Category Archives: Contemporary/Category Romance Authors

smoke in the wind len goldberg

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

category romance
Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1104
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

Your mileage may vary, as I have a weird penchant for these kinds of crazy stories–when they’re done right. Smoke in the Wind is one of them.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The reason this so-called hero didn’t detract from the story was the refreshingly capable heroine, Venetia Gamble (what a great name!), who had tons of fortitude. Alas, not enough for her to dump the porcine swine and get with a better man.

Venetia is a hot up-and-coming news reporter in New Zealand. Ryan Fraine, a famous documentary filmmaker, is in the Land of White Clouds looking to set up a new TV station. When these two high-powered professionals meet, the temperature is off the charts.

Venetia had been hurt in love before. At only 23, she has a failed marriage behind her. After getting pregnant at 17, her guardians–her aunt and uncle–forced her and her boyfriend into a shotgun wedding. The marriage ended not long after she miscarried the baby. Despite that, she and her ex-husband are on friendly terms.

Ryan is a bachelor who has pumped and dumped every Kiwi beauty from Cape Reinga to Wellington to Bluff. (Impressed with my geographical skills? It’s easy when you have the internet!) He’s a typical Robyn Donald hero, a sexist bigot sizzling with sensual intensity and irresistible to women.

Venetia is a well-adjusted human being, confident in her sexuality. Nevertheless, she’s wary of his “love ’em and leave ’em” reputation.

Ryan sizes up Venetia and thinks because she’s not a virgin: “She’s a very kinky girl/ The kind you don’t take home to mother…”

Venetia tells him she’s not into one-night stands, so Ryan translates that into: “She’s up for a steaming hot, quick fling.”

And Venetia can’t resist him. They’re at it every which way, and though Venetia is gaga for Ryan, our girl plays it cool.

The Plot

Part One

Venetia’s pretense of indifference fools Ryan. It turns out he’s a shallow guy for whom only surface-level appearances matter. Venetia’s relationship with Ryan turns dark when his true colors–fish belly white–begin to show.

He is looking for a wife, just not Venetia in that role. Our girl is perfect for bedroom fun, but she’ll never as the mother of his little Ryans and Ryanas.

You see, Mr. sex on legs has mommy issues as his mother was a businesswoman, i.e., a bad mother who had no time for babies, and his childhood left him traumatized. The dude has a deep-seated hatred towards working women, believing they make poor wives and mothers.

So he will be dumping Venetia in the near future. Very near.

Venetia is an orphan who had been raised by her traditionalist aunt and uncle and grew up with her younger cousin, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looks similar to Venetia but is the polar opposite in personality. She’s a “sweet” girl with no plans for an icky career, the kind a man like Ryan would take home to meet his family and be proud to call wife.

In actuality, Liz isn’t so sweet at all because when she comes with her family to visit Venetia and meets Ryan, she flutters her eyes at him in feigned innocence, and ball-brains Ryan falls for it. Within weeks, the two-timing scum sucker tells Venetia their “relationship” is over, and he’s marrying sweet Liz.

Venetia is left heartbroken–and pregnant. She quits her job and moves to Australia to live with her grandmother.

Venetia isn’t bitter with the hand she’s dealt. It is what it is.

“I won’t allow you to treat me as if I was an illness you can’ be vaccinated against, she said with an icy composure which hid her fear and despair.

“You won’t be able to stop me,” he said quietly, not bothering to mute the threat. “Because we both know I could take you on that kitchen table if I wanted to. And I do want to.”

Part Two

Years later, Elizabeth passes away. After a period of mourning, Venetia’s aunt and uncle let their beloved son-in-law know of his secret son with Venetia. Oh, yes, those two knew! Like their amoral dead daughter, they did everything to keep Ryan at their Liz’s side.

Ryan flies out to Australia to claim his child and reignite his relationship with Venetia.

In Australia, Venetia had been raising their son John and had a flourishing career as a novelist. When Ryan demands what’s his, she’s shaken but fights with all her iron will.

But Ryan will not be deterred. he knows their sexual bond was never severed and uses it to his benefit.

Despite his ruthless behavior, Ryan is self-aware, and his intense reactions toward Venetia stem from his inability to control his feelings for her. His marriage to Elizabeth wasn’t exactly what he wanted, even if he had thought it was. A man like Ryan thrived on passion, Elizabeth was just blech. Ryan married Liz because he saw her as a more idealized version of the sexually-secure working woman he rejected. Ryan’s strict standards for a partner stem from his unresolved mommy issues.

His desire–his love–for Venetia conflicts with all his self-imposed beliefs.

Meanwhile, Venetia’s grandmother is a supportive and wise character who adds depth to the story and provides a voice of reason amidst the chaos.

There’s a scene where Venetia bump into her ex at a dance, and they spend a pleasant time together, making me think, “Wouldn’t it have been a nice twist if she ended up with him?”

But no, Ryan is too vital a force to be ignored. One issue I had is Ryan never really expresses regret for his marriage to Liz. She was not emotionally deep, but she was genuine in her love for him, so he was content to have made her happy for a few years. (This made me want to throw an egg at Ryan, but almost 50 cents an egg right now, I wouldn’t waste valuable protein for a smeg head like him.)

Ryan’s cruelty towards the vulnerable Venetia is both riveting and gut-wrenching. Venetia is a fearless and determined woman who refuses to let Ryan break her spirit… Even as he captures her in the end. So, it’s mostly a happy ending, right?

In the end, Ryan acknowledges his feelings for Venetia, that he loves her. He fought against it because of inhibitions and childhood trauma.

“You wear your independence like a banner. I like to look at you and know that I can kiss you free of it any time I want to. It’s like owning my own small falcon that comes only to my hand, and gives up her freedom only for me.”

Final Analysis of Smoke in the Wind

Smoke in the Wind is a terrible romance but a riveting read that will leave you breathless. Ryan is par-for-the-course as far as Robyn Donald’s heroes go. (Okay, maybe one of her top 5 worst heroes. She really knew how to write a lot of dickhead male main characters.)

The dominant/submissive dynamic between Ryan and Venetia is both intense and fascinating. Venetia is strong and resilient, overcoming her traumatic past and standing up for herself. The plot is well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me engaged, even as I despised Ryan.

It’s Venetia who makes this Harlequin Presents shine. Ryan is both vicious and self-aware, reflecting the depth of his inner turmoil. Despite his porcine nature, he is a well-written, complicated, and intriguing character.

Ryan and Venetia’s sexual relationship is as extreme as the muted BD/SM powerplay in Harlequins can be, a dominant/submissive one, with Ryan exerting his control over Venetia.

Smoke in the Wind is a roller coaster ride of emotions, with a heroine who is capable and determined to overcome the challenges life throws at her. Despite Ryan’s cruel actions, Venetia refuses to be a victim and rises above the situation, proving that the heart can survive enormous pain.

Overall, Smoke in the Wind is a must-read for fans of intense, passionate romance. The multi-faceted characters, thrilling plot, and nail-biting drama make this an HPLandia stand out.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

Her response to him was frightening… Venetia Gamble had felt desire before. The result? Such a disastrous marriage that she felt she wanted never to experience desire again. And she hadn’t–until now. Ryan Fraine, famous documentary filmmaker, was in New Zealand to set up a new television station.

From the moment they met, Venetia, herself a TV reporter, knew this man could make her suffer as she never had before. So she shied away from his blazing sensuality. Yet there was something else, something in the very core of her soul that wouldn’t permit escape…. 

SMOKE IN THE WIND by ROBYN DONALD

Author Spotlight: Nora Roberts

nora roberts

The Best Selling Romance Author Alive

Anyone familiar with the romance genre knows about Nora Roberts. She is the best-selling author of romance novels alive. Roberts has been at the top for a long time, as Barbara Cartland–who sold over 1 billion books–has been deceased for almost twenty years.

She started out writing short series romance, then branched out into single-title works of fiction, then exploded on the futuristic scene with her “In Death” series.

Roberts writes as J.D. Robb for the aforementioned series. In addition, she has also written books under the pseudonyms Jill March and–in the U.K.–Sarah Hardesty.

promise me tomorrow

Nora Roberts: Early Life and Career

Superstar author Nora Roberts was born Eleanor Marie Robertson on October 10, 1950, in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was the youngest of five children.

After her Catholic school education, she married soon after high school. Roberts had two sons from that marriage which ended in divorce.

She worked briefly as a legal secretary. That would not be her calling, however. “I could type fast but couldn’t spell; I was the worst legal secretary ever,” Roberts has said.

After her sons were born, she stayed home and tried her hand at crafts.

A blizzard in February 1979 forced her hand to try another creative outlet. She was snowed in with a three and six-year-old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.

After achieving success as a category romance author, Roberts branched into other romance genres. Her skillfully writing and prodigious output would garner a massive following of fans.

Roberts met her second husband, Bruce Wilder when she hired him to build bookshelves. They were married in July 1985. Since then, they’ve expanded their home, traveled the world, and opened a bookstore together.

A Silhouette Sensation

Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born.

She was able to churn out several romantic manuscripts. Then she sent them out to publishers and was soundly rejected by most of them.

Roberts was famously rebuffed by Harlequin, Ltd, as they already had one American author in their stables: Janet Dailey. Dailey would eventually leave Harlequin and join Roberts to write for their rival, Silhouette, the Simon and Schuster imprint.

Decades later, Dailey would be involved in a plagiarism scandal, where she copied parts of Roberts’ works and passed them off as her own.

Nora Roberts’ first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981.

La Nora

The first writer inducted into the Romance Writer of America Hall of Fame, Nora Roberts, is known as the queen of romance fiction. She writes under other pen names, such as J.D. Robb. She is also known as “La Nora.”

Through the years, Nora has always been surrounded by men. Not only was she the youngest in her family, but she was also the only girl. She has raised two sons.

Thus having spent her life surrounded by men, Ms. Roberts has a reasonably good view of the workings of the male mind. This is a constant delight to her readers. She’s been quoted as saying, “It was a choice between figuring men out or running away screaming.”

Nora is a member of several writers’ groups and has won countless awards from her colleagues and the publishing industry. The New Yorker called her “America’s favorite novelist.”

“I know they say write what you know,” Roberts told a Publishers Weekly interviewer in 1998, “But I write about what I want to know.”

Indeed, her category romances rely less on realism and fully fleshed-out plots than on idealized characters and romanticized settings. Roberts views her works as appealing to readers on an emotional level. The books evoke feelings of first love, regrettable loss, and tender, fulfilling romance.

“That’s what people want to learn about,” the superstar author says.

once more with feeling nora roberts

Beyond Category Romance

After a decade of writing category romances, Nora Roberts released many single-issue full-length romance novels, from historicals to romantic suspense.

Then in 1995, using the pseudonym J.D. Robb, Roberts released Naked in Death. This was the first in a futuristic procedural series about police-woman Eve Dallas and the handsome Irish billionaire, Roarke.

The long-running series has been an astonishing success, with 67 books out so far.

naked in death nora roberts

Roberts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including HideawayUnder CurrentsCome SundownThe AwakeningLegacy, and The Becoming.

There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print with no end in sight.

nora roberts
once more with feeling nora roberts

Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

once more with feeling
Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Intimate Moments #2
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 250
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

The Book

Once More With Feeling is the second outing from the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. Nora Roberts‘ category romance tells the love story between two musicians, one a rising star and the other an established musician, who previously knew each other.

Now they must try to make beautiful music together again–literally. Only later does the situation take a turn for the metaphorical.

The Plot

Five years prior to the opening of Once More With Feeling, a teenaged, black-haired Raven Williams was a fledgling artist. (Just once, I’d like to read a book where a blonde or redhead has that name. Or a brunette or a blonde named Flame to subvert expectations.) Raven and a seasoned Irish-British musician named Brandon Carstairs garnered great success together before her star went on the ascendency.

Their working relationship had made it to the front pages of the gossip columns. Was there more to the two beautiful musicians than music? There was, but alas, it came to an abrupt end. Raven had kept herself at a distance from Brandon, and he was unwilling to put up with her reticence.

Heartbroken, Raven immersed herself in music, putting her career above love. Now Brandon has a gig to score a potential blockbuster musical film—and he wants Raven to co-write it with him.

I enjoyed watching Raven and Brandon’s new relationship unfold. Now in her mid-twenties, Raven was still a young woman but more sure of herself, although just as close-guarded. Brandon is a sexy character with longish back hair, blue-green eyes, and Irish-British charm (it seems Roberts has a type). However, he runs roughshod over Raven, vowing to break through her inner resolve.

Before these two can have their happy ending, there are big misunderstandings–because the characters refuse to say what they have to!–and the heroine has to rush to her dying mother’s bedside in a dramatic scene.

Back cover of Once More With Feeling, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1983, George H. Jones cover art.

Final Analysis of Once More With Feeling

Five years before the start of Once More with Feeling Brandon broke Raven’s heart when he left her. Now Brandon is back and asks her to co-write the music for an upcoming, much-anticipated movie. Can these two learn to trust and love again? 

Written in the early 1980s, this book feels like part of that era, especially with how cruel Brandon can be to Raven. Other readers may be more discriminating and have difficulty digesting the caveman antics of the “hero,” but not me.

One of my favorite moments in the book is near the conclusion when our couple finally reveals their feelings for one another, and they have this exchange:

“You can’t own me Brandon.”

A quick flash of fury shot into his eyes. “Damn it, I don’t want to own you, but I want you to belong to me. Don’t you know there’s a difference?”

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS

Once More With Feeling was a solid romance, although Nora Roberts is capable of much better. This was only Robert’s 13th book, which sounds like a big deal. Considering that she’s written hundreds, it’s obviously created in the formative years of her career. Roberts’ writing has gotten sharper with age.

I had a fun time with Once More With Feeling, even if it was flawed in some respects. The heroine was a tad weak-willed, and the hero was too bossy.

This could have been lackluster in the hands of a less skillful author. One never knows how the wind will blow with a new series or writer.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with Raven and Brandon’s love story. Roberts always had the instinct to be a superb writer. She simply needed time to perfect her craft.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis:

THEIR SONGS AND THEIR PASSION WOULD ELECTRIFY A WAITING WORLD.

RAVEN WILLIAMS was a singer who had an overwhelming need to love and be loved, and whose voice had catapulted her to fame.

BRANDON CARSTAIRS was a musician in whom the charming Irish dreamer warred with a practical British reserve.

The music they made together was exciting, disturbing, erotic. Soon it would reach a dangerous crescendo.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS

Poll: Favorite Romance Author (Contemporary or Series)

favorite romance author

Choose Your Favorite Writer of Contemporary Romances

Who is your favorite romance author of old-school, vintage, or retro-contemporary novels? Whether series or full-length romance, Sweet Savage Flame wants to hear your choice!

Vote for any of the authors in the poll listed below. If your choice isn’t on the list, vote for “OTHER” and leave your pick in the comments.

We’ll place this poll in the sidebar so if you can’t decide now, think about it, and then come back to vote.

We can’t wait to hear who your favorites are!

movies based on books

Movies Based on Romance Novels, Part II: Best-Selling Authors

movies based on books

Harlequin Romance Movies

We’ve found more movies based on romance novels. These are adapted from bestselling bookd in the 1980s.

By the mid-1970s, the romance genre was hot, from historical romances to family sagas to Gothics to category romances.

It was no surprise when Hollywood would come knocking at the door. Despite the vast number of romance novels written and sold, surprisingly few of them were adapted to the screen.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, there would be a smattering of romance novels turned into movies, from Harlequin, Pocket Books, and other publishers.

Leopard in the Snow by Anne Mather, 1974

The Book

Mildred Grieves, better known to romance readers as Anne Mather, was Harlequin’s best-selling author in the 1970s. Her Harlequin Presents novels were fresh, exciting, and sensual.

Her 1974 romance, Leopard In the Snow, was a hit with readers. It has been republished several times and was–at one point–available on Kindle, although it doesn’t appear to be so now. The original edition of this book is highly prized, hard to find, and expensive if you do.

leopardinsnow
Leopard in the Snow, Anne Mather, Harlequin, Don Sinclair art

The Plot

Helen simply couldn’t believe her eyes when, stranded in the snow in the wilds of Cumberland, she found herself confronted by a leopard! But luckily it was a tame one, and its owner, the mysterious Dominic Lyall, was able to offer Helen shelter in his house.

Soon, however, the situation turned into a nightmare as she realized that he intended to keep her there, virtually a prisoner – and no one had any idea where to start searching for her! How could she get away? And, as time went by, did she want to get away?

Yet she was only too well aware that if Dominic did decide to let her go, it would only be because he wanted to get rid of her for good…

Leopard In the Snow by Anne Mather
harlequin romance movie
Leopard in the Snow, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1974, cover artist unknown

The Film

This Harlequin Presents romance was made into a 1978 romance movie starring Keir Dullea, star of 2001, A Space Odyssey, and Susan Penhaligon.

harlequin romance movies
Leopard in the Snow, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1978, movie-tie edition

The film wasn’t very profitable and garnered mixed reviews. It would be a long while before Harlequin romance movies would hit the screens again.

You can watch Leopard In the Snow on YouTube.

Leopard in the Snow, film

Janet Dailey Romances Made Into Films

English-born Anne Mather sold millions of books worldwide for Harlequin. She had an American counterpart in Janet Dailey. By the end of the 1970s, Dailey was Harlequin’s only American writer and an extremely popular one.

After producing more than 50 books with Harlequin, Dailey signed a massive deal with Simon & Schuster to write category and full-length romances for their Pocket Books Division and new Silhouette imprint.

She and her husband Bill developed a movie studio of their own, Ramblin’ Films, to produce their own films.

Foxfire Light by Janet Dailey, 1983

The Book

Janet Dailey‘s Silhouette Special Edition #36, Foxfire Light, was from 1982 and was the Daileys’ first foray into filmmaking.

foxfire light
Foxfire Light, Janet Dailey, Silhouette Special Edition #36, 1982, cover artist unknown

The Plot

The original Special Edition version is hard to find, but the book is available on Kindle.

BUY FOXFIRE LIGHT

foxfire light
Foxfire Light, Janet Dailey, Kindle version

The Film

In the wooded Ozark hills Joanna met proud-hearted Linc Wilder. His gold-flecked eyes mocked her, his country-born spirit clashed with her city-wise ways. His lean body challenged her, sparking her senses till Joanna was as sweetly glowing as the foxfire that lit their nights.

This was no will-o’-the-wisp, to slip away in the dark, but a bright and shining love to show the way into tomorrow.

FOXFIRE LIGHT by JANET DAILEY

This was the Daileys production company’s only romantic adaptation to film. The movie came out in 1983 and was neither a commercial nor a critical success.

It starred Leslie Morgan and Tippi Hedren as the heroine’s parents and Faye Grant and Barry van Dyke as the young lovers.

foxfire light movie poster
Foxfire Light, 1983 Movie Poster

Ride the Thunder (aka When a Spider Bites) by Janet Dailey, 1980

The Book

A decade after the release of Foxfire Light, the Daileys would have another of Janet’s books transferred to the big screen. This time, it was one of her full-length novels, Pocket Books’ Ride the Thunder. Bill Dailey acted as an Executive Producer.

ride the thunder cover
ride the thunder
Ride the Thunder, Janet Dailey, Pocket Books, 1980, George H. Jones cover art

Ride the Thunder is still available on the Kindle version. If you can get your hands on the original copy, it is a collector’s item, as it’s one of the first stepback romances.

Buy Ride the Thunder

The Plot

From the Driving Power of Manhattan’s Penthouses to the High, Wild Beauty of Idaho’s Mountains, a Love Story That Rides the Thunder!

Jordanna Smith was the wild and willowy daughter of a prominent banker and a glamorous socialite, a globe-trotting huntress who sought the world’s big game at her father’s side. No man was her father’s equal in her eyes–until the night she met the rugged stranger who, in one frenzied and exalted moment, tapped the roots of a desire she had never known.

Fleeing to Idaho to join her father’s hunting party, she hoped to forget the bronzed stranger’s fiery touch. But there he was — her stranger, their guide, Brig McCord.

Their days were filled with the wild beauty of the hunt, their nights with the primitive fire of their passion. But soon their idyll was shattered by jealousy, betrayal and murder.

Now Jordanna would have to face the hidden truths about her father and her brother, and a secret that already had claimed one life and threatened to destroy her newfound love.

Ride the Thunder by Janet Dailey

The Film

The title was changed from Ride the Thunder to When a Spider Bites to make the film sound less pornographic, more suspenseful.

When A Spider Bites had a small budget of $350,000. The film starred Andrew Lamond as Brig McCord and Sharon Young as Jordanna ‘Dannie’ Smith. It was released in 1993.

janet dailey movie
When a Spider Bites, Movie Poster, 1993

When Jordanna Smith accepts an invitation to accompany her father & three others on a hunting trip into the Idaho mountains, she doesn’t know the trip will lead to both romance & murder – & that the motive for each will be revenge.

WHEN A SPIDER BITES, IMDB

Movie Based on a Lavyrle Spencer Romance

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer, 1989

The Book

LaVyrle Spencer’s 1989 romance novel, Morning Glory, is a romance about:

The book is available on Kindle, but the original Jove edition with the James Griffin stepback is also a collector’s copy.

Buy Morning Glory

morning-glory-outside
morning glory griffin
Morning Glory, LaVyrle Spencer, Jove, 1989, James Griffin cover art

The Plot

LOVE IN A STRANGER’S EYES…
ELLY
In town, they called her “Crazy Widow Dinsmore.” But Elly was no stranger to their ridicule–she had been an outsider all her life, growing up in a boarded-up old house under the strict eye of her eccentric grandparents. Now she was all alone, with two little boys to raise, and a third child on the way.
WILL
He drifted into Whitney, Georgia, one lazy afternoon in the summer of 1941, hoping to put his lonely past behind him. He yearned for the tenderness he had never known, the home he’d never had. All he needed was for someone to give him a chance.
Then he saw her classified ad: WANTED–A husband. When he stepped across Elly Dinsmore’s cluttered yard, Will Parker knew he had come home at last … 

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

The Film

Morning Glory was made into a film in 1993, starring Christopher Reeve as Will Parker and Deborah Raffin as Elly Dinsmore. Although it was not a box office hit by any means, it received some critical acclaim.

The movie has gone on to be an appreciated romance classic.

morning glory movie

You can watch Morning Glory on Youtube:

Your Opinion

Have you seen any of these movies based on romance novels? Have you read the original books? Let us know!

Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

Author-spotlight-VAUGHAN

Author Spotlight: Robert Vaughan

Author-spotlight-VAUGHAN

A Romance King (and Queen)

Robert Vaughan, An Author with Many Names

Robert Vaughan isn’t a household name as a romance writer. You might be surprised to learn that in the 20th century he sold tens of millions of books. However, as he used dozens of pseudonyms, many readers do not know who he is.

His pen names include Paula Fairman, K.C. McKenna, Paula Moore, Fancy DeWitt, Patricia Matthews, Jonathon Scofield, Lee Davis Willoughby, Kit Dalton, and Sara Luck.

Vaughan has written more than 300 to 400 books using 30 to 40 aliases.

He has penned various genres of fiction, including romance, action-adventure, military, and westerns.

Robert Vaughan Paula Fairman

Early Life and Military Career

Robert Vaughan was born in 1937 in Morley, Missouri, and raised in Sikeston, Missouri. His father served in the military. Robert followed in his father’s tracks in the late 1950s, entering Army Aviation. 

He served a distinguished career in the US Army as a soldier for 23 years. He had tours in Korea and Germany and three combat tours in Vietnam.

Vaughan would participate in the atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in 1957.

He engaged in the civil-rights deployment of James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi. Vaughan was stationed to Homestead AFB as part of the potential invasion force during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Vaughan received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and other medals.

During his military career, his creative talents came to the forefront. Vaughan wrote training manuals for the US Army and was the recipient of the Most Outstanding Military Writer six times. 

robert vaughan

A Journeyman Author Begins His Travels

Vaughan sold his first book when he was 19. It was a story of the US Army along the DMZ in Korea.

After Vaughan was discharged from the Army, he began his prolific writing career in earnest. He worked in almost every genre.

Sometimes he would publish under his real name, write under a pseudonym, or he would ghostwrite for other authors.

brandywine's war

Paula Fairman & Paula Moore

Under various pen names, including “Paula Moore” and “Paula Fairman,” Vaughan wrote romance novels that were extremely popular at the time they were written.

In 1977 Paula Fairman achieved massive sales with two bodice rippers, Forbidden Destiny and In Savage Splendor.

The books sold millions of copies for Pinnacle, who published many successful historical romances in the 1970s.

When Paul Fairman–the real Paula–passed away late that year, he left behind one unfinished manuscript. Robert Vaughan stepped in to continue writing as Paula Fairman.

He wrote a dozen more Paula Fairman bestsellers from 1978 to 1991.

southern ros solie

Some of those books would be republished in the 21st century under the name Fancy Dewitt.

As Paula Moore, Vaughan also authored historical, contemporary, and Gothic romances.

Patricia Matthews

Patricia Matthews was another best-selling Pinnacle author. The publisher even labeled her as “America’s First Lady of Historical Romance.” Matthews earned many awards, and her books sold millions of copies.

Patricia Matthews was–ostensibly–the working name of the husband and wife team, Patricia Klein Ernst Brisco Matthews & Clayton Matthews. Patricia also wrote under the pseudonyms of P.A. Brisco, Patty Brisco, Pat A. Brisco, Pat Brisco, Laura Wylie, and Denise Matthews with a friend.

Clayton passed away in 2004, and Patricia followed him in 2006.

However, Robert Vaughan is on record claiming to be the author of at least two of Matthews’ novels, Love’s Bold Journey (1980) and Love’s Sweet Agony (1980):

“I wrote [them] as Patricia Matthews, made number one on the list. In 1981, I sold 6 million books. In my lifetime, I have probably sold 40 million books, but nobody knows who I am.

ROBERT VAUGHAN
love's bold journey

All the Work, But Little Credit

Vaughan has been candid about being the creator of two dozen bestselling romances from the 1970s into the 1990s, including the aforementioned Matthews novels.

“[T]wenty-three romance novels, writing as Paula Moore, Paula Fairman, and Patricia Matthews, total sales of over fifteen million copies. Two of these romance novels, Love’s Bold Journey and Love’s Sweet Agony, were number one on the NYT and PW bestseller lists.”  

ROBERT VAUGHAN

As a journeyman ghostwriter, Vaughan never owned the rights to those names. As a result, he never received his due acclaim for his success.

Other Works of Fiction by Robert Vaughan

Among his notable non-romance books are: Survival: A Novel of The Donner Party; Brandywine’s War; The Valkyrie Mandate; The Power and the Pride; Gravedancer; When Honor Dies; and The Broken Covenant.

Vaughan was very proud of his work for the novelization of the television miniseries, Andersonville.

robert vaughan

He won the 1977 Porgie Award (Best Paperback Original) for The Power and the Pride.

powerand the pride vaughan

Sara Luck

He and his wife, Ruth, collaborate on their writing projects. Of course, they write romance!

“My wife Ruth and I are co-writing romance novels as Sara Luck. 

“She’s actually quite good at it, and I’m proud of her. And though the Sara Luck books don’t have my name, Ruth and I at least own the name.”

ROBERT VAUGHAN

In the 2010s, Robert and Ruth co-wrote nine novels together.

sara luck

Life Today

Vaughan enjoys classical music and loves football, particularly college football. He also enjoys cooking and public speaking and will “accept invitations at the drop of a hat.”

He and his wife split their time living on the Alabama coast, residing in places all over the country, such as Oregon, Wyoming, and Chicago.

For many years Robert Vaughan taught the writing craft to many aspiring authors.

Although Vaughan has retired from the official speaking circuit, he is still active today.

Writing Legacy

A Pulitzer Prize nominee, Vaughan has won many prestigious writing awards. They include the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Golden Triangle Writers Club, the Best Novel of the Vietnam War from Canadian University Symposium, and the Porgie Award from West Coast Books.

He was named the Best Military Writer of the Year by Army Aviation Digest for six consecutive years. Vaughan was an on-air Television personality in Portsmouth, VA, and Phoenix, AZ. In addition, he has been a national military consultant for FOX NEWS and CNN.

Robert Vaughan was inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1998. His memoir, Random Thoughts of an Old Writer, was released in 2021 by Wolfpack Publishing.

Random Thoughts of an Old Writer

Robert Vaughan Covers

Your Opinion

Are you surprised to learn how prolific and successful a romance writer Robert Vaughan was? Have you read any Robert Vaughan romances?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

category romance
Mansion For My Love by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #567
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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.

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are 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.

And, last, there are books like Mansion for My Love. This kind of book splits readers every which way, the kind no matter what you feel, everyone can’t stop talking about.

mansion for my love robyn donald
Mansion For My Love, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Faine is a great heroine, charming, independent, and open to love. She meets Burke Harding and is drawn to his strong magnetic presence.

He pursues her with a cold determination, and against her better judgment, she finds herself head over heels for him.

But while Burke is interested in her, he keeps himself at a distance.

So when Burke proposes, Faine says yes, but strangely love is never mentioned.

Finally, Faine and Burke get married, and that’s where the drama starts. This all hinges on a gimmick:

Girl meets guy, he pursues her like crazy, she falls in love, they have a whirlwind wedding, and on their wedding day, she overhears the hero declare his love for his sister-in-law who’s married to his sick brother.

What a betrayal. How can the hero ever be redeemed?

There’s more. Done wrong, the heroine, Faine, runs away from Burke, who tracks her down, demands a real marriage, pretty much forces his way into her bed, and makes her mad with love and lust.

Then the brother dies. And there is still lots of drama to come! That’s quite a bit of romantic angst to pack into a 188-page book.

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

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

Robyn Donald was certainly an above-average writer for the HP line. Her works evoke vivid visions of their natural settings, her heroes written in a similar brutal & obsessive vein, her heroines fighting their inner struggles to submit to cruel passion.

Mansion For My Love is genre fiction that grips you in the gut. It’s a controversial romance among its fans and detractors. It’s always a book I’ll remember, if not the tiny details, then the way it made me feel.

The heroine is great. If she were a weak pushover type, this story wouldn’t be as strong. What Burke did was so wrong, not just one deed, but another followed by another. Faine didn’t deserve to be wronged, but at the end of the day, she chose to be with Burke.

Mansion For My Love leaves me with a ton of questions.

Why did Faine love him so much? Is Burke’s transformation at the end believable? Is she second-best or first in his heart? Can he be forgiven? Does he deserve to? So many unknowns!

Despite the middling rating, an average read it is not. Mansion For My Love is not an easy book to pin down. It inspires conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. I love this romance–and I hate it.

I don’t know if I could stomach ever reading this angsty “love story” again, but it holds a place on my keeper shelf.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

“He’s not a good man to fall in love with!”

Faine had not ignored the warning, but even without his wealth, charm and good looks, Burke Harding had magnetism.

His determined pursuit and assault on her heart soon overcame her wavering resistance. She agreed to marry him, but some deep instinct of self-preservation kept her from revealing her love–and in time her decision was vindicated.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you,” he told her when Faine discovered she was a stand-in for the woman he really loved–but could not have.

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
devil in silver room

Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

category romance
Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1973
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #5
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Violet Winspear certainly had sympathy for the Devil. Several of her book titles contain the words Demon, Lucifer, Satan, or Devil–including Harlequin Presents #5, Devil in a Silver Room.

It also features another male main character named Paul, like the hero from The Honey Is Bitter. This Paul is French, not Greek. And also, like The Honey Is Bitter, Devil In a Silver Room was reprinted many times over, proving that Winspear was a powerhouse writer for series romance.

There’s a good reason this Harlequin had so many reprints: it’s an enthralling, hypnotic love story that pulls you in from the moment the hero enters the story. And what a hero he is!

devil in a silver room violet winspear
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1973, cover artist unknown

The Set-Up

Five years before the Devil In a Silver Room opens, a teenaged Margo Jones had fallen for the wealthy, handsome, and carefree Michel Cassalis. Michel had only toyed with Margo’s heart; she was a brief fling to discard. Margo was an English au pair with no family, and Michel wen ton to marry a French lady from his own social class.

Now Michel is dead, having left behind a young son. His traumatized, grieving widow is confined to a wheelchair.

Because Margo still loves Michel, she cannot bear the thought of his child being alone. When she hears he requires an English nanny, she offers the Cassalis family her services. First, Margo meets Michel’s haughty mother, Madame Cassalis. Then Margo heads to the Cassilis family home, ominously named Satancourt.

As prickly as Madame is, she is nothing compared to Michel’s older brother, Paul. Upon Margo’s arrival in France, she meets the domineering Paul Cassalis. Sparks fly. Soon Michel will be a faint memory.

The Plot

Paul is like night to Michel’s day. Margo wonders how two men so different could have been brothers. Paul’s dark looks and menacing nature paradoxically intimidate and intrigues her.

Margo forms a strong bond with Desi, Michels son. In due time he becomes attached to the loving nanny.

But not all is well at Satancourt. People whisper rumors about Paul causing a girl’s death years ago. They say her ghost haunts the castle. Perhaps there are more deaths for which Paul is responsible?

And just what is Paul’s position at Satancourt? All the workers and residents treat Paul as their lord. But despite being the oldest male Cassalis, it is his young nephew who will rule the chateau one day.

devil in silver room
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1980 reprint, cover artist unknown

“I work the terraces, Miss Jones. I bring forth the champagne and the wine. I ensure that the chateau remains a perfect example of French architecture. I pay the wages of the workers. I give the orders and flourish the phantom whip, but I am only the caretaker of Satancourt and its cellar.”

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

Although Paul is a steward, he resonates with an aura of authority and power. He is a man who commands respect, no matter how low his station is. He reminded me of Felipe Tristan, the sigma-male hero from Teresa Denys‘ other masterpiece, The Flesh and the Devil. Although Paul is more of a leader than a lone-wolf type.

Margo is drawn to Paul’s demonic allure, even as she fights her desire. Her infatuation with Michel is supplanted with a more tremendous passion for his brother.

In the end, Paul reveals to Margo that his servile role at Satancourt is because he is not a true Cassalis. His mother was pregnant with another man’s child when she got married. So Monsieur Cassalis excluded Paul from his will. But still, Paul’s heart belongs to Satancourt.

Ultimately, he remains a humble vintner. Paul does not get the castle, but he does get the girl.

Suddenly all the loneliness was gone and she could surrender herself, her life, all her future, into the keeping of this man…not quite an angel, but not altogether a devil.

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

The Devil in a Silver Room is one of the best examples of a 1970s Harlequin romance novel that is erotic despite the lack of sex. There are plenty of passionate kisses–but no consummation.

The tone is deeply Gothic: from the chateau’s name to the dark, brooding hero to the heroine who flees from him even as she longs to submit to his deadly embrace.

It’s old-school in style and absolutely representative of its time.

Paul is autocratic and proud; Margo is dignified and strong-willed. She is a perfect match for him.

Devil in a Silver Room may be my favorite Violet Winspear yet.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

Margo Jones had loved Michel Cassalis, but her love had brought her only pain. Michel had married someone else.

Now, five years later. Michel was dead. And Margo was at the Cassalis’s remote French Chateau, Satancourt, to look after Michel’s small son. She wanted nothing to do with men, especially with Michel’s ruthless brother, Paul Cassalis.

But what if Paul wanted her? As master of Satancourt, would he exercise le droit de seigneur – the right of the master to take whatever he desired!

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
an outrageous proposal

Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

an outrageous proosal category romance
An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1737
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Miranda Lee’s An Outrageous Proposal is an outrageously sexy Harlequin Presents. This book was released as a Presents Plus, a special series within the regular Presents line that ran for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.

I gather that these books were written by the line’s best-selling authors. Initially, they were longer than the average Presents by about 20 pages. The covers were also colored and had individualized fonts for the authors’ names. By the time the last Presents Plus was published, the length no longer mattered, and the covers looked more or less like regular Presents.

The Characters

Laura had been happily married to Dirk Thornton. The only thing that would have made their marriage perfect was a baby. After years of vigorous efforts, however, the couple had trouble conceiving. Laura became so obsessed with her inability to have a child, leading to their marriage crumbling. After a vicious argument, Dirk left her.

Six months have passed, and it seems Dirk has spent no time grieving over the end of his marriage. The high-powered attorney is seen around Sydney’s flashy events with even more striking brunettes dangling on his arm.

When the book begins, Laura sees Dirk at the Opera House with one of those sexy ladies. Laura can’t help but feel jealous. She has never stopped loving her husband. It had been almost impossible to bear seeing Dirk flaunting his many women, and without the support of her former in-laws, Dirks’ brother, and his wife, she’d be lost.

The Plot

A Separated Couple

Laura realizes she wants her husband back and asks for reconciliation. Dirk is cruel and throws her offer back in her face. Did she really think he’d take her back so easily? If she wants him, she has a long line to wait behind.

Laura won’t be deterred. Then Dirk reveals to her that he’s sterile. There will never be any children for them. To his way of thinking, what’s the point of marriage if there can’t be children? Dirk proposes instead of reconciling, they engage in a no-strings affair.

Laura and Dirk do just that; this is where Miranda Lee shines. She excels at writing hot steamy scenes without delving into raunchiness.

Laura realizes that without Dirk, children don’t matter. She can live without offspring, but she can’t live without her husband!

So, holy moly, it’s a shock to the system when Laura finds out she’s pregnant!

The Reunited Lovers

Hold on to your horses because here is the revelation: Dirk was never sterile.

Moreover, all those women he’d paraded around town were part of a ruse to make Laura jealous to fight for her man. Dirk had read somewhere–perhaps on a paper placemat at a greasy spoon sometime in the wee hours of the night after a bender–that women have difficulty conceiving if they’re too obsessed with it.

Laura’s constant focus on having a baby was the very thing that prevented her from getting pregnant!

By removing that concept from the equation, Dirk knew Laura’s anxiety would subside, enabling them to engage in lots of steamy sex, and then… viola!

A miracle baby would solve all their problems.

Final Analysis of An Outrageous Proposal

Laura and Dirk, and the child will make a happy family. And Dirk no doubt will come up with another outlandish ruse in the future to keep his marriage satisfactorily kinky.

I absolutely cherished this oddball romance. It indeed had an outrageous proposal for a wild plot. I marvel at the craziness of Harlequin Presents’ stories. The best writers could sell the wackiness, making these little books such entertaining and addictive reads. Miranda Lee’s sensuous writing shines here in An Outrageous Proposal. By this time in her career, she had hit her stride.

1995 would be a prolific and productive time for the writer, as this was also the year she released her Hearts of Fire miniseries.

An Outrageous Proposal won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents Plus in 1995.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis:

Laura wasn’t surprised when she saw Dirk Thornton with a glamorous brunette: her estranged husband’s reputation as a womanizer was well-known to her. But she was shocked by her feelings for Dirk–they weren’t dead at all and, what was more, he knew it!

Soon Dirk, a top Sydney criminal lawyer, was pursuing her relentlessly, but Laura couldn’t forget that she’d been unable to conceive his child–which meant that there could be no future for them. Why then was she still tempted to accept Dirk’s simply outrageous proposal?

AN OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL by MIRANDA LEE
moon witch sinclair

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

anne mather category romance
Moon Witch by Anne Mather
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1970
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #38
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

SPOILER WARNING ⚠

The Book

Anne Mather‘s Moon Witch is an early Harlequin Presents that features a far-too-young heroine paired with a much older wealthy man who’s assigned to be her guardian after she is left orphaned.

Yeah, this sounds like a wholesome romance! /sarcasm

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

That 70’s Show

Around the time I read this, my (at the time) 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. I was then catching up with “That 70’s Show.” Although I refuse to watch the final season of the show, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining. I loved the retro 1970s shtick. A group of teens hang out, fall in love, and act stupidly.

Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something about myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 to 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 dumb-ass teens do: obsess over sex, TV, drugs, candy, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

What Does That Have to With the Price of Tea in England?

Neither being a teen in the ’70s nor being British, I can’t attest if that depiction is also accurate for average UK teens of that era. Still, I’m going out on a limb and ass-u-me that in rural 1970s England, dumb-ass 17-year-old kids were aware of their own existence

The barely post-adolescent heroine of Moon Witch is more than a dumb-ass, specifically because she has zero clue about life. And even less about love.

For full disclosure, I met my husband-to-be when I was 18. He was 22, and we were both dumb-asses. Somehow we’ve made it together for almost 25 years. So some dumb-ass kids can make the right decision when it comes to love.

anne mather romance

The Set-Up

Little Sara’s grandfather has just died. She’s a 17-year-old orphan who only finished her freaking O levels at school. Now she has no one. A cranky neighbor with 7 kids temporarily cares for her, but fortune is on its way to save our heroine from ending up on social services.

In his will, Sara’s grandfather left her guardianship to his former boss and CEO of Kyle Industries, Jarrod Kyle.

However, he didn’t specify exactly which Jarrod Kyle. So in a bizarre twist, Sara is made the ward of Jarrod Kyle Sr.’s son, Jarrod Kyle Jr., the new CEO.

Instead of being an old grandfatherly sort, this Jarrod is more of a fatherly sort as he’s only twice Sara’s age. He’s a silver-blond-haired, tanned, cheroot-smoking, sex-god who drives a Mercedes one day, a Ferrari the next, then a Rolls Royce on Sunday. Junior flies planes and sails his yacht. He has multiple girlfriends (who practically come to a catfight over him near the book’s denouement). Plus, he’s got an overbearing mommy who wants to run Jarrod’s love life. Good thing he ain’t listening to her.

The Plot

So that’s the setup. A sheltered, beautiful teen is made the legal ward of a 34/35-year-old playboy guardian.

Fortunately, Jarrod’s father, JK (as in Just Kidding about this nonsensical plot!), steps in and takes responsibility for Sara. Meanwhile, Jarrod galivants around the world, both for business and pleasure trips.

Moonwitch is not a love story of a middle-aged man paired up with a 20-year-old college student–who in the US might be too young to buy alcohol legally, but at least would be armed with some basic skills: how to drive a car, how to read a bank statement, how to type, or do some filing.

Sara is 17, and her only skill is how to ride a horse or a pony. Her favorite subjects in school are Art and English. She’s never had any feelings for a man before, no stolen kisses with boys, no harmless dates to the soda shop. She’s just a pink-cheeked little girl who looks nothing like the sophisticated auburn-haired beauty on the original cover.

The first time our hero lays eyes on the heroine, the chick is decked out in a sexy pinafore.

 photo sexy doll pinafore.jpg

The Crazy Plot Continues

There’s lots of hinting at the attraction between our leads. It comes full force when the kid, er heroine, starts dancing to some of her favorite tunes—hits from Sammy Davis, Dave Brubeck, & Dean Martin.

Mather could have gone with Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Rolling Stones, Elvis, or even freakin’ Tom Jones. Instead, she chose older adults’ music. Harlequin Presents were always anachronistic. No matter what decade they were written in, they were at least 15 years out of style.

(Side note: that’s a reason why I’m not too fond of the recent batch of Harlequin Presents. They abandoned the weird, old-timey fantasy setting in favor of some chick-lit/50 shades/new adult sex fusion. That is perfectly fine for just about every other contemporary romance, but not HPs! Harrumph to that, I say!)

So, anyhow, Sara’s alone, shaking her butt, dancing to the “latest” sexy beats. Then she turns around, and there he is: Jarrod, lusting after her.

Turning the volume up she allowed her own inhibitions to melt away, closing her eyes, and dancing with the same abandon she had seen teenagers on television adopt…Sara halted abruptly, conscious of the informality of her attire, the bare feet, and the damp untidy tangle of her hair. She switched off the radiogram, and for a moment the silence seemed as deafening as the music had been. 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…

As I said, wholesome, right?

The Thrilling Conclusion

Jarrod gives Sara a car. She starts driving lessons and gets to experience one measly party where all the boys her age are hot for her. Unfortunately, she gets pneumonia immediately afterward.

Thus Sara is out of commission, lying around doing nothing for the rest of the book until Jarrod decides to take her with him on a glamorous trip.

First to NYC for some wining and dining in the finest Manhattan restaurants, shopping trips, and carriage rides through Central Park.

Then it’s off to Jamaica to meet his disapproving mother.

Mather introduces another man into the story near the end: a rich, sexy friend of the hero who’s the same age as Jarrod. Sara rejects him, which confirms she truly knows her heart. Jarrod’s her only love, like 4-eva!

The pair share their first kiss a few pages from the end. Jarrod reminds Sara there is more to male-female sexual relations than just kissing.

To which Sara’s eyes open wide with awe and surprise. She must have been absent from school the day they taught Sex-Ed.

moon witch sinclair

My Opinion

I’ve read tons of historicals with 16, 17, and 18-year-old girls paired off with heroes in their mid-30s through early 40s. And I rarely ever am bothered by that. Historicals play by different rules.

Yet, in a contemporary romance, this is a fine line to walk. The plot should be approached with an understanding of the difficulty such a relationship faces. In Moon Witch, the older man/younger woman thing is… creepy. Even the hero knows it, so he spends half the book avoiding the heroine.

Admittedly, Anne Mather’s Moon Witch is not a “modern” contemporary. Plus, this is a Mills and Boon/ Harlequin Presents we’re talking about. This is as far away from real romance as Star Wars is to space travel and history, so eventually got on board. Despite my admitted prejudices, I ended up liking this book, even though it takes a while to get going.

Hey, if Courtney Stodden’s marriage is still going strong, [ETA: No, it’s not! They divorced in 2020.] then the readers of Moon Witch can hope that Sara and Jarrod will be happy together for many long years.

That is until Jarrod gets cancer 15-20 years later from all the smoking and tanning he does and leaves Sara a wealthy widow before she hits 40.

Anne Mather did not write Moon Witch in a psychologically intense way Charlotte Lamb would handle the older man-younger woman trope, as she did in the wonderful Temptation and Crescendo. But Anne Mather is no armchair psychologist.

Nevertheless, she did write some oddly entertaining books. She utilized plots involving large age differences, cheating (married or engaged), and evil mothers-in-law who try to break up the protagonists. Mather wrote many controversial romances. Moon Witch was one of them.

All-Time Favorite Best Seller

Moon Witch wasn’t just a hit with readers. For Harlequin, it was an “All-Time Favorite Best Seller.” 

moonwitch
9th printing
 photo Monnwithc back.jpg
All-Time Best Seller

My copy is the 9th printing since the original 1970 hardcover release. Who knows how many times it’s been reprinted or rereleased since 1982? 

 photo moonwitch ninth.jpg
Many Reprints

And of course, Moon Witch is now on Kindle for a new generation to enjoy!

moon with alt

Final Analysis of Moon Witch

Moon Witch reminded me of another book by Anne Mather, Stormspell. That was a full-length novel, with a similar older-man younger woman scenario, although without the guardianship-ward/ temporary daddy “ick” factor.

In that romance, the hero was a cheating sleaze who “initiated the heroine into womanhood” before leaving her to back to his fiancée. Still, the readers got to see inside the hero’s mind to understand him better. Except for his sexual attraction to Sara, Jarrod is inscrutable.

Also, in Stormspell, the heroine spread her wings a bit before she and the hero settled down. Sara got to live independently for a week before getting engaged.

Even so, I can see why Moon Witch appealed to the romance-loving masses.

Moon Witch, you are an awful book, straddling a fine line between romantic and pervy. I hate myself for liking you.

Gods above, forgive me, but I do.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis:

Jarrod guarded Sara even against himself.

Sara Robins had never even heard of Jarrod Kyle until he became her guardian. He was far removed from anyone Sara, at seventeen, had known in the small, quiet world she’d lived in until her grandfather’s death

Jarrod Kyle was just twice her age, handsome, rich, successful and surrounded by sophisticated women. Perhaps it was inevitable that Sara would fall in love with him.

But was it love or only a teenage crush? Whichever, Sara couldn’t imagine Jarrod’s returning her feelings!

MOON WITCH by ANNE MATHER

Borrow Moonwitch for free at Library Thing

passionate affair oakley

Category Romance Review: A Passionate Affair by Anne Mather

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

In Anne Mather’s A Passionate Affair, the heroine, Cassandra, is a widow whom the hero pursues fervently. Eventually, Cassandra realizes she desires him as much as he does her, so they engage in a…passionate affair.

For a Harlequin Presents from 1982 to pull this plot off was revolutionary. Before this book, lovemaking in this line had been restricted to married couples or “forced seductions” of initially unwilling virgins whose bodies “betrayed them.”

I had heard through the Romancelandia grapevine that Anne Weale’s  1983 release, Ecstasy, was the first HP where an unmarried heroine has a consensual, no-strings-attached fling with the hero. However, A Passionate Affair was published long before Weale’s book. So this book is technically the first to employ that revolutionary plot point. Ecstasy was the first where a virgin heroine practiced her autonomy to enter a sexual relationship.

The Characters

Cassandra’s first marriage was a disaster. Her husband, a race car driver, had enjoyed living on the edge, driving fast cars and seducing faster women. His antics were fodder for the tabloids. He’s dead now, and Cassandra has moved on in life. She does have a flourishing career and a normal sex drive. This was very refreshing to see in an old-school Harlequin Presents. Unfortunately, her unhappy marriage left deep insecurities. Cassandra’s doubts about herself prevent her from seeking relationships with men.

Enter Jay Ravek. Her life will never be after they meet.

A Passionate Affair, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 2014 reissue

The Plot

Jay and Cassandra encounter each other at a party. Their attraction is instantaneous and powerful. Jay chases after Cassandra, while she is hesitant to date him, as he has a reputation. Cassandra is all too familiar with that type of man he is. She is reluctant to give in to the attraction with a cold marriage behind her.

Despite her wariness, Jay’s charm melts through her icy demeanor. He’s handsome, funny, kind, and most of all, he wants her.

Cassandra and Jay embark on an amorous romance, throwing caution to the wind.

Their affair leads to an unexpected pregnancy. Fearing that Jay will abandon her, she flees, keeping her pregnancy a secret. It doesn’t help that her supposed best friend is whispering malicious gossip into her ears.

Cassandra runs away, yet Jay runs after her. He does much of the chasing in this romance. Her bad marriage left her with emotional issues. Even though Cassandra wants more than a short-term fling, she runs because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. Thank goodness Jay knows his own mind and is a man of integrity.

In the end, the villainy of the “friend” is revealed, and Jay expresses his love for Cassandra.

Final Analysis of A Passionate Affair

For all its radical plot, A Passionate Affair was still a typical Harlequin. The story was somewhat marred by a heroine who did not have the fortitude to follow through on her romantic wishes while listening to poisonous rumors. Rather than facing her fears head-on, she ran. And ran.

Jay, on the other hand, was a wonderful hero. He had all the characteristics that make up a great one. This was quite a deviation for Mather, whose heroes could be quite cruel and overbearing.

Despite the wishy-washy heroine, this was a solid romance. Anne Mather doesn’t usually awe me, but she rarely ever disappoints.

3.5 Stars


Synopsis:

“He’s quite famous—and notorious.”

Cassandra had been warned, and she didn’t care. After enduring a disastrous marriage, she was now ready for an affair with no strings attached.

But Jay Ravek was not like any man she’d known before. He was a totally new experience, and quickly she realized she wanted much more than a casual relationship.

If she was foolish enough to put her heart in his keeping, she might never recover. Better for her to run now than to suffer the inevitable anguish.

A Passionate Affair
woman hater palmer

Category Romance Review: Woman Hater by Diana Palmer

category romance
Woman Hater by Diana Palmer
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Romance #532
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Woman Hater by Diana Palmer

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Woman Hater (what a title!) by Diana Palmer is a 1987 Silhouette Romance that seems to be typical of the author’s style. The heroine is a young virgin, escaping from a tragic past. The hero is a macho, “alpha-male” who was also burned by the past. He is an unabashed “woman-hater.”

The Plot

Nicole White is a secretary at a prominent Chicago firm. She comes from a well-heeled family from Kentucky, blue-bloods to the core, plus cold and unloving. Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. Her father was a serial adulterer. When Nicole decided to cut contact with her family, her fiance dumped her. Then he got engaged to another prominent heiress, breaking Nicole’s heart in the process.

Distraught, Nicole has now moved to the big city to start over. Currently, her boss is suffering from an ulcer. The doctor recommends relaxation for a month. As he still has business matters to attend to, he requires the services of his secretary. So Nicole accompanies her boss to his family ranch in Montana.

There she meets Winthrop Christopher, her boss’s brother. Winthrop is a hairy-chested, cigarette-smoking cowboy stud who makes the virginal Nicole quiver with desire.

Regardless, he can’t deny his attraction to sweet Nicole. He pursues her even as he spurns her.

Years ago, Winthrop was in a car accident and almost lost his leg. His beautiful girlfriend summarily dumped him rather than deal with a disabled partner. Embittered by the past, Winthrop makes no bones about being a “woman-hater.”

Winthrop doesn’t trust women, and he knows Nicole has secrets. Her great sin? She denies her wealthy roots and lies to Winthrop when he asks her if she’s related to the wealthy Whites of Lexington. Winthrop and Nicole are drawn inexorably together, but when Winthrop discovers Nicole’s “treachery,” he dismisses her as having no honor, like all other women.

Will Winthrop realize that women–Nicole in particular–aren’t to be despised?

He groaned her name as he bent, his mouth so tender, so exquisitely gentle with hers that tears ran hotly down her cheeks. He was the world, and everything in it. She loved him so.

Final Analysis of Woman Hater

Woman Hater was my second foray into the world of Diana Palmer. I appreciated this one more than the other Palmer I read, Nelson’s Brand. The heroes in both books were manly caricatures who thought they ruled the roost. They kept their heroines at arm’s length, even as they lusted after them. Thankfully Winthrop wasn’t as emo as Gene Nelson. I can’t stand a whiny hero. Although Winthrop had his dark moments, overall, an allure about him made him intriguing.

Nicole’s issues with her family come to a head, and she deals with her insecurities. Of course, love wins out in the end. Together Winthrop and Nicole are healed through its power.

I wouldn’t consider Woman Hater exceptional, although it was a solid read. The emotional connection between the main characters was a nice touch. I can see why Palmer has millions of fans, using a tried and true formula that sells.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis:

Everyone in Nicole White’s office knew their boss’s mysterious older brother kept away from women at all costs. After being burned in the past, brooding Winthrop Christopher was now twice shy, to say the least. So when Nicole traveled to Winthrop’s Montana home, she was prepared for a standoffish host…and instead found the most intriguing man she’d ever met.

After his ex-fiancée left him high and dry, Winthrop refused to give any woman the time of day. Despite his determination to keep young Nicki at bay, however, this Montana man unexpectedly found himself desiring love again. Could Winthrop learn to put aside his deep-seated mistrust and learn to love the innocent beauty who stole his heart? 

WOMAN HATER by Diana Palmer
hard to get mortimer

Category Romance Review: Hard To Get by Carole Mortimer

Synopsis:

He seemed completely immune to her
Rich girl Lara Schofield had never met a man she couldn’t instantly captivate, and in fact she’d made a hobby of collecting hearts and breaking them while she remained personally uninvolved.

Until she encountered Jordan Sinclair. He was devastating, everything a woman could ask for. And he was utterly indifferent to Lara.

But what Lara wanted, Lara got, and she was determined to have Jordan Sinclair. Even if it meant playing with the potent fire of his passion, and playing with Jordan was very dangerous indeed….

HARD TO GET by CAROLE MORTIMER

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

Oh boy, when I read “the heroine in pursuit plot” synopsis for this Harlequin Presents, was I ever excited to read it. Heroines who are determined to get their men are my favorite kinds! Alas, when the object of said pursuit is a mean arsehole, the chase isn’t worth it. Still, Hard to Get by Carole Mortimer was a wild, emotional whirlwind. With a more charismatic hero, I could have loved this as opposed to liking it.

As with so many Presents, this is an utter trainwreck, so you can’t look away.

The Characters

Lara Sinclair, our heroine, is beautiful, rich, vain, and spoiled–the very opposite of a heroine. She’s a daddy’s little girl type. Lara’s used to getting what she wants with ease. All the boys want her. She flirts and trifles with their hearts, never giving what she knows is so easy to get.

At a party, she sees the hero, Jordan Sinclair, and decides she wants him as another toy to play with. She approaches him with supreme confidence just to be stunned with brutal dismissal.

The game is on, and Lara is more determined than ever to have him.

The Plot

Lara chases after Jordan only to be rebuffed at every turn. Even so, Jordan shows up in her life at parties and spends time with her wealthy father getting all buddy-buddy.

Lara overplays her hand with an unhinged guy who then attempts to rape her and Jordan saves her. He shows contempt for Lara, blaming her for what almost occurred.

Then Jordan does a 180 and decides he’s the man for her. But now she doesn’t want anything to do with him, so Jordan convinces Daddy-dear that it would be in Lara’s best interest to do so.

This is all a rather contrived way to get there, but the pair do go out. Before anything serious can occur, Jordan goes off on a business trip. However, it seems as if Jordan is still playing hard to get, as Lara hears he’s back in town, yet he hasn’t contacted her.

So Lara goes on a revenge date with the guy who previously tried to rape her, only to have Jordan show up and find her flirting like a drunken Scarlett O’Hara at a barbeque. So Harlequin’s logic entails that Jordan picks her up like a white knight and brings her to his home, before violating her. Jordan is horrified to find she’s a virgin. Lara is horrified, too, of course! It was rape, no euphemistic forced seduction here.

Despite this, when Jordan proposes Lara accepts–to her father’s delight. As a wedding present, Lara’s company shares will be transferred to Jordan. Lara and Jordan get married and embark on a loveless distant union. Too late, Lara discovers her love for Jordan. She also realizes she’s pregnant. Wisely, she doesn’t tell her husband, because Jordan reveals that the reason he married her was for revenge. His revelations as to who and why he’s seeking vengeance stun Lara, and she agrees to a divorce.

But you know there’s got to be a happy ending, in some over-the-top melodramatic way! There is, and these two insane people will find their way together in an unhealthy romance that will last a lifetime.

Final Analysis of Hard To Get

Carole Mortimer can make me enjoy some really wacky plots. Unfortunately, Jordan was too cold, which I usually enjoy as a trait in a hero. But he was also very cruel. There was little time to understand his motivations until the big revelation. And then it was too little, too late. I never warmed up to him.

Lara, on the other hand, grew as a character from a spoilt rich princess to a young woman of self-regard and control. I liked her and wished she got a better man.

Hard to Get was a heck of a ride, but it felt disjointed and uneven at times. The tug and pull of their relationship could give a reader whiplash. The so-called hero deserved an anvil to the head.

Still, it hits so many crazy buttons, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

3.62 Stars

for the love of sara don sinclair

Category Romance Review: For the Love of Sara by Anne Mather

Synopsis:

Rachel had tried to escape the torture of her thoughts and memories. She had loved Joel–loved him with all the wealth of tenderness and passion she possessed. He had taken her love and destroyed it… Now she heard Joel say, “I know what I always said. And I used to believe it, too. But not any longer. I’ve been a fool, Rachel. You don’t know how much of a fool.”

But it was too late; she couldn’t let herself believe him now.

For the Love of Sara

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book & Characters – For the Love of Sara

For the Love of Sara isn’t one of Anne Mather‘s bests. It features a rather unlikeable hero, which is par for the course for Mather. He’s named, pompously enough, Joel Kingdom. It doesn’t help that he’s a functioning alcoholic who keeps cans of beer in his glove compartment to help him deal with stress.

Plus, Joel has horrible fashion sense. He’s one of those cheroot-smoking males so prevalent in Mather’s books. He shows off his vintage 70’s wardrobe, wears silk shirts open down to his waist, revealing his hairy, medallioned chest. He decks out in maroon velvet tuxedos, lots of tight-fitting corduroy bell-bottoms, and even a sexy matching blue suede suit.

blue suit

Joel Kingdom is a successful artist from a highborn, wealthy family. His father disowned him when he refused to go into the family banking business.

The heroine, Rachel Gilmour, isn’t any better. She’s a professional martyr who’s made a lot of poor life decisions. When the book opens, she’s about to embark on another bad choice, but in this case, she’s doing it to save someone she cares for.

The Plot

Joel’s younger half-brother is concerned he may get written out of their father’s will. Their elderly father is about hop into a third marriage, this time with Rachel.

The kink in the ironworks is that Rachel and Joel had a brief affair several years back. Joel taught art, and Rachel was one of his young students. The fling ended rather abruptly when Rachel thought they had a serious relationship after making love. Joel, for his part, was not ready for anything long-term but was willing to cohabitate. Rachel, who had been a virgin, wanted a lifetime commitment or nothing, so she left him.

Joel is gobsmacked to hear that his father plans to marry his former girlfriend. He finds that Rachel works as a maid for an aged Colonel and seeks her out. What he discovers shocks him. Rachel has a six-year-old daughter named Sara. At first, Rachel tries to convince Joel she’s a widow, then she concedes that Rachel is the result of their one night together.

Because Joel had been so adamant that he was unready for marriage and family life, Rachel didn’t turn to him. Instead, she went to his father, asking for money for an abortion. Of course, she planned for no such thing but needed some income to help her get on her feet until she could find gainful employment.

Rachel reveals she is marrying Joel’s father because he has the financial resources to help Sara, who has a fatal blood-borne disease. Joel is determined to put a stop to this. He never abandoned his child and wants to be in her life now.

However, Rachel’s bitterness regarding Joel’s refusal to marry her in the past controls much of her emotions. She’ll marry James Kingdom, and that’s that.

Joel’s father wants revenge upon his son for refusing to be a part of the family business.

Joel has another woman in his life, but his attraction to Rachel never died out. Now that he knows they share a daughter, he pursues her, intending to marry. Even so, Rachel is irrationally stubborn. What will it take to get these two together?

For the Love of Sara, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 2015 Reissue

Final Analysis of For the Love of Sara

Rachel was a tough character to understand. Her pride was so great; she refused to do what was best for her daughter. Instead, she made a bad situation worse.

Joel didn’t abandon Rachel in her time of need. He simply declared at 28, he wasn’t ready for marriage. That didn’t mean he would have tossed Rachel and his child aside. Rachel really needed to have a deep heart-to-heart with Joel before throwing in the towel and leaving him.

The problem in For the Love of Sara is one so common in romances: a major lack of communication.

These were two people who–in the present time–wanted each other and had a daughter who needed stability. Joel had more than enough money to pay for Sara’s medical bills. Joel was a bit of a player but compared to Rachel’s stupid idea of marrying her daughter’s grandfather (which wouldn’t have been a marriage of convenience, but a real marriage!), displayed a lack of common sense and pettiness I couldn’t get over.

Mather’s prose is always engaging, but this book was a dud.

2 Stars

Miranda Lee

Tribute To Author Miranda Lee (aka Maureen Lee)

Miranda Lee

Along with Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee was my favorite writer from the Harlequin Presents line. Sadly, she passed away on November 13, 2021. She was 76.

Lee wrote sensually charged romances that promoted the modern woman in all her forms.

An Author From Down Under

Miranda Lee, whose real first name was Maureen, was born in 1945 in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest of four children.

Her older sister, Wendy, was also a successful writer for Harlequin under the pseudonym Emma Darcy. Wendy Brennan predeceased her sibling in 2020.

Lee’s father was a country school teacher and sportsman. Her mother was a dressmaker. At age 10, her father transferred to Gosford with the family. They moved to another rural town on the coast, much closer to the bustling Sydney metropolis.

Lee attended a convent school. She studied the cello and briefly pursued a career in classical music.

Following that, she moved to Sydney, where she studied computer tech. Lee worked as a programmer before marrying her dear husband, Tony Lee. Together, they had three daughters.

The family lived happily on a few acres of land with goats, horses, and greyhound dogs.

A Writer of Sexy Romances

While she raised her children at home, Lee craved an outlet for her creativity. Preferably one that would allow her to earn a living.

At her sister’s suggestion, she set her hand at writing romance novels. After ten years of trying, she eventually signed with the Mills & Boon/ Harlequin in 1988.

They released her first novel, After the Affair, Harlequin Presents #1362, in 1990 under her pseudonym of Miranda Lee.

after the affair

After a while, the Lee family had enough of country life. They relocated to the more lively Central Coast.

Tony assisted his wife’s thriving writing career by leaving his executive job. He would become a stay-at-home dad and partner. While Maureen wrote bestselling romances, Tony cooked, cleaned, and helped the girls with their assignments.

Lee’s sensual romances resonated with millions of readers. Her writing was provocative and daring.

In 1994, just a few years into her career, Harlequin Presents commissioned her to write a six-book series. This was only the second of its kind for the line. The series, called “Hearts of Fire,” had a tight nine-month deadline.

The first book, Seduction and Sacrifice, was officially released in July 1995. “Hearts of Fire” marked the love stories of six couples. The series had an overarching plotline about Gemma Smith’s search for her real parents.

Also taking center stage was her romance with the much older playwright, the controlling and tortured Nathan Whitmore. The ultra-wealthy Whitmore clan takes Gemma in as part of their family.

The cast of players included: Nathan’s actress ex-wife Lenore; the Whitmore patriarch Byron, Nathan’s adoptive father; Byron’s plump kid sister Ava; Byron’s wild daughter Jade; his reserved housekeeper Melanie; and the notorious cougar Celeste Campbell.

Like a glittering soap opera of old, the melodrama is high. Couples fall in love and secrets are uncovered.

My Miranda Lee Experience

The first Miranda Lee I discovered was Aunt Lucy’s Lover. Surprisingly, it was far more erotic than the usual books I’d encountered from the line.

After I picked up her “Hearts of Fire” series, I was hooked. The novels are a favorite guilty pleasure read.

Other Lee romances I enjoy are An Outrageous Proposal, Marriage in Jeopardy, Simply Irresistible, Marriage at a Price, and The Playboy in Pursuit.

Besides the steamy bedroom scenes–or whatever place the couple found to get it on–I appreciated her diverse heroines. They could be young and virginal or have typically active sex lives. They could be shy and reserved or spunky and spontaneous.

In contrast, most of her heroes were modern-minded–dare I say–beta males. But on occasion, she could create magnetic bad-boy heroes as well.

Lee’s personal favorite was Maddie’s Love Child, about an independent businesswoman with no desire for marriage. She plans to get pregnant by having a fleeting affair, only to have the tables turned on her when her lover demands to be part of his child’s life.

an outrageous proposal

Into the 21st Century

Each of Miranda’s novels contained her trademark style. They were quick-paced and passionate, with relatable characters and resonating storylines. Unsurprisingly, her ideology when writing romances was simple: “Don’t bore the reader!” If only all writers espoused that sentiment!

In 2002, Lee wrote a full-length follow-up to the “Hearts of Fire” series, titled aptly enough, Hearts of Fire. It told the parallel stories of Nathan’s daughter Kirsty finding love with her bodyguard and Gemma and Nathan trying to mend their rocky marriage on a cruise ship vacation.

hearts of fire

Lee would expand outside of the Presents line by writing a couple of romances for the more sexually charged Harlequin Blaze series.

Most of Lee’s books were set in Australia. Quite often in Sydney, as Lee considered it “the most beautiful, exciting, go-ahead city in the world.” She liked creating believable, fast-paced, and passionate stories that kept the reader engaged.

Besides entertaining millions of readers worldwide, what did she love most about writing? She once said, “Not having to travel or even dress when going to work.” Alternatively, she hated dealing with deadlines. I can relate!

Her advice for keeping a marriage hot: “Weekend getaways. Somehow, hotel rooms are sexier than home.” Her husband never forgot an anniversary, lavishing her with gifts.

Death and Legacy

Miranda Lee was one of Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s most influential and popular romance authors. She would author over 90 novels for them. Lee was a USA Today Bestseller, selling over 18 million copies worldwide. She delighted readers around the globe with her captivating love stories.

Lee’s editor, Carly Byrne, recalled: “Being Maureen’s editor for the past nine years has been a career highlight. Her books were my entry point into the wonderful world of Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and it was a dream come true to eventually work with her. She leaves an amazing legacy of alpha heroes, fiery heroines, and stunning Australian settings behind her that will have brought joy to so many readers and continue to do so through her incredible backlist of novels.”

Lee’s motto was “Life is what you make it.” By all accounts, she made a wonderful life for herself as a mother, wife, sister, animal lover, and accomplished writer of sizzling romances.

In 2020, she retired from writing for Harlequin/Mills & Boon. They published her final book, The Billionaire’s Cinderella Housekeeper, in March 2021.   

billioniare's cinderlla housekeeper

Her husband Tony, three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild are her surviving relatives. Millions of fans mourn her passing.

***

CATEGORIES: , , ,
merry christmas

Category Romance Review: Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy

Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy, Harlequin, 1997, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1923

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Before I discuss this romance, let me address the unfortunate cover. I don’t care how awesome that free book bag was! The editors at Harlequin dropped the ball with this one! That vast yellow oval covers the main couple’s faces. You can’t see the heroine, the hero, or that this was Emma Darcy‘s 60th book.

Simply titled Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy’s category romance foray into the holidays may have you near tears. It may also have you wishing some evil villains get their well-deserved comeuppance. This book throws almost every trope at you but the metaphorical kitchen sink. It’s an angst-filled yet ultimately very happy Christmas Harlequin Presents.

Christmas Past

Many years ago, Meredith or Merry (Get it? Merry as in Merry Christmas?) Palmer had a summer romance with college student Nick Hamilton. Merry lied about her age, as she was technically a minor. She and Nick fell into what Meredith believed was true love. But Merry’s wicked stepmother caught wind of the relationship and informed the 21-year-old Nick he was dating a 16-year-old.

Summer came to an end. Nick went off to school, leaving Merry with a promise to reconnect every Christmas. He believed it was better they go their separate ways for the time being. They needed to both grow up a little before delving deeper into commitment.

As is usual in these cases, the affair left Merry pregnant. Merry, an orphan, lived only with her cruel stepmother. After her stepmom kicked her out, she had no one to turn to. So Merry went to Nick’s family, hoping she could get in contact with Nick. That’s when Nick’s (also) cruel sister gave her shocking news. Nick had been in a surfing accident, and his memory was affected so severely that he had no recollection of their “love.”

So Merry could just scat, thank you very much.

When Merry revealed her pregnancy as the reason she needed to talk with Nick, the sister pounced. She manipulated Merry into thinking it would be best if Merry gave her child up for adoption. The sister conspired to take the baby and raise her as her own child, never letting Nick know he was his “niece’s” true father.

Christmas Present

Over a decade later, the sister and her husband are dead. Their “daughter” Kimberly is under her uncle Nick’s guardianship, who has no idea of her true parentage. Kimberly’s not too keen on her uncle’s girlfriend and knows the feeling is mutual. She had heard enough secret conversations in the past to learn she was adopted. Consequently, she demands to meet her biological mother.

Somehow Nick is able to track Merry down. She’s now working as a successful florist. When Merry and Nick meet once more, alas, he doesn’t recognize her at all. Merry is devastated that he doesn’t recall their love affair, which meant so much to her. She’s been celibate and pining for him for over 12 years.

Merry is anxious to meet Kimberly. Nevertheless, she is devastated the love of her life doesn’t remember her.

Making the situation worse is that Nick has a mean fiancee who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Merry and Kimberly included.

Nick is drawn to Merry, as deep in his subconscious he knows that there’s a connection between them. When the fiancee gets kicked to the curb, Nick pursues Merry.

Kimberly, for her part, is delighted. She hated her uncle’s girlfriend. Nothing would please her more if her mother and her “uncle” were to fall in love.

Christmas Future

But keep in mind, Nick still doesn’t remember who Merry is. He wants to know more about Kimberly’s parentage. The story of Merry having a summer-fling with a young man who pledged to keep in touch but never did resonates with Nick.

Just who is Merry?

In the end, all is revealed. The truth behind Merry and Nick’s separation and Kimberly’s heritage comes to light. Nick is shocked by the depths of his sister’s machinations. It’s a good thing she’s dead. There’s no one left alive to be punished for her crimes. Rather than dwell on bitterness, Merry, Nick, and Kimberly focus on their newfound happiness and the future.

Final Analysis of Merry Christmas

The trio comes together as a family in the unity of Christmas. The ending of Merry Christmas was super sweet. It’s the kind of story that makes you believe in miracles.

I initially gave this 3 1/2 stars, added an extra 1/2 star for its wonderfully corny and uplifting Holiday spirit.

Author Spotlight: Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber
(Image from debbiemacomber.com)

A Standout in Romance

Debbie Macomber has been a standout romance novelist for an astonishing 40 years. She’s written women’s fiction, full-length contemporary, and category romance. Her work has been adapted for the small screen numerous times, for both movies and series. Over 200 million of her books have been out in print.

Because I don’t watch too much television or read many modern romance novels, I had no idea how huge Debbie Macomber was. I merely thought of her as another category writer who had crossed over to be successful in women’s fiction.

Debbie Macomber is a 13-times #1 New York Times bestselling author. Her books have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She is a publishing superstar.

Early Life

Debbie Adler was born on October 22, 1948. She graduated from high school but did not attend any university.

Adler married Wayne Macomber just before her 20th birthday in September 1968. They had four children together. At first, Macomber never dreamed of becoming an author, as she had learning disabilities that hampered her ability to read and write.

After she had children, however, she had so much time helping her kids in their education she felt confident enough to create a romantic novel. She spent years typing out a manuscript.

Starlight, Debbie Macomber, Silhouette, 1983, cover artist TBD

Category Romance Beginnings

The apocryphal story goes that Macomber attended a romance conference and submitted her book for review. A Harlequin editor publicly critiqued it and mocked it quite cruelly, to the crowd’s laughter. Wondering what she could do to make it better, Macomber asked for advice. The Harlequin editor told Macomber bluntly: “Throw it out.”

Rather than discourage Macomber, this made her determined more than ever to be a writer. She submitted her manuscript to Halequin’s then-competitor, Silhouette books. “It cost $10 to mail it off,” Macomber told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2000. “My husband was out of work at this time, in Alaska, trying to find a job. The children and I were living on his $250-a-week unemployment, and I can’t tell you what $10 was to us at that time.”

Silhouette made a habit of signing authors who were rejected or dismissed by Harlequin, like Nora Roberts and Anne Hampson. They quickly accepted the book for publication. That manuscript would eventually see the light of day as Heartsong in 1984, Book #1 in the brief Silhouette Inspirations line, which had religious themes. In fact, seven of the first eleven romances Macomber published were Inspirations. Macomber is a deeply devout Christian and many of her works are inspired by her faith.

The first novel Silhouette published by Macomber was Special Edition #128, Starlight. As a sign of future events to come, Starlight has a Christmas-based storyline.

Being a Successful Author

When Harlequin bought out Silhouette in 1984, Macomber would continue to write for both imprints.

In 1986, Macomber wrote a short Christmas-based romance titled Let it Snow. Most every year after that, she would release a Christmas-themed book. Her first romance for Harlequin was The Matchmakers. It was released under the (then) clean and sweet Romance line. In 1988, Harlequin asked Macomber to write a series of interconnected stories, which became known as The Navy series. Before long, she was releasing two or three titles per year.

By 1994, Macomber began releasing single-title novels. Her first hardcover was released in 2001. In 2002, Macomber realized that she wanted to write books focusing more on women and their friendships. Thursdays at Eight was her first departure from the traditional romance novel into contemporary women’s fiction.

Macomber’s novels focus on delivering the message of the story. She does not dwell overly long on sensual passages. Her stories give the reader a feeling of hope and optimism. Many novels take place in small, rural towns on the West coast.

A Publishing and Television Sensation

Among Macomber’s top-selling books are Touched By Angels, Buffalo Valley, 16 Lighthouse Road (the first in her Cedar Cove Series), The Shop on Blossom Street, The Snow Bride, and Groom Wanted.

We’ve reviewed a couple of her books here at Sweet Savage Flame, her Harlequin Romances Country Bride and Rainy Day Kisses, which were both very satisfying reads.

In 2013 The Hallmark Channel signed movie star Andie MacDowell to star in their series adaptation of Macomber’s Cedar Cove novels. The series was a rating favorite for three seasons.

Macomber is celebrated as “the official storyteller of Christmas.” Her holiday books are a special annual event for her readers. Five of her Christmas romances were adapted into original Hallmark Channel movies. She has served as a producer to these made-for-tv films.

Macomber serves on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, is a YFC National Ambassador, and is World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative. She and her husband, Wayne, live in Port Orchard, Washington, which inspired the Cedar Cove series. Besides her writing and multiple projects, they have many grandchildren to keep them busy.

As of 2021, Macomber’s new hardcover publications include It’s Better This Way and Dear Santa. In addition to writing romance and women’s fiction, she has published three bestselling cookbooks, an adult coloring book, numerous inspirational and nonfiction works. Macomber has written a couple of children’s books as well. She also runs a monthly magazine.

Is there anything this phenomenal bestseller can’t do? Have you read Debbie Macomber’s romances? What are your favorites? Drop a comment and let’s talk romance!

rainy day kisses

Category Romance Review: Rainy Day Kisses by Debbie Macomber

Rainy Day Kisses, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3076

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

Four Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

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.

The Plot

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?

Then Susannah finds herself wrangled into babysitting her niece. Have you ever seen that old Diane Keaton film “Baby Boom”? Well, that’s what this reminded me of. Susannah finds herself at wit’s end trying to deal with a crying infant. Who comes to the rescue, but her neighbor? Nate has a calming, soothing way with babies. He also has a way with adult women, as Susannah finds. For despite their difference, Susannah can’t help but be attracted to Nate.

He shows her a different side of life. If you work hard, you have to play hard, too. Susannah’s forgotten all about having some fun in her life. But is Nate’s playful nature a sign of immaturity? Or is he right and Susannah’s rigid plans mean nothing without some love and laughter added in?

Even though this is a traditional romance, I could see Nate and Susannah living a more “modern” life, where Nate stays home and takes care of the kiddos while Susannah goes off to work. I know several couples who live like this. So why can’t Nate and Susannah have love and family and career, as long as they work together to do it?

Final Analysis of Rainy Day Kisses

This was a breezy angst-free romance. Nate’s an adorkable hero. Susannah is icy, but not so much so that she’s an unlikeable heroine. You want to see these two get together and make it. Debbie Macomber writes sweet love stories, and if you’re looking for one, Rainy Day Kisses will hit the right spot.

tangled-tapestry-mather-full

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

BOOK REVIEW vintage
Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1969
Imprint or Line: Mills & Boon Romance #419
Published by: Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 18
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Admission

I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in paperback in English in North America. This book was released in e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.

The Book

Thanks to Anne Mather‘s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put accurate copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but I only found out it was published in 1969 when I finished.

I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid-20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! Tangled Tapestry may offend some readers’ sensibilities. Or, if you’re twisted like me, it will make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children. She takes them on a field trip to visit one of the local major movie studios because everyone knows San Francisco is right next to Hollywood.

(Anne Mather got her geography off in this one; it would be like going to Boston and taking a trip to visit the Lincoln Memorial, wouldn’t it?)

The staff at the studio are amazed by Debra’s similar looks to the deceased movie star, Elizabeth Steel, and instantly demand she take a screen test.

Before she knows what’s going on, Debra is whisked away by L.A. writer, Dominic McGill, to meet movie producers. Her appearance to Elizabeth is too close to be just a coincidence and, eventually, the orphaned Debra learns Elizabeth Steel was her real mother. Everyone’s dying to remake one of Steel’s old films that Dominic wrote starring our innocent heroine.

Debra is feeling pushed into a life she’s not sure she wants. She only knows that Dominic makes her feel all tingly, so much that she gives bitchy looks to the nubile females who cling to him. Then there are the unspoken rumors concerning Dominic and her mother. Could Dominic–gasp–have been her mother’s toyboy lover?

Tangled Tapestry Anne mather
Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, alternate Mills and Boon

The Romance

There is little romance here. Oh sure, there are a couple of sweet kisses and a whole paragraph at the end of the book where Dominic declares his love for Debra. But Dominic’s not the kind of man who chases women, so when Debra hurts Dominic’s pride, it’s she who follows him, she who does the “big grovel.”

Personally, I don’t care much for groveling, neither from the hero nor the heroine, (unless they really did do something horrid & then groveling is only a drop in the bucket!), so it didn’t bother me, although I know some readers like that sort of comeuppance when the hero’s a bit of an alpha-hole. And yes, Dominic is overbearing, cold, inscrutable, and unyielding, but I wouldn’t have vintage heroes any other way.

I mean, he needed to be a little stoic. It’s bad enough he’s in his late 30’s, parties with teenagers, hosts surfing parties, and dances the Watusi.

(I couldn’t figure out how to post a gif so here’s a picture of a huge Watusi bull.

Yeah, I know it’s 2021. I’m still clueless. I just learned to pronounce the word, for goodness’ sake!)

The Watusi. Not to be confused with the Batusi.

Time Stands Still For No Man

Oh, about the dated aspect of this book?

  • The meals: Hamburgers and coffee. Yuck. Why did people in the ’50s and ’60s eat that way? Yes, I know sodas are just as bad to have, but at least they taste good with food. Coffee is a morning drink and for occasional desserts.
  • The alcoholic drinks: LOTS of them and half of them gin martinis.
  • The smoking: Debra swears she hardly ever smokes, but she’s a liar because she smokes like a mesquite BBQ grill. I counted 48 references to cigarettes in this book! Plus another 10 to smoke/smoking.
  • The language: YMMV about taking offense. There are about a 1/2 dozen observations using old-timey racial terminology.
  • The music: Anne Mather really dug Dave Brubeck, didn’t she? She’s referred to him in other books. I looked him up. Don’t think this is what the teenagers in 1969 were hip to, but if that floats your boat, *shrug.*
Dave Brubeck. Did all the gals in the late ’60s dance erotically to this guy’s tunes?

Since the setting is mostly California, Anne Mather wanted to make sure we knew her hero was American so the book is peppered with cheesy epithets like:

  • Baby – 18 times
  • Kid – 12 times
  • Honey – 29 times
Tangled Tapestry Anne mather

Final Analysis of Tangled Tapestry

As I said, there wasn’t much romance in Tangled Tapestry. Debra basically allowed herself to be carried away by others to do their bidding. She didn’t want to be a movie star, so why didn’t she just open her mouth and say so? Then she pined away for Dominic was pathetic! I swear Anne Mather must have had at least ten heroes with that name!

Dominic played it hot and cold with her. He was never open with Debra until the very end.

Even so, this book wasn’t awful, because there was something charming about how dated it was. Anne Mather’s books are rarely timeless; you can almost always tell what decade they were written by the clothes. T

This sweet vintage romance (no sex, just mild kissing) was even more old-fashioned than Mather’s usual stuff. The characters were partying to old jams and shaking to the latest dances. (Aside: that’s one reason why I avoid modern contemporaries. I have zero interest in reading about a hero/heroine who grinds or twerks.) But their morals were somewhere in the 1950s. Quaint and old-fashioned. Although I can appreciate that when reading vintage romance.

Too bad the romance was lackluster here.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.5

Synopsis

Debra Warren had believed during all her life that she was orphaned, until she went to San Francisco to work. She found she was the daughter of the famous actress Elizabeth Steel. There she knew Dominic McGill.

TANGLED TAPESTRY BY ANNE MATHER

Covers of the Week #17

I enjoy playing the game of “I Spy” with my vintage book romance covers. Can you guess this week’s theme? Spot the common thread in the covers, and the first one to mention the correct answer in the comments wins the satisfaction that they were right! 🙂

For the week of Aug 2 to Aug 6, here are some contemporary and historical covers for you to look over and play “I Spy.”