#SaturdaysAreBookish Audiobook Review | “Jesse’s Girl” by Tara September, narrated by Verla Bond

Posted Saturday, 19 September, 2020 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

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Acquired Book By: Starting in August 2020, I started hosting for Random Things Tours as a new book blogger working with them to either review and/or host guest author features on behalf of their authors. I was thankful to join their book blogger team and look forward to joining the tours which are highlighting the stories I actively enjoy reading and discovering. I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Jesse’s Girl” from Random Things Tours in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why “Jesse’s Girl” felt like a good fit for a Contemporary Romance:

I love second chance romances and stories of redemption – I have a preference for slow burning romances and getting the chance to have a new relationship repair the angst of a past relationship which seemed to be the case with ‘Jesse’s Girl’ as Gwen was finding her life completely erased from the life she had with Jesse once Jesse left her and his daughter for a fling with a colleague.

What appealled to me the most was the shortness of the story itself – as this was an audiobook under five hours and I felt that was a good length for me at this time to listen too. The shorter audiobooks are fast becoming my new ‘favourites’ and when it comes to Contemporary Romances, I am still navigating the genre to root out who my new favourite voices are for this genre. Having said all that, as you will see on my review, I reached a point in the narration where I could not move forward and what I had hoped to have found in the story was not quite the experience I was given. Despite that, I have some strong observations to relate to my readers who can hopefully discern if this is a romance better fitted to them and their readerly habits.

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#SaturdaysAreBookish Audiobook Review | “Jesse’s Girl” by Tara September, narrated by Verla BondJesse's Girl
by Tara September
Source: Direct from Author via Random Things Tours
Narrator: Verla Bond

“I wish that I had Jesse’s Girl”

Successful Texas lawyer, Reade Walker, curses that damn song every time it plays, all too aware of the irony of its lyrics. After all, he has been secretly and painfully enamored with Jesse’s girl, Gwen, for nearly a decade. It was love at first sight for him, but sadly she’s not his girl. She belongs to the one man who betrayed him and knows Reade’s hidden family secret. Yet Reade can’t seem to love anyone except the one woman he can't have. Or can he make her mine?

When Gwen Clark’s senator husband runs off with his intern and all their money, the ensuing scandal turns her life upside down. Deserted, penniless and desperate to provide for her six-year-old daughter, Gwen has no one to turn to but Reade Walker. The one man her heart desperately wants, but her pride dreads having to ask for help. Despite welcoming them into his home, it seems like Reade can barely stand being in the same room with her anymore, let alone under the same roof—in the same bedroom. But Gwen is determined to get her life back on track. It is past time to rediscover her own dreams…if only she can keep her aching heart from breaking all over again.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy (Rom Com), Short Story or Novella

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Heat Factor for Romance

ISBN: 9781093176131


Published by Plus It Up

on 6th September, 2019

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 3 hours and 37 minutes (unabridged)

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Published by: Plus It Up

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #ContemporaryRomance, #RomCom or #Romance and #JessesGirl
as well as #audioreads, #audiobook or #loveaudiobooks

About Tara September

Blogger and former PR executive for The Walt Disney Company, Tara holds a Master’s degree in journalism & communications from New York University. She also spent a semester abroad during her undergrad at Queen Mary University in London. For over a decade before publishing, Tara has penned a popular lifestyle, travel and parenting blog at TaraMetBlog.com.

Always an avid romance reader, she has been daydreaming about being an author since school. Dozens of bad dates, four cities and adventures later, she still finds it impossible that she met her husband on a New York City subway. They now live in sunny Florida with identical twin boys and four cats underfoot/on her laptop/everywhere. Fueled by an IV of green tea and sometimes Champagne, she's finally writing the happily ever after tales she's been dreaming about.

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my review of jesse’s girl:

It is hard to even imagine what Gwen felt like when she had a barrage of reporters assault her at her home demanding to know her thoughts and reactions to her husband’s actions! The gull they had to insist she was complicit and had prior knowledge of the events they were demanding explanation for was nauseating in of itself.

Yet, the fuller horror really is being a wife whose hadn’t questioned her husband’s activities and/or assumed anything was amiss – whilst finding yourself in a media firestorm and having your entire life dissolve into the abyss of nothingness simply by opening the door to the world through the media’s slanted lens of reporting the news as they saw fit to spin it. Just placing yourself in her shoes is hard – the enormity of that loss, the devastation of her soul and just the repercussions of what the truth of that new reality meant for her is hard to swallow.

I felt Ms September did well to justify her immediate gut-punch reaction against the tidal-wave of questions plummeting at her from all sides as reporters all vied for her attention and sound bite. Plus, it zeroes in on how something as ordinary as your choices in clothes can have alternative definitions by pairs of eyes who know nothing about you or your life. And, when Gwen compares her marriage to Jesse as an elaborate chess game wherein he took the ultimate prize in the end – it felt like September was proving the point that some wives were the last to know when their lives unravelled.

As Reade was introduced what was interesting about his character was how by all accounts he was available and single, but he wasn’t interested in hooking up with anyone (lest of all the flight attendant!) as September has a cheeky dose of humour about how the only thing on his mind during the flight itself was to tuck into some dreamscapes before the plane lands in Washington (DC). I had a good laugh over that scene! Reade takes us back through the tunnel of his memories – back to when he first met Gwen (during a random grocery run) and how depressed he’d felt knowing that she was attached (by marriage) to an old friend of his he knew wasn’t good enough for her and yet what could he do or say about it?! Reade had a bit of humour laced with the realism of knowing that despite what the heart wants at times, it cannot always have its fill. He is candid and personable whilst recounting his life and how he’s ached after Gwen knowing she was with the wrong guy. You felt for him – the anguish he’d had and the toll it must’ve taken on him – and all of these revisits with the ghosts of past were caused by the newspaper announcing the plight Gwen now faced with her husband! Oyy. The irony, eh?

The closer you get to understanding how Gwen’s life was shocked into immediate change by Jesse’s actions the more you start to loathe Jesse himself! One of the more interesting notes to make is how everyone who is GenX is quite familiar with the song ‘Jesse’s Girl’ and yet, I am not sure if I would have connected the song to a story-line as captivating as this one has become to listen too! I had a different interpretation of the strong and the lyrics vs what I found in the short story and yet, I loved that aspect of it because September built such a strong foundation for Gwen and Reade to thrive inside. Jesse is a rat fink with the best of them – a true blue cad of a bloke who doesn’t have his priorities straight (he didn’t seem to care he was also leaving behind his daughter!) and is simply indulging in whatever he wants – when he wants it! That left a wrecking ball effect for Gwen and not so ironic to find out that her ‘go to’ bloke of choice is Reade!

Reade is far more stable (ie. emotionally, financially, etc) than Jesse – as Reade genuinely cares about people and the goodness in life rather than being the selfish rat Jesse is himself. I had to agree with Reade on that one note – why did it take Gwen so dearly long to see the truth about Jesse? Or as the story hints towards – she was between a rock and a hard place, always satisfied by whatever excuse Jesse would give her and she staid. She overstayed her welcome in her own marriage but that was the truth of it. Jesse of course, took off and ended up freeing himself of the complications of owning his choices and disrupting the lives of his wife and daughter.

I was quite surprised I was turnt off from finishing this story because there was such a strong build-up through the opening bridge and into the main heart of the journey Gwen and Reade were taking to re-find themselves in a position to fall back in love with each other without the confines of marriage and/or the concerns of other people’s opinions about their ensuing relationship. Yet, I noticed a shift in how the story was being told or perhaps, it was always there all along and I just noticed it at this junction – but the story took a more vulgar and blunt turning to where instead of watching how Gwen and Reade would rejoin each other’s path and start to re-knit a connection together, it seemed to skip a few steps in their romance and head straight towards the coridor to the bedroom.

