Category Archives: 3 stars

velvet night ennis

Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Rating: three-stars
Published: 198
Illustrator: John Ennis
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: War of 1812 Series #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Velvet Night, book #2 in the “War of 1812 Series” by Jo Goodman. The review for Book #1, Passion’s Bride, later reissued as The Captain’s Lady, is available on the blog.

The Plot

Velvet Night begins in England, 1805. Kenna Dunne, 13, the heroine, lives with her father, Robert; her stepmother, Victorine Dussault Dunne; her brother, Nicholas; and her stepsister, Yvonne. On this night, the Dunne is hosting a masquerade party at their family estate, Dunnelly.

The festivities will be brief. Before the night is over, an unknown criminal murders Robert.

Fast forward ten years. Kenna, now 23, is visited by Nicholas’ long-time friend Rhys (pronounced Reese) Canning, this book’s hero. And the person whom Kenna believes killed her father.

As the Velvet Night goes on, multiple attempts are made on Kenna’s life. She and Rhys draw close and eventually become lovers. Soon after that, she is kidnapped and brought to a brothel. Before the worst can happen, she is saved by Rhys’ “friend,”–who is also a madam.

Later, Kenna and Rhys marry, and he takes her to America, to Boston. After his father and brother were killed in a fire, Rhys inherited his family’s shipping business in the city. He has brought Kenner there to keep her safe from danger.

When they arrive in Boston, Kenna and Rhys make friends with Alexis Quinton-Cloud and Tanner Cloud (the heroine and hero of book #1 in this series, Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady); they own Garnet Shipping, the very competitors of Canning Shipping.

Kenna and Rhys also make enemies in Boston’s business and social circles.

Unfortunately, the threats against Kenna don’t stop after she arrives in America. Her life is in peril several more times. The bad guys kidnap her once again before her father’s killer’s true identity is revealed.

Rhys saves her, as the hero always does in these books. They unmask and dispose of the killers.

Kenna and Rhys have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Kenna and Rhys are fairly nice characters.

The Downside

Velvet Night reminds me very much of oatmeal or rice with nothing added: okay on some levels, but very bland.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

The scenes that are supposed to be exciting (e.g., the many attempts on Kenna’s life) aren’t. Plus, there is little chemistry between Kenna and Rhys in or out of bed.

The “mystery” surrounding the killer of Robert Dunne is pretty easy to solve. I figured out who it was by the 25% point of the book.

Sex

A few love scenes, none of which are particularly hot or sensual.

Violence

There is some assault and battery. Then shootings and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Velvet Night

Velvet Night is a very pale sequel to Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady. Jo Goodman’s previous Zebra historical was far superior to this lukewarm romance novel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis

HE BETRAYED HER FATHER
Ever since she was a girl, flame-haired Kenna Dunne had hated handsome Rhys Canning for lying about killing her father. Now, even though she hadn’t seen him since the war ended, the vengeance–seeking beauty swore to make the smooth-talking scoundrel confess his crime. But the moment she cop fronted him, all Kenna could do was stare breathlessly at his magnificent body, his ebony hair, and his entrancing eyes. Se knew she should denounce him as a murderer, but somehow all she could do was caress him as her lover…

SHE BROKE HIS HEART
As an American spy, Rhys could never reveal the truth to the fiery Kenna without jeopardizing his mission. It was best that he never again see the provocative temptress … but she d raged in his blood for years and now it was time for the reward or his patience. The brash colonial crushed her lips beneath his and molded his strong hands to her lush curves. Even though he knew she’d detest him forever after this evening, Rhys had waited too long to keep from recklessly plunging into splendor during this long luscious VELVET NIGHT.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
comanche bride merrit

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt

comanche bride emma merritt
Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Native American Romance, Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 472
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Comanche Bride, a standalone January Zebra Lovegram from 1989 by Emma Merritt.

The Plot

Comanche Bride starts at an undisclosed time–later stated as sometime after the Civil War–as a caravan is making its way from Chandlerville, Texas, to Mexico on a humanitarian mission. There is a cholera epidemic in Mexico. Seven people are in the caravan: six men and Dr. Zoe Ellen Randolph, the heroine.

They won’t make it to Mexico, however. The caravan is attacked by Comanche Indians, the six men are killed, and Zoe is captured.

She is taken to a Comanche village, where two men will fight for her. One of the men is Matt Chandler, the hero of the book (Matt is half-white and half-Comanche).

Matt wins the fight, but then he has to marry and make love to Zoe to seal his victory. Matt soon discovers that marrying Zoe has an added benefit: it helps him get revenge against Weber Fielding, a man Matt has a long history of bad blood with and also is Zoe’s fiance.

Soon after their marriage in the Comanche camp, Matt takes Zoe to Candelaria, Mexico, to complete her humanitarian mission there.

A near tragedy occurs when Zoe is bitten by a snake, falls, and hits her head, suffering a concussion.

Matt later takes her back to Chandlerville, Texas–named after his family–where she recovers. While there, Matt reconciles past issues with his stepmother, Dora, and grandfather, Uriah.

We also learn why Weber wants to marry Zoe. It’s not because he loves her. When Zoe tells Weber she won’t marry him, he doesn’t take it well.

In the end, Zoe kills Weber after his henchman shoots Matt in a violent confrontation. Matt recovers from his wounds, and he and Zoe have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

When Comanche Bride was published, romance publishers were beginning to veer away from the–to use a Victorian term: ”fresh out of the schoolroom”–heroines and toward different types of female leads. Zoe is one of them. She is 29, a doctor, and very independent. Both she and Matt are developed mature characters.

Downside

There isn’t a lot of hot passion or chemistry between Zoe and Matt. Having read several of Ms. Merritt’s books, I can say with some certainty that hot passion and chemistry between leads aren’t strengths of Ms. Merritt’s writing.

Sex

Three love scenes involving Zoe and Matt. They are mildly graphic.

Violence

Abduction, assault and battery, and multiple killings take place. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line On Comanche Bride

There are things to like about Emma Merritt’s Comanche Bride. But there are also enough negatives that bring the book’s final grade down.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis:

SHE’D USE HIM TO ESCAPE
When stunning Dr. Zoe Randolph headed to Mexico to halt a cholera epidemic, she didn’t think twice about traversing Comanche territory… until a band of bloodthirsty savages attacked her caravan. The gorgeous physician was furious that her mission had been interrupted, but nothing compared to the rage she felt on meeting the barbaric warrior who made her his slave. Determined to return to civilization, the ivory-skinned blonde decided to make a woman’s ultimate sacrifice to gain her freedom–and never admit that deep down inside she burned to be loved by the handsome brute!

HE’D TAKE HER IN REVENGE
The virile half-breed Matt Chandler couldn’t help but admire the paleface prisoner who resisted her captors. One with such fire and spirit would surely be a lioness upon his sleeping mats. Then the Indian discovered that the wildcat was his most hated enemy’s fiancee, and he had all the more reason to ravish her. Matt planned the worst for Zoe… but when his hard-muscled body met her graceful curves, all thoughts of the past vanished, as he initiated her into love’s passionate secrets and made her his COMANCHE BRIDE.

Comanche Bride by Emma Merritt
trAITOR'S KISS TERRI VALENTINE

Historical Romance Review: Traitor’s Kiss by Terri Valentine

historical romance review
Traitor's Kiss by Terri Valentine
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: George A . Bush
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 415
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Traitor’s Kiss by Terri Valentine

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Traitor’s Kiss, a standalone by historical romance Terri Valentine. The plot spans over seven years, from 1784 to 1791.

The Characters and the Set-Up

In the Bahamas, Calypso Collingsworth, a young gentlewoman, is caught by her evil older brother, Evan reading–Gasp! Shudder!–a romance novel. Evan blackmails Calypso into working as a serving wench at a tavern to allow him to have a romantic assignation with the waitress Calypso is to replace for the night.

While at the tavern, Calypso is told to “warm the bed” of the patron in the room. That patron is Lord Rhys Winghusrt, Earl of Flint. Calypso discovers that she and Rhys have differing views of what “warming the bed” means, and they end up having sex.

Nine months later, Calypso is pregnant and on the verge of giving birth to the baby conceived during her encounter with Rhys. At the same time, Calypso and Evan’s mother, Cathleen is also giving birth. Sadly, Cathleen’s baby is stillborn. In rage and anger, Cathleen’s husband and Calypso and Evan’s father, Lord John Collingsworth, hatches a cruel plan. He tells Calypso that her son–who was born alive–is dead and claims the boy as his and Cathleen’s son.

The Plot

The Plot Part 1

Fast forward six years. John tries to push Calypso into marriage and invites four men to his estate as potential husbands for her. Among the men is Rhys, who at that time doesn’t recognize Calypso. (He will remember later). In part because of this, Calypso tries to get revenge on Rhys. this backfires, spectacularly and she is arrested and accused of being a spy.

Rhys rescues her and in the process discovers that he is Tristan’s father. After this, Rhys takes Calypso and Tristan to Philadelphia in America where he plans to marry her.

Plus, he must stop a plot that, if not halted, could change the course of American history. For although Rhys was born in the U.K.–Wales to be exact–and is a peer of the realm, he is, by choice and heart, an American.

In Philadelphia, Calypso and Rhys marry. However, Rhys soon takes Tristan and goes to Wales, in part to introduce Tristan to his heritage. Rhys is also angered at Calypso’s intransigence over acknowledging Tristan’s maternal parentage.

The Plot Part 2

Upon hearing where they’ve gone, Calypso arranges a trip to Wales. Big mistake, as the ship’s captain she hired plans to sell her to an African harem. Calypso escapes by telling the captain that Rhys will pay a hefty ransom for her. He doesn’t have to, as the evil captain is arrested once they reach England.

Calypso, Rhys, and Tristan reunite, and she discovers who is the mastermind of the evil plot mentioned above.

Calypso and Rhys foil the plot. However, this comes at a heavy cost to both of them.

In the end, Rhys gives up his title to stay in America with Calypso and Tristan, and the family has their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Calypso and Rhys are both fairly strong characters. Calypso has to deal with emotional abuse from all the males in her life, including Rhys. Even so, she manages to come out okay.

I didn’t like Rhys at first–he was a bit of an unfeeling jerk–but grew to like him more as the book went on. I also liked that once he found out that Tristan was his son, he loved him immediately. He didn’t use him as a pawn in his relationship with Calypso much, although that does happen to an extent.

Downside

There is a noticeable lack of depth to Calypso and Rhys. Although Ms. Valentine made me believe that Calypso and Rhys loved each other, there wasn’t a lot of hot passion between them. The ending of the book could have been more exciting.

Sex

The love scenes between Calypso and Rhys are fairly tame.

Heat level: pretty lukewarm.

Violence

Two characters are killed, neither completely on-screen. No graphic violence.

Bottom Line on Traitor’s Kiss

Terri Valentine’s Zebra romance Traitor’s Kiss is a good book. It simply lacks the passion and juice to be a great book.

3 stars


Synopsis:

Loyal To His Lust
There was only one way Rhys Winghurst knew of to relieve the pressure of his latest undercover assignment a romp in the hay with a beautiful lady. The red-blooded male was impressed when the innkeeper sent up the voluptuous light skirt, but when he crushed her lips and fondled her curves, his passion was unexpectedly ignited as never before! The skillful captain showed the young wench the myriad ways of pleasure and then showed her the door. But Rhys never figured that the memories of rapture would haunt him nor that he’d need that one incredible woman by his side to successfully fulfill his mission.

True To Her Heart
Spirited Calypso Collingworth didn’t expect more than an aching back and injured pride during her one-night masquerade as a tavern’s serving girl. But when she was sent to “serve” the Captain in Room Nine, the innocent redhead never thought her work included unmentionable intimacies…nor that the gentleman would be the tall, dark hero of her dreams! Calypso struggled with the handsome stranger even as her silken flesh begged for his touch. Then when she suffered his callous disregard only moments after such glorious ecstasy, the hot-tempered miss vowed she’d wreak vengeance on the humiliating cad for his insincere whispers and his Traitor’s Kiss

TRAITOR’S KISS by TERRI VALENTINE
liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?

LIAR’S MOON by HEATHER GRAHAM
tender savage phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

tender savage phoebe conn
Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Tender Savage, a standalone Zebra Lovegram by Phoebe Conn.

Tender Savage starts in Wilmington, Delaware, in June 1862. The book spans from June 1862 to September 1863 during the American Civil War.

The Plot

Part One of Tender Savage

The book begins with Erica Hanson and Mark Randall kissing passionately. The night won’t end happily for either, unfortunately. Mark and Erica’s father, Lars, a physician, are going to leave the next day to join the Union army.

Erica is being sent to New Ulm, Minnesota. She is to live with Lars’ sister, Britta, and her husband, Karl Ludwig, who owns a store there. However, Erica wants to marry Mark–or at least become his lover–before leaving for war. Mark refuses. This is the source of the conflict between them.

When Erica arrives in New Ulm, she meets Viper, a half-Lakota, half-white Indian. They share kisses and are attracted to each other.

Things look bleak as Viper and his fellow Lakota will soon be at war with the white citizens of New Ulm after promises from the government fail to materialize. During the uprising, Viper kidnaps Erica. He does so for two reasons. One is to keep her from being killed, and two, because he’s hot for her. It’s not so bad, as she is also hot for him. Erica and Viper become lovers and are married in the Lakota tradition.

Soon, however, hardships emerge. Viper’s aunt, plus an evil-other woman who is in lust with him, causes problems for Erica.

Part Two of Tender Savage

An even bigger problem will soon present itself in the form of Mark. He arranges a transfer to Minnesota to find Erica and marry her. Mark arrives in Minnesota, finds Erica with Viper, and arrests him. Viper must stand trial in a military tribunal, where he is tried and convicted.

After this, Viper asks Mark to marry Erica, which Mark agrees to. Erica and Mark marry, and he is sent back to Wilmington to rejoin the Union Army. Happiness and sadness soon follow as Erica discovers she is pregnant with Viper’s child. Meanwhile, Mark is seriously injured during the war, gets blinded, and becomes an invalid who needs constant care.

Back in Minnesota, Viper’s conviction is vacated. He leaves the state heading to Delaware to find Erica. Adopting the name “Etienne Bouchard” (his French grandfather’s name), Viper finagles his way into becoming Mark’s companion, which severely irritates Erica.

Soon after “Etienne’s” arrival, Erica gives birth to a son who looks exactly like Etienne. This creates a rift between Erica and Etienne on one side and Lars and Sarah Randall–Mark’s sister–, on the other. Poor, hapless Mark doesn’t know he’s not the child’s father.

In the end, Mark conveniently passes away. Erica and Viper go back to Minnesota–to a different part of the state. Lars and Sarah marry, and both couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The backdrop of Tender Savage is the Minnesota Sioux Uprising of 1862, an actual occurrence. Mrs. Conn does a fairly good job melding her fictional characters with real people and events.

On some levels, Tender Savage tries to be like Nancy Henderson (Nan) Ryan’s excellent romance, Kathleen’s Surrender. Like that book, Tender Savage takes place in part during the Civil War and features a love triangle. That, however, is where the similarities end.

Downside

Mrs. Ryan had the ability to make me, as a reader, care about her characters and feel their emotions. Mrs. Conn–although she tries–sadlyTender Savage does not.

Tender Savage is the seventh book I’ve read by Phoebe Conn. Like the other six, Tender Savage lacks both emotional depth and character development.

I also had issues with the heroine and hero. Erica checks off the basic romance heroine boxes: she’s beautiful, young, sexy, and has a great body, but… That’s it. There really is no substance to her.

Viper is worse. Mrs. Conn would have been better served to name him “Etienne Bouchard” because Viper is basically a white Indian. Although she researched the uprising, it is clear that Mrs. Conn did none about the Lakota tribe.

There is almost nothing about Viper–besides living in a teepee and eating pemmican–that would identify him as a Native American. The only depth to his character is that we learn he has French ancestry.

There is very little romantic chemistry between Erica and Viper. The beginning of their relationship in no way indicates love; they are in lust with each other. Although Mrs. Conn tries at the end, she falls well short of creating the type of characters I can genuinely care about.

Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that after he gained access to the Hanson home, Viper spent a great deal of time trying to have sex with Erica even though she was married to Mark.

I also didn’t buy the “Erica and Mark didn’t consummate their marriage; therefore, they weren’t legally married, and Viper’s actions were okay” excuse at the end of the book, either.

Sex

I will give Mrs. Conn credit for writing slightly better love scenes here than in her previous books, but that is damning with very faint praise.

Violence

Most of the violence takes place “off-screen.” However, there are “on-screen” scenes of assault and battery, and a slashing occurs.

Bottom Line On Tender Savage

There was the foundation for a good book in Tender Savage.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Conn was not the author to mine the gold that might have been there. Instead, the book ends up in “pewter territory.” 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

TOO FAST TO STOP
When innocent Erica Hansen fled to Minnesota to escape the Civil War’s horrors, she had no idea she was stepping right into the middle of an Indian uprising. And until a painted, whooping brave swept her onto his stallion, she never guessed how unsafe her new home really was. The curvaceous blonde struggled against her captor’s grip, but the farther they rode from civilization, the wilder her response to him became. The passionate beauty knew she should bite, scratch and kick the warrior, but before she could think of the consequences, Erica began to caress, kiss and embrace him!

TOO FAR TO RETURN
From the moment he beheld the golden-haired paleface, the Sioux fighter named Viper swore she’d never meet the white captives’ fate of torture and degradation. This was a woman created for the most ecstatic kinds of lovemaking … and the virile male would make sure he’d be the one to show her the myriad ways to enjoy pleasure. He promised himself he’d release her when the furor of the battle died down. But once the jet-haired Sioux trapped her in his arms, he realized a lifetime was too short to savor her ivory skin, to exult in her lavender scent, to take her time and again as her Tender Savage. 

TENDER SAVAGE by PHOEBE CONN
mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

category romance
Mansion For My Love by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #567
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are average reads which make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.

And, last, there are books like Mansion for My Love. This kind of book splits readers every which way, the kind no matter what you feel, everyone can’t stop talking about.

mansion for my love robyn donald
Mansion For My Love, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Faine is a great heroine, charming, independent, and open to love. She meets Burke Harding and is drawn to his strong magnetic presence.

He pursues her with a cold determination, and against her better judgment, she finds herself head over heels for him.

But while Burke is interested in her, he keeps himself at a distance.

So when Burke proposes, Faine says yes, but strangely love is never mentioned.

Finally, Faine and Burke get married, and that’s where the drama starts. This all hinges on a gimmick:

Girl meets guy, he pursues her like crazy, she falls in love, they have a whirlwind wedding, and on their wedding day, she overhears the hero declare his love for his sister-in-law who’s married to his sick brother.

What a betrayal. How can the hero ever be redeemed?

There’s more. Done wrong, the heroine, Faine, runs away from Burke, who tracks her down, demands a real marriage, pretty much forces his way into her bed, and makes her mad with love and lust.

Then the brother dies. And there is still lots of drama to come! That’s quite a bit of romantic angst to pack into a 188-page book.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

Robyn Donald was certainly an above-average writer for the HP line. Her works evoke vivid visions of their natural settings, her heroes written in a similar brutal & obsessive vein, her heroines fighting their inner struggles to submit to cruel passion.

Mansion For My Love is genre fiction that grips you in the gut. It’s a controversial romance among its fans and detractors. It’s always a book I’ll remember, if not the tiny details, then the way it made me feel.

The heroine is great. If she were a weak pushover type, this story wouldn’t be as strong. What Burke did was so wrong, not just one deed, but another followed by another. Faine didn’t deserve to be wronged, but at the end of the day, she chose to be with Burke.

Mansion For My Love leaves me with a ton of questions.

Why did Faine love him so much? Is Burke’s transformation at the end believable? Is she second-best or first in his heart? Can he be forgiven? Does he deserve to? So many unknowns!

Despite the middling rating, an average read it is not. Mansion For My Love is not an easy book to pin down. It inspires conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. I love this romance–and I hate it.

I don’t know if I could stomach ever reading this angsty “love story” again, but it holds a place on my keeper shelf.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

“He’s not a good man to fall in love with!”

Faine had not ignored the warning, but even without his wealth, charm and good looks, Burke Harding had magnetism.

His determined pursuit and assault on her heart soon overcame her wavering resistance. She agreed to marry him, but some deep instinct of self-preservation kept her from revealing her love–and in time her decision was vindicated.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you,” he told her when Faine discovered she was a stand-in for the woman he really loved–but could not have.

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
passions paradise

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

historical romance review
Passion's Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1981
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Bodice Ripper, Historical Romance
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton is a wonderfully terrible book published by Zebra in its early years. The cover warns you; it’s dark and dreary, done in deep blues and white, with the wrong hair color for the hero and a ship about to sink in the ocean that shouts: “Disaster looms ahead!”

I got this book in one of those e-bay lots, it was a freebie that the seller was perhaps too embarrassed to mention and only too glad to get rid of, with no back cover (no worries, I printed out the book blurb and taped it to the back) and garnished with red stamps from Arlene’s Book House & Paperback Exchange in Sweetwater, Texas. Now it lay in my Yankee hands, ready to thrill me with its awfulness.

Lying together upon the crest, their two profiles met, silhouetted as one against the clouds’ pink lattice. Here the sun shone softly, and the thrushes and cardinals and mockingbirds cooed love songs sang of twilight nigh, and the nascent magnolia flowers bloomed fragrantly…

PASSION’S PARADISE

The Plot of Passion’s Paradise

Captain Ty, or Tyrone, the supposed hero of Passion’s Paradise is a pirate, a slaver, a whoremonger, a politician–but I repeat myself.

Tyrone captures the ship that bears Angel Sherwood and her family from England to America. His Pa told him there was a special package on board and Ty was to take it. Ty and Pa had an agreement that Ty would marry when Pa found a woman worthy of his son and–who the hell cares, is the plot important? Not to the author, so you shouldn’t care either! Random events occur in the book, story-lines are dropped and nothing makes sense.

There is a mysterious murder… Is Ty the killer? Who knows? Who cares?

There is another murder. Is Ty the killer? Well, this time yes, but again, who cares?

Angel runs away from Tyrone about four times in a row but keeps getting caught. The final time she flees, she leaves her severely mentally-unbalanced mother behind and promises to retrieve her. Of course, the only person Angel can trust to care for Mama is Tyrone’s evil ex-mistress. Mama goes missing. A year passes by, and Angel is concerned, but she’s had so much on her mind that she hasn’t had time to search.

You see Ty’s penis keeps taunting her in those tight pants he wears and a girl can’t think straight with that anteater staring at her.

Stupid Big Misunderstandings & Clichés Abound

This book is filled with stupid “big misunderstandings” and really random, unnecessary secrets. For 200 pages the big mystery of the book is Angel’s first name. There’s no reason for her to hide it. I think it’s just so the author could have Tyrone call the heroine “My mysterious Angel” without him knowing that was really her name. Lame.

Ty’s last name is a secret. Who is Ty’s father? Is Tyrone married? What is the secret of Cresthaven plantation? Where did Angel’s hymen go if she really was a virgin? (It blew up in the fire. Really, it did.)

Don’t expect any PC, this book is raw. A Chinese prostitute does her best at a Mickey Rooney Breakfast at Tiffany’s impression. Ty has slaves and whips them bloody. He takes what he wants from Angel (her love pudding) and doesn’t ask permission.

But oh, he’s a misunderstood devil. There’s depth to Capt. Ty, and a heart that yearns for love. You see he had a rough childhood because his mother was a slut, or something like that.

Final Analysis of Passion’s Paradise

Passion’s Paradise is a cliché-ridden calamity. Even so, it was oddly entertaining, like a terrible movie you watch just to shout inanities at the screen. Plus, I can’t hate a book with such craptastic dialogue as:

Ellen (a prostitute): “You know I used to enjoy all kinds of men before Captain Ty came along. That tawny-haired devil made me forget them all, with his lean body and bulging crotch! Shees! I’ve bedded down with more men than you could ever hope to meet in your lifetime.”

Angel: “But not with Captain Ty?”

Ellen: “Bitch. Take your clothes off!”

Apparently, this book was a multi-million seller putting Zebra on the map. And it didn’t even have a pretty cover!

What a mess. 3 itty-bitty stars for being so gloriously, wonderfully entertaining.

3 Stars


Synopsis:

As the beautiful, fair-haired Angel Sherwood sailed from England to Louisiana, she sensed that her destiny flowed with the rough waves of the ocean. Frightened by the harsh sea, Angel prayed that perhaps, just perhaps, she would find happiness and romance in her new home.

But Angel’s fate changed course when she was kidnapped by the cruel, yet captivating pirate, Captain Ty. And even though her future was suddenly in the balance, Angel was strangely warmed by his manly touch. Her strong captor stirred in her a delcious pleasure, a burning fire that made her whole body tingle with precious thrills.

Captain Ty’s black heart was softened, too by her golden presence; she was an untouched treasure, full of charm, wit and innocense — a jewel that he feverishly desired. But rather than taint his savage and foreboding name, he kept his feelings hidden. First he had to be sure that her heart belonged to him–and then he would send her to PASSION’S PARADISE! 

PASSION’S PARADISE by SONYA T. PELTON
pirates wild embrace

Historical Romance Review: Pirate’s Wild Paradise by Kate Douglas

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Pirate’s Wild Paradise a standalone Zebra romance from February 1989 by Kate Douglas.

The Plot

Part One of Pirate’s Wild Paradise

Pirate’s Wild Paradise starts in Port Royale, Jamaica, with the heroine James Allison Morgan–yes, that is her name, but hereafter she is known as Jamie–about to get married.

She won’t be wed, however, as her ceremony is interrupted by Francisco “Franco” Alonzo Montenegro DeCortega, our hero, and Jamie’s former lover.

We then flashback to how Jamie and Franco came to know each other.

Part Two of Pirate’s Wild Paradise

Jamie is the only child of notorious English pirate Captain Henry Morgan. One day, Captain Morgan attacks and sinks a ship with Franco on it. Henry plans to kill Franco, but Jamie stops him. Henry then decides to hold Franco for ransom.

As to how Jamie got the name James Allison, Henry decided that was what he was going to name his child, regardless of gender. We also learn about Jamie’s mother, Antoinette Duvalle, who was kidnapped and impregnated by Morgan; she later committed suicide.

After a drunken wager, Jamie and Franco become lovers. He leaves her, however, upon learning that his father, Carlos De Cortega, is dead. The DeCortega family consists of the late Carlos, mother Isabella, Franco, and his older brother, Lorenzo–who hates Franco–and two sisters, Maria and Teresa.

Franco goes to Spain to stop Lorenzo from destroying the family in many ways. Meanwhile, Morgan sends Jamie to England to attend a finishing school for ladies.

Part Three of Pirate’s Wild Paradise

The scene then shifts to London, where Jamie spends two years learning how to be a lady. While in London, Jamie is told by Henry–now Sir Henry and Governor of Jamaica–that Franco returned to Jamaica and never asked about her, and meets Peter Alexeivitch, a.k.a. Russian Tsar, Peter the Great. Peter offers Jamie marriage. She refuses!

Jamie then returns with Henry to Jamaica.

Back in Jamaica, we meet up with Franco again. After he was released from Morgan’s captivity, he went to Spain to confront Lorenzo. It didn’t go well for Franco. With no money and no way to fight Lorenzo’s power, Franco was forced to become what he didn’t want to be: a pirate.

He still has plans to defeat Lorenzo, but he has to balance that with having Jamie back in his life, as they reunite when she returns to Jamaica.

Jamie also gains an uncle, as she meets Antoinette’s brother, Bertram, for the first time.

Franco, Jamie, and Bertrand then make their way to Europe–France and Spain to be specific–to help Franco settle his family affairs and help his revenge against Lorenzo. The latter won’t happen, however, as Lorenzo passes shortly after Franco’s arrival. He was gravely ill when Franco got to Spain.

After seeing to his sisters’ welfare and regaining his inheritance, Franco and Jamie plan to marry. Another roadblock is put in place, though as Morgan angrily refuses to bless their union. Franco kidnaps Jamie and returns her to Jamaica.

More problems soon follow as Morgan passes away and Jamie finds Franco in a compromising situation.

Part Four of Pirate’s Wild Paradise

After Henry’s death, Jamie has no money, thanks to a codicil in Henry’s will requiring her to marry someone he would approve of, thus giving the money to her future husband.

So she decides to follow in her sire and Franco’s footsteps and becomes a pirate. Her crew consists of some of Henry’s former crew and two surprising additions.

Later, Jamie’s ship, The Lady Morgan, captures a British naval ship, taking the crew hostage. She then blackmails the ship’s lieutenant, John Terry, into marrying her so she can get her inheritance. The marriage doesn’t happen, as Franco sees to that.

Jamie is arrested and will be hung for piracy, but Franco vouches for her.

In the end, twin catastrophes-an earthquake and a wave-destroy Port Royale, which is rebuilt. Jamie and Franco survive, she gives birth to a son, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Readers who follow my reviews know I love heroines with spirit, who are strong and fight against the tide of patriarchal society. Jamie fits into that category.

She and Franco are fairly well-developed characters. Franco is a good hero; although he has some alpha characteristics, he is overall a decent man. I liked the fact that Ms. Douglas showed us both Franco and Jamie’s emotions.

Downside

I didn’t like the way Ms. Douglas handled the storyline involving Lorenzo. After Carlos died, Lorenzo:

  • Cheated Franco out of his inheritance.
  • Framed Franco on charges that, had he not left Spain, would have had him arrested and hanged.
  • Forced Maria and Teresa into marriages to an abuser and an adulterer, respectively.

I like when villains get their comeuppance, and that didn’t happen here. The ending of the book is too simplistic and kind of lame.

Sex

Multiple love scenes involving Jamie and Franco. However, the scenes are fairly mild and not very erotic.

Violence

Assault, battery, and one killing. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line On Pirate’s Wild Paradise

Pirate’s Wild Paradise is a good romance, with a fantastic female pirate as a heroine, but has too many issues to make it a great one.

3 Stars

*Book Trivia: The clinch image of Pirate’s Wild Paradise was used by Zebra as their new Lovegram logo design starting in 1990.

pirate's wild paradise kate douglas zebra

Synopsis:

Unexpected Surrender
Daughter of the infamous Henry Morgan, beautiful Jamie Morgan could hold her own against any pirate on the high seas…except Franco DeCortega. The handosme Spaniard bested her with his saber, then spared her life at the risk of his own. His compassion unsettled her; the desire in his dark eyes intrigued her. But Jamie had treasured her independence too long to surrender it in the heat of passion. Though she would yield to the dizzying sensations he aroused in her innocent flesh, she swore she’d never give him her heart!

Inevitable Conquest
Franco DeCortega was enthralled by the spirtied vixen who now held him captive, body and soul. Her violet eyes sparkled with mischief and daring; her ebony tresses danced about her creamy shoulders as she frolicked in the surf. It would take more than sweet promises to tame this tempetuous beauty..but Franco knew exactly how to make her his. With soul-searing kisses and masterful caresses he would tempt her with the ecstasy that awaited them both in a seductive unforgettable…Pirates Wild Paradise!

PIRATES WILD PARADISE by KATE DOUGLAS
texas triumph victoria thompson

Historical Romance Review: Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: John Ennis
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: The Cowboy and the Lady #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

This review is of Texas Triumph, #2 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson. This is the follow-up to her book, Texas Treasure.

The Plot

Texas Triumph begins at the Circle M ranch near Canaan, Texas, where Rachel Anne McKinsey lives. Rachel is mourning the death of her father, Sean, who a rival rancher killed. To help her hold on to her ranch, Rachel proposes marriage to her foreman, Cole Elliot, the book’s hero. He accepts her proposal, and they marry.

Not everyone in their area of Texas is happy with their marriage. Among the unhappy is Will Statler, the rancher who killed Sean. Also unhappy: Hank Oliver, a mercantile store owner who had a thing for Rachel.

After a period of time, Rachel and Cole consummate their marriage. Later they become parents to a daughter, Colleen. Rachel and Cole are happy for a while, especially because they believe Statler is dead.

They’re wrong. Statler is very much alive and joining together with Hank to try to kill Cole and get Rachel. These efforts are thwarted, and Rachel, Cole, and Colleen have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I frequently criticize authors for failing to reach their characters’ emotions. That certainly isn’t the case with Ms. Thompson, who goes into Rachel and Cole’s emotions in very deep detail. Very. Deep. Detail.

Downside

This detail, however, can also be construed as a weakness. Much of Texas Triumph is about Rachel and Cole not communicating with each other. They assume things that are not based on facts until about page 400, when they finally begin to talk with each other. There isn’t a great deal of character development here.

The ending of the book could have been more exciting.

Sex

The love scenes are not graphic or exciting.

Violence

Assault and battery, and two shootings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Triumph

Reading Ms. Thompson’s work is frustrating for me, as she has a good foundation for a good book in Texas Triumph, but she doesn’t quite get there.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis

HE SAID “I DO”
Ranch foreman Cole Elliott couldn’t say no to his enticing boss Rachel McKinsey when she proposed they have a marriage in name only. The virile gunslinger had had his eye on the shapely filly since he first hired on and dreamed of her raven hair caressing his broad chest, her full curves filling his strong hands, and her luscious mouth questing for his heated kiss. Even though he’d promised to protect her property and not lay a finger on her, the hot-blooded cowboy never intended to wed the arousing beauty without getting a real honeymoon in the bargain!

SHE SAID “I WON’T”
Nothing was more important to determined Rachel McKinsey than the Circle M – and if it meant taking a near-stranger as a husband to scare off rustlers, she would do it. Still, the gorgeous rancher felt a secret thrill that towering Cole Elliott was going to be her man. But now that Rachel had sworn they be business partners, she could never ever admit that all she really wanted was to consummate their vows and have Cole release her sensual response in the glorious moment of their…TEXAS TRIUMPH

TEXAS TRIUMPH by VICTORIA THOMPSON
The Perfect Marriage, Laurey Bright 1995 Diane Sivavec

Category Romance Review: A Perfect Marriage by Laurey Bright

The Book

It’s difficult for me to give Laurey Bright’s* A Perfect Marriage a coherent review because it’s a romance novel that deals with adultery.

The Plot

Max and Celine have had a comfortable, friendly marriage for 12 years, however with no passion nor love. The two had been hurt prior to their marriage and agreed that a union based on friendship–not love–was best. Then things take a sharp left turn when the male protagonist “falls in love” with another woman, his co-worker. She’s much younger than he is of course. Max sleeps with her and then leaves his Celine.

But after a night of unexpected passion with Celine, Max gets his estranged wife pregnant. Finally, Max realizes, almost too late, that it’s his wife he’s loved all along.

This was a difficult romance to stomach. The heroine is way too good for the “hero,” a pathetic man in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

Despite the fact that Bright tries to make Kate, the other woman, seem like a naïve, beautiful virgin who is as much a victim as Celine, she wasn’t. In my eyes, she was a manipulative beeyotch. Kate was no innocent schoolgirl. She’s an educated attorney who had no qualms about breaking up a marriage. She even dared to ask a pregnant Celine to let Max go.

Max never sufficiently redeems himself. It is only through Celine’s love and forgiveness that reconciliation is possible.

Final Analysis of A Perfect Marriage

A Perfect Marriage by Laurey Bright was an emotional roller-coaster. The author does a wonderful job showing how separation and divorce can affect not just the spouses, but the whole extended family.

