Category: 2 stars and a half

Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon

Virginia Vixen
Virginia Vixen, Kay McMahon, Zebra, 1986, John Ennis cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Virgina Vixen by Kay McMahon

This review is of Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon. Published in May 1989, this book is part of a series connected to four other books by Ms. McMahon.

The Plot

The book begins in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1774. Rebecca Wilde, a reporter for the Virginia Gazette and the heroine of the book, is investigating the murder of a slave who was a childhood friend of hers. Arriving at the same time is Alec Stone, the hero of the book, who has come to Virginia from England for two purposes; to find his father’s identity and to investigate the disappearance of one of his employees.

Rebecca and Alec meet for the first time when they end up in the same bed together and they have sex. Soon after this encounter, Rebecca writes an article all but calling Alec a murderer (based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence). This leads to several angry interactions between her and others, and other forms of trouble.

Despite their tempestuous relationship, Rebecca and Alec call a truce and decide to work together.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon”

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1969, cover artist unknown

Mills & Boon Modern

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

(Admission: I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in English. It was only released on e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.)

Thanks to Anne Mather’s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put the correct copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but you only get to know that it was published in 1969 after you finish the book. I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid 20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! This book may offend some readers’ sensibilities, or, if you’re twisted like me, make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather”

Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday kind of love
Sunday Kind of Love, Lois Faye Dyer, Kismet, 1991, cover artist unknown

KISMET #70

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Meteoric Rise and Fall for Kismet?

According to the website FictionDB the Meteor Publishing Company, from somewhere out of Pennsylvania, USA, released 168 books through its Kismet Romance line. The series ran from July 1990 to August 1993. The final book was written by Suzanne Brockman, with authors such as Cassie Miles, Christine Dorsey, Janis Reams Hudson, Sharon Sala, and Christina Dodd releasing works with them. Lois Faye Dyer, who would produce numerous Special Edition romances for Silhouette Books, was one of their more prolific writers. Her romance Sunday Kind of Love is book #2 in a series about 4 siblings.

Dark Memories

I sort of want to revisit this book to see if my feelings about it were clouded by the experience I went through while reading it. About 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, my husband was rushed to the ER with a serious asthma attack. I recall holding our 3-year-old daughter tightly as my husband used his last bit of adrenaline to try to convince the doubtful ER workers that he could not breathe before passing out.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer”

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead

Whisper to the Stars
Whisper to the Stars, Hettie Grimstead, Harlequin, “Jh” cover artist

Harlequin Romance #1403

Spoiler-Free Review 🙂

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Star of a Lower Magnitude

Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.

Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.

It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.

For me, at least it was a good try.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead”

Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow by Carole Mortimer

Cherish Tomorrow, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1985, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents # 804

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

What can I say about Carole Mortimer’s Trust in Tomorrow (originally published as Cherish Tomorrow in the US & Canada)? Sadly, that I wasn’t really feeling this one. The romance aspect of the book was fine, kind of adorable, actually, with a very young heroine, Chelsea, in pursuit of the much older hero, Lucas. She knows she wants her man and is willing to fight for him. I really wish Chelsea and Lucas could have had a better plot to go along with their romance. The romance was fine, but it was the story that had me going, huh?

The Plot

Chelsea’s mother has just suddenly died, and since her father is a famous tv celebrity, he dispatches her from California to England to get away from the press. He sends her to stay with Lucas, an old family friend Chelsea hasn’t known since she was 12 and he was 27 when she had a HUGE crush on him. Creepy, but whatever. Since they haven’t seen each other in years, neither recognizes the other. So this leads to a bit of a misunderstanding that’s quickly cleared up.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow by Carole Mortimer”

Category Romance Review: Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis (aka Laura London)

Lightning that lingers
Lightning That Lingers, Sharon and Tom Curtis, Bantam, 1984, cover artist TBD

Loveswept #25

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis has received acclaim from many readers. By no means was this a terrible piece of fiction, but I found it didn’t mesh with my personal tastes. It was…not subtle.

There must be something the matter with me. The Curtises are beloved in the romance genre. The consensus seems to be that they–who occasionally wrote under the pseudonym Laura London–are the greatest thing in romance since Jane Austen. As far as their composition skills go, they’re very sensitive and attentive to detail. The Curtises certainly have talent. There was just something too treacly about this one for me. I coined the term cutsie-woostsie sugar shock after reading Lightning that Lingers. I’m a bitter GenXer, so perhaps my sarcastic takes have made me too apathetic to enjoy a cavity-inducing love story like this.

The Hero

The hero, Philip, is from a once proud and wealthy family. Now he’s all alone and broke. He lives in his massive, run-down mansion that he needs to renovate. So to do so, since he’s the most handsome man in the world, he turns to stripping.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis (aka Laura London)”

Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

change of life
Change of Life, Judith Arnold, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #362

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Change of Life, a category romance by Judith Arnold, seems less a romance and more a story of a woman’s mid-life crisis and journey to self-discovery.

The Plot

Lila Chapin is a long-time married woman with several rambunctious young boys. While Daddy is the fun parent, she’s a stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, disciplines, and is attentive to everyone’s wants and needs. On her 40th birthday, when her husband, Ken, and their kids forget all about it, she decides it’s time for a change in her life. She packs up her things, takes her keys, withdraws some money from their bank account, and leaves.

She settles into a hotel and figures it’s time to take care of her wants and needs. She informs her bewildered husband that she’s taking one month off from being a wife and mother. Lila feels she’s been taken for granted, and without her around, her family will realize how much they rely on her for everything.

Ken, of course, isn’t amused. He insists Lila come home, but she’s not budging.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold”

Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Signet, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?” But, I don’t know… I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.

A Too-Perfect Heroine

Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.

Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!

Every man that wasn’t either her relative or 100% gay desired her and had to have her (stop me if you’ve heard this before)! She was just the typical most beautiful-woman-on-earth, the kind of heroine that Bertrice Small adored to write about, and I had no patience nor love for her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small”

Category Romance Review: Having Faith by Barbara Delinsky

Having Faith, Barabra Delinsky, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Temptation #297
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I don’t know what the qualifications were for getting the Harlequin Temptation Award of Excellence, but I wasn’t impressed with Barbara Delinsky’s Having Faith. I think the award was merely a way for editors to play favorites with authors without having to pay them more; however that’s just me being cynical.

The Plot

Faith and Sawyer are divorce lawyers on opposite sides of the same nasty case. (Oh my, freaking divorce lawyers in a romance novel!) They’ve been good friends for many years, both went through rough divorces, and they have a very amicable platonic relationship. For over 15 years they’ve been friends with no sexual attraction. Then one night, they get rip-roaring drunk and have “oopsie” sex.

They reveal a lot more to each other than they ever have before: not just that they’re compatible in the bedroom, but also that they’re both jerks. The two of them make fun of their exes, Sawyer complaining how his ex-wife’s boobs sagged, Faith talking about how her husband was a dud in the sack. They drink some more and have more sex, then wake up with huge hangovers, in shock at what they’ve done.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Having Faith by Barbara Delinsky”

Category Romance Review: One Husband Too Many by Jacqueline Diamond

American Romance #642
From the back of the book:

Wrong man…wrong time! An amulet sends Jana back six years… into deadly danger! Impulsively, she wishes for a second chance, before she met the rogue she impulsively married. To her shock, it works— and lands her in the arms of the same man, who’s using another name and involved in a scheme that might get them both killed.. Although she knows him intimately, he has no idea who she is. They have to learn about each other—fast—while staying alive. If they can!

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The cover for One Husband Too Many looks a bit off, with the heroine posed as a seemingly shell-shocked bride marrying two Martina Navratilovas. Definitely a unique choice for a Harlequin cover.

As for the story? Well this book was written as if it were one of those rom-coms you’d watch on a Sunday afternoon while folding laundry.

One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996
One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996, cover artist TBD

The Plot

Jana Edwards is fed up with her marriage to Drake, who is never around and always looking for the next big score. She asks for a divorce from the love of her life but appears to take it in stride.... Read more “Category Romance Review: One Husband Too Many by Jacqueline Diamond”

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

Storm Maiden, Mary Gilgannon, Pinnacle, 1997, cover artist TBD

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Plot:

Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts. Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.

Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.

This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…

Fiona has to adjust to life as a slave. She cannot communicate with any of the Norse folk, except for Dag’s brother, who hates her and all the Irish.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon”

Category Romance Book Review: The Secret Baby by Day Leclaire

the secret baby
Harlequin Romance #3457 The Secret Baby, Day Leclaire, Harlequin, 1995,
The Secret Baby, Day Leclaire, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Romance #3457
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The Plot

The Secret Baby (wow, I bet the editors stayed up nights trying to think up that title!) was a rather predictable story with a paint-by-the-numbers plot. This could have been pulled from an old daytime soap opera. Former lovers, a secret baby, a marriage-of-convenience, and revenge are just a few of the tropes in this Harlequin Romance.

Damien Hawke and Sable Jameson (oh those names!) were lovers who worked together, or rather, she worked under Damien…in various positions. They were in love until Sable seemingly betrayed Damien by selling company secrets. Sable denied it, yet Damien wanted nothing more to do with her.

Shortly afterward, Sable found out she was pregnant but couldn’t turn to Damien, who had tossed her callously out on her butt. Who did she turn to? Why the decrepitly aged head of the rival company Sable had supposedly sold (or not sold) those secrets to! Their marriage was one of convenience, so naturally, they never had sex (they never do in these books). She had the baby and hid his true parentage from Damien.... Read more “Category Romance Book Review: The Secret Baby by Day Leclaire”

Category Romance Review: Beware of the Stranger by Janet Dailey

Beware of the Stranger, Janet Dailey, Harlequin, 1978, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Presents #256
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Beware of the Stranger by Janet Dailey was a real meh book. The best part of it was the 1970’s kitsch; the hero is introduced wearing a forest green blazer and plaid pants. The heroine’s wardrobe is full of plaid blouses and light-blue bell bottoms. Plenty of smoking, tossing those cigarettes down, and then engaging passionate make-out sessions.

As for the plot…

Well our plaid wearing hero shows up at the heroine’s newspaper job, claiming to work for her wealthy father who needs to see her immediately. He takes Samantha hundreds of miles away to a secluded island in the St. Lawrence River, never lets her off the island, and never lets her use the phone.

Samantha is a wily journalist with sharply-honed instincts, so it only takes her 100 pages of this 190+ page book to realize that she’s been kidnapped!

The hero’s a shady guy hiding the truth from her as his name changes every 42 pages or so. First he’s Owen, then he says he’s Chris, then he reveals he’s Jonas, then… It was like a Scooby-Doo mystery with a face reveal under the first face reveal loop that never ended.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beware of the Stranger by Janet Dailey”

Historical Romance Review: Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning

Winter’s Heat, Denise Domning, Topaz, 1993, John Ennis cover art

“It may be that you will find my manner too straightforward for your tastes, but, my lord, it is just that – my manner. Would that I die before I give up that part of me.”

WINTER’S HEAT
2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A medieval romance that takes medieval life seriously is usually one I enjoy, but Denise Domning’s Winter’s Heat fell a bit flat for me.

Rowena is forced into marriage with Lord Rannulf of Graistan. After a quick consummation, Rannulf leaves Rowena at his castle to deal with his surly servants, evil sister-in-law, Maeve, and his young son.

After more than 30% into the book, I realized that the hero was nowhere to be found, and I was ok with that. I enjoyed reading about Rowena’s attempts to turn Rannulf’s pigsty into a livable home.

Unfortunately once Rannulf re-enters the picture, the book doesn’t get better. Rannulf mistrusts his capable wife and only believes Maeve’s ridiculous lies. This book reminded me of the worst of the worst of Johanna Lindsey’s romances, with the hero and heroine bickering for no real reason, refusing to engage in basic communication, and making lots of love even though they hate each other.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning”

Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes

Divided Heart, Angelica Aimes, Pinnacle, 1983, Norm Eastman cover art
Divided Heart, Angelica Aimes, Pinnacle, 1983, Norm Eastman cover art

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Pinnacle Books Bodice Ripper

Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is a typical bodice ripper like the many that glutted the market in the 70s and early 80s. The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies–attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings, and whippings–that would make the average woman end up looking like a “faces-of-meth” poster.

However, no matter how battered and bruised, how emaciated, how lice-infested her hair, how filthy, and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world: Augusta Raleigh, she of the emerald eyes and raven curls.

The Plot

On July 4, 1774, Augusta seals her fate when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army. The story starts out promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl. Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times, there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.... Read more “Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes”

Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton

So Wild a Rapture, Andrea Layton, Playboy Press, 1978, Ron Lesser cover art

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

From the opening pages of Andrea Layton’s So Wild a Rapture, we are introduced to the 16-year-old heroine, the noble Juliette de Condillac, and her “won twu wuv,” Francois du Quesnay, a slightly older boy from a neighboring and also noble family. They quickly consummate their love and, like high schoolers, vow to be “togetha 4 eva” after Francois finishes his university education. But life has other plans for Juliette and Francois, first in the name of Roger du Deffand, and then in the name of the French Revolution.

Against her will, Juliette is betrothed to the foppish and much older Roger. Francois hightails it back to school, but not before giving her his ring, which he tells Juliette will protect her whenever needed. Juliette dithers about her future: maybe she will marry Roger, maybe she won’t. In the meantime, she is to be educated at a convent and spend time with nobility, learning what she needs to be a proper bride for Roger. What does she need to learn? Oh, the usual: being pious, educated in the wifely arts, properly social, and perhaps take part in a bit of girl-on-girl love, because her husband-to-be loves to watch a good show (or even take part).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton”

Historical Romance Review: Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain

Devil’s Desire, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1975, Tom Hall cover art

“I would not regret putting a hole in your arrogant chest, only it would be deflected when it hit that piece of rock you call a heart.

DEVIL’S DESIRE

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Plot

For me, Devil’s Desire was an ok Regency romance written by Laurie McBain. The bland heroine Elysia, is on the run from bland, evil enemies. It’s alright, but nothing special. From the writing, you can tell it’s a “first book.”

The back blurb says Devil’s Desire is: “[A] rousing, unforgettable saga that sweeps across the valleys and peaks of human destiny, the stormy alliance of beautiful young and plumbs the depths of raw human emotion — lust, jealousy and hate… Out of the turbulence of their clashing wills comes one of the greatest love stories ever written, as their twin passions mingle at last, in a rippling tide of liquid fire!” 

How I wish.

The read was rather ordinary and predictable, however it was not terrible. Lots of clichés, including the rakish hero, Lord Alex Trevegne (who’s really not that much of a rake), an evil ex-mistress, and a Cinderella heroine, Lady Elysia Demarice, with emerald-green eyes and red-gold hair, who’s the most beautiful lady in all of England, and pure as the driven snow.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain”