Category: 2 stars

Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain

chance winds of fortune
Chance the Winds of Fortune, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1980, Tom Hall cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Chance the Winds of Fortune A Disappointing Sequel

Chance the Winds of Fortune is the sequel to Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness, a romance about a gender-bending highwayman (girl) who falls for an arrogant, scarred Duke, notorious for his dueling skills. I LOVED Moonstruck Madness… The follow-ups to that wonderful book about their daughter, Rhea Claire, Chance the Winds of Fortune & Dark Before the Rising Sun, though…uggh.

Please forgive my bluntness. They’re too long, boring, and stink. Even McBain’s tepid first outing, Devil’s Desire, was better than these.

The two sequels books combine to over 1000 pages, telling the tale of a vanilla-bland daughter of the protagonists of a much more compelling story. Perhaps if McBain had combined both novels into one 700 page epic, I would have found more enjoyment out of the romance.

If you take Chance the Wind of Fortune as a historical adventure, this read might not be so bad. Perspective matters. However, this was not marketed as Historical Fiction, but a Historical Romance, which made all the difference to me.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain”

Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright

To see a Stranger
To see a Stranger
To See a Stranger, Kate Cartwright, Magnum Books, 1976, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-86

Spoiler-free review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good novel, poor romance

In a way, Kate Cartwright’s To See a Stranger is a fine novel. It’s well-written. It ticks most of the boxes. But it still disappointed me. Why? Because IMHO if a story is labeled a romance, there should be plenty of romance in it. Here there’s hardly any. So I almost didn’t write a review for this blog. But my definition of romance fiction isn’t everyone’s, so here goes.

First, the publishing background, which is sketchy. The paperback I read was issued by Magnum Books, an imprint of Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp., both in New York. At least that’s what’s listed on the copyright page; some other titles in the series list Prestige Books as the publisher.

But there’s no publication date. Since this same page says the book is copyright 1976 by IPC Magazines, Ltd., To See a Stranger must have been originally published as part of the Woman’s Weekly Library series in the UK. My guess is the Magnum reprint was issued a year or two later.... Read more “Category Romance Review: To See a Stranger by Kate Cartwright”

Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett

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

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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

The story:

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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett”

Category Romance Review: To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton (aka Mary Cummins)

to cherish my beloved
cherishmybeloved2
To Cherish My Beloved, Dorothy Heaton, Magnum Books, 1977, cover artist unknown

Magnum Books Blue Fire Romance #4200-81

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A Promise Not Delivered

I’m very fond of the line of Magnum romances published during the seventies. Someone was carefully curating the best products of the big British publishers for reprinting in the US. Often the result was a winner. But often isn’t always.

First published in 1976 by IPC Magazines Ltd. in the Women’s Weekly Library series, To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton in its 1977 Magnum reprint caught my eye with an intriguing blurb and a gorgeous emo clinch cover; wish I knew who created it. The first few chapters presented a fascinating situation. I just had to find out what happened next!

A lot of stuff did, but overall the story failed to live up to its early promise. So I must be frank: this book is a dud.

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

Candice Errinmore, assistant to an airport manager on the south coast of England, is engaged to Clive Benley. But not for long. He’s a mercurial, impulsive, self-centered drama king.... Read more “Category Romance Review: To Cherish My Beloved by Dorothy Heaton (aka Mary Cummins)”

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Cover

Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.

Perhaps it had to do with the book’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine. So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back and I preferred an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up. And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

The Plot

The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey”

Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald

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

Harlequin #232

From the back of the book:

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

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

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

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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

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

Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer

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

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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

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

The Plot

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

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

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

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

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

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

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards

Passion’s Web, Cassie Edwards, Zebra, 1984, Walter Popp cover artist

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

This review is of Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards.

The book begins in Key West, Florida, with the heroine of the book, Natalie Palmer, and the hero, Bryce Fowler, meeting in a carriage. Shortly after they meet, Natalie and Bryce become lovers.

Backstory #1:

Natalie lives with her father, Saul, a wealthy tobacconist. She also has an older brother, Adam. (Natalie’s mother, Kathryn, passed when Natalie was younger. The circumstances of her passing is one of many secrets-the word of the book-that Saul is trying to keep from Natalie).

