Category Archives: 1 star

passion flower walter popp

Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

book review historical romance
Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 473
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Passion Flower by Jennifer Horsman, a Zebra historical romance from 1983.

The Plot

Passion Flower begins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.

Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.

Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.

He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.

In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.

Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.

One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.

The Downside

When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.

The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.

Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.

There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.

Sex

There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.

Violence

In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line on Passion Flower

Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
4
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

GARDEN OF LOVE

Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.

PARADISE OF ECSTACY

Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.

Passion Flower by Jennifer Horseman
wild island sands

Historical Romance Review: Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton

historical romance review
Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton
Rating: one-star
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 526
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton, a Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Wild Island Sands opens with an explanation of Greek mythology, as the heroine’s name is Pandora–Pandora St. Ives to use her full nomenclature. Pandora lives in Hawaii with her aunt and uncle. Her parents passed away earlier.

Pandora will do anything to prevent being pushed into a loveless marriage. As a result, she flees to San Francisco, to live with her cousin, Cara Kalee. In California Pandora gets into an accident. Luckily, the houseman for Rogan Thorn saves her in time.

Rogan, a shipping magnate, owns his family’s company, Thorn Navigation. Rogan and Pandora are immediately attracted to each other. But as in most romance novels, there are barriers to their happiness.

Those barriers are:

  • Pandora’s amnesia from her accident
  • Cara, one of Rogan’s former mistresses
  • Rogan’s other paramours
  • Walter Riddock, Rogan’s professional and personal arch-rival
  • And perhaps most importantly, Rogan’s health issue

Rogan kidnaps Pandora to prevent her from marrying Riddock and forces her to marry him.

Later, Pandora moves back to Hawaii. Rogan follows her. They ignore each other, argue, and have sex.

This same pattern follows them back to San Francisco, where Pandora gives birth to their daughter, and she and Rogan have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Well… I finished the book!

Beyond that…

The Downside

Like many of Ms. Pelton’s books, Wild Island Sands is a hot mess of tens of thousands of words–over 526 pages–yet saying absolutely nothing.

I felt no connection to either Pandora or Rogan, nor do they have any chemistry with each other. Ms. Pelton tries to manipulate her readers’ emotions with a storyline about how Rogan’s life is affected by his parents’ neglect but goes nowhere with this.

There is a mystery that is so poorly written that it doesn’t matter at all when it’s solved.

Characters are introduced, then abandoned, or brought in and written about but never go anywhere.

Sex

There are a few scenes, which like the rest of the book, are barely noticeable.

Violence

It is implied that Pandora killed a man. This is not true, but she has horrific flashbacks about the murder.

Bottom Line on Wild Island Sands

Sonya T. Pelton has written only one book that I liked: Dakota Flame.

Beyond that, everything I’ve read by her has been total dreck like Wild Island Sands. They’ve always been destined straight for the garbage bin after I’ve wasted days of my life reading them.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.6

***

CATEGORIES:, , , , , , ,

Synopsis

The sultry breezes tossed the island palms and caressed the aqua waves. And as beautiful, copper-haired Pandora walked the endless beach all she could think about was the handsome, arrogant sea captain, Rogan Thorn. His kiss was the first taste of desire she had ever known. Now she wanted Rogan with a feverish longing that scaled her heart and flames between her long silken limbs. But he was a wealthy, womanizing shipping tycoon, whose only love was the sea…

WINDSWEPT LOVE
Hawaii was a paradise of romance and love–but Rogan believed in neither. He was tired of conniving, clinging women who were only after his money. Then he met Pandora, the ravishing Hawaiian goddess whose eyes sparkled like sapphires, whose lips tasted like sweet cherries, whose body was made for pleasure. He thought that if he bedded her, he’d get her out of his mind–but once he took her innocence he was branded by the joys of rapture on the WILD ISLAND SANDS.

Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton
sweet savage surrender sivavec

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett
Rating: half-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Diane Sivavec
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Surrender by Kathryn Hockett

WARNING ⚠: MILD SPOILERS & SUPER-BORING BOOK 

The Book

Sweet Savage Surrender, a Zebra Lovegram that was written by mother-daughter duo Marcia Hockett and Kathryn Kramer, aka Kathryn Hockett, is a romance between two star-crossed lovers from different worlds.

It, unfortunately, includes a hated trope of mine, instant love. “Insta-luv,” or love at first sight, is acceptable if and only if there are exciting obstacles the couple has to overcome.

Oh, there are obstacles here, all right, but boring ones.

A Preamble

I always appreciate a Native American romance that attempts to delve deeply and respectfully into the cultures of the people written about. At least, I thought I did until I realized without an engaging plot or romance to go with said respect, the novel comes off pandering and weirdly self-debasing.

Was Sweet Savage Surrender so terrible to deserve my scorn, then? Scorn, no! However, it was incredibly dull, sad to say. The romance is lacking, as the main characters fall in love right away and don’t spend much time together. Everyone is so black-and-white here. The good guys are perfect and the baddies are very bad.

Instant Love and Not Much Else

Sky Raven of the Arapaho People is a half-Native, Half-American woman with fair skin and blue eyes. I don’t know where those blue eyes came from. I know Mendelian genetics alone no longer applies to eye color, but I always thought one has to have recessive genes on both parents’ sides to get blue eyes. Green or hazel would have made more sense.

Anyway, Sky Raven comes upon an injured Anglo-American soldier being held captive by her enemy tribe, the Utes. She arranges to save the man and then nurses him back to health. As her grandfather is her tribe’s medicine man, this knowledge comes easy to Sky Raven.

The soldier is Major John Hanlen of the United States Army. He takes one look at Sky Raven and is instantly smitten. It doesn’t take long before Sky Raven feels the same way about the Yankee soldier.

“The spirits have brought us together. This was meant to be. I love you, Skyraven,” declares Major John Hanlen at 17% into this dull read.

Some Hot Pipe Action

If this book had anything interesting about it, I would have added a half star. Alas, even the sex is snoozerific.

Foreplay includes SkyRaven describing the Arapaho peace pipe ceremony, which turns John Hanlen on:

“Explain more about the ceremony and your beliefs so that I can understand.”
“The peace pipe is our most sacred possession. It is really the heart of all our sacred ceremonies…”


“And could this peace pipe ceremony help to bring harmony between your people and my soldiers?”


“I believe it could be so. The spirits want there to be peace or they would never have led me to you.” Her soul knew the gentle power of love. His caress upon her was an affirmation of life and contentment.

“I care very deeply for you,” he said softly. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked into the innocent, sincere questioning eyes looking up at him. He did have deep feelings for this beautiful, brave young woman that went beyond his gratitude for having saved his life.


“And I, you,” she managed to say before his lips were again upon her own, tasting the honey, the sweetness, and the softness…

The Conclusion to This Boring Romance

John Hanlen returns to his army and tries his best to get them not to go after the Arapaho. But there’s a commanding officer named Colonel Chivington who hates the tribe and will stop at nothing to destroy them.

So the big obstacle in this romance is that he wants to exterminate the Arapaho and John Hanlen has to stop it from happening.

Sky Raven waits among her people waiting for John Hanlen to arrive (That’s what Sky Raven calls him, not John, but John Hanlen. It got pretty weird during intimate scenes where she calls him by his full name.)

Will he be able to prevent Chivington from wiping out the Arapaho people? Will true love have its day?

Wait! More Minor Irritations…

Rather than focusing on romance, I’ll just note some nits I have to pick with this book:

Nocturnal animals out in the daytime:

“The beaver was busily building a new home for themselves, the squirrels were storing food in a hole in a tree, a large mother raccoon was teaching her kits…”

A mother raccoon with her babies out in the day? Maybe just before dusk, not in broad daylight. They could be rabid.

“There was an old Arapaho saying that Skyraven thought of now. ‘Let tomorrow take care of itself.’”

Didn’t the Bible say that? Yup, I checked. It’s in Matthew 6:34. Okay, I’ll ignore that because Hockett was probably trying to demonstrate how similar Arapaho are to European-descended Americans.

The word “thug” was used, and it took me out of place. I know from my 9th grade Social Studies “thug” referred to a certain criminal element from India in the 1800s, not to Native Americans of that same time period.

People shake their heads yes. I nod my head yes and shake it no. Okay, maybe body language was different in post-Civil War America.

These are minor irritations, but honestly, they were the most interesting facets of this read.

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Surrender

In its attempt to be a respectful tale about the Arapaho people–a noble intent, which is admirable–Sweet Savage Surrender forgot to add a little spice to its sweetness. The villains are one-dimensionally evil, and the good guys are one-dimensionally good. It’s very paint-by-numbers and boring.

Sky Raven and John Hanlen fall in love right away, then spend most of Sweet Savage Surrender separated as he tries to prevent atrocities from being committed against her people. He succeeds, and they meet up and live happily ever after.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you enjoy romances where the love story takes a back seat to the action and history. Then again, there’s not much action here, either, just talking, worrying, and introspection. This was not a fun book to experience.

Rating: 1/2 Star (The cover points don’t count!)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.3

Synopsis

CAPTIVE ENCHANTMENT
With skin of creamy satin and hair of ebon silk, Skyraven was the pride of her Arapaho tribe. But the voluptuous maiden had not yet met the warrior who could stir her blood… until the day she came upon the golden-haired man in the clearing — a man as sleek and powerful as the most magnificent brave. She quickly freed the handsome stranger from the cruel bonds that held him captive… only to succumb to his seductive charms once he’d regained his awesome strength. And though their passion was forbidden, the hot-blooded half-breed soon burned for the fiery rapture of her lover’s embrace!

TENDER TORMENT
After his capture by the Utes, Major John Hanlen thought death was a heartbeat away. Instead, he opened his eyes to see an enchanting, indigo-eyed angel sweetly tending his wounds. He knew he shouldn’t jeopardize his peace-seeking mission by making love to the young beauty, but just the sight of her aroused him to distraction! And once he’d tasted the secret sweetness of her deepest desires, he became her willing slave, yearning only to savor, again and again, her Sweet Savage Surrender…

SWEET SAVAGE SURRENDER by KATHRYN HOCKETT

Jennifer Wilde

Historical Romance Review: Love’s Fiery Jewel by Elaine Barbieri

book review historical romance
Love's Fiery Jewel by Elaine Barbieri
Rating: one-star
Published: 1982
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 510
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Love’s Fiery Jewel by Elaine Barbieri

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Love’s Fiery Jewel by Elaine Barbieri, a bodice ripper romance that Zebra books published in 1982.

The Plot

In 1775, an acting troupe called The American Company is boarding a ship, The Sally. The ship is captained by notorious privateer Damien Staith, the “hero” of Love’s Fiery Jewel, and is to sail from the Colonies to Jamaica.

Among those on the ship are actress Marian Greer and her daughter, Amethyst, the heroine. When the book begins, Amethyst is 9 and Damien is 26.

During the course of the book–which spans 510 pages and seven years–(keep in mind, she is 16 and Damien is 33), the hero does the following things to Amethyst:

Emotionally abuses her by belittling her, calling her derogatory names, and disregarding any of her wishes. Damien also threatens to kill two of her other suitors. He uses her love for her caretaker in Jamaica to blackmail her.

Mentally abuses her by letting her believe that he practices obeah, a form of black magic.

Physically abuses her by slapping Amethyst several times and shaking her so hard that she is bruised.

Sexually abuses her. Although Damien doesn’t rape Amethyst–big whoop–he does coerce her sexually, using his skills at sex and her desire against her. This is clearly a forced seduction trope, at best.

And yet, despite all of that, Amethyst falls in love with Damien! When she is finally free of him, she chooses to go back to him!

The Upside

Like most of Ms. Barbieri’s books, Love’s Fiery Jewel is well-written and emotionally deep.

The Downside

It’s rather appropriate that Damien Straith shares the name of the character from The Omen. The behavior of Damien in Love’s Fiery Jewel is just as horrifying as the character of the same name in the “Omen” movie franchise.

Amethyst, however, is not entirely blameless. She is very weak in regard to his actions. She constantly needs a man to take care of her–a weakness shared by many of the heroines in Ms. Barbieri’s books.

Sex

The sex scenes are mostly focused on the feeling of the act rather than the mechanics. They mostly focus on what the man doing to the woman.

Violence

In addition to the violence listed above, Damien beats up one of Amethyst’s suitors toward the end. Another man is seriously injured in an accident that Amethyst blames on Damien’s obeah.

At one point late in the book, Amethyst draws a gun on Damien and makes him leave her. If she had shot and killed the bastard, it would have made Love’s Fiery Jewel so much better!

Bottom Line on Love’s Fiery Jewel

Do you like books with heroines with zero pride or self-esteem? Women willing to allow themselves to be emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused by the “men” who claim to love them? And then fall in love with said cretins?

If you do, chances are you’ll love Elaine Barbieri’s Love’s Fiery Jewel. For the rest of us, not so much.

Right after I finish posting this review, this “romance novel” is going into my trash bin.

.75 Stars (cover points don’t count)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0
Characters
0.5
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.3

Synopsis

THE SPARKLE OF PASSION glowed in Amethyst’s big violet eyes. She was on the verge of womanhood, ripe for love, and no one knew it better than Captain Damien Straith. He was intoxicated by her rare beauty. Her sensual innocence and fiery temper made her more alluring than any woman he had ever known. With just one fierce, long, lingering kiss he could possess her forever. Somehow he’d have to make her his own…

THE GLITTER OF DESIRE shone like a diamond in Damien’s piercing gray eyes. And each time Amethyst met his gaze her pulse quickened and she ached with desire. She wanted the handsome captain to bring her to the heights of rapturous pleasure, but what if she gave him her love and he cast her aside? Delirious with longing, yet afraid to give her heart, she hated the power he had over her body — and vowed never to give him her love! 

Love’s Fiery Jewel by Elaine Barbieri
Comanche Love Song

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

book review historical romance
Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black
Rating: half-star
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Don Case
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

The Book

This review is of Comanche Love Song a standalone Zebra Heartfire from June 1989 by Cheryl Black.

The Plot

Part 1 of Comanche Love Song

The book begins in Stonewall County, Texas, in 1855. A family is doing chores around their farm. Only one member of the family, a then-two-year-old girl, will be alive by the end of the day.

Fast forward 17 years. U.S. Army Major Walker Grayson meets up with a group of soldiers, who have a captive with them named Silver Dawn. She is the heroine of the book and is the girl–now an adult–mentioned earlier.

Silver Dawn has been raised by the Comanche since they took her from her family at age 2. She tries various times to escape Army custody but is always brought back.

Meanwhile, she and Walker are becoming attracted to each other, later becoming lovers–and married in Comanche tradition.

Soon after their first intimate encounter, Walker takes Silver Dawn to Fort Nacogdoches, Texas, where things don’t go well for her.

Part 2 of Comanche Love Song

The scene then shifts to Louisiana, where we meet Walker’s family. There is the father Samuel, stepmother Kathren, sister Amanda, brother Seth, and Camelia Rhinehart, Walker’s fiance.

Silver becomes aware of the Grayson family drama and starts a little of her own.

In the end, the Grayson family loses several members but gains others when Silver Dawn and Walker add to the family, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I made a vow to finish every book I purchased with my own money. That vow remains intact.

Downside

Where to begin? Comanche Love Song is a hot mess. First, Walker captures Silver Dawn, then has sex with her despite having a fiance back in Louisiana!

When Walker takes Silver to Louisiana, the book changes to a 1980’s soap opera with mostly unlikeable characters and storylines that are convoluted and beyond stupid.

There is no character development at all.

There is no romance between Silver Dawn and Walker. Basically, the only time they’re together is when they are having sex. They’re apart from each other for about 75% of the book. And most of that is due to Walker locking her up. Yes, a great way to show you love someone is to imprison them.

Sex

The love scenes between Silver Dawn and Walker are fairly mild, don’t generate any heat, and are not erotic.

Violence

Assault, battery, shooting, and killing all take place during Comanche Love Song. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Comanche Love Song

Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black has now passed Eugenia’s Embrace by Cassie Edwards as the worst book I’ve ever read.

At least Eugenia’s Embrace had sex scenes going for it. Ms. Black’s book has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’d give this zero stars if I could.

.5 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis:

RHYTHM OF RAPTURE

Though her skin was milky white, lovely Silver Dawn never thought she was anything less than all Comanche. And when she first set eyes on the despicable Major Walker Grayson, the savage beauty could only hate the man who was out to kill her red-skinned grandfather. Yet somehow his green eyes made her pulse hammer with excitement, his rock hard frame made her yearn for his loving touch. And even as her mind vowed to stab the treacherous paleface, her body swore her total surrender!

DANCE OF DESIRE

If the ambitious Major Grayson could kill the infamous Horse Back, he’d be assured of an important position back East. Then he captured the Indian chief’s “daughter”, the wild, spirited Silver Dawn, and Walker calculated he’d earn more prestige by returning the white squaw to civilization. But as the hot-blooded officer struggled to tame her, primal lust made him forget his career. Now all that mattered was dominating her each day, fulfilling her each night, and forever falling under the spell of her… COMANCHE LOVE SONG

COMANCHE LOVE SONG by CHERYL BLACK
glory days michael herring

Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

category romance
Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick
Rating: one-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Michael Herring
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Temptation #308
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick is a Harlequin Temptation from the early 1990s. It’s one of the few books from that line that I truly disliked.

Why? Because it was so dreadfully dull.

The Plot

Glory Days is… an absolutely boring romance.

This is a story about two married professional runners, Ashby and Brian. Their marriage is strained because Ashby is a rising star who is more successful than her husband, who has hit a downward trajectory. Ashby is even projected to win the Olympics one day.

Brian, in the meantime, is experiencing a downward trajectory in his career, as he is recovering from an injury that hampers his ability to run

Then Roger, a handsome running coach, comes in to help train the couple. This creates even more trouble in their marriage as Brian’s jealousy and insecurity reach massive proportions.

Will Ashby fall for Roger’s masculine allure? Will Bryan get his mojo back? No, yeah, and who cares.

Final Analysis of Glory Days

The cover doesn’t of Marilynne Rudick’s Glory Days doesn’t look too bad as pictured. However, in person, I recall it being quite ugly. The blue sky contrasted with the orange-gold tones of Ashby and Bryan’s tanned skin and looked odd.

An ugly cover for a boring book means a miserable reading experience.

This was a rare 1-star Harlequin Temptation for me. 

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
1.5
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

What price glory?

Ashby and her husband, Brian O’Hara, shared a dream–to win the Olympic marathon. Only their passion for each other rivaled their passion for running. Training together, they were an unbeatable team–until Brian was sidelined by an injury. Roger Atlee, rumored to take a very personal interest in his women, began to coach Ashby.

A jealous Brian watched Ashby win race after race. Their struggles and sacrifices to make the American team together had now become a solo effort. But Brian realized he was losing something far more precious than Olympic gold. And he faced the biggest challenge of his life … to make sure their marriage went the distance

GLORY DAYS BY MARILYNNE RUDICK
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
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
heather cordia byers

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather by Cordia Byers
Rating: one-star
Published: 1979
Illustrator: James Griffin
Published by: Fawcett
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Cavalier Era Romance
Pages: 316
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book – Heather by Cordia Byers

The best thing I can say about Heather by Cordia Byers is that it’s a terrific cure for insomnia.

Why, oh why, did I not listen to the words of wisdom and DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper? Like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur.

It turned out things did happen. Another event followed those things. And then another thing happens…

However, none of it has any zing or excitement. It’s all just words on paper.

So Boring

In Heather, events occur while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. That’s absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper.

These are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the reader. Either by offending or delighting, or titillating them.

I was a little offended, I suppose. Not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

heather cordia byers
Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

The Plot

Part One: Heather, the Ward

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative. Even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either.

Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David, although she knows that her love is hopeless.

Enter Sir Nicholas Guyon, the studly and handsome Captain of the king’s guard. He takes one look at Heather and becomes instantly obsessed. Why? Because she’s bee-uu-tee-full, of course.

Did you expect any other reason, like her charm, personality, wit, or even foot-stomping, spicy temper? Egads, no. None of that here. Heather is the blankest slate of a character I’ve read in a long time.

Nevertheless, Heather’s heart is only for David. She despises Nicholas since that’s what the story demands.

Part Two: Heather, the Mistress

After David is assumed dead at sea and the Marquis is arrested for treason, Heather heads to London to live an exciting life in the big city. But Heather’s so dumb; she gets conned and robbed of her money.

Subsequently, she ends up in a whorehouse as Madame’s specialty. Of course, because Heather is so bee-uu-tee-full, she’s not pimped out right away. The Madame has plans to sell her to the highest bidder. Well, guess who that happens to be?

Nicholas has now been promoted to the high rank of British Ambassador to France (that made no sense to me). Heather still hates him, but she realizes his exalted position could benefit her.

So she devises a plan to play along, being Nicholas’ mistress, to save the Marquis. For a virgin who hates a guy so much, Heather sure has a lot of confidence in the magic powers of her cuca.

Part Three: I Don’t Care Anymore

After Nicholas seduces her into his bed, causing passion to stir between Heather’s loins, who should come back from the dead?

It’s Heather’s beloved David, who was held captive by pirates and now has a secret identity as…

Oh, forget it, I don’t care anymore.

Final Analysis of Heather by Cordia Byers

Stuff happens, and Cordia Byers’ Heather ends as these books always do. It’s happily ever after for Heather and Nicholas.

I suppose I should apologize for spoiling this great piece of romantic literature, but I won’t.

This book was so dull. I couldn’t even get excited about writing a review. This just blew big, giant whale chunks.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis:

HEATHER… She was a golden-haired beauty who’d never known her parents. Brought up as a foundling with David, the son of a marquis, she learned the manners of a lady. All of which helped her when she was captured one night and sold to a fancy brothel.

Captain Nicholas Guyon, David’s friend, who had long lusted after Heather, rescued her from that notorious palace of pleasure. He planned to make her his mistress. He had not reckoned on falling in love with her. But Heather had no intention of surrendering to the man who once had almost raped her…

A lusty tale of fiery passions and deadly intrigue of men at war and women in love…

HEATHER by CORDIA BYERS
yankee mistress

Historical Romance Review: Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow

Synopsis:

Black-Hearted Captain

When lovely abolitionist Selene Sprague overheard secret Confederate strategy, the spiriited miss knew right then and there her duty was to inform the Union army. But as she galloped off into the inky night, cunning Rebel officer Wade Kinsolving reined in her horse and managed to lock Selene in his arms until she revealed her scheme. Refusing to admit to the pleasure of his embrace, the patriotic wench swore she’d undermine the traitor’s plans—even if it meant pretending ecstasy with each kiss they shared.

Busybody Beauty

Captain Wade Kinsolving figured the gorgeous eavesdropper was up to no good, but since the sumptuous spy was so enticing, he’d punish her his own way. His bedroll would be her prison, his company would be her penance, and his caresses would be her torture. The arrogant Southerner gloried in ruining each of the willful girl’s tricks and, craving the challenge of changing the hatred in her eyes to rapture, decided he’d make her his forever, as his own foxy, sassy Yankee mistress.

YANKEE MISTRESS by ASHLEY SNOW

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Yankee Mistress a standalone from May 1989 by Ashley Snow, published by Zebra/Kensington as a Zebra Heartfire.

The Plot

Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow begins at an unspecified time during the Civil War. Selene Sprague, the heroine, is working in a tavern in Manassas, Virginia for her uncle, John Carpenter–both of her parents have passed. She overhears information about the Confederate war plans which will be helpful to the Union Army. Selene tries to get the plans to the Union forces but is stopped by Confederate Captain Wade Kinsolving, the hero of the book.

Wade later rapes Selene, who tries again to escape but is caught again by Wade.

After catching her again, Wade kidnaps Selene and takes her first to Norfolk, Virginia, and later to Barbados. (This is all to save his mission). He also marries Selene in a shipboard ceremony.

Selene and Wade are happy as a couple in Barbados. For a while, anyway. Their happiness ends when Simon Lazar, a contemporary of Selene’s from Virginia, arrives. Later, Lazar and Selene head to London. Wade soon arrives in London, and he and Selene reunite and have sex. He also achieves part of his mission, or so he thinks. Selene leaves London after being brutally assaulted by Lazar and killing him.

Selene returns to Virginia to search for Wade. Their first reunion doesn’t go well, but eventually, they reconcile.

In the end, Wade kills Lazar, who miraculously survived his attempted killing by Selene, and she and Wade have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

There is one good sex scene in the book. Beyond that…

Downside

Wade is a 2x rapist, an emotional, mental, and physical abuser. He is, to put it simply, a human piece of fecal matter.

While I can give Selene some credit for her strength in nursing the wounded and dead during the Civil War, and I can allow that she has little control over what happens to her due to the fact that she has no money, I can criticize her for her decision to fall in love with an individual who abuses her and treats her poorly throughout the book, which I found extraordinarily stupid. There is zero character development and no romance at all between Selene and Wade. None of the characters in the book are remotely likable.

Sex

As mentioned, there is one good sex scene. There are others, but they don’t approach a decent level.

Violence

As mentioned, Wade rapes Selene twice. She is also raped a third time by a peer of the realm. There are other scenes of assault, battery, wounded soldiers, and killings. The violence other than the rapes is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Yankee Mistress

I never thought I would read a book worse than Cassie Edwards’ dreadful, Eugenia’s Embrace. With Yankee Mistress, Ashley Snow has proven me sadly wrong.

0 stars.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist “Hero”.

0.5 Stars

charlotte amanda douglas copeland

Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Hart Douglass

historical romance review
Charlotte Rating: one-star
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Charles Copeland
Imprint or Line: Belmont Tower
Genres: Historical Romance, Civil War Romance
Pages: 239
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Hart Douglass

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Charlotte by Amanda Hart Douglass is…

It’s a…

Well, it’s a book.

The best thing about this circa 1978 quasi-bodice ripper is the Newport cigarettes ad in the middle of it:

 photo Newport ad.jpg Charlotte

The Plot

Charlotte takes place during the American Civil War in New York City beginning in 1863 or 1864 (both dates are given). For a historical book, it’s historical, but for a romance, the romance is lacking.

This book is only 239 pages long, but the hero doesn’t make an entrance until page 144. And he is missing-in-action for most of it. The back blurb tells you the entire plot of this dreck.

The first 100 pages or so mainly focus on the heroine’s brother, Richard. He is a debauched reprobate who parties for days on alcohol and opium binges.

What else? Oh, he sleeps with a married actress and has a threesome with a teenage bargirl and her 33-year-old mother. Then he participates in the Draft Riots by beating up cops and burning down an orphanage for young Black children. Finally, he deflowers the new virgin maid. He’s an asshole but at least he did something.

The only reason I kept reading this dull book was to relish Richard’s eventual comeuppance. Which he got, but it wasn’t horrible enough.

As for romance? I wasn’t kidding when I said there was none.

Final Analysis of Charlotte

Forget about this one. I already have.

(PS) I searched the web and so far, I only see one copy of Charlotte by Amanda Hart Douglass for sale for $49.95. Whoever is selling it should pay YOU $49.95 to get it off their hands. Yes, it’s that bad of a book!

1 Star


Synopsis:

Lovely young Charlotte Bourne was the apple of her father’s eyes and a belle of New York society. The onset of the War Between the States introduced her to young Liam Brady, whom her dissolute brother Richard had hired to serve as his substitute in the Union Army. Liam and Charlotte fall deeply in love, but before they could marry, Charlotte had to come to terms with her turbulent feelings for the two other men in her life. The raging Civil War echoed the conflict in Charlotte’s heart…

CHARLOTTE by AMANDA HART DOUGLASS
colorado jewel sate brandt

Historical Romance Review: Colorado Jewel by Cate Brandt

Synopsis:

Magheen Fitzgerald could have never predicted her fate the day she left her native Ireland for the shores of America. Blinded by tales of gold and great wealth, she believed that she’d reclaim her family’s fortune in a gold mine in Colorado. But when the stagecoach she was traveling in overturned in a storm, she was lucky to escape with her life. And now she was snowbound, trapped in a primitive shack with the most virile man she’d ever known. Despite the cold outside, Magheen felt a heat building in her like never before…

DANGEROUS SETTING

Daniel Calcord ventured to Colorado for a change of pace, for some excitement. But he got much more than he bargained for in the shapely form of the Irish beauty he had saved from a stagecoach wreck. As he nursed her back to health, Daniel couldn’t help himself from caressing her silky flesh, her sensuous curves. From the flash in her emerald eyes to the fiery light in her auburn hair, she enchanted him. It was only a matter of time before he would take her in his arms and make her his own…

COLORADO JEWEL 

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and the Characters

This review is of Colorado Jewel, a standalone by Cate Brandt. (Zebra Heartfire, April 1989).

Heroine: Magheen Fitzgerald. Red hair, emerald eyes.

Hero: Daniel Calcord. Black hair, blue eyes. Businessman/lawyer.

The Plot

Colorado Jewel opens in Colorado, early September 1878. Daniel Calcord, the hero of the book and a businessman with his fingers in many pies, is heading toward one of his enterprises, a silver mine in the town of Leadville. His trip is delayed, however, as Daniel helps to rescue Magheen Fitzgerald, the heroine of the book, from a stagecoach accident. He nurses her back to health and they face many perils, one of which is their attraction to each other.

When one of Maggie’s brothers, Patrick, a priest, catches them in a compromising position, they are compelled to marry. Their engagement doesn’t go well.

Maggie and Daniel do eventually marry. Sexually, they’re compatible; in other ways, not so much. Things don’t improve when the workers in Leadville’s mines protest working conditions, leading to violence between the miners and the mine owners, with Maggie in the middle.

Later, Daniel’s mother, Mayse, shows up and causes problems for both Daniel and Maggie. Those problems endanger Maggie’s life.

In the end, Maggie and Daniel reconcile, have a child, and their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Aside from finishing the book… Maggie is a fairly nice character.

Downside

Daniel, who is a hot-and-cold blowing bastard.

First, he wants Maggie. Then, he doesn’t want her. This goes on for the entire book. He talks at Maggie, not with her, which creates almost all of their issues. Daniel is self-centered, egotistical, condescending, demeaning, and insulting to her. He accuses her of things that are not true. By the way, he never apologizes. There is no actual romance or character development, and the storylines, such as they are, zip back and forth without actually reaching a destination.

Sex

A few love scenes between Maggie and Daniel that don’t generate a lot of heat.

Violence

Assault, battery and one shooting take place “off-screen.”

Bottom Line for Colorado Jewel

Maggie is a nice heroine. She definitely needed an actual hero. She’s the only thing saving Colorado Jewel from a lower than 1-star rating.

Location: Leadville, Colorado. 1878-1880.

Tropes: Historical romance, Zebra Heartfire.

1.11 Stars

when lightning strikes

Historical Romance Review: When Lightning Strikes by Kristin Hannah

MILD SPOILERS 😉

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Kristin Hannah is a successful author of women’s fiction. It’s fortunate she found success in that genre because her romances I’ve encountered are–sad to say–lacking in excitement. When Lightning Strikes is a time travel romance that starts promisingly but takes a boring turn into snoozeville with its drawn-out plot. This should have been a category-length romance of 190 pages, not 400 pages long!

The Plot

The setup of When Lightning Strikes is rather intriguing. Alaina Costanza is a single mother and a romance writer living in the present day. Or whenever Geraldo Rivera had a daytime talk show, so maybe “modern era’ would be more appropriate. Our main character is a writer who has no life but her daughter. Now that her daughter is away at a summer camp, she’s got nothing to do but pop pills and drink herself silly.

Rather a dark setup, but appropriate for this emotionally overwrought book.

One night while typing at her computer, lightning strikes and ZAP! Alaina wakes up in totally new surroundings. She’s traveled back in time, not to the real Old West, but inside her own romance novel!

So if she’s in her created world, where is the hero? It turns out he’s an utter douchebag. In actuality, it’s the villain of Alaina’s book who’s the hero of this one.

The entirety of When Lightning Strikes is Alaina getting kidnapped by the bad guy known only as Killian. They spend their time trying to outrun the “hero” who’s out to kill him. Alaina simply wants to get back home to her daughter. Still, she has a connection to Killian and finds herself fighting her feelings for him.

Fate has thrown them together for a reason. This would be fine if the book didn’t go on forever and ever blathering about what soul mates here were. There’s even a cliched magic woman of color who somehow has mystical insights into the heroine’s destiny and her relationship with Killian.

The narrative dies down in favor of navel-gazing and droning on about how Killian and Alaina are meant to be for chapters on end.

Will Killian meet his end at the hands of the hero? Will Alaina stay in the past with Killian or finally go home to be with her daughter? I didn’t care. But it all ends as happily as one can imagine.

Final Analysis of When Lightning Strikes

This could have been a decent book. Rather than being action-based and romance-based, it was bogged down by internal angst. Chapters went by where literally nothing happened.

It was a chore to finish. I’m sure Hannah has created better books than this. But–sorry to say–I never want to experience another romance as mind-numbing as When Lightning Strikes again.

sunset temptation

Historical Romance Review: Sunset Temptation by Jane Toombs

book review historical romance
Sunset Temptation by Jane Toombs
Rating: one-star
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Sunset Temptation by Jane Toombs

The Book

This review is of Sunset Temptation, a standalone novel by Jane Toombs (Zebra/Kensington Heartfire, June 1989).

Heroine: Jennara Gray, 29, Brown hair, green-amber eyes. Healer.

Hero: Bramwell Sumner, 34. Brown hair and eyes. Attorney.

The Plot

The book begins at an unspecified time in Minnesota. Jennara Gray, the hero of the book, has just been confronted by Philadelphia lawyer Bramwell Sumner, the hero. Bramwell’s stepbrother, Ronald Claridge, and Jennara’s sister, Susanna, have run off together. Jennara and Bramwell make an uneasy alliance to bring the couple back. Easier said than done.

As they travel to try to find Susanna and Ronald, Jennara and Bramwell meet a Datoka boy named Cub, encounter various perils and become lovers.

Jennara and Bramwell eventually find Susanna and Ronald in Missouri, but also find more peril. In the end, Susanna and Ronald marry, as do Jennara and Bramwell. The latter couple has a baby together and both couples find their Happily Ever After.

Upside

My record of finishing every book I paid for with my own money remains intact.

Downside

Sunset Temptation is a BORING book. I’ll explain further.

Jennara and Bramwell are not strong enough characters to be leading a romance novel (they aren’t strong enough characters to be supporting players either). This is especially given the fact that Jennara, Bramwell, or both are in every scene in this nearly 400 page book. There is little character depth or development.

The supporting characters only exist as foils for Jennara and Bramwell to play off of. Perhaps realizing that her characters aren’t particularly interesting, Ms. Toombs or her editors try to add juice to the book by placing the characters in various perilous situations. This, too, fails miserably, as these scenes are no more interesting than the ones that precede them.

Sex

A handful of love scenes involving Jennara and Bramwell, which are just as colorless as the rest of the book is.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, killing, and rape all occur in Sunset Temptation. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line

Sunset Temptation probably isn’t as bad a book as I’m making it out to be. However, the stultifying boredom I felt reading it means no positive grade from me. 1.11 stars.

Settings: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri.

Time frame: unspecified but during the Civil War.

Tropes: Attorney. Healer. Heartfire. Historical Romance.

1 Star

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

Synopsis

INTERFERING TENDERFOOT
If she weren’t so committed to healing, frontier doctor Jennara Gray would’ve killed that arrogant easterner Bramwell Sumner. The single-minded man had stormed into her home, accused her of trying to swindle his rich stepbrother, and was now about to go riding off into the sunset — right in the middle of a Sioux uprising. Jennara told the handsome blockhead she’d accompany him just to save his stubborn hide… and she’d never admit it was really because of the hot, intense desire the good-looking male made her feel!

OVERBEARING SHE-CAT
No woman had ever fooled Bramwell Sumner, and that tall, outspoken Jennara Gray would be no exception. Despite her commitment to frontier doctoring, her genuine love for her patients and her caring hazel eyes, the cynical Philadelphia lawyer was convinced she was only a gold digger. Then for the first time ever his lust overrode his logic and Bramwell forgot all about his hunt for his stepbrother. All he wanted to search was Jennara ‘s silken slender body and claim her beneath the star-studded sky.

Sunset Temptation by Jane Toombs

READ FOR FREE AT OPEN LIBRARY

An Offer of Marriage

Historical Romance Review: An Offer of Marriage by Jo Ann Ferguson Review

An Offer of Marriage, Jo Ann Ferguson, Zebra, 1999, cover artist unknown, John Desaalvo cover model

WARNING: RANT ALERT ⚠

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Goodbye Old Era, Hello New

Books like Jo Ann Ferguson’s An Offer of Marriage suffer from being published during a time of change. When Kensington’s Zebra historical romances died, they didn’t go quickly (actually, Zebras are still around, but they’re not the same as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s). Before their Heartfire and Lovegram lines ended in the late 1990s, the iconic, colorful covers became dull mockeries of the past, with no lush illustrations, just cheaply photo-shopped images of flowers or castles. In many cases, the covers were nothing more than the title and author’s name.

Zebra dumped most of their best authors (some briefly moved on to Dorchester, which had their own problems) and churned out new lines like Zebra Ballad, Splendor, and Precious Gem Historicals, all of which folded quickly. An Offer of Marriage is a romance from his era.

The Plot?

Young Brenwyn Gunnarsson’s family is slaughtered and he vows revenge. He poses as a lowly freeman to deceive the English and aid the Viking invasion. English Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh, is taken by caerl Brenwyn to wed his master, Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.

If you were irritated by that last sentence, be wary of An Offer of Marriage, because those phrases will be repeated ad infinitum. Such is the thrilling dialogue in this book:

“I am Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh.”

“Ealdorman,” he gasped. “That is the highest rank in England, except for the king.”

“And I was betrothed to Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.”

“Morcar? Is he Edgar’s father? You said his father was dead.”

“I thought Morcar was dead.”

“Yes you said that. That Thevkil told you. Thevkil the Strong?”

“Yes.”

“How did you come to speak to that Viking chieftain?”

“I spoke with him when I was with Edgar’s father to his court…Edgar’s father’s name was Under-Chieftain Brenwyn Gunnarsson. He was a Jomsviking and captured Manor Darburgh. Part of his prize was me.”

 photo boringzzz.jpg

Brenwyn turns the tables on Thane Morcar and takes Cyndra as his own bride. They fall in love and have a child. Cyndra’s father was named Edgar, so she names her son in her father’s memory. Then Cyndra and Brenwyn are separated and…zzz…

Huh? Sorry, was I nodding off again?

Besides the writing, another terrible thing about this book is its title. An Offer of Marriage sounds way too Regency-ish. It should have been My Beloved Enemy (pg. 253) or some similar crap to go with the medieval/Viking theme. Oh well, that was the least of this book’s offenses.

Nor, Sir, I Don’t Like it

Passionless books like this are why the historical genre lost its popularity to paranormals. And paranormals seemed to have lost their popularity to New Adult/50 Shades of BDSM. Wonder what’s the next thing? Perhaps well-written, sensual yet tawdry, plot-and-action driven, non-wallpaper historicals, with amazing, painted covers will make a comeback? (I kid, I kid!)

When I read a tepid historical romance published in the 21st century, I shrug it off. The new style isn’t my thing. But when I read a sucky historical written when old-school historicals were in their death throes, it makes me sad.

I used way too many words to describe this book. Simply put, this was dull, dull, dull.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask others what they feel.

 photo boringchoice.jpg

Baby, what did you think?

 photo boringbaby.jpg

And kitty, how about you?

 photo boringcat.jpg

Puppy, do you agree?

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That’s it, a full consensus! All the pics I’ve stolen off the net agree. This book was:

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Reviewed by Introvert Reader

shamles ecstasy

Historical Romance Review: Shameless Ecstasy by Thea Devine

Shameless Ecstasy, Thea Devine, Zebra, 1989, Cover Artist TBD

MILD SPOILERS

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This review is of Shameless Ecstasy, a standalone from May 1989 by Thea Devine.

The Plot

The book takes place on Swany Island, Georgia. One of the residents there is Sarianna Broydon, the heroine of the book. Sarianna lives with her father, Rex, her stepmother Vesta, and Vesta’s daughter, Jeralee. The relationship between Rex and Sarianna is not a good one for many reasons. Stepping into this family drama is Cade Rensell, the hero of the book. Cade was born in Georgia, left, and has now returned, with some scores to settle.

As part of Cade’s revenge plan, he and Sarianna become lovers, who are caught by Vesta and Rex in a compromising position. Despite Rex’s objections, he agrees to let Sarianna and Cade marry.

Sarianna and Cade marry, despite Jeralee’s attempts to impede the process. Sarianna and Cade relocate to Savannah and begin their married life together. They are happy on one level, but there are many difficulties beneath the surface, and two above it: Vesta and Jeralee,

Soon, after Sarianna suffers a miscarriage and other issues, she and Cade separate. She goes to Charleston, South Carolina, to live with her late mother’s cousin. Cade follows her and tries to win her back. He’s not the only one following Sarianna to South Carolina; Vesta and Jeralee do as well, who come to visit and try to create problems for Sarianna. This time, they don’t succeed.

In the end, Vesta tries to kill Sarianna but is stopped by Cade. He and Sarianna reconcile and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The best part of this Southern Antebellum re-telling of Cinderella is Sarianna, who is subjected to various forms of emotional and mental cruelty throughout her life. The fact that she is still capable of being a loving person is a testament to her. The sex scenes are also very good for a late 1980’s mainstream romance novel.

Downside

Everything else!

To be more specific, the majority of the characters in Shameless Ecstasy are thoroughly unlikeable. The cruelty that Rex, Vesta, and Jeralee exert toward Sarianna also contains sleazy elements. Although Ms. Devine tries to sell the book as a love story, there is no real love between Cade and Sarianna. He wants her for revenge against Rex, he lusts after her, and even though he verbalizes the words “I love you” to Sarianna, Cade’s actions tell a completely different story.

Sex

As mentioned, the love scenes are pretty good. They’re mildly descriptive and fairly erotic.

Violence

Vesta tries to kill Sarianna by stabbing her. She wounds Sarianna, but the injuries are not life-threatening.

Bottom Line

The only ecstasy I felt after reading Shameless Ecstasy was the fact that it was finally over. 1.27 stars

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Desperado Dream sabin

Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review: Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Here, Introvert Reader explains her negative perspective of Karen A. Bale’s historical romance, Desperado Dream. Blue Falcon, on the other hand, gave it a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating.

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

False Advertising

The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.

I did know the heroine was married, as it clearly states in the book blurb:

“[W]hile her husband was away, [Lisa,] the auburn-haired beauty found it hard to deny her own passionate nature, especially when Cruz, the handsome desperado, commandeered her ranch. And when he captured her and took her to his mountain hideaway, where she was forced at gunpoint to pretend to be his bride, her protests were only half-hearted, for she found herself on the verge of surrendering to the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.”

BOOK DESCRIPTION OF DESPERADO DREAM

But I had assumed this was one of those historical romances where the husband is a creep and dies, leaving the hero & heroine to be together. It wasn’t.

The Plot

So Lisa & Eric are married, he leaves her and their daughter behind to take care of business matters. Lisa’s not happy about her husband leaving them alone without protection. Then this gorgeous hunk, Cruz, and his fellow banditos show up at Lisa’s ranch to take her land.

While the rest of the criminal gang are ruthless men, Cruz is kinder and gentler. He protects Lisa and keeps the men away from her, drawing antagonism from the rest of the crew.

Events turn sour and Lisa and Cruz have to pretend to be married so the men won’t molest her. At gunpoint, they are forced to prove to the banditos that their marriage is real. Cruz has sex with Lisa in a very unsexy scene where she is tearful and thinks about her husband.

The thing is, Lisa’s protests against Cruz’s lovemaking aren’t half-hearted. They’re real. She never surrenders to “the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.” While Cruz is in love with her, Lisa is still madly in love with her husband, Eric, the real “hero” of this book. The man who abandoned her at the beginning of the story is the man she ends up with. That would have been fine for me if: 1) The blurb hadn’t implied Cruz was the hero, and 2) If Lisa had spent most of the book with Eric rather than Cruz.

Lisa becomes pregnant and chooses to stay with Cruz as opposed to going back to Eric and their child. There’s an other-woman, Teresa, who has designs on both of Lisa’s men.

Only after Lisa suffers a miscarriage due to the evil villainess’s machinations does Lisa leave a heartbroken Cruz behind. She really should have ended up with him because to me, Cruz seemed to love her more genuinely than Eric, who was a bit of a selfish prick.

Final Analysis of Desperado Dream

Perhaps if I had first read the precursor to Desperado Dream, called The Forever Passion, which was published over a decade prior, I would have felt differently. But as it was, I was devastated by the ending. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I think this is the first book that was in pristine condition that I ever tossed into the garbage.

I can’t recommend this book, that is unless you’ve read The Forever Passion and want to see the continuing adventures of Eric and Lisa in a book where they’re separated most of the time.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Tangled Web

Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett

Tangled Web, Janice Bennett, Zebra, 1988, cover artist TBD

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

The Book

This review is of Tangled Web a Zebra Regency romance by Janice Bennett.

The Plot

At the beginning of the book, Miss Celia Marcombe, the heroine, is informed by her grandfather, Roderick, that he has arranged a marriage between Celia and his godson, Lord Trevor Ryde, the hero of Tangled Web. Suffice it to say, Celia is less than thrilled with this prospect and tries to get out of it by claiming she already is betrothed to her brother’s best friend, Jonathon Edelston. Celia is even less enthused about the impending nuptials when she visits Trevor’s home and realizes the state of dishabille it’s in.

Despite that disappointment, Celia does begin to develop a romantic tendre for Trevor, which is somewhat broken when she discovers he’s keeping a woman at his home. (The woman in question–Therese de Bourgerre–later becomes the heroine of another book, An Intriguing Desire by Ms. Bennett.) The reasons Trevor is keeping Mademoiselle de Bourgerre in London later come to light, leading to intrigue and danger. Eventually, most of the mysteries are solved, Celia and Trevor realize they love each other, Jonathon finds his true love–Celia’s companion Elizabeth–and the two couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

It’s a Regency romance. I learned a few new phrases. (I do love Regency phrases. Sometimes they are so much more descriptive than American phrases.)

Downside

I found both Celia and Trevor to be unlikeable. While I understood Celia’s desire not to be forced into marriage with Trevor, the way she goes about expressing that displeasure was, to me, immature and childish (in her defense, she is 19 years of age.) Trevor, on the other hand, is an arrogant, stiff, unfeeling boor for the majority of the book. I found the “romance” between them to be both unromantic and unbelievable. Toward the end of the book, Trevor threatens to kill Celia and spanks her; yet, despite this, she agrees to marry him!

Sex

Other than a few kisses, there is no sexual content.

Violence

Shootings, killings, and a swordfight. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line

I really wanted to like Tangled Web, as I currently own four of Ms. Bennett’s books and have many more on my TBR lists, but this was a seriously disappointing book. My hope is that Ms. Bennett’s future books will be better; they can’t be much worse.

easy lovin

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 stereotypical macho convention. Perhaps I was too immature to appreciate Jesse’s more feminist attitude than other heroes I’d come upon. I never really warmed up to him. Jesse was supposed to be all charming and debonair, but he came off too metrosexual for my tastes.

As for Kate, I found Kate to be too wishy-washy. So the romance between them wasn’t really believable. It seemed more like Kate was having a fling than falling into a lifetime commitment.

Easy Lovin' 2
Easy Lovin‘ Re-Issue

Final Analysis of Easy Lovin’

Plus, Easy Lovin’ was dull, not memorable in any way, except for the fact that Jesse was too unusual a hero for my young, primitive tastes. The re-release of this book as part of a special run series called Here Comes the Groom did him no favors, either. On that particular cover, Jesse sported a Hawaiian shirt and jeans combo that had him look like a middle-aged dad trying to relive his frat boy days.

Oh well, there are much better late vintage reads than this one to enjoy and review, so file Candace Schuler’s Easy Lovin’ under F for forgettable.

captive melody nadine crenshaw

Historical Romance Review: Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw

Synopsis:

When a handsome stranger overpowered her in her boudoir right after her marriage ceremony, inexperienced Laura Upton was too frightened to do more than faint. Later when she awoke, the scarcely clad beauty found herself on a galloping horse, in the powerful embrace of her virile kidnapper. How dare this riff-raff deprive her of the most romantic night of her life! Stroking her creamy flesh as she struggled, the bold cowboy whispered how wicked a man her husband was — and the ebony haired beauty didn’t know whether she should rejoice she was rescued… or be terrified she’d be ravaged. 

CAPTIVE MELODY by NADINE CRENSHAW

***Welcome Blue Falcon to SweetSavageFlame.com, who will be contributing his great reviews to this site. Here, in his first review, he analyzes Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw***

SPOILER ALERT

The Book

This review is of Captive Melody, a standalone Zebra from January 1989 by Nadine Crenshaw.

The Plot

The book starts in July 1876, Northern California. A young wife, Ling Kee (I’m writing her name in the traditional Chinese way, last name first), is brutally attacked by three “men”. Among them is Richard Laird, a rancher. After being beaten and raped, Ling Kee commits suicide.

Fast forward five years. Laird has just married Laura Upton, the heroine of the book. Their marriage won’t last, however, as on their wedding night, Laura is kidnapped by Andre Sheridan, the hero of the book and Ling Kee’s husband. Andre plans to hold Laura as bait to draw Richard to Andre’s home and kill him.

As Andre takes Laura further away from Laird, they become attracted to each other, later acting on that attraction. Andre later takes Laura to one of his homes–he is quite wealthy–and their relationship deepens. One person not happy about this is Ling Soo, Andre’s housekeeper, and Ling Kee’s father, who tries to break up their relationship.

After some time together, Andre sends Laura back to Laird. Big mistake. He tries to rape Laura and beats her brutally. Laurea leaves Laird–say that three times quickly–and gets a job in a pharmacy. She also discovers she’s pregnant with Andre’s baby and obtains another suitor, Yale Talbot,

Andre finds Laura after a long search and breaks up her relationship with Talbot. Andre then compels Laura to marry him. They are happy for a while-Laura is pregnant-but then Laird shows up again. A violent confrontation takes place between Andre and Laird, and Laird is killed, not by Andre, but by Laura.

In the end, Laura becomes a famous concert pianist-fulling a dream her stepmother had for her-and Laura, Andre, and their daughter to have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The fact that I finished it, which was accomplished only by speed reading and skimming. The reasons are explained below.

Downside

Captive Melody contains two tropes I HATE in books: revenge by proxy and Stockholm Syndrome. They’re both here, and they’re both terrible.

Question: Why do “heroes” in these books go after defenseless, innocent women? The answer: they’re really cowards. Going after a man requires emotional, financial, mental, and physical strength. There is also the possibility that the “hero” could get killed. Going after a woman: most of those things are much less likely to happen, especially when the woman is an oatmeal, milquetoast heroine like Laura Upton.

Andre is, to put it simply, an abusive, arrogant, brutal, egotistical, possessive, predatory, self-centered, uncaring, unfeeling bastard. There are no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.

Now, for an equal opportunity unloading on Laura, who is the dumbest romance novel heroine I’ve read since Eugenia Scott in Cassie Edwards’ putrid Eugenia’s Embrace. To be fair to her, she has been abused her entire life, first by her stepmother, then by Laird, then by Andre, then Yale, and finally back to Andre. Also be fair, Andre doesn’t physically strike Laura–big whoop–but every other action toward Laura is abusive) She has all the personality of white bread and similar intelligence.

Sex

One really good love scene and there are others, but the scene is dampened by the fact that Andre manipulated Laura into having sex with him, then used her lust for him to coerce more sexual favors as the book goes on.

Violence

When Laura goes back to Laird, he brutally beats her. Later, Andre and Laird have their confrontation; which is violent, before Laura shoots and kills Laird. The first scene is somewhat graphic; the latter is not.

Bottom Line on Captive Melody

If it were possible to give less than one star to a book, Captive Melody would be the one. I’m not going to say “I’ll never read another book by” this author, Ms. Crenshaw, but Captive Melody certainly doesn’t inspire any enthusiasm for any books I’ll read by her in the future. 

1 Star