Category: Contemporary/Category Romance Authors

Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather

Sirocco
Sirocco, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1983, Len Goldberg cover art

Harlequin Presents #683

Mild Spoilers 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to. In this category romance, Sirocco, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.

The Stalker vs. the User

One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).

Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.

Seriously.

If it’s not him, he has his “people” trail her. Alexis finds out where Rachel lives, works, and that she’s currently engaged to a wealthy man, Roger what’s-his-name, a spoiled mama’s boy who uses the heroine for his own selfish desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald

Bride at Whangatapu, Robyn Donald, Harlequin, 1977, Craig cover art

Harlequin #232

From the back of the book:

Nothing has changed,” Fiona said in desperation. “Jonathan is my son.

Fiona had had five years to think about her youthful folly–five years to remember Logan Sutherland’s treatment of her. Now, a whim of fate had brought them together again, and he laid claim to the son he hadn’t known existed.

Well, for Jonathan’s sake she would marry this cool, calculating stranger as he demanded. But she would never be his wife!

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Bride at Whangatapu includes the hallmark of almost every one of Robyn Donald’s books, as it intimately details the natural environment of New Zealand. Whether her books were set on a sheep station, on a yacht in the Pacific, or just a tropical backdrop, you could see the bright green grass, feel the ocean spray on your face or smell the hibiscus blossoms (which don’t even have much a scent, do they?).

Also present, Robyn Donald’s first published book is the other hallmark of her writing: an ultra-jerky hero who bullies his way over the heroine. Right from chapter one, when Logan finds that Fiona was the mother of his son who resulted from a one-night stand many years ago, he demands she marry him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald”

Category Romance Review: No Gentle Possession by Anne Mather

nogentlepossessionalt
No Gentle Possession, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1980, Don Sinclair cover art

Harlequin Presents #105

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Anne Mather‘s No Gentle Possession consists of two plot points she’s employed many times in her works like Stormspell: separated lovers and cheating.

The Plot

Well, in this book, it wasn’t so much a case of separated lovers as two people who briefly dated in the past. The heroine broke it off with the hero when she thought his relationship with his young stepmother was a bit too close for comfort and creepy.

Karen Sinclair likes her life just how it is. She has a job and a boyfriend and lives in a nice little town. Sure she’s not wealthy like some other families in town, but she’s happy. What more could she ask for? To her shock and dismay, she meets up again with Alexis Whitney, a man from a well-heeled family she’d been involved with years earlier and never forgot. For Alexis, however, their relationship hadn’t been significant (they didn’t have sex), so he doesn’t even remember Karen.

Karen’s pride is a bit wounded, although she tries to put on a brave face.

... Read more “Category Romance Review: No Gentle Possession by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow by Carole Mortimer

Cherish Tomorrow, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1985, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents # 804

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

What can I say about Carole Mortimer’s Trust in Tomorrow (originally published as Cherish Tomorrow in the US & Canada)? Sadly, that I wasn’t really feeling this one. The romance aspect of the book was fine, kind of adorable, actually, with a very young heroine, Chelsea, in pursuit of the much older hero, Lucas. She knows she wants her man and is willing to fight for him. I really wish Chelsea and Lucas could have had a better plot to go along with their romance. The romance was fine, but it was the story that had me going, huh?

The Plot

Chelsea’s mother has just suddenly died, and since her father is a famous tv celebrity, he dispatches her from California to England to get away from the press. He sends her to stay with Lucas, an old family friend Chelsea hasn’t known since she was 12 and he was 27 when she had a HUGE crush on him. Creepy, but whatever. Since they haven’t seen each other in years, neither recognizes the other. So this leads to a bit of a misunderstanding that’s quickly cleared up.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow by Carole Mortimer”

Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather

The Waterfalls of the Moon, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1973, Don Sinclair cover art

Harlequin Presents #112

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Spoiled Anti-Heroine

In Anne Mather’s The Waterfalls of the Moon (I love the old Harlequin Presents titles), the teenaged heroine is in pursuit of a much older man, but the hero’s not taking the San-Quentin tail so easily.

I can’t say many of Anne Mather’s works number among my all-time favorites, but, for the most part, I had a good time reading them. She could make unlikeable heroines that were somehow fascinating, and Ruth is one of them. She’s a spoiled teen, rich beyond reason, bored, and chases after Patrick with a cold calculation.

All you have to do is change record players to iPhones (although record players have made a huge comeback) and there’s no difference between this shallow youth’s mega-rich lifestyle and that of the pampered princesses of Bravo & MTV reality TV. She parties, she lunches, she shops, she dates…casually. As this is a 1970’s era Harlequin, Ruth is not sexually experienced.

She is, however, quite cunning, and when circumstances lead to Patrick getting black-out drunk they’re together, she takes advantage of the situation to suit her desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

Mansion for My Love, Robyn Donald, Harlequin 1990, Len Goldberg cover art

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

MANSION FOR MY LOVE

Harlequin Presents #567

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Book to Review

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are the average reads, which make for a pleasant way to pass the time but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald”

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

Moon Witch, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1970, Don Stivers cover art

Harlequin Presents #38

He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…

MOON WITCH

3 ½ stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

Around the time I read Anne Mather’s Moon Witch, I caught up with “That 70’s Show” on Netflix. I refuse to watch the final season, as that show just devolved into wretchedness. However, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining with its retro 1970s shtick: a group of teens just hanging out, falling in love, and being stupid. Back then, my 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something of myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 – 18 year-olds are dumb-asses.

What the heck does any of this babble have to do with Anne Mather’s Moon Witch? Well, “That 70’s Show” depicted Mid-western American teens doing what normal dumb-ass teens do: obsess over sex, TV, drugs, candy, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

askingfortrouble
Harlequin Presents #1614
2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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 Miranda Lee’s Asking for Trouble, we see a familiar Lee storyline: a sexually inexperienced woman who ironically looks like sex on legs and a hero who’s been burned in the past by a bad relationship and 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 gets pregnant, and that magically solves everything.

Of course, this is a Harlequin Presents, and 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 a writer for a while so that when I read a new book, I’d appreciate it more.

Final Analysis of Asking for Trouble

If I had read this one ten years ago, this would have new and exciting to me, and it would have merited a 4. This isn’t a bad book, but since 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.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee”

Category Romance Review: Shattered Dreams by Sally Wentworth

Shattered Dreams, Sally Wentworth, Harlequin, 1983, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #629

1 1/stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Of course, [the heroine] is a virgin, but [the hero] accuses her of being the sluttiest slut who ever did slut.

-From review of Shattered Dreams

Sally Wentworth’s Shattered Dreams is terrible, for all the wrong reasons, although I’ve read books where far worse events occur to the heroine. Take the bodice ripper great, Stormfire, for example. However, in this Harlequin Presents what the hero does to the heroine seems more repulsive, perhaps due to its condensed nature. Where thick historical romances like Stormfire have 400-500+ pages to deal with insane heroes and their co-dependent heroines, a category romance is limited to 60,000-70,000 words. The craziness level can only be ratcheted up so far before the hero becomes irredeemable.

The Crazy Plot

Sally Wentworth always wrote very well, her prose attentive and skillful, but this one was truly bizarre. Kate is happy as a bride can be on her wedding day, as she’s marrying Hugo, the man she loves. Little does she know what her marriage holds in store for her. For Hugo has had a private detective tailing his nubile young wife and he’s found out startling information: over the past year, she’s been living with some strange man while playing the wealthy Hugo for a fool!... Read more “Category Romance Review: Shattered Dreams by Sally Wentworth”

Sweet Savage Flame Podcast

Valerie Parv

Australian author Valerie Parv recently passed away at the end of April, joining her fellow Harlequin/Mills and Boon colleague, Emma Darcy, who passed away late last December. Combined, these two women accounted for over 100 million books sold worldwide. Despite being gloabal phenomenons, their accomplishments did not receive the acclaim they deserved.

At our Sweet Savage Flame Podcast, we honor the memory of these two romance legends, Valerie Parv and Emma Darcy.

The podcast can be accessed at the site below, or on Spotify, Google, and many other forms:

WordPress Podcast Site

Valerie Parv 1950-2021

Emma Darcy 1940-2020

Category Romance Review: Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer

Darkness into Light, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1986, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Presents #892
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

She decided at the beginning of their relationship that she would only take what he wanted to give, but she wouldn’t be treated as a sex object, only accepted as an equal in his bed.

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT

Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer is one of those category romances you must read in a comfy chair, because you’ll want to settle down for the next couple of hours to enjoy the book in one sitting.

The Plot

Danny is the head gardener of Sutherland Estates and has yet to meet her wealthy, reclusive boss. Then, late one night, while mowing the lawn to relax (because bubble baths are so physically draining!), his hunky nephew Pierce shows up, dressed in a sexy, revealing bathing suit. Being a bit of a flirt, Danny invites herself over for a swim, and the sparks quickly fly between these polar opposites. Pierce is almost 40 years old and is the severe, stuffed-shirt type, while Danny is barely 21 and wears her heart on her sleeve.

There’s no doubt that Pierce is interested in what Danny appears to be offering, and he pursues her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer”

Belated Farewell to Emma Darcy

Farewell to a Talented Author

After writing my review for Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, I found out the sad news that she had passed away four months ago, on December 21, 2020, at the age of 80. Emma Darcy was a pseudonym for the husband-and-wife duo of Frank and Wendy Brennan.

Emma Darcy’s Life

Wendy was born in Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia, on November 28, 1940. She was a bright student and achieved success in college. She was the first female computer programmer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wendy and Frank married in 1964, and after having children, Wendy chose to leave the workforce and stay home to raise them. Frank was a businessman and a pharmacist.

Both were lovers of reading and they decided to join forces to write books together. Frank and Wendy wrote several books which they submitted to Mills and Boon. The legendary editor, Jacqui Bianchi, aka bodice-ripper author Teresa Denys, accepted their submissions but asked for them to be tweaked a bit before publication. In 1983, the couple released their first book as Emma Darcy, the Mills, and Boon/ Harlequin Presents Twisting Shadows.

Frank and Wendy wrote 45 books together before Frank passed away in 1995.... Read more “Belated Farewell to Emma Darcy”