Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

barbara riefe historical romance review
This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Betty Maxey
Book Series: Dandridge Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Paranormal Romance, Time Travel Romance
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

THIS RAVAGED HEART

The Book – This Ravaged Heart

This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe–aka Alan Riefe–is a 1970’s Playboy Press bodice ripper. This weird work of fiction sold almost two million copies; no joke!

While it wasn’t a great book, it had enough bizarre twists to qualify for a grudgingly positive review.

This was one freaky-deeky read.

A Weird, Wild Trip

This Ravaged Heart opens up with Ross Dandridge aboard a ship that is headed from England to the USA. He has brought his bride, the English Rose, Lisa, to meet his wealthy shipbuilding family in Rhode Island.

They make love on the ship while sailors bet on when the pair will finally leave their room for some fresh air. And that’s it for romance.

That’s right. The hero and heroine have already met, fallen in love, and gotten married before the book starts, so what the hell else is there?

I tend to enjoy bodice rippers penned by male authors as they usually bring a lot of crazy fun into their works.

However…

Unlike Mr. Melissa Hepburne, who knew how to keep the pages turning with rompy, rapey/forced seduction stupidity…

Or Mr. Janette Seymour, who threw bodice-ripping tropes one after another handled with surprising grace and sentiment…

Or Mr. Jennifer Wilde, with his penchant for verbose purple prose and clothes porn…

Barbara Riefe/ Alan Riefe is like a monkey banging away on a typewriter, putting letters onto paper in random chaos, attempting for anything remarkable to appear.

And sometimes it does, but there are a lot of dull parts to trudge through to get to them.

The Plot?

Ross has zero personality and is really quite stupid. Lisa has a good head on her shoulders, but the situations she’s in aren’t that engaging, despite how bat-guano-crazy they seem. Don’t expect any fun between Lisa and Ross; they’re separated for almost the entire book. Yup, this is a romance novel, just one without any romance.

The best thing about This Ravaged Heart is Lavinia. In her early 40’s, Lavinia is Ross’s aunt, who is engaged to her brother-in-law, Ross’s father. However, she hungers for her nephew, Ross–and shockingly, it’s revealed she is actually his mother!

Her twin sister was unable to conceive, so Lavinia switched places with her. She slept with her sister’s husband and gave birth to Ross in secret while the wife pretended to be pregnant.

And Lavinia’s a witch. Not just any old witch, but one in league with Satan’s minions, a witch who engages in sexual romps with other local witches, and has the devil’s demon, Ledion, lusting after her for hot demonic sex. Her lack of remorse for her evil deeds and incestuous love, her unwillingness to surrender in the face of failure, and her tireless efforts to get what she wants, made Lavinia the star of the show.

Lavinia plots to get rid of Lisa and does so in a completely unexpected way. Lisa is retro-incarnated back to England in the 1660s into the body of a dying blonde. Lisa awakens to a confusing world that her post-Enlightenment, Industrial-Age mind has trouble accepting.

Then Lisa is raped various times by wicked men, makes some friends and loses them, is jailed for murder, and becomes a witch so that she can get back to her beloved (but absolutely boring) Ross.

Sounds exciting, right?

My Opinion

Well, it’s okay, but not great.

Plus, the last third of this book really draaaaagsss. Thank the Devil for Lavinia’s malicious, murderous and incestuous shenanigans. She knows how to get what she wants.

He had adored her, reveling in her body, in her movements, unable to control his passion. She laughed…a man half her age, in the prime of his youth and in one hour she had worn him down to the brink of exhaustion. It was fantastic, too beautifully barbarous to be believed. Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

THIS RAVAGED HEART

It’s so freaking sick, but that’s Lavinia.

Warning to Book Collectors About the Paperbacks

Sidenote: These 40-year-old Playboy books were made of really crappy material. My edition looked as if was in good condition but literally disintegrated in my hands: falling apart, piece by piece, the glue cracking in the spine, the cover chipping and tearing until it fell off completely.

Even my old Zebras have withstood the test of time and various re-reads with ease.

Fortunately, I had 3 extra copies of this “romance “(don’t ask me how or why!). This Ravaged Heart is notable for being one of the first romance novels to have a full-stretch cover clinch instead of a smaller image centered in the middle.

Either Barbara Riefe ‘ripper or Kathleen E. WoodiwissShanna was the first to have this style. Both novels were published in 1977. In my opinion, Betty Maxey‘s artwork isn’t as memorable as H. Tom Hall‘s illustration.

Final Analysis of This Ravaged Heart

So This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe is the first in a series of three novels. Which I have to read since I own them. Although I’m not feeling compelled to do so anytime soon. Alan–that is, Barbara–may have gotten the WTF factor of bodice rippers right. But there are no romantic elements or engaging leads to draw me in.

This was supporting character Lavinia’s book to shine. The main characters blew.

Still, I had to give this an overall positive rating. If not for the romance, just for Lavinia’s wicked, son-loving heart, with her ridiculous Satan-worshipping, witchy antics, and of course, her cat, Mody, who was all kinds of awesome.

3 Stars

Rating Report
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Steam
2
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis:

Lisa Allworth Dandridge, a young English bride, came to America as mistress to a vast shipping fortune. Desperately in love, she and her dashing husband, Ross, never dreamed that they would soon be parted by malevolent forces beyond their control.

A powerful story of one woman’s tender love and another’s overwhelming jealousies. Their struggle for the same man sweeps across continents and across time – from the 19th century world of aristocratic splendor to plague-ridden London; from the heights of passion to the darkest pits of hell. It is a magnificent novel of star-crossed lovers caught in a web of horror.

THIS RAVAGED HEART by BARBARA RIEFE

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