Category Archives: Mixed Genre Authors

Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of first four books Janelle Taylor’s in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series so far.

book review historical romance
Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance
Pages: 496
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Brazen Ecstasy, book #4 in the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle Series by Kensington/ Zebra author Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

Alisha and Gray Eagle Separated Yet Again!

When Brazen Ecstasy begins, it has been five years since Alisha Williams and Oglala Lakota warrior Gray Eagle first met. Despite numerous hardships–many self-inflicted–they have welcomed a son, Bright Arrow. They are very much in love and happy.

Which–of course–means something will soon shatter their happiness. Two things, in fact.

The first incident is when American soldiers kidnap Bright Arrow in an effort to bring Gray Eagle to heel. This effort fails somewhat as Gray Eagle rescues his son. However, there is tragic news. During the rescue, Alisha was hit on the head, fell into a raging river, and got swept away.

Gray Eagle’s tribe believes she’s dead!

Fortunately–or not–Alisha is rescued by Brave Bear, her former Blackfoot suitor. But Alisha has suffered amnesia from the head injury. She doesn’t remember the last five years of her life.

brazen ecstasy

The Other Woman Makes Trouble

That creates many issues between her and Gray Eagle when he finally decides to search for her and brings her back to the Oglala camp.

Because while Alisha was with Brave Bear’s people, Leah Winston, a white slave with a strong resemblance to Alisha, set her eyes on Gray Eagle.

She does her best to take advantage of Alisha’s absence by ingratiating herself with Bright Arrow.

Then Leah attempts to seduce Gray Eagle– and almost succeeds. But despite the blatant evidence of physical attraction to her–if you know what I mean, and I think you do!–our hero ultimately rebuffs her advances.

For such acts of other-woman villainy, Leah is fated to die later on when trying to kill Alisha/Shalee.

Alisha’s amnesia–plus Leah’s taunts about her (non-existent) affair with Gray Eagle–exacerbates the rift between the two protagonists, who briefly separate–again.

Ah, but love wins out, and in time, the couple reconciles.

A secret is revealed. Gray Eagle and his warriors take their revenge upon the White soldiers for the previous attack. And for a while, happiness comes to Alisha and Gray Eagle.

The Upside

Mrs. Taylor is at her evocative, flowery, lyrical best in Brazen Ecstasy.

The characters are developed, and the emotional level is turned up to 11.

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The arguments that Alisha and Gray Eagle had with each other could have easily happened today, as in 1782–when the book is set. Or in 1983 when the Brazen Ecstasy was first published.

Downside

No matter how evil Leah was, that does not excuse Running Wolf, Gray Eagle’s father, for raping her.

During the quarrels Alisha and Gray Eagle have regarding Leah, his behavior comes across as very childish. Gray Eagle lacks any sympathy and understanding for Alisha’s trauma from her kidnapping.

Sex

very warm heat level

The love scenes in Brazen Ecstasy are a bit more graphic than in the previous books in the series. It’s still not erotica, but there’s a little more pepper in the soup here.

Violence

In addition to the aforementioned rape of Leah and the assault on Alisha, there are other scenes of assault, shootings, and other forms of violence. The violence is not as graphic as in the first book in the series, Savage Ecstasy.

Bottom Line on Brazen Ecstasy

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of Janelle Taylor’s first four books in the “Ecstasy/ Gray Eagle” series so far. (#1 Savage Ecstasy, #2 Defiant Ecstasy, and #3 Forbidden Ecstasy.)

It is not flawless, but it is very, very good.

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

Synopsis

For four years, green-eyed Alisha Williams had been Princess Shalee, the cherished wife of the Oglala Chief Gray Eagle. Still their love was stronger than the surging white water of a snow-swollen stream and even more powerful then the fiery crimson sun that commanded the earth. But fate envied their perfect love and swept the stunning Alisha down a raging river and out of Gray Eagle’s life…

There was no way Gray Eagle could know that his love was alive when his empty teepee proved she was gone. But the daily torment of his lonely heart and the nightly agony of unfulfilled passion insisted that somehow she had survived destiny’s decree. He had rescued Alisha many times before — somehow he would find her once more. No river was too wide and no journey was too long to find his beloved, to share again their BRAZEN ECSTASY…

BRAZEN Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
forbidden ecstasy popp

Historical Romance Review: Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

book review historical romance
Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Native American Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 494
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Forbidden Ecstasy (“Ecstasy/Gray Eagle Series #3″) by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The heroine of the first four books, Alisha Williams, and her husband, Gray Eagle, the “hero,” have been officially married for four days. They have only spent two days together, however, as Gray Eagle has left Alisha to obtain supplies.

When Gray Eagle doesn’t return to her, Alisha wonders what happened.

What she doesn’t know is that Gray Eagle was shot and left for dead by her friend, Powchutu.

There are two reasons he did this:

  1. To punish Gray Eagle for his abhorrent behavior toward Alisha
  2. Powchutu is in love/lust with Alisha.

Alisha believes Powchutu’s lies about why Gray Eagle hasn’t returned, and they set off together.

On their trip, which culminates in St. Louis, Alisha and Powchutu will meet, or meet again, four people who will play a major role in their lives. They are:

  1. Joe Kenny, a white trapper
  2. Jamie O’Hara, a lodgings owne
  3. Mary O’Hara, a mute young woman and niece to Jamie O’Hara
  4. And, sadly, Jeffery Gordon, the evil ex-Army lieutenant who somehow survived the attack on Fort Pierre.

As time goes on, Jeffery blackmails Alisha, threatening great harm to her and Powchutu if she doesn’t marry him. Alisha hedges and Powchutu is killed by Jeffery’s henchmen.

Powchutu’s death pushes Alisha into marrying Jeffery, who makes her life hell on many levels. What neither knows is that Gray Eagle survived his shooting by Powchutu.

Gray Eagle comes to kill Jeffery, finds Alisha, and takes her back to the Oglala camp, subjecting her to more emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse along the way.

Despite all of this, by the end of the book, Gray Eagle and Alisha reconcile, as they discover that the bad things they thought about the other were not true. They decide to continue the ruse that Alisha is Shalee, make up with each other, and are happy.

For now, anyway…

The Upside

When Janelle Taylor is at her best, she ranks with Rosanne Bittner as one of my go-to authors. Mrs. Taylor’s style is lyrical and evocative. she brings her readers and me into the lives of her characters.

I felt as though I were watching the lives of the characters instead of just reading about them. Only the best authors can make me feel like that.

The Downside

While I understand Gray Eagle’s feelings about what he believes is Alisha’s betrayal of him, that doesn’t defend/excuse/justify the abuse he inflicts on her. “This kind of derails the Gray Eagle Redemption Tour” Mrs. Taylor was on in Defiant Ecstasy.

Much of the rancor between Alisha and Gray Eagle was due to a lack of trust and communication, which they haven’t had since the beginning.

Sex

Very little and not terribly exciting. Mrs. Taylor does have a few books which have some spice to them. The first three books in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series are not among them.

Violence

There is, however, a lot of violence. Assault, battery, attempted murder, murder, and rape. None of the violence is super graphic, but it’s there.

Bottom Line on Forbidden Ecstasy

The fact that Gray Eagle is still an unrepentant bastard and the “Stockholm Syndrome romance” between Gray Eagle and Alisha keeps me from giving Janelle Taylor’s Forbidden Ecstasy a five-star rating. 

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

ALISHA was silk and satin, honey and fire. Never before did the possession of a man fill Alisha with such excitement as when she held her handsome Indian lover in her arms. That she was a white woman living in the red man’s world did not matter. They had promised each other their hearts forever – nothing could keep them apart.

GRAY EAGLE was fierce and gentle, powerful and possessive. He would never forsake his bride of two moons; he would never let her go. But when Alisha awoke to dawn’s first light her bronze-skinned warrior was gone. Her lips were tender from his fiery kisses; her body throbbed from his fierce passion – and still she longed for him. Lost between two worlds, she was desperate and alone. Betrayed by her savage lover, she hungered for their forbidden love!

Forbidden Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

Midnight angel kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review
Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg, Fredericka Ribes
Book Series: Stokehurst #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Lisa KleypasMidnight Angel is the predecessor to the only one of her novels I’ve been unable to finish, Prince of Dreams. I started Prince of Dreams, not knowing it was a sequel; the Elaine Duillo stepback cover lured me in.

I should have started with this one, which features a Max Ginsburg tip-in illustration, as this is by far the better romance.

The Plot

The story opens with Lady Anastasia Kaptereva. She is in jail, sentenced to hang for a murder she did not commit. Anastasia doesn’t have any recollection of the event.

She flees Russia for exile to England, where under an assumed name, she lands employment as a governess to young Lady Emma Stokehurst.

The hero Luke, Lord Stokehurst, is unique in that he’s disabled, missing a hand, with a hook in its place. He is a widower whose wife died in a fire. And he’s vowed never to love again.

His 12-year-old daughter Emma is in need of care. Emma is the heroine in Prince of Dreams, where she is paired off with Tasia’s annoying brute of a cousin Nikolas Angelovsky. He was such an awful hero; I DNF’d that book. Unthinkable for a Kleypas, but he rubbed me the wrong way. Strange, as he’s not so terrible here in Midnight Angel.

midnight angel lisa kleypas
Midnight Angel, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1995, Max Ginsburg cover art, John De Salvo model

Luke is about 15 years older than Tasia (she’s 18; he’s 34). Luke is “tortured” and domineering, not a thoughtfully sensitive but strong quasi-beta male with a cream-puff interior. The power dynamics may be off-putting to some. I didn’t mind.

When Tasia and Lucas get together, the steam factor is hot. Kleypas writes excellent love scenes, which is why the book was enjoyable.

The plot was a bit of a kitchen-sink affair, as there are many factors thrown in: the Gothic aura, amnesia, murder, a nasty other woman, and lots of drama. Plus, there are evil baddies, a tiger, and some paranormal factors. The supernatural stuff is further explored in Prince of Dreams.

My Opinion

Midnight Angel was good, better than its follow-up, but not anything exceptional. If you’ve read my reviews, you know where I stand on the grieving widowers trope, but it was mostly tolerable here. Mostly.

Some aspects were rushed, making my rating for this book drop a few percentage points. It’s melodramatic and cheesy at times. Then again, I don’t mind cheesy.

I liked this historical overall, but I don’t think it’s for every reader. Fans of Kleypas’ romances written in the 20th century–particularly her Hathaway and Ravenel series–probably will not have a good time as I did with Midnight Angel.

The ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are relatively low for a Kleypas romance, with a considerable number of 1 or 2-star reviews.

That didn’t sway my opinion, as I enjoy Kleypas’ 1990s to early 2000s romances more than her “modern” books.

Final Analysis of Midnight Angel

Historical romance is a broad genre and Lisa Kleypas’ is a rare author with broad genre appeal. Midnight Angel is a solid, if not stellar, romance. Tasia and Lord Stokehurst are an unlikely couple, but their story is full of passion, intrigue, and danger.

Opinions are mixed about this one, so your mileage may vary. As for me, while I won’t be returning to Midnight Angel, I am glad I read it.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

A noblewoman of frail beauty and exotic mystery fakes her own death to escape the gallows. And now she must flee. In disguise and under a false identity, she finds unexpected sanctuary in the arms of a handsome and arrogant yet gallant British lord—who must defy society to keep her safe . . . and overcome a tragic past to claim her as his own.

MIDNIGHT ANGEL by LISA KLEYPAS
nancy gideon midnight

Paranormal Romance Review: Midnight Kiss by Nancy Gideon

paranormal romance
Midnight Kiss by Nancy Gideon
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1994
Illustrator: Richard Newton
Book Series: Midnight Vampire #1
Published by: Pinnacle
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance, Paranormal Romance, Vampire Romance
Pages: 398
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Paranormal Romance Review: Midnight Kiss by Nancy Gideon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Midnight Kiss by Nancy Gideon is a vampire romance from way back in 1994.

Nancy Gideon is an author I’m familiar with only through her identity as Dana Ransom. As Dana Ransom, Gideon has written some of my favorite historical romances.

Although I’ve read a few vampire romances, I’ve never been a sucker for them, so this Halloween I decided to bite my teeth into Gideon’s Midnight Kiss. (The puns are awful, aren’t they?)

The Characters and the Setup

Set in Regency Era England, Midnight Kiss begins with man prowling the dark London streets. This man is no man, however; he is an immortal–a vampire named Louis.

Marquis Louis Radman is desperate to find a cure for his preternatural malady. He has spent one hundred thousand nights wandering through the cities of Europe for sustenance, cursed as one of the–surprisingly many–undead who exists by drinking human blood.

Like vampires of legend, he cannot die a natural death. A stake through the heart or sunlight can destroy him. Nor can Louis tolerate the touch of a crucifix or the smell of garlic.

Driven mad by his doomed eternal state, he seeks the help of Stuart Howland, an English physician who specializes in bloodborne illnesses. Dr. Howland attempts to cure Louis of his vampiric disease by experimenting with blood transfusions.

Meanwhile, Louis is drawn to the doctor’s lovely assistant, his daughter, Arabella–the OG Bella of vampire romances.

The Plot

Arabella is a clever and capable young miss who didn’t fair well in her only London Season due to her outspoken personality. Although she doesn’t fully comprehend the nature of Louis’ illness, she is drawn to the dark, mysterious man who can only be seen at night.

Louis is enchanted by Arabella and vows if he can live as a mortal, he will make her his bride.

Another man has eyes for Arabella, and his fiendish attempts to make her his will draw a horrific danger close to home.

At last, when the treatments seem to work, Louis and Arabella marry. Inexorably drawn to Louis, Arabella has no idea what evil lurks ahead. The pair have a passionate start to their relationship, believing a bright future lies on the horizon.

Recall that Louis is not the only vampire who walks the earth. He shares a turbulent connection with a several who will seek him out and try to take the life of his innocent human bride.

When the truth of her husband’s nature is unveiled, will Arabella be horrified by his monstrosity? Or will she become drawn to him even more?

The Conclusion: Spoilers ⚠

Louis cannot escape his past, as he is a being trapped in time. The vampire who created him is obsessed with him and hunts him down. Death awaits.

By the end, Louis and Bella vanquish some of his enemies, while others survive for another day.

Husband and wife leave England to flee to Vienna. Arabella is pregnant with Louis’ child, and a world of possibilities lies before them.

However…

SPOILER WARNING

Arabella’s father dies before he can find a cure for Louis’ vampirism, so Louis is doomed to remain undead. Arabella remains mortal and will die of old age.

In following sequels, after Arabella’s death, Louis finds love with several other mortal women.

Thus breaking the HEA rule of romance!

For that reason, I don’t think I’ll be finishing the series. Knowing this also affects my perspective on this book, and reduces my enjoyment factor. YMMV, but I’m a stickler for for the rules.

Final Analysis of Midnight Kiss

I wish I had read Midnight Kiss when it came out in 1994. At 16 years old, that would have around the end of my vampire-craze phase. The 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula & 1994’s Interview With the Vampire, along with Anne Rice’s Vampire series (up to Tales of the Body Thief–oh, Lestat, how I loved you!), the Dark Shadows TV reboot, and a life-long adoration for Christopher Lee led to my passion for blood drinkers.

Alas, I no longer hold vampires in the same romantic light I did back then. The angsty themes of eternal suffering while existing as a human-but-not-human once fascinated me. It’s all a bit too emo for me, now.

Still, I found Midnight Kiss to be engaging, if a bit overwrought. I’m not certain if Nancy Gideon was the first author to pen a full-length vampire romance. Undoubtedly, she was one of the firsts. So I commend Gideon for trying something innovative and fresh–as this was thirty years ago.

Nevertheless, I know there are better vampire romances the genre has to offer.

Midnight Kiss was the first in a long-running series. I’d rate Midnight Kiss 3.5 stars if I view it as a standalone. Since I’m not continuing the series, I’ll keep that rating.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

WHITE ROSES
They were a gift from her handsome new suitor. After a wretched Season in London, Arabella Howland was ripe for a real romance. But she soon discovered that the Marquis Louis Radman was no ordinary bachelor…

SCARLET SECRETS
A mysterious blood malady had brought Louis to Arabella’s father. The celebrated Dr. Howland was his last hope–the only man alive who could break the spell that had tormented the nobleman for the past three centuries…

DARK DESIRES
But Arabella saw only a man–a tender, irresistibly seductive stranger whose burning touch sent her own blood racing. Yet even as she donned a wedding dress and vowed to love Louis forever, the past was reaching out to claim him, calling him back to a place of eternal lust and longing–and forcing Arabella to choose between her sunlit world and the dark ecstasy of a…Midnight Kiss

MIDNIGHT KISS by NANCY GIDEON
night fire catherine coulter

Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

book review historical romance
Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Steve Assel
Book Series: Night Series #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 388
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter features one of her few truly nice guy heroes. This romance was a pleasant surprise–despite its dark themes–due to the charming Burke Drummond.

This romance is the first in Coulter’s “Night Trilogy,” which is set in Regency-era England and in the final book, America.

The Plot

In Night Fire, Arielle and Burke had met years prior when she was 15 and he in his twenties. Burke instantly fell in love with Arielle but couldn’t do anything about it as he was called to war against the French.

In the interim, Arielle was forced into marriage with a cruel, elderly lecher.

Burke returns to find Arielle a bitter widow, suffering post-traumatic stress from the abuse she endured. She wants nothing to do with men.

Meanwhile, Burke’s feelings for Arielle still run strong. He wants her and pursues her. When he discovers the horrors of her marriage, Burke changes to a gentler approach.

Thus unfolds a tender, emotional love story where Burke patiently woos Arielle–although he is a randy rascal. Her recovery takes time, and Burke is there to give her genuine support and understanding.

Meanwhile, a wicked villain has his eye on Arielle. Will Burke also be there to save her before it’s too late?

Read Night Fire and find out!

Final Analysis of Night Fire

I’ve read a handful of Catherine Coulter romances and disliked more than half of them. Night Fire was one of her bests due to the wonderful hero, Burke.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the final entry in her “Night Trilogy,” Night Storm, whose arrogantly condescending hale protagonist made me rethink my penchant for blonds. But that’s a review for another day.

Night Fire is a solid read for those who like to see a heroine recover from trauma and be healed by love.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis

ONLY HIS BURNING LOVE COULD SAVE HER.

Trapped into a loveless marriage, Arielle Leslie knew a life of shame and degregation. Even after the death of her brutal husband, she was unable to free herself from the shackles of humiliation. Only Burke Drummond’s love could save her . . . if she let it. But as his passion blazed, his patience wore thin . . . and Arielle risked a future as terrifying as her past.

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
the marriage war charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

the marriage war by charlotte lamb
The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: half-star
Published: 1997
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1913
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 186
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb may not have the absolute worst cruel hero in Harlequin Presents’ history, but he certainly ranks in the top twenty…maybe forty.

Okay, maybe the top 50. The HP line has at least a thousand crappy heroes in its 50 years of existence.

The Plot

Sancha is a stressed-out housewife with a handsome, workaholic husband named Mark. While she’s not yet middle-aged, she feels and looks her age, while Mark gets better each year like a fine vintage wine.

She is a stay-at-home mother responsible for cooking, cleaning, raising the children, and keeping her husband satisfied. She works hard on the first three. Lately, though, Sancha’s been neglecting her final “responsibility,” as her husband keeps telling her.

The twin beds in their bedroom don’t help. That became a habit when their twins were young, and Sancha had to wake up for midnight nursings and nappy changes. It had been Mark’s idea since he didn’t want his sleep disturbed by her movements.

Sancha and Mark have been married for six years. Well, if you’ve heard of the seven-year-itch, you know what happens next.

Mark has a charming secretary in the office. Capable, beautiful, attentive, and young.

Sancha starts receiving letters hinting that her husband is getting down and dirty with someone during his late-night work sessions. Is Mark having an affair with his secretary? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure looks like he is when Sancha catches them out at a late-night dinner.

Sancha’s life crumbles around her. Even as it does, she decides, like any good woman from the lyrics of Country Music, to fight for her philandering man.

Romances with adultery are difficult enough to pull off. Combine that plot with a male protagonist–who, if classified by scientific terms, would be considered non-Newtonian fluid–you get a wall-banger that requires great force when tossed across the room.

It’ll be over my dead body,

So get out while you can!

‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.

LORETTA LYNN, “YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH”

Sancha gets a makeover and decides to be sexier, but now Mark thinks his wife is getting sexy for other men! Could things get any worse?

Spoiler: The Shocking Revelations

Perhaps Mark’s twisted conscience led him to do what he did. For he tells Sancha the shocking truth. He is the one behind all the letters Sancha received, not his secretary.

Apparently, Mark has a super good reason–to motivate his wife to get over herself to fight for their marriage (i.e., cater to all of Mark’s wants and needs).

In truth, he was only planning to have an affair. Nice guy, right?

Mark figured he could have his matronly wife tend to his children and home. Meanwhile, his carnal desires would be fulfilled by other women. Starting with his secretary, who was down for it.

Instead of shagging her right away, though, Mark decided first to torment his wife with anonymous letters to make her re-evaluate what was important: him!

It all works out for Mark, as Sancha gets her mojo back, and insecurity drives her to be the devoted, horny Stepford wife he knew she could be.

So Mark dumps the floozy of a secretary. In return, Sancha promises never again to get too overwhelmed by her many responsibilities. Mark will always come first. (Yeah, he seems like he’d be that type.)

“See that? How much I want you?”

“As much as you wanted her the other night?” she asked bitterly, and he shut his eyes, groaning, turning away.

“Oh, not again! Do we have to bring that up again? Forget Jacqui!”

“I can’t. Can you? Working with her every day, seeing her, being alone with her? You may not have slept with her–but you admit you almost did. Is she going to accept the end of the affair?”

Final Analysis of The Marriage War

I’ve mentioned before how Charlotte Lamb is one of my two most beloved authors in the Harlequin Presents line. I’ve given her more 5-star ratings than any other writer in that line. But she’s also written a lot of clunkers. This is one of them.

Oh, boy, did I hate this book!

Mark was a paramecium scum-sucker. Not worthy of the title of “man.” Cruel hero? More like absolute zero!

Sancha was not much better. She was a bland, reactive character and not too many rungs above her husband in the animal kingdom.

I love Charlotte Lamb’s writings, so I’ll forgive her for this hideous attempt at “romance.” Out of her 160-plus books published, there are bound to be bad ones. And sheesh, was this one ever that!

File The Marriage War under “suck-suckity-suck.”

(Note: the cover rating does not count toward the final score.)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis

Something worth fighting for!

Sancha’s first instinct was to burn the anonymous letter. Its malicious message couldn’t be true: Do you know where your husband will be tonight? Do you know who he’ll be with?

Sancha adored Mark now as much as when they were first married, even though family life meant that they were no longer so close. She’d never dreamed that her tough, handsome husband would fall into the arms of another woman!

The battle was on – though when Sancha confronted Mark, she discovered the physical attraction between them was as strong as ever. But she wouldn’t let herself be seduced by him…. Not yet!

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
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!

a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.

The Plot

Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior when she was only 18. They lived in California and she hoped to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. Logan controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait.

They argued, he raped her, and she left and filed for divorce. The rape resulted in a child.

For five years Mommy and Daddy never see each other while sharing custody of their son. Now Christie is a hot movie star with a male “friend” whom she mercilessly cock-teases. The press hounds Christie so much that she moves to England with her son–-without telling her ex-husband. This obviously angers Logan and he and Christie fight it out for custody.

Drama ensues and Christie and Logan realize their feelings for each other still run hot.

My Opinion

It’s not the plot of A Naked Flame I object to; it’s the horrific execution.

Up until page 100, the hero and heroine interact twice, except for a brief flash-back into their marriage. It’s as if Charlotte Lamb wanted to write a longer book, but found she had almost maxed out her word count. So she just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with another guy.

The actual romance portion of this book is limited to two, maybe two and a half chapters. I wouldn’t have minded if the scenes with the other man were fun, or at least we saw the heroine’s personal journey to “enlightenment” or sumthin’…but no.

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

Christie is a Cnidarian of the lowest order. (That’s a fancy word I learned for jellyfish. See, home-schooling works for parents and kids.)

As for the other man…why isn’t he ever named something strong like Wolf or Magnus? Instead, he’s named Sheldon or Arnie or Dilbert or in this case Ziggy!

So our major conflict in Charlotte Lamb’s A Naked Flame consists of a love triangle between the Sensitive-New-Age-Guy slacker type:

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

What a pointless boring book with a wishy-washy, stupid heroine who wouldn’t know her butt crack from the Grand Canyon.

Uggh.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

Christie had been far too young and intoxicated with love when she and Logan had married. He’d wanted a family. She’d needed sometime to pursue her career.

After their painful breakup Christie had resented carrying Logan’s child. But now her son was even more vital to Christie’s happiness than her career as a famous film star had ever been. And she wouldn’t let Logan use lies and gossip to take Kit away from her.

Losing Logan’s love had almost destroyed Christie. She couldn’t bear to lose their son as well.

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB
one book multiple covers

One Book: Multiple Covers #2: Highland Velvet

highland velvet covers

Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

A few weeks ago, we highlighted the many covers for Jude Deveraux’s The Velvet Promise. These included the re-issues and foreign editions. As a result, we decided to continue displaying the multiple covers for the book’s sequels.

Today, we focus on Highland Velvet covers, a book we previously reviewed. It is one of our favorite romances.

Highland Velvet Covers

The Original Cover

Harry Bennett illustrated the original edition of Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet. The artist painted all the covers in the Velvet series. This is the 2nd of 4 books in a series about four Montgomery brothers. Pocket Books published this in 1982.

Note the horse’s expression as the hero swoops the heroine onto the saddle!

The hook under the author’s name markets this as the bodice ripper it was. Although, for a bodice ripper, this was rather tame as the hero was not cruel.

In an Age Like No Other, In a Land Where Hatred Was Sown, One Great Love Grew…

HIGHLAND VELVET
highland velvet covers
Highland Velvet, Pocket Books, 1982, cover artist Harry Bennett

The American Re-Issues

The Faux Stepback

highland velvet covers

The 1984 Pocket Books reissue of Highland Velvet had a fake-out stepback cover. This was typical of most of Jude Deveraux’s re-issues.

The Plain, “Respectable” Re-Issue #1

highland velvet covers

Just like its predecessor, the next reprint of Highland Velvet had no hint of a clinch or a step back. This is a “plain” style cover that was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for big-name authors.

A plain cover was a stamp of “respectability” that publishers thought would lure more readers in.

The Plain, “Respectable” Re-Issue #2

Here is another Pocket Books re-print that has a plain cover.

The Large Print Edition

For those of you like me who need a large print for aging eyes, Thorndike Press released a large print edition in hardcover in 2007. You can see mountains and a castle. Nothing else hints at the passion that lurks between the pages!

The International Versions

U.K. Versions

The 1984 British Arrow Publishers edition of Highland Velvet shows lots of skin, even more than Arrow’s The Velvet Promise did! There’s a topless Bronwyn showing off-side boob as she and an equally topless Stephen get it on the moors.

Across the pond, attitudes were more relaxed about sexy covers, particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the next installment of this series, we’ll see just how much nudity was acceptable!

The 1984 Arrow edition of Highland Velvet is a simple photograph of a couple embracing. It looks sweet, right?

A tagline reads: She was proud and beautiful, and he had been ordered to tame her…”

Spanish Language

highland velvet covers

Again, the first Spanish language version reused the original American cover art. Suma de Letras published this version of the book in 2005.

The title translates into “Land of Velvet” or “Velvet Land.”

highland velvet covers

This Ediciones B Spanish language edition is almost identical to their version of The Velvet Promise’s cover. It’s plain, blue-greenish in color, and very modest.

Portuguese Language

This Portuguese language version of Highland Velvet has a nice cover, but it looks a bit too Gothic for this Medieval romance. The publisher was Quinta Essência.

highland velvet covers

French

highland velvet covers

The 1991 J’ai lu edition features an illustrated cover. I commend them for getting the characters’ looks correct. The title means “Velvet Skin” or “Velvet Complexion.” It pairs well with this book’s predecessor, The Velvet Promise. The French translate title of that book was Eyes of Velvet.”

The 2013 J’ai lu edition is updated with a more modern photograph image of the heroine. She wears a lovely headpiece and matching necklace.

German

The German-language version of Highland Velvet is called Die Ascotts: Alicia, or The Ascotts: Alicia. The Montgomery family name is now Ascott.

This 1996 Weltbild-published edition features art that is unknown to me. It matches the time period and characters’ descriptions.

This Weltbild 2006 edition re-uses Elaine Duillo artwork. The art was originally used for the stepback for Dangerous to Hold, by Elizabeth Thornton, Bantam, 1996. Neither the hero nor the heroine’s description is correct.

This 2019 beHEARTBEAT German e-book edition continues the humorous titles that are typically German. This one is Alicia Und Der Englische Schuft, or Alicia and The English Blackguard (or Meanie)

We think the title is unfair. Stephen Montgomery was a kind hero. If anything, it’s the heroine, Bronwyn, who is the meanie.

Croatian

highland velvet covers

This Croatian version of Highland Velvet translates to Velvet Plateau.

Ana Silić translated this 2015 edition that Znanje published.

The cover is done in almost all aqua hues, with Bronwyn’s medieval dress front and center.

Bulgarian

СББ Медиа АД (or SBB Media) was the publisher of the Bulgarian version of Highland Velvet. The title translates into “Silk Flattery.” While it is a lovely cover, it’s not quite fitting for the Medieval Highland setting.

Your Opinion

Which cover do you prefer for Highland Velvet? Do you like seeing the different editions of romance covers?

Rebel Vixen

Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

historical romance review
Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 445
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

MILD SPOILERS 😉

Love & Betrayal

The Beginning: Love

Rebel Vixen commences by diving right into the story.

As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, 21-year-old Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean bringing food and medical supplies to her Southern brethren when she spots a body floating in the water. She urges the sailors to bring him aboard.

However, when they see the man’s Union buckle on his uniform, everyone but Savannah wants to throw the enemy back into the sea. Savannah is defiant and swears to help save the Yankee sailor, despite what anyone says, including her Uncle, who’s in charge.

Savannah takes the officer on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps him recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. She is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, in turn, falls madly for the woman who saved his life.

Upon a tropical beach, Savannah and Skyler exchange their words of love, promising to be together forever.

The Beginning: Betrayal

As they begin to make love, an explosion shatters the silence. In horror, Savannah realizes that the Union army has taken her Uncle’s ship. Skyler tells her that the ship was loaded with weapons and ammunition, not medicine and supplies, and as a Union soldier, he had a responsibility to report it.

He vows his love for Savannah, as she sees that every man on board, including her uncle, is now a prisoner of war. In a rage, Savannah strikes at Skyler, reinjuring his arm, and flees away in horror, declaring her eternal hatred.

The Book: Rebel Vixen

Thus begins one of my all-time favorite romance novels, Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon).

Yes, it’s a cheesy-looking Zebra Heartfire, with a bosomy-clinch cover and cornball title. It must be read to be fully appreciated.

The scope is grand, spanning years across the American North and South, with war, death, love, and birth. This “bodice-ripper lite” was so well written and emotional that it made me cry tears of sadness and joy.

Seriously, Rebel Vixen is one of the best books I’ve read.

Not surprising, as Dana Ransom’s Zebras are almost all among my favorites, along with the great Deana James and, to a lesser extent, Penelope Neri.

The Plot: The American Civil War

Savannah

Savannah is the oldest daughter of three children. Her father was a casualty of war, her brother is off fighting, and now with her uncle imprisoned, she finds herself burdened as the head of the family with an enormity of responsibilities on her shoulders.

Unconventionally beautiful, she has no time for gaiety as the war rages on, destroying everything she ever knew. Saving Skyler was instinctive, as she deeply values human life. She has the weight of the world upon her, and despite her recalcitrance, Skyler is her one bright spot in the darkness.

Skyler

A Man Without Purpose

Skyler Reade has no real purpose in life, bouncing aimlessly along from adventure to adventure. As the middle son of an upper-crust Philadelphia family, he’s sort of flitting along in life when the war starts.

His father is a respected doctor, his older brother is settled down with a family and fighting for the Union, and even Skyler’s wayward younger brother seems to be following in the family’s footsteps of pursuing a medical degree.

Skyler has a “girlfriend” at home, not someone he feels serious about–although she absolutely does about him–who encourages him to pursue politics. To be a politician, he’ll have to have some military experience. But as Skyler was not keen on fighting a war he cared nothing about, he entered the Navy because he thought he’d see little battle action at sea.

A Genuinely Nice Guy

Although Skyler is a drifter suffering from middle child syndrome, he seeks to be virtuous. The main characteristic I adore about Skyler is that he is a nice guy. A decent, caring, empathetic human being.

Yes, he is a bit domineering at times, but if 19th-century women weren’t 3rd wave feminists, you damn sure can’t expect the men to have been. He is relentless in his pursuit of Savannah, vowing to make her love him once again. Most times, he’s generous and kind. Even so, other times, he can be demanding.

However, spoiler warning here: there is one bodice ripper-type scene.

A “forced seduction” occurs after Savannah taunts Skyler and tells him of her many lovers–a lie–for which he is instantly regretful and never repeats.

Skyler is genuinely kind to Savannah despite her shrewishness. He pursues Savannah across the North and South, confident that there is nothing that could ever shatter their love.

Then again, maybe there is.

A Sensitive Subject Matter

As this Rebel Vixen is set during the US Civil War, slavery is a large part of the plot. I can understand that the sensitivity on this topic repels a lot of modern romance readers from this era. However, there’s no sugar-coating it. Savannah’s family owns plantations, and as such, they own slaves.

As far as Savannah’s views on slavery, like the war, it’s complicated. Ever since she was a child, Savannah’s father has allowed one slave to be freed at her request on her birthday. Although Savannah herself questions the righteousness of slavery, she will not betray her family, her state, and “The Cause.”

On the other hand, Skyler is aghast at the practice. He finds purpose in life through two motivations: to reobtain Savannah’s love and trust and fight for his nation until slavery is eliminated.

I adore the conclusion of this book as it’s reminiscent of the end of John Jakes’ mini-series North and South Part I and the scene with Lesley Anne Downs and Patrick Swayze. It always makes me chuckle. What the hell, that series was so good, so it’s ok with me that Ransom borrowed a bit from that ending.

“Why me? Why would you want me?” she asked in bewildered frustration.

“You–you make everything else so unimportant… I’ve never had much direction in my life, nothing I wanted to devote myself to until you held my hand and sat with me when I prayed I would die. Just wanting to hear your voice made me fight to get through the hell of each day. I loved you before I even saw your face.”

Final Analysis of Rebel Vixen

Rebel Vixen is a book I go back and enjoy every few years. For me, it’s an old friend with reliable characters who go through tragic circumstances but come out of it united and secure in their love for each other.

I truly hope author Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon) regains her rights to this book from Kensington and is able to republish it in digital format. It would be a shame for this romance to remain a hidden gem, for only lovers of old paperbacks to discover.

If you’re in the mood for an old-skool romance read that skirts with being un-PC but doesn’t have an over-the-top-Alpha hero you’d want to hit in the head with a frying pan, I can’t recommend a better read than Rebel Vixen.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis:

TENDER INNOCENCE
When Savannah Russell spotted the lone survivor drifting among the shipwreck’s debris, nothing could have stopped her from rescuing him. Not even that she was sailing on a Confederate blockade runner while he wore the uniform of the Union Navy. As a spirited Southerner, she hated to help the enemy, but as a woman she could not let him die. So she nursed him herself, rejoicing as pain left his startling gray eyes and strength returned to his lean, muscular body. And before she had time to guard against the unwanted desire his gentle touch aroused in her, she had given her enemy more than her compassion …. she had given him her heart.

WANTON PASSION
Skyler Reade felt more than gratitude for the raven-haired rebel who’d saved his life. Her courage had earned his boundless admiration; her beauty had sparked his limitless desire. She’d risked everything to help him and he knew that staying with her would only endanger them both. Still, he had to taste the beckoning sweetness of her lips, had to caress the ivory smoothness of her skin before he could leave her. Someday he would return to build a future with his seductive Savannah, but for tonight he could only give her the warmth of his embrace and the promise that she would always be his treasured, tantalizing REBEL VIXEN.

REBEL VIXEN by DANA RANSOM
one book many covers the velvet promise

One Book, Multiple Covers #1: The Velvet Promise

one book multiple covers

The Cover: The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux

We’re introducing yet another new feature here at Sweet Savage Flame! This One Book, Multiple Covers series will look at the original cover art for a popular romance novel and then compare it to re-issues and foreign language or alternate editions.

Today, we’re focusing on The Velvet Promise cover by Jude Deveraux. Although we haven’t reviewed this one here, we have read it. It’s the first in a series about 4 handsome English brothers during the reign of Henry VII. This is a fantastic read by Jude Deveraux.

We’ll try to review it soon here. (I just need a refresher as it’s been thirty years since I last read it.)

It was originally published in 1981 by Pocket Books. The synopsis follows:

All of England rejoiced on her wedding day. But Judith vowed that her husband would get only what he took from her!

At the flower-bedecked altar, the first touch of their hands ignited an all-consuming passion. Gavin Montgomery looked deep into her golden eyes and burned with desire for her…but his heart had been pledged to another.

Humiliated and alone in a strange castle, Judith resolved to hate this husband who took her body, but rejected her love…never admitting her fear of losing him.

But destiny held another fate for Judith…a fate that would keep at last…The Velvet Promise.

THE VELVET PROMISE by JUDE DEVERAUX

The Many Covers of The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux

The Original Cover

This original edition of Jude Deveraux’s The Velvet Promise was published through a collaboration of Gallen Books and Pocket Books back in 1980.

The artwork by Harry Bennett is stunning. His use of the black background made a perfect foil for heroine Judith’s flowing red hair. The various colors on the hemmed portion of Gavin’s dazzle vibrantly.

The hook under the author’s name markets this as the bodice ripper it was:

“Her beauty inflamed the desire of all men, but there was only one who enflamed her passion–and her hatred!”

THE VELVET PROMISE
the velvet promise
The Velvet Promise, Jude Deveraux, Pocket Books, 1981, Harry Bennett cover art

The American Re-Issues

The Faux Stepback

This circa 1992 Pocket Books reissue of The Velvet Promise was a fake-out stepback cover, highlighting the faces of the couple in the center.

This would be a popular style for Jude Deveraux’s second edition paperbacks.

When I was younger, they were the only ones I could get my hands on.

The Plain, “Respectable” Re-Issue #1

This edition of The Velvet Promise has a less dramatic font and a design in the center. There is no hint of a clinch or a stepback. This is a “plain” style cover that became popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for big-name authors.

A plain cover was a stamp of “respectability” that publishers thought would lure readers in.

The Plain, “Respectable” Re-Issue #2

Here is another Pocket Books re-print that sports a plain cover. Reissues in general didn’t get flashy cover art, so this is no shock.

The International Versions

U.K. Versions

This Arrow edition of The Velvet Promise is a different take on the original artwork, with the hero and heroine embracing.

The main difference–besides the artist & style–is the image is flipped with Judith on the left and Gavin on the right.

This is yet another Uk edition of the first in the Montgomery Saga, published by Arrow Books in 1984. The cover shows more skin than the original American Pocket Books cover.

Each subsequent paperback book in the series published by Arrow shows an even more revealing clinch.

Across the pond, in the 1970s and early 1980s attitudes were more relaxed about sexy covers.

Spanish Language

Can’t go wrong with using the original cover art, as the Spanish-language edition does. This was published in 1993 by Vergara Editor S.A.

The title here translates to “Bold Promise” as The Velvet Promise makes no sense in Spanish. Then again, it makes no sense in English, either.

The tag line roughly translates to: “She swore he would only have her by force, but his passion made her break her promise.”

Not so bodice-rippery, is it?

A plain blue cover with an arched window marks the first book of the Montgomery Saga. This is the Spanish re-issue 2018 by B de Bolsillo for e-reader.

CLICK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE TO SEE MORE COVERS

And Gold Was Ours duillo

Historical Romance Review: And Gold Was Ours by Rebecca Brandewyne

Synopsis:

In faraway Spain Aurora’s fortune was foretold –the exile from the home of her aristocratic ancestors, the journey to the steaming jungles of Peru, and at last, the love of a fiery dark man.

Now on a plantation haunted by a tale of lost love and hidden gold, the raven-tressed beauty awaits the swordsman and warrior she has seen in her dreams. Will he come-and protect her from the enemies that seek to destroy her? Will he love her with the promised passion-wilder than the tropic storms and brighter than the most precious treasure?

AND GOLD WAS OURS by REBECCA BRANDEWYNE

Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and the Setup

And Gold Was Ours is a sequel to Rebecca Brandewyne‘s Love, Cherish Me. However, I’d consider this more of a companion piece. The hero, Esteban, is the cousin to Wolf (Lobo), the male protagonist from Love Cherish, Me. Wolf’s story takes place in Texas, USA. Esteban’s begins in Spain and ends in Peru. While both novels have Brandewyne’s hallmark baroque-gothic atmosphere, And Gold Was Ours is not as dark and emotional as its predecessor.

What this romance does have are swashbuckling intrigue and a unique setting. It also employs a supernatural element.

Our story begins in Spain, sometime in the mid-19th century, under the reign of Isabel II. The book opens with a swordfight between Esteban and his evil stepfather. Although Esteban has right on his side, after he kills his stepfather, his wicked stepbrother vows revenge. So Esteban is forced to leave everything behind and flee to the New World.

Aurora Leila, also in Spain, has a fortune teller foresee her future. She is told that she’ll have to leave her home for faraway lands. There, she will find a love that has awaited her for eternity. While Aurora scoffs at the seer, the woman is correct. Some misadventures with a lusty nun occur while Aurora is in a convent. Like Esteban, Aurora must leave her birthplace behind. She travels thousands of miles away to Peru.

The Plot

It takes some time for the love story to begin, as Brandewyne puts the players into their starting places.

When Esteban and Aurora meet in South America, it’s as if they’ve known each other for all time. A bond exists between them, which seems to have existed since time primordial. Theirs is a fated love, one passionate and thrilling.

There are villains aplenty and crazy adventures along the way as they fall in love in the jungles of Peru. Danger lurks as enemies compete for land. A search for legendary ancient treasure leads to mortal peril.

Midway through the book, Esteban and Aurora take a side trip to Texas. They share happy moments with Storm, Lobo, and their son, Chance. If you’ve read Love Cherish Me, this part hits hard in the feels. This was a brief halcyon period for Storm and Lobo before tragedy struck.

Then it’s back to Peru for Esteban and Aurora, who must overcome scheming antagonists.

And unfortunately, we encounter Esteban’s 180-degree heel-turn. He starts out as a dashing, romantic character and then, out of nowhere, turns into a jealous stalker. It was out of place and made Esteban less likable.

Meanwhile, Aurora has visions of the two of them in times past. She sees images from ancient Egypt to Viking lands and other eras long ago when she and Esteban had loved each other. Through forces of fate, they were forever being separated.

Is their love doomed to fail in this time and place as well?

and gold was ours
And Gold Was Ours, Leisure/ Dorchester reissue, 1999, Lina Levy cover art

Final Analysis of And Gold Was Ours

I didn’t particularly appreciate Esteban’s personality transplant, how became an insecure stalker mid-way through. There was no reason for him to mistrust Aurora, who was totally devoted to him.

While I enjoyed And Gold Was Ours as it had its adventurous moments, it pales compared to Love Cherish, Me. That book was far grander in scope and emotional depth.

I didn’t expect the paranormal elements, although they added a unique twist to the plot. The prose is at times overwrought and very florid, typical of Brandewyne’s style. The love scenes are euphemistically erotic.

And Gold Was Ours started a little slow-paced and gets too wordy in certain sections. It was not one of my favorites by Rebecca Brandewyne, but it’s not the worst book by any means.

File this under the “I enjoyed it very much but didn’t love it” category. Esteban’s misplaced jealousy aside, for the most part, it was a compelling read.

3.63 stars

lovers touch

Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

category romance
Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1216
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penny Jordan is a Harlequin Presents writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lovers Touch is kind of blah.

The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.

Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.

The Characters

Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?

Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations for wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.

Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.

The Plot

An Arranged Marriage of Convenience

In Lovers Touch, Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness.

He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.

A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!

Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery.

Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences.

But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.

Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money.

The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.

Big Misunderstandings

More misunderstandings ensue in Lovers Touch.

Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under.

He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.

That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.

Final Analysis of Lovers Touch

For me, Lover’s Touch failed to achieve the excellence it advertised.

Penny Jordan‘s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots.

If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.

In Lovers Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.

This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.

Lovers Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten.

2.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis:

Lady Eleanor de Tressail was simply mortified.

Bad enough that before his death, her old-fashioned grandfather had ensured that their impoverished estate wouldn’t have to be sold–by arranging her marriage. But to Joss Wycliffe of all people–the self-made millionaire who despised her!

Mistaking Nell’s shyness for aristocratic disdain, Joss contemptuously told her that he was marrying her only for her social status. He never suspected that icily untouchable Nell loved him desperately.

Her wounded pride kept her from revealing her true feelings. Particularly when Joss’s jealous secretary did her best to widen the rift between them…

LOVERS TOUCH by PENNY JORDAN
Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

sweet-savage-love-hall
Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis:

A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by ROSEMARY ROGERS
guilty love charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb

Synopsis:

Nowhere to run.

Linzi York loved her husband — but Barty had changed. His rage and growing despair since the accident had taken a brutal toll. Linzi was trapped in a nightmare. And Ritchie Calhoun knew it.

Linzi and Ritchie’s relationship had always remained on a cool professional level — but now facades were beginning to crumble. Needs and desires they were powerless to deny tormented them…and it was Linzi who was paying the highest price.

Then a horrible tragedy shattered their lives — and Ritchie’s courage proved his love in a way that few men ever could…

GUILTY LOVE by CHARLOTTE LAMB

SPOILER & SENSITIVE CONTENT ALERT ⚠

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.

Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.

The Characters

Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger. The prospects of having that big happy family seem impossible now.

Ritchie and Linzi have a great working relationship. Unsurprisingly, Ritchie carries a torch for his married secretary and can sense something’s not right with her marriage.

Barty started drinking to overcome his chronic depression. He views himself as half a man and has violent outbursts that he seemingly can’t control.

The Plot

Like in her book A Frozen Fire, a Charlotte Lamb heroine finds herself trapped in a marriage. In the previous book, the heroine was married to a cheating louse. Here, Linzi is married to an abusive spouse. Both Lamb heroines are intensely loyal to their partners for some unfathomable reason. They are the for better or worse types; even it makes them self-inflicted martyrs.

Barty’s affliction has made him homicidal. He beats Linzi constantly. He even tries to rape her but can’t perform.

Linzi has to spend more time working as Ritchie has a big project to finish. The late hours make Barty jealous. One night when Linzi gets home, Barty flies into a jealous rage and begins to beat her. Then events take a strange and horrific turn. Ritchie shows up. Barty is killed. What did Ritchie do?

The police arrest Ritchie for Barty’s murder. Ritchie goes to prison for several years.

Upon his release, Ritchie comes back into Linzi’s life, seeking revenge. Altered by years of incarceration, the formerly nice beta-male boss is now a cruel, remorseless being.

For her part, Linzi wants nothing to do with the man who killed her husband. Ritchie won’t be thwarted. Revenge turns into passion. Then a shocking revelation changes everything.

Final Analysis of Guilty Love

I won’t analyze this book with a realistic outlook; that’s too depressing.

With Harlequin Presents–especially certain authors like Charlotte Lamb–you’re bound to have a crazy, emotional time. Lamb would tackle controversial issues like rape and abuse with a psychoanalytical intensity that was riveting. (Usually.)

At 190 pages, Guilty Love is too short to delve properly into the very serious issues of abuse, trauma, and repression. It’s fair to make an argument that the violence displayed here was for gratuitous reasons.

In a lesser author’s hands, this would be a failure. When Lamb pulled out all the stops, she made a dark premise work. Rather than dwell on grim reality, Lamb ramped up the melodrama. It does create a heck of a page-turner.

Guilty Love is a twisted tale of revenge and dark revelations. Full of continuous action with a quick-moving plot, it’s hard to look away. It had me hooked from the first and never let go.

5 Stars

dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas features one of her most beloved characters, Derek Craven. Derek was previously seen in Then Came You, whose reserved hero, Alex Raiford, was more to my liking. This is a beautiful romance by the talented Kleypas where two people from contrasting social classes come together in love.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Sara Fielding is a novelist in Regency-era England. She’s not ravishingly beautiful, wears spectacles, and is a rather curious woman. Her novels address the fallen people in society. Sara’s out at night in a rough London neighborhood to investigate material for her next book when she comes upon an altercation. She’s able to prevent the man from being killed, although not before his attackers cut him. The man she saves is the aforementioned hero, Derek Craven.

Craven is the owner of London’s most successful gambling house, which doubles as a house of pleasure. Far from being a traditional English lord, he’s as rough as a hero can get. Derek was born illegitimate and grew up on the streets, having to build himself up alone. He’s wealthy but certainly not part of polite society, even if some of his past mistresses are. Craven is snaggletoothed, handsome in an off-beat, rugged type of way, and speaks with a Cockney accent. I picture him as Christian Bale’s character from the film “The Prestige.”

Derek wants nothing to do with the over-inquisitive Sara. Nevertheless, she did save his life, so he owes her a favor. Derek allows Sara into his dark underworld for her research. Sara will meet Derek’s factotum, Worthy, numerous ladies-of-the-evening, and other interesting people at Craven’s.

The Plot

However, it’s the owner of the establishment she’s most keen about. And Derek can’t help but fight his growing tenderness for the innocent miss.

Sara walks around Craven’s with her pencil and notepad in hand, a naive, inquisitive creature. She asks questions about everything, from gambling to the lives of the women who work there to more personal questions about Derek.

Sara is involved with a simpering nabob, so it’s no shock she’s intrigued by the “bad-boy” Derek Craven.

Derek does not like Sara, or at least he wants her to know he feels that way. He pushes her away, despite his desperate attraction to her. Sara’s a hidden beauty with a huge heart, a heart Derek knows he can only break.

dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Because of his background, Derek thinks he’s not the man for any decent woman, especially not Sara. He wants her yet believes he’s not good enough for her.

Indeed, Sara falls for Derek and she does everything to convince him they should be together. Sara goes as far as dressing up for a masked ball at the casino/brothel, something no conventional miss would dare.

Derek has severe issues of inadequacy. He’s done much to better himself, taking language lessons and having a valet–as a proper gentleman should. But a proper gentleman is something he’ll never be. He doesn’t think he deserves Sara’s love and pushes her off to her “fiance.”

There’s also some mysterious peril afoot. Plus, a crazed, over-the-top villainess in the form of Derek’s ex-mistress, Joyce. Derek is done with Joyce, but like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” she “will not be ignored!”

Will the threat of danger be what finally brings Derek and Sara together?

Separately they had different strengths. Together they were complete.

Final Analysis of Dreaming of You

Unlike many of Kleypas’ readers, although I enjoyed this captivating love story, I don’t consider Dreaming of You one of my favorites. That’s no insult since it’s akin to attempting to rank the best British rock band of all time. There are so many greats Kleypas has created over the last twenty-five years.

Kleypas excels at making swoon-worthy heroes. Derek’s protestations of affection for Sara are cruel, but the reader is always aware of how much he desires her. She consumes Derek as no other woman before (or after).

When he does declare his adoration for the lady, be prepared to melt!

I understand why Derek Craven has made so many appearances in Kleypas’ novels. He’s the kind of man you can’t forget. A self-made man who thinks himself unworthy of love and has a heart of gold. Sara is fine; she simply not as exciting to me as her co-star.

If you haven’t read this one, consider putting it on your to-be-read list. It’s a romance that will grab your heart.

4.22 Stars

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

Synopsis

She stood at danger’s threshold—then love beckoned her in.

A prim, well-bred gentlewoman, Sara Fielding is a writer who puts pen to paper to create dreams. But now curiosity is luring her from the shelter of her country cottage into the dangerous world of Derek Craven—handsome, tough, and tenacious—and the most exciting man Sara has ever met.

Derek rose from poverty to become the wealthy lord of London’s most exclusive gambling house. And now duty demands that he allow Sara Fielding to enter his perilous realm of ever-shifting fortunes—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But there is a hidden strength and sensuality to the lady that captivates him beyond his better judgment.

And in this world, where danger lurks behind every shadow, even a proper “mouse” can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a cynical gambler can be shaken to his core by the power of passion and the promise of love.

DREAMING OF YOU BY LISA KLEYPAS
stranger in the night

Category Romance Review: Stranger in the Night by Charlotte Lamb

Stranger in the Night, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, William Biddle cover art

HARLEQUIN PRESENTS #417

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Plot

Charlotte Lamb’Stranger in the Night deals with a sensitive topic she’s approached several times: rape. No, it does not employ the controversial trope of “dubious consent” found in many Harlequins from the 1970s and 1980s. This is a healing love story about a traumatic assault that upended a woman’s life and almost destroyed her ability to find a romantic relationship.

On the surface, the set-up of Stranger in the Night might share some commonalities with Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, which had an actual love triangle plot. Here, the heroine Clare is living a good life as a successful actress. She has a male friend Macey, a writer and producer whom she keeps at bay, however much he adores her.

Macey is also a nice guy, one of the most gentle and understanding heroes in an old-school Harlequin Presents. Not a “beta” male, mind you, but a decent man whose aura commands respect. He’s supportive, assertive–not domineering–, and quite sexy to boot.

Macey’s more possessive instincts come to the forefront when a fellow from Clare’s past comes back into her life. While she and this handsome man, Luke, share a past connection, it’s not what Macey thinks. Nine years ago, Clare was a student at a party where she imbibed a bit too much alcohol. The predatory Luke took advantage of Clare and violated her.

Clare and Macey

In the ensuing years, Clare’s built herself a solid career on stage and screen. Along the way, Macey has been there as a trustworthy friend. He’s never hidden his attraction, even though Clare has no desire for romantic entanglements. For years Macey suffered in silence from unrequited love, never pursuing her in a predatory manner. Macey knows that would scare Clare away, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend instead of not being there at all.

At first, Macey thinks Luke broke Clare’s heart long ago, making him insecure and jealous. It takes some time for the truth to be revealed, and when it is, Macey provides Clare a strong shoulder lean on. He’s there for her to unload the emotional baggage she’s been carrying all alone for so long. What’s more, he wants Luke to pay for the brutal crime committed against the woman Macey loves.

As usual, Lamb’s strength is in her characterization. Clare and Macey seem like authentic people with genuine concerns. Macey’s love for her is evident, but Clare struggles to deal with her feelings of sexual desire for him. In the end, Clare must learn to put the past behind her and not allow one horrific situation to define the rest of her life. Love is an emotion she needs to experience in order to heal.

Final Analysis of Stranger in the Night

Charlotte Lamb readers might note the similarities between this book and her full-length novel, A Violation. Both stories feature a heroine named Claire/Clare who must deal with the aftermath of rape and how it affects her and the people in her life. Where A Violation read more like women’s fiction with a Happy For Now conclusion, Stranger In the Night is a true romance with a Happily Ever After.

The only flaw in this book is that A Violation had the luxury of being twice Stranger In the Night‘s length. So some scenes come off a bit rushed and condensed. Regardless, this Harlequin Presents by one of my favorite authors is a book I could not put down. It’s a keeper for an indomitable heroine and a wonderful hero whose love is strong but never forceful.

kiss of the night wind

Historical Romance Review: Kiss of the Night Wind by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Kiss of the Night Wind, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1989

MILD SPOILERS 😉

This review is of Kiss of the Night Wind, #3 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor published by Zebra.

The Plot

Kiss of the Night Wind opens with the heroine of the book, Carrie Sue Stover, trying to outrun her past Carrie Sue’s brother, Darby, is the leader of an outlaw gang, which she also ran with.

Tired of looking over her shoulder and worrying about being arrested, jailed, or worse, Carrie Sue decides to take on the persona of Carolyn Sarah Starns, a schoolteacher on her way to Tucson, Arizona.

The real Carolyn was killed in an accident caused by the Stover gang attacking the stagecoach she was on.

As Carrie Sue makes her way to Arizona, the stagecoach she’s on is attacked. Saving her is T.J. Rogue, the hero of the book, who is also going to Arizona. His reasons, however, are different than Carrie Sue’s.

Carrie Sue arrives in Tucson and soon finds herself having to fend off Martin Ferris, a wealthy, lecherous businessman who believes the new schoolmarm owes him more than gratitude. Before she can begin teaching, however, Carrie Sue’s past catches up with her, and she and T.J. are on the run. They also become lovers.

As the book goes along, we learn a great deal about both Carrie Sue and T.J.’s pasts, both of which are filled with tragedy. We also learn that they have a common enemy, evil rancher Quade Harding.

T.J. and Carrie Sue leave Arizona after wanted posters of her emerge. They are pursued by Ferris, who is later killed by T.J. As they make their way to Texas, Carrie Sue becomes suspicious of T.J.; especially since he asks lots of questions about Darby.

Carrie Sue reunites with Darby and discovers that a copycat gang, led by the villain she and Darby are trying to defeat, is committing crimes claiming to be the Stover gang. That gang is led by the man the Stover siblings have been trying to defeat for years.

Carries Sue tries to get Darby to go straight. The efforts fail, and when Darby and most of his gang are captured, Carrie Sue is shot and seriously wounded. After Carrie Sue’s wounding, T.J. fakes her death and plans to take her to Montana and marry her to start a new life.

In the end, the plans change. Carrie Sue and T.J. marry, decide to go to Colorado instead-the reasons are germane to the plot, so I won’t reveal them- and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Mrs. Taylor has written a book with a strong hero and heroine in T.J. and Carrie Sue, both of whom are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor is also a great atmospheric writer; she puts me into her situations with her characters, as opposed to making me feel that I’m simply reading about them.

Downside

While Mrs. Taylor is a great situational writer, at times during this book, I felt like she was writing to a word count, as the descriptions went on and on and on.

The bigger issue for me was the fact that there are A LOT of similarities between Kiss of the Night Wind and the book that preceded it, Passions Wild and Free. To wit:

The heroines both have unisex names; in Passions Wild and Free, the heroine’s name was Randee; in Kiss of the Night Wind, it’s Carrie Sue.

The heroines believe the heroes–Marshall Logan Jr. in Passions Wild and Free, T.J. Rogue in Kiss of the Night Wind–are simply gunslingers. They’re not. Their childhood backgrounds are slightly different, but their adult lives are very similar to each other.

Both Randee and Carrie Sue were chased from their lives by rich, licentious males who want to possess them, only to find more trouble upon running. Both want revenge against their tormentors, but neither directly gets their revenge.

It is not realistic to expect any artistically inclined person not to ever repeat themselves. Doing it in the very next work you do, however, is not a good look.

I also wasn’t in love with Carrie Sue’s claim that she and Darby were “forced” to become criminals. This is completely a lie. Yes, a lot of bad things happened to the Stover siblings, but they were NOT “forced” into criminal behavior. They CHOSE to become lawbreakers. Claiming noble reasons does not absolve someone from criminal responsibility.

Sex

Multiple love scenes between Carrie Sue and T.J. Like all of Mrs. Taylor’s books, the love scenes are more about the feelings engendered during the act rather than the esoterics of the act.

Violence

Some “on-screen” shootings, but most of the violence takes place “off-screen”. “Kiss of the Night Wind” is not a violent book.

Bottom Line

Kiss of the Night Wind is a good book but has too many issues to be great.

3.72 stars

passion wild and free duillo

Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Synopsis:

MISCHIEVOUS VIXEN

After seeing her home and family destroyed by the cruel and hateful Epson gang, Randee Hollis swore revenge. The feisty young woman knew that she couldn’t do the nasty job alone — she needed one good man to help her stop the murderous villains. So when Randee literally ran into the black-clad stranger, she knew she’d found the perfect helpmate. He was strong and brave and met all of her requirements for a gunslinger … but the virile stranger offered something more. Every time Randee looked into his light blue eyes she felt a longing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to run her fingers through his sleek ebony hair, caress his bronzed skin and know what it would be like to spend the night wrapped up in his warm embrace …

TANTALIZING ROGUE

Marsh Logan had his own reasons for wanting to help the flaxen haired beauty find revenge. But after spending sometime alone with Randee, he lost all desire for anything but the feel of her body next to his. Marsh would sacrifice his very soul for a chance to kiss away all of Randee’s troubles, to excite her until she forgot of her pain. All he wanted was to prove that he was the man who could make her happy, that he could love her like no other and unleash her sleeping PASSIONS WILD AND FREE

PASSIONS WILD AND FREE by JANELLE TAYLOR
Passions Wild and Free, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The book begins in Wadesville, Texas, undisclosed time but after the Civil War. Randee Hollis, the heroine of the book, has plans to go after the Epson Gang, a ruthless band of killers who killed her aunt and uncle, Sara Elizabeth and Lee Carson when the gang attacked their ranch. (Randee was the only survivor of the attack). She decides to hire a man to help her track down and kill the gang members. Randee finds resistance to her plans from Brody Wade, the sheriff of Wadesville-named after his family-who is in love with her and wishes to marry her.

Randee runs into–literally–Marsh Logan, the hero of the book, and hires him to work with her, believing that he is a notorious gunfighter named the Durango Kid. He’s not, but he is good with a gun and has his own reasons for wanting to find and kill the Epson Gang. As they track the gang, we learn why Randee left her family in Kansas, and she and Marsh give in to their attraction and become lovers.

As they systematically dismantle the Epson Gang, Randee and Marsh come to realize that the gang isn’t just a ragtag group of outlaws, but rather part of a bigger plan, led by someone who wants money and power.

In the end, the gang is brought to justice or killed, as is the big boss of the operation. The real Durango Kid-who is Marsh’s younger brother-appears on the scene. Randee’s family issues in Kansas are resolved. Randee and Marsh have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Both Randee and Marsh are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor gives them depth and fills them in as real people. I liked the fact that Randee was a capable person in her own right and Marsh grew to respect her skills.

Downside

Passions Wild and Free is ostensibly a historical romantic suspense book. Mrs. Taylor only got one of the three right (The historical part). There is very little chemistry between Randee and Marsh, although they become lovers and adventure partners. There is also very little in the way of suspense; most of the suspense occurs “off-screen.”

I was also quite annoyed with Mrs. Taylor’s overuse of the word “cunning”, which she uses in every book she writes. I wanted to scream several times in the reading of the book: “Why didn’t you use a freakin’ thesaurus, Mrs. Taylor?” I found myself skipping pages because at times, Passions Wild and Free was simply boring.

One other thing: this book is said to be part of a six-book series called “Western Wind”. No character from the first book in the “series”, First Love, Wild Love, appears in Passions Wild and Free. The only thing the two books so far in the “series” have in common is that both are set in Texas, which is not, in my eyes, a connection that warrants a “series” label.

Sex

The love scenes are either mostly quick or typical Janelle Taylor romances. In other words, more focused on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it.

Violence

Most of the violence is “off-screen”. On-screen violence includes assault, battery, shootings, and killings. The violence is not graphic in any way.

Bottom Line on Passions Wild and Free

Randee and Marsh deserved better than what they got from Mrs. Taylor in Passions Wild and Free.

3 Stars

charlotte lamb pic

Author Spotlight: Charlotte Lamb

My Charlotte Lamb Experience

Sheila Holland née Coates, known to most readers of romance as Harlequin/ Mills & Boon author Charlotte Lamb is one of my favorite writers, period. Although she created seemingly simple category romances, her books were much more than that. She wrote like few others in her field could: fully inhabiting her characters’ minds and giving them larger-than-life personalities.

Her heroes could be fiercely chauvinistic and cruel with deep-seated psychological issues; others kind, understanding guys who still were emotionally intense. Lamb’s heroines ran the gamut from sheltered teenaged virgins, competent working women struggling to make it in their fields, and sophisticated, mature ladies who’d been around the block once or twice.

Lamb’s Harlequin Presents Seduction has been seared into my memory as one of the earliest romances I read. It was so chock-full of insanity and fantastic writing; I couldn’t get enough. I’ve reviewed it before, so I won’t go into details. If you hate it, read another Charlotte Lamb. She might have revisited similar tropes and characters, but she never wrote the same book twice!

seduction

More than anything, what made Lamb’s writing stand out from most other authors in her genre was her insightfulness and superb characterization.

Most of the time, anyway.

I have given numerous five stars to Charlotte Lamb’s books. But I’ve 1-starred quite a few as well. Like a power hitter in baseball, Lamb would swing for the crowds yet sometimes came up short. That’s alright. Babe Ruth once held the record for most home runs, although he also struck out more than other batters. She’s written many books I love and quite a few I downright hate, such as Dark Fever and A Naked Flame. However, I’ll take the good with the bad any day.

Shelia Coates-Holland, a Multi-Facted Author

Sheila Coates was born in 1937, right outside of London. As a child, the bombings by the Germans on England would take their toll on the young Sheila. She would move around from place to place to avoid the attacks. Eventually, Sheila would be educated in a convent run by Ursuline nuns. She would work several jobs before landing a job at the BBC. It was there where she met Richard Holland, a reporter, whom she’d soon marry.

Sheila led a busy married life with five children. Still, with toddlers running about, she found the time to quickly pen her first novel, which was entitled Prisoner of the Heart, a contemporary romance, and written under her married name.

Prisoner of the Heart, Sheila Holland, Robert Hale Ltd, 1972

Shadows at Dawn, published by Playboy Press was her first historical romance, released in 1975.

shadows at dawn
Shadows at Dawn, Sheila Holland, Playboy Press, 1975, cover artist TBD

However, it was under her pseudonym of Charlotte Lamb where Holland would find the most success. She would submit a romance to Mills & Boon in 1973 which was published later that year as a Harlequin Romance. It was quickly followed by many other books.

Follow a Stranger, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1973, Bern Smith cover art

It would be within the Harlequin Presents line that Lamb would gain the most acclaim, becoming one of their many powerhouse authors. Her first Harlequin Presents, Call Back Yesterday, would provide just a sample of the incredible emotional power play between the sexes that would a hallmark of her work. She was a prolific writer for Mills & Boon/ Harlequin. Most of her 160 romances would be published by that company, selling about 200 million books worldwide.

call back yesterday
Call Back Yesterday, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1978, Will Davies cover art

More than just category romance author, Charlotte Lamb would create stories about relevant contemporary issues. Her 1983 full-length novel A Violation, would focus on the issue of rape and how it affected a woman and her circle of friends and family.

Then with 1995’s In the Still of the Night, Lamb would produce works of Romantic Suspense, a genre she’d write until her death.

In the Still of the Night, Charlotte Lamb, Signet, 1995

Sheila Holland wrote under several pseudonyms besides Charlotte Lamb. She also wrote under her maiden name, released several books for Harlequin’s competitor Silhouette as Laura Hardy, and penned a few other romances as Victoria Woolf.

Sheila Holland died in 2000 at the age of 62. Her books Seduction Business and The Boss’s Virgin were published as Harlequin Presents after her death, but had been previously released as Mills & Boon Romances. Sheila’s last novel, a romantic thriller published posthumously in 2000 with Hodder & Stoughton, was entitled The Angel of Death.

Angel of Death, Charlotte Lamb, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000

More About Charlotte Lamb

To read more about Charlotte Lamb/ Sheila Holland, check out our AUTHOR PAGE to view a DEDICATED PAGE for her works.

Are you interested in reading some Charlotte Lamb works? There are well over 100 of her books available at INTERNET ARCHIVE FREE CHARLOTTE LAMB BOOKS TO BORROW & READ.

Some novels I’d recommend are:

Have you heard about Sheila Holland and her many pseudonyms? If so, are you are a reader of any of her works? Who are your favorite category romance authors? Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.