Although Janelle Taylor has written books for various publishing houses, she will always hold a special place in the early years of theZebrapublishing company. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Rosanne Bittner, and others, she helped to form the pantheon of the Kensington line’s “Leading Ladies of Love.” Authors were given liberties to write different kinds of romances. Taylor’s passionate love stories appealed to readers across the country. Where the Avon ladies could rely on taut, crisp editing, the Zebra authors had a bit less oversight, with Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington chief Walter Zacharius choosing to focus on the impressive cover art.
Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars were the artists who designed covers for her books. Walter Popp famously did the artwork for her first few books. Artists like Elaine Gignilliat, the ubiquitous Pino, and Janelle’s friend Elaine Duillo would paint many gorgeous covers for her books.
Janelle Taylor has over 50 books with 60 million copies in print. She is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor”
I enjoy playing the game of “I Spy” with my vintage book romance covers. Can you guess this week’s theme? Spot the common thread in the covers, and the first one to mention the correct answer in the comments wins the satisfaction that they were right! 🙂
For the week of Aug 2 to Aug 6, here are some contemporary and historical covers for you to look over and play “I Spy.”
A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance, somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Like so many of her works, the major themes are the philosophy of love and what are the defined roles of being a man and a woman, especially when it comes to amorous relationships.
In general, I think she was better restrained by the limitations of category romance as at times here she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, A Violation was a satisfactory read, not as good as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but much better than a few of Lamb’s other Mills and Boon/ Harlequins that also dealt with sexual assault (I am looking at you Dark Fever).
Rape, especially a violent rape by a stranger who debases the heroine, leaving her life in tatters, isn’t the most comfortable backstory for a romance. As stated, though, this isn’t strictly a romance novel, so if you’re looking for more than a “Happy For Now” ending, you might be disappointed.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb”
Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.
Life Before Writing
Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.
She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.
Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves
Holly Witchell, the heroine of Penny Jordan’s Beyond Compare, suffers a bit from an overinflated ego combined with an oblivious nature. Thankfully, Drew, the wonderful hero of this book, sorts matters all out for her.
Holly was ignominiously dumped by her boyfriend Howard for the more sophisticated, Rosamund. That’s not something Holly will accept laying down, so she concocts a plan to get him back. Hadn’t Rosamund been dating old, reliable Drew Hammond before she’d gotten together with Howard? Well, who better than he to help Holly break up the new couple than Rosamund’s old former flame?
Holly approaches Drew, a farmer, whose the salt-of-the-earth type, with her plan. They’ll pretend to be a couple and make Howard and Rosamund jealous.
Drew isn’t exactly chomping at the bit at her plan to get Rosamund back, and Holly assumes it’s because Drew’s insecure. Holly assures him he has nothing to be insecure about. He’s handsome, even if–OMG–he wears glasses of all things, has a steady income from his farm, and any woman would want him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan”
To avenge her father’s death, a young and naïve blonde named Gloria Daniels transforms herself into the vixenish redhead, Glory Dane. She’ll cheat men out of their money and seek out retribution while her mentor, and sometimes-savior, Sterling Caulder, a notorious gambler, fights his attraction to her. Sterling’s been hurt by love in the past. Is Gloria the woman who will mend his heart?
In Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble, the hero is no overbearing bully but a charismatic rogue who shares a great, supportive relationship with the heroine. The heroine is courageous and plucky, all alone in a world that holds mystery and despair. A girl of intelligence and wit, Glory devises a complicated trap in which to ensnare her enemies. Everyone is hiding the truth to some extent in this tangled tale of vengeance.
LGG is an entertaining, emotional romance, published in 1988 under Zebra‘s Heartfire imprint. This could merit at least 4 stars, especially by the low-quality standards of Zebra romances.
So why does my official rating stand at only 3 stars?
Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna MacArran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.
While Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent,Miles and Raine, in Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was the stuff girlish dreams are made of.
Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.
When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed. Heck, he even changed his last name so that her MacArran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux”
Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epics, but alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s the least liked of her books I’ve read so far.
Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky; she hates convention, and why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?
Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers; a meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Her attitude is very draining. But worse are the random italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.
I’ve said this before about a Charlotte Lamb book, but now I really mean it: this is the worst romance written by her that I’ve ever read! I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Harlequin Presents as much as Dark Fever. No, it wasn’t boring… It was bizarre and awful and left me with a horrible feeling!
Dark Fever was part of a series of books based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The theme of this novel was lust, although there’s no sexual intercourse in this one. Personally, I thought this book’s theme of sin was gluttony because all the talk of food. It was set in Spain, after all.
Bianca has just turned 40 years old. She is a widow of 3 years, still in mourning for her husband. She has two teenagers and feels down in the dumps, so she goes on a trip to Spain. At her hotel, she sees a handsome man swimming in a pool and instantly falls in lust.
Charlotte Lamb’s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.
Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister. Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence. Worse, Clea has a creepy step-dad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).
Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.
He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out. Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb”
Frozen Fire was one of the strangest Harlequin Presents I’ve ever read. It’s not Charlotte Lamb’s worst, by any means; actually it’s quite well-written and if it was a two-part story I would have loved it. But as it stands, the book focuses way too much on Helen’s relationship with her emotionally abusive husband and not with the hero.
Helen has been married to Paul for many years and he’s cheated on her repeatedly. They’ve had to move various times whenever his affairs have caused too much trouble wherever they’re living. So here they are, yet again, in a new town with a new job for Paul, and Helen is sticking around, but she’s not sleeping with her husband. Still, she’s faithful to Paul even if he isn’t because she’s the kind of person who keeps her vows even though her husband doesn’t. Plus, he’s super, super hot.
His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.
WICKED LOVING LIES
Rating: 5 out of 5.
If you enjoy old-school romance written in the 1970s…
If you a high threshold for triggering issues like overbearing alphas, forced seduction, forced marriage of convenience, adultery, rape, branding, highwaymen, harems, slavery, racism, kidnapping, murder, a mother having her child taken away from her, divorce, and remarriage…
If you enjoy plot points such as travelling to almost every continent in the world, an affair with Napoleon, being a criminal on the run, all this and much more, plus a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…
Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb starts like a hazy dream. A beautiful girl stands at the cliffs, and a strange man, thinking she’s about to jump, runs to save her. She isn’t; she’s just admiring the savage beauty of her coastal home. There is an instant connection between the girl, Marina, and Gideon, the stranger, who is much older. Marina lives alone with her grandfather, plays the piano beautifully, and at night shares her thoughts with her best friends, two dolls. There are secrets hidden in this tale that slowly unravel to reveal a different story altogether.
Crescendo deals with an issue that has always puzzled me. Why are so many heroes in romances absolute horndog sluts? It’s not simply about being good in bed. A man doesn’t need to sleep with legions of women to know how to do this! He only needs to know a few, or just one, very well. There is a perceived allure of getting–and keeping—the one man that no other woman could keep.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb”
Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.
Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior, when she was only 18. She lived in California hoping to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. He controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait. They argued, he raped her, 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 teases. The press hounds Christie so much so 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.
It’s not the plot that 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, found she had almost maxed out her word count so just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with other guy.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb”
Penny Jordan’s Escape from Desire was for me a very satisfying, yet silly read.
A Tropical Vacation
Tamara is on vacation on the island of St. Stephen, all by herself, as her stuffy fiancé has no time for frivolities like lounging in the sun. Tamara is typical of Penny Jordan’s heroines, slightly repressed due to an overbearing aunt who raised her. But as she sunbathes on the beach, Tamara’s doubts about her engagement come to a head. While Malcolm is everything Tamara thought she wanted in a husband–staid, unemotional, professional–she recalls the happy, loving marriage of her parents and ponders if she can go through a loveless union so different than that of her deceased parents.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger on the beach admires her bikini-clad body with his eyes. When he notices her engagement ring, he’s cruel to her, thinking she’s just out in the Caribbean for one last hurrah.
There are two Harlequin Present writers I absolutely adore: Miranda Lee and Charlotte Lamb. While Lamb wrote mostly in the ’70s and ’80s and Lee was a modern woman of the ’90s and 2000s, both authors shared an ability to portray great heroines from vastly different lifestyles: from poor, innocent virgins to victims who rise above tragedy to mature sexually experienced sophisticates.
In this book, Oriel Mellstock belongs to the latter group. Oriel and Devil Haggard were cousins who grew up together and grew to love each other. (If that registers an ick-factor, they’re only second cousins). Cruel fate separates them. Oriel leaves and marries a man 30 years older. She actually has a normal marriage, sleeps with him (albeit without much passion) and has a child. Her multi-millionaire husband dies, and she returns to her home town to get a little revenge.
Call Back Yesterday was Charlotte Lamb’s first HP. So it’s a bit milder than her later works. There is no consummation in this book, but she throws a bunch of HP tropes at you: the much-beloved manor the heroine fights to own; a darkly-brooding, bastard hero who rides on a black stallion; the manipulative wife who separates the lovers; a vicious other-woman; multiple men who vie for the heroine’s affections; and even a couple of cute kids.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb”
As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, Miss Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean. They are bringing food and medical supplies to her Southern brethren, a noble effort. Then, 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, swearing to save the handsome Yankee officer, despite everyone’s potestations, including her Uncle, who’s in charge of the mission. Savannah takes the Yankee on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps the Northern officer recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. Savannah is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, too, quickly falls for the woman who saves his life.
Mark this down as one of those books where the hero first catches sight of the heroine bathing.
Ruy and Mirjana are from two different cultures: she is a princess from Al-Andalus, while Ruy is a knight for the kingdom of Castile y Leon. She will become his captive, but will he become the captive of her heart? For despite their great disparities, the pair quickly bond and engage in a forbidden romance.
No matter the obstacles that fall in their way, the betrayals, lies, and tragedies, they still love each other. Ruy’s and Mirjana’s relationship is intense & steadfast.
For that reason, let me get this right out of the way: the ending is not a conventional one. Even so, I was satisfied with the conclusion because there is no denying Ruy and Mirjana desperately love each other and will do their best to succeed.
Despite the unorthodox-yet-still-happily-ever-after ending there is no denying Ruy de Bivar’s and Mirjana’s deep and abiding affection for the other. You know they will make it through together until their deaths.
Darkly handsome and rich beyond imagining, the bold English conqueror was called Lyon for his-lion like fierceness. He had no match among enemies, or women… Until he met Lyonene, the green-eyed beauty whose fiery spirit matched his own. Through a whirlwind romance and stormy marriage, she endured every peril to be by his side… Until jealousy and vicious lies drove her across the Irish Sea and into grave danger. One man could save her — only the fierce Black Lyon had the courage to destroy the ruthless plot that had driven them apart and threatened the bond of love they had vowed could never be broken.
THE BLACK LYON (Back of the Book)
4 1/2 stars
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Black Lyon
The Black Lyon was my first Jude Deveraux read. I loved the first half, but the second half faltered a bit as a devious woman’s scheming separates the two protagonists.
We gave each other, with our bodies, the commitment that neither of us dared put into words. We mated. There is no other word for it. We were equal—man and woman; neither asking what we could not give…
THE WILDEST HEART
3 1/2 Stars
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
In Rosemary Rogers‘ The Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both. She was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. Rowena was indifferent to men; despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord. For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone.
The Negative Aspects
Although I read romance mainly for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I can enjoy a great romance novel about a heroine’s struggles through life, and the hero can be relegated to the background while the heroine grows and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers”