Category Archives: Historical Romance Authors

embrace the wild land sabin

Historical Romance Review: Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 446
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Embrace the Wild Land, book #4 in the “Savage Destiny series” by Rosanne Bittner.

The Plot

It is now 1861, and Abigail Trent Monroe and her husband, “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, and their seven children are living happily in what is now present-day Colorado. Which means something bad is going to happen. It does when the Monroes travel to an Army fort. A soldier tries to rape Abbie, and Zeke later kills him.

Meanwhile, Zeke’s white half-brother, Danny, goes back east to join the Confederacy in the Civil War. In another development, Winston Garvey, ex-U.S. Senator and “Evil White Man,” is trying to find out the name and whereabouts of his half-Indian son.

As troubles mount for Zeke, Abbie, the Cheyenne, and all Indian tribes, Danny is severely wounded during the Civil War. Garvey’s son, Charles, and some of Garvey’s men have a confrontation with Zeke, Abbie, and their family. The Monroes win the confrontation.

However, the elder Garvey puts the information together and realizes that the Monroes know about his other son. This leads to Garvey sending men to kidnap Abbie, who is later emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused by Garvey and his henchmen.

As the book progresses, Zeke finds Danny, and one of his other half-brothers, Lance. (A third half-brother, Lenny, was killed in the Civil War.)

Zeke also makes some peace with his biological father. Zeke and his eldest son, Wolf’s Blood, deal out justice to Garvey and his men, and Zeke and Abbie re-find each other and, for a little while, are happy again.

The Upside

As always, Ms. Bittner draws tremendous pictures with her words. She brings me, as a reader, into the lives of the Monroe family. Ms. Bittner makes me see not words on a page, but real people, with real emotions.

The Downside

At times, Ms. Bittner’s writing is formulaic. I’ve already described this in earlier reviews.

Sex

The weakest part of Ms. Bittner’s writing is her love scenes, which are neither particularly sexy nor imaginative to me.

Violence

Ms. Bittner, however, has a great imagination for violence, and it definitely shows up in Embrace the Wild Land. As usual, there are multiple scenes of shooting, assault, sexual assault, and killing. Toward the end of the book, it’s especially graphic.

In Ms. Bittner’s world, the bad people always get their comeuppance. Unfortunately, not before seriously hurting the good people.

Bottom Line on Embrace the Wild Land

Embrace the Wild Land isn’t my favorite book by Rosanne Bittner, but it’s still darn good. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

Pioneers poured into the West; Civil War ravaged the East. But as upheaval racked the continent, the Cheyenne brave Lone Eagle and his courageous white woman Abigail Trent rediscovered their desire in the peaceful New Mexico territory. Their family grew with the years and it seemed that the troubles that had tormented them would never return to invade the ranch by the wide Arkansas River.

But the chaotic world burst in upon them, separating them again. Lone Eagle had to leave the ecstasy he found in Abigail’s arms for the horror of the white man’s war. Though fresh sorrows would always plague them, the Cheyenne warrior and his determined wife believed in their love. Though they were forced apart, they knew that somehow they would be reunited and free once more to share their chosen Savage Destiny.

Embrace the Wild Land by Rosanne Bittner
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

raptures rendezvous

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

book review historical romance
Rapture's Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 483
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Cassie Edwards‘ bests.

First off, let me say that I am a Cassie Edwards fan. I love most of her books and hope one day to own all of them. Having said that, this book–a reprint of a book originally published in 1982–is not one of her best efforts.

cassie edwards 2nd
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 1999 edition

The Plot

Maria Lazzaro and her twin brother Alberto are poor Italians dreaming of a better life in America. That is where their father, Giacomo, emigrated sometime earlier. Eventually, the twins are sent for and they travel on a ship in decrepit conditions to America. Once at sea, Maria and Alberto both lose their innocence. Maria gives hers willingly to the “hero” of the book, Michael Hopper.

Alberto loses his virginity in a far less pleasant way–more on that later.

Michael lies to Maria by telling her he is a buyer for a vintner in America. In actuality, he is a successful businessman investigating the cruel treatment of immigrant miners in one of the many business ventures of an individual named Nathan Hawkins. Why Michael is doing so himself instead of hiring someone isn’t fully explained.

After the ship docks in New York at Ellis Island, Michael and Maria part. They will find each other again in the future.

Maria and Alberto arrive in America thinking their father sent for them. They don’t realize until much later that they were actually sent for by Hawkins. Hawkins needs Alberto to work like his father in Hawkins’ dangerous, unsafe coal mine. Maria, Hawkins wants as his wife.

Brother and sister arrive in the Illinois town of Hawkinsville–also owned by Nathan Hawkins–to realize their lives have not changed for the better as they had hoped. Alberto goes to work alongside his father in the coal mine. Maria pines for Michael.

Maria and Michael find each other again and they have several intimate encounters. Later, Maria is forced to marry Hawkins after he threatens to deport her father and brother.

Eventually, Hawkins gets his comeuppance, Maria and Michael marry and they live happily ever after.

rapture's rendezvous cassie edwards new
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 2011 edition

Sex

There’s a lot of sex, in Rapture’s Rendezvous though not terribly graphic. Or nice. As mentioned, Maria and Michael have several encounters. Michael also has sex with two other women–his secretary and a prostitute–while he and Maria are apart. There is some salaciousness.

Alberto is robbed and raped by a man/woman criminal duo on board the ship to America, which affects him later. Alberto also has incestuous feelings for Maria.

Maria is forced into a sex act by Hawkins after they are married.

Violence

Not much, but some. Alberto gets revenge on his rapist/robbers and hits both the man and woman.

There is also a fight scene in which Michael is assaulted and gets help from Alberto. Hawkins is eventually killed, and although he is shot, it is not graphically described.

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Rendezvous

As stated, Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Mrs. Edwards’ best books. The characters vacillate between whiny and barely likable. The “hero” isn’t really heroic, and the heroine, while being attractive physically, is less attractive because she is somewhat of a weak, whiny individual.

If one is interested in Cassie Edwards’ books, I recommend her “Savage” series. Those books are far better than wasting your time on this drivel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis

A Woman’s Love
Maria Lazzaro was as ripe and as sweet as the full, juicy grapes that grew in her homeland’s vineyards. And as she boarded an immigrant ship for America, the olive-skinned, raven-haired beauty met the only man she could ever love. That night, with feverish desire, frantic passion, and wild, sensuous rapture, she gave herself to Michael in a moment she knew would bond them for eternity.

A Man’s Lies
Though they would have to part once they reached America, handsome Michael Hopper couldn’t deny himself the enticing wench. He had to take advantage of her innocent allure. Branding her satin throat with kisses, he promised his devotion forever. Searing her silken skin with caresses, he vowed his undying love. No matter what, he had to have her. And no matter what, he would have to leave her…Rapture’s Rendezvous

Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

a breath of scandal mason

Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

book review
A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 2001
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: Sin Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 372
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Having read a few Connie Mason books in the past and (more or less) entertained by them, I picked up A Breath of Scandal expecting some ahistorical yet sexy, romantic fun. Sadly, except for the wallpaper Georgian background, the second book in her “Sin Trilogy” series lacked all those standard Mason elements.

Chock-full of my most hated pet peeves, I should’ve put this book down when the hero raised the ire of my inner Ron Swanson by vehemently proclaiming that smugglers were cheating the Crown and the English government out of their right to collect taxes on French wine.

Not a good sign of things to come.

The Hero and the Set Up

Julian, Earl of Mansfield, is known as the Scorpion (pet peeves number 2 and 3: English nobleman is a spy, plus an animal alias for extra lameness), and he’s posing undercover to catch the evil smuggler, the Jackal (there’s another stupid animal codename).

The Jackal tried to kill Julian years earlier but instead killed Julian’s pregnant fiancée.

Julian vowed revenge for the only woman he ever cared for (pet peeve number 4: the hero is obsessed whis ith dead lover throughout the entire book, so much so that he cannot acknowledge his feelings for the heroine).

A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
A Breath of Scandal, Connie Mason, Avon, 2001, cover artist TBD

The Plot

Julian, the Spy Lord and Lara, the Gypsy Lady

A Breath of Scandal begins with Julian on a mission. His identity is exposed and he is shot by the Jackal’s men. Julian jumps off a boat and washes ashore, to be discovered by some traveling gypsies.

Mason stretches the bounds of credibility here when Julian is found by lovely Lady Lara, the illegitimate daughter of a gypsy and an English Earl, who first knew of her father’s identity when her mother died.

She showed up on her father’s doorstep at age 13. He accepted her and made her legitimate. Now she spends most of the year with her father but is allowed to spend summers with her Gypsy family before settling down with an English husband.

Other than caravans and the word “gadjo” for an outsider, it doesn’t appear as if Mason did any real research on Roma people, but as I said, this is wallpaper historical at its worst.

A Forced Marriage

Lara is drawn to the stranger and helps heal him back to health. In a twist of events, Julian and Lara are married in typical gypsy wedding fashion. (?) Lara declares Julian is her husband three times in front of men who are pursuing Julian, and Julian doesn’t deny it.

With his black hair (another pet peeve–it’s nit-picky and shallow, I know–his hair doesn’t match the reddish-brown hair on the back cover) and walnut-stained skin Julian pretends to be a gypsy while his wounds heal.

Meanwhile, he takes advantage of his marriage to Lara by banging her and banging her and banging her some more.

He doesn’t consider his marriage to Lara binding because she’s only a gypsy after all. He hides his true identity from his “wife” and is known solely as Drago. And, of course, Lara doesn’t tell him that she is the half-English daughter of an Earl.

Julian goes on and on about how he is an honorable man. What’s that saying about how a man with honor doesn’t call himself one? Well, that applies to Julian as his repeated actions belie his claims. Such a shame because I like stuffed-shirt, uptight heroes and was expecting Julian to be rigidly noble. Alas, he was just a lame-ass loser.

Scandalous Secrets Revealed in A Breath of Scandal

Eventually, Julian leaves Lara to go back to his home in England. Lara is headed there as well to enter society and find a husband. Lara’s fortune-telling grandmother predicts that she will not see Drago in England.

Of course, she does see him; not as Drago, but in his true form as Julian, Lord Mansfield. Upon realizing Lara is the daughter of an Earl, Julian’s supposed honor kicks in, and he vows to marry Lara for real. (Because gypsies don’t deserve respect even if they save your life! [That is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.])

The Jerky Hero

Julian does all he can to convince her into matrimony. This consists of:

  • Compromising Lara in a carriage in a public park
  • Accusing her father of being the nefarious Jackal
  • Putting her in danger several times
  • Absconding with Lara to Scotland and leaving her Daddy a note
  • All this while having as much sex with Lara as he can and telling her he doesn’t love her, will probably never love her due to the pain of losing his fiancée.

Honorable man indeed.

The worst is when he hides in the woods like a coward while Lara and her family convince the Jackal’s henchmen that Julian isn’t there. Some hero.

Another pet peeve of mine rears its head as Lara declares emphatically that if Julian does not love her, she won’t marry him. But she’ll keep on sleeping with him, cuz he’s too irresistible!

Final Analysis of A Breath of Scandal

To be fair, the first 100 pages of A Breath of Scandal were okay. Connie Mason has an erotic way with love scenes. I was on board to give it a 3-star rating, as there was a Lindsey-like vibe that appealed to my bad taste.

Unfortunately, this was a 400-page book, and the story went in circles for the last 300 pages. There were glaring errors that were hard to ignore.

When Julian and Lara meet up with her gypsy family, Lara’s grandmother happily exclaims, “I told you that you’d meet Drago again!” No, she had said the freaking opposite!

For an Avon paperback, this was riddled with errors galore. What were the highly-paid New York editors smoking? In 2001, it was probably mass-produced BC bud.

Julian is referred to as Lord Manchester a few times… but he’s Lord Mansfield!

Plus, the anachronisms were painful to deal with.

If a story has charm, appealing characters, or an engaging WTF vibe, I can overlook bad history, but when there are none of those qualities present, then I just can’t enjoy the ride. Sorry, A Breath of Scandal.

1.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

She claimed him as her husband without even knowing his name. Now she will risk everything to keep his secret—but can she give her heart without having his love in return?

Lord Julian Thornton, Earl of Mansfield by day and secret agent of the crown by night, has sworn never to love another woman. But then a mission goes wrong, and Julian is left for dead, his only hope a seductively mysterious gypsy woman named Lara. And when she marries him under gypsy law for his own protection, Julian is too entranced with the dark beauty to deny himself the benefits of their marriage.

Yet even as he longs for their idyllic interlude to last, Julian knows his presence alone puts her very life in danger. Until he discovers Lara in the one place he never expected to see his wild gypsy enchantress…the one place where he isn’t sure he can protect her—or his own heart.

From the moment Lady Lara, half-gypsy daughter of the Earl of Stanhope, finds a wounded stranger washed up on Scotland’s rugged shore, she knows their destinies will be forever entangled. So when a band of smugglers comes looking for the dashing stranger, Lara doesn’t hesitate to claim him as her husband “Drago.”

But when her mysterious husband goes back to his own world—and its dark secrets—Lara returns to her father to take her place as his heiress…never expecting to find her Drago across the earl’s crowded ballroom. And although he still enthralls her, Lara is determined that she will never truly be his wife until he surrenders his heart as well. 

A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
hearts-aflame-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.

HEARTS AFLAME by JOHANNA LINDSEY

Links

PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: JUNE 7, 1987

List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

book review historical romance
Rapture's Ransom by Betina Krahn
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Pirate Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Ransom (aka Not Quite Married) by Betina Krahn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Rapture’s Ransom by Betina Krahn, a Zebra historical romance. This was later reissued and retitled as Not Quite Married.

The Set-Up

The book begins in the South of England in 1787.

It is here that Brien Weston, the heroine of the book, lives–a better term might be “exists”–with her father, Lord Lawrence Weston, the sixth Earl of Southward.

The relationship between father and child is strained and becomes even more so when Lawrence, after a trip to France, announces he has affianced Brien to a man, Raoul Trechard, whom she has never met.

The Plot

When Brien and Raoul finally meet, Brien feels there is a possibility of a love match. That feeling quickly dissipates, however, when Brien learns Raoul’s true colors. She tries to end the engagement, even going so far as to lose her virginity to a stranger to deny Raoul that opportunity.

None of the efforts work, however, and Brien finds herself married to Raoul, who kidnaps, imprisons, and rapes her. She is freed from this torment when Raoul dies in a fire.

Over a year later, Brien meets the man she gave herself to, his name is Aaron Durham, the hero of the book. Brien is sailing to the colonies on business; Aaron is the captain of the ship she’s sailing on, and they re-establish their relationship as lovers during the trip and after they arrive at their destination, Boston.

Brien and Aaron’s happiness is threatened by several factors:

  • Horace Van Zandt: an evil privateer who has a history–and bad blood–with Aaron.
  • Differences in their viewpoints, Aaron wants to live in America and denies his status as a peer of the realm; Brien wishes to live in England.
  • The de Saunier Family: the unnamed patriarch of which tries to force Brien to marry his other son, Louis.
  • Brien’s pregnancy.

The book ends with Brien and Aaron married. They are parents of a son, Garrett, whose presence helps Aaron begin to repair the strained relationship he has with his father, Thomas.

Aaron and Brien have their Happily Ever After.

rapture's ransom not quite married
(Alternate Title version) Not Quite Married, Betina Krahn, Bantam, 2004 edition, Alan Ayers cover art

Upside

It is rare in early 1980’s books–Rapture’s Ransom was first published in November 1983–to have a non-Simpering Sara heroine, but Ms. Krahn does just that in this book. To be fair, this is not entirely about Brien’s strength-Lawrence doesn’t have any sons or male relatives, and Brien is his only surviving child–but still, strength is strength.

Downside

I didn’t feel that Ms. Krahn did enough to flesh out Brien or Aaron. We barely hear about their extended families and only meet Thomas Durham in the last few chapters of the book.

I also didn’t like the fact that two of the villains in the book–Van Zandt and de Saunier–escape basically unscathed despite their deviltry, and even though Raoul dies in a fire, it still feels less than it could have been. I love series-like E.J. Hunter’s “White Squaw”-where the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Sex

There are love scenes, but they are, for the most part, quite mild.

Violence

Scenes of assault, battery, and threats. The one death occurs “off-screen.”

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Ransom

Betina Krahn’s Rapture’s Ransom–aka Not Quite Married–is a sold low four-star book. There are simply too many areas of concern to rate it any higher.

3.99

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

THE COST OF COMFORT
Golden-haired Brien was indescribably happy: soon she would be the wife of a rich, handsome Frenchman. But when the glowing bride-to-be heard her fiance’s drunken bragging about his past exploits, she couldn’t bear the thought of matrimony to such a scoundrel. There was no way out — and Brien decided that if she must suffer a lifetime by the wastrel’s side, she would delight in just one night of pleasure before her hateful marriage began.

THE PRICE OF PASSION
Dark, rugged Allen Stewart wondered who had summoned him to the discreet, quiet inn, but when he saw the lush, lovely lady, he felt the need for ecstasy, not explanations. They shared a night of unbridled desire — then Allen awoke to a cold, empty bed. the soft, fragrant beauty had bewitched him and he swore that he’d search the whole world and pay any price for RAPTURE’S RANSOM.

RAPTURE’S RANSOM by BETINA KRAHN
Dangerous Obsession natasha peters

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Don Stivers
Book Series: Culhane Duo #2
Published by: Ace
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 630
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters‘ first epic bodice ripper romance, Savage Surrender.

However, don’t feel you need to read one to be comfortable reading the other. The relationship between the two books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

The Set-Up

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans twelve years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman.

American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years.

The Plot and the Characters

The Heroine, Rhawnie

Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!

She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken!

When caught red-handed, she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this, Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter, [Note: she was 7 when I originally wrote this review] who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness.

Men duel and die over her. She is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.

Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

The Hero, Seth

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work, and it took me a long time to warm up to him.

He’s no Sean Culhane or Duke Domenico, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. Her lecherous, older uncle then, in angry retaliation, beats and kicks Rhawnie while Seth just sort of stands there.

Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on!

He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress.

And the evil Seth inflicts upon Rhawnie in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice that never occurs.

But…he does properly declare himself at the end (if that redemption/groveling arc matters to you). He gives himself completely to Rhawnie.

Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together, they are perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Dangerous Obsession is written in the first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and Natasha Peters could have cut it 75 to 50 pages shorter.

Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American west.

They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river. Seth gets injured, and Rhawnie nurses him back to life. Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment of camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less)!

They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures; she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, gets addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…

And before you know it–whew! It’s over.

Final Analysis of Dangerous Obsession

Natasha Peters’ Dangerous Obsession was so close to perfect. It’s such a shame that, like so many bodice rippers, in the end, it falters under its own hefty weight.

Nevertheless, I’m rounding my initial 4.5-star rating up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

She was daring and defiant; tender and wanton. She was child; she was woman. she was Rhawnie.

From a starving gypsy in Russia to an exotic demi-mondaine in Paris to a countess in Bavaria to a sensation in New York from a survivor in the western wilderness to a card shark in San Francisco — such were the heights and depths of existence for Rhawnie.

Her wit, her cunning, her beauty, the sensuous delights she performs to well protect her even as they cause her agony and shame. For deep in her soul is a love for a man, a man who has brought her only degradation and heartbreak.

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Rhawnie cannot escape Seth Garrett. The constant ache for his arms, the ever present need for the fires of passion he alone can ignite, and his relentless pursuit of her have made her his prisoner. Across continents fleeing danger and death, Rhawnie runs…from this man…from herself…until she knows that with a love so powerful, a love so shameless, she can do nothing but surrender!

DANGEROUS OBSESSION by NATASHA PETERS
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!

shanna

Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

historical romance review
Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 666
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve long had a tenuous relationship with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ romances. Shanna is the fourth of her books I’ve attempted to read, but it’s the only one I’ve completed. That’s a net positive in this bodice-ripper-lite‘s column.

Now, did I love it? Love is a strong word. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable, if a bit long.

The Characters and Setup

Shanna Trahern is the spoiled only child of a wealthy Caribbean planter and widower, “Squire” Orlan Trahern. He’s part of the upstart merchant class and tres riche.

Fortune hunters and noblemen fallen upon hard times seek her hand, but Shanna will have none of them! Why can’t a man love her for who she is, dammit: a haughty, ill-tempered, busty, aqua-eyed blonde with a flawless complexion?

Her doting father has given his beautiful and independent daughter one year in England to choose an appropriate man to marry. Otherwise, he will arrange a marriage for her. Squire Trahern wants grandbabies, dammit! Besides, his daughter could use a husband to tame her wild ways.

Determined to be ruled by no man, Shanna colludes with her servant Pitney to arrange a quickie marriage to some black-sheep gentleman doomed to the hangman’s noose. That way, she’ll have official records she was legally wed. Then she’d return home, a widow in mourning, determined never to remarry.

The man she “chooses” is a bearded wretch convicted of killing a barmaid. Despite his thin, unkempt appearance, the hero has a charm in his hazel-gold eyes.

He’s our hero Ruark Beauchamp. Ruark gave me total Hugh Jackman vibes for some reason, so I was on board.

hugh-jackman

The Plot

Part One

Shanna promises to make the man’s last days pleasant by moving him to nicer quarters and keeping his belly fed. Instead, the prisoner arrogantly demands the consummation of his marital rights because Shanna is really hot.

She concedes to this, but any dingbat with two brain cells should know she’s full of it. But alas, our hero is besotted from the get-go over Shanna. His brains are in his balls. Ruark’s sole aim in this book is either getting into Shanna’s bed or obtaining vengeance in the form of getting Shanna into his bed!

Ruark is cleaned up, and wouldn’t ya know it? With some food in his stomach, a haircut, a shave, and a wash, Ruark is really hot.

Shanna’s southern girly parts tingle. Ruark eyes Shanna’s northern girly parts making promises of a pleasurable time to come.

The ceremony is performed. Into the carriage and on their way are the newlyweds. But Ruark can’t take it anymore, his lust for her bust overwhelms him, and he takes her. For a couple of humps, he is allowed to experience paradise. Shanna is confused by the fluttering sensations she’s experiencing.

Then the coach stops, and Ruark realizes Shanna had no intention of upholding her side of the bargain. He is taken away, but not without a bitter fight, before presumably being executed.

Shanna spares Ruark not another thought (okay, maybe one or two) and returns home to her father’s island of Los Camellos.

SHANNA PINK REISSUE
Shanna, Re-issue

Part Two

However…

Shanna’s other servant involved in her scheme decides to line his pockets in an even schemier scheme. He substitutes a dead man’s body for Ruark’s and takes him as a slave for Shanna’s father, of course. And wouldn’t ya know it? As Shanna sails home, Ruark is on that same ship.

Soon, to her great dismay, Shanna becomes aware of the new servant’s presence, and so does her father. Ruark never reveals he is Shanna’s legitimate husband (which would have made more sense since Ruark was so eager to get under Shanna’s petticoats).

As the new slave on the job, Ruark impresses the bossman with his engineering skills and–ahem–masterful knowledge of plantations. (It turns out Ruark’s family are wealthy colonial planters related to English nobility. What the hell was Ruark thinking, not contacting them or telling his father-in-law who he was?)

Trahern is so impressed that he gives Ruark special duties with special benefits. The day comes when the slave is dining at the table with the master and his wife—the slave’s wife, that is, not the master’s.

Apparently, Ruark is deep into some heavy roleplay because this slave thing turns him on. When Shanna sees him while riding her horse, he taunts her, and she hits him with her crop.

Instead of reacting violently, as these heroes in ‘rippers would, Ruark only smiles and vows to tame her to his will…

Funny enough, Shanna is viewed as having always gotten her way and in need of the right proper taming. She is a real itchbay, never satisfied with anything.

Everything displeased her, and even the flawlessness of her own beauty, regally gowned in rich ivory satin and costly lace, did not change her mood of discontent.

Ruark cares not. Nothing matters, not freedom, not clearing his name for a crime he didn’t commit, and not returning home. He must have his Shanna!

The give-and-take, push-and-pull between Shanna and Ruark is highly exciting until it reaches its apex. Ruark finally gets his honeymoon!

read shanna for free
Map of Los Camellos

Part Three

It seems that Ruark has found his Paradise on Earth. That is until a big misunderstanding sends Shanna into a jealous rage.

Shanna demands he daddy sell Ruark off to pirates… Oh, hell, that’s where this book takes a nosedive.

Let’s just “yada, yada, yada” this okay?

  • Yada… Nasty stinky pirates…
  • Yada… Ruark reveals the truth about his identity, and the true identity of other people comes to light.
  • Yada… And an evil villain named Gaylord gets his in the end.

Shanna realizes she loves Ruark and promises to stop being such a Seaward.

Shanna gives birth to twins, and her papa is happy as can be.

“In your madness you said you loved me,” she murmured shyly.

His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, “You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did.” Her voice was the barest of whispers.

Ruark’s gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. “Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is.”

My Opinion

The Writing

Woodiwiss and many romance writers of her age (ex. Jennifer Wilde, Rebecca Brandewyne, and Bertrice Small) wrote as if they got paid by the word, like their pulp predecessors.

If Shanna had ended at the 450-page mark–or 325 pages a la Johanna Lindsey–it would have been glorious, a book I’d track down every edition of. I could have easily overlooked the flaws in favor of the positive aspects.

But it keeps going and going—so many fillers. I read a thousand romances from age 12 to 15 of all lengths and could zip through a 1,000-page book per week. Today at 44, I do not have that patience. I have ADHD. I’ve said this before in a review of another book: “The paragraphs are too damn long!”

I’m no enemy of adverbs and adjectives. The world would be a dark place without modifiers. It’s that Woodiwiss didn’t believe in using one or two or three when ten or twelve would suit her better! There are innumerable adverbs, adjectives, adverbs, and dependent clauses.

Let us not forget the effusive purple prose, the poem at the beginning, and the seriousness with which she takes herself. It appeared that Woodiwiss employed every grammatical trick at her disposal.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Characters

Shanna

Shanna is your typical beautiful, cossetted, foot-stamping, won’t-listen-to-reason heroine with eyes that flash in anger, the kind that was so prevalent in old-school romances. Usually, I can’t stand this type because she’s written as “too stupid to live” (which is insulting to women who lived and endured hard times in the past).

I shouldn’t have liked Shanna, the character. For some reason, I did. She was caustic, yet she had a will. She contrived, and she plotted. Shanna tried to control her destiny instead of letting others do it for her.

Author Laura Kinsale wrote in her essay “The Androgynous Reader” about Shanna:

“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”

LAURA KINSALE, “The Androgynous Reader” from Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz

Shanna would qualify as the irksomely independent type. I typically don’t enjoy them, but when contrasting Shanna’s attitude with Ruark’s easy-going nature, it made for a sizzling combination.

So, apologies to Kinsale, but this reader did “identify with, admire, or internalize” some of Shanna’s characteristics. I’m an outlier, as ever.

Ruark

Ruark was an enigma. He was charming, handsome, and kind. Ruark was a dreamy hero, but I couldn’t grasp why he was so obsessed with Shanna. He should have been more concerned about his own hide.

First, he’s on death row, about to hang for a murder he did not commit. Then he’s sent overseas in chains to be a plantation slave.

Does he dream about getting free and plotting revenge against those who wronged him? Not really. From the moment he sees her in prison, his primary focus is having Shanna and putting his pee-pee into her wee-wee.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Cover and More

In 1977 Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ long-awaited third novel made romance history when Avon released Shanna in trade paperback edition. It had a full-stretch green cover, illustrated by H. Tom Hall and designed by Barbara Bertoli. This was one of the first true American clinches. The entire exterior was painted, displaying the couple locked passionately together in a state of undress.

Playboy Press’ This Ravaged Heart by Barabara Riefe also came out in 1977 with a full-page color clinch. But Betty Maxey’s artwork doesn’t compare to Hall’s fabulous cover. Plus, Shanna had a map insert that you could unfold.

Avon heavily promoted this book, running commercial ads on daytime television and in national women’s magazines. It paid off. Shanna sold 3 million copies and was on the NY Times bestseller list for a year.

Shanna was optioned for a film, but negotiations fell through when Woodiwiss couldn’t agree with the producers on the vision. The romance genre might be different if this mild bodice ripper had been brought to the big screen in the 1970s or early 1980s!

Final Analysis of Shanna

I once referred to Shanna as the same book as Catherine Creel’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire romance Passion’s Chains. Creel certainly ripped off Woodiwiss as the main thrusts of the books are almost identical: secret marriage where the husband is a slave on the wife’s island plantation. The two novels deviate midway and then culminate in about the same place.

To be frank, I preferred Passion’s Chains more than I did Shanna, even though I enjoyed both. Perhaps the word count might have something to do with it. Passion’s Chains was 480 pages in a standard-size font. Shanna had teeny-tiny type-face on 666 super-thin pages.

Plotting and pacing matter. There was too much exposition and unnecessary antics in Shanna. In addition, I didn’t OMG love it enough at the beginning to forgive any sins that cropped up in the end, as I would in a fantastic epic book like Stormfire.

Ruark was the book’s high point, a charming, good-natured hero determined to have his woman. However, I did not understand his obsession with Shanna when he should have focused more on clearing his name. Shanna’s a spoiled, petulant brat, although, as I said, I didn’t mind that. I find mean, unlikeable heroines are more palatable than the shy, milk-and-water types or boring blank slates.

Was this a stellar old-school romance I’ll long to re-read? No, although maybe a passage or two might stay with me. However, I am glad I read Shanna. I can finally say I completed a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss romance and liked it!

Now on to The Flame and the Flower!

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis:

A woman with surging desires of the spirit, the flesh, and the heart…

The only child of an 18th century sugar baron, lovely Shanna Trahern is given a year to find a suitable husband in London or to be married off to a dull planter. Instead, she contrives to marry Ruark Beauchamp, condemned to die for the supposed murder of a barmaid.

Certain her concocted story of a romantic elopement and marriage, followed by Ruark’s accidental death, will satisfy her father, Shanna embarks for home — the lush, intrigue-filled Carribean island of Los Camellos. But unknown to Shanna, her husband has escaped the gallows and under another name is among the bondsmen purchased by her father’s agent. Once home, Shanna is tormented by Ruark’s playful taunts — and his threat to collect “The night of love” she had promised him in prison. But when she is carried off by pirates; Ruark risks his life to save her. Now Shanna must deal with the searing passion the proud, virile Ruark has aroused…

RUARK

A man burning to possess her in vengeance and in ecstasy…

SHANNA

A romance of passion beyond wildest dreams!

SHANNA by KATHLEEN E. WOODIWSS

***

READ SHANNA FOR FREE BORROW FROM OPEN LIBRARY

these golden pleasures

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Jim Dietz
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood‘s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512-page 20th-century historical starts out wonderfully.

Somewhere afterward, it falters, lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

The Plot: Part One

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

These Golden Pleasures then heads back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds.

As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood novel, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. As a result, she has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas, and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes, who sails ships.

This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot…

And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers. She had a great setup and just let it fizzle.

The Plot: Part Two

After they both betray her, Roxanne marries sad, pathetic Denby. This is where the book draaagggsss. She spends about 150 pages married to him, moving from Georgia to Washington to Alaska as they run out of money and opportunities. There Roxanne has a brief affair with Case, a dark, mysterious gambler.

After Denby croaks, she has a common-law marriage with dull, boring Leighton, whom the author constantly calls a golden giant. I kept picturing him as a hulking Brock Lesnar type. That’s not sexy to me. We’re told that Leighton is a really nice guy. Regardless, he leaves Roxanne stranded in Asia and returns to his ailing wife in the States!

Later on, Roxanne has four or five other lovers because she is alone and has to support herself somehow.

That’s when Rhodes comes back for revenge, so I thought: okay, now it’s on. Not so fast! They’re quickly separated, and it’s back to Gavin in San Francisco.

Final Analysis of These Golden Pleasures

I don’t mind romances where the heroine has more than one lover, as long as the love story is well-developed or the other men in the book are exciting. While the scenes with Rhodes and Roxanne are hot, they’re all too brief.

There was very little true romance in These Golden Pleasures. The history is wonderfully detailed, as one would expect in a Valerie Sherwood novel. There is one scene in particular where Denby, a glove-maker/salesman, puts leather gloves on Roxanne which is written so beautifully. But authentic history was not enough for me in this one.

This was a rare deviation for Sherwood from her Cavalier/Georgian era books, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it as much as her other works.

Roxanne is a strong, fascinating heroine. The book is at its best whenever she’s with the brothers. It’s unfortunate that it’s not front and center in this epic saga.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

They called her That Barrington Woman. She was beautiful – and notorious. But beneath the silks and diamonds, within the supple body so many men had embraced, was the heart of a girl who yearned still for love. At fifteen she had learned her beauty was both a charm and a curse. It had sent her fleeing from Kansas, had been her downfall in Baltimore and Georgia, yet had kept her alive in the Klondike and the South Seas.

Now on this fateful night in 1906, here in San Francisco’s most glittering atmosphere, will she at last be able to reveal her secret longing? Will she be able to call love by name – and claim it?

THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by VALERIE SHERWOOD
angel's caress deana james franco

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

book review historical romance
Angel's Caress by Deana James
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Hunter-Gillard Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Civil War Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 447
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Characters

This review is of Angel’s Caress, book #4 in the “Texas/ Hunter-Gillard” series by Deana James. (Zebra/KensingtonJuly 1989).

Heroine: Fair Eleanor-Christine “Ellie Crain,” 16. Black hair, golden eyes.

Hero: Cash Gillard. Dark blonde hair, brown eyes. Courier/soldier, Union Army. Rapist.

The Plot

Part I: There Came an Angel from the East

The book begins on a farm in Tennessee during the Civil War. Living on the farm are members of the Crain family. There is an unnamed man called Grandpaw; his daughter, Mahala; her stepdaughter Fair Eleanor-Christine ”Ellie” Crain; and Mahala’s biological children, two daughters, Mary Magdalene and Viola; and a brother, Jeremiah “Jere.”

Mahala’s husband–-and the children’s father–-Thomas Peyton, is off fighting for the Confederacy in the war. The family is forced out of their home by Union soldiers.

Among them is Cash Gillard, the hero of the book. Cash later rapes Ellie.

Part II: In Frost!

Upon discovering Ellie and Cash’s relationship, Mahala throws Ellie out of the Crain homestead. Ellie goes with Cash and becomes a laundress for the Union Army.

We also learn a bit about Cash’s background. He is the son of Alex Gillard, and the grandson of Caroline Fancy England Gillard and Hunter Gillard, from Deana James’ previous Zebra romance, Captive Angel.

Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.

Part III: Out Fire!

Ellie returns home, and Cash is shot and wounded as the fighting in the war intensifies. He later comes to the Crain homestead, where Ellie nurses him back to health, much to the chagrin of Mahala, who orders him to leave.

Cash does, taking Ellie with him and they live… Happily one supposes.

Upside

The best part of Angel’s Caress is the last chapter, where some of the questions raised after Captive Angel are answered. The revelations are both surprising and interesting.

Downside

Unfortunately, this information is in chapter 28, which means to get to it, one has to go through 27 other chapters. And that is where the problems lie.

The book contains many elements I didn’t understand or like, such as paranormal elements. I can accept some paranormal elements in books, but the ones in Angel’s Caress are both hard to understand and accept for me.

The characters in the book fall into two categories: not interesting or unlikeable. And some, like Ellie and Cash, fall into both.

I was uncomfortable with Ellie falling in love with a “man” who raped her. However, I also understood it. In my personal and professional experience, people who grow up in dysfunctional homes–and Ellie’s home is definitely dysfunctional–will, in all likelihood, have at least one dysfunctional relationship with a non-family member at some point in their lives.

Cash is a rapist. Nothing more needs to be said about him.

There is no character development and the storylines–such as they are–are incredibly boring.

Sex

There are two “love” scenes post-Cash’s rape of Ellie. The scenes try to generate heat but fail.

Violence

Assault, battery, rape, shooting, and killings all occur during Angel’s Caress. The violence is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress

The book Ms. James wrote prior to this, Captive Angel, was a Rolls-Royce book. This was entirely due to that book’s heroine, Caroline Fancy England Gillard. Angel’s Caress is a Ford Edsel.

The ONLY thing keeping this book above 1 star is the first half of chapter 28.

***

Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist Hero. Underage heroine

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis:

Ellie looked like heaven. After seeing nothing but the blue-coated soldiers for months, sweet sixteen-year-old Ellie Crain was the sexiest sight virile Cash Gillard had ever set his battle-weary eyes on. And as a man unused to sensual deprivation, nothing could’ve kept the Yankee corporal away from the innocent farm girl’s ivory skin and youthful curves. Planning to love and leave the wench, he suppressed his tender feelings for her. But as he satisfied his desire, their fates were bound ever tighter with each kiss, each whisper, each caress.

Raised on a southern Tennessee farm, clever Ellie Crain was no stranger to the facts of life and she recognized the gleam in the Union officer’s eyes as pure animal lust. The untouched beauty steeled herself against the Northerner’s invasion and was shocked to feel his touch gentle, his embrace arousing. The inexperienced girl blossomed into a passionate woman who would fight to keep her first man. Cash had taken her against her will now she’d make him pay for making her respond with a lover’s heart and an Angel’s Caress.

ANGEL’S CARESS by DEANA JAMES
defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Savage Bliss

Cassie Edwards: A Formula For Success (and Controversy)

Cassie Edwards, “Queen of Indian Romance”

into the west
Kerri Russell and Jay Tavare,
Into the West, Dreamworks, 2005

In a previous post, I wrote about one of my favorite authors, Cassie Edwards. Before plagiarism allegations ended her career, she was billed as the “Queen of Indian Romance.” In this post, I will write about the formula Mrs. Edwards used to become a New York Times bestselling author of Native American romances.

This is gleaned from reading Mrs. Edwards’ Native American romances. The terms “Native American” and “Indian” will be alternately used throughout the article.

The Heroine

close up of partially shirtless woman
Photo by Ekaterina Nt on Pexels.com

Mrs. Edwards’ beautiful, innocent, naive, and sweet heroines also have at least one of the following characteristics:

  • She is white.
  • The heroine is multiracial (half-white/half-Indian or half-white/half-Black) and knows it. 
  • She is white, but discovers during the book that she’s also half-Indian.
  • The heroine is full-blood Indian but raised by a white family after her parents are killed when she is a child.
  • She is full-blood Indian, and she is raised by her Indian family.
  • The heroine is Mexican.

During the course of the book, our intrepid heroine will meet:

The Hero

adam edwards
Adam Edwards, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, Walt Disney Pictures, 1994

Mrs. Edwards’ heroes are handsome, muscular, noble, and brave–no pun intended. They also have the following characteristics:

  • The hero is a full-blooded Indian.
  • He is sometimes multiracial (half-Indian/half-white) and knows it. (Unlike her heroines).
  • The Indian heroes are ALWAYS the chief (or the son of the chief, and therefore heir apparent to the chief) of the Tribe of the Book.
  • There are two exceptions to these rules. Two of Mrs. Edwards’ heroes are white. One was raised as an Indian (after his older white sister married an Indian), and the other is a white man raised in a white society. 
  • They usually speak good English (there are a couple of exceptions).
  • They are well-endowed–-if you know what I mean, and I think you do!-–and they are VERY skilled at lovemaking. 

The circumstances where the hero and heroine meet vary, but they meet, become attracted to each other, make passionate love with each other, and plan their future together. 

However, that future could be thwarted by a society that disapproves of interracial relationships and three villains, all of whom appear in every one of Mrs. Edwards’ books. These villains are: the Evil White Man™, the Evil Indian Brave™, and the Evil Indian Woman™.

The Evil White Man

Image by tegawi from Pixabay

The villain that appears most frequently in Mrs. Edwards’ books is the Evil White Man. (occasionally, there is more than one in each book).

The Evil White Man has the following characteristics:

  • He’s white (well, duh).
  • He lusts after money, power, and the heroine, not always in that order. (Sometimes, the Evil White Man doesn’t lust after the heroine).
  • This man is a virulent bigoted racist who hates Native Americans with a passion and makes frequent derogatory statements about them (while twirling his mustache and cackling evilly).

The Evil White Man discovers that the heroine is in love with the Indian hero. He takes action to hurt the couple. These efforts will ultimately fail, but the Evil White Man will cause pain to the hero and heroine before getting his comeuppance. 

The Evil Indian Brave

brown and white stallions running in a field
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Appearing less frequently is the villainous Evil Indian Brave.

His characteristics:

  • He hates the hero because the hero is better looking, thus more successful with women.
  • He hates the fact that the hero has more power (The Evil Indian Brave is not a chief of his tribe).

These factors cause the Evil Indian Brave to be consumed with anger. Once he disapproves of the hero’s relationship with the heroine, he tries to destroy the woman. The Evil Indian Brave’s efforts will fail like the Evil White Man’s.

The Evil Indian Woman

Appearing less frequently than the male villains in Cassie Edwards’ books is the Evil Indian Woman. This character has the following characteristics:

  • She’s the hero’s former lover.
  • She wanted to be the hero’s lover, but he didn’t reciprocate her feelings.

Acting alone or in cahoots with the Evil Indian Brave, the Evil Indian Woman also tries to destroy the hero and heroine. Her fate will be the same as the male villains. 

Conclusion on Cassie Edwards

dreamcatcher native american

I once wrote during a review for one of her books (slightly paraphrasing): “Reading a Cassie Edwards book is like going to a fast-food restaurant chain anywhere in the country. No matter where you go, you always know what you’re going to get.”

Clearly, many readers-myself included, as I own all of her Native American romances–are quite happy with the knowledge that when we buy and read a Cassie Edwards novel, there will be very little surprise regarding the content of the book. 

There is a lot of mockery in this article, and it may seem that I’m making fun of Mrs. Edwards’. I am, a little. However, I also have great respect for her work, despite the allegations that she may be a serial plagiarist.

She was one of the few authors to write Native American romances and one of the few to actually care about doing research into the tribe of the book, their culture, and their language. And for that, she will have a lifelong place in my heart.

Cassie Edwards Native American Romances We’ve Reviewed

Gentle Rogue duillo

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Pirate Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 426
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey was her third entry in the Malory series.

Arguably it is her most popular book. After 30 years, it is still in print and read by many new-to-the-romance-genre readers.

Johanna Lindsey Mania

I first read Gentle Rogue eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know?

I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!

The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit on the cover.

I was a bit disheartened because for a DuilloFabioLindsey outing, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was lackluster. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed.

When I saw Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I would be even more disappointed in the cover design. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a stepback with a floral font on the front. I actually preferred that weird, pointed sci-fi-looking type.

The “old” Duillo-Lindsey era (1987 to 1990) was over with Gentle Rogue.

gentle rogue spiak
Gentle Rogue, Avon re-issue, 2020, Sharon Spiak cover art

The Plot

Gentle Rogue starts hilariously. Georgina Anderson is in a grungy inn in a seedy part of London. She attempts to kill a cockroach on the wall by propelling food at it, fails, but doesn’t care so long as it’s out of sight.

As usual with a Lindsey book, things get ridiculous, so check your brain at the door. Just enjoy the ride.

Stuck in England after secretly traveling there to search for her long-lost love who’d abandoned her years before, the American Georgina and her companion, Mac, lack both funds connections. They are desperately looking for a way back home.

Mac signs them up to work their way home. Georgina disguises herself as a boy to obtain passage on The Maiden Anne.

Little does she know that the ship’s captain already knows she’s a female because: #1 He’s James Malory, so he has eyes.

And #2, he’d met her before at a tavern when she was dressed in her masculine garments. Thinking she was someone else, he picked her up, only to cop a feel of her boobies.

Hardly someone the so-called “connoisseur of women” would forget.

James has the time of his life as he slowly seduces Georgina–or George, as he lovingly calls her.

But the tables are turned on this love-’em-and-leave-’em rake as Georgina leaves him when they land in the Caribbean. One of her sea-faring brothers is there at the port and whisks her away to Connecticut.

Parts of this book run parallel to its precursor, Tender Rebel (which, for me, was so-so due to a dull-as-dishwater heroine). There is some word-for-word repetition of previous scenes (perhaps to pad the word count).

Unlike its predecessor, the heroine in Gentle Rogue is a delight. All the characters are a blast: James, Georgina, James’ droll and equally rakish brother Anthony, and best of all, Georgina’s five belligerent older brothers.

In a memorable scene, they all take turns beating James into a pulp before holding him and his crew prisoners.

Lindsey and her readers must have loved George’s brothers as I did. Three of the Anderson men feature as heroes in subsequent books of their own.

Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue

The title of the book is quite accurate. The hard-muscled ex-pirate James Malory is an unrepentant rogue, taking advantage of Georgina. He thoroughly disgraces her in front of her brothers, so they’re forced to wed.

James is a droll charmer, witty, and arrogant. The perfect hero.

My favorite Anderson brother was Warren. His book, The Magic of You, is my second favorite in the Malory-Anderson series. There, he meets his match with the much younger and very persistent Amy Malory.

Those two romances are the high points for me in the Malory-Anderson series, although Gentle Rogue is a wee better.

I enjoyed Gentle Rogue very much when I first read it.

I’ve grown to love it much more now that I picture James looking like another blond, green-eyed Englishman: a young Sean Bean!

sean bean
Sean Bean as James Malory. Grrrr…

Nothing against Fabio, he’s a legend, but he can’t be the hero of every romance from ’87 to ’95!

If you haven’t read Gentle Rogue, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a romance classic.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she’ll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship’s irrepressible captain, James Mallory.

The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.

GENTLE ROGUE by JOHANNA LINDSEY
captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

historical romance review
Captive Angel by Deana James
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical
Book Series: Gillard-Macpherson #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 511
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The cover of Deana JamesCaptive Angel includes a quote from Johanna Lindsey that states this book is: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down.”

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

How do I evaluate this amazing journey through a super-resilient woman’s incredible 19th-century life?

I must tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.

By all rights, Deana James’ Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should toss into a blazing fire while gleefully cheering: “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”

Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having previously a few of James’ books, I knew Captive Angel couldn’t be that horrible. James was one of the finest authors to have come out of Kensington’s Zebra imprint.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Captive Angel surpassed my expectations. It stars one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical (other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels‘ Captive Series.

Hunter Gillard’s not a crazed protagonist like Sean Culhane (Stormfire) or Duke Domenico (The Silver Devil) because he’s not super-obsessed over his woman (until the middle-end). He’s just a selfish prick. It’s all about him.

On one hand, we have a Caroline, who’s in my “Greatest Heroine” hall of fame, while the hero is relegated to the “Jerky Pig” hall of shame. That list is reserved for only the most porcine of Romancelandia’s leading men.

Caroline, or Fancy as she prefers, has a fantastic character arc. She starts down in the dumps: “Woe is me, I’m depressed, mourning for my dead child. I’m fat, and my husband doesn’t love me anymore. Sure, he’ll bang me something fierce, but it’s not only me who’s getting his love!”

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

Caroline and Hunter Gillard have been married for ten years. Their baby daughter died some years earlier. They still have a young son, but Caroline’s fallen into a deep depression, as she cannot have any more children.

Naturally, she’s let herself go. Caroline has gained a few (or more) pounds. Even so, her lusty husband doesn’t mind giving her a good porking. Hunter does hate her crying, how she wallows in self-pity, and oh, her refusal to worship him and treat him like the king he is.

So Hunter has other things on his mind. He’s a seaman by nature and despises being tied to his wife’s plantation, “England’s Fancy” with the responsibilities it entails. He loathes how mopey Fancy is. Often he leaves for long instances.

Caroline’s no longer the same beautiful woman who caught Hunter’s eye at a ball. She’s dumpy and fat now, even if that doesn’t stop Hunter from plowing her furrows every so often.

Life for Fancy isn’t great and it’s about to get worse.

Her plantation is not producing as it should, despite her husband providing fertilizer, as he’s nothing but excrement.

For a horrible truth comes to light. Hunter has many lovers, including one young miss he’s especially keen on. Worse yet, the mistress is pregnant!

Hunter resolves he’s had enough of Fancy. He decides to sail to Europe with his no-longer-a-virgin of a paramour. Even crueler, he takes his and Fancy’s son, Alex, with them.

As for Caroline? Well, kiddo, it’s been fun, but see ya!

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

One final blow is to come. Hunter leaves Fancy penniless, their bank accounts wiped empty. All that Fancy has is her run-down plantation.

If not for Holy Dulcibella, the servant who raised her from infancy, Caroline would be alone in the world.

There is also her plantation’s overseer, to help. Fancy should have had a fling with him. But she had no mind for men, just for “England’s Fancy.” With her overseer & Dulcibella, Caroline engages in back-breaking labor to keep her plantation up and running.

At long last, when it seems Caroline’s hard work will bring a good harvest, a terrible storm comes. It wipes out the crops, utterly ruining her.

Caroline can fall no lower. Does give up? No! She is determined to make her way, somehow.

For the first time in Caroline’s life, she has nothing. Like Janis Joplin sang (or was it Kris Kristofferson?) “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Fancy is free.

The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independet creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.

A Light in The Darkness

Certain revelations come to light. Holy Dulcibella is not a slave but a free servant. She discloses to Fancy that she was Fancy’s grandfather’s lover and secret wife.

He was a ship captain who sailed the seas like Hunter. Dulcibella was a princess of Madagascar. They fell in love even though he had a wife and family in America. Dulcibella willingly gave up her royal life to live with her man as a second-best.

This shocks Fancy to her core.

It was refreshing that Deana James wrote Captive Angel with a sense of historical authenticity. It sounds odd, but I appreciated that Fancy Caroline was uncomfortable knowing this truth. Her prejudices made her real, not some manufactured idea of perfection.

Even though Holy Dulcibella was the only person who had Caroline’s back from day #1, who’d stuck with her through the worst, Caroline still saw Dulcibella as an “other.” Dulcieblla was “inferior” because of her race and station. Caroline was a real person of her time, filled with preconceptions.

Over time Caroline does get over it. Through their shared travails she sees Dulcibella not as a slave or servant but as family, calling her “grandmother.”

It takes time to unfold. Their relationship is one of genuine, selfless love. The most honest connection Caroline has with a person is not with her wayward husband, but with this great friend.

The Creep “Hero” Returns

Dulibella tells her about her grandfather’s secret treasure hidden off the coast of Africa. Caroline determines to find it.

She obtains a ship, captain, and crew who will sail with her across the world in search of the gold.

Ultimately, Hunter hears that Caroline is risking her life for a foolish idea of an impossible treasure. Without a care for her, he abandons his pregnant mistress to save his wife.

But Caroline doesn’t need saving! In fact, Hunter’s the one who gets captured, and she must rescue him. In the end, she lets Hunter think he saves her, to please his ego. She understands her husband’s nature now.

Hunter has never seen Caroline like this before, so confident in herself. It excites him to see this new woman of adventure. With the other woman long out of his mind, he attempts to seduce his wife.

As Caroline never stopped desiring Hunter, she engages with him eagerly. The makeup sex is steamier than ever before. The two reunite, promising to love one another forever.

The Thrilling Conclusion

And as for the treasure? Why it was lost in the seas, never to be found!

Hunter’s cast-off mistress gives birth. She goes away and leaves her baby with Hunter, to be raised by him and Caroline.

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

Be happy that the heroine is happy. She loves her husband. When the book ends Hunter promises to be on his best behavior. He still will go out to sea once every so often while Caroline raises her son and her husband’s lovechild as their own.

She will remain home and tend to their plantation. Hunter will be a good boy from here on out. He enjoys plowing Fancy’s fields now a lot more now than he ever did before.

However, Fancy’s no dummy. Once that trust is lost, it can never wholly be regained, no matter how much love exists. Fancy is determined her love will last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

Namely, that the treasure wasn’t a legend and it wasn’t lost. Caroline sneakily hid it from Hunter. Maybe she’ll let him know about it. Maybe not.

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

Why did I love Captive Angel? It is not really a romance, or more correctly, it’s more than just romance. It’s women’s fiction, an action-adventure saga, historical fiction, and a character study, too.

You may read it and hate it and I wouldn’t blame anyone for that. This is a romance novel, so one expects certain rules in romance. Here, Deana James broke the rules. Despite me being a stickler for them, James turned the tables to create a story I loved. I was drawn to it like a cat to a crinkly toy ball covered in catnip.

Deana James’ Captive Angel was an emotional, turbulent read with a heroine whose identity was forged in fire.

Maybe her love story is not an all-time great. But her life story was.

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

Synopsis:

SHE SWORE TO STAY WED
Abandoned, penniless, and suddenly responsible for the biggest tobacco plantation in Colleton County, distraught Caroline Gillard had no time to dissolve into tears. The previously pampered, indulged mistress of the South Carolina estate had to learn fast how to manage her workers, her money — and her broken heart. By day the willowy redhead labored to exhaustion beside her slaves … but each night left her restless with longing for her wayward mate. Soon, though, her misery gave way to anger, and the determined woman knew that somehow she’d make him regret his betrayal until he begged her to take him back!

HE VOWED TO BE FREE
Handsome Hunter Gillard had been born to ride the everchanging sea, not to harvest and plant year in and year out. Tired of his commitments, the virile, hot-tempered captain meant to call his destiny his own like he had before he’d met his tantalizing Caroline. When his adventure was over, maybe he’d return to his patient, understanding wife. But when he learned she’d left him for parts unknown, the furious philanderer promised he’d track her down to teach her how to be Hunter’s loyal partner, his unquestioning concubine, his forgiving… Captive Angel.

CAPTIVE ANGEL by DEANA JAMES
Jennifer Wilde

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Wilde (aka Thomas E. Huff)

tom huff

Love’s Leading Man, Jennifer Wilde

Introducing Thomas Elmer Huff

While Romance may be a primarily female-dominated market, many men have raised their pens or pushed keys to write romance novels. Of all these men, “Jennifer Wilde” stands out, and not only as the first male to garner blockbuster success in the post-Woodiwiss era.

He was also an advocate of the genre and a fierce supporter of women’s liberty. Hence, he earned the right to bear the moniker of one of “Love’s Leading Ladies.”

Jennifer Wilde was a pseudonym, of course. During his career, Thomas Elmer Huff would write using the names Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, Katherine St. Clair, and T. E. Huff. His most notable name, however, was Jennifer Wilde, under which he sold millions of books.

Huff was born in the Fort Worth, Texas area in 1938. He was the lone son of a large family, including three sisters. After high school, he attended Texas Wesleyan University and then entered the military. Huff would spend a two-year stint in the Army.

Then in 1960, he became an English teacher at a local high school.

While teaching, he found that his female students were avid readers of paperback romantic works. Curious about the subject matter, he decided to read some of those novels. Afterwards, Huff knew he could produce books that were as good or even better than those on the market.

Enter Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, and Katherine St. Clair

It was then that Huff turned his hand to writing. In 1968 using the pen name Edwina Marlow, he published the Gothic Romance The Master of Phoenix Hall with Ace Books.

Using other noms de plume, such as Beatrice Parker and Katherine St. Clair, Huff wrote 14 Gothic novels over a span of nine years.

The Master of Phoenix Hall, Edwina Marlow, Ace, 1968, cover artist unknown
The Master of Phoenix Hall, Edwina Marlow, Ace, 1968, cover artist unknown

The year 1972 changed everything for romance-centered fiction. Thick, door-stopper novels about women having sexual relations outside of marriage, with scenes written in extensive detail, were now all the rage.

So in 1976 Huff adopted another pseudonym: Jennifer Wilde. From thereon, instead of Gothics, he would write for the hot new historical romance genre.

Hello, Jennifer Wilde

Warner Books signed Huff to a deal under the Wilde name. His first outing, Love’s Tender Fury, quickly sold an astounding three million copies in one year. It spent twenty-six weeks on the New York Times paperback bestseller list with forty-one printings in its first five years.

Like Rosemary Rogers’ bed-hopping epics Sweet Savage Love and Wicked Loving LiesLove’s Tender Fury featured a heroine who had multiple lovers besides the hero–often willing, but sometimes not.

It told the first-person-POV tale of Marietta Danvers. Marietta, a ravishing beauty, was an indentured servant in the American colonies who fell for the man who owned her and then cruelly scorned her.

It would be the first in an enormously popular trilogy of novels about Marietta’s various romantic dalliances.

Marietta, Elena, Miranda, and Angel

Love’s Tender Fury, Jennifer Wilde, Warner Books, 1976, H. Tom Hall cover art
Love’s Tender Fury, Jennifer Wilde, Warner Books, 1976, H. Tom Hall cover art

Book blurb for Love’s Tender Fury:

The turbulent story of an English beauty — sold at auction like a slave — who scandalized the New World by enslaving her masters.

Marietta was a woman wronged–raped by her employer, charged with theft by her jealous mistress, and shipped to the Colonies to serve fourteen years as bound servant to the man who bid highest.

But Marietta was beautiful, educated and resilient, with a provocative body meant for love, and she was determined to prevail.

Over the handsome, silent planter who bought her to be his housekeeper….over the dashing entrepreneur who supplied girls to the New Orleans red light district…over the wealthy sadist who used her in his madness.

She would conquer them all–if she could subdue the hot, unruly passions of her heart.

LOVE’S TENDER FURY

Huff’s next Romance, Dare To Love, was also a major bestseller. The heroine was a dancer named Elena Lopez, who had dalliances with composers Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. Loosely based on the life of Lola Montez, the narrative was told in Wilde’s trademark first-person perspective.

Huff would leave Warner Books to briefly join Ballantine. Then after, he signed with Avon, officially becoming part of their stable of “Love’s Leading Ladies.” He would be the only male romance writer to openly enjoy such status.

Among the books he wrote include the single-edition novels, Once More, Miranda, and Angel in Scarlet, which were marked by stunning covers by artists H. Tom Hall, and Elaine Duillo, respectively.

Once More Miranda, Jennifer Wilde, Ballantine, 1983, H. Tom Hall cover art
Once More Miranda, Jennifer Wilde, Ballantine, 1983, H. Tom Hall cover art

Let’s Talk About Tom

Like many of his contemporaries, Wilde wrote in florid, purple prose, often describing the characters’ clothing, the settings, and the food eaten in minute detail. Sometimes it would be so over the top, veering into ridiculousness (see our review for Angel in Scarlet).

I don’t take the genre seriously… But I take my work seriously… I’ve become more painstaking, more professional… There are ‘mandatory heavy-breathing scenes,’ but I don’t write down to readers. I’d rather take the time and do it good.”

TOM HUFF

Wilde would play fast and loose with the rules of the nascent romance genre, such as concluding a book with a cliffhanger. He also employed hero bait-and-switches in some of his novels, so the reader never knew who the heroine would end up with until the very end.

Except for the fictional biography of Tallulah Bankhead, Marabelle, which he wrote under his real name, the rest of Huff’s books would be published as Jennifer Wilde. After the Marietta series, he moved from bodice ripper-style romances to more character-driven stories that told the lives and loves of his heroines.

Marabelle,
Marabelle, Tom E. Huff, St. Martin’s Press, 1980, cover artist unknown

Farewell, Mr. Huff

Huff earned a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine in 1987-1988. His final book, They Call Her Dana, was released in late 1989.

On January 18, 1990, Tom Huff died suddenly at the age of 52 of a heart attack. He left no children behind, was single, and lived with his elderly mother.

In the 2010s, much of Huff’s backlist was released in e-format. Now a new generation of readers can enjoy this creative male romance author’s books.

Your Opinion

Have you read Jennifer Wilde’s romances? Or any of the Gothics penned under Huff’s other pseudonyms? Did you even know Jennifer Wilde was a pen-name for a man? Drop us a comment and let’s talk romance.

Jennifer Wilde Historical Romance Backlist

BOOKRELEASE DATE
Love’s Tender Fury
Jan-1976
Love Me, MariettaAug-1977
Dare to LoveJan-1978
Once More, MirandaMay-1983
When Love CommandsOct-1984
Angel in ScarletAug-1986
The SlipperOct-1987
They Call Her DanaSep-1989
Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Glenn Madison
Book Series: The O'Malley Saga #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Erotic Romance, Harem Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Tudor Era Romance
Pages: 480
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Spoiler Alert ⚠

Skye O’Malley: The Most Perfect Heroine Ever?

Oh, never, ever was there a lass as lovely as Bertrice Small‘s Skye O’Malley.

With raven locks, eyes as blue-green as the Kerry sea, tiny waist, impossibly long legs for such a wee girl, pert boobies, and a fantastical elastic vagina that bounces back to its teen glory no matter how many kids she births (she must’ve done her Kegels), Skye is the most beautiful, most desirable, most enchanting, the “bestest ever!”

The Plot

Any man who looks upon her nubile beauty will be inflicted with priapism.

The sole cure is a ticket of the old in and out of Skye’s mossy cavern of passion. Her weeping honey-oven. Her juicy love-grotto, as it were. Yup, only the cringiest, the purplest of euphemisms are here.

The vintage “Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Small takes us across the seas and nations to experience the highs and lows–but mostly orgasmic highs–of Skye’s life.

Women, be they the female pirate Grace O’Malley or the Queen of England herself, Queen Bee, are intimidated by her beauty and her fiery, passionate nature!

And men… Well, they all want to delve their pulsing lances into her moist, dewy petaled sheath.

But though Skye had learned the womanly arts she had not become a biddable female. Not Skye O’Malley!

Hero #1

Not one hero will do for our eponymous goddess of a heroine, Skye O’Malley. She’s too hot and needs a lot of thick hose to put out her fires!

The daughter of an Irish laird/pirate named Dubhdara, Skye is secretly in love with Niall, a powerful lord’s son. Alas, she is too saucy a wench and will never do for Niall. So the powers that be connive to wed Skye to their son, dumb Dom.

Then our hero does something that shocks everyone. On Skye’s wedding night, Niall stuns the revelers when he interrupts the festivities, points his finger at Skye, and says, “I claim droit de seigneur of this woman!” Which is so goofy, and like the film “Braveheart,” ahistorical, but just go with it.

Afterward, Skye is left to live with Dom, who’s got a giant wang, but only teases Skye with it, as he never lasts long. Besides, it’s incestuous hook-ups with his sister, Claire, he prefers.

Occasionally, Dom brings Skye into their little dalliances, although Skye is unwilling. She bares Dom’s 2 sons before he’s paralyzed and then eventually dies.

Niall, in the meantime, was married off to frigid, crazed Darragh, whom he eventually casts aside. She enters a nunnery, and now he and Skye are free to marry.

Hero #2

Uh-uh-uh, not so fast.

Our independent Skye demands to expand her father’s shipping business, and wouldn’t you know it, she gets shipwrecked and loses her memory.

Skye ends up in Algiers to have yet another true love affair, this time with the Grand Whoremaster of Algiers, Khaled-El-Bey. In Bertrice Small’s corner of Romancelandia, Irish-Welsh-Scottish-English women from the Middle Ages to post-Enlightenment were drawn to harems like sharp nails to magnets (ouch, bad metaphor).

Skye becomes one of his earthly houris, but strictly for his personal use, and not only that but his top bitch, her poon so fine, even the biggest pimp in all of pimpdom has to put a ring on it.

Niall is this time married off to a Spanish girl. The sweet, innocent virgin Niall seduces and then marries turns out to be the opposite of wife #1. She’s an insatiable nympho who becomes a clandestine whore because even with Niall giving it to her three times a night, it’s not enough.

Yada, yada, yada, Skye O’Malley gives Khaled El-Bey a daughter, but he croaks due to harem machinations and jealousy.

Skye, who’s so awesome she can always depend on the kindness of strangers to help her out, leaves for England, even though she still has amnesia.

Hero #3

There she is pursued by yet another true love, Geoffrey.

The blond, green-eyed arrogant Lord Southwood bets that he can seduce the mysterious Skye, who spurns him, then entices him, and makes him fall for her until… she’s his!

Oh, and he’s married. Skye doesn’t care.

His wife dies and eventually, Skye marries Geoffrey and is blissfully happy. Until that is, her memory returns when she sees Niall almost killed and screams out his name. But again, they’re married to different people, so they can’t be together.

I hated Geoffrey and was glad when he kicked the bucket.

He blamed his first wife for being unable to bear sons and threw it in her face that’s why he abandoned her. His perfect Skye would have no trouble giving him sons, though. Her vag is pH balanced to accept only the most macho of y-alleles (and only a rare x-swimmer).

She bears Geoffrey two boys, one who dies with his father during the pox.

The Villain & the Honestly Nice Guy

After Geoffrey dies, Skye is left unprotected, as the wicked Queen Bess forces Skye to be her beloved Earl of Lessessester, er–any-who, Lord Robert Dudley’s plaything.

A little bestiality is hinted at as the awful Robert uses his servants as sex slaves to be used by his friends.

But not Skye. Skye, he will abuse her for his own purposes and not in a fun way. Dudley rapes Skye until he’s had his use of her, and she’s left traumatized.

After her awful arrangement with Dudley, Skye shies away from men–no, not really.

She gets involved in some smuggling and shipping with another Lord, Adam De Marisco, an Englishman.

For some reason, my favorite of Skye’s men was Adam, a nice, laughing guy with a beard who made sex pleasurable for Skye again (which, to be fair, wasn’t that difficult of a task). He was like a big teddy bear, with no arrogance, no baggage, just pure fun. Adam soothes Skye’s hurts and gives her passion without entanglements.

Why she didn’t end up with him in this book is beyond me. But he’ll make a return in the series, and I like what happened with him in All the Sweet Tomorrows.

Back to #1

Remember that lusty wife Niall had? Well, now, she’s near-death because she’s suffering from the pox (not the pox that killed Geoffrey, the other pox). 

Not Niall, though. He’s STD-free because that lucky guy gets to be this book’s hero. Due to that, having sex with a woman who’s had sex with hundreds of men doesn’t even make it hurt when he pees. Not even a weird itching!

All things fall into place, so Niall and Skye find their way back into each other’s arms. The dull, boring hero, Niall, gets his beautiful, perfect, sexual, rich, fecund, brilliant (yeah, that last one was a stretch) Skye O’Malley.

Final Analysis of Skye O’Malley

After bearing her assorted lovers and husbands (6 if you’re counting; it seems like more only because, to be fair, Skye does engage in a lot of sex) 5 children (with more kids to come), her figure–and her moist cavern of love–remain tiny and petite, unchanging despite age, births or time.

This book is a romp. Not meant to be taken deeply because if you do, you might experience heartbreak.

I am so glad I read Skye O’Malley when I was well into my twenties. If I had read this as a teen, my poor little heart wouldn’t have been able to take it.

One woman having that many men she all truly loved and in such a short amount of time (relatively), in a romance novel!

Thankfully, with maturity comes the ability to relax and not take everything so seriously, and Skye O’Malley is not a book to be taken seriously.

It’s so bad, yet so good, yet so bad… which is the best of qualities in an old bodice ripper.

I didn’t love Bertrice Small’s magnum opus Skye O’Malley, but I had a ball reading it. And that’s all that matters.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

There has never been a woman like luscious, raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O’Malley. She is the courageous seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, and intelligent enough to win a battle of wits with Queen Elizabeth herself. Follow along as Skye O’Malley is swept up in a journey filled with romance and passion that takes her from glittering Ireland, to lush Algeria, to the heart of London in pursuit of a unique and eternal love…

SKYE O’MALLEY by BERTRICE SMALL
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
Angel In Scarlet duillo

Historical Romance Review: Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde

Synopsis:

Angela Howard was the toast of London — a breathtaking vision every woman envied and every man longed to possess. Few would have dreamed this violet-eyed beauty was the precocious child of a country schoolmaster… the feisty girl who had spurned Lord Clinton Meredith, the “fairy tale prince”, to surrender her innocence to Hugh Bradford, his illegitimate brother… the young woman who had come to London with nothing but a broken heart — and a fierce determination to survive.

Now she was a celebrated actress; immortalized on canvas by Gainsborough; adored by Jamie Lambert, the playwright who made her his star; desired by the golden-haired lord obsessed with making her his lady… and still tormented with longing for the man who had branded her very soul with his passion, and who has now returned to reawaken past splendors of a love he means to reclaim….

ANGEL IN SCARLET by JENNIFER WILDE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Angel In Scarlet

Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.

Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.

The Plot

Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!

Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?

She goes through ups and downs. Angela carves her way into society, falls in love, and has her heart broken. She then moves to London to make it big as an actress. She gets married and is widowed, her heart gets broken once more.

Three men vie for Angela’s love: Hugh Bradford, the bastard son of a nobleman, whose passion for Angela is surpassed only by his desire for legitimacy & a title. There’s the arrogant womanizer, Lord Clinton Meredith, Hugh’s half-brother, who is more than what he seems. And last, the famous playwright, James “Jamie” Lambert, has a tumultuous professional and personal career with Angela.

Highlight to View Spoilers Below

In the end, Angela picked the last man I thought she should be with. It broke the rules to end up with the guy she did, but that’s what Mr. Huff was good at, breaking the rules. I can’t forget how shocked I was at the end of Love Me, Marietta.

So it was the “right” choice because the man she loved could never be content with just loving her.

(Highlight the white area below to read spoilers.)

Past the age of thirty, a person shouldn’t blame their parents for their shortcomings, yet Hugh had a rough childhood, so I couldn’t fault him. His life was so difficult, and he had nothing except his dreams. They were absolutely shattered at the end. He got what he wanted, but it wasn’t worth it without Angela.

Still, I felt bad for him. I guess that’s the mark of a good writer if you can make your “villain” sympathetic. He was single-minded and wrong, but Angela was so harsh because he wanted to get his fortune. Finished! Angela, you broke that man’s heart! He was cruel and misguided, but he loved you. After what happened to Clinton, she had every right to be. Clinton was not the man for her, but I loved him. He was so sweet (plus a blond) and got teary-eyed when he made his exit.

As for Jamie, he was a great character, but Angela lived with him for years and never realized she loved him until they were through. Certainly not the kind of epic love you’d expect in a romance. I wish Hugh hadn’t turned into a jerk for her to have to make that decision.

The scene where Jamie revealed his true feelings for Angela was fantastic, and if it had been more of those, I don’t think I’d feel as conflicted.

Let’s Get It On

Wilde never met a word that wasn’t a friend. Adverbs, adjectives, subjective clauses, it’s all there, and then some! One particular passage struck out to me as ridiculously cartoony:

We ate slowly, looking at each other the whole while, silent, anticipating, savoring the sensations building, mounting inside. Utterly enthralled I watched him eat chicken, his strong white teeth tearing the flesh apart, and it was thrilling, tantalizing. I observed the way his neck muscles worked when he swallowed his wine, and that was thrilling, too and I watched with fascination as his large brown hand reached out, fingers wrapping around a fuzzy golden-pink peach, clutching it. He took up a knife and carefully peeled the peach and divided it into sections and ate them one by one, his brown eyes devouring me as he did so. The tip of his tongue slipped out and slowly licked the peach juice from his lips…

ANGEL IN SCARLET

I think this was supposed to be a sensually-tinged scene like the one out of the film “Barry Lyndon.” As for me, I was reminded of the “3rd Rock From the Sun” Thanksgiving episode where Harry and Vicki have leftover foreplay, eating turkey legs and dipping their fingers in gravy. Then Harry puts a turkey carcass on his head, and the loving begins.

“3rd Rock From the Sun,” Carsey Werner Company/NBC

Final Analysis of Angel in Scarlet

This was the story of the rise of actress Angela Howard and her (not too many) loves.

At 600 pages long, Jennifer Wilde’s Angel in Scarlet runs a tad overlong. That might have been due to Wilde’s penchant for purple prose, clothes porn, and food porn. Sex porn? Nah, Wilde uses a stream of consciousness perspective and euphemisms for love scenes. Hardly porn.

Mr. Wilde could have cut out 100 pages of description. I didn’t need to know the details of every outfit worn by every character in every scene.

Although I enjoyed it, I’m not 100% certain Angela made the right decision in the end.

I wanted to hate this, but something about Huff’s writing pulled me in. Yes, it’s as purple as grape jelly and full of run-on sentences, but for some reason, I can tolerate it more than Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ prose. The tension of not knowing who Angela was going to choose and the resulting emotions when she did are feelings I won’t forget.

3.88 stars

the present

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
The Present by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #6
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Over 22 years and under two different publishers, Johanna Lindsey wrote 12 romances about the Malory & Anderson clans. These books were massive hits with her many fans, with some readers claiming them as favorites, especially Gentle Rogue. Her novel, The Present, is moderately short at just over 300 pages. It tells two parallel love stories set in different eras in England, portraying the Malory clan in the past and the “present.” No matter how time changes, the love lives of the family remain the same.

The Plot

It is Christmas time. The Malorys–wives, husbands, and children–assemble at Haverston, the family patriarch’s estate. Lord Jason Malory is a Marquis and father to Derek, the hero from Say You Love Me. Readers familiar with that novel should know the dark family secret. Derek is not a child of the legitimate union between his father and his wife. Jason had an affair with a mysterious woman, and Derek was the result of that. The mystery woman is Jason’s long-time maid, Molly.

Jason’s marriage was for convenience. It is an unhappy one, as he and his wife have lived apart for years. Jason has always been a stickler for propriety and forever covering up scandals. It was a struggle reigning in his two wild younger brothers, Anthony and James.

Out of blue, a package in Christmas wrapping appears. The Malorys open it to find a diary.

It details how the second Marquis of Haverston, Christopher, found love with a gypsy princess named Anastasia. Curious, the family reads the book aloud, discovering long-kept secrets.

The five couples from the previous installments have their roles in the book. Fortunately, my favorite Malory couples feature prominently throughout. There’s little focus on boring Roslynn and Kelsey and more on Uncle James, his wife Georgina, and niece Amy.

Derek, and his parents, Jason and Molly, are the main characters in the current timeline.

The Present tells of how the incongruous pairing between an English nobleman and a lovely gypsy came to be. It also details the romance between the mature quinquagenarian Jason and his forty-something beloved, Molly.

Christmas is a time of miracles. Indeed, it would be a miracle if Jason and Molly could openly declare their love for each other. A rigid class structure controls society.

Nevertheless, the past foretells the future, and love wins out in the end.

Final Analysis of The Present

If you’re unfamiliar with the Malory clan, I wouldn’t recommend The Present as your first foray into the series. You can skip the first two books, but reading Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Say You Love Me is essential.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

As the entire Malory family gathers at Haverston to celebrate the season, a mysterious present arrives anonymously. The gift is an old journal — a tender and tempestuous account of the love affair between the second Marquis, Christopher Malory, and a dark gypsy beauty named Anastasia, who seeks a love match with a non-gypsy in order to save herself from a prearranged marriage to a brute.

Though the dashing English lord Anastasia sets her sight upon burns for the exquisite, exotic miss, Christopher could never consent to wed such a lowborn lady. But miracles have been known to happen in this season of peace and giving and love, as two extraordinary people seperated by cicumstance of birth begin a passionate dance of will and wiles.

And in the miraculous blossoming of a glorious romance at a long ago Christmastime, there are wise and well-learned lessons that will enrich the hearts of the Malory descendants — and, indeed, of everyone who has ever dreamed.

The Present by Johanna Lindsey
the silver devil teresa denys

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

historical romance review
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Renaissance Era Romance
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.

A Legendary Romance

Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.

The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And if you do, it will cost you quite a penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars.

I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!

There’s a good reason this book is highly prized.

The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers, he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.

Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.

the silver devil
The Silver Devil, Troubador Books, UK edition

The Set-Up

“He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.”

THE SILVER DEVIL

It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.

For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.

Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the overwhelming heat and decay of Fidena during a hot summer when the plague that runs through town.

Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.

The Villainous Hero: The Silver Devil

One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and with a snap of his fingers, she is made his.

Felicia does not want to go willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? In vain, she resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her to surrender to the devil’s demands.

Although Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.

Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.

The Story

Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.

As they travel through the hot, dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants escort Domenico and Felicia. Former mistresses accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them callously when they seek his favor.

The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and, for its time, took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro, who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.

Once Domenico’s affection dies out, only contempt remains. Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.

I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice it enough to say he does his admirers wrong. He is ruthless in his brutality.

A Difficult to Believe HEA

As a result, it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.

The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Domenico is humbled several times over while Felicia remains at his side. Felicia proves she is more than an object of desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. With her by his side, Domenica will rise to power once more.

The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.

“I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.

THE SILVER DEVIL

My Opinion

The writing in The Silver Devil is gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, and too gruesome for me to call it one.

It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.

I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.

Final Analysis of The Silver Devil

SPOILER ⚠

Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Duchy, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.

He is feared by others but not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.

In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a gloriously positive note.

Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.

For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.

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

Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online

I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to several sources where you can read the free PDF or internet version of The Silver Devil at no cost.


Synopsis

He was cold. He was cruel. A ruthless sensualist riding headlong to hell. He was the Silver Devil – Domenico, Duke of Cabria.

Felicia was the illegitimate sister of a tavern-keeper. She felt nothing but terror when they told her that she had been chosen as the Duke’s next mistress, and when they took her, decked in silks and jewels to the Silver Devil’s bed…

THE SILVER DEVIL BY TERESA DENYS