I’ve been listening to the Audibly Addicted podcast and they talk a lot about duet narration audiobooks–where narrators read all the dialogue assigned to their character. This is relatively new to me and seems to be a popular narration style in the indie romance world. Lauren Blakley takes this to a whole new level with Instant Gratification, a duet-style narration with a full cast that has been edited from the text for the audio experience.
The bulk of the story is carried by Shane East as Jason, a 30-year-old men’s advice blogger who moonlights as a professional best man. Narrator Andi Arndt joins him as Truly, a 35-year-old bar owner and Jason’s best friend’s twin sister.
Jason and Truly have hooked up before, but fear being together would complicate their relationship with Truly’s twin. But when Jason needs Truly as his date for a few wedding jobs they find they have irresistible chemistry.
This story is pretty basic which I think is what you want for a complex narration like this. The characters bop around a fictitious fairytale New York where you constantly run into people you know and a blogger can somehow afford to live in Manhattan. I loved the concept of Jason’s side hustle business as a professional best man and how it colored his idea of love and relationships.
I did find this little friend group a little insufferable and snobby at times. Like they have weird ideas about what adults can do and think they are too good to drink a birthday cake latte or listen to Ed Sheeran. It also relies heavily on eye-rolly heteronormative and gendered comedy.
It took me a while to settle into the duet narration style, there are no descriptions or dialogue tags and I got whiplash with all of the different voices popping in and out. If I was in a scene with 2 or 3 characters and I knew the voices it worked, but during bigger scenes I found myself rewinding to get it. There is a surprising amount of singing in this book, you could tell the narrators were having fun with it…there is also a lot of 4th wall breaking.
Out of this full cast I’d say Bahni Turpin, Grace Grant, Zachary Webber and Vikas Adams stood out to me. They were able to break out of the typical audiobook delivery and into the more conversational delivery.
The story itself is only about 5 hours long. The rest of the time is filled up with little epilogues, check-ins scenes with other characters from other books, and then there is an interview with Blakely and outtakes.
As audio continues to dominate I’m sure we will get more things like this, I can only imagine it would be better if they had sound effects and foley.
Unlike most audiobooks, this one was filmed with most of the narrators in a room together and there is a video on Blakely’s YouTube channel of the experience. It’s fun to what some of these narrators look like!