Monthly Archives: May 2021

love's glorious gamble

Historical Romance Review: Love’s Glorious Gamble by Dana Ransom

Synopsis:

ACE OF HEARTS
Gloria Daniels was prepared for adventure–her first trip away from home was bound to be exciting. But nothing could have matched the true thrill that coursed through her young body when she first spotted Sterling Caulder. He may have had a reputation as a gambler, but he was like no man she had ever seen before. He walked with an elegant grace and carried an air of sophistication that drew Gloria into his spell. All she wanted at that moment was to experience his embrace, to feel his warm lips against her own, to have him sweep her off of her feet for a night of unbridled ecstasy!

QUEEN OF DIAMONDS
Sterling Caulder made his living by making decent men part with their hard earned money. A gambler and a rogue, Sterling did his job without thinking of the consequences–at least until he met Gloria. Her soft gray eyes appealed to his only weakness–the desire to protect the innocent beauty from the dangers of the world. All he wanted to do was to run his fingers through her flaxen curls, to caress her with a passion that knew no bounds. Making Gloria his own would be a risk, but for a night in her arms he was willing to chance it all in Love’s Glorious Gamble
.

LOVE’S GLORIOUS GAMBLE by DANA RANSOM

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

In Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble a young and naïve blonde named Gloria Daniels seeks to avenge her father’s death. She transforms herself into the vixenish redhead, Glory Dane. As Glory, she’ll cheat men out of their money and seek out retribution. Meanwhile, her mentor, and sometimes-savior, Sterling Caulder, a notorious gambler, fights his attraction to her. Sterling’s been hurt by love in the past. Is Gloria the woman who will mend his heart?

The Plot

Here in Love’s Glorious Gamble, the hero is no overbearing bully. He’s a charismatic rogue who shares a great, supportive relationship with the heroine. The heroine is courageous and plucky, all alone in a world that holds mystery and despair.

A girl of intelligence and wit, Glory devises a complicated trap in which to ensnare her enemies. Everyone is hiding the truth to some extent in this tangled tale of vengeance.

My Opinion

Love’s Glorious Gable was published in 1988 under Zebra‘s Heartfire imprint. It is an entertaining, emotional romance. This book should merit at least 4 stars, especially by the low-quality standards of Zebra romances.

So why does my official rating stand at only 3 stars?

Two reasons.

Reason #1

Dana Ransom (real name Nancy Gideon) has written some of my all-time favorite books–not just romances–in particular, Rebel Vixen and Dakota Destiny. Other thrilling epics are Temptation’s Trail and Dakota Promises.

I’ve never hated any of Ransom’s works I’ve come across, although some have drawn conflicted emotions, namely, Alexandra’s Ecstasy and its predecessor, The Pirate’s Captive.

Love’s Glorious Gamble falls short when contrasted with my personal favorites. It’s unfair to make such comparisons, I know. I went in with immense expectations only to find an entertaining, above-average love story.

That doesn’t sound bad at all, does it?

Reason #2

I had to take a full star rating off this book because Sterling is still madly in love with his dead fiancée, Eliza. So much, that even in bed, he calls Glory by Eliza’s name…twice. Yikes!

The dead wife/dead lover-fetish trope is a giant pet peeve and a major no-no for me… Uggh!

I don’t mind a hero who believes he is in love with another living woman and then falls truly in love with the heroine. I can even tolerate a cheater if he’s redeemed. It’s that when the heroine has to compete with a perfect ghost for the hero’s affections, I tend to nope out. 

I really wish that had not been such a significant part of Sterling’s background. With any other author, this would have been a complete deal-breaker for me. However, due to Ransom’s exceptional writing, I avoided tossing the book on the floor and was able to continue.

Final Analysis of Love’s Glorious Gamble

As I said, that one plot point did color my final opinion of Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble. If I don’t dwell on it, I can honestly say that, while not perfect, this Zebra Heartfire is worthy of a positive review.

But it did happen, so that tempers my overall enjoyment, although certainly not enough to hate it. I just wouldn’t put it on my Desert-Island-Keeper list.

However, if you’re a more open-minded reader who appreciates the power of love’s ability to heal wounds and also looking for a Zebra that doesn’t suck, then this may be an old-school romance you’d like to explore.

3 Stars

lady of fire anita mills

Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Lady of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #1
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Anita MillsLady of Fire is one of my most beloved historical romance novels. This gripping medical epic took me places I never knew I could go.

I admit it has some flaws, especially toward the end. Even so, I adore it.

The Plot

Lady of Fire takes place in Normandy, not long after William the Bastard has conquered England. Eleonor of Nantes is a renowned beauty, hungered by many, and bartered as a political pawn. William’s son Henry desires her as his wife, but it’s the man she believes to be her half-brother, Roger Fitz Hugh, for whom she’s destined.

Roger knows Eleonor is not his sister and has always loved her. Eleonor doesn’t know, yet she desires Roger. This fact may be off-putting to some. But, knowing from the outset that they’re not siblings, it was easy for me to overlook this semi-incest.

Eleonor is sent off to a nunnery as part of her mother’s dying wish. But rather than take her vows, she finds herself betrothed to a man she despises. Roger will do what he must to make sure the marriage doesn’t take place. It’s a race against time to see who gets to her first.

For complete disclosure, let it be known that I love blond heroes like Roger. I married one in real life and adore them in fiction. Roger is one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving male protagonists I’ve ever read. His devotion to Eleonor is undeniable, and he and Eleonor are meant to be.

However… He is not the main reason that I’m crazy about this book.

“I Roger…do swear on this sacred relic that I will be Eleonore of Nantes’ man, to champion her causes and give her her justice, yea, even to the end of my life.”

The Charismatic, Wicked Villain

The villain Robert Talvas, Count of Bellesme, with his black hair, green eyes, and evil, evil disposition, positively steals the show in Lady of Fire. He is so hot that every scene with him singes the pages of this book.

Robert is absolutely malevolent and beyond redemption. He coolly lies to priests and nuns, sleeps with his mother, rapes without remorse, and murders innocents.

In the sequel Fire and Steel, Robert is so evil he tears a baby out of his own mother’s womb, killing both!

Utterly irredeemable, Robert is the devil incarnate and is based on a medieval legend.

There is more to Robert, though, whose obsession with the lady Eleonor drives the plot. His unwavering love and reverence for her are spell-binding and captivating. In a bodice ripper written ten years earlier, Robert might have even been the hero.

Disturbingly, despite the fact that he kidnaps and ravishes Eleonor, I found myself hoping, “I know you love Roger, but Eleonor, just once submit to Robert!”

That’s really sick, but that’s what Bellesme’s character made me feel. He was like a hypnotic vampire or incubus, a Lucifer fallen. However, Eleonor never gives in, and I think that is one reason why the dark Lord Robert adores Eleonor so much. She has purity and goodness.

I am so glad Anita Mills never redeemed him nor gave him a sequel to find love with another woman. In his heart, Robert was eternally faithful to Eleonore.

Robert does find a sort of salvation in the sequel, Fire and Steel, which is entertaining, if not as enjoyable, read. The third book in the series, Hearts of Fire, the story of Eleonor and Robert’s grandson, is an even better follow-up.

Final Analysis of Lady of Fire

Lady of Fire is one of my most-loved romances in a sub-genre–medievals–that consist of many of my favorites. It skirts the rules of romance while being faithful to them. For a writer to allow the villain to overshadow the protagonists may be a source of frustration to some readers. Anita Mills does it so skillfully that I fell for it from the opening chapters.

Alas, to Robert’s great unfortunate downfall, Eleonor and Roger are destined for each other, and that’s the way it should be.

Lady of Fire is not only a fantastic medieval romance or even just a fantastic romance. It’s a phenomenal book all around.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 5

Synopsis:

In 11th century Normany, a passionate story of romance, chivalry, and forbidden love. Beautiful Eleanor of Nantes is pursued by many great noblemen, including the evil Robert of Belesme and charming Prince Henry, son of William the Conqueror. But it is the dashing Roger FitzGilbert, born a bastard with no title to his name, who sweeps her off her feet. Their love may be forbidden, but their passion is undeniable…

LADY OF FIRE by ANITA MILLS
highland velvet 2

Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Montgomery Velvet #2; Montgomery/Taggert Family Saga #3
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Jude Deveraux‘s Highland Velvet, the second entry in her Velvet series about four Montgomery brothers set in the early 16th century, is one of my favorite romances.

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux, Arrow, 1984

The Plot

Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna Mac Arran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.

Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent, Miles and Raine. In Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was made from the stuff of girlish dreams.

“You’ll regret that! Someday you’ll know that one drop of my blood is more precious than any angry feelings you carry!”

Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.

When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed.

Heck, he even changed his last name so that her Mac Arran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.

If anything, Bronwyn was the “bad” one: she stabbed him on their wedding night; she was the one who betrayed Stephen again and again. He deserved a much better heroine.

“Together,” he whispered. “For once, let’s do something together.”

Final Analysis of Highland Velvet

After over thirty-plus years, Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet‘s Stephen Montgomery remains one of my most beloved heroes in romance. He was a real nice guy, the kind of man any woman would be happy to have in real life.

I wonder why the terms nice guy and beta male get conflated so often. A man can still be an “alpha,” a leader to his people, but that doesn’t mean he has to be an over-bearing, woman-hating douchebag.

Bronwyn was awful, but her woe-is-me attitude wasn’t enough to overshadow Stephen, who was such a great character that he made this book. Other pluses were the wicked antics of Roger Chatworth and the doomed love story of his brother Brian with the Montgomery’s sole sister.

I really loved this one. Highland Velvet is a keeper. Of only I had the British Arrow edition of this book!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Bronwyn MacArran was a proud Scot. Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English.

He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished. But still she would abhor him.

She owned a temper hot enough to forge the armors of battle or inflame a valiant soldier’s passion. Yet still she would resist him.

She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him.

But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood — their destiny was made… and this mighty warrior pledged himself to his woman’s pride, her honor and her name — and made of their love a torch to burn through the ages

HIGHLAND VELVET by JUDE DEVERAUX
call back the dream

Historical Romance Review: Call Back the Dream by Barbara Hazard

Call Back the Dream, Barbara Hazard, Harlequin, 1991, Elaine Duillo cover artist

SPOILER ALERT

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I prefer to read older works, many of my favorites go way back (30+ years), so, unfortunately, most are widely unknown and/or out of print. One of these is this dazzling gem, Barbara Hazard’s Call Back the Dream. The Elaine Duillo cover is stunning, with the heroine in a glorious pink gown and a rare red-haired hero. And yes, in this case, you can judge a book by its cover.

Camille Talbot is a vicar’s beloved daughter who loves and is loved by young Alexander Maxwell, an earl’s son. Their romance is one of the sweetest I’ve ever read, but there is a lot of sadness and suffering before they can be together (no violence, just heartache). This story spans 15 years. There is only one brief love scene that is exquisitely written, which the entire plot hinges upon, but other than that, the sensuality is mildly warm. Don’t expect any bodice-ripping, but do expect a lot of sentiment.

Barbara Hazard just had an excellent way of straddling the line between beauty and tragedy. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much for a romance except for when I read Rebecca Brandewyne’s western bodice-ripper Love Cherish Me or anything by the great Penelope Williams.

There are so many genuinely sad parts of this book. The cruel machinations of others separate Alexander and Camille, but after much heartache, they finally get the ending they deserve.

And even though it’s a happy ending, it’s bittersweet: Alexander burns down his ancestral home, renouncing the Earldom his father had striven so hard to maintain. Society is shocked by his actions, but Alexander doesn’t care. His burden is lifted from his shoulders as he is thankful that God had blessed his marriage with only daughters. Alexander gazes with adoration at his wife and two daughters as they walk in the garden. He is so thankful for what he has been given, yet sorrowful about what he has been denied.

The ramifications of Alexander and Camille’s love story continue in the very good sequel, The Heart Remembers.

surrender to love

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 612
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epic romances. Alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s my least liked of her books I’ve read so far.

The Heroine

Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky. She hates convention. Why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?

Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers. A meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Everything was political. That attitude is very draining.

But the worst aspect about her is reading her inner monologues. They’re jam-packed with randomly italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.

Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s menopausal mania slipping in. (I’m feeling it myself these days.)

I got a strong sense of Alexa’s mental instability with her long internal rants. Or when she’s scratching the hero Nicholas’s face off. Or sobbing hysterically in front of him. Basically, every scene underscores her fluctuating moods.

