Month: May 2021

Historical Romance Review: Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw

Captive Melody, Nadine Crenshaw, Zebra, 1989, Aleta Jenks cover art

***Welcome Blue Falcon to SweetSavageFlame.com, who will be contributing his great reviews to this site. Here, in his first review, he analyzes Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw***

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

This review is of Captive Melody, a standalone Zebra from January 1989 by Nadine Crenshaw.

The Plot

The book starts in July 1876, Northern California. A young wife, Ling Kee (I’m writing her name in the traditional Chinese way, last name first), is brutally attacked by three “men”; among them is Richard Laird, a rancher. After being beaten and raped, Ling Kee commits suicide.

Fast forward five years. Laird has just married Laura Upton, the heroine of the book. Their marriage won’t last, however, as on their wedding night, Laura is kidnapped by Andre Sheridan, the hero of the book and Ling Kee’s husband. Andre plans to hold Laura as bait to draw Richard to Andre’s home and kill him.

As Andre takes Laura further away from Laird, they become attracted to each other, later acting on that attraction. Andre later takes Laura to one of his homes-he is quite wealthy-and their relationship deepens.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw”

Covers of the Week #8

close up of books on shelf

“A bird, bird, bird, b-bird is the word!” For the week of May 31 to June 6, can you spy the birds on these Elaine Duillo and John Ennis illustrated historical romance novel covers? Enjoy!

Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

Siren Song, Roberta Gellis, Playboy Press 1980, cover artist TBD

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Siren Song, the first in Roberta Gellis’s Medieval Song trilogy, takes us to 13th century England.

The Plot

Lady Elizabeth is not a beauty, but she is intelligent, capable, and now heiress to vast lands, with her brothers and father recently deceased. Elizabeth is married to Mauger, a cruel, murderous lord who wishes for nothing more than to aggrandize himself by whatever means necessary. Mauger has the looks of an angel yet the disposition of a demon. There is no deed too vile for him, as he eagerly breaks every Commandment. It is no mere coincidence that Elizabeth’s brothers conveniently died, leaving her, and thus Mauger, quite wealthy.

Years ago, Elizabeth had been in love with Sir William of Marlowe, and he with her. But parental manipulations led to them being forced to wed others. Now, William is a widower with a daughter of soon-to-be marriageable age.

Mauger has eyes on Marlowe and seeks to wed his and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Aubrey, to William’s daughter, Alys. Once the two are married, Mauger has plans for William’s untimely demise.

William seeks only one thing: to be near to Elizabeth again.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis”

Historical Romance Review: Halfway to Paradise by Emily Bradshaw

HALFWAY TO PARADISE
Halfway to Paradise, Emily Bradshaw, Dell, 1993, Elaine Duillo cover art

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Brooklyn-born artist Elaine Duillo, who, in her long and storied career, earned the well-deserved moniker of “The Queen of Romance Cover Art,” did it to me again! How many books have I purchased simply because I was dazzled by the hypnotic painted covers, only to find disappointment within the pages of those supposedly lurid novels?

The best thing about Emily Bradshaw’s Halfway to Paradise is its stunning jacket, which is an excellent representation of Duillo’s flair for making even the most mundane tale seem enticing. This one is done primarily in purple hues, with the heroine’s long blonde locks that flow down to her knees providing a bright complement to the hero’s dark-violet doublet.

Back in the day, an Elaine Duillo cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. That was not the case with this book.

Why have I spent so much time in this review discussing Duillo’s talent rather than the content of this Halfway to Paradise? Because, lamentably, the book put me halfway to sleep.

The Plot

It took me six weeks to finish this dull story about a widowed Puritan lady who adopts an imprisoned Cavalier’s son.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Halfway to Paradise by Emily Bradshaw”

Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan

Beyond Compare, Penny Jordan, Harlequin 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Presents #1282

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Holly Witchell, the heroine of Penny Jordan’s Beyond Compare, suffers a bit from an overinflated ego combined with an oblivious nature. Thankfully, Drew, the wonderful hero of this book, sorts matters all out for her.

The Plot

Holly was ignominiously dumped by her boyfriend Howard for the more sophisticated, Rosamund. That’s not something Holly will accept laying down, so she concocts a plan to get him back. Hadn’t Rosamund been dating old, reliable Drew Hammond before she’d gotten together with Howard? Well, who better than he to help Holly break up the new couple than Rosamund’s old former flame?

Holly approaches Drew, a farmer, whose the salt-of-the-earth type, with her plan. They’ll pretend to be a couple and make Howard and Rosamund jealous.

Drew isn’t exactly chomping at the bit at her plan to get Rosamund back, and Holly assumes it’s because Drew’s insecure. Holly assures him he has nothing to be insecure about. He’s handsome, even if–OMG–he wears glasses of all things, has a steady income from his farm, and any woman would want him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan”

Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather

The Waterfalls of the Moon, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1973, Don Sinclair cover art

Harlequin Presents #112

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Spoiled Anti-Heroine

In Anne Mather’s The Waterfalls of the Moon (I love the old Harlequin Presents titles), the teenaged heroine is in pursuit of a much older man, but the hero’s not taking the San-Quentin tail so easily.

I can’t say many of Anne Mather’s works number among my all-time favorites, but, for the most part, I had a good time reading them. She could make unlikeable heroines that were somehow fascinating, and Ruth is one of them. She’s a spoiled teen, rich beyond reason, bored, and chases after Patrick with a cold calculation.

All you have to do is change record players to iPhones (although record players have made a huge comeback) and there’s no difference between this shallow youth’s mega-rich lifestyle and that of the pampered princesses of Bravo & MTV reality TV. She parties, she lunches, she shops, she dates…casually. As this is a 1970’s era Harlequin, Ruth is not sexually experienced.

She is, however, quite cunning, and when circumstances lead to Patrick getting black-out drunk they’re together, she takes advantage of the situation to suit her desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather”

Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis

Fires of Winter, Roberta Gellis, Jove Books, 1987, Pino cover art

“I had a long row to hoe before I could plunge my spade into Mellusine’s earth and plant a seed there.”

FIRES OF WINTER

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Told through alternating first-person perspectives, Roberta Gellis’s Fires of Winter starts with a bang.

The Plot

In the first chapter, we experience young hero Bruno of Jernaeve’s life as his castle gets invaded. As an illegitimate child, he is overlooked and left uncared for. He and his sister must hide from the marauders. Later on, it switches to heroine Mellusine of Ulle’s more placid point of view as a child. Although I enjoyed the different perspectives, I found Bruno’s side more interesting than Mellusine’s.

As Bruno matures, he becomes a master in the arts of war. His success earns him Mellusine, as a “spoil of war,” for Bruno to wed. Despite their differences, Mellusine and Bruno forge a strong relationship built on sexual attraction, companionship, and trust.

I loved the authentic earthiness Gellis imbued her works with. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance where the heroine has to take a dump before. Here Melusine squats away without a care in front of the hero.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis”

Link-O-Rama #2: Blogs, Sites, Podcasts & More

art artistic blank page book

All these links will be added to the Links menu above.

Sites:

Also, check out his Guide to Category Romance Series 1965-1989. The ~1970-2000 era in romance novels we focus on overlaps with this guide, so it’s a valuable reference for category romance.

Podcast:

This outrageous podcast, The Bodice Tipplers, reviews romances from all eras and genres:

Tumblr:

Look for beautiful Harlequin covers at: Vintage Harlequin Romance Cover Art

Twitter:

Every day @ArtOfTheClinch tweets out a gorgeous clinch cover.

Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan

Tender Feud, Nicole Jordan, Harlequin, 1991, Pino cover art

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The Plot

Nicole Jordan’s Tender Feud is an engaging Harlequin Historical where the enemies-to-lovers trope is used against the backdrop of 18th-century Scotland.

Katrine Campbell has left staid England behind for adventure in her ancestral Scottish homeland. Unfortunately, her Campbell relatives are feuding with the Macleans. On her first night in her family home, Katrine gets caught in the middle of it all, and is kidnapped.

Her captor is hunky Raith Maclean, leader of his clan. Maclean is a widower, not looking for remarriage, and certainly not looking for love with his half-Scots-half-English enemy.

There are tons of sparks flying between the fiery Katrine and stubborn Raith. They argue lots but are secretly attracted to one another. The romance takes time to unwind, as Katrine is one of those “spunky” heroines, and Raith is determined to “dominate” her by his will.

Instead, the two learn to build a relationship on trust. Raith has a young female relative with whom Katrine builds an endearing friendship. Raith’s sexy cousin Callum flirts with Katrine. Although she’s not interested in him beyond friendship, Raith glowers and disapproves.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan”

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

Mansion for My Love, Robyn Donald, Harlequin 1990, Len Goldberg cover art

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

MANSION FOR MY LOVE

Harlequin Presents #567

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Book to Review

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are the average reads, which make for a pleasant way to pass the time but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald”

Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour

Emmie’s Love, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover art

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Janette Seymour’s Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” being a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”

The Plot

Again, the same terms and motifs are used: a violent opening involving near-rape and an alluded castration; frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”; dampened sheer muslin gowns; blond studs performing for an audience; a one night stand with a doomed soldier; a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero that is rarely seen; and a heroine with no personality save for being a busty, lusty wench.

Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, moochy family. After grandpa’s death, she is sold in marriage to an older man living another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.

But love does not come easily to our dear Emmie.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour”

Covers of the Week #7

Romance is in the air! For the week of May 24 to May 30, here are some lovely Frank Kalan painted covers from the Harlequin Romance line. Enjoy!