Category: 3 stars and a half

Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom

a love to last forever
A Love to Last Forever, Linda Randall Wisdom, Dell, 1986, Diana Voyaloju cover art

Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #126

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Class of 1966

A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.

Characters

Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse. A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.

Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman and drives an old jalopy of a station wagon.... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom”

Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson

Tonight and Forever, Brenda Jackson, Pinnacle, 1995, Cover Artist TBD

Arabesque Romance

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brenda Jackson’s Tonight and Forever is her first published book and the first in her long-running series of the Madaris family. It’s a Pinnacle Arabesque romance from 1995, which are category romances but are not numbered, at least not to my knowledge.

Plot And Characters

Lorren Jacobs has left behind her past in California to return to her roots in Texas. After a bad marriage led to a bitter divorce, all she wants is to be with the people she loves and focus on her career of writing children’s books. At a party, the successful doctor Justin Madaris catches sight of her and is instantly smitten. Lorren is a beautiful woman, and receiving male attention is natural, but she wants none of that. Especially not from handsome men like Justin Madaris.

While Lorren had an unhappy marriage to a horrible man, Justin is a widower of ten years. His marriage was happy, but sadly, his wife is dead. Justin, however, is still in the realm of the living and is willing to live and love.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson”

Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth

Driving Force, Sally Wentworth, Harlequin, 1988, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1197

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Driving Force, a Sally Wentworth Harlequin Presents, offers few surprises but is a satisfactory read regardless.

Characters

West Marriot– our hero, not a 3-star hotel but a famous race car driver–was terribly injured in a race several months ago. Madeleine French, a nurse and physiotherapist, had been married to West for four years. Maddy couldn’t withstand the anxiety of being married to a man with such a dangerous career, so she gave him an ultimatum, married life or fast cars. When he refused to quit, she left him. Several months later, West was in an accident that immobilized him.

Maddy receives a call from West’s mother, requesting to catch up. In fact, Laura, West’s mother, declares to Laura West isn’t recovering at all and may never walk again. She begs Maddy to come to help her ex-husband, and although Maddy initially refuses, in time, she realizes she still loves her ex and can’t abandon him. Maddy knows it won’t be easy for West to accept her, as their divorce was acrimonious, with West, a man a proud man, begging Maddy to stay.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth”

Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann

The Strong, Silent Type, Kate Hoffmann, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD (Canille?)

Harlequin Temptation #529

MILD SPOILERS 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review is of The Strong, Silent Type,  book #2 in the Bachelor Arms series and the 2nd of 3 books in the series written by Kate Hoffmann.

Wild One

The book begins with Josh Banks, the hero of the book and a tax accountant (yes, you read that correctly), meeting with one of his clients, actress Olivia Wilde (NOT the current actress using the stage name, this Olivia Wilde is a 75-year-old octogenarian actress). Olivia asks Josh for a favor; to keep her granddaughter, Taryn, out of Los Angeles for a few weeks (Olivia is up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and feels that Taryn–a tabloid darling–might scupper her chances for the award with her behavior). 

When Josh meets Taryn, the heroine, he offers her money to leave L.A. She refuses. She’ll only agree to behave if Josh does something for her, which he is not willing to do at first. (He does agree, eventually, to pose for her).

Take Me as I Am

As the book goes on, Taryn gets into some mishaps which Josh has to extricate her from.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Strong, Silent Type by Kate Hoffmann”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

highland fire
Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Historical #91

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Highland Sisters

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals. The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan”

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

Rangoon
Rangoon
Rangoon, Christine Monson, Avon, 1985, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Christine Monson was best known for her infamous, shocking bodice-ripper Stormfire, which is legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance. Her second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor, but still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.

West Meets East

It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life. Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system. She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.

With a name like Lysistrata that should give a hint about her independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience, however I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson”

Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another Great Romance

Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.

Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.

Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control. Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.

Vivian doesn’t speak a word in the book, yet the love story unfolds and the two pawns in an evil man’s game soon form an intense bond that goes beyond words.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)”

Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White

Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills, Tiffany White, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #318

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Story

At the beginning of Tiffany White’s category romance Cheap Thrills, the hero Crew Harper is working this side gig as a window-washer when he becomes an accidental peeping Tom. Transfixed, can only stare as sees a woman enter an office. She undresses, and he’s shocked at what’s revealed: yes, her gorgeous body, but with a delightful secret butterfly tattoo on her pert, peachy derriere. That’s right, I do read “The Daily Mail” on occasion!

After the woman changes her clothes and leaves, Crew sees a man come into her office and rifle through her desk. How outrageous! How dare this man invade a woman’s privacy?

I think it’s kind of funny how rapidly times have moved. Alexa, the heroine, has a small butterfly tattoo on her butt, and the hero acts as if it’s the naughtiest little secret a woman can keep. It’s amazing how quickly social norms change, as this was written in 1990.

Anyhow, Crew makes his way into Alexa’s life, to help her out, of course. He has to let her know that there’s a weirdo on the prowl for her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White”

Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather

Sirocco
Sirocco, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1983, Len Goldberg cover art

Harlequin Presents #683

Mild Spoilers 😉

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to. In this category romance, Sirocco, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.

The Stalker vs. the User

One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).

Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.

Seriously.

If it’s not him, he has his “people” trail her. Alexis finds out where Rachel lives, works, and that she’s currently engaged to a wealthy man, Roger what’s-his-name, a spoiled mama’s boy who uses the heroine for his own selfish desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather”

Historical Romance Review: Texas Storm by Deana James

brown and white stallions running in a field
Texas Storm, Deana James, Zebra 1986, Pino cover art

SPOLIER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Plot

It’s the mid-1830’s and Scottish immigrant Reiver MacPherson has been granted lands by the new Texas government. The dilapidated property he acquired belonged to an old Spanish family, but the place is now abandoned. Or at least Reiver thinks it is, because to his surprise, there he finds an emaciated young wisp of a girl, Mercedes-Maria, whose family once owned the lands but has fled to Mexico, leaving her behind. So begins Deana James’ Texas Storm.

Mercedes is a bit of a wild child, and at first, Reiver has no patience for her. She insists the land is hers; he claims it’s is. The two butt heads but eventually agree to work together. Slowly, a romance unfolds as the pair get to know one another—sexual attraction forms. With James’ trademark earthy sensuality describing the passages, their passion results in vivid lovemaking sessions.

Mercedes & Reiver get married more out of convenience than love. However, their love grows as they experience adventure after adventure.

They tame wild horses across the Llano Estacado (The Staked Plains) & amass a substantial sum of money, turning Reiver into a respected patron.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Storm by Deana James”

Category Romance Review: No Gentle Possession by Anne Mather

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

Harlequin Presents #105

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather

the waterfalls on the moon
The Waterfalls of the Moon, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1973, Don Sinclair cover art

Harlequin Presents #112

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Spoiled Anti-Heroine

In Anne Mather‘s The Waterfalls of the Moon (I love the old Harlequin Presents titles), the teenaged heroine is in pursuit of a much older man, but the hero’s not taking the San-Quentin tail so easily.

I can’t say many of Anne Mather’s works number among my all-time favorites, but, for the most part, I had a good time reading them. She could make unlikeable heroines that were somehow fascinating, and Ruth is one of them. She’s a spoiled teen, rich beyond reason, bored, and chases after Patrick with a cold calculation.

All you have to do is change record players to iPhones (although record players have made a huge comeback) and there’s no difference between this shallow youth’s mega-rich lifestyle and that of the pampered princesses of Bravo & MTV reality TV. She parties, she lunches, she shops, she dates…casually. As this is a 1970’s era Harlequin, Ruth is not sexually experienced.

