Month: May 2021

Historical Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

Coach to Hell, Rachel Cosgrove Payes Playboy Press, 1979, cover artist unknown

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.

The Plot

The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it. Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.

She heads to a far-away town to seek out a distant cousin in hopes that he will care for her, a relative in need.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes”

Historical Romance Neo-Bodice Ripper Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

Claiming the Courtesan, Anna Campbell, Avon, 2007, cover artist unknown

“Verity, you have a choice,” he said gently. “We eat, we talk, we pass the evening with an attempt at civility. Or we fuck. It’s up to you.”

CLAIMING THE COURTESAN

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

Although I’m not a fan of the execution of Claiming the Courtesan, I thought it was refreshing what Anna Campbell tried to accomplish in her first book. I categorize this style of romance as a neo-bodice ripper, in that it attempts to capture the sexual power struggles contained in those older books, but it’s very modern in its presentation.

The Plot: Something Old is New Again

I appreciated what Campbell wanted to create in Kylemore: a loathsome, detestable anti-hero who cared only for his spoiled, noble self. Initially, he drew my attention; however, what was produced on paper was mostly a bratty, uncharismatic, psycho-stalker.

I seem to be alone in this thought, but I yearn for the days of stoic, inscrutable heroes, whose love was shown through their actions, and when they did speak, the words meant so much. I prefer to be in the hero’s head as little as possible.... Read more “Historical Romance Neo-Bodice Ripper Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell”

Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

Change of Life, Judith Arnold, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #362

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Change of Life, a category romance by Judith Arnold, seems less a romance and more a story of a woman’s mid-life crisis and journey to self-discovery.

The Plot

Lila Chapin is a long-time married woman with several rambunctious young boys. While Daddy is the fun parent, she’s a stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, disciplines, and is attentive to everyone’s wants and needs. On her 40th birthday, when her husband, Ken, and their kids forget all about it, she decides it’s time for a change in her life. She packs up her things, takes her keys, withdraws some money from their bank account, and leaves.

She settles into a hotel and figures it’s time to take care of her wants and needs. She informs her bewildered husband that she’s taking one month off from being a wife and mother. Lila feels she’s been taken for granted, and without her around, her family will realize how much they rely on her for everything.

Ken, of course, isn’t amused. He insists Lila come home, but she’s not budging.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold”

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Rose by Patricia Hagan

Midnight Rose, Patricia Hagan, Harper Collins, 1991, Sanjulian cover art

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Patricia Hagan’s Midnight Rose is a rather entertaining romance novel. Featuring a strong-willed heroine named Erin, in this, she has an evil slave owner for a step-father and a mother who hides a secret that could destroy them all. Her mother is biracial: half-black, half-white. That fact must be concealed from society, as it could lead to ruination for Erin and her family.

Hero Ryan pursues Erin with a passionate intensity. He does not want her to be his wife but his mistress, as he already has a respectable woman lined up for marriage. Through Erin’s mother’s machinations, it results that Ryan and Erin must get married, and from there on the drama really ramps up.

There are wicked relatives on both sides, making life difficult. When Ryan finds out about Erin’s secret, he does his best to protect her from the bad guys. Good plotting, although it was a tad abrupt at the end, which left me wanting more.

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas

Stranger in My Arms, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1998, Max Ginsburg cover art

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Stranger in My Arms was the first Lisa Kleypas romance I read and found it to be quite enchanting. Although I was already familiar with this kind of plot, the book came off very fresh, if a bit improable.

The Plot

If you’ve seen the Richard Gere and Jodie Foster movie, Sommersby, you know the basic story. Here, this romantic tale takes place in Regency England, not the American South. Lady Lara, Countess of Hawksworth, is happy to be a widow. Lara had a horrible marriage to a man who was a monster to her. Hunter was cold, dispassionate, and adulterous.

Her husband Hunter was pronounced dead, having been presumed drowned at sea, the body never recovered. Now Lara is a widow, free to live as she desires.

Then the worst imaginable occurs when Hunter mysteriously reappears. Although he looks exactly like her dead husband, this man doesn’t always act like it. He doesn’t seem to know or remember certain things, which could be due to injury from his accident at sea. More likely, as Lara suspects, he’s an imposter.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas”

Category Romance Review: A Frozen Fire by Charlotte Lamb

A Frozen Fire, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Presents #380

Paul was beautiful, Helen thought, gazing down at him. He would always be beautiful now.

A Frozen Fire
3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert ***

Frozen Fire was one of the strangest Harlequin Presents I’ve ever read. It’s not Charlotte Lamb’s worst, by any means; actually it’s quite well-written and if it was a two-part story I would have loved it. But as it stands, the book focuses way too much on Helen’s relationship with her emotionally abusive husband and not with the hero.

The Plot

Helen has been married to Paul for many years and he’s cheated on her repeatedly. They’ve had to move various times whenever his affairs have caused too much trouble wherever they’re living. So here they are, yet again, in a new town with a new job for Paul, and Helen is sticking around, but she’s not sleeping with her husband. Still, she’s faithful to Paul even if he isn’t because she’s the kind of person who keeps her vows even though her husband doesn’t. Plus, he’s super, super hot.

That’s it.

The man treats her like crap, but he’s SO good-looking she won’t divorce him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Frozen Fire by Charlotte Lamb”

Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Signet, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?” But, I don’t know… I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.

A Too-Perfect Heroine

Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.

Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!

Every man that wasn’t either her relative or 100% gay desired her and had to have her (stop me if you’ve heard this before)! She was just the typical most beautiful-woman-on-earth, the kind of heroine that Bertrice Small adored to write about, and I had no patience nor love for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small”

Romance Cover Model: Fabio Lanzoni

Fabio Lanzoni

A Controversial Icon

Like bodice rippers and vintage romances of yesteryear, model Fabio Lanzoni has been unfairly maligned and mocked by many modern-day romance readers. There’s a sentiment of contempt displayed at the old-school clinch covers, with some people going as far as declaring that Fabio represented a low point in the genre. How mean-spirited and wrong these detractors are.

The painted covers of older love stories were created by talented artists using beautiful men and women as their models. They were works of art, despite–or perhaps because of–their campy, sexual nature. Lovers of romance should embrace that period in history, as they fail to understand that Fabio was supposed to be over-the-top and outlandish. He was advertising an exaggerated fantasy that we all knew was a bit ridiculous. In trying to defend their beloved books, some readers take them too seriously. The romance novel industry has always been outrageous and irreverent by its nature, which is part of the fun.

We romance readers in the 1990s were far savvier than our contemporaries give us credit for being. The joke was never on Fabio, the reader, nor the genre. It was about all of us enjoying the show. Fabio always laughed along with us, embracing his beefcake status.... Read more “Romance Cover Model: Fabio Lanzoni”

Category Romance Review: Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd

Stay Through the Night, Flora Kidd, Harlequin, 1980, cover artist Bob Kebic
Harlequin Presents #344

“I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time, a long, long time…”

Stay Through the NIght
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Feeling lazy, (as always), so here’s a quick review of Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd hacked together from my reading updates:

The Plot

Charlotte, a single, fiercely independent, and career-minded woman, never had her sights set on marriage, but she at least respects the institution. When she sees how her very married sister, Nancy, drapes herself all over multi-millionaire Burt Sharaton, she quite naturally believes they’re having an affair. Charlotte is disappointed and angered by her sister, as she cares for her brother-in-law, who’s a decent man.

Determined to put a stop to this madness, Charlotte confronts Burt. There’s no way she’s going to let Nancy sail across the world with Burt in his flashy white yacht.

However, Burt surprises Charlotte when he decides to settle for Nancy’s younger and unmarried sister instead. Charlotte’s plan backfires on her, as Burt all but takes her captive.

My Opinion

This sweet, little romance seems to have low ratings on book sites around the internet and I don’t share the opinion.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd”

Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway

Desert Hostage, Diane Dunaway, Dell, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Other than E. M. Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik, the Dell-published Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway would qualify as my most-liked sheik romance.

Harems and desert sheiks romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, as I prefer historical heroes to be swordsmen, cowboys, or knights. Nevertheless, a man like Karim who is passionately devoted to his heroine makes for a great hero, and a romance with such a male protagonist will certainly catch my interest.

The Plot

This is another book where the half-European, half-Arab sheik carries off his object of desire into the sandy dunes and makes her his.

The story starts with a bang where we read about Karim’s mother and her desert abduction at the hands of a ruthless sheik. She plots and manipulates to have her son be taken to Europe where he will be educated and ”civilized.”

In England, Karim then meets and falls for Juliette, a lovely and genteel young British woman. He pursues her with restrained fervor. Karim does his gallant best to woo Juliette. But Juliette is so dumb, she san’t make up her mind about what she wants in life.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway”

Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan

Spell of the Mountains, Rosalie Henaghan, Harlequin, 1989, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Presents #3027

From the Back of the Book:

I’d sooner kiss a snake than you!”
When Sophie had angrily insulted New Zealand hotelier Jon Roberts, she’d never expected him to respond with a wager. If he managed to wangle her cherished homestead motel away from her, he’d announced, he would claim a kiss as his prize…
Sophie had no intention of losing out to arrogant Jon! Until a fateful mountain snowstorm trapped them both together — and all her best laid plans went awry…
In the wintry wonderland of the mountains, Sophie — the icy snow queen — began to melt with Jon’s charms. But chilling winds from their past still blew between them… 
.”

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan was the first “adult” romance I read. I had read some Carolyn B. Cooney and the like, but never a love story about adults.

Back in January or February of 1990 a mysterious package of 4 books came in the mail. Whoever ordered them I never learned, but my mom gave them to me, since she knew I was a book-worm.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan”

Category Romance Review: Having Faith by Barbara Delinsky

Having Faith, Barabra Delinsky, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Temptation #297
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I don’t know what the qualifications were for getting the Harlequin Temptation Award of Excellence, but I wasn’t impressed with Barbara Delinsky’s Having Faith. I think the award was merely a way for editors to play favorites with authors without having to pay them more; however that’s just me being cynical.

The Plot

Faith and Sawyer are divorce lawyers on opposite sides of the same nasty case. (Oh my, freaking divorce lawyers in a romance novel!) They’ve been good friends for many years, both went through rough divorces, and they have a very amicable platonic relationship. For over 15 years they’ve been friends with no sexual attraction. Then one night, they get rip-roaring drunk and have “oopsie” sex.

They reveal a lot more to each other than they ever have before: not just that they’re compatible in the bedroom, but also that they’re both jerks. The two of them make fun of their exes, Sawyer complaining how his ex-wife’s boobs sagged, Faith talking about how her husband was a dud in the sack. They drink some more and have more sex, then wake up with huge hangovers, in shock at what they’ve done.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Having Faith by Barbara Delinsky”