Audiobook-Mini-Review: Helena Hunting’s MAKE A WISH (Spark House #3)

Make_A_WishOnce again I’m enjoying romance more via ears than eyes. Impatience is my middle-name when it comes to romance-reading and while I am sometimes impatient at the  length of a romance audiobook, it doesn’t compare to how finger-drummingly ho-hum I feel when I’m eyeballing it.

I certainly both enjoyed and grew impatient with Helena Hunting’s contemporary romance, Make A Wish. It has a cutesy cartoon cover (not a fan) moments of rom-com-ish humour (weak ones), a touch of women’s fic psychologizing (better than I thought it would be), and a fairly standard romance, not too passionate, or compelling, but in the context of its two other qualities, solid. There’s a handsome single dad, aspiring child-care expert, soupçon of May-to-December, and saccharine plot poppet; the publisher’s blurb offers further details:

Ever have a defining life moment you wish you could do over? Harley Spark has one. The time she almost kissed the widowed father of the toddler she nannied for. It was so bad they moved across the state and she never saw them again.

Fast forward seven years and she’s totally over it. At least she thinks she is. Until Gavin Rhodes and his adorable now nine-year-old daughter, Peyton, reappear at a princess-themed birthday party hosted by Spark House, Harley’s family’s event hotel. Despite trying to avoid the awkwardness of the situation, she can’t help but notice how unbearably sexy he looks in a tutu. Add to that a spontaneous hives breakout, and it’s clear she’s not even remotely over the mortification of her egregious error all those years ago.

Except Gavin seems oblivious to her inner turmoil. So much so that he suggests they get together for lunch. For Peyton’s sake, of course. It’s the perfect opportunity to heal old wounds. Or it could just reopen them. This is one of those times Harley wishes she could see the future…

Gavin and Harley’s romance takes a long, long time to get going and I was okay with that. Obstacles to the HEA abound, but they’re psychological and, thank the romance gods, free of any Big Mises: Harley’s guilt over the almost-kiss, also The Boyfriend, Gavin’s unresolved grief, a former mother-in-law from hell (who turns out to be more sympathetic than I first thought), and a nine-year-old’s delicate feelings, all of which Hunting pulls off marvelously, if lengthily, and with enough depth to her characters they round out rather nicely. Case in point the immature, oblivious boyfriend, more attached to his gaming device than Harley. And yet, when they break up (because Harley maturely realizes she still has feelings for Gavin), he turns out more reasonable and self-aware than first impressions bode. Everyone, in effect, most importantly Gavin and Harley, are articulate and capable of self-examination and -awareness. It’s refreshing to have a hero and heroine who readily admit their attraction, date, and converse. Frankly, for such a tame couple and romance, the bedroom scenes were incongruously explicit.   

Hunting’s romance, centred on Harley, Gavin, and Peyton, is a relationship-building one, with ups and downs, doubts and fears, questions and affirmations. It made sense, given that Harley was with Peyton from birth through to a year and a half, Harley has as much of a relationship with Peyton as Gavin. And this is where my personal taste and romance-preference clashed with Hunting’s account rife with excess of glitter, princesses, and craft projects; they took up too much air time for this reader. On the other hand, Harley was annoyingly fey and yet, when she wasn’t, she was tough, psychologically astute, and up-front honest, kind of badass, like when she broke up with the boyfriend, or called Gavin on his acquiescence to his mother-in-law, or his avoidance of his feelings for her. Gavin was carrying much understandable baggage and wasn’t always willing to be open, or confront conflicting feelings head-on, but his basic decency carried the day and his apology was funny and heartwarming. Hunting’s humour was puerile in places, relying on gags about food, drink, glitter, and bodily functions, but she also often hit the right rom-com-with-heart notes.

I both liked and disliked the narrators. The romance is written in alternating Gavin-Harley first-person narration. They were terrific as the primary characters: Bloom manages to capture Harley’s fey-badass qualities and Clarke has a lovely deep, throaty voice for Gavin. I was nonplussed, however, when the male narrator insisted on higher pitches to convey Harley’s and Peyton’s voices in dialogue and neither helped me warm to Peyton, who was an annoying, breathless motor-mouth. Hunting’s romance-audiobook was pleasant, displayed psychological acuity, but could have made better use of the “less is more” rule on princesses, glitter, and baby diaper contents.

Helena Hunting’s Make A Wish, in audiobook, releases on January 24 and was recorded by Macmillan Audio. I received an advance audiobook from Macmillan Audio, for the purpose of this review, via Netgalley.

12 thoughts on “Audiobook-Mini-Review: Helena Hunting’s MAKE A WISH (Spark House #3)

  1. Less diaper content, and yes, less glittery princesses!

    Glad you enjoyed it nonetheless, it sound like a low conflict yet not quite substance-less fluff that’s good to pass a few hours with.

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  2. Oooh! This was exactly how I felt about the audiobook for Helena Hunting’s Meet Cute which also includes a child (well – young teen). I enjoyed her book but it had the same strengths and weaknesses you mention here. The mature adults are in the story is a strong point for me so I will probably seek more of her books out. Unlike you, I deeply struggle to enjoy audiobooks of romances. Some narrators get all saccharine sultry and breathless and it just annoys me. Plus, most sex scenes get way too involved and I am not really in the mood to have an aural experience of someone’s oral experience. If the ebook/print version is available, it is my preferred format.

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    1. Aural/oral…TOO FUNNY! It’s taken me a long, long time to warm to audiobooks at all, but for romance, it’s actually easier…

      My fave versions are print, but who can get print these days, sadly…apparently, pubs thought print would “disappear” so they got rid of equipment and contracts and now struggle to get books printed. Sad, truly sad.

      I agree about Hunting, if she could just tame and prune some of the annoyances, she’d have a way better book, but I’m sure there are also readers who enjoy that stuff and the lady’s got to make a living. But I’m going to be positive and say there’s always room for growth. So, I too will read more of her books. I think there’s one coming out this year? Yes, in June!

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      1. I agree with you. I gave mine 5 stars despite those few annoyances. The story had warmth. And we all know how romance authors, for the most part, improve with every book. Their peak rarely is in the first publication.

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      2. And yes – it is shockingly awful that pubs stopped printing but I think all these booktokkers are forcing their hand. It’s hard to be flamboyant as you show off your haul on your ereader.

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          1. I don’t know. If they do, their reading preferences definitely don’t align with mine. I have read a few of their “top picks” and it’s like authors who have spent their formative years watching reality TV have decided to write a script. All dialogue and action, very little emotion.

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            1. Very literarily astute, Ms Veros. I remember thinking the same about The Hunger Games: and of much even litfic. It’s “made up” of stuff, but the “stuff” doesn’t have any substance, heart, or stance.

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