very familiar even if the setting and plot were true-blue fantasy.  Dragons, elves, witches, hot alpha warrior men, and a high-strung yet compassionate sassy heroine.  What more could a KA fan want?

This was the start of a new series highlighted by a powerful, match-making witch, parallel realms, magic, intrigue, and great passion.

In this book, Finnie Wilde desires the ultimate adventure and she gets one when she approaches powerful witch, Valentine.  Valentine has promised to send Finnie into another realm much like earth, but with differences and in the process Finnie’s double who lives in the fantasy realm will get an adventure on earth.  Each realm has a twin in the other realm.  Finnie wishes to switch with Seoafin because in the fantasy realm the twins of her parents are still alive.  She will get one year and then return.

Seconds after Valentine performs the switch, Finnie learns that Seoafin kept a lot of details from her.  For one thing, Finnie is now a princess and for another, she is getting set to marry the feared Frey Drakkar.  Seoafin didn’t want to marry The Drakkar so swapped with Finnie to escape.  Finnie ends up married to a man who doesn’t seem to like Seoafin and only married for the good of the realm.  Now her husband drops her at his hunting lodge in the forest and takes off to go back to business as usual with his men.  This was definitely not how she imagined her adventure going.  Nor were the very different parents as welcoming in this realm as her own had been even though they thought she was their daughter, Seoafin.

But Finnie makes the most of her isolation by doing for herself around the hunting lodge and getting to know the villagers nearby so that when Frey Drakkar returns he gets a surprise in more ways than one.

Frey went against the advice of several and his own better judgment to wed the Winter Princess, Seoafin Wilde.  In a drunken moment, he learns that she prefers the love of women and wants nothing to do with him.  He goes through with the match, but from the moment he met his bride in the church, he senses a difference.  She is warm-hearted and smiling.  She seems confused by Lunwyn ways.  But he figures she is playing him and drops her off at his hunting lodge and is amused to think the pampered and spoiled princess will be roughing it while he is off on his ship raiding and trading.

His return to the lodge proves him so wrong.  Seoafin is not struggling, but has fixed up the lodge, does the chores including cooking, and is a favorite of the village.  She is sunny and bright and so very different.  His rougher warrior ways frighten her and she is squeamish around hunted game meat when everyone in the kingdom knows that she learned riding and hunting skills from her father.  Something isn’t right and only a visit from the elves sets him straight.

He has wed the bride of the prophecy, but his bride is from another place.  Frey is not disappointed by the switch and grows to love and appreciate his compassionate, fun-loving, and adventure-seeking Finnie.  He takes actions with great repercussions to keep this beautiful woman.

Meanwhile, unrest fills the lands and Finnie’s life is in danger as some seek to end the reign of the House of Wilde.  Frey must do all he can to seek out from which direction the danger comes.  All the while, the clock is ticking down for the time Finnie must return to her own world.  Only now she isn’t sure she wishes to, for she has fallen in love with Frey Drakkar not knowing he is keeping secrets.

Alright, this one is an engaging fantasy romance adventure.  I loved this realm with it’s magic, dragons, elves, and people much like those of earth.   It wasn’t a unique backdrop, but familiar in the way I love about fantasy.  I enjoyed the inclusion of the court intrigue and warring lands to make it all more interesting.  But the real tension and build up was between Finnie and Frey.

Frey is an alpha male of the first water.  He is a leader and makes plans with decisiveness as a result.  He is unused to consultation about his plans and doesn’t pay much heed to the differences between his and Finnie’s world.  Finnie is also one to go her own way and is quite used to consulting no one either.  This leads to several clashes.  They are both keeping secrets out of necessity and naturally these secrets come back to bite them in the butt.  Both aren’t great at communication and do a lot of assuming.  Finnie has a hair trigger and goes off which in turn causes Frey to dig his heels in and get stubborn.  The reader is well aware how things are going to go down when the secrets all come out though it is fun times watching these two find their way and be together.

Like is generally the case with this author’s stories, there is a certain style of thought and dialogue that is familiar.  I won’t say I appreciate it so much as I’ve adjusted to it.  There is a reason this author’s books are a hundred or so pages longer than perhaps necessary.  So many extra words and thoughts from the heroine.  I think I was going to go through the screen of my phone at some point and shake Finnie until her teeth rattled if she did the ‘um’ thing one more time.  The reader gets this long monologue in the heroine’s mind and ‘um, um’ as she can’t find her words.  But with adjustment, I tolerate this because I enjoy the rest of the story.

As to the narration, Tilly Hooper did a great job.  She has the tone and timing and the emotions down.  Her male voices were rather interchangeable with their gruff and guttural sound so the listener has to pay attention as to which man was speaking, but nothing that was distracting or annoying.  I thought there was good continuity since this was a longer story.

So overall, this was a winner.  I would definitely enjoy continuing on with the Fantasyland series and spending more time with the many colorful characters, the world, and the new stories to come especially after that set-up scene near the end for the next couple.

My thanks to Audible.com for providing the story in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #272 FR
Audio #31
New to Me #112 series

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I have heard good things about this author and that’s interesting she writes both contemporary romance and fantasy books. The set-up sounds pretty original with the twins switching places. Oh and I can imagine Frey gets quite the surprise when the women he marries seems to different and then fixes up the lodge. It sounds like a good fantasy romance overall, although I am not a fan of lack of communication in books. There are some authors who’s writing style I appreciate and easily like, but also those who writing style I get used to eventually even though it’s not my favorite style. So I get what you’re saying there. Glad to hear this was a good read overall and I hope the next one is good too!

    • Yes, the ‘twins’ swap was a neat way to do it. They share names and family type, but not personality so the people on both ends of the swap get a startling surprise.
      I can see that you do get what I’m say. There are things about her writing style and most of her heroines that annoy me so this will never be a writer that I can binge read or read her books close together, but also not one that I want to forego altogether b/c I love more than I dislike her writing style.

  • I really need to try one of her books, I always hear good things about them.

    • I think you’d get a kick out of them, Sharonda. She has a laid back writing style that feels like the average person on the street when her characters think and act. There is an extra dose of dinking around and her heroines can let a bit too much hang out emotion-wise, but over all they are fun reads.

  • Debbie Haupt

    Wow this is a new to me author so thanks for putting on my radar. And wow again its usually an author starts w/contemporary then goes to another riskier genre. You have my attention 🙂

    • Oh yay! Always happy to introduce new authors to folks. And it’s turn about fairplay since I’ve added several new to me books and authors after visiting your blog. 🙂

  • I have found very few female narrators who handle male voices without sounds gruff. Surprisingly men doing it better, like York for instance. LOL I really need to try this author

    • I think you’re right, particularly men who can use ‘tenor’ voice as well as ‘bass’ so they can do female and male easier. I have yet to listen to York and I really need to based on all the praise he gets.

      KA is definitely an experience not to be missed. 😉

  • I’ve read a few reviews for this one and each one has it sounding better and better. Thanks for the great review.

    • That’s neat! I didn’t even know about this one until Audible offered it to me for review. She has written so many that I guess I never paid attention that some of her older books weren’t contemporary. Glad to finally get to them. Thanks, Mary!

  • oh I had no clue that Ashley had a series in this genre….but seriously sign me up because I love fantasy themes. I do agree though that she tends to extend her books longer than is necessary. Lovely review hun.

    • I didn’t either. This one was dropped in my lap as a review offering and I jumped all over it once I read the blurb.

      Yeah, I have to set aside plenty of time for her stories because they are all so long. 🙂

  • I had no idea she had written in another genre either! That’s neat she pulled it off and it was a fun read. I do think the long thoughts would get to me though. Probably more noticeable in audio than in print I’d think?

    • Yes, it was a great surprise.

      I ended up having to listen in stages when the long monologue passages started getting to me too much. Yeah, definitely more noticeable b/c in print I would have skimmed.

  • I so loved this book too. It is such a fun series. I’ve already listened to book two as well. I’m excited for when book three releases (well, they are releasing books 3-5 all at the same time on audio). I plan to pick them all up to review. I’ve yet to read any of Ashley’s contemporary romances. I might have to try a few once I’m done with this series. Great review.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    • Yes, that is exactly it- fun. Usually fantasy is more serious, but I love how she instills every day humor and people into it.

      Oh, that’s neat that the last group of books come at once. I did get to review book two and finished it so maybe I’ll get offered the others. I’ll get to them somehow. Look forward to your thoughts on them, Melanie.

      Yep, her contemporaries are a lot like this one. Her romantic suspenses even have the same quality though I’ve only read one of those.

  • I haven’t read any of this author’s books, though I’m familiar with her! I think I have one… would have to dig through my ebook pile. Seoafin sounds great. =) I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Sophia!

    Wonderful review. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Her writing is certainly an experience. 😉 I had to adjust, but now I’m alright with it.

      Seoafin “Finnie” was a crack up as she adjusted to the other realm and turned things upside down for everyone around her.

  • glad you enjoy the audiobook. I didn’t realize this author wrote fantasy books, I like the array of species it includes. Always a plus with dragons!

    • Caught me by surprise, too, when it was offered to me. Oh yes, I do love all the fantasy species. The dragons don’t come into play until the end, but it made things exciting quickly.