Which in of itself is fine (as its a romance after all) but its how this segue was approached that rankled me and how the story was aligning until that point felt this was more of a slow-burn romance than a let’s jump into the sheets first chance we can kind of romance! I love the slow burning romances – the ways in which writers can lengthen how and when a couple will get together and of course, with young Maddie in the picture, I thought taking this slower would be a better option all round. As with children in the mix, it is hard to justify a insta-kindling of an affair so soon after infidelity blights out a marriage.

For those reasons, I found myself unexpectedly turnt off and I simply ended my stay in this story at that junction. I would presume this would be a better fit for someone who isn’t attached to the slower pacing of a slow burn romance and/or someone who likes romances which go quite heavy-on the more blunted way a romance can be told vs the slow building of connection I prefer myself. In essence, I was quite disappointed I wasn’t able to learn what became of Reade and Gwen; how they pieced their lives together and how in the end, they could find balance and resolution after what Jesse did to distrupt the normalcy they once had in their individual lives. Plus, I wanted to see restitution as Jesse broke laws and just seemed (from the moments I spent in the story) to get off without so much as a hitch in his plans.

on the contemporary romantic styling of tara september:

When I first started listening to this story, I hadn’t realised it was a short Romantic Comedy as I am used to listening to full-length novels in audiobook. It has only been recently where I have found some shorter reads and listens which are under five hours which appeal to me. What amazes me more than the short length of narration for the stories is how each writer chooses to make choices to enlarge the short story for us. I read quite the copious amount of shorter fiction (ie. short stories and novellas) in Speculative Fiction and I am always in wonderment over how the authors of those stories can dimensionally give us such as strong sense of their world-building in the shortness of what is left behind for us to read.

Similarly, I was finding Ms September has done this with Jesse’s Girl – from the first moments of how the story opened to the pace it set for itself as Gwen started to unravel how to re-assemble her life after the devastating truth about Jesse was revealled to her in a moment she was unprepared for anything of that magnitude. It is there where September excelled in grieving us in full-on empathy for Gwen and for finding a curious way into knowing a bit about the scope of the situation whilst alternating our POV between Gwen and Reade; the two lead characters of the story.

For a Romantic Comedy short story, I knew then, the pacing would have to keep taut because you could easily lose pacing with the flow of the story if anything faltered even half an inch. September kept the pedal of pressure on her characters and never gave you a chance to blink before you knew exactly how their lives would repair from the ache of loss and the transitional blissitude of a new beginning. Those are the stories I enjoy most – to see how someone changed their circumstances and reinvented their lives. Second chance romances are amongst my favourite to read due to how uplifting it is to see someone turn their life from ash to new growth.

The key reason I felt September’s style was a bit of a hard sell for me in the end is because I like romances which breathe life between the characters in a more gentle and heartwarming way – hence why I read a lot of Harlequin Heartwarming. I also have the tendency to like a non-blunted approach to how romance can develop between two persons and I’m just not a fan of brass language in a romance to the brink that it just jars you out of the pacing of the story you’ve already established you were enjoying up until that point arrived.

Fly in the Ointment:

Aye. Definitely not my favourite words sprinkled hither and thither within the context of the story-line and thankfully they weren’t overtly used which would have made it harder for me to appreciate the flow and pacing of the RomCom itself. However, their there in the background and I honestly wished they had been absent. As generally is the case, I found them distracting rather than helpful – the strength of the author’s writing and the ways in which she endears you to her characters through the emotional lens provided is enough of a rooting and anchour to her story to where I felt the stronger words were distracting me from the beauty of how the rest of the novel was told. In other words, it is rare where I’d comment stronger language is necessary to the plot rather than finding it needing to be weeded out – such as it could have been in this story.

I appreciated the artful way more of the stronger words were masked from being in-scene as it was a gentler approach to having them littered throughout the story itself. Except what turnt me off from listening to the story itself was the more vulgar approach to heightening the romantic tension between Reade and Gwen; which isn’t the kind of romance I enjoy reading.

Realistic Topics and Equality in Lit:

→ Infidelity and Affairs outside of Marriage

→ Embezzlement of Funds

→ Second Chance Romance & Romance from Afar

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Jesse's Girl promo graphic provided by Random Things Tours and is used with permission.In regards to the audiobook directly:

I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

I haven’t heard Verla Bond narrate a novel previously and this is my first experience hearing her as a narrator which is quite lovely as I love finding new narrators to follow and seek out stories by other authors they narrate throughout their career.

Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances:

Gwen and the narrative voice: There wasn’t too much difference between how Gwen was performed vs the narrative voicing of the background of the storyline. However, whenever Gwen was in-scene you could feel the weight of the infidelity and the crushing realities of what Jesse left in his wake for her as she was now addressing the world in a far more dire situation than she had enjoyed whilst married. Her voice held anchour you into her story and it was a refreshing tempo in step with Reade’s.

Reade: His voice had a bit of a drawl to it – something between the traditional South and a twang only Texas can pull off themselves. He had a strong presence but also a sobering introspective vibe which made you feel compelled to hear his side of the story about how he’s been in love with ‘Jesse’s girl’ from afar until their lives started to collide due to Jesse’s sudden exit from Gwen’s life.

Maddie: As she was a young girl (age six) her voice sounded just as you would think a young girl would sound and it was refreshing. She held her own and she talked the way a young girl would as well which is something I look for as well in both print and audio stories. Too often young children were not behaving like their ages but Maddie thankfully was true to hers.

How the story sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)

At first, I was going to stay this is spoken narrative wherein it is a delightful audiobook to listen to as the narrator has strong instincts for not just delivering the story but performing it in a way that is a delight to hear in your ears. I am growing used to not having theatrical performances for audiobooks now and the spoken narrative styling is starting to appeal to me when I want to listen to something light and a bit less in length than my standard genres of interest.

In fact, the shorter audioreads recently are appealling to me greatly because of a) my lack of time and b) the weight of my personal stressors which rob me of the job to soak into a story of great length. These short audiobooks are a gem of a find and now I have a new passion for stories between 1-4 hours in length! Towards that end – both the narrator and the author have to be in sync with each other – to grip you at the start of the story and to hold your attention to the end. Blessedly Bond excells at this and gives you an enjoyable listen!

Regards to Articulation & Performance of the story:


I love finding narrators who have a method of articulating the story in such a way as to give you time to soak into the background of the story without the worry of missing something keenly important if their voice/accent/articulation was a bit harder to concentrate on. With Bond, she has a light and refreshing sound to her voice wherein she is understandable and fun to listen too.


I enjoyed how Bond gave weight to September’s words and gave you a way to fully believe you were walking beside her characters as their lives both crumpled and were starting to become rebuilt.

Notes on the Quality of Sound & the Background Ambiance:

This is a straight spoken narrative performance without sound or soundscapes in the background. I liked how clean and crisp the audiobook sounded as it was quite easy to listen to despite having ambiance sounds in the background of your everyday life.

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

I truly fell in step with this one quite quickly (not always the case!) and because of that, as I get readily attached to the voice in my ears, I’d have to say my preference for this story remains with the audiobook. Although as this became a DNF listen for me, despite enjoying the portions of the story I heard, I am unsure if I would re-listen to the audiobook much less worry over the print copy. I would say that if other listeners felt as connected to Bond as I had they wouldn’t have to fetch another copy of the story because Bond makes hearing this story entertaining.

In closing, would I seek out another Verla Bond audiobook?

Yes, I would. I loved how she narrates Romances and that’s saying tons because I don’t off find myself motivated to listen to Contemporary Romances in audiobook format. They either seem too rushed by the narration itself or they feel ‘off’ somehow in audio vs print. I would like to endeavour to see what else she’s performed and which types of stories she’s narrated as I truly did enjoy hearing her voice!!

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Jesse's Girl blog tour banner provided by Random Things Tours and is used with permission.Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Jesse’s Girl”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Tara September as well as the blog tour and promo banners were all provided by Random Things Tours and used with permission. Post divider by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #SaturdaysAreBookish banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 19 September, 2020 by jorielov in 21st Century, Audiobook, Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Romance, Content Note, Fly in the Ointment, Indie Author, Life Shift, Modern Day, Motherhood | Parenthood, Random Things Tours, Romance Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Vulgarity in Literature

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