Month: April 2021

Category Romance Review: Fantasy by Emma Darcy

Fantasy, Emma Darcy , Harlequin, 1985, Len Goldberg cover art

Harlequin Presents #840

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Plot

Fantasy is a great oldie by Emma Darcy. The story opens with the heroine, Eve, a fashion model, anxious to arrive home and see her fiancé. She gets the shock of her life when she catches him in bed with another man and is crushed! Despondent, Eve tries to drown herself in the ocean, but the hero is there to save her.

He also gives her a nice boost to the old self esteem to show her that, no matter what her fiancé thinks, she’s still a desirable woman. 🙂

Later again, they meet and it’s revealed that the hero is an important businessman whose company is releasing a perfume called Fantasy. He’s in charge of the ad campaign and naturally demands Eve to be the face of Fantasy. He’s in charge of a beach photo shoot where the heroine is supposed to pose erotically with a creepy male model. She keeps freezing up, so the hero comes in and takes his place. The heat is off the charts and Eve can’t deny her attraction anymore or dismiss it as just a momentary lapse into madness.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Fantasy by Emma Darcy”

Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

Rumor Has It, Harlequin, 1990, Frank Kalan cover art

Harlequin Romance #3040

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Celia Scott’s Rumor Has It is a modern-day Cinderella story where the fairy godmother is not an actual person, but a false rumor that transforms a frumpy heroine into a glamorous new woman who finds love.

Lucinda is a slightly overweight librarian (really she’s just voluptuous with big boobs and hips) who lives with her father, stepmother and model-slim stepsister. She’s clumsy, nearsighted and is constantly berated by her family members. In their eyes she’s a hopeless mess. Enter Leo, a dashing Englishman who has business with her father. The family conspires to set up Leo with Lucinda’s more glamorous stepsister, however Leo’s mind is just on work.

Circumstances lead to Leo and Lucinda being forced to share a one-bed motel during a storm. Soon after, Leo heads back to England. Gossip travels fast in Lucinda’s small home town and everyone learns that the two spent a night together. Of course, it was purely platonic, but the townfolks’ shocked reaction makes Lucinda let people think what they want. They all wonder what did a hunk like Leo see in a frump like Lucinda?... Read more “Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott”

Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

From the back of the book:

Beautiful, spirited young Mellie Wilton thought the handsome Earl of Henning was going to rescue her from her degrading life in London and take her to his wealthy estate in Kent because he wanted her for his wife. When he tricked her into marrying his son so that he would have an heir to his fortune, Mellie became enraged. Tormented by a husband who could never love her, yet consumed with desire for the man who had deceived her, Mellie was filled with a burning need for fulfillment and revenge.

Moment of Desire, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Playboy Press, 1978, Gina D’Achille cover art

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An Anti-Heroine?

After a couple of decades of reading romance, I can’t say I’ve encountered too many heroines like Melusina Wilton and that’s a damn shame.

Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrave Payes might be an aberration, both for her (I wasn’t fond of the other Cosgrove Payes book I read) and the historical romance genre. It was published by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Press, which churned out bodice-ripping romances and schlocky sci-fi well into the seventies and early eighties, part of the golden era of pulpy trash.... Read more “Historical Book Review: Moment of Desire by Rachel Cosgrove Payes”

Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan

Escape From Desire
Escape From Desire, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1983, Tom Bjarnason cover art

Harlequin Presents #569

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Penny Jordan’s Escape from Desire was for me a very satisfying, yet silly read.

A Tropical Vacation

Tamara is on vacation on the island of St. Stephen, all by herself, as her stuffy fiancé has no time for frivolities like lounging in the sun. Tamara is typical of Penny Jordan’s heroines, slightly repressed due to an overbearing aunt who raised her. But as she sunbathes on the beach, Tamara’s doubts about her engagement come to a head. While Malcolm is everything Tamara thought she wanted in a husband–staid, unemotional, professional–she recalls the happy, loving marriage of her parents and ponders if she can go through a loveless union so different than that of her deceased parents.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger on the beach admires her bikini-clad body with his eyes. When he notices her engagement ring, he’s cruel to her, thinking she’s just out in the Caribbean for one last hurrah.

A Jungle Nightmare

Tamara signs up for a jungle trek to take her mind off her worries when who should show up, but the mysterious stranger from the beach, our hero Zach Fletcher.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan”

Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

[He] might after a season let me go, but I had a frightening dread that if he possessed me long enough, he would drain me till I became his thing, his creature—that I wouldn’t go, even if he allowed it…

A Lady Bought with Rifles
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

***SPOILERS***

A Lady Bought With Rifles is an amalgam of great writing and stupid characterization. I was extremely frustrated reading it because it could have been one of those legendary bodice rippers that old-school fans would be talking about to this day.

A Lady Bought with Rifles, Jeanne Williams, Pocket Books, 1977, Ron Lesser cover art

The Plot

Upon the death of her father, the British-raised Miranda is called back to her father’s ranch in Mexico. There she meets two strikingly different American men, Trace, a tall, dark, and mysterious pistolero, and Court Saunders, the foreman of Miranda’s newly inherited mines and lover to her resentful half-sister, Reina. Blond, panther-like, and roguish, his sensual presence is almost irresistible.

The sisters both inherit the ranch. Miranda, being a foreigner, is aghast by the circumstances of the ranch and mines, particularly how the indigenous Mexicans are treated, how the evil Reina treats her, how gorgeous hunk Court pursues her…and just about every other thing she can find to complain about, rightly or wrongly.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams”

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

Savage Possession. Margaret Pargeter, Harlequin, 1980, Bob Kebic cover art
Harlequin Presents #366
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Margaret Pargeter’s Savage Possession begins like any ordinary Harlequin Presents, with the hero & H meeting under unusual circumstances with the situation soon getting heated afterwards.

In this case, Melissa’s car is trapped in the snow and along comes the hero, Ryan Trevelyan, to give her a lift. She’s dressed in bulky winter clothes so he assumes she’s a boy. As they’re driving along in his car he’s berating ‘him’ for driving under such horrible circumstances. When she takes off her cap, Ryan realizes, “Oh noes, she’s this unbelievably beautiful, green-eyed, redhead woman! How easily mistaken I was to think she was a boy because she was wearing a hat and coat! Well since she tricked me, I’ll force her to spend the night at my house even though there are plenty of other places in town that she can stay. That’ll her teach her a lesson!”

I wondered to myself just where this book was going. It was weird. It seemed all over the place on plotting.

The heroine does not act like do not act out as the HP caricatures they’re supposing to: swooning, selfless, kind to all, and eager to work hard to prove her worth.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter”

Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

Call Back Yesterday. Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1978, Will Davies cover art
Harlequin Presents #253
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

There are two Harlequin Present writers I absolutely adore: Miranda Lee and Charlotte Lamb. While Lamb wrote mostly in the ’70s and ’80s and Lee was a modern woman of the ’90s and 2000s, both authors shared an ability to portray great heroines from vastly different lifestyles: from poor, innocent virgins to victims who rise above tragedy to mature sexually experienced sophisticates.

In this book, Oriel Mellstock belongs to the latter group. Oriel and Devil Haggard were cousins who grew up together and grew to love each other. (If that registers an ick-factor, they’re only second cousins). Cruel fate separates them. Oriel leaves and marries a man 30 years older. She actually has a normal marriage, sleeps with him (albeit without much passion) and has a child. Her multi-millionaire husband dies, and she returns to her home town to get a little revenge.

Call Back Yesterday was Charlotte Lamb’s first HP. So it’s a bit milder than her later works. There is no consummation in this book, but she throws a bunch of HP tropes at you: the much-beloved manor the heroine fights to own; a darkly-brooding, bastard hero who rides on a black stallion; the manipulative wife who separates the lovers; a vicious other-woman; multiple men who vie for the heroine’s affections; and even a couple of cute kids.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan

Highland Tryst, Pocket Books, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

Tapestry Romance #85

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Let me spoil this turkey and save anyone who’s even contemplating reading this mess of a book their valuable time. As far as I know, we only live one life, and there’s no reason to spend a moment of it in undeserved agony.

(Highland Tryst is also about 30 years out of print, so I don’t feel too bad about hurting anyone’s career.)

Kathlyn and Alex are from warring Scottish clans. When Highland Tryst begins, they are already lovers, meeting frequently for very intimate encounters. They’ve seen each other naked, inside and out. They know what the other looks like, sounds like, smells like… Just to be totally clear: they’ve HAD SEX WITH EACH OTHER MANY TIMES.

Their families discover the affair so Kathlyn and Alex are separated. Kathlyn flees into the wilderness and is rescued by Duncan, an ugly, deformed stranger. Kathlyn is repelled by his looks, at first. Duncan is kind to her and eventually they fall in love.

And HAVE SEX.

So now, Kathlyn is torn between her former handsome lover, and the kind, yet ugly stranger who’s saved her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan”

Growing Pleasures

That title doesn’t sound right, I know, but I thought about what’s the opposite of growing “pains” so as to describe the changes coming to his site. In fact the more I think about it, that title has tumescent connotations. It simply pulses off the pages. Well, I suppose that’s appropriate for a blog specializing in vintage smut.

As I’ve been doing research into authors, publishing houses, and cover artists, I’ve found a lot of commonality among both historical and “contemporary” romance written during the final three decades of the twentieth century. Names, books, and covers kept popping up that seemed relevant. I had wanted to strictly keep this an old-school historical romance blog. Now I see I how shortsighted that was. I’m a reader of all old school romance–historical & contemporary–and there is strong connection between the evolution of the category and the historical romance genres. That special time in history needs to be told fully, if it’s to be remembered accurately.

It will take a bit of change, but I will be adding category (and perhaps gothic romance) authors, covers, and publishing information. I will only focus on romances that overlap the post-Flame and the Flower era to the end of the twentieth century.... Read more “Growing Pleasures”

Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass

Charlotte, Tower & Leisure Sales Co., 1978, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

Lovely young Charlotte Bourne was the apple of her father’s eyes and a belle of New York society. The onset of the War Between the States introduced her to young Liam Brady, whom her dissolute brother Richard had hired to serve as his substitute in the Union Army. Liam and Charlotte fall deeply in love, but before they could marry, Charlotte had to come to terms with her turbulent feelings for the two other men in her life. The raging Civil War echoed the conflict in Charlotte’s heart…

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Charlotte is…

It’s…

Well, it’s a book.

The best thing about this circa 1980 mini-bodice ripper is the Newport cigarettes ad in the middle of it:

 photo Newport ad.jpg

Charlotte takes place during the Civil War in New York City beginning 1863 or 1864 (both dates are given). For a historical book, it’s historical, but for a romance, the romance is lacking.

This book is only 239 pages long, but the hero doesn’t make an entrance until page 144. And he is Missing-In-Action for most of it. The back blurb tells you the entire plot of this dreck.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass”

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model
Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

Defy Not the Heart
5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market Romance author in the 1980s-1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success. Lindsey even reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart.

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak, and in a span of 10 to 15 years, churned out book after book (with the best covers ever!), that, for but a few exceptions, were all great reads or rank among my most beloved romances. For sure, they were not always the best written, often rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing, and so often, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Yet, oddly I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages and overbearing, handsome men who usually treated the heroine like crap one minute, and then was passionate making lurv to her then brushing her hair as afterplay.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”