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devil in silver room

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

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


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

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Set-Up

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

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

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

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

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

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

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
in memorium

In Memoriam: Old School Romance Authors Who Have Passed Away

in memorium

Romance Authors Who Passed Away

Many romance authors who wrote books in the 20th century have left this mortal plane. Sadly, they have died recently or in the last twenty years. Romance authors Janis Reams Hudson and Mary Daheim just passed a few months ago

For that reason, Sweet Savage Flame has assembled a list of old-school romance authors who have moved to the great beyond. We’ll be dedicating an “In Memorium” page to these authors. Look for that in the upcoming weeks.

In Memorium

2022

  • Janis Reams Hudson b. May 7, 1951 – d. January 15, 2022
    • Hudson wrote 40 books since 1991, many contemporary series, but also historicals.
  • Mary Daheim b. November 7, 1937 – d. March 31, 2022
    • Daheim wrote historical romances from 1983 to 1992. Then she wrote many successful mysteries.
janis reams hudson
Janis Reams Hudson

2021

  • Miranda Lee b. 1945 – d. November 13, 2021
    • Lee, whose real name was Maureen, wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.
  • Valerie Parv b. 1951 – d. 25 April 2021
    • Parv wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.

2020

  • Emma Darcy b. November 28, 1940 – d. December 21, 2020
    • Darcy was the husband-wife duo of Frank and Wendy Brennan and wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.
  • Donna Kauffman b. March 18, 1960 – d. April 9, 2020
    • Kaufmann wrote about 70 series and full-length contemporary romances since 1994.
  • Connie Mason b. 1930 – d. March 20, 2020
    • Mason also wrote as Cara Miles. She published historical romances with Avon and Dorchester.

2019

  • Johanna Lindsey b. March 10, 1952 – d. October 19, 2019
    • Johanna Lindsey was one of the most successful authors of historical romance, one of Avon’s “Love’s Leading Ladies.”
  • Rosemary Rogers b. December 7, 1932. – d. 2019
    • Rosemary Rogers was a blockbuster bestseller of romance, also one of Avon’s original “Love Leading Ladies”
  • Judith Krantz b. January 9, 1928 – d. June 22, 2019
    • Her soapy, romantic fiction novels sold tens of millions worldwide and were made into successful miniseries.
JOhanna lindsey
Johanna Lindsey

2018

  • Evelyn Anthony b. Jul 03, 1926 – d. Sep 25, 2018
    • A prolific British author of romance, mysteries, historical fiction, and more.
  • Mary Kay Simmons d. July 16, 2018
    • Since the late 1970s, she wrote about 20 historical and Gothic romances.

2017

  • Nan Ryan b. 1936 – d. 2017
    • Nancy Ryan was a writer of historical romances for several publishers, including Kensington Zebra and Dell.
  • Sara Craven (Annie Ashurst) b. 1938 – d. November 15, 2017.
    • Craven wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.
Sara Craven romance writer
Sara Craven

2016

  • Roberta Gellis b. September 27, 1927 – d. May 6, 2016
    • Since the 1960s Gellis wrote authentic historicals, mainly medievals, She also wrote mysteries & fantasy romance.
  • Jo Beverley b. Sep 22, 1947 – d. May 23, 2016
    • Beverley was a prominent author of historical romances.

2015

  • Bertrice Small b. Dec 09, 1937 – d. February 24, 2015
    • Labeled the “Queen of Erotic Romances,” Small wrote lusty historical and fantasy romances.
  • Colleen McCullough b. June 1, 1937 – d. June 29, 2015
    • Author of epics like The Thorn Birds and romances like Tim.

2014

  • Valerie Sherwood (Jeanne Hines) b. July 29, 1922 – d. August 23, 2014
    • As Jeanne Hines, she wrote Gothics, as Sherwood, wrote historical romances, selling millions of copies.

2013

  • Mary Wibberley b. 1934 – d. December 29, 2013
    • Wibberley wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.
  • Janet Dailey b. May 21, 1944 – d. December 14, 2013
    • Dailey wrote category romances for Harlequin & Silhouette. She also wrote contemporary romances for Pocket Books, selling 100-300 million books.
  • Ida Pollock b. April 12, 1908 – d. December 05, 2013
    • British author of 120 romance novels.
mary wibbery romance author
Mary Wibberley

2012

  • Maeve Binchy b. May 28, 1940 – d. July 30, 2012
    • Called Ireland’s best-known novelist, she wrote stories about regular people with heavy romantic elements.
  • Eva Rutland b. January 15, 1917 – d. March 12, 2012
    • One of the first Afro-American romance writers, she wrote about 20 contemporaries for Harlequin before ariting another 20 books.

2011

  • Beverly Barton (Beverly Inman-Beaver) b. December 23, 1946 – d. April 21, 2011
    • Author of category romances and then romantic suspense and thrillers.
  • Penny Jordan (Penelope Halsall) b. November 24, 1946 – d. December 31, 2011
    • She wrote Regency romances and World War II dramas under the pen-names, Caroline Courtney and Annie Groves, in addition to being one of Mills & Boon/ Harlequin’s best-selling authors.
  • Jean Innes Saunders b. February 08, 1932 – d. August 03, 2011
    • Innes-Saunders wrote Gothic & historical romances under the names Jean Innes, Jean Saunders, Sally Blake, Rowena Summers & Rachel Moore.

2010

  • Eva Ibbotson, (Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner) b. January 21, 1925 – d. October 20, 2010
    • British novelist who wrote romance, young adult, and children’s fantasy.

2008

  • Flora Kidd b. 1926 – d. March 19, 2008.
    • Kidd wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.

2007

  • Kathleen Woodiwiss b. June 3, 1939 – d. 2007
    • Woodiwiss revitalized the historical romance and the entire romance genre with her publication of The Flame and the Flower in 1972.
  • Anne Weale d. 2007
    • Weale wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines.
anne weale passed away
Anne Weale

2000

  • Charlotte Lamb (Sheila Coates-Holland) b. 1937 – d. October 8, 2000
    • As Lamb, she wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin category lines and romantic suspense. As Sheila Lancaster, she wrote historical romances & Gothics.
  • Barbara Cartland b. December 13, 1901 – d. May 21, 2000
    • Cartland was the bestselling romance author of all time, with about 1 billion books sold.
barbara cartland died
Barbara Cartland

Your Opinion

Did you know these romance authors had passed away in the last few years? Were you a fan of any in particular? Did we overlook any romance writer you know has died recently?

Please drop us a line 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
shanna

Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

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


Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Characters and Setup

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

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

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

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

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

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

hugh-jackman

The Plot

Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHANNA PINK REISSUE
Shanna, Re-issue

Part Two

However…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

read shanna for free
Map of Los Camellos

Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Opinion

The Writing

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

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

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

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

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

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Characters

Shanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruark

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

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

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

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Cover and More

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Shanna

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to The Flame and the Flower!

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

Synopsis:

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

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

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

RUARK

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

SHANNA

A romance of passion beyond wildest dreams!

SHANNA by KATHLEEN E. WOODIWSS

***

READ SHANNA FOR FREE BORROW FROM OPEN LIBRARY

an outrageous proposal

Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

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


Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Characters

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

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

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

The Plot

A Separated Couple

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

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

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

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

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

The Reunited Lovers

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

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

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

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

A miracle baby would solve all their problems.

Final Analysis of An Outrageous Proposal

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

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

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

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

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

AN OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL by MIRANDA LEE
these golden pleasures

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

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


Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Plot: Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot: Part Two

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of These Golden Pleasures

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

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

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

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

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by VALERIE SHERWOOD
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?

angel's caress deana james franco

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

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


Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Characters

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

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

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

The Plot

Part I: There Came an Angel from the East

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

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

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

Part II: In Frost!

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

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

Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.

Part III: Out Fire!

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

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

Upside

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

Downside

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex

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

Violence

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

Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress

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

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

***

Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.

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

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

Synopsis:

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

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

ANGEL’S CARESS by DEANA JAMES
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

defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

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


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

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

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

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

Reina

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

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

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

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

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

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

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

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

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

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

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

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

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

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

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

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

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

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

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

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

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Savage Bliss

Cassie Edwards: A Formula For Success (and Controversy)

Cassie Edwards, “Queen of Indian Romance”

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

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

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

The Heroine

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

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

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

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

The Hero

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

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

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

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

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

The Evil White Man

Image by tegawi from Pixabay

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

The Evil White Man has the following characteristics:

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

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

The Evil Indian Brave

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

Appearing less frequently is the villainous Evil Indian Brave.

His characteristics:

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

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

The Evil Indian Woman

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

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

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

Conclusion on Cassie Edwards

dreamcatcher native american

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

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

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

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

Cassie Edwards Native American Romances We’ve Reviewed

Gentle Rogue duillo

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

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


Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

Johanna Lindsey Mania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

sean bean
Sean Bean as James Malory. Grrrr…

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

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

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

GENTLE ROGUE by JOHANNA LINDSEY
moon witch sinclair

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

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


Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

SPOILER WARNING ⚠

The Book

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

Yeah, this sounds like a wholesome romance! /sarcasm

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

That 70’s Show

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

Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something about myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 to 18-year-olds are dumb-asses.

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

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

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

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

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

anne mather romance

The Set-Up

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

 photo sexy doll pinafore.jpg

The Crazy Plot Continues

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

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

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

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

Turning the volume up she allowed her own inhibitions to melt away, closing her eyes, and dancing with the same abandon she had seen teenagers on television adopt…Sara halted abruptly, conscious of the informality of her attire, the bare feet, and the damp untidy tangle of her hair. She switched off the radiogram, and for a moment the silence seemed as deafening as the music had been. He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…

As I said, wholesome, right?

The Thrilling Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moon witch sinclair

My Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-Time Favorite Best Seller

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

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

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

 photo moonwitch ninth.jpg
Many Reprints

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

moon with alt

Final Analysis of Moon Witch

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

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

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

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

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

Gods above, forgive me, but I do.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

Jarrod guarded Sara even against himself.

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

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

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

MOON WITCH by ANNE MATHER

Borrow Moonwitch for free at Library Thing

passionate affair oakley

Category Romance Review: A Passionate Affair by Anne Mather

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

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

The Characters

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

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

A Passionate Affair, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 2014 reissue

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of A Passionate Affair

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

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

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

3.5 Stars


Synopsis:

“He’s quite famous—and notorious.”

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

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

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

A Passionate Affair
captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

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


Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

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

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

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

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

The Set-Up and the Characters

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

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

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

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

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Light in The Darkness

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

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

This shocks Fancy to her core.

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

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

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

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

The Creep “Hero” Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Thrilling Conclusion

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

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

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

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

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

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

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

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

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis:

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

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

CAPTIVE ANGEL by DEANA JAMES
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

Jennifer Wilde

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

tom huff

Love’s Leading Man, Jennifer Wilde

Introducing Thomas Elmer Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Jennifer Wilde

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

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

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

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

Marietta, Elena, Miranda, and Angel

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

Book blurb for Love’s Tender Fury:

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

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

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

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

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

LOVE’S TENDER FURY

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Tom

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

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

TOM HUFF

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

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

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

Farewell, Mr. Huff

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

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

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

Your Opinion

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

Jennifer Wilde Historical Romance Backlist

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

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

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


Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Spoiler Alert ⚠

Skye O’Malley: The Most Perfect Heroine Ever?

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero #2

Uh-uh-uh, not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Villain & the Honestly Nice Guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to #1

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Skye O’Malley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

SKYE O’MALLEY by BERTRICE SMALL
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