Backstory #2:

Bryce-who has multiple aspects to his persona-has come to Key West at the request of his dying father, Tom, whom Bryce has been estranged from. Bryce also has to deal with his younger brother, Hugh, whom he has bad blood with.

The Plot

Bryce is hired by a businessman in New Orleans, Clarence Seymour, to find three things. An opium shipment, and Seymour’s wife and daughter, who were taken in separate incidents years apart. Bryce won’t be able to bring back Seymour’s wife-she, Kathryn, is dead-but he can bring back his daughter…Natalie.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards”

Historical Romance Review: Halfway to Paradise by Emily Bradshaw

HALFWAY TO PARADISE
Halfway to Paradise, Emily Bradshaw, Dell, 1993, Elaine Duillo cover art

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Brooklyn-born artist Elaine Duillo, who, in her long and storied career, earned the well-deserved moniker of “The Queen of Romance Cover Art,” did it to me again! How many books have I purchased simply because I was dazzled by the hypnotic painted covers, only to find disappointment within the pages of those supposedly lurid novels?

The best thing about Emily Bradshaw’s Halfway to Paradise is its stunning jacket, which is an excellent representation of Duillo’s flair for making even the most mundane tale seem enticing. This one is done primarily in purple hues, with the heroine’s long blonde locks that flow down to her knees providing a bright complement to the hero’s dark-violet doublet.

Back in the day, an Elaine Duillo cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. That was not the case with this book.

Why have I spent so much time in this review discussing Duillo’s talent rather than the content of this Halfway to Paradise? Because, lamentably, the book put me halfway to sleep.

The Plot

It took me six weeks to finish this dull story about a widowed Puritan lady who adopts an imprisoned Cavalier’s son.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Halfway to Paradise by Emily Bradshaw”

Historical Romance Review: Texas Torment by Catherine Creel

Texas Torment, Catherine Creel, Zebra, 1985, cover artist unknown
From the back of the book:

ARROGANT COWBOY
Union officer Daniel Jordan moved South to take possession of his cattle ranch — and to stake his claim on Adelaide Caton, the golden-haired spitfire who ran the neighboring spread. He had met her once, before the war, and never forgot how he savored her milk-white skin and reveled in her ecstatic embrace. Because she was his enemy, he had loved her and left her. But because she had set his blood afire, he would win her passion again — or force her to sell him every last inch of her precious Southern soil!

INDEPENDENT HEIRESS
Adelaide’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the rugged rancher. Her cheeks flamed when she remembered how he had tenderly kissed her from top to toe. Her flesh burned with the memory of how he discovered her desires and left her trembling with satisfaction. But most of all, the spirited beauty could never forget how he had run out on her to fight for the hateful Yankees! She swore she’d never give in to his masculine charm and sensuous touch ever again … but before she could tell him to go, Adelaide was begging him to stay and quench the blaze of her raging Texas Torment.
... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Torment by Catherine Creel”

Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey

Show Me, Janet Dailey, Harlequin, 1977, cover artist TBD
Harlequin Presents #200
2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

As the first American author of Harlequin Presents, Janet Dailey set her novels in all 50 states. I suppose this was to show foreign readers how diverse and exotic the USA can be. Although her books never inspired me to jet-set across the country, I, too, have travelled around the States and found myself in various oh-so-glamorous US cities like: Providence, Rhode Island; Charlotte, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; Bridgeport, Connecticut; South Bend, Indiana; and Newark, New Jersey. Talk about exotic!

The Plot

Dailey’s HP #200 Show Me is set in the “Show Me” state of Missouri, with the hero, Jake, saying lines like this over and over again: “I’m from Missouri. You have to show me to believe.”

Jake is a bitter man who’s returned home after being away for more than half a decade. He’s sour because he was forced to marry Tanya, the mother of his son, John. The child was a result of a drunken one-night-stand Jake can’t recall. The “hero” is a deadbeat dad, as he’s lived in Africa for 7 years and made no effort to get to know his son.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey”