4 stars

Historical Romance Review: Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood

Born to Love, Valerie Sherwood, Warner Books, 1984, Elaine Duillo cover art

It takes a generation to make a it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.



4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Valerie Sherwood, Cat Fancier & Romance Novelist

Romance novelist Valerie Sherwood would always lovingly dedicate her books to the special cats in her life; in Born to Love it was Mopsy and Chow. She was slightly cat crazy.

So in honor of Ms. Sherwood, and from one crazy cat lady to another, I would like to dedicate my review of Born to Love to one of my cats.

To Bear, that sweet, gentle soul, a little black-furred, black-nosed, green-eyed wonder. Bear, you came into my life at 19, when your mother, a feral queen, bore her kittens in the warehouse of the office where I worked. I took you home at four weeks old and because you had not been weaned, I had to feed you milk and mush. Every night before I’d fall asleep, you’d suck at my earlobe as you would have at your mother’s teat. Even when you grew, you still held on to this adorable kittenish trait. Sadly Bear, you were in my life for just over a year. I went back to college and my landlady would not allow cats so you stayed home with my mother and siblings. Perhaps life there without me was not what you desired, because you ran away. I never saw you again and I cried many tears of loss. But I have never forgotten you. To you Bear, this review is dedicated.

Born to Love: A Family Saga

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, on to the book. Sometimes I hate rating 4-star books, particularly when with just more care to detail and pacing, it could have been a 5 star read. Born to Love was a book that reached great highs and very middling lows. Although I love her voice, this is a problem I’ve run into when reading Sherwood. Plus she makes a great hero and sometimes doesn’t do much with him.

Born to Love is actually four stories of several generations of women with the same name, Dorinda, and their (mis)adventures in love. As repeated over (and over), the premise of the tale is: “It takes one generation to make it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.”

The Plots

The book opens up with the most exciting story of the group. Angel-faced, golden-haired Dorinda, a chambermaid, escapes the Great London fire, valiantly saves Grantland Meredith from street toughs, marries him, and is shocked to learn he is an Earl. Unfortunately for sweet Dorinda, she is not his true love. That would be Polly, an amoral evil black-haired she-devil of a woman. Polly is the best character in the book, relentlessly calculating and conniving, willing to do anything have her man. Unsurprisingly, this tale is set to end in tragedy.

Daughter Rinda’s tale is told in the second part. She is a hereditary Countess, which struck me as odd, as I don’t believe that English titles passed on through the female line. She falls in love with Rory, the son of her mother’s rival. The second Dorinda risks everything to save her man at the Monmouth Rebellion. Sherwood keeps repeating how brave, how bold, how valiant Rinda was to ride into battle and save Rory. It would have been nice to see it happen, not hear about it, again and again. This story is kind of a letdown.

Of the third Dorinda, we hear about only in a summarized tale told to the fourth Dorinda.

The Main Story

The last half of the book deals with Dorinda IV, an indentured servant in Virginia. I liked this Dorinda, and her cat, Lady Soft-Paws. This story while enjoyable was uneven.

After her indenture is over, Dorinda pretends to be a long-lost heiress to a plantation. Two handsome men vie for her attention, but it’s obvious who the hero is: Tarn Jenner, a mysterious man (who has a secret identity, but we don’t know this until the end). The characters play deceitful games, but this delightful plot point is squandered as Dorinda spends most of her time mooning over the villain. Tarn Jenner, who is really a witty character, isn’t seen enough to be fully appreciated. The parts we do see are terrific but fleeting.

Final Analysis of Born to Love

The back of the book claims:

“She was the Beauty… He was the Blade-dark debonair, the most dangerous highwayman to rove the colonial roads.”


And yet the highwayman portion is a tiny part of the story and only revealed in brief towards the end!

The conclusion is wrapped up in a neat package although it’s left up to the imagination what the fate of the fifth Dorinda will be.

If I’m focusing too much on the negatives, it’s because this one could have been great: a book I loved; as it is, I just liked it very much.

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