The writing was erratic. For example, POV changes without warning, just within one paragraph.

And did I mention those italics?

The Plot

Alexa wants to be independent in a society constricted by stultifying rules. She meets Nicholas Dameron, who’s as wild as she is.

Their relationship is a tug-and-pull game that goes on for too long. There’s no consummation until page 337 of this 612-page brick, which ticked me off.

The tempo in Surrender to Love is more sluggish than the other Rogers books I’ve encountered, even the profoundly introspective The Wildest Heart. The pacing plods on.

It turned around after Part Two, but it was rough when a book doesn’t have not much happening for the first 200 pages. Alexa gets involved in a few scandals and then marries an older husband who brings her to the “Temple of Venus” to catch a naughty peep show or two.

She is soon widowed and goes to England to take society by storm.

Eventually, I saw where Rogers was going with the plot; it’s a tale of a woman who defies the stifling conventions of the Victorian Era through her overt sexuality.

I wondered if Rogers was ever a fan of Mexican telenovelas. The hidden family secrets, brutish hero, and spunky heroine reminded me of Alondra, which was about a “beautiful, rebellious girl, with very independent and progressive views for that time” (i.e., she has sex with other men besides the hero) who looks and acts just like Alexa.

rosemary rogers bodice rippers
The cast of the Mexican telenovela Alondra.

Random Observations on Surrender to Love

All the Viscounts of this-and-that running around got confusing. But at least they weren’t Dukes!

Nicholas Dameron was too nebulous, too enigmatic for a hero, which is unusual for me to criticize. Despite learning the history of his first wife, I didn’t understand him at all.

As always, Rogers drew upon themes of women’s liberation. This time it came on a bit thick.

Yes, Alexa, we get it. Being a woman in the 19th century was smothering and oppressive. However, she was part of the wealthy upper class, plus beautiful & widowed. Alexa had privileges that the average woman of her time did not share.

Alexa’s rash impetuosity was a major flaw. She never thought about her actions first. She was capricious and blamed her troubles on outside forces.

Nobody forced her to move to London and deal with the repressive London ton, but she had to have her “revenge” on Nicholas for ruining her in Ceylon.

Sure, Alexa, it was revenge you were after.

The world was that woman’s oyster, but she had a hankering for geoduck:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
That’s a shellfish. What did you think it was?

The first two hundred pages could have been condensed to half that amount. The ending was weird (although not the “trial” and a whipping scene, which was awesome). One moment Alexa is engaged to Charles, her consummation with him is glossed over, and then she ends up married to Nicholas.

Happy ending, I guess?

Final Analysis of Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love wasn’t Rosemary Roger’s best romance. She’s written far better.

Strong characterization, a staple of her works, is missing here. The heroine was a manic mess. Nicholas, the hero, was too distant and mysterious to be appreciated.

The villains weren’t exciting. Although I liked Alexa’s evil grandma, she was the Diet Coke of evil: just one calorie, not evil enough. Same opinion of the Marquess. But as long as I kept imagining Mexican actress Beatriz Sheridan as the evil Dowager Marchioness, I had a good time with that particular villainess.

Beatriz Sheridan

I would have given Surrender to Love a less than favorable rating but settled on three stars because the pluses slightly outweighed the negatives.

But, oh, those annoying italics made it difficult. 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
2.5
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis

Under the midnight moon of Ceylon, on the night of her debutante ball at the Governor’s palace, Alexa Howard met her cousin, Nicholas Dameron. And in the sardonic curl of his hard, sensuous lips, in the commanding arrogance of his eyes, Alexa beheld the fierce, implacable passion that would render her helpless to the trembling slavery of desire…

Every kind of love a woman can be made to feel…
Within the golden softness of Alexa’s alluring gentility flowed the insatiable fires of an innocent woman’s awakening to lvoe — and the fury of a betrayed woman’s lust for revenge. Through the nightworlds of Naples, Rome, Paris and London, she was pursued by the man who heartlessly wanted her beauty. But her soul was possessed by the man whose touch was unbearable ecstasy, whose cruelty was ravishing torment, whose tenderness was passion’s fulfillment. Nicholas Dameron had taken her virtue and mocked her pride. But his love was the offering of every pleasure a woman has ever dared to dream of…

Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
dark fever

Category Romance Review: Dark Fever by Charlotte Lamb

Dark Fever, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1840

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I’ve said this before about a Charlotte Lamb book, but now I really mean it: this is the worst romance written by her that I’ve ever read! I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Harlequin Presents as much as Dark Fever. No, it wasn’t boring… It was bizarre and awful and left me with a horrible feeling!

The Plot

Dark Fever was part of a series of books based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The theme of this novel was lust, although there’s no sexual intercourse in this one. Personally, I thought this book’s theme of sin was gluttony because of all the talk of food. It was set in Spain, after all.

Bianca has just turned 40 years old. She is a widow of 3 years, still in mourning for her husband. She has two teenagers and feels down in the dumps, so she goes on a trip to Spain. At her hotel, she sees a handsome man swimming in a pool and instantly falls in lust.

The man, Gil, is much younger than Bianca. He also is deeply attracted to her, and he cares for her as well. They flirt; she teases him. But ultimately, her feelings for her dead husband create an overwhelming sense of guilt over the sexual desire she feels for another man.

Then a tragedy occurs: Bianca gets brutally beaten and almost raped. Her trauma causes her to become disgusted at the idea of sex. This is what most of the book entails: not the relationship with Gil, but Bianca’s recovery from her ordeal. Sadly, she seems to not truly recuperate.

Bianca says goodbye to Gil and goes back to England. However Gil feels far more for Bianca than she does for him, so he follows her and declares his love.

The Awful Ending

The end of this strange book is the insulting coup de grace:

…I’m not even asking you to marry me, Bianca, I’m only saying I want to get to know you better.”

She met his eyes. “You want to sleep with me—isn’t that what you’re saying?”

You know I do,” he said huskily. “I won’t lie about that—I want you, I said so, but not until you’re ready.”

And if I never am?

He grimaced. “I’ll have to live with that won’t I?

Yes,” she said her gaze defiant.

DARK FEVER

Bianca stares at herself in the mirror as she prepares for their first date, thinking that she’s too old (at only 40!) for romance and may just be in it for a short-term fling. Who knows what will happen? It’s a mystery that ends unresolved.

Final Analysis of Dark Fever

This was a romance novel? What the ever-loving hell?

I understand some modern romances don’t end with a HEA, but “happy enough for now,” but that is not what I expect when I read a Harlequin Presents! Especially one written long ago in 1995.

Dark Fever was Women’s Fiction published as a romance, and I hated it!

SPONSORED AD

A Closer Look at Cover Artist: H. Tom Hall

tom hall book covers
H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall, An Artist Who Inspired

H. Tom Hall’s artwork on romance book covers is legendary. His style is instantly recognizable, refined, yet sensual.

Hall was born in 1932 and grew up in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Tyler School of Fine Art and received his BFA from Philadelphia College of Art.

While in the U.S. Army, Hall wrote and illustrated a children’s book published by Knopf.

His Non-Romance Covers

After illustrating children’s books and magazines for many years Hall moved on to illustrate book covers. His sweeping style was a natural fit for historical and romantic epics.

the kingdom tom hall
The Kingdom, L.W. Henderson, Avon, 1974

His work has graced some of the biggest bestsellers of all time, like Anne Rice’s 1976 Interview with a Vampire.

interview hall
Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice, Ballantine, 1976

He also created covers for some Colleen McCullough works, including The First Man in Rome and The Thorn Birds.

A Romance Cover Innovator

His big blast in the romance industry came in 1977 illustrated Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s blockbuster bodice ripper, Shanna. This portrayed one of the first full cover embraces for a romance. The book sold millions of copies, and the passionate clinch cover was a huge part of the novel’s allure.

shanna tom hall
Shanna, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1977, Tom Hall cover art

A Tom Hall cover was a symbol of elite status as he only worked with the top publishing houses. No Tom Hall would be gracing a schlocky Zebra, Pinnacle, or Playboy Press.

He worked for the big names: Avon, Warner Books, Ballantine, Bantam, Fawcett (after they’d been bought out by CBS Publications & Ballantine), or Reader’s Digest.

From Love’s Ashes, Frances Patton Statham, Fawcett Crest, 1984

Among the top-tier authors that he produced covers for were Laurie McBain, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Jennifer Wilde, and Shirlee Busbee.

Legacy

Hall was among the most innovative cover artists of the 1970s. He was called the “leading paperback artist in the country” and “a giant in the industry” by New York art directors.

It was surprising to me that there was no Wikipedia page dedicated to this particular artist. Hopefully, some Wiki editor will remedy that soon.

Hall passed away in 2010. He left behind a wife of over 50 years, a loving family, and a legion of paperback book fans who loved his artwork.

More Tom Hall

To read more about H. Tom Hall and his artwork you can access this page:

Tom Hall Page

Your Opinion

Are you a fan of H. Tom Hall’s work? If so, what are your favorite covers or pieces of art painted by him?

Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

H. Tom Hall Covers

deception

Covers of the Week #6

Artist & Theme: Pino Stepbacks

A pair of Pino covers!

For the week of May 17 to May 23 let’s admire some historical romance novel stepback covers illustrated by Giuseppe Dangelico Daeni, aka Pino, a legendary artist we will explore at length very soon here at SweetSavageFlame!

Aren’t these gorgeous works of art?

dangerous anita mills pino

Top to bottom:

Deception, Amanda Quick, Bantam, 1993

Dangerous, Anita Mills, Topaz, 1996

curse of kenton janet louise roberts

Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

BOOK-REVIEW-gothic
The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1972
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

The Book

I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon.

My Avon 1972 first edition features the typical Gothic cover. There is the heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.

In this case, it’s Castle Kenton. It is a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.

The Plot

Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town. The darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.

curse of kenton janet louise roberts
The Curse of Kenton, Janet Louise Roberts, Pocket Books, 1978 re-issue, cover artist Robert A. Maguire

Despite her better judgment, Barbara falls for the Duke. They quickly marry, as Gilbert needs an heir before he passes on.

What follows is a great story loaded with intrigue. It’s a story filled with secrets, and a cruel hero who straddles the lines between romantic, tragically condemned to fate, and villainous.

Gilbert parties it up with friends, and they engage in drunken orgies. However, Barbara is no shrinking violet, meekly accepting her husband’s peccadilloes.

What makes The Curse of Kenton so very good is Barbara’s strong, resilient character. She won’t put up with her husband’s licentious debaucheries nor placidly accept his belief that his disease is incurable.

The Kenton bad temper is not going to kill my husband! I have resolved on that!

Barbara vows the curse will not destroy their lives.

Things are not always what they seem here. Horrific, hidden mysteries are slowly revealed in a shocking denouement.

Final Analysis of The Curse of Kenton

The great heroine with a backbone really made The Curse of Kenton stand out. I’m looking forward to reading more by Janet Louise Roberts.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

Wicked Wave of Death!
Young, ripe, and penniless, Barbara Ashe was swept by powerful emotions into a marriage with the rich, wildly romantic Duke of Kenton. But soon she was shocked by his evil society friends, mortified by his bursting hot-tempered fits, and plagued by the fear that his worsening heart condition was more than simply the gypsy curse on the men of Kenton.
Taunted by her suspicions through chilling, dark nights, she began to trust no one. Someone in that ominous castle was planning murder – and each moment marched Barbara closer to the awful truth!

THE CURSE OF KENTON by JANET LOUISE ROBERTS
arafura pirate

Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon

Arafura Pirate, Victoria Gordon, Harlequin, 1989, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3025

From the back of the book:

Marine biologist Jinx Beaumont had the sinking feeling her given name foretold the voyage ahead of her. She was jinxed, all right – stuck with Race Morgan, a merciless buccaneer of a captain. Studying shark life on the rough seas north of Australia kept Jinx busy enough. She definitely didn’t need the unnerving distraction of a human predator like roguish Captain Morgan! Jinx fought against the magnetic pull and her desire. She didn’t want to become one of Race’s romantic conquests. But her inner turmoil only increased when she felt challenged by a rival who was stunningly beautiful…and vicious.

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Book

Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon was one of the first adult romances I read, although from what I recall, this is more of a sweet and mild read, rather than a steamy one.

Arafura Pirate was set in coastal Australia. It starred a spunky heroine named Jinx, a blond, short-haired marine biologist who was tough and independent. She sets out with her team of fellow scientists to tag sharks in the ocean waters.

When she met the hero, Race Morgan (what a typical hero name that was!), she wore a shirt that said, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.” Race was a gruff ship captain who smoked, of course. But I remember when they first kissed, Jinx certainly wasn’t thinking of ashtrays!

Jinx and Race butt heads, but their attraction is too strong to deny.

The supporting cast on the ship was a fun crew, and I enjoyed the way they all bonded. There was some “other woman” scenario that wasn’t too dramatic, as it was obvious the captain’s eyes were on Jinx alone.

Final Analysis of Arafura Pirate

Simple and sweet, but I have fond memories of it. 3.24 stars

BORROW ARAFURA PIRATE FOR FREE AT INTERNET ARCHIVE.

show me

Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey

show me dailey category romance
Show Me by Janet Dailey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #200
Book Series: Americana #25
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Janet Dailey‘s Harlequin Presents #200 Show Me takes place in the “Show Me” state of Missouri. The hero, Jake, spouts lines like this over and over again: “I’m from Missouri. You have to show me to believe.”

As the first American author of Harlequin Presents, Janet Dailey set her novels in all 50 states. I suppose this was to show foreign readers how diverse and exotic the USA can be.

Although her books never inspired me to jet-set across the country, I, too, have traveled around the States and found myself in various oh-so-glamorous US cities like

  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Newark, New Jersey

Talk about exotic!

The Plot

In Show Me, Jake is a bitter man who’s returned home after being away for more than half a decade.

He’s sour because he was forced to marry Tanya, the mother of his son, John. The child was a result of a drunken one-night stand Jake can’t recall.

The “hero” is a deadbeat dad, as he’s lived in Africa for 7 years and made no effort to get to know his son. Plus, he’s contemptuously open about not having been a faithful husband.

There is a Harley dramatic revelation at the end, which the heroine had to do if she expected to engage in makeup sex with her husband.

So the big twist is… Tanya isn’t really John’s mom, and Jake isn’t his dad. Their dead siblings were the real parents, and their shotgun marriage was due to a big lie/misunderstanding.

Jake didn’t have to stay away from his family for so many years if Tanya had talked to him back when the kid was born.

Final Analysis of Show Me

But what kind of story would exist if the protagonists acted like adults and engaged in conversation? It would make for a dull romance. Almost as dull as this one.

Show Me was a slow, ponderous read. I swear Janet Dailey could take a decent plot and make it as fun as reading furniture instruction manuals.

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

I don’t blame you for hating me at first,” Jake said. “After all, I forced you to marry me. But you do see why I had to tell you all this, don’t you? You’ve been so honest with me that I had to be the same with you.

Tanya’s heart sank. Honest! Honest! The word kept haunting her. Her supposed honesty was the one thing he admired about her.

She couldn’t possibly tell him the truth now. If she did his love for her would be shattered forever!

Show Me by Janet Dailey
Wicked Stranger rawlings

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

stranger in my arms louisa rawlings
Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1992
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #157
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #2
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

The Book

Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books, Stranger in My Arms.

As I’ve often said before, Rawlings (aka Sylvia Halliday) wrote exquisite romances. She also penned the sensational Stolen Spring, which took place during the era of Louis XIV.

The Hero and the Heroine

Noel, the hero of Wicked Stranger, is the devil-may-care twin brother of Adam from Stranger in My Arms is as different from Adam in temperament as they are as similar in looks.

Noel is a flirt, a charmer who always sees the positive in life and prefers to live without responsibilities. Adam is broody, quiet, gruff, duty-bound, awkward with women, and suffers from the horrors of the Napoleonic wars as he was a general, while Noel was a mere corporal.

Noel Bouchard is in New York after living in France. He’s looking to make his way in life and meets the elite Babcock family.

The Babcocks have several daughters, one being the lovely yet prickly Elizabeth, to whom Noel is strangely drawn.

The heroine of Wicked Stranger, Elizabeth, is often shrill, mean, insecure, and ill-tempered. At first, I thought she didn’t deserve such a great man. She’s part of a well-to-do New York family and was hurt by love in the past, by fortune seekers who wanted her money and not her.

So now she hates all men, especially men looking to advance their income through marriage.

The Plot

Perhaps it’s because Noel sees the hurting soul beneath her tough exterior and just wants to make her happy. For some reason, Noel falls for Elizabeth, and hard! He pursues her relentlessly.

Lucky, lucky woman. *Sigh!*

There are some twists and turns in this book. For example, Noel briefly pretends to be his brother, Adam (just like Adam had pretended to be Noel in the prior book).

Marriage comes quicker than you’d expect for these two, but there are many tribulations they face. There are deaths and a duel, reconciliations, and the love story ends on a passionate, loving note.

Final Analysis of Wicked Stranger

While Louisa Rawlings’ Wicked Stranger is nowhere near as perfect as its predecessor, this is still a delightful read. The wonderful, charismatic hero, Noel, makes this romance shine.

I adore Rawlings’ heroes; they’re so diverse and compelling. Noel was the star of this book, as he was such a magnetic character. Elizabeth was a very lucky woman to find him.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

HEART’S GAMBLE

Elizabeth Babcock had always been “just plain Bessie,” overshadowed by her socialite sisters. Few suitors looked beyond her razor-sharp repartee — and temper to match — before leaving for less challenging opportunities. Until, that is, that night in Paris when she crossed rapier wits with Noel Bouchard …

A gambler, a soldier, a man of the world, Noel Bouchard prayed never to be saddled with a dull domestic life. Marriage, if entered into at all, should be an adventure — tempestuous and lusty. He needed a woman with verve and spirit. With passion and wit. A woman like Elizabeth Babcock …

WICKED STRANGER by LOUISA RAWLINGS
thistoweringpassion

Historical Romance Review: This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Jim Dietz
Book Series: Lenore and Geoffrey #1
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Cavalier Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 509
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Lovely red-gold-haired, violet-eyed Lenore is the female protagonist of Valerie Sherwood’s This Towering Passion and the primary heroine of its sequel, Her Shining Splendor, which tells the tale of both Lenore and her daughter, Lorena, from the English Civil War to the Restoration eras.

Lenore’s beauty is of little use to her because while she can get a man, she has trouble keeping him.

The Plot

Part One

First, in This Towering Passion–as is standard in a Sherwood novel–the heroine gets together with her first lover, who’s a typical hunky block of wood. Lenore becomes infatuated with the hottest guy in town, a big blond stud who’s a charismatic black hole.

Although he’s a mite too friendly with other ladies, he and Lenore get handfasted.

But, alas, he leaves Lenore behind, looking for adventure by fighting against the English army. Lenore, who has no one else in the world, won’t be left all alone. She seeks him out, only to find he’s killed in action.

Meanwhile, the dashing Cavalier, Geoffrey Wyndham, is on the run himself after losses in battle.

He and Lenore meet on the road. Within hours of finding Lenore’s “husband’s” dead body and with Roundhead troops hunting them down, Geoffrey says: “What the hell, life’s too short!” He takes what he wants from Lenore.

And oh, does she like it! He’s so much better than old what’s-his-name ever was!

Geoffrey and Lenore move to Oxford, where they live as husband and wife under the last name Daunt, although they are unmarried.

Then the anvils start dropping: Lenore is pregnant, but Geoffrey is a married man! So their baby is doomed to illegitimacy.

After a semi-sweet idyll, reality intrudes. Blond baby Lorena doesn’t look a thing like Geoffrey… Oops!

There’s no Maury Povich in the 17th century to help a brother out. Hasn’t anyone ever told these folks that just like baby birds, many human children can have fair (or even dark hair) that changes color over time? Well, Geoffrey’s not going to stick around long enough to find out. Our hero is splitsville.

Part Two

Lenore gives Lorena to her “husband’s” sister to raise while she searches for a better life in London.

Lenore takes to the stage only to find she is no superstar. Not when Nell Gwynn is her competition. Nell takes advantage of Charity’s inability to perform one night and upstages her completely, drawing the eye of King Charles.

If you thought it would be Lenore who’d end up as the King’s mistress, history shows you’d be wrong. An aspect of Valerie Sherwood’s books that I enjoyed is even though her heroines would be stunning, there could always be another woman–usually an adversary–who was just as lovely or more so.

A sobering reminder that no matter how great a person may be, there’s someone else who can outshine them. I appreciate that Lenore is not the “bestest ever.” She is simply an all-too-human character with depth and failings.

Despite having been abandoned, Lenore is faithful to Geoffrey’s memory and is known as “Mistress Chastity” and the “Iron Virgin.” So no more sex romps here, although there were some fun catfights with Nell Gwynn and Lady Castlemaine.

The conclusion of the book reunites the lovers. However, there are plenty of loose ends: Geoffrey’s calculating wife; what will happen to Lenore’s child; and what happens to Christopher, a Cavalier gentleman who is an ardent admirer of Lenore.

Final Analysis of This Towering Passion

One flaw of This Towering Passion is there was not enough going on with Geoffrey! He’s missing in action for the latter half of the book as Lenore experiences her own adventures. I wanted to see more of him, for, unlike Lenore’s first love, he was a debonair leading man who’s hard to forget.

I had a good time reading this one. But at its main draw–Geoffrey–was out of the picture for a substantial period of time, it was far from flawless. That’s always a common complaint I have with Sherwood: I want more of the hero and less filler.

Unfortunately, 500-plus pages of old-time tiny font weren’t enough for the long-winded Sherwood to tell all of Geoffrey and Lenore’s story. So it’s on to that 600-page sequel to find out what happens…

(Someday)

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.8

They called her “Angel” when she rode bareback into the midst of battle to find her lover.

They called her “Mistress Daunt” when she lived with Geoffrey in Oxford, though she wore no ring on her finger.

Wherever she traveled men called her Beauty. Her name was Lenore – and she answered only to “Love.”

This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood
asking for trouble ed tadiello

Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

category romance
Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Ed Tadiello
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1614
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

The Book

I was unfortunately underwhelmed with Asking for Trouble by Australian romance author Miranda Lee. This is unusual, as she’s a reliable favorite.

The problem with reading a much-beloved author almost 50 times is that their books begin to blend together. Plotlines get replayed. And replayed. And replayed.

The Plot

In Asking for Trouble, we see a familiar Lee storyline. We have a sexually inexperienced woman who ironically looks like sex on legs. Then there’s the hero who’s been burned in the past by a bad relationship and is unwilling to commit.

I don’t know if this is the fourth or fifth book where the couple watches the film Out of Africa on a romantic date.

After a few passionate nights of sex, the heroine Sirena gets pregnant, and that magically solves all their problems.

Of course, this is a Harlequin Presents, so it’s all par for the course. But when it’s the same story over and over, I wonder if I should take a break from reading a particular writer.

At least for a while, so that when I read a new book by them, I’d appreciate it more.

Final Analysis of Asking for Trouble

If I had read Asking For Trouble ten years ago, this would have been new and exciting to me, maybe meriting a 4-star rating.

This isn’t a bad book, but I’ve read at least a dozen better variations of the same exact story, just with different character names and descriptions. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around as previously.

Sorry, Asking For Trouble, it’s not you; it’s me.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.6

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

The real thing

Serina hasn’t seen Aaron Kingsley for eleven years, but she hasn’t forgotten him. When they meet again, it’s clear that what had begun as a schoolgirl crush has blossomed into a mature adult love. He shares the attraction, but all he’s offering her now is a temporary, going-nowhere affair.

What angers her most is that she’s tempted to agree. She’s not about to turn her back on a chance to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a man poisoned by a bad marriage hardly makes the perfect Prince Charming.

ASKING FOR TROUBLE by MIRANDA LEE
planet earth

The Languages of Love

planet earth
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Old-school historical romances were quite diverse in settings, ranging from the Occident to the Orient, from the Middle East to everywhere in Europe to the Americas. In my time reading these books, I’ve come across several ways to say “my love,” “my beloved,” or “my darling” in various languages. As language is very nuanced, there are many words of love you can express among your friends, family, lovers, pets, etc.

I’ve tried to compile some ways to share intimate words with the one you love most in various languages.

Is your language on this list? If not, how do you say these words and phrases in your native language? Please, drop a comment and let’s talk romance!

LANGUAGEMy Love/ My Beloved or My Dear/My DarlingI love you.
Arabic(f) habibti; (m) habibi Ana uHibbuki. (to a female)
Ana uHibbuka. (to a male)
Ana Ahabak. (to a male)
French(f) ma chère; (m) mon cher (darling)
mon amour (my love)
Je t’aime.
German mein(e) Liebling (my darling)
mein(e) Schatz (my sweetheart)
Ich liebe dich.
Greek agápi Se agapó. S’agapó.
Irish mo stór (my love)
mo chuisle (my heartbeat)
Tá grá agam duit.
Tá mo chroí istigh ionat. (Besotted love)
Italian (f) cara (m) caro Ti amo.
Norweigian elsket  Jeg elsker deg.
Portuguese (f) querida (m) querido (my darling)
(f) amada (m) amado (my love)
Eu te amo.
Spanish (f) querida (m) querido; (my darling)
(f) amada (m) amado (my love)
Te quiero. (I want you/I love you, casual)
Te amo. (More intense; said to spouses)
Welsh cariad (my love)Rwy’n dy garu di. (formal, poetic)
Fi’n caru ti. (North Wales)
Dwi’n caru chdi. (South Wales)

10 Languages I Love You

Arabic – I Love You

Be My Travel Muse

German I Love You

German Liebling

Irish I Love You

Welsh I Love You

Welsh I Love You 2

come back to me catherine george

Category Romance Review: Come Back to Me by Catherine George

Synopsis:

Julia’s new job was a step up in her career

She was personal assistant to the autocratic Marcus Lang. That hadn’t been Julia’s main objective when she started–though she’d gone to a great deal of trouble to get the position.

She had plans for Marcus Lang–and especially for his brother, Garrett-and once she’d achieved her aims she didn’t think she’d be staying long with Lang Holdings.

Marcus was a difficult, demanding employer, but gradually Julia had to admit that she found him attractive. Too bad that he was the one man she couldn’t let herself fall in love with.

COME BACK TO ME by CATHERINE GEORGE

The Book

Catherine George is a category romance author who rarely disappoints. Sadly, Come Back to Me is one of those rare occasions.

The Plot

The plot centers around revenge, a trope I usually enjoy. However, the execution in this book… It’s quite odd. The heroine’s sister had a one-night stand with a married man and became impregnated. The sister dies and then Julia, our heroine, is forced to care for the baby. Mistakenly, she believes it’s the hero Marcus’s happily married brother who slept with and then abandoned her sister.

So Julia plots the lamest revenge ever conceived. Oh, she’ll get back at that man for his evil deeds. How? By putting herself through school and learning to be the most efficient secretary ever hired by a corporation. She’ll deal with the hero’s clients, organize his social calendar, and capably smooth over his troubles until he becomes so reliant on her, then she’ll somehow inveigle her way into the hero’s family and ruin the brother.

How’s that supposed to work? Will she quit, forcing Marcus to run after her, offer her a raise, and declare that he’s never had an assistant as competent as she and damn his brother to hell on top of that?

Or will Julia just let her bizarre revenge plot disintegrate as she falls in love with the actual man who fathered her dead sister’s child after a drunken night of misplaced passion? Yup, that’s more like it.

Big old spoiler here: Marcus Lang, the hero of this book, had sex with the heroine’s sister, not knowing she was a virgin–heck, he didn’t even know who she was–and a baby resulted from that night. He was drunk and mistook her for another woman.

Final Analysis of Come Back to Me

Yuck. Worst revenge plan ever! Sorry, there are some places in romance where it’s too weird for me to delve into, and sloppy seconds from sister to another sister is one of them. I’m a hypocrite here, I admit because I enjoy a good love triangle romance where two brothers butt heads over the same woman, but even this was too far.

If you’re looking for an angsty revenge story in the Harlequin Presents line, just read Sally Wentworth.

Oh, and that cover is terrible. That hot-pink dress with off-the-shoulder ruffles screams 1983 prom night.

1.5 Stars

Historical Romance Review: Highland Barbarian by Ruth Langan

Highland Barbarian, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1990, George H. Jones, cover art

Harlequin Historical #41

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Background to Reading Highland Barbarian

Ruth Langan wrote a series of Highland novels over the years, a few of which I’m already familiar with. I’ve read Ruth Langan’s Highland Heather and Highland Fire, the sequels to Highland Barbarian. I enjoyed those two very much and have fond memories of them.

Highland Heather was the tale of middle sister Brenna being used as Queen Elizabeth’s pawn and captured by the enigmatic Morgan Grey, “The Queen’s Savage,” to mend the rifts between the British and Scots. I’d rate it 4 to 4 1/2-stars. Highland Fire was about the youngest sister, Megan, and a story filled with lots of action, amnesia, and a great, strong-willed heroine paired with a yummy Irish hero. That was a 3 1/2 to 4-star read.

In Highland Barbarian, we see the eldest sister Meredith’s story. Perhaps if I had read this before the other books, I would have liked it more.

The Plot

After her father’s death, Meredith is now the leader of the Mac Alpin clan and must join in an arranged marriage to an ally. However, her marriage is cut short when her bridegroom is killed, and Brice Campbell, the Highland Barbarian, captures Meredith. Brice has apparently attacked the Mac Alpins many times in the past (Or has he? Is the hero of this story just a patsy for a more obvious, easily-telegraphed villain? Why, yes, he is.)

Meredith tries to escape, is thwarted, and is captured again. In time, she makes friends with Brice’s clan members. Slowly she and Brice grow close and fall in love.

But despite her love, Meredith takes flight once more. This time she is conveniently captured by an enemy of Brice who tried to rape Meredith earlier on. Brice saves the day, but Meredith flees back to her people anyway without so much as a thank you.

There’s a mildly amusing part towards the end when Queen Mary switches places with Meredith because they look so similar, being slim redheads and all (as if that’s all you have to do to look exactly like someone: share the same hair color!). Mary wants some alone time with Bothwell, so Meredith will stand in her stead and judge over arguments. And then the villain shows up, and the predictable ending comes to its predictable end.

Final Analysis to Highland Barbarian

I found the story told here to be a by-the-numbers tale filled with same-old-same-old—a good read, but barely. The love between Brice and Meredith was bland, and the action didn’t thrill me. Highland Barbarian‘s sequels are better, with more original stories than this one.

This wasn’t a terrible book by any means; it just didn’t excite me. I’d give this barely three stars and consider it just worth enough to pass the time.

beloved enemy jane feather

Historical Romance Review: Beloved Enemy by Jane Feather

Synopsis:

DEFIANT BEAUTY
Ginny Courtney faced the tall intruder with cool mockery in her wide gray eyes and prayed he would not sense her fear. She could not let this Roundhead colonel cast her out of her home! For the sake of the royalist fugitives hidden on the estate, she had to remain …even f it meant being at the mercy of the man who stood so arrogantly before her. She wanted to hate him, but as she watched his handsome face soften with compassion and felt his green-brown eyes shower her with unexpected warmth, her defenses began to crumble, leaving her heart as vulnerable as her trembling body.

BOLD CONQUEROR
Alex Marshall was not a man who took defiance lightly, but somehow the impertinent chestnut-haired beauty intrigued him. He had the power to destroy everything the girl held dear, yet she taunted him with her glances, challenged him with her words, showed her willfulness with every graceful move of her slender frame. A
lex couldn’t help but wonder if she would respond to his kisses with that same spirit and fire, and he swore he’d have his answer before too many nights had passed. He would take her in his arms and caress her silken curves until she begged for the tender touch of her BELOVED ENEMY. 

BELOVED ENEMY by JANE FEATHER

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

When my cat destroyed the cover of my edition of Jane Feather’s Beloved Enemy, chewing it to shreds, I lamented the loss. It was a pretty cover, although I cared nothing for the book. Beloved Enemy begins with an intriguing premise, then about 20 pages in, the annoying “insta-luv” trope rears its head. Everything goes downhill from there.

I’ve read Jane Feather’s books before. They’re the kind one loves or hates, and usually, I’ve enjoyed them. One positive about this was that it was originally published as a Zebra Heartfire in 1987, and compared to other Zebras, the writing is like Tolstoy.

The Plot

Ginny Courtney is a war widow. Her older brother is presumed dead, and her family remains fiercely loyal to the crown. At the same time, Alex Marshall is a Colonel in Cromwell’s Army. He takes command of her family home as his army looks for fugitives.

The hero is…not charismatic. All he does is shout and yell at Ginny. He gives Ginny one of the worst pet names I’ve heard a hero say to his heroine. Alex calls her his beloved “chicken.” No, not his “henny” or something cute like “chickadee” or even “pigeon.” If Ginny ever reciprocated in kind by calling him her “cock,” Feather never let us readers know, more’s the pity.

The two fall for each other instantly, although why I don’t know. He has zero charm, and she never trusts him and hides various secrets. Even though Alex is her enemy and her “captor,” Ginny chooses to be Alex’s personal camp follower. I don’t know how authentic it was for a supposed Puritan Colonel to have his high-connected Loyalist lover follow him from camp to camp. Then again, how important is historical accuracy in these books?

Beloved Enemy, 2013 Zebra Re-issue

Ginny even gets to talk to King Charles and acts as his spy, passing on information to other agents.

Alex and Ginny move from location to location. They bivouac and decamp from town to town as occupying an occupying army would do. That’s about it for the first half. Unfortunately, Beloved Enemy takes about three hundred pages for any action to start. When it does, it’s a bit wild, from accusations of witchcraft, death of an interesting secondary character, a return from the dead, and more death.

Final Analysis of Beloved Enemy

If it takes more than half the book for a story to get going, it’s too late for me to care. I don’t mind a slow burn build-up, but this book was one half of nothing happening, then for the other half, everything was tossed into the plot but the kitchen sink. As a result, the pacing was uneven, the book took an excruciating 500 pages to tell its story when it should have been cut down to a tight 350.

Beloved Enemy blew like a Category 4 Hurricane. It could have been worse, yet it wasn’t a fun time.

My disappointment was such a shame as I love English Civil War and Restoration Era romances filled with priggish Roundheads & debauched Cavaliers.

All through the dull parts, I kept thinking, “Why am I reading this boring book?” Sure it ticked boxes of categories I love, such as: an illicit romance among enemies; a redheaded, stoic military hero; and a pretty Zebra cover by Ray Kursar. However, it was so tedious. Still, I finished it.

As said, boring it may have been, for what it was, it was written by Jane Feather, an author with some literary skill talent. For that, I’ll give it a two-star rating. I am doubtful, though, that I’d have been so generous if I’d read the reissue or Kindle version and not have been so dazzled by the Kursar cover.

So take this review with a grain of salt.

2 Stars

don't call it love

Covers of the Week #5: Will Davies

Artist: Will Davies

Since this week will be short and hopefully end up sweet, we’ll celebrate some short and sweet romances. One of our favorite category romance illustrators was Will Davies.

His artwork is our pick for covers for this week!

The Covers

They may be late, but here are Will Davies romance covers to enjoy for the week of May 10 to May 16.

Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

category romance
Seduction by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1980
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #428
Published by: Mills & Boon, Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, that they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.

The Plot

Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister.

Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence.

Worse, Clea has a creepy stepdad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).

Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.

He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out.

Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.

kavorka

Ben’s obviously off his rocker, but Clea is not all there either. He demands, but she refuses. He is forceful, but Clea is resilient, giving as good as she gets. Finally, she escapes, but not before Ben can put his mark on her soul.

She falls in love with him.

Final Analysis of Seduction

Seduction was not the first Harlequin Presents I read, but it was the one that got me addicted to the Presents line.

Charlotte Lamb didn’t write like any other ordinary Harlequin author. Her plots were wildly fantastic, forcing you to turn the page to see what insanity she included next.

Lamb was able to psychoanalyze by delving into navel-gazing. She was very aware of the nature of her works, that they were just fantasies. Nevertheless, she treated her subject matter seriously with exquisite attention to character, dialogue, and tone.

Seduction is very chauvinistic and very politically incorrect. But this is a book, an illusion, not reality.

Charlotte Lamb’s writing was at its best in this one. I love this romance, as crazy as it was.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Clea felt insulted — by both men!

Clea’s stepfather, Kerasteri, had followed Greek custom in choosing a man for her to marry. Defying him meant arousing his violent temper.

Ben Winter was the man who desired her and was determined to have her. I know what you want more than you do, he kept insisting. But he saw only the betraying signs of her body; he didn’t listen to her reasons for refusal.

Clea had little choice. But she was sure of one thing: she would not be owned or used by anyone. She was her own person!

SEDUCTION by CHARLOTTE LAMB