Anne Stuart’s Falling Angel is yet another paranormal from the American Romance line. This is a holiday-themed romance that begins on Thanksgiving and culminates in a Christmas miracle.
Emerson Wyatt MacVey had lived only for the love of money. He was a corporate raider who thought nothing about ruining lives and impoverishing people, much less breaking women’s hearts—especially the heart of Carrie Alexander from the small town of Angel Falls, Minnesota. But living a life of depravity took its toll upon the blond, handsome Emerson, and he died of a heart attack at the young age of thirty-two.
Our story begins at the Pearly Gates, where the angels above try to decide how to judge Emerson. Instead of sending him to hell, where he will surely suffer torments for all eternity, he is given a second chance. He is allowed to return to Earth in a new form: the black-haired Gabriel Falcone on Thanksgiving Day. His job is to help people and undo the damage that Emerson had wrought.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Falling Angel by Anne Stuart”
Hilltop Tryst is a sweet romance by the famous Betty Neels featuring–as always–a fair-haired doctor as a hero, although this time he’s British, not Dutch. Nor is the heroine a nurse. She’s the daughter of a local successful veterinarian and works with Dad.
The title Hilltop Tryst makes it sound steamier than this book really is. It’s a very clean, closed-door Harlequin Romance, so no trysting here!
One morning, Beatrice is taking a walk with her dog, and she meets the hero, Dr. Oliver Latimer, a heart surgeon, along the way. Oliver’s a nice, stolid type. There’s a bit of trouble with another dog and Oliver arranges to bring the pup to Beatrice’s father for a check-up.
Everything lines up making it seem as if Oliver’s interested in Beatrice. He’s kind to her, spends time with her family, and in typical Betty Neels fashion, doesn’t make a move! When Beatrice’s father has a heart attack, they’re fortunate that Dr. Latimer is there to save the day.
Wendy Brown is a not-yet-21-year-old Englishwoman who’s been given the worst news imaginable. She has an inoperable brain tumor and will die in a few months. Rather than spend her last days wallowing in despair, Wendy decides to make the best of her lot. Alone in the world, she sells her family home. She buys a ticket for the maiden voyage of a glamorous cruise ship that’s set to sail the world.
Thus begins Anne Hampson’s Song of the Waves, a vintage Harlequin Presents written in 1976, a year before I was born.
Even for a book so ancient (ha-ha), this romance comes off old-fashioned. It never delves deeper than a few kisses and severely-restrained passion. Anne Hampson’s books might have been among the first published for the Harlequin Presents line, but that sort of antiquated mindset would later cause the publishers to break ties with her in favor of more “modern” minded authors, such as Charlotte Lamb.
I’ve read about half of the romances Deana James published and I must say Crimson Obsession is probably my least favorite of her works. It’s not a terrible romance, not at all. It simply pales in comparison to her other books. Due to my high expectations of James’ writing, Crimson Obsession was a bit of a disappointment, although if penned by another author, I daresay I might not have been so critical.
The Revenge Based Plot
It’s Victorian-era England and Cassandra MacDaermond is on a mission of revenge. She’s a beautiful red-haired orphan left penniless. Her father died after losing the family fortune by gambling. Cassandra blames Edward Sandron, owner of a gaming hall, for this. She’s determined to see Sandron pay for taking advantage of an elderly man. Cassandra disguises herself as an old, plump maid and gains employment in Sandron’s household.
Madeline Harper’s The Jade Affair happens to be one of my top Harlequin Temptations due to its engaging reunited lovers’ plotline. The duo of Madeline Porter and Shannon Harper wrote historical romances as Anna James and Gothic romances under the pen name of Elizabeth Habersham. They published several category romances for Harlequin by combing one first name and last name. In this, The chemistry between the protagonists is fantastic as they play detectives to find some missing jade artifacts.
Clea and Reeve had been dated as teenagers and fallen deeply in love. But their relationship could never be as they were from different social classes. Clea’s family was part of the upper-crust echelons, while Reeve was a tough boy from the wrong side of the tracks. They ran off to be together, but Clea’s parents tracked them down. Through lies and manipulation, they were able to separate the couple for years.
Great Title, Beautiful Cover, Too Bad About the Book
Dark Before the Rising Sun is the last installment in Laurie McBain‘s trilogy that began with Moonstruck Madness. This is a direct continuation of that book’s sequel, Chance the Winds of Fortune. I am breaking my rule for reviewing books that I have didn’t fully read, as I made it fairly far into this book and then skimmed to the end. Yes, it was that bad.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been combined with the first book, and halved by length.
As I said in my review of Chance the Winds of Fortune, the second and third books combine for over 1000 pages. In the previous installment, the pride and joy of the Dominic family, the eldest daughter Rhea Claire was kidnapped. Events led her to be an unwilling passenger on a ship sailing the Caribbean, captained by Dante Leighton, former English Marquis turned pirate. Rhea charmed the pants off of the ship’s men, metaphorically speaking for the crew, but literally speaking of Captain Dante.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain”
I adore a love story where one partner is restrained and uptight and the other is open and free-spirited. Rainy Day Kisses, a Harlequin Romance by Debbie Macomber, depicts those elements perfectly. It’s about a woman who has no time for frills and silly moments enjoying life. She’s a no-nonsense businesswoman. Then she butts head with her neighbor, a laid-back kind of guy who loves flying kites.
Susannah Simmons is the stereotypical career-woman with no time for romance. She has a five-year plan to rise to the top of her field. While she focuses on climbing up the corporate ladder to VP status, her family members are getting married and having babies.
She has zero patience time for neighbor Nate Townsend. The man bakes cookies, for goodness sake! Nate loves Seattle Mariners ball games. He’s all about fun and relaxing. His happy-go-lucky demeanor irritates Susannah to no end. Does the man even have a job?
Shannon’s Drake’s (aka Heather Graham) The King’s Pleasure is set amid the intense medieval backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death. It’s a solid romance in a historical age that always grips my attention.
Captive of The King
The story begins with a prologue. The heroine Danielle is hiding from her husband in an inn as he searches for her. He’s under the impression that she’s there to have a tryst with a fellow Frenchman. Her husband is a Scottish knight, Adrien MacLachlan, who’s pledged to the English King. Danielle is not there to have an assignation with another man. However, she is there against her husband and his King’s wishes.
Adrien confronts Danielle, and the two have a fiery argument that ends in them making love. They look back at the stormy past that preceded this encounter.
Published in 1991, Judith Arnold‘s ALoverboy is the final installment in the Harlequin American Romance line “A Century of Romance” series. There were ten books in the series, each one focusing on a decade in the 20th century. Even though they were published through a category romance line, all the books could be considered “historical” romances. All, that is, except ALoverboy, which is more like historical fantasy or speculative fiction. Take your pick. Because instead of taking place in 1991, it’s set at a fictional end of the decade, the end of the century, in fact.
The Future Past
A> Loverboy is a humorous romance about two coworkers falling in for each other in an unusual way. Before there was “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, there was this book.
Paradise and More by Shirl Henke is memorable to me for having one of the most eye-catching covers in romance. A dazzling beauty by Pino Daeni, it features a fully naked couple in a glorious clinch, their nudity covered by some strategically placed flowers and the book’s title. Lamentably, I have a later reissue, where their nakedness is hidden behind a respectable-looking stepback cover.
The Old World
A swashbuckling historical, Paradise and More is the first book in the House of Torres duo. The romance takes place in late 1400s Spain. This is a seminal time in history, where Columbus’ exploration into the “New World” began after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. The Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon had reconquered the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims who had entered Hispania 700 years prior.
Lady Magdalena Luisa Valdes–for some unfathomable reason–falls madly in love at first sight with Aaron “Diego” Torres, the son of a wealthy converso family (a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism). Aaron is arrogant and contemptuous of Magdalena, a wonderful character with the kind of fortitude that makes a heroine legendary.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Paradise and More by Shirl Henke”
Charlotte Lamb’s Stranger in the Night deals with a sensitive topic she’s approached several times: rape. No, it does not employ the controversial trope of “dubious consent” found in many Harlequins from the 1970s and 1980s. This is a healing love story about a traumatic assault that upended a woman’s life and almost destroyed her ability to find a romantic relationship.
On the surface, the set-up of Stranger in the Night might share some commonalities with Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, which had an actual love triangle plot. Here, the heroine Clare is living a good life as a successful actress. She has a male friend Macey, a writer and producer whom she keeps at bay, however much he adores her.
Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This was written before Rivers became “born again,” however, she was still nominally Christian. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, dismissing them as: “BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.” She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.
As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.
A Love to Last Foreverby Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.
Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse. A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.
Tabitha in Moonlight is a Harlequin Romance about an efficient, capable nurse (aren’t they always in these books?) in an elderly men’s ward. She falls for the new temporary surgeon, the Dutch-born, Dr. Marius van Beek. Betty Neels wields the typical doctor-nurse romance into a Cinderella story, with Tabitha starring as the poor, down-trodden stepdaughter who gets no love from her wicked step-mother and step-sister.
Dr. van Beek plays the prince’s role, but fortunately, this Prince is far more astute than his fairy tale predecessor, not requiring a glass slipper to identify his true lady love.
When first we meet Tabitha, she is presiding over her ward, checking on patients in a pleasant, personal manner, going as far as taking care of one old gentleman’s cat. She’s no beauty, as Neels describes her, but with her lovely figure, wide smile, and fabulous hair that she keeps primly knotted up, the reader knows Tabitha is actually a swan in hiding.
Secret Fire was, I think, the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read which cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.
The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stores I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.
Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey”
Margaret St. George’s The Pirate and His Lady isn’t a historical romance, but a time-traveling adventure published through Harlequin’s American Romance line.
Elizabeth Rawley is a bookish young woman obsessed with all things pirate, especially the legend of captain Richard Colter and his ship, the Black Cutter which, along with its treasure, had been sunk off the Florida coast after being engaged in a battle over 200 years ago.
While attending a “Pirate’s Ball” she witnesses a strange sight: two ancient-looking ships blasting away at one another in the waters of the sea. When she goes to the shore, she finds a washed-up body. But the man isn’t dead; he’s very much alive and dressed in puffy white Seinfeld shirt and other pirate regalia. Was he a guest of the party dressed in costume? Who could this man be?
Why, it was Richard Colter, the captain of the Black Cutter. How could this be?
Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her supposed romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.
Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him, as the Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child. Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rurik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”
I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar. I detested him so much I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter”
For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art surely are.
For lovers of throwback historical and gothic romances, vintage pulpy reads and spy thrillers, or old movies and magazines, the name Robert McGinnis might be familiar. But if it isn’t, then his works of art indeed are. I consider McGinnis, along with H. Tom Hall and Elaine Duillo, the holy triumvirate of old-school pulp-gothic-romance cover illustrators, although who is the best can be debated.
The Art of Robert McGinnis is a glorious book depicting hundreds of beautiful McGinnis images. Born in 1926, McGinnis has spent over 70 years creating book covers for almost every genre, magazine illustrations, portraits, movie posters, such as the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” featuring Audrey Hepburn. He has worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.
If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it. The cover is the infamous one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.
Tender is the Storm was released in 1985; Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination. The first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry altogether. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open with the heroine lying between his thighs.
Hearts of Fire is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Anita Mills‘ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel was. Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux. Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.
In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book Richard could have been a villain. In this story he’s the hero and a wonderful one at that.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills”