Scarlett Peckham


#100Romances: SLIGHTLY MARRIED + the trouble with sexy audiobooks

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This week's port of debarkation on my two-year night cruise down the river of Beloved Romances Past is SLIGHTLY MARRIED, a charming, marriage-of-convenience regency by Mary Balogh.

My journey into Slightly Married began on Monday when I went to open the book on my iPad and realized I had totally forgotten to buy it.

It was then that I logged on to Amazon and discovered something that shook me to my core, something that changed everything. THERE WAS NO EBOOK.

Now, I may not be Adjunct Professor of Duh Studies 101 at Bookselling University - YET - but here I will be so bold as to offer, with respect, a layman's suggestion for Ms. Balogh's publishers: this book is among the most beloved romance novels of all time, and e-books are a thing that small children can make on their phones in minutes.

So maybe, just maybe, it is time to reissue this book digitally.

BUT DON'T PANIC. I did manage to read Slightly Married.

After a moment's cold sweat over how I would ever contrive to meet my self-imposed, arbitrary Friday blog deadline if I had to wait for it to be delivered, I saw, with great relief, that there is an audiobook version. Like most people who compulsively sign up for things that they get billed for every month but never actually use, I have a million Audible credits.

THANK GOD, I thought. "I will simply listen to Slightly Married."

But there was another twist. 

When I pressed play, the voice that greeted me - in theory, that of one Colonel Aidan Bedwyn, the passionate but reserved soldier who serves as the hero of this book - sounded like someone else. A voice I already knew. A voice from my childhood.

A voice belonging to Cogsworth.

Yes: that would be the officious animated talking clock from Beauty and the Beast. 

Ladies and gentleman: I do not ever want to yuck on anyone's yum. And to be clear, as far as I know the resemblance to Cogsworth is entirely accidental, and probably mostly in my imagination.


Talking clocks are not my fantasy. And no matter how my intellectual mind swooned at Aidan's melting heart as he came to pine after the plucky Welsh coal miner's daughter he meant to marry in name only but then fell in love with, my auditory mind kept returning to a grandfather clock instructing an uncannily sexual beast in a velvet cape to win over the French girl locked in his basement with "flowers. chocolates. promises you don't intend to keep." 

Cogsworth was getting in the way of the book. Cogsworth was ruining Aidan Bedwyn.

And then things got really weird. Cuz then we got to the sexy bits.

Now, it is one thing to read a sex scene in public. I’ve long become inured to that feeling of "I-hope-I'm-not-blushing-or-breathing-weird-or-in-any-way-indicating-I-am-reading-something-kinda-hot-in-a-public-place". I no longer worry that someone will glance at my phone and decide to have me pulled off the tube for sex crimes because I am reading an Alisha Rai book.

But listening to a sex scene in public felt....different. Perhaps because I am hard of hearing, and therefore listen to things at a loud volume, and constantly worry people are spying on me. Or maybe just because when you are hearing something acted, there is another layer of reality to what you are consuming.

In any case it happened, as these things do, in line at the post office. I was listening at 2.0X speed, because I was running out time to meet my fake deadline, which made the heroine's voice sound unnaturally fast and high-pitched, like Alvin's from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Suddenly, Aidan and Eve, who had behaved quite chastely for most of the book, decided to throw caution to the wind and consummate their slight marriage. Suddenly, words were being said, loudly, that were not post-office appropriate. That were not Cogsworth appropriate. 

Stop it. Please no, I thought. Cogsworth, stop SAYING that word. Cogsworth stop shouting about how you want to have "SEX". 

I looked around, furtively, and no one would meet my eye.

And I knew - KNEW - that all of these nice British people must believe I was standing there in the post office line creepily listening to Cogsworth + Alvin and the Chipmunks DIY fanfic erotica at the loudest possible volume at 10am on a Thursday. 

And that is my Story of Listening to Slightly Married.


Well, with one coda. I have given short shrift to the actual plot of this book, and that is not because I didn't enjoy it. It's a Cinderella story, and an old-fashioned kind of regency where the characters sound properly English and feel properly bound by the conventions and social mores of their age. It features a big, troubled but appealing family full of strong characters who are fun and well drawn and I get why this series has been so popular. So if you are a fan of cozy, Heyer-esque regencies you'll love it.

And if you are a clockophile you should really check out the audiobook. 

Next week I will be reading Ravished by Amanda Quick. Reading it ON PAPER, I might add. Until then feel free to share any stories of times you accidentally creeped out innocent bystanders with your audiobook choices.