Category: Book Review

Category Romance Review: Tangled Hearts by JoAnn Ross

Tangled Hearts, JoAnn Ross, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #333

1 1/2 stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

I have to give it JoAnn Ross for her book Tangled Hearts, in that she tried to do something unique for a category romance novel. It’s just unfortunate for me that I didn’t like where she went with it.

The cover of this Halequin Temptation tells it all, pretty much. There’s a couple engaged in a sexy embrace while in the background is a black and white image of lone man.

The Plot

Alanna Cantrell got married to Mitch Cantrell six years ago. Their whirlwind courtship was passionate and thrilling. But soon afterward, terrorists captured Mitch, a journalist, who was taken hostage and presumed killed.

Over the years Alanna has picked up the pieces of her life. By the time the story opens, she’s seeing Jonas Harte, a staid, steady, predictable kind of guy, certainly not the type to gallivant off to war-torn countries for the thrill of reporting a story. Just as Alanna and Jonas are about to announce their engagement, who should turn up from the dead, but Mitch, Alanna’s husband?

Through flashbacks we are shown how Mitch and Alanna met and see their brief time together before his disappearance.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tangled Hearts by JoAnn Ross”

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”

BLOOD RED ROSES

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Blood Red Roses is understandably a difficult book for some to enjoy. It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderfully written piece of romantic fiction, just styled in a way that appeals to a niche audience. I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (Maggie Davis) twice: once in middle school and then years later in high school, and was swept away in the story both times.

The Plot

Alwyn is practically ancient for her time period at nearly 28 to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be given a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands. They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville”

Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald

Bride at Whangatapu, Robyn Donald, Harlequin, 1977, Craig cover art

Harlequin #232

From the back of the book:

Nothing has changed,” Fiona said in desperation. “Jonathan is my son.

Fiona had had five years to think about her youthful folly–five years to remember Logan Sutherland’s treatment of her. Now, a whim of fate had brought them together again, and he laid claim to the son he hadn’t known existed.

Well, for Jonathan’s sake she would marry this cool, calculating stranger as he demanded. But she would never be his wife!

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Bride at Whangatapu includes the hallmark of almost every one of Robyn Donald’s books, as it intimately details the natural environment of New Zealand. Whether her books were set on a sheep station, on a yacht in the Pacific, or just a tropical backdrop, you could see the bright green grass, feel the ocean spray on your face or smell the hibiscus blossoms (which don’t even have much a scent, do they?).

Also present, Robyn Donald’s first published book is the other hallmark of her writing: an ultra-jerky hero who bullies his way over the heroine. Right from chapter one, when Logan finds that Fiona was the mother of his son who resulted from a one-night stand many years ago, he demands she marry him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald”

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

Sweet Fire Jo Goodman, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art

5 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.

The Plot

Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies now residing in San Fransisco, California. The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her much more sophisticated and unsurprisingly young stepmother. But, of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.

On the other hand, Lydia is a woman of social conscience, as she tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, killing women on the streets. Sadly, the mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was, but I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.

Lydia lets Nathan and Brigham know she’s onto their game and is having none of it!... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman”

Category Romance Review: Red Rose for Love by Carole Mortimer

Red Rose for Love, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1979. Cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents # 522

From the back of the book:

Love led only to heartbreak. Eve had survived the ordeal of Carl Prentiss, but the experience left her a sadly changed woman. Her trusting young heart was now safely buried. Never again would she love–least of all a rich man who thought his money could buy him everything, including her. So, despite his persistence, Bart Jordan didn’t stand a chance with Eve. She was allowing stubborn bitterness and fear to ruin her life, but if Bart were to treat her as Carl had done, the result would be the same anyway.

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Usually, Mortimer’s heroes are cruel and overbearingly alpha. While in Red Rose for Love the hero-in-pursuit starts dominant and determined, when he realizes how hurt the heroine’s been in the past, he changes course and woos her in a gentle and loving manner. He’s a rarity in the Harlequin Presents line: a beautiful, green-eyed blond who’s not a man-ho and is a genuinely nice guy! Yes, he’s overbearing, alpha, all that jazz, but beneath, he’s sensitive to Eve’s needs.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Red Rose for Love by Carole Mortimer”

Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

The Golden Sovereigns, Jocelyn Carew, Avon, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”

THE GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to rate or categorize as it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is an absolutely skillful writer to make me enjoy a book where the heroine, Carmody, doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 of this 404-page epic. This is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale, however, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end; he’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

Our story begins in late 17th century England. Carmody Petrie is in love with Waldo, who’s a no-good rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:

“A new stirring, of springs moving deep inside her, a well of emotion she had never dreamed of had been uncovered.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew”

Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer

Nelson’s Brand, Diana Palmer, Silhouette, 1991, cover artist unknown

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nelson’s Brand was my first and, so far, only foray into Diana Palmer’s little corner of Romancelandia. Palmer has got a bit of a reputation in the genre as an author of ultra-macho, hairy-chested heroes and virginal, too-stupid-to-live heroines.

I read this one back when I subscribed to the Silhouette Desire line. They used to run a Man of the Month theme and Nelson’s Brand was that month’s pick (January 1991). I recall never being too impressed with the Desire editors’ choices, and this was one of those books that failed to impress. The Desire staff really dropped the ball by not picking Lass Small’s Four Dollars and Fifty-One Cents over this one.

The Plot

In Nelson’s Brand Allison Hathoway is new in town. She’s got a tragic back story where her missionary parents were killed in South America. Her friend, Winnie, treats her with kid-gloves as, if she’s so delicate she might break at the slightest touch.

Gene Nelson is Winnie’s fiance’s brother. Gene and his brother, Dwight, run their family ranch together, although lately, Gene hasn’t been tending much to his responsibilities.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer”

Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan

Kathleen’s Surrender, Nancy Henderson Ryan, Zebra, 1983, Walter Popp cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This review is based on the Zebra print version of the book published back in 1983. Kathleen’s Surrender by Nancy Henderson Ryan–known better these days as Nan Ryan–is without question one of the best, most emotional romance novels I’ve ever read.

The Plot:

As the book opens, we meet the Beauregard family of Natchez-on-the-Hill, Mississippi. Patriarch Louis Antoine, Matriarch Abigail Howard Beauregard, and the heroine of the book, their only child, daughter Kathleen Diana Beauregard. At the start, Kathleen is a starry-eyed 15 year old who loves her Southern Belle life. She soon meets a handsome, wealthy man named Dawson Blakely and falls quickly and fully in love with him. They fall in love and want to get married.

However, Louis is vehemently against their relationship, although he and Abigail are nice to Dawson. Louis’ objection: Dawson’s ancestry isn’t as blue-blooded as the Beauregards’ is; Dawson’s ancestors are rather notorious people. Louis tells Dawson they can’t marry, and Dawson loves Kathleen enough to let her go without telling her that her father is the one who’s trying to keep them apart.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan”

Category Romance Review: No Gentle Possession by Anne Mather

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No Gentle Possession, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1980, Don Sinclair cover art

Harlequin Presents #105

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Anne Mather‘s No Gentle Possession consists of two plot points she’s employed many times in her works like Stormspell: separated lovers and cheating.

The Plot

Well, in this book, it wasn’t so much a case of separated lovers as two people who briefly dated in the past. The heroine broke it off with the hero when she thought his relationship with his young stepmother was a bit too close for comfort and creepy.

Karen Sinclair likes her life just how it is. She has a job and a boyfriend and lives in a nice little town. Sure she’s not wealthy like some other families in town, but she’s happy. What more could she ask for? To her shock and dismay, she meets up again with Alexis Whitney, a man from a well-heeled family she’d been involved with years earlier and never forgot. For Alexis, however, their relationship hadn’t been significant (they didn’t have sex), so he doesn’t even remember Karen.

Karen’s pride is a bit wounded, although she tries to put on a brave face.

... Read more “Category Romance Review: No Gentle Possession by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Easy Lovin’ by Candace Schuler

Easy Lovin’ Candace Schuler, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #331

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I remember being so excited to read Candace Schuler’s Easy Lovin’ as I had read one fantastic romance by her already, Wildcat. To me, that story was amazing, with a fiery-tempered heroine and an equally passionate hero. So when this one arrived in the mail as part of my monthly subscription of Harlequin Temptations, I was disappointed to find it was a big old dud. The tone was completely the opposite of Schuler’s previous book.

The Plot

Kate Hightower is a prim and proper miss who’s always done what’s expected of her. Except now, she’s running away from her life, having left her fiance at the altar. She’s not sure what she wants, but it’s definitely a drastic change. So she goes to New Orleans to find herself.

What she finds is Jesse Vallerin. He’s a laid-back southern boy from the Big Easy. Jesse’s also a hairstylist who gives Kate a makeover when he cuts and dyes her hair from a mousy brown to a fiery auburn. He sports a diamond stud in his ear. He’s an atypical hero, going all against macho stereotypical convention.

... Read more “Category Romance Review: Easy Lovin’ by Candace Schuler”

Historical Romance Review: Savage Conquest by Janelle Taylor

Savage Conquest, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1985, Elaine Duillo cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review is of Savage Conquest, the 9th and final book–although the 6th published–in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot:

Savage Conquest begins in 1873, approximately 17 years after the previous book, Forever Ecstasy, ended. It is not a happy time for Miranda Lawrence, the “heroine” of the book–only the second half–and her fraternal twin, Amanda, the heroine of the first half, both 18. Their parents, Joe and Marie “Morning Star” Lawrence, are presumed dead in a boating accident. (Their bodies have not been recovered.) Amanda, who is seeing fellow shipping company owner Weber Richardson, decides to take over the family business. She also later meets Reis Harrison, a man whom she is attracted to, and starts to fall in love with. There are, however, issues standing in their way: Reis is not entirely truthful about why he came to Virginia, and he has a long-standing beef with Weber, who feels similarly predisposed towards Reis.

Amanda and Reis become lovers and later marry surreptitiously, and Reis sets into motion a plan in which he hopes to trap Weber and expose him for what he really is.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Savage Conquest by Janelle Taylor”

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Was this tepid, dull romance actually penned by Johanna Lindsey? The Heir was the first book that I noticed a weird change in her writing. Previously, if there was a Lindsey I didn’t like, it was due to a dull plot or excessive fighting between the leads. In this one, there is friendship for sure, but romantic isn’t what I’d call the relationship between Duncan and Sabrina.

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

Duncan, a Highland Scot, is the new heir to be an English Marquess. Everyone is eager to meet this new laird, er lord, especially the young ladies in town. Sabrina has no designs on Duncan; she’s plump, plain, orphaned, and not anyone’s ideal candidate for a wife. Certainly not for an heir to a Marquessate.

Then there’s the manipulative, beautiful Ophelia, who desperately wants Duncan’s title.

Slowly, painfully slowly, Sabrina and Duncan’s relationship turns physical, and one night they make love. But Ophelia’s scheming makes it appear as if Duncan has ruined her, so the red-haired idiot decides to do the honorable thing: marry Ophelia. Duncan is too young and he flounders in areas where a more mature man might have acted differently.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey”