Book Review

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn

Passion’s Treasure, Betina Krahn, Zebra, 1989, Sharon Spiak cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review is of Passion’s Treasure (later republished and retitled as Just Say Yes), a standalone from March 1989 by Betina Krahn.

The Plot:

The book begins in the town of Culpepper, Maryland Colony, 1748. We meet Treasure Barrett, one of 10 children born to Aniss and Buck Barrett. Treasure is an intelligent, precocious child, and the townspeople are encouraged to allow those qualities free rein. As the book begins, Treasure, age 9, learns about “sport”.

Fast forward nearly 9 years. A sad pall has come over Culpepper. The town’s most prominent citizen, Squire Darcy Renville, has passed away. His estranged son, Sterling Renville, the hero of the book, arrives from England and demands that the villagers-who are all in hock to Squire Darcy in one way or another-pay back their debts or he will seize their property and make them all homeless. He will then return to his home in England. The town turns to Treasure, the town thinker, now nearly 18, and the heroine, for help.

Treasure comes up with a plan to get under Sterling’s skin and make his time in Culpepper miserable. The plan succeeds quite well. There is an unplanned side effect; he becomes interested in her, and she in him. Shocked and dismayed to discover their “thinker” is a woman like any other, the townspeople scheme to get Treasure and Sterling married.

The marriage takes place, and the wedding night is great, but the next morning isn’t, as Sterling discovers he’s been tricked into the marriage. (He erroneously blames Treasure). He wants an annulment, but since their marriage was consummated, that won’t happen. Sterling then takes Treasure away from Culpepper, taking her to England with him. On the trip and during their time in England, Treasure and Sterling’s relationship takes on its primary form: when they are making love, they are connected; when they’re not, there is a canyon between them, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

When they arrive in England, Treasure and Sterling’s marriage continues down its rocky road. However, once Sterling realizes she loves him and he her, their relationship improves. He starts working on accepting her for who she is. There is also a “B” storyline involving members of Sterling’s family, his best friend, and a business deal he is involved in which reaches the highest levels of the British government.

In the end, Treasure and Sterling return to the colonies, have five children in the next 10 years, and enjoy their Happily Ever After.

Upside:

In my reading experience-which encompasses many years and thousands of books-it is very rare to see a romance novel where the heroine’s beauty is somewhat de-emphasized (although Treasure certainly checks off the romance novel heroine boxes for beauty) and her capabilities are emphasized. Treasure’s skills and knowledge as a thinker are the primary focus of the first half of the book. She is a smart, delightful character who is well-written.

Downside:

I didn’t like Sterling overall, but it’s more complicated than it sounds.

During the first ⅔rd’s of the book, Sterling is an obnoxious bastard. He is arrogant, condescending, egotistical, and elitist. He views the citizens of Culpepper as “colonial bumpkins”. Sterling calls Treasure “that colonial chit” and is shocked–shocked I tell you!–to discover that she won’t just willingly lie down and spread her legs for him. Doesn’t she know who he is?!

In the last 3rd of “Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes”, Ms. Krahn informs readers of why Sterling acts the way he does. Without giving too much away, it has to do with his relationship with his father, the pressures of his life, and his personal value system. Knowing these things, however, does not excuse or justify his bad behavior. When Sterling realizes he loves Treasure and she loves him, he makes efforts to change his actions. These efforts are somewhat successful.

Sex:

Multiple love scenes in the book, but none reach any particular level of heat or romanticism.

Violence:

A person Treasure believes to be a friend tries to rape her; Sterling prevents the attack from taking place. Sterling is also involved in two fistfights. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line:

Does one-third of good behavior override two-thirds of bad behavior? That is an individual decision for those who read this book. For me, it doesn’t completely. I vacillated a bit on a rating for Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes. Sometimes, I had it as a 2-star book, other times a 4-star book. In the end, using a 1-10 scale, I would give Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes a 6, and using a 1-5 star scale, a solid 3 stars.

5 replies »

  1. Thanks, Blue Falcon. Fun review!

    I want to get my response in early, but I dunno what to say. I haven’t read “Passion’s Treasure”. My reactions might not be relevant to the target readership. And the author is one of my Facebook friends.

    But at the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, and by now I’m accustomed to the flavor of my own lowest extremities, allow me to make these points.

    1. I find it a bit odd that the townspeople of a backwoods settlement in colonial America would consider a seventeen-year-old girl the brains of the outfit. She’s so smart and gifted that they’d look to her for wisdom and guidance. It’s just as odd as a community doing so in twenty-first century America. Or anywhere, anytime. Do I smell a Mary Sue?

    2. My interests include nomenclature. It helps me and presumably some other readers buy into a historical setting if the author gives the characters names that sound real in terms of their time, place, and social/cultural milieu.

    Which makes me wonder why the heroine was tagged with “Treasure”. Who knows, maybe there’s a documented case of a woman with that name in colonial America. But still . . . .

    3. Likewise, I wonder about the revised title of this novel. I realize authors in traditional publishing have little if any control over titles. But in this case, someone did. Probably the marketing department at Kensington Publishing. “Hmmmmm . . . Why don’t we give the reprint of this romance a new title? Something that’ll make the readers think of Nancy Reagan’s campaign against illegal drugs. What could be more romantic than that?”

    Keep up the good work!

  2. HI, Mary Anne.

    Thank you for the compliment. I do want to say, however, that you are not putting your foot in your mouth. You have a great deal of insight, knowledge and wisdom in the field of vintage romance and I appreciate your sharing that knowledge with me and other lovers of the same books.

    Now on to your points:

    1. It was a bit strange that the townspeople of Culpepper, Maryland would trust a 17-18 year old girl with pretty much taking care of the townspeople in various ways. In part, they saw that Treasure was curious and gifted, and they were basically told to encourage these traits in her. The other townspeople had different forms of intelligence; Treasure’s was on a higher level. I don’t know what a Mary Sue is, but I would certainly like to know.

    2. I’m not sure why Ms. Krahn chose the name “Treasure” for her heroine here. She did have nine siblings, one of whom was named Pen-short for Penance. I believe her siblings’ names were all biblical in nature.

    3. I really hate the reprinted title “Just Say Yes”. To me, it basically reduces the book to being a typical romance novel, which is disrespectful to Treasure. I loved the fact that even though Treasure was a beautiful woman, Ms. Krahn’s writing focused on her intelligence, something I rarely see in romance novels. Changing the title to “Just Say Yes”, in my view, reduces Treasure to an airheaded romance novel heroine, which she most definitely was not.

    • Thanks again, Blue Falcon. A Mary Sue is a female protag who can accomplish anything. She’s free of faults or weaknesses. She’s admired and praised by the good characters. The bad ones—well, if they want to survive, eventually she wins over them too. She’s always right. She literally can do no wrong!

      As you might guess, a Mary Sue is a stand-in for the author. The star of her private power fantasy made public. It’s all very narcissistic. Bleech.

      I don’t know if the author of this novel was thinking along these lines. But I trust you can see why I’m suspicious. And why I don’t care for protags like this.

      For more, much more, on Mary Sues:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue

  3. Hi, Mary Anne.

    Thank you for replying so quickly. After reading the wikipedia post you linked, I can certainly understand why someone would view a character like Treasure as a Mary Sue type of person. I don’t know if I agree with that assessment-or maybe I don’t want to, I’m being honest-because I liked Treasure as an intelligent, capable woman. Beauty, intelligence and capability are things I truly appreciate in romance novel heroines and I don’t find all three in a heroine that often. Thank you for expanding my knowledge base and making me think.

  4. Blue Falcon: Though I can define a Mary Sue, I’m in no position say whether the heroine of “Passion’s Treasure” actually is one. Here I’ll defer to your judgement. I haven’t read the book. You have!

Please drop a comment and let's talk romance!