Wrong man…wrong time! An amulet sends Jana back six years… into deadly danger! Impulsively, she wishes for a second chance, before she met the rogue she impulsively married. To her shock, it works— and lands her in the arms of the same man, who’s using another name and involved in a scheme that might get them both killed.. Although she knows him intimately, he has no idea who she is. They have to learn about each other—fast—while staying alive. If they can!
2 1/2 stars
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
The cover for One Husband Too Many looks a bit off, with the heroine posed as a seemingly shell-shocked bride marrying two Martina Navratilovas. Definitely a unique choice for a Harlequin cover.
As for the story? Well this book was written as if it were one of those rom-coms you’d watch on a Sunday afternoon while folding laundry.
Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts. Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.
Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.
This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…
She had been his brothers wife, he hadn’t seen her for three years, and yet he had only to think of her to ache with an unrequited desire, knew that he ached with that desire even now.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
I have a real love/hate situation with Carole Mortimer’s contemporary romance, Gypsy. It’s got some concepts I adore and others, like adultery, that make me want to toss this book across the room.
Carole Mortimer is one of the few Harlequin authors who regularly features blond heroes (I prefer them to the “tall, dark” archetype), so I have tons of her books. Usually, I enjoy reading them.
Here, the fair-haired “hero,” Lyon, is a real nasty piece of work. He’s an adulterous husband who refuses to divorce his wife because he feels he owes it to her to stick around. That made no sense to me. I had a hard time dealing with the adultery concept. For some reason, I can accept it in historicals, but in contemporaries, I don’t have much sympathy.
An article from February 11, 2021, by journalist Chris Lambie at saltwire.com addressesHow Harlequin Romances Got Spicier. A study of 500 books found the covers got sexier as time has passed, just as the stories have. This phenomenon is not limited to Harlequin, but Harleys are the biggest players in the romance market, and they’re the oldest ones around.
From the article:
“All this begs the question, why study Harlequin romance covers over the decades? ‘If you want to understand what straight women want over time, I think this is a really telling way of looking at it,”’ Fisher said. ‘There’s only a certain segment of women that would be interested in these books. But I think it’s really useful in terms of understanding women’s idealized fantasies about mating.‘”
I’m afraid I have to disagree with this sentiment. I know straight women, lesbians, gay men, and straight men who read romance. It is evident that it’s mostly straight women read heterosexual romances. However, we shouldn’t ignore almost 1/5 of male readers or the other out-lying groups. Approximately 50% of romance readers are between the ages of 18-45, so of course, there are those looking for something different from their mothers or grandmothers.... Read more “The Evolution of Romance at Harlequin”
Surrender, Baby was published by Bantam’s Loveswept line and is the last in Suzanne Forster’s Stealth Commandos Trilogy (Loveswept #541 Child Bride & #581 Night of the Panther were the first two installments) about a trio of ex-soldiers turned bounty hunter/mercenaries. Although the plots are similar to each other in that separated lovers come together to reignite their passions, I haven’t yet to read them.
The Set Up
Miranda Witherspoon needs a man. Desperately so.
That is, she needs a soldier of fortune to find her man. Brazilian drug lords have kidnaped her fiancé, and Miranda will do whatever it takes to find him. To do so, she hires Geoff Dias, ex-military, Special Forces.
Miranda is prim and proper, her engagement not a love match but an expected marriage of two supposedly like-minded individuals who value security above romance. While she worries for her fiancé’s life, she’s also worried about losing the position she’s staked out for herself in the business world, having come from adverse circumstances and poverty.
In Kristin James’ (aka Candace Camp) The Yankee, Andrew Stone is a former Union soldier now living in Texas. He’s a stodgy fellow, not well-liked by the local folks, and has a bad reputation. He had an unhappy marriage and now has a young daughter he has to raise by himself.
Miss Margaret Carlisle is a spinster who cares for her orphaned younger siblings. She’s not exactly the most charming person in the world either, although she has reasons not to be.
Together, Andrew and Margaret decide upon a marriage of convenience, as Andrew needs a mother for his daughter, and Margaret wants not to be dependent upon her cruel aunt’s charity.
I recollect that Andrew was a very cold man, and it took a lot of time for his heart to warm up to his efficient, capable bride. His heart had been pretty much torn to pieces by his ex-wife. With Margaret being who she is, it slowly heals, while she learns there’s more to Andrew than his gruff veneer.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Yankee by Kristin James”
“I’m in love with you, Cilla.” Slowly, his eyes steady on hers, he pulled her closer. “With every part of you.” Soft, persuasive, his lips cruised over hers. “I only want fifty or sixty years to show you.”
Silhouette Intimate Moments #365
SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Night Shift Memories
If you follow my reviews, you may notice I inject some personal vignettes or anecdotes into them. If it’s TMI, apologies for oversharing. But like music or scents, each book I read is imprinted with a certain memory. When I hear “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, it takes me back to Junior Prom and my supposedly platonic date getting all clingy with me. I’ll think about a different man whether it’s Brut, Joop!, Davidoff Cool Water, or Grey Flannel cologne I smell. (Brut is my dad; the rest…are not.) If I have no memory of the book, there’s because there is no recollection to go with it.
His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.
WICKED LOVING LIES
MILD SPOILERS 😉
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Do you enjoy old-school romance written in the 1970s?
If you have a high threshold for triggering issues like overbearing alphas, forced seduction, forced marriage of convenience, adultery, rape, branding, highwaymen, harems, slavery, racism, kidnapping, murder, a mother having her child taken away from her, divorce, and remarriage…
If you enjoy plot points that include traveling to almost every continent in the world, an affair with Napoleon, being a criminal on the run, all this, and much more…
Plus a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…
Books about self absorbed, beautiful, wealthy women with nothing to do but go to lunches & parties, shop and plan their wedding in excruciating detail are not my thing. A Convenient Bridegroom was one of the most boring romances I have ever read and there have been quite a few snoozers!
This is this book’s idea of drama: “Oh no I got the wrong veil!” or “Oh these flowers just won’t do! Mama will be so upset!”
The blank slate of a heroine, Ayshe, is so stupid and insecure she believes some random skank’s word when said skank says she’s cheating with the heroine’s man. And the hero just stands there and says nothing. The heroine is so conflicted, this haunts her every thought… But she never addresses this issue. Only at the very end is this “conflict” resolved over a few sentences.
What a rarity in the romance genre was Heart of the Falcon, a historical about lovers in ancient Egypt. Although Suzanne Robinson wrote Egyptian mystery novels under her given name, this is her sole romance set in this era. Most of her other romances took place during the Elizabethan, Medieval, or Victorian time periods.
Anqet is an orphan and her evil uncle lusts after her. To get her in his bed, he connives to steal her lands. Anqet may be an innocent all alone in the world, but she’s no push-over. This is a woman determined to gain them back. She will go to the Egyptian court and maneuver through a realm of politics and lust. Anqet is stunningly beautiful and perfect and maybe a teensy bit too good to be true.
In Patricia Potter’s The Silver Link, Antonia and Tristan are from two different worlds. Nevertheless, their forbidden love unites them. They share a link that never can be severed.
Tristan Hampton is a Virginian military man. He is on a mission to ensure Albuquerque’s stable transition from Mexican rule to American governance.
Antonia Ramirez is from a noble, land-owning Spanish family whose New Mexican roots go back generations. Her family– and more importantly her would-be husband, Ramon–are wary of the Yanqui soldier.
When Antonia and Tristan meet, it’s an instant love that threatens both their worlds.
This was one of my first Harlequin Historicals. It was a romantic tale of two people from different societies whose lives are entwined through love. I enjoyed how Tris and Tonia would always find times to meet in secret. Forbidden love is at its best here.
Just a warning for those who shrink from violence: The Silver Link is also very violent and bloody. Tristan is shot, beaten, and has to save Antonia numerous times.
In the first episode of my podcast Sweet Savage Flame, the topic is Discussing Bodice Rippers #1, where I talk about the origins of the modern romance genre: the much-maligned bodice ripper. Should we keep those un-politically correct books strictly in the past or take the best of what the genre had to offer to reignite a new movement in romance novels?
I picked up my first romance at age 12 and never looked back. This thrilling genre has enraptured me and I’ve spent years collecting thousands of paperbacks and e-books until my house was bursting with romance novels and more. Vintage historical romances are my favorites, from epic bodice rippers, family sagas, Zebra romances, Harlequin Historicals, and more. As a reader, I also enjoy space operas, cookbooks, true crime, detective mysteries, philosophy, and history–especially anything to do with Spain and/or the Medieval Ages.
Hello, everyone! T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, and it’s certainly been a tumultuous one. I’m thankful it’s almost over, and that May will soon be upon us in all its flowery glory.
It’s hard to believe this vintage romance blog is only a month old, as it’s taken up so much of my time trying to put it together. Besides researching authors, publishing houses, and cover artists, I’ve been reviewing books and tweaking the site to make it more user-friendly with plenty of links and additions to the menu.
You may have noticed there’s now a STORE attached to this blog site. I’ve decided some Spring cleaning is on the agenda, so I’m reducing my library by selling used books. I have many, many books to sell, but there are few, if any, doubles, so it’s first-come, first-serve if you find something you’d like to purchase from my vintage-and-not-so-vintage collection.
The conditions of the books range from excellent to acceptable for reading, and they are priced to sell. Shipping and handling is a default flat rate of $4 for Media Mail anywhere in the US. If you wish for a faster delivery method, please amend your order to First Class, which is a $6 flat rate, or to Priority Mail, which is a $9 flat rate.... Read more “Updates #4”
Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel was a crazy book that in 1991 could only have been published by the Zebra romance lines. It was completely unrealistic, but I had a blast with it. This was the first book I read when I subscribed to the Lovegram line many years back. The plot description on the back of the book sounded like it would be a riot!
Lady Eden Parrish met ship captain Roark St. Claire in England and they had shared a hidden, forbidden love. The pair secretly got married. However, before they consummated their marriage, Eden was forced to abandon Roark. Her family tricked her into believing he betrayed her. They whisk her off their Barbados plantation as Eden is now marred with the taint of scandal.
Roark follows her to her Caribbean, where he is captured and sold into slavery. Eden sees him at the auction block. To everyone’s scandalized shock, she purchases him as her slave.
Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb starts like a hazy dream. A beautiful girl stands at the cliffs, and a strange man, thinking she’s about to jump, runs to save her. She isn’t; she’s just admiring the savage beauty of her coastal home. There is an instant connection between the girl, Marina, and Gideon, the stranger, who is much older. Marina lives alone with her grandfather, plays the piano beautifully, and at night shares her thoughts with her best friends, two dolls. There are secrets hidden in this tale that slowly unravel to reveal a different story altogether.
Crescendo deals with an issue that has always puzzled me. Why are so many heroes in romances absolute horndog sluts? It’s not simply about being good in bed. A man doesn’t need to sleep with legions of women to know how to do this! He only needs to know a few, or just one, very well. There is a perceived allure of getting–and keeping—the one man that no other woman could keep.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb”
What a frustrating read was My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson. This one was definitely filled with lots of anguish.
Two People In Love…Not Necessarily With Each Other
Colleen had been in love with Erik for years. However, as she stood in her more beautiful cousin’s shadow, Erik had no interest in her. They had briefly dated in the past, but Erik dumped her when he met her much more sophisticated (read: slutty) cousin, Brett. Erik and Brett become the town’s hottest couple, and soon they’re engaged to be married.
Despite the disinterest, Colleen hangs on like an attached puppy, Erik’s friend, to the end. When Brett calls off their wedding at the last minute for a promising modeling career across the country, Colleen is there to help Erik pick up the pieces.
He gets drunk, and they fall into bed together. Naturally, Colleen is a virgin and–naturally—gets pregnant.
From the roots in bodice rippers like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Flame and the Flower to the softer, sweeter writings of LaVyrle Spencer, to Harlequin’s dominance in publishing, to Fabio-mania, to the industry today, the article highlights the major points of the romance genre’s history. The two constants in this ever-changing field are the requirement for a happy, satisfactory ending for the protagonists and the ubiquitous nature of people who read and write romance. I think Beverly Jenkins did an excellent job summing it all up:
“There’s so many different women writing romance. You’ve got marine scientists, you’ve got biologists, you’ve got physicists. You’ve got waitresses. You’ve got stay-at-home moms. So, you know, everybody writes romance, and everybody reads romance, and all of that together generates billions of dollars a year. We’re the people that keep the lights on in publishing.”
Carnival, a Harlequin Intrigue by Jenna Ryan, is set (naturally) in a carnival on the dark, dreary English moors.
There’s been a violent murder committed. American attorney Lexie Hudson has been hired to represent the accused killer, Diana. She young and inexperienced at her job, but idealistic and hardworking.
Then there’s Rick Matheson, a handsome casual worker who is anxious to help Lexie seek out clues and also keep her out of harm’s way. But Rick is no ordinary laborer; he’s a Scotland Yard detective, secretly employed undercover to find the real murderer, as well as the missing treasure that’s the motive for the homicide.
Lexie and Rick work together following a labyrinthine trail of clues as they try to solve this mysterious puzzle. In the meantime, they also fall in love, having quite a sexy relationship. Rick was a nice, protective hero, and I really liked him.
Lately, I’ve been trying to write as many reviews as I can, before I forget what I read. Even though I read this book in the early Noughties, Flora Kidd’s Beloved Deceiver still sticks out in my mind for one big reason: it’s the only Harlequin/Mills-and-Boon I’ve read to feature a hero from the Dominican Republic, which is my parents’ birth country. There have been plenty of Hispanic, Latino, and Latin-American-born heroes in the HP line, but up until this one I’d never encountered a Dominican and a blond one, to boot! That, for me, was like hitting the romance lottery jackpot.
Our heroine, Glenda, is an independent divorcee whose first marriage ended when her husband decided fidelity was too taxing on him. Glenda’s a magazine writer from Canada visiting the Dominican Republic on holiday. Her former college classmate, Cesar Estrada, is now a bestselling author and Glenda seeks him out for an interview. Upon meeting Cesar again, Glenda notices some changes, mainly her attraction to him. Back in Montreal, they’d just been friends, however, this tanned, tropical hunk makes her motor run at super high RPMs!... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beloved Deceiver by Flora Kidd”
The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independent creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
*** Spoiler alert ***
An Unusual Romance
How do I begin to review this amazing, conflicting journey through a woman’s incredible 19th-century life? I have to tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.
By all rights Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should have tossed into a blazing fire and gleefully cheered, “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”
Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having read a few of Deana James’s books, I knew it couldn’t be that horrible. The cover even had a quote from Johanna Lindsey, stating: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down,” which is 100% true.
Captive Angel surpassed my expectations with probably one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels’ Captive Series.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James”
It must be the change of seasons. Something in the air, because I can’t explain it, I really liked this one—almost loved it, actually, until the end. Carole Mortimer’s Love Unspoken is one of those infamously controversial Harlequin Presents where readers can’t stop talking about it, even though it’s not necessarily well-loved.
The Set Up
The book begins with the heroine, Julie, a jet-setting journalist, having just been released by terrorists who held her and her fellow flight-mates hostage. She’s a little bruised and reeling when her boyfriend, Steve, shows up with concern. Julie and Steve have been dating for six months—by her own admission, some of the happiest she’s ever spent—but Julie, a mature gal in her mid-twenties, just can’t make the jump from heavy petting to sex.
She likes keeping Steve on a firm leash while he pants for more from her, but she’s not giving him any biscuits! Steve knows Julie was involved with the Zack Reedman in the past; in fact, she had a year-long affair with him, so could it be old feelings for him that hold her back?... Read more “Category Romance Review: Love Unspoken by Carole Mortimer”
The Secret Baby (wow, I bet the editors stayed up nights trying to think up that title!) was a rather predictable story with a paint-by-the-numbers plot. This could have been pulled from an old daytime soap opera. Former lovers, a secret baby, a marriage-of-convenience, and revenge are just a few of the tropes in this Harlequin Romance.
Damien Hawke and Sable Jameson (oh those names!) were lovers who worked together, or rather, she worked under Damien…in various positions. They were in love until Sable seemingly betrayed Damien by selling company secrets. Sable denied it, yet Damien wanted nothing more to do with her.
Shortly afterward, Sable found out she was pregnant but couldn’t turn to Damien, who had tossed her callously out on her butt. Who did she turn to? Why the decrepitly aged head of the rival company Sable had supposedly sold (or not sold) those secrets to! Their marriage was one of convenience, so naturally, they never had sex (they never do in these books). She had the baby and hid his true parentage from Damien.... Read more “Category Romance Book Review: The Secret Baby by Day Leclaire”
While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful, either boring or just freaking bizarre.
Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness, when the hero, Jason comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy, and was even willing to be a father to her child.
Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.
To their friends, family and neighbors, Celine and Max Archer had a perfect marriage. Only the Archers knew they’d never been in love, and that nights of passion were few and far between. Still, both thought the other happy with the dry-eyed deal they’d made instead of vows…Until Max broke the bargain—by wanting more. And suddenly, after twelve peaceful years, the perfect marriage was over…But when Celine realized how much she loved her husband, was it too late to get him back? For unbeknownst to Max, they’d been blessed with a new beginning…”
Rating: 3 out of 5.
It’s difficult for me to give Laurey Bright’s* A Perfect Marriage a coherent review because it’s a romance novel that deals with adultery.
Max and Celine have had a comfortable, friendly marriage for 12 years, however with no passion nor love. The hero “falls in love” with another woman, sleeps with her, and then leaves his wife. But after a night of unexpected passion with Celine, Max gets his estranged wife pregnant. Finally, Max realizes, almost too late, that it’s his wife he’s loved all along.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Perfect Marriage by Laurey Bright”
This is another mini-review drawn from my ever-waning 30-year-old memories of books I read long ago.
Judy Gill’s Loveswept #605, Healing Touch, had a rather memorable start as the heroine, Heather, bungee jumps naked. I forget what it was for, but it was supposed to be for a good cause. Apparently, naked bungee jumping is real, as a Google search shows a quarter of a million hits. I admit I looked… Yikes!
Plus, there was a contestant on The Bachelor a few years back who did that on a date, causing some controversy. (I don’t watch tv and don’t keep up with this stuff.) So you know right from the outset that the heroine isn’t the “traditional” super modest type.
Air Force Major Dr. Rob McGee instantly notices Heather. What guy wouldn’t?
He’s her total opposite. Rob’s a single dad, a straight-laced kind of guy, while Heather is more of the free-spirited type. Rob is looking for commitment and knows she’s not the kind of woman he needs in his ordered military life, but he can’t help but pursue the lovely Heather.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Healing Touch by Judy Gill”
Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald flirts with a taboo that’s yet to be crossed in romance. V. C. Andrews might have had some influence on this book.
In the movie Joe Dirt, a loveable, mullet-haired redneck travels across America searching for his long-lost family. In one scene he finds a beautiful woman who could possibly be his sister. Realizing his potentially incestuous attraction to the woman, Joe flees in panic, but then, not wanting to be thought of as a weirdo, returns to explain his problem… after they fall into bed.
Oh hell, the movie tells it funnier than I could:
When reading Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald I was reminded of this scene over and over.
Lecia Spring first sees Keane Paget at an opera in the park, where a friend points out how alike the two are, so much so that they could be twins. Indeed, while Lecia’s eyes are green and Keane’s blue, they both have honey hair–only his is like dark manuka honey (how authentically Kiwi)–the same cleft chin, strong cheekbones, long straight nose, and tall, confident demeanor.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald”
Lover…or Deceiver? Julie Farroux had escaped the guillotine by marrying a withered old man who desired her only for her inheritance. Their loveless union had left her believing her heart was as shriveled as his, until she found the warmth of desire in the arms of a handsome stranger. In the glittering city that was Napoleon’s Paris, deception and greed were a way of life. Sebastian Ramlin had made a devil’s bargain with Julie’s husband … to seduce Julie — and give her husband an heir. But he never planned to fall in love with her. Could he find the courage to reveal his treachery … and risk losing the woman he loved?
Harlequin Historical #46
VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender was my first Harlequin Historical, and it got me hooked on the series for a long time! It’s a wonderful gem of a book. Don’t believe me? Just read the seal of approval by historical fiction/romance legend Roberta Gellis on the cover.