Sometimes all a book needs is a good narrator

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Love by the Numbers by Karin Kallmaker

Sometimes all a book needs is a good narrator

Review of Love by the Numbers by Karin Kallmaker, Audiobook narrated by Abby Craden

“Sometimes all a book really needs is a good narrator”, my Goodreads friend Pam Holzner told me recently and she was right on the money. We were talking about Anastasia Watley’s narration of Melt by Robbi McCoy but, for me, it could be equally applicable to Love by the Numbers. I read this book years ago and thought it was OK but my listening experience was much better.

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Behavioural Scientist Dr. Nicole Hathaway is having a bad year. Her academic book about love is being misinterpreted as a “love manual” and none of her personal assistants stay long on the job. With just days to go on a tour to promote her book, her latest PA isn’t promising either. Lillian Linden-Smith needs to leave the US, and fast. She’s still paying for the crimes of her late parents and is constantly attacked by the media. A job as a personal assistant to an author touring Europe is the ideal way to escape. If only she could put up with the anti-social, annoying, know-it-all professor…

Karin Kallmaker has been publishing lesbian fiction since 1989 and is one of the trailblazers of the genre with dozens of books under her belt. Love by the Numbers was published in 2012 but the audiobook has just been released in September 2021.

This is an entertaining enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract, road trip romance with two very well fleshed-out main characters. Dr. Nicole Hathaway has a brilliant mind and an outstanding academic career but lacks empathy and misses most social cues. Her attempts to rationalise and explain feelings scientifically are funny and utterly ridiculous. Lilly, on the other hand, is caring and sweet but has been hurt badly and lacks confidence. Together they find ways to understand and support each other, in the most unlikely way.

Most of the story revolves around the road trip, an ideal background for the characters to be thrown together 24/7, be forced to get to know each other and work together to solve unexpected issues. It’s my understanding that Ms. Kallmaker is an avid traveler and here she applies her experience well to describe the joy (and sometimes the inconveniences) of traveling. This book takes the reader from London to rural Russia. It’s full of descriptions of places, food, transport and different people which makes it very entertaining. I loved “visiting” new places along with the characters as well as returning to others that I know well. All of them felt realistic.

Abby Craden narrated the audiobook and her voices were distinct and appealing as usual. It’s no news that Ms. Craden’s pronunciation of foreign languages isn’t her forte. I cannot tell about all the foreign terms in this book but her Spanish and Italian aren’t proficient (her pronunciation of Alhambra made me cringe every time). This novel has quite a lot of foreign words and names but I imagine most people won’t notice the errors, unfortunately, I couldn’t help it because Spanish is my mother language and I grew up listening to my relatives speak Italian. To be honest, the rest of the audiobook was really good in terms of interpretation of feelings and emotions so I didn’t care much.

I’m not sure why my previous reading experience was so different from the listening but if I have to guess, I think that Ms. Craden made Nicole sound more human than she seemed on paper. It suggested a lighter tone that I couldn’t infer from reading and it made a whole difference to me. So yes, sometimes all a book needs is a good narrator. 4.5 stars.

Length: 8 hours, 47 minutes.

Available in Scribd

Love by the Numbers by Karin Kallmaker

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