Ultimately, as hard as this book was to handle at times, it deserves a positive rating because of how it portrays the healing power of love.

A Perfect Marriage was awarded the Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA Award for Best Long Contemporary Romance in 1996.

*(Laurey Bright is a pseudonym for Daphne Clair)

3 Stars


Synopsis

Broken Vows

To their friends, family and neighbors, Celine and Max Archer had a perfect marriage. Only the Archers knew they’d never been in love, and that nights of passion were few and far between. Still, both thought the other happy with the dry-eyed deal they’d made instead of vows…

Until Max broke the bargain—by wanting more. And suddenly, after twelve peaceful years, the perfect marriage was over…

But when Celine realized how much she loved her husband, was it too late to get him back? For unbeknownst to Max, they’d been blessed with a new beginning…”

A PERFECT MARRIAGE by LAUREY BRIGHT
melting ice davies

Category Romance Review: Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash

category romance
Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance (Special Subscription) #55
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 191
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash is a hard little book to find in its original form. It was released by Mills & Boon in 1989 but only published as a special edition for Harlequin Romance subscribers. The book was #55 of that line.

The author has rewritten and “updated” Melting Ice as part of a trilogy, so the modern e-book version vastly differs from the original print copy.

This review refers only to the Mill & Boon/ Special Harlequin Romance edition of Melting Ice.

The Characters

Victoria Francis is an airy-fairy young woman living in the English countryside. The story begins as she’s walking on her hands outside and meets the hero while she’s upside-down. It’s a good metaphor for demonstrating Victoria and Julius’s opposite perspectives about life.

Julius Korda is a cold and calculating icicle. He is an avaricious businessman who wears power suits and ties. Julius works in the fast-paced world of… antiques.

(Wait a minute, that can’t be right. Let me double-check that. Nope, that’s correct.)

Julius Korda is a big deal in the throat-cutting world of old-time estates and furniture sales.

(I can see why Ash decided to give this book a rewrite. The hero’s occupation bugged the hell out of me. That did not fit his described persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying and selling antiques. But buying and selling stocks would have made it in line with how Ash wrote Julius to be.)

“Julius Korda is as cold as steel, as ascetic as a monk, and the only god he worships is the almighty dollar.”

The Plot

Despite their decade-and-a-half age gap, the innocent Victoria and the money-hungry Julius form a connection. Victoria finds herself falling for him.

In a surprising turn of events, the buttoned-down Julius has a moment of weakness, and he and Victoria make love. Victoria was a virgin, and a confused Julius leaves her.

Years pass. When they meet next, it will be under different circumstances. And Victoria will have a surprise in store for Julius.

(Sigh) Yes, this is a secret baby plot.

Yada, yada, yada, you get the deal. Julius and Victoria reconnect and form a new relationship. Passion reignites. Julius learns that there are things in life more precious than gold–or 19th-century golden candelabras.

Final Analysis of Melting Ice

I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Generally, plots with uptight heroes paired with free-spirited heroines are a joy to experience. There were good elements here. However, they were wasted.

I shouldn’t be so shallow, but I couldn’t mesh Julius’ career with the identity the author had created for him. Antique dealing is a step above being a beautician in terms of macho jobs for a hero (See my review of Easy Lovin‘. I wasn’t overly fond of that hero’s profession as a hairdresser.)

The secret baby surprise came out of left field. Victoria was too young and childish; it didn’t seem right for her to become a single mother abandoned by her one-night stand. And where the heck was Julius for all that time? Polishing his silverware?

Melting Ice started out quite charming. However, I couldn’t get over a few issues, making this an average reading experience. Maybe the updated version is better, but I’m not curious enough to check it out.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

From the moment they met, young, carefree, Victoria was infatuated with Julius. But Julius made it clear that as far as he was concerned she wasn’t his type and in any case, she was far too young for him. However, everything changed one night — with far-reaching consequences for both of them.

MELTING ICE by ROSALIE ASH
woman hater palmer

Category Romance Review: Woman Hater by Diana Palmer

category romance
Woman Hater by Diana Palmer
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Romance #532
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Woman Hater by Diana Palmer

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Woman Hater (what a title!) by Diana Palmer is a 1987 Silhouette Romance that seems to be typical of the author’s style. The heroine is a young virgin, escaping from a tragic past. The hero is a macho, “alpha-male” who was also burned by the past. He is an unabashed “woman-hater.”

The Plot

Nicole White is a secretary at a prominent Chicago firm. She comes from a well-heeled family from Kentucky, blue-bloods to the core, plus cold and unloving. Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. Her father was a serial adulterer. When Nicole decided to cut contact with her family, her fiance dumped her. Then he got engaged to another prominent heiress, breaking Nicole’s heart in the process.

Distraught, Nicole has now moved to the big city to start over. Currently, her boss is suffering from an ulcer. The doctor recommends relaxation for a month. As he still has business matters to attend to, he requires the services of his secretary. So Nicole accompanies her boss to his family ranch in Montana.

There she meets Winthrop Christopher, her boss’s brother. Winthrop is a hairy-chested, cigarette-smoking cowboy stud who makes the virginal Nicole quiver with desire.

Regardless, he can’t deny his attraction to sweet Nicole. He pursues her even as he spurns her.

Years ago, Winthrop was in a car accident and almost lost his leg. His beautiful girlfriend summarily dumped him rather than deal with a disabled partner. Embittered by the past, Winthrop makes no bones about being a “woman-hater.”

Winthrop doesn’t trust women, and he knows Nicole has secrets. Her great sin? She denies her wealthy roots and lies to Winthrop when he asks her if she’s related to the wealthy Whites of Lexington. Winthrop and Nicole are drawn inexorably together, but when Winthrop discovers Nicole’s “treachery,” he dismisses her as having no honor, like all other women.

Will Winthrop realize that women–Nicole in particular–aren’t to be despised?

He groaned her name as he bent, his mouth so tender, so exquisitely gentle with hers that tears ran hotly down her cheeks. He was the world, and everything in it. She loved him so.

Final Analysis of Woman Hater

Woman Hater was my second foray into the world of Diana Palmer. I appreciated this one more than the other Palmer I read, Nelson’s Brand. The heroes in both books were manly caricatures who thought they ruled the roost. They kept their heroines at arm’s length, even as they lusted after them. Thankfully Winthrop wasn’t as emo as Gene Nelson. I can’t stand a whiny hero. Although Winthrop had his dark moments, overall, an allure about him made him intriguing.

Nicole’s issues with her family come to a head, and she deals with her insecurities. Of course, love wins out in the end. Together Winthrop and Nicole are healed through its power.

I wouldn’t consider Woman Hater exceptional, although it was a solid read. The emotional connection between the main characters was a nice touch. I can see why Palmer has millions of fans, using a tried and true formula that sells.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 3.2

Synopsis:

Everyone in Nicole White’s office knew their boss’s mysterious older brother kept away from women at all costs. After being burned in the past, brooding Winthrop Christopher was now twice shy, to say the least. So when Nicole traveled to Winthrop’s Montana home, she was prepared for a standoffish host…and instead found the most intriguing man she’d ever met.

After his ex-fiancée left him high and dry, Winthrop refused to give any woman the time of day. Despite his determination to keep young Nicki at bay, however, this Montana man unexpectedly found himself desiring love again. Could Winthrop learn to put aside his deep-seated mistrust and learn to love the innocent beauty who stole his heart? 

WOMAN HATER by Diana Palmer
the other woman

Category Romance Review: The Other Woman by Candace Schuler

Synopsis:

THE LATEST FROM THE TABLOIDS… SOAP STAR SNARES MOVIE MOGUL

Tara Charming-TV’s sexiest seductress and star of the new movie The Promise-has hooked her claws into Gage Kingston of the legendary moviemaking family. Insiders reveal the studio is irate that the movie’s behind schedule. . .all because the lovers spend more time in each other’s trailer than on the set!

Is this a match made in Hollywood heaven? A close friend reveals, “Gage vowed to avoid actresses ever since his ex-wife. It’s hard to believe he’s fallen for Tara. She’s got a reputation for doing whatever it takes to get ahead.” Of course, Tara has had her share of heartache, too. Pregnant at seventeen, she was left to cope on her own. But her track record proves she’s no pushover now.

Can these two tinsel-town heartbreakers possibly be in love–or is it mutual use and abuse? Turn to our inside story for the full scoop.

Hollywood Dynasty

THE OTHER WOMAN by CANDACE SCHULER

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and Characters

This review is of The Other Woman by Candace Schuler, book #1 in the “Hollywood Dynasty” series. (Harlequin Temptation #451, July 1993).

Series overview: “Hollywood Dynasty” focuses on three siblings, children of a legendary Hollywood couple, as they make their names in the same industry that made their parents famous.

Heroine: Tara Channing, 25. Strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes. Actress.

Hero: Gage Kingston. 30. Dark brown hair, amber eyes. Cinematographer.

The Plot

The Other Woman begins in Montana, on the set of a movie, “The Promise.” A love scene is being filmed featuring two of Hollywood’s top sex symbols, actress Tara Channing, the book’s heroine, and actor Pierce Kingston. Also in attendance is Pierce’s brother, cinematographer Gage Kingston, the hero.

Tara and Gage become lovers, but both are unwilling to share more than their bodies. They later learn, however, that passion without protection has consequences. Gage gets Tara pregnant, and they break up.

In the end, Tara and Gage realize they truly do love each other. Tara has her baby–a son–and gives up her acting career.

She and Gage marry and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The best part of The Other Woman for me by far is Tara. Depending on your point of view, she is blessed–or cursed with a Playboy Playmate’s looks and body. Looking like that, however, means that males–I can’t call them men–only view Tara as a sex object. She is, however, a woman of depth and character shaped by her life, which we learn about. Tara is a very easy heroine to like and root for.

Downside

Although Gage is not the actor in the family–his siblings are and were–he is a player here in three parts. In the first part of the book, he is a horn dog. During the second, he is Tara’s lover and an angry man. In the third part, he finally realizes he truly loves Tara and wants her for his wife and forever love. While I understood Gage’s reasons for being a jerk in the first two-thirds of the book, that doesn’t make it okay or him completely likable. Beyond Tara, there isn’t a whole lot of depth.

Sex

A few love scenes between Tara and Gage. They generate some heat, but not an inferno.

Violence

The only violence is “movie violence,” which is described in the book.

Bottom Line on The Other Woman

Readers who like to know what goes on behind the scenes of television and movies and were fans of early 1990s entertainment may find a lot to like here. Still, Candace Schuler’s The Other Woman and the “Hollywood Dynasty” series as a whole may not appeal to readers who don’t fall into those categories.

Locations: A movie set in Montana. Los Angeles, California.

Tropes: Actress. Cinematographer. Movie making

2.84 Stars

through-the-storm

Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins Through the Storm
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: LeVeq Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Civil War Romance, Black Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.

I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.

Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.

The Set Up

Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.

Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.

The Plot

Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.

Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.

She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.

However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.

Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.

Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.

Final Analysis of Through the Storm

Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.

Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.

Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.

The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.

I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.

All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.

Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
lady in the mirror

Category Romance Review: The Lady in the Mirror by Judith Arnold

The Lady in the Mirror, Judith Arnold, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #561

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

The Book & Characters

This review is of The Lady in the Mirror, book #10 in the “Bachelor Arms series and the first of two books in the series written by Judith Arnold, a pseudonym for Barbara Keiler. (Harlequin Temptation #561, November 1995).

Heroine: Jessica (Jessie) Gale, 27. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Social worker and owner-operator of Rainbow House, a social service center for runaways.

Hero: Clint McCreary, 30. Black hair, gray eyes. Former New York City police officer. Recent law school graduate. Clint has a job with the Bronx County DA’s office when he goes back east. (He doesn’t).

The Plot

The book begins with John Clinton “Clint” McCreary, former New York City police officer and the book’s hero, having just arrived in Los Angeles from New York in search of his missing half-sister, Diana. The first person he meets in Los Angeles is Jessie Gale, the heroine of the book. Jessie is a social worker who owns and runs a social services center for teenage runaways.

From the moment they meet, Clint and Jessie are attracted to each other, although they do have ideological differences.

In the end, Jessie and Clint become lovers, and they rescue Diana without any drama or trauma. Clint decides to stay out west, marries Jessie, and they have their Happily Ever After. 

Upside

Jessie and Clint are both fairly nice characters. 

Downside

Sadly, Jessie and Clint don’t get much beyond the “nice” category. They’re not the most interesting characters in the “Bachelor Arms” series and I didn’t feel a lot of emotional connection or passion from them. The only real emotion in the book comes in Chapter 10, where Jessie and we learn about Clint’s past trauma. 

Sex

The love scenes between Jessie and Clint are fairly mild. 

Violence

One scene of assault and battery. 

Bottom Line

The Lady in the Mirror is an about-average book. No more, no less. 2.77 stars.

Tropes: Ex-cop. Los Angeles. Runaway. Social Worker.

Location: Los Angeles, California.

3 Stars

hilltop tryst

Category Romance Review: Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels

category romance
Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3071
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hilltop Tryst is another sweet romance by the famous Betty Neels featuring–as always–a fair-haired doctor as a hero, although this time he’s British, not Dutch. Nor is the heroine a nurse. She’s the daughter of a local successful veterinarian and works with Dad.

The Set-Up

The title Hilltop Tryst makes it sound steamier than this book really is. It’s a very clean, closed-door Harlequin Romance, so no trysting here!

One morning, Beatrice is taking a walk with her dog, and she meets the hero, Dr. Oliver Latimer, a heart surgeon, along the way. Oliver’s a nice, stolid type. There’s a bit of trouble with another dog, and Oliver arranges to bring the pup to Beatrice’s father for a check-up.

Everything lines up making it seem as if Oliver’s interested in Beatrice. He’s kind to her, spends time with her family, and–in typical Betty Neels fashion–doesn’t make a move! When Beatrice’s father has a heart attack, they’re fortunate that Dr. Latimer is there to save the day.

Enter our other man, a more debonair and seemingly sophisticated vet. Have you known many vets? Most of them are really nice folks! But hardly dashing when compared to heart surgeons.

Sunnyvale’s Top Vet

The Plot

Anyway, this OM takes a liking to Beatrice as she to him. Oliver’s nice and all, but he’s so placid and just there. Unfortunately, Beatrice discovers that the OM has his sights set on taking over her father’s thriving business. Cozying up to Beatrice was simply part of his plan.

Ashamed, her heart in tatters, Beatrice turns to Oliver, who is there to save the day. He proposes a phony relationship with Beatrice and offers to take her on a Continental-speaking tour.

Along the way, Beatrice realizes she wasn’t really in love with Sam Losco, sleazy pet doc. She was just blinded by his flash. As Beatrice gets to know more of Oliver on their trip, she realizes it’s he whom she prefers.

There’s some bit of dull action before the two meet up again on that same hilltop. They declare their love for each other. Again, no trysting, but promises of marriage and forever are made.

hilltop tryst

Final Analysis of Hilltop Tryst

This was a charming Betty Neels romance, but not really very exciting. I was reading another Harlequin Romance at the same time as this (a Jessica Steele I’ll review later) and found that a saucy read more to my liking.

To my (not) surprise, reviews on sites rate Hilltop Tryst much higher than the other one I enjoyed. Oh, well, I like a little drama in my romances, even the sweet ones.

Hilltop Tryst, I’d mark as good, not great. Oliver gets points for being an animal lover, but not enough to change my overall sentiments.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3

Synopsis

A Dependable Man

When Beatrice’s world turned upside down, Oliver Latimer was on hand to pick up the pieces. There was something solid and reassuring about Oliver. Beatrice felt safe with him. But he wasn’t an easy person to get to know.

Accompanying him on a lecture tour to Europe convinced Beatrice that there was more to Dr. Latimer than she’d imagined. In fact, she came to believe he was the only man she could truly love. But Oliver kept his feelings hidden. What did he really think of her

HILLTOP TRYST by BETTY NEELS
passion wild and free duillo

Historical Romance Review: Passions Wild and Free by Janelle Taylor

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Synopsis:

MISCHIEVOUS VIXEN

After seeing her home and family destroyed by the cruel and hateful Epson gang, Randee Hollis swore revenge. The feisty young woman knew that she couldn’t do the nasty job alone — she needed one good man to help her stop the murderous villains. So when Randee literally ran into the black-clad stranger, she knew she’d found the perfect helpmate. He was strong and brave and met all of her requirements for a gunslinger … but the virile stranger offered something more. Every time Randee looked into his light blue eyes she felt a longing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to run her fingers through his sleek ebony hair, caress his bronzed skin and know what it would be like to spend the night wrapped up in his warm embrace …

TANTALIZING ROGUE

Marsh Logan had his own reasons for wanting to help the flaxen haired beauty find revenge. But after spending sometime alone with Randee, he lost all desire for anything but the feel of her body next to his. Marsh would sacrifice his very soul for a chance to kiss away all of Randee’s troubles, to excite her until she forgot of her pain. All he wanted was to prove that he was the man who could make her happy, that he could love her like no other and unleash her sleeping PASSIONS WILD AND FREE

PASSIONS WILD AND FREE by JANELLE TAYLOR
Passions Wild and Free, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1988, Elaine Duillo cover art

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Passions Wild and Free, book #2 in the “Western Wind” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

The book begins in Wadesville, Texas, undisclosed time but after the Civil War. Randee Hollis, the heroine of the book, has plans to go after the Epson Gang, a ruthless band of killers who killed her aunt and uncle, Sara Elizabeth and Lee Carson when the gang attacked their ranch. (Randee was the only survivor of the attack). She decides to hire a man to help her track down and kill the gang members. Randee finds resistance to her plans from Brody Wade, the sheriff of Wadesville-named after his family-who is in love with her and wishes to marry her.

Randee runs into–literally–Marsh Logan, the hero of the book, and hires him to work with her, believing that he is a notorious gunfighter named the Durango Kid. He’s not, but he is good with a gun and has his own reasons for wanting to find and kill the Epson Gang. As they track the gang, we learn why Randee left her family in Kansas, and she and Marsh give in to their attraction and become lovers.

As they systematically dismantle the Epson Gang, Randee and Marsh come to realize that the gang isn’t just a ragtag group of outlaws, but rather part of a bigger plan, led by someone who wants money and power.

In the end, the gang is brought to justice or killed, as is the big boss of the operation. The real Durango Kid-who is Marsh’s younger brother-appears on the scene. Randee’s family issues in Kansas are resolved. Randee and Marsh have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Both Randee and Marsh are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor gives them depth and fills them in as real people. I liked the fact that Randee was a capable person in her own right and Marsh grew to respect her skills.

Downside

Passions Wild and Free is ostensibly a historical romantic suspense book. Mrs. Taylor only got one of the three right (The historical part). There is very little chemistry between Randee and Marsh, although they become lovers and adventure partners. There is also very little in the way of suspense; most of the suspense occurs “off-screen.”

I was also quite annoyed with Mrs. Taylor’s overuse of the word “cunning”, which she uses in every book she writes. I wanted to scream several times in the reading of the book: “Why didn’t you use a freakin’ thesaurus, Mrs. Taylor?” I found myself skipping pages because at times, Passions Wild and Free was simply boring.

One other thing: this book is said to be part of a six-book series called “Western Wind”. No character from the first book in the “series”, First Love, Wild Love, appears in Passions Wild and Free. The only thing the two books so far in the “series” have in common is that both are set in Texas, which is not, in my eyes, a connection that warrants a “series” label.

Sex

The love scenes are either mostly quick or typical Janelle Taylor romances. In other words, more focused on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it.

Violence

Most of the violence is “off-screen”. On-screen violence includes assault, battery, shootings, and killings. The violence is not graphic in any way.

Bottom Line on Passions Wild and Free

Randee and Marsh deserved better than what they got from Mrs. Taylor in Passions Wild and Free.

3 Stars

tender is the storm

Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Tender Is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

So… About Johanna Lindsey‘s Tender Is the Storm.

Did You Hear the One About the Naked Guy?

A Cover Collectible

If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it.

The cover of Tender Is the Storm is the notorious one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.

Robert McGinnis, Cover Artist

Tender is the Storm was released in 1985 as Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination.

Their first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open, with the heroine lying between his thighs.

McGinnis was a great admirer of the sensual female form. Much of his work featured nude or scantily clad women–of all skin and hair colors–with tightly muscled yet voluptuous figures.

As a pulp, detective, and movie poster artist, he had many opportunities to display his talents for painting ladies. The romance revolution of the 1970s would now allow him to demonstrate his ability to create beautiful male figures.

I’ve said before that I am not fond of modern covers with dehumanizing headless torsos, waxed naked chests, and rippling 8-pack-abs. Even so, male eye candy is a sweet sight to behold! So thank you, Robert McGinnis, for being an equal opportunity exploiter of undressed males and females.

Yeah, He Was [CENSORED]

tender is the storm
From The Art of Robert McGinnis

I owned a first-edition copy of Tender Is the Storm when I initially read it 25 years ago. Alas, it was lost in the Great Book Purge, which I’ve spoken of many times before. Now, I’m stuck with a later edition with the hero’s ass [CENSORED].

The cover was so controversial at the time that booksellers from “coast to coast” refused to stock Tender Is the Storm on their shelves.

Avon had to rush out golden star stickers printed with “#1 EVERYWHERE” to place upon the hero’s buttocks. A second printing followed, this one with a circular starburst emblazoned upon the area of controversy, with the words “A COAST TO COAST BESTSELLER” on it.

tender is the storm
See? Now you can’t notice anything!

Did anyone really believe that no one would figure out what was going on beneath that “subtle” distraction?

The dude is titty-banging her, and she loves every minute!

About That Review of Tender Is the Storm

So… about Johanna Lindsey’s Tender Is the Storm.

Yuppers. It was a romance novel.

Perhaps if I’d read this from a “new-to-me” author, I would have enjoyed it more. Sadly, by Lindsey’s standards, this was mostly a meh read for me. She’s written much better books. (And some worse.)

The Plot

It’s the late 1800s in New York City. The Eastern heiress Sharisse Hammond finds herself fleeing from an arranged engagement to a high-society scion in a convoluted setup. Sharisse wants nothing to do with the union. When she discovers her sister is in love with the man, the two of them hatch a plan.

They find a newspaper ad a rancher placed looking for a wife. Sharisse responds to it, deciding her best option is to move out West and be a mail-order bride (to a man she knows nothing about). Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer!

Her groom turns out to be Lucas Holt. He’s a white man who’s familiar with the ways of the Native American people. He’s also a handsome devil, and Sharisse is very attracted to him.

The trouble is that she’s also attracted to Lucas’ identical twin brother, Slade. Slade shows up whenever Lucas isn’t around to torment and flirt with her.

Over time, Sharisse becomes accustomed to the arduous labors of being a Western bride. And in due course, she and Lucas draw closer. She becomes his wife in the complete sense of the word. Nevertheless, Sharisse remains strongly attracted to his bothersome twin.

Whatever will she do?

I usually appreciate a plot where the heroine is torn between twin brothers (My, that sounds absolutely naughty, doesn’t it?😋). I just wasn’t wowed here. Maybe it was the ugly font that soured me.

Final Analysis of Tender Is the Storm

This isn’t a terrible romance, not really. I judged Tender Is the Storm on a curve with the other Lindseys I’ve read and found it lacking in places.

The chemistry between Sharisse & Slade and Sharisse & Lucas was hot. But the plot was thin, even for this barely 300+ page book. The ending was predictable.

But please don’t let my opinion stop you from reading this one. Your mileage may vary.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

Headstrong heiress Sharisse Hammond wants no part of the New York society marriage that has been arranged for her. So she heads west across a vast and dangerous land–with no intention of honoring her agreement to become the mail-order bride of a rugged Arizona rancher. But Lucas Holt needs a wife–any wife–if his plan to destroy his most hated enemy is to succeed. And this gullible Eastern lady would do quite nicely. However, their separate schemes to use one another are complicated by raw, aching passion. For Lucas’s beautiful, unsuspecting pawn was not supposed to be so irresistibly alluring. And freedom-loving Sharisse never dreamed she could ever desire one man so much!

Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
passion's wicked torment

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne

Passion’s Wicked Torment, Melissa Hepburne, Pinnacle Books, 1980, cover art Bill Maugham

Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pinnacle BooksPassion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.

Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?

Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.

Here the heroine’s so dumb, and the action so predictable, yet somehow compelling, it’s like watching multiple gory car-wrecks in slow-mo, one after another, after another.

Kristin’s brother Chad gets kidnapped by a bunch of mafiosos. She has the brilliant idea to infiltrate a mobster’s club to find out where he is. Of course, Kristin has to get a makeover and change her persona. She’s a long-haired, virginal good girl, and that won’t do as she plans to sink her hooks into the head Capo, become his moll, and use her wiles to find her brother.

So she enters the club with her bobbed hair, slinky dress, and new fake identity & cozies up to the owner of a club, this hood, Dallas Hunter, to find who kidnapped her brother. With her gorgeous blonde looks, it’s as easy as cream pie to get into his bed. But Hunter gets angry with her when Kristin asks too many questions about his illegal biz while in bed. Newbie mistake; pillow talk is for AFTER sex, not during!

This is the Plot? For Real?

Dallas Hunter is a real Eye-talian with a dash of British panache. The next morning at breakfast:

Hunter ordered for both of them: scrambled eggs, spaghetti, sausage and buttered rolls. He also ordered kippers for himself, a smoked fish that was an English specialty.

Kristen sort of becomes Hunter’s gal, but she’s looking for bigger fish because she needs to get to the ultimate leader to find out what happened to her brother. Ironman is the top cat, and if anyone knows where bro-bro is, it would be he. So despite her burgeoning feelings for Hunter, she pursues Ironman, and that plan falls apart in spectacular fashion.

For you see, our hero Hunter is really a Fed, working undercover to infiltrate the mob. He, like Kristin, wants to find her brother, who is being held prisoner for reasons I forget but don’t really matter as this plot is (I’m not sorry to use this word) retarted (the misspelling is intentional).

Ironman finds out Kristin is not who she says she is, so he does some pretty nasty things to her. He has her drugged, up, chained to a bed, and forced into a vile porno with a sadistic creep. Things go from worse to worst for our heroine with a plan that’s not a plan.

First Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Second Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Third Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Oh, did I repeat myself? Well, that’s what this story does, too.

North to Alaska

Through various convoluted contrivances, Kristin finds herself in Alaska, where she meets a great bear of a man, McShane, a former Canadian Mountie. She and McShane enter a partnership to start a gambling house. They also get involved in a love affair with each other. McShane was the most decent character in this alleged romance novel and should have been the hero. This was the third Hepburne book I’ve read, so going by pattern, it seems s/he was setting McShane up to be the hero for a next book that never materialized (Hunter, this book’s male protagonist, and had been the “other” guy in a previous novel).