She is, however, quite cunning, and when circumstances lead to Patrick getting black-out drunk they’re together, she takes advantage of the situation to suit her desires.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Waterfalls of the Moon by Anne Mather”

Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour

emmies love
Emmie’s Love, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover art

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Janette Seymour’s Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” being a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”

The Plot

Again, the same terms and motifs are used: a violent opening involving near-rape and an alluded castration; frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”; dampened sheer muslin gowns; blond studs performing for an audience; a one night stand with a doomed soldier; a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero that is rarely seen; and a heroine with no personality save for being a busty, lusty wench.

Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, moochy family. After grandpa’s death, she is sold in marriage to an older man living another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.

But love does not come easily to our dear Emmie.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour”

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

moon witch
Moon Witch, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 1970, Don Stivers cover art

Harlequin Presents #38

He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…

MOON WITCH

3 ½ stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

Around the time I read Anne Mather’s Moon Witch, I caught up with “That 70’s Show” on Netflix. I refuse to watch the final season, as that show just devolved into wretchedness. However, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining with its retro 1970s shtick: a group of teens just hanging out, falling in love, and being stupid. Back then, my 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something of myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 – 18 year-olds are dumb-asses.

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

Category Romance Review: Game Plan by Rosemary Hammond

Game Plan, Rosemary Hammond, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art
Harlequin Romance #3026
3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I cut my romance teeth on Harlequin Romances back in the early 1990s when I was a preteen. They taught me so much about the world! 😛 Rosemary Hammond’s Game Plan was the second adult contemporary romance I read. It was the first where the protagonists consummated their relationship. Sex in a book! Shocking! And, of course, the not-at-all sexy heroine was a virgin! This book is over 35 years old, so yes, it was very tame and innocent. But what did I know back then?

The Plot

Remember that Flock of Seagull’s song “I Ran”? The lyrics went: “I never thought I’d meet a girl like you/ Meet a girl like you/ with auburn hair and tawny eyes/The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through…”

Well, it was in Game Plan that I learned that very tall, voluptuous redheads who put their hair up in buns, dress in severe, drab suits, and wear glasses are seen as plain. Honestly, what kind of man would be attracted to that type? 😁

The story is this: a serious young college professor refuses to give a football star a passing grade and then clashes with his coach.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Game Plan by Rosemary Hammond”

Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon

arafura pirate
Arafura Pirate, Victoria Gordon, Harlequin, 1989, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3025

From the back of the book:

Marine biologist Jinx Beaumont had the sinking feeling her given name foretold the voyage ahead of her. She was jinxed, all right – stuck with Race Morgan, a merciless buccaneer of a captain. Studying shark life on the rough seas north of Australia kept Jinx busy enough. She definitely didn’t need the unnerving distraction of a human predator like roguish Captain Morgan! Jinx fought against the magnetic pull and her desire. She didn’t want to become one of Race’s romantic conquests. But her inner turmoil only increased when she felt challenged by a rival who was stunningly beautiful…and vicious.

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon was among one of the first romances I read.

Arafura Pirate was set in coastal Australia with a spunky heroine named Jinx, a blond, short-haired marine biologist who was tough and independent. She sets out with her team of fellow scientists to tag sharks.

When she met the hero, Race Morgan (what a typical hero name that was!), she wore a shirt that said, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.”... Read more “Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon”

Category Romance Review: Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer

darknes into light
Darkness into Light, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1986, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #892

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

She decided at the beginning of their relationship that she would only take what he wanted to give, but she wouldn’t be treated as a sex object, only accepted as an equal in his bed.

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT

Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer is one of those category romances you must read in a comfy chair because you’ll want to settle down for the next couple of hours to enjoy the book in one sitting.

The Plot

Danny is the head gardener of Sutherland Estates and has yet to meet her wealthy, reclusive boss. Then, late one night, while mowing the lawn to relax (because bubble baths are so physically draining!), his hunky nephew Pierce shows up, dressed in a sexy, revealing bathing suit. Being a bit of a flirt, Danny invites herself over for a swim, and the sparks quickly fly between these polar opposites. Pierce is almost 40 years old and is the severe, stuffed-shirt type, while Danny is barely 21 and wears her heart on her sleeve.

There’s no doubt that Pierce is interested in what Danny appears to be offering, and he pursues her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Darkness into Light by Carole Mortimer”

Category Romance Review: Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd

Stay Through the Night, Flora Kidd, Harlequin, 1980, cover artist Bob Kebic
Harlequin Presents #344

“I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time, a long, long time…”

Stay Through the NIght
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Feeling lazy, (as always), so here’s a quick review of Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd hacked together from my reading updates:

The Plot

Charlotte, a single, fiercely independent, and career-minded woman, never had her sights set on marriage, but she at least respects the institution. When she sees how her very married sister, Nancy, drapes herself all over multi-millionaire Burt Sharaton, she quite naturally believes they’re having an affair. Charlotte is disappointed and angered by her sister, as she cares for her brother-in-law, who’s a decent man.

Determined to put a stop to this madness, Charlotte confronts Burt. There’s no way she’s going to let Nancy sail across the world with Burt in his flashy white yacht.

However, Burt surprises Charlotte when he decides to settle for Nancy’s younger and unmarried sister instead. Charlotte’s plan backfires on her, as Burt all but takes her captive.

My Opinion

This sweet, little romance seems to have low ratings on book sites around the internet and I don’t share the opinion.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Stay Through the Night by Flora Kidd”

Category Romance Review: The Millionaire’s Mistress by Miranda Lee

the millionaires mistress
The Millionaire’s Mistress, Miranda Lee, Harlequin, 1998, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Presents #2026

From the back of the book:

Made to be his mistress!
Justine Montgomery desperately needed a loan, otherwise, she and her mom would be out on the street. So she steeled herself to ask handsome millionaire banker Marcus Osborne for help.
Marcus had no illusions about the Justines of this world. He could tell just by looking at her that she was a gold digger, out to target a rich husband. Just like his ex-wife…. But Marcus was also glad when Justine told him she’d do anything if he’d lend her money, because he desired her–badly. He’d give her the finances she wanted, and she’d repay him in his bed!

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Miranda Lee’s The Millionaire’s Mistress is a bit of an uneven read. I’m undecided on this one. What begins with a great sexual build-up, is kind of a letdown on the delivery.

Marcus is a “stuffed shirt” hero with a heart of gold. Justine is young, sexy, and spoiled. Despite her seemingly hot-to-trot ways, she’s a virgin. Marcus takes one look at her luscious curves and long blonde hair and thinks otherwise.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Millionaire’s Mistress by Miranda Lee”

Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson

Heart of the Falcon
Heart of the Falcon, Suzanne Robinson, Bantam, 1990, cover artist unknown

SPOILER ALERT

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

What a rarity in the romance genre was Heart of the Falcon, a historical about lovers in ancient Egypt. Although Suzanne Robinson wrote Egyptian mystery novels under her given name, this is her sole romance set in this era. Most of her other romances took place during the Elizabethan, Medieval, or Victorian time periods.

The Plot

Anqet is an orphan and her evil uncle lusts after her. To get her in his bed, he connives to steal her lands. Anqet may be an innocent all alone in the world, but she’s no push-over. This is a woman determined to gain them back. She will go to the Egyptian court and maneuver through a realm of politics and lust. Anqet is stunningly beautiful and perfect and maybe a teensy bit too good to be true.

Thankfully, the hero is far more interesting and complex. Set is a red-haired man of mystery. His heritage is mixed, as his mother’s people come from a place to the north. There was a horrible scandal years ago where Set burned his mother’s corpse rather than have her embalmed and entombed.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson”