Month: April 2021

Category Romance Review: One Husband Too Many by Jacqueline Diamond

American Romance #642
From the back of the book:

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.

One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996
One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996, cover artist TBD

The Plot

Jana Edwards is fed up with her marriage to Drake, who is never around and always looking for the next big score. She asks for a divorce from the love of her life but appears to take it in stride.... Read more “Category Romance Review: One Husband Too Many by Jacqueline Diamond”

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

Storm Maiden, Mary Gilgannon, Pinnacle, 1997, cover artist TBD

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Plot:

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…

Fiona has to adjust to life as a slave. She cannot communicate with any of the Norse folk, except for Dag’s brother, who hates her and all the Irish.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon”

Contemporary Romance Review: Gypsy by Carole Mortimer

Gypsy, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1985
Gypsy, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1985, cover artist TBD

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.

GYPSY

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have a real love/hate situation with the 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.

The Plot

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.

I couldn’t understand why Lyon’s wife didn’t divorce him.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: Gypsy by Carole Mortimer”

The Evolution of Romance at Harlequin

the feathered shaft

Harlequin Romances are Becoming More Sexy

An article from February 11, 2021, by journalist Chris Lambie at saltwire.com addresses How 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”

Category Romance Review: Surrender, Baby by Suzanne Forster

Surrender, Baby, Suzanne Robinson, Bantam, 1991
Surrender, Baby, Suzanne Robinson, Bantam, 1991, cover artist TBD
Loveswept #604
5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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 Plot

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.

I remember laughing at Miranda’s thoughts when she met Geoff in his musky, all-male gym.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Surrender, Baby by Suzanne Forster”

Historical Romance Review: The Yankee by Kristin James

The Yankee
The Yankee, Kristine James, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Historical #57

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Plot

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. The kids in the book were cute, too.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Yankee by Kristin James”

Category Romance Review: The Millionaire’s Mistress by Miranda Lee

the millionaires mistress
The Millionaire’s Mistress, Miranda Lee, Harlequin, 1998, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Presents #2026

From the back of the book:

Made to be his mistress!
Justine Montgomery desperately needed a loan, otherwise, she and her mom would be out on the street. So she steeled herself to ask handsome millionaire banker Marcus Osborne for help.
Marcus had no illusions about the Justines of this world. He could tell just by looking at her that she was a gold digger, out to target a rich husband. Just like his ex-wife…. But Marcus was also glad when Justine told him she’d do anything if he’d lend her money, because he desired her–badly. He’d give her the finances she wanted, and she’d repay him in his bed!

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Miranda Lee’s The Millionaire’s Mistress is a bit of an uneven read. I’m undecided on this one. What begins with a great sexual build-up, is kind of a letdown on the delivery.

Marcus is a “stuffed shirt” hero with a heart of gold. Justine is young, sexy, and spoiled. Despite her seemingly hot-to-trot ways, she’s a virgin. Marcus takes one look at her luscious curves and long blonde hair and thinks otherwise.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Millionaire’s Mistress by Miranda Lee”

Category Romance Review: Night Shift by Nora Roberts

Night Shift, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1991, cover arttist unknown

Silhouette Intimate Moments #365

“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.”

NIGHT SHIFT
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Memories

If you follow my reviews at length, you may notice I inject some personal vignettes or anecdotes into them. If it’s TMI, I don’t mean to overshare, but for me, like music or scents, each book I read is imprinted with a certain memory When I hear “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, I’ll think of Junior Prom and my supposedly platonic date getting all weird with me. I’ll think about a different person in my life depending on whether it’s Brut, Joop!, Davidoff Cool Water, or Grey Flannel cologne that I smell. (Brut is my dad; the rest…are not.) If I have no memory of the book, I usually have no memory to go with it.

Nora Robert’s Night Shift is vividly memorable because I recall sitting in the cancer ward at Mather Hospital waiting with my mother while my grandmother got her chemo treatments.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Night Shift by Nora Roberts”

Historical Romance Review: Wicked, Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers

Wicked Loving Lies, Rosemary Rogers, Avon, 1975, cover artist Robert McGinnis

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

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Plot

If you enjoy old-school romance written in the 1970s…

If you 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 such as travelling 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…

If any of this sounds like your idea of a thrilling read, because it certainly is, then Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers might be a book you’d want to pick up.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Wicked, Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers”

Category Romance Review: A Convenient Bridegroom by Helen Bianchin

A Convenient Bridegroom, Helen Bianchin, Harlequin, 1999, cover artist unkown
Harlequin Presents #2067
1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert ***

File this book under: wedding porn.

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.

The happy couple is engaged to be married, they have hot amazing sex, but have never said I love you. That’s the big crisis. I can read a book where the hero is an evil misogynist; at least even if the book is bad, it’s entertaining.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Convenient Bridegroom by Helen Bianchin”

Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson

Heart of the Falcon
Heart of the Falcon, Suzanne Robinson, Bantam, 1990, cover artist unknown

SPOILER ALERT

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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.

The Plot

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.

Thankfully, the hero is far more interesting and complex. Set is a red-haired man of mystery. His heritage is mixed, as his mother’s people come from a place to the north. There was a horrible scandal years ago where Set burned his mother’s corpse rather than have her embalmed and entombed.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson”

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Link by Patricia Potter

The Silver Link, Patricia Potter, Harlequin, 1990, Pino cover art

Harlequin Historical #63

From the back of the book:

“New Mexico 1846…Why would her heart not listen to reason?…Antonia Ramirez knew that the tall, blond American was not to be trusted. Hadn’t it been American soldiers who had killed her mother and left her father a cripple? Yet Tristan Hampton had awakened something deep inside her that would not be denied…Since the moment he’d first laid eyes on Antonia, Tris Hampton had been lost. He was haunted by her dark beauty. She made him feel he’d finally found the completeness he’d spent a lifetime searching for. But her father clearly hated him, and someone wanted to see him dead. Of Antonia’s love, he was certain. The question of her loyalty was still to be answered.”

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Patricia Potter’s The Silver Link, Antonia and Tristan are from two different worlds. Nevertheless, their forbidden love unites them in a link that can never be severed.

Tristan Hampton is a Virginian military man 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Silver Link by Patricia Potter”

Updates #4

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.

Used Book Store

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”

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel

Passion’s Chains, Catherine Creel, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art

From the back of the book:

“HE HAD BETRAYED HER
Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her
own!

SHE STILL LOVED HIM
Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master.
... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel”

Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb

Crescendo, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, Will, Davies cover art
Harlequin Presents #451

“Hello Red Riding Hood. I’m the Wolf.”

Crescendo
5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

A Mysterious Beginning

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.

The Plot

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”

Category Romance Review: My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson

My Heart’s Undoing, Phyllis Halldorson, Silhouette, 1986, cover artist TBD
Silhouette Special Edition #290

From the back of the book:

“Colleen had been in love with Erik Johansen for as long as she could remember. And now, in just forty-eight hours, her green-eyed Viking was getting married to another woman, a beautiful model–her own cousin… But when her cousin left him stranded at the altar, Colleen was there to pick up the pieces. She knew Erik had always thought of her as a little sister, but this night he needed her. And she had never stopped needing him. In one night of unforgettable passion, their lives were inextricably joined. But suddenly Colleen had a decision to make. Could Erik learn to return her love, or was she tied forever to a man she would never really possess?”

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert ***

What a frustrating read was My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson. This one was definitely filled with lots of anguish.

Colleen had been in love with Erik for years, but 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.... Read more “Category Romance Review: My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson”

Covers of the Week #3

Ah, the beauty of Spring! For the week of April 26 to May 2, these are my picks for stunning romance covers to gaze upon!

Where Dreams Begin, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 2000, Max Ginsburg cover art & Garters, Pamela Morsi, Jove, 1992, Leslie Pellegrino cover art

The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

The Flame and the Flower, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1972, Robert McGinnis cover art

How Has the Romance Genre Changed Over the Years?

On April 15, 2021, The Washington Post journalist Angela Haupt spoke with a dozen major players in the romance novel industry to write this engaging article about the evolution of the romance genre:

How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

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.”... Read more “The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After”

Category Romance Review: Carnival by Jenna Ryan

Carnival, Jenna Ryan, Harlequin, 1990, unknown cover artist

Harlequin Intrique #138

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

The Plot

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.

The Ending

Carnival was one of those mysteries with a HUGE twist at the end because the person who committed the crime was the least likely person to execute it.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Carnival by Jenna Ryan”

Category Romance Review: Beloved Deceiver by Flora Kidd

Beloved Deceiver, Flora Kidd, Harlequin, 1988, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Presents #1058
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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.

The Plot

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”