Really, in this brief portion of the book, Hepburne shows s/he’s capable of writing decent characters and a somewhat believable romance. 

This was incredible. [Kristin] was surprising herself as well as McShane. Not only by her professions of caring for him deeply, but also by her strength and refusal to submit quietly. She felt more like a real woman now than she ever had before, a strong-willed woman who knew what she wanted and went after it.

Ah, if only. Kristen should have stayed in Alaska. But remember, she has to find her brother, Mr. MacGuffin. So she returns to the mobsters’ world, and she and McShane buy a ship to use for illegal gambling and drinking off the coast of Long Island.

Alas, those plans fall apart, as the mob doesn’t like competition, and Hunter again comes to the rescue. More plot shit is flung at the proverbial walls.

Kristin sells her share of the casino ship to McShane and flees to Europe to party her sorrows away.

A Gary Stu Supporting Character?

An unusual aspect of this book is that the author Melissa Hepburne, whose real name is Craig Broude, literally self-inserts himself into the story to have a gang-bang sex scene with the heroine. It’s tongue-in-cheek but also rather sad, as Kristin drinks, parties, and sleeps with various men in an attempt to forget all the hurts committed upon her body and spirit.

When Kristin finds out that Hunter is looking for her, she asks Broude, or Brady, as he’s called in the story, to make him scarce: 

Would Brady succeed in throwing him off her trail? Probably, she thought. Her American friend was a very smart man and could be extremely cunning and crafty when he put his mind to it. The reward she promised him would certainly motivate him to do his devious best, that she was sure of.

Eventually, Kristin finds her way back to the States, sober and resolved. Dallas Hunter is there for her, and the two rekindle their romance (What romance, you might ask? Don’t. Just roll with it.).

But uh-uh-uh, there are still evil goons after them. Fortunately, the true hero of this book, McShane, who truly loves that silly do-do bird, shows up in his boat and saves the day, allowing for Hunter and Kristin to live their lives happily ever after.

Oh, and as for the missing Chad, the brother Kristin was searching for, and the whole reason she was embroiled in this ridiculous mess? Ignominously killed off partway through the book and long-forgotten by the end.

Final Analysis of Passion’s Wicked Torment

Melissa Hepburne only published four romances, but they were successful enough to put some serious cash into Craig Broude’s pockets. Good for him, I say. For despite being lackluster love stories, they were some seriously whacktastic reads I was glad to experience. Passion’s Wicked Torment, his final bodice ripper, wasn’t as fun or shocking as Passion’s Proud Captive, his first, so that it might have been a case of diminishing returns. Still, for the not-easily offended reader, these books made for wild rides.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A violation charlotte lamb

Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb

a violation charlotte lamb
A Violation by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Worldwide, Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance. It’s somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction.

Like so many of her works, it encompasses major themes. Here she emphasizes the philosophy of love and what are the roles of being a man and a woman, especially regarding amorous relationships. Charlotte Lamb addresses a difficult and taboo subject in romance: rape.

A Romance That is Not a Romance

In general, I think Lamb was better restrained by the limitations of category romance, as at times in A Violation she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, this was a satisfactory read.

I wouldn’t rank it as exemplary as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but superior to a few of Lamb’s other Mills & Boon/ Harlequins that also dealt with sexual assault. (I am looking at you Dark Fever.)

Rape, especially a violent rape by a stranger who debases the heroine, leaving her life in tatters, isn’t the most comfortable backstory for a romance.

As stated, though, this isn’t strictly a romance novel, so if you’re looking for more than a “Happy For Now” ending, you might be disappointed.

The Plot

A Violation

Clare is a modern woman of her era (the early 1980s) with a successful career and a live-in boyfriend with whom she’s sexually active but not madly in love. One night a stranger breaks into her home and brutally violates her.

Understandably, the violation of Clare’s body, her home, and her sanctity turns everything upside down. Her friends, family, and co-workers all know of the horrible experience she’s faced.

The rape changes everything. Her relationship with her boyfriend is destroyed.

But not her life.

Clare deals with the trauma by focusing on the healing–not on the event itself. She goes to counseling to seek solace.

Instead of wrapping herself up in her victim status, Clare uses the tragic occurrence as a springboard to learn who she is and transform into a stronger person.

How a Tragedy Affects Everyone

Clare’s experience also causes a ripple in the lives of both her mother and her best friend, Pamela, an ultra-independent, career-minded model. And so it does too for Clare’s boss, Larry, who is there for her as she recovers from her shocking experience.

The friendship between Larry and Clare starts to morph into something more intense gradually.

Meanwhile, Pamela engages in a “will-they-or-won’t they romance” with her polar opposite, a traditional-minded guy named Joe.

Also, there is Clare’s mother, who is from a more conservative generation when it comes to sex and gender issues. She has to deal with comprehending the tragedy that has transformed her daughter.

Charlotte Lamb on Feminism and Romance

One facet of A Violation that fascinated me was the ever-present topic of second-wave feminism. This book was like a time capsule into an era where women did not have all the options that some today might take for granted.

The two burgeoning relationships form parallel stories about the battle of the sexes. Clare ponders whether Pamela could ever truly be content with a man like Joe:

Clare could hardly believe now that Pamela sat around yearning to do just that, daydreaming about making Joe’s breakfast before he went off to work, wondering aloud what sort of children they would have…It was pathetic, like hearing a free bird mewing to get inside a cage.

As for herself, Clare goes on a voyage of discovery as to what’s important in her life.

While shocked at her friend’s seeming change in attitude, Clare realizes that certain traditional values appeal to her. She won’t hold out for anything less.

Larry’s dogged pursuit intrigues her, but she is hesitant to engage in anything serious with the notorious womanizer that he is.

A Discussion Worth Having

Larry: The Pill’s liberated women. Sex is no longer a dangerous pleasure. They have it on demand without fear of consequences, just like a man.

Clare: Except women aren’t men, either physically or mentally, and they tend to get emotionally involved with anyone they make love with. How is it going to get around that and your ‘Brave New World?’

Larry: I didn’t make the rules. I’m just reporting what I’ve noticed going on. When I was 20 there were two sorts of girls: those who did it, and those you have to marry if you talk them into it and they got pregnant. That no longer applies.

Clare: It strikes me that for all this talk about liberating women, it was men who got liberated, they no longer have to pay for sex–either money or marriage.

Larry: It was women who demanded equality and liberation–now they’ve got it all they do is complain.

Clare: I suppose it’s OK for women who get the exciting job–top executives and big companies, models like Pamela, actresses.

But what about all the women slaving away at boring jobs and offices and factories, who wish to God they could afford to stay home and run the house and cook the dinner?

My mother never worked, her generation didn’t unless they had no other option. When I got back from work it was me who cooked some dinner. It didn’t matter how tired I was…

Larry: That was your own fault! Don’t whine to me about letting him use you as an unpaid servant. You have a tongue in your head, you should have told him straight that it wasn’t on; if he couldn’t go fifty-fifty with you, you could hit the road and not come back.

Clare: I did. In the end, I did.

Can a Happy for Now Ending Be a True Romance?

Larry is Clare’s friend, yes. But slowly, he begins to be something else. Something much more meaningful.

Yet Clare is not a woman to be taken lightly. She now knows what she wants in life and expects no less.

“I love you,” he whispered…

“You can’t be in love with me. It isn’t possible…You only want me because I refused you. I’m sure that if I gave in yesterday and let you seduce me you wouldn’t have asked me to marry you today.”

“You could be right,” he replied equably. “You presented a challenge I have to overcome somehow…I want to kiss you until you–“

“Until I submit to you! …That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Domination and submission you dominate and I submit. I refuse to play that game. I’m not going to marry you. When I marry–if I marry–it won’t be someone powerful and domineering like you. I’ll marry someone with whom I’m equal.”

“But we are equals, first,” he argued. “Haven’t you noticed you’re almost as tall as I am and you’re strongly armed as well as strong-willed?”

His mouth curved ruefully and he touched the plaster on his forehead. “You proved in no uncertain way that you refuse to be dominated…That you’re reckless, don’t give a damn for convention and you like to have your own way as much as I like to have mine.”

Final Analysis of A Violation

At the end of A Violation, Charlotte Lamb leaves Clare and Larry’s status ambiguous. There is no definitive yes to marriage. Even so, that’s okay. Things are happy.

For, oddly enough, the frightening, life-altering experience Clare has gone through enabled her to find her true self. And in knowing herself, Clare knows what she wants in a lifetime partnership.

To be equals to a man, yet complementary; two pieces of one whole part.

A Violation is not a book I “enjoyed” experiencing. It was uncomfortable, yet also invigorating. It succeeds as a story of a woman’s self-discovery. As a romance, I’m not sure where it fits.

If you can handle the sensitive subject matter, I think it’s worth a read.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
2.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis