Xe Sands – Voicing Romance

Hi friends!

Welcome to the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month!

While I read romance all year long, August is the month we celebrate this awesome genre!  Come back every day to read all three “Power of Romance” posts. Check out the full calendar of authors here. You can also find links to the last four years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook.

Happy August!

#LoveRomance #ThePowerOfRomance

A Voice for Romance

I am so excited to have three of my favorite audiobook narrators taking part in Read-A-Romance Month this year!

Xe Sands asked if it was okay to do an audio essay and I thought it was a brilliant idea!



(If that doesn’t work, you can find it on her soundcloud channel here.)


Xe recommends:

Oh this is so hard! Ok, ok…let’s start with Kristan Higgins. Best known for the humorous content in her fabulously written romance novels, Higgins also always delivers a wonderful emotional journey with characters who go through what we all do at various times: grief, loss, envy, longing, betrayal, redemption. I love that her heroines are smart and independent, but are also struggling as we all do, that they make mistakes and have to deal with the fallout of those mistakes.

And her heroes aren’t perfect, but they aren’t your typical bad boy either. While I *love* my bad boys, I also love my good guys too (as long as they have a decent dose of brooding thrown in). Anyone looking to start with Higgins can’t go wrong with any of her romances such as My One and Only or any of the Blue Heron series, or one of her women’s fiction pieces such as On Second Thought or If You Only Knew. Leo…ahhhh – well you just heard him for yourselves! Oh – and for those who like their steam behind closed doors, Higgins is your gal.

Kristan Higgins     –     www.kristanhiggins.com     –     @Amazon


For those how don’t mind graphic sexual content, I have to point you to CD Reiss. Reiss’s writing is raw, powerful, real and smart. Her characterizations are authentic and her sensual scenes are sexy as all get-out. Yes, there is often BDSM content, real and authentically delivered, and as emotionally powerful as the rest of the story. You can start just about anywhere with CD Reiss, but I can’t imagine falling more in love with a pair of characters as I did with Monica and Jonathan of the Songs of Submission. A close second would be a tie between Marriage Games and Shuttergirl.

CD Reiss     –     cdreiss.com      –      @Amazon


On the sweet but real front, I hope more folks discover Rachael Herron‘s wonderful The Songbirds of Darling Bay series. Herron has a wonderful way of weaving together humor, sweetness and the internal battles we face. She addresses the darker issues with integrity, allowing them to add to, not detract from, the personal stories and overarching love story of each set of characters.

Rachael Herron    –    rachaelherron.com     –     @Amazon


And for those who love their romance couched in a cozy (ha! what an image…), I completely adore the writing, content and cool-as-heck settings coming from Juliet Blackwell in both her cozies, the Haunted Home Renovation and The Witchcraft Mystery Series, as well as her split modern/historical fiction books, The Paris Key and Letters from Paris. Blackwell is highly adept at not only wonderful characterizations and humor, but also slipping in historical data on her settings that just sinks right into your brain and simmers until you can’t help but start looking at travel brochures…

Juliet Blackwell    –    julietblackwell.net    –    @Amazon

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment when you felt or were aware of the power of romance.

I guess I’ll just say…saddle up readers, because from here on out, this all gets pretty personal! Ha! As if the audio essay wasn’t personal enough…onward!

Before I met my husband, my heart had been put through a Magic Bullet by my first college boyfriend. I came out of that a shell of a person, desperate to escape myself however possible, and in that insanity I *might* have signed up to work on a sheep farm 3000 miles away from where I was living. Heh. Seemed like a great idea…until it actually got closer to fruition, because by then, I had met the love of my life. So when it came time to actually get on that plane and go through with this crazy plan, I would have given just about anything to renege on that commitment…after all, we’d been dating for less than three months – how would we survive almost a year of separation?

Picture it: we’re at the airport, at the gate (remember when you could still walk your loved ones TO the GATE?). We’ve kissed and hugged…said our goodbyes. I’m a total mess, not wanting to get on that plane for anything. And then I’m walking away, not looking back, quietly crying. I’m walking away not knowing how we’ll make it, feeling quite sorry for myself if I’m being honest…when from behind, I hear the pounding of feet and suddenly I’m whirled around by my guy – right there in the gangway – and he’s kissing me, kissing me like he can’t possibly let me go, like a freaking romance hero!

So here’s why I’m sharing this: that moment on the gangway? That reckless abandon he showed? THAT – that has sustained us, knowing that’s in him, in us…that heady, romantic need and overwhelming sense of love and loss. You know, people often bag on the romance genre because of the HEA, the happily ever after. But here’s what the critics miss: those romantic moments fuel all they rest that come after. They create a sort of power source that you can return to, a reference point. THAT is the power of romance.

Tell us about an object that has powerful memories for you.

Sometime before we were married, when we were still crazy-young, I noticed among my guy’s things a beautiful and curious envelope. It was handmade from an old calendar page, with a nostalgic graphic of heart-shaped apples growing on the tree, with a picnic spread below. And for some reason, it came to symbolize pure romantic love to me – the kind of love I craved and I…I coveted that thing. Anyway, I desperately wanted him to give me a love note or some such encased in it because I had this ridiculous romantic notion that if he gave me that envelope, it would mean truly for really real that he loved me, that we would last (what can I say? I was young…).

Almost two decades pass…and each time we packed up to move into a new apartment or home, and I happen to move any of his things, I would catch sight of that envelope and that old feeling of longing would come over me – not for the paper itself per se, but for what it had come to mean in my head. Then, for my 38th birthday, he planned an incredible outing, which culminated in him giving me a hilarious recording of all the important people in my life saying “PIE!” one after the other (it’s impossible to explain why this was the perfect gift, but it was), and also…pulling out THE ENVELOPE.

He had used it to enclose another of his mementos that I had long treasured – a particular photo, on the back of which he had written the most loving sentiment about spending our lives and love together – something private that I’ll keep between us. So in that moment, holding in my hand these two mementos that he had carried around with him seemingly forever, knowing that he chose them to somehow contain how he felt about me, about us…ahhhh…one of the most powerful memories I have is that feeling – a feeling wrapped up in a gorgeous old calendar page covered in heart-shaped apples.

Tell us about a word that has power for you.


It’s the intention of it – you can’t avoid the need for action, the consequences, the responsibility.

For years, I had a note on my dash, written by my husband, that read: I choose you. And every day, I return that in kind: I choose to be with him, over and over again. Riiiiiiiiight you say. Sappy as heck. But here’s the thing: it’s dead serious. Choosing is serious, no matter what it is about – it is the conscious, sometimes difficult, act of saying definitively, “This.” It’s not letting yourself off easy, not pretending that it’s just happening to you. So when I’m reading romance and one of the main characters gets to that point where they are ready to stop flailing about and just looks at the other person and says with all their naked vulnerability and intent, “I choose you,” it gets me every time.

Tell us about a powerful book you read this year (or one that’s so powerful you’ve never forgotten it).

I have to sheepishly admit that because of my workload during the first half of this year, I’ve had barely a moment to breathe, let alone read anything purely for pleasure – and I don’t want to play favorites among my recent projects…so let me gush a bit about a book from recent memory that will forever stay with me. The Time Traveler’s Wife. That book, that…that is romance to me. And agony. And beauty. Although I completely understand the desire for a “happily ever after,” that’s not what generally feeds me in my fiction reads. I won’t get into specifics because I don’t wish to spoil it for any who have yet to read it, but my goodness gracious what a love story, what a book! A weird love story, a weird book…but phenomenal

Tell us about a person who’s had a powerful influence on your life.

During my childhood, my step-father and I seemed to spend most of our time either competing or avoiding each other. He came on the scene when I was 3 and he was just 23, so in a way, we grew up together – me into an adult, and he into midlife. It was hard going, for both of us. By the time I headed off for college, I had the sense many kids do at that age –  that I was perhaps a disappointment, not living up to my potential. This wasn’t due to anything he did or said of course, but more a product of my own internal struggles and sense of boredom with who I was and what I was doing. But as the years continued to fly by, something shifted – in and for both of us.  As I became a parent myself, I had what so many new parents report: a complete shift in perspective, LOL! So many of the choices my parents had made when I was younger suddenly made a whole lot more sense to me, which allowed me to open myself to who he might truly be and not just who my young self thought he was. And from my perspective, he began to express what he was actually feeling/seeing/experiencing – and I was shocked to find that he was incredibly supportive as I tried to figure out what kind of artist I was and how to express it. And when I decided to take a flying leap off the cliff and head into audiobook narration full time, he was and remains my greatest cheerleader, listening to every book he can get his hands on, encouraging me not to give up in the early years when it felt nigh impossible to succeed, and most important of all, allowing me to believe that I could do it, was worth it, and that what I was doing mattered to him – that he was proud of me. His belief in me was instrumental in my determination to make this career fly, to keep improving.

Main Drawing:

Xe is generously giving away a mini-prize pack consisting of:

* A CD set copy of Kristan Higgins’ IF YOU ONLY KNEW,

 * A digital download of the first audiobook in Rachael Herron’s Songbirds trilogy (The Darling Songbirds), and the custom recording (if you don’t think that’s too goofy

* A downloadable recording by me of either winner’s favorite poem or short story (3000 words or less)

To enter, leave a comment below by 11:59 pm PST August 13, 2017. (US only)

She is also contributing to the US bundles and sponsoring the tote & cup combo! (see below for more information)

There are many more drawings too—including international book bundles! See the bottom of the post for more information.


Xe Sands is an Audie and Voice Arts Award-winning narrator based in the Pacific Northwest, known for her authentic, engaging and intimate delivery of over 225 audiobooks in various genres, specializing in first person, literary and epistolary fiction, memoirs, and captivating performance of romantic fiction. She has been recognized for her work by Salon, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and AudioFile Magazine for titles such as Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, If You Only Knew, Cruel Beautiful World, Euphoria, and The Muralist. In the romance genre, she is known for her work with Kristan Higgins, Jacqueline Frank, Anne Stuart, and narrating as Jo Raylan, with CD Reiss and Karina Halle.

Listening is a journey…


Learn more:

www.xesands.com  |   joraylan.com   |   Facebook   |  Twitter @xesands


Buy Xe’s recommended books:

availableon-amazon       availableon-nook    availableon-kobo

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#LoveRomance   #The PowerofRomance    #ReadARomance


Each RARM post will have one main drawing each day (posted above). Authors are also contributing to weekly (US only) bundles, which will be drawn at the end of the week. Each bundle will consist of at least five books and the amount of bundles will depend on the amount of books the authors contribute.

(Erika is contributing to the US and international bundles, and sponsoring a cup/tote giveaway.)

To enter to win these bundles, send an email to Week2@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “Bundles” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

International friends!

Rather than individual drawings off posts, this year we’ll do sets of books, 3+, depending on how many authors contribute. To enter, send an email to Week2@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “International” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

Week 2 contests are Aug 9 through Aug. 16

For the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month, many of the contributing authors  are supporting an extra-special drawing – high quality tote bags and mugs printed with a fun, pro-romance image (see below).

Read-A-Romance Month, through the generous support of many of the authors, is giving away at least 30 mug & tote combos.

Plus, at least two lucky winners will win a Read-A-Romance Month “Month of Books” Mega Bundle, consisting of 31 books!

To enter these exciting drawings,  send an email to August@ReadARomanceMonth.com (US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month.

(US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month. I may include an international cup/tote combo.)

You will not be automatically added to a newsletter, and I promise not to sell or give your email addresses to anyone. I do reserve the right to send you an invitation to sign up for my newsletter, which will also have opportunities to win more prizes and great romance reading tips!


Check out all three great posts everyday in August at ReadARomanceMonth.com.  Or you can find the posts on the RARM Facebook page.  Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.

#LoveRomance  #HappyReading  #ReadARomance

  • Michele H.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts about romance and your view of it through the lens of narrating.

    • Xe Sands

      Thanks so much for listening and reading, Michele!

  • Kelly Jetzer

    You are such a wonderful narrator! You really bring the characters to life. I listen to A LOT of audio romance books, and I’m always glad when I pick one that you narrate. I really enjoyed your audio post. I always wondered if narrators have a difficult time narrating the sex scenes, so thanks for sharing how you worked through this. I really appreciate the excellent quote about shame.

    • Xe Sands

      That makes my day, Kelly – thank you so much! As for the sex scenes, at this point, it just depends on the scene. Some are hard, that’s true…all depends on what triggers what, yk?

  • Sue G.

    What a soothing voice you have and I love how karma came and threw you into romance! 😉

    • Xe Sands

      Aw thank you, Sue! And it really did. I could hear the Universe chuckling behind it’s big ol’ hand…

  • Diane Sullivan

    I loved the interview questions and answers! So thoughtful and touching.

    • Xe Sands

      Thanks so much, Diane. I waffled a bit about sharing such personal stuff, but in the end thought, ‘The heck with it! It’s all true so…’

      • Diane Sullivan

        …AND I want Leo to introduce me sometime!! That was awesome!!!

        • Xe Sands

          Ha! I love Leo. He’s one of my all-time favorite heroes from the projects I’ve worked on.

  • Liz Durano

    Loved this!

    • Xe Sands

      So glad, Liz 🙂

  • Xe Sands

    Yay! So glad, Genevieve!

  • Eniko Tolnai

    A new voice for me! Loved listening to the essay and reading the interview. Following now on FB and Twitter and will have to check out your audiography 😀

    • Xe Sands

      Aw yay! Thanks so much for listening, Eniko! If you’re looking for a place to start and it’s OK to make a recommendation, I’ll point you to one of the Higgins. I loved Harper and Nick’s story from MY ONE AND ONLY, and there is a hilarious HILARIOUS scene with a grizzly bear that always leaves me wheezing when I hear it.

      • Eniko Tolnai

        Thanks for the recommendation, sounds really good, added it to my list

        • Xe Sands

          Love it or hate it, I welcome your thoughts on it if you listen!

  • Nicole Marie

    I loved your post, thanks for sharing your story!

    • Xe Sands

      So glad you enjoyed it, Nicole!

  • I absolutely LOVE your audios, Xe. I discovered Hank Phillipi Ryan when I searched all the books you’d ever recorded on Audible. And now I’m a big fan of hers. I first heard you when listening to one of Kristan’s books. You nailed her voice. Well done!! I’ve been out all day and now have to turn around and rush out again for an evening with friends, but tomorrow I plan to sit down first thing and listen to your audio-essay and read all of your Q&A. I’m totally fan-girling!!!! 🙂 Hope you have a moment to come back tomorrow so we can chat. Warmly, Deeanne Gist (author)

    • Xe Sands

      Aw hurray! And I’ll be sure to check back through 8/13, no worries 🙂

      • Read-A-Romance


    • Read-A-Romance

      This makes me so happy! xoxo

  • Ellen

    I enjoyed your audio-essay. I’ll have to look for some of your recorded books. Kristan Higgins is one of my favorites, too.

    • Read-A-Romance

      She’s great! :o)

      • Xe Sands


    • Xe Sands

      Wonderful Ellen! Higgins is just amazing. Let me know what you think if you listen. Oh! And be sure to check out the Blue Heron series as well (The Best Man, pictured above, is part of that series). They are narrated fabulously by Amy Rubinate 🙂

  • Mel Hall

    I fell in love with audiobooks because I first heard Jo Raylan (who, after a long search I eventually connected to be you! LOL). When I realized, to my utter delight, that you had more titles published under Xe Sands, I found out about Kristan Higgins! And I love her work!

    I love your work, and this audio-essay and attached Q/A was fantastic! Thanks for doing this and I hope I win! LOL XD

    • Xe Sands

      Aw yay! I’m so glad you found me, Mel, and that you’ve discovered the Higgins audios. They are some of my very favorite projects! And I’m glad you enjoyed the essay and Q/A too 🙂

    • What?! Jo Raylan? Off to search Jo Raylan on Audible! Happy dance!

      • Xe Sands

        Hee hee! Yes, that’s my alter ego, so to speak 😉

      • Mel Hall

        LOLOL, I know right! I hadn’t known for the longest time! XD

  • What a lovely essay, Xe. So poignant. Thank you for that. (LOL on Leo. Was good to “hear” from him!) 😉 Your story about your stepdad reminds me of one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes: *When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly
    stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was
    astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.* LOL. Love that. When my kids turned 13 yo, I’d sit on the side of their bed to rub their backs and tell them good night. Occasionally I’d ask them if I’d become an idiot to them yet. They’d roll their eyes, push me off the bed, and say, “Good night, Mom.” Ha.

    • Xe Sands

      THAT is so very true! Thank you for sharing that, Deeanne 🙂 My daughter is 19 and is still firmly of the belief that I have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed hearing from “Leo.” I had a great time putting that together and revisiting a favorite broody hero 🙂

      • Mel Hall

        LOLOL, speaking from the young age point (I’m 19 as well) I find amusing all the things my mother grew up with (like stick shifts, going to drive-in theatres, life without computers (or as she argues, she had a life before the electronics, LOL)) and me having almost always lived in the technology age and therefore learning to drive with a backup camera, having emoji conversations, and going to 3D cinemas!!

        So, naturally, teaching my mother that the various capabilities of an iPhone compared to the flip phones (which, I had too) has been a rather interesting experience.

        • Xe Sands

          Hahaha! Oh indeed. My daughter was teaching me about the wonders of using Boomerang on Instagram the other night and she *almost* managed to hide the eye roll….LOL

          • Mel Hall

            HAHA, don’t feel bad about the whole new age shenanigans. I’m an old soul in a young body, so even *I* don’t get some apps. Like boomerang. Bhahaha!

  • MaryC

    Love the Witchcraft Mysteries series!

    • Xe Sands

      Yay! I do love some Oscar, Lily and Sailor 🙂

  • Pamby50

    Listening to your audio essay was fun. Something different from all the other posts. You have made audio books of two of my favorite authors, Rachael Herron and Kristan Higgins.

    • Xe Sands

      So glad you enjoyed it! I am not terribly skilled at getting my thoughts out via the written word…but I can talk all day 😉 Ha! And I do!

  • Not sure what happened to my earlier post … I’ll retry … I enjoyed your audio-essay, Xe. Very poignant. (Was good to “hear” from Leo! LOL.) 😉 Your thoughts about your stepdad remind me of my favorite Mark Twain quote: *When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly
    stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was
    astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.* Ha. Love that. When my kids turned 13 yo I used to sit on the edge of their beds at bedtime and rub their backs. I’d occasionally say, “So, do you think I’m an idiot yet?” They’d roll their eyes, shove me off the bed, and say, “Goodnight, Mom.” 🙂

  • Booklover

    I only recently tried audiobooks and have become totally addicted. You’re new to me, but I’ve read some of those authors prior to my discovery of audiobooks. I loved your audio-essay and really related to it. I felt the same way you did about romance. I had never read one until 2011 when I was pushed into it. Now that’s all I read. I just listened to several of your Audible samples, and I really enjoyed them. You’re very good, especially with male voices.

    • Xe Sands

      A kindred spirit – love it! Whatever you listen to, I hope you enjoy it (pssst…pick something newer…just sayin’) 🙂

      • Booklover

        I will do that. I’ve had a few authors say the same thing.

  • Kezia King

    I love what you say about HEA providing a safe space. I usually avoid reading things that seem like they are full of angst or heartbreak but I like romance because I angst able to read those kinds of things with the assurance that I will be left with a happy feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it in that way before now but you are absolutely right. 🙂

    • Xe Sands

      Yes! Exactly! We get a safe space to explore all that angst 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Kezia!

  • rebecca moe

    OMG, Leo! Thanks so much for bringing him along 🙂

    You hit the nail on the head…we do need to know that things are going to be okay in the end, and that’s exactly why I read romance. I went through a long period of my life not reading romance–I was an English major, so of course I needed to read “serious” books, and yeah, I had a bit of that anti-romance ‘tude too. Of course I don’t read “those” books! Then life threw a huge ol’ wrench into my plans, and OMG I needed romance books like nobody’s business. And even though things have gotten better, I haven’t stopped reading romance, and I don’t plan to. Ever.

    Thank you so much for narrating your post! My daughter and I love your voice–our last two big road trips featured Kristan Higgins audiobooks co-narrated by you–her words + your voice = best road trips ever!

    • Xe Sands

      I’m so glad that resonated, Rebecca. And I too was an English major and and know exactly what you mean 😉 And thrilled to hear you enjoyed the Higgins!

  • Read-A-Romance

    Hi Genevieve – You’re Xe’s winner! I didn’t get your email address of this comment but I’ve just sent you a FB mssg I hope you receive. xo