Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel was a crazy book that in 1991 could only have been published by the Zebra romance lines. Or in 1977 by Avon.*
It was utterly unrealistic, but I had a blast with it.
Passion’s Chains was the first romance novel I read after subscribing to the Lovegram line many, many years ago. The plot description on the back of the book sounded like this would be a riot. And it was!
Lady Eden Parrish met American ship captain Roark St. Claire in England. The two people from different worlds shared a hidden, forbidden love.
The pair married in secret. However, before they could consummate their union, Eden’s family tricked her into believing the worst about Roark.
Thus, Eden is abandoned by her husband, and her is heart broken into pieces.
Then Eden’s family whisked her off to their Barbados plantation to avoid any taint of scandal.
Eden is living a lonely existence in Barbados. Months later, Roark discovers her whereabouts in the Caribbean and follows her there. The American is captured by the British and sold into slavery.
Walking through town one day, Eden sees him at the auction block. To everyone’s scandalized shock, she purchases him as her servant.
Perhaps sentimentality plays a part in me remembering this novel so fondly. I thought this book was delightful.
Roark would sneak into Eden’s room at night and assume his “husbandly rights.” By day, he labored away in the sugar fields, plotting his escape and his revenge.
On the negative side, there was a bland secondary couple and some typical boneheaded villains.
Worse, were the stupid, big misunderstandings Eden and Roark could have avoided if they just talked and listened to each other’s words!
Final Analysis of Passion’s Chains
I don’t want to re-read Catherine Creel’s Passion’s Chains to see if it stands the test of time. I want to recall it fondly because I had such a blast reading this one!
Roark was such an outstanding hero. Eden was likable enough for a heroine.
Passion’s Chains or Shanna?
*This historical romance was a rip-off/homage to Kathleen E Woodiwiss‘sShanna, as the plots are similar identical. So are the heroes’ names, except the spellings are different.
Until 2022 I had never read Shanna. I appreciated the celebrated blockbuster considerably more than I thought I would. Still, at 600+ pages, it was a long read.
Passion’s Chains is a leaner story at 400 pages, without much filler. That is amazing for a Zebra romance!
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book more than Shanna. Maybe it’s for the reason I mentioned, out of nostalgia, or just because I read Passion’s Chains first. But I did love this one.
Rating Report Card
HE HAD BETRAYED HER Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her own!
SHE STILL LOVED HIM Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master. He knew just how to tame her wild spirit and make those emerald eyes shimmer with passion’s fire. Before long, he would possess every silken inch of her…for this night and all the nights to come!
Savage Rapture begins with two lovers parting company. Michael Holliday, a white doctor, leaves his wife, Waterflower, and their son, Cade, 2, with her people, the Cheyenne Indians. They make a pact: that one day, Cade will go to Michael in the white world and then return to the Cheyenne and assist them with the knowledge he gains.
Fast forward 15 years. Michael summons Cade to Washington, D.C. to expand his knowledge. Among those he leaves behind is Snow Blossom, daughter of village chief Tekata and the book’s heroine, who is deeply in love with him.
While with his father, Cade gains knowledge, becomes a doctor, and falls in love with and becomes affianced to Lauren Brent, a local heiress. However, their relationship comes apart from their disparate views on what their lives will be like.
Cade returns to the Cheyenne, as does his father Michael, with Lauren in tow.
As Cade returns to the Cheyenne camp, he falls in love with and later marries Snow Blossom.
Part Two of Savage Rapture
Her brother, White Eagle, falls in love with a white woman, Rebecca Wade, and later marries her.
When Lauren arrives, she thinks she can break Snow Blossom and Cade up and reunite with him.
Once she realizes this isn’t going to happen, Lauren becomes deeply depressed. This depression is lifted once she matures a bit and falls in love with Running Wolf, a brave from another Cheyenne band. For a while, the three couples are happy.
However, major–literally–trouble is brewing. Army major John Chivington, a known Indian-hater backed by factions in the government, hires three trappers–one with his own agenda–to kidnap the three women to try to force the Cheyenne off their land.
Snow Blossom eventually makes her way back to Cade, but not before learning a secret about his past.
Chivington is defeated–temporarily.
Snow Blossom and Cade, Running Wolf and Lauren, and Rebecca and White Eagle all extend their lineages with children, and all the couples have their Happily Ever After.
This is the first book by Mrs. Sommerfield where she really made me care about the characters. All of the characters are fully developed, and there is a strong vein of family themes running through the book.
This is more of a personal thing for me, but Savage Rapture could have been a little spicier regarding the love scenes. The ending was a little disappointing. I would have liked to see Chivington and the other evil characters get a little more comeuppance.
Mrs. Sommerfield’s love scenes are all about purple prose and euphemisms. Heat level: about a 2 or 3.
Multiple killings, which are mostly done “offscreen.” Physical violence, threats of violence, but nothing really graphic.
Bottom Line on Savage Rapture
Savage Rapture, for me, is great but not a 5-star read. More like a 4.25 or 4.5-star book.
Rating Report Card
CAPTIVE OF HIS PASSION Beautiful Snow Blossom had waited years for Cade to return to the reservation. His warm smile and sparkling blue eyes had promised her a lifetime of fiery passion. Just the thought of their first lingering kiss made her ache with desire. Without her even knowing it she had become a…
CAPTIVE OF HIS LOVE But as soon as the handsome half-breed rode into the Cheyenne camp, Snow Blossom knew that he had changed. He had lived in the white man’s world too long; he was in love with another. Yet when he held her in his arms all else ceased to matter. He had made her a prisoner of his passion – somehow she’d make him a captive of her heart.
Miranda Lee’s An Outrageous Proposal is an outrageously sexy Harlequin Presents. This book was released as a Presents Plus, a special series within the regular Presents line that ran for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.
I gather that these books were written by the line’s best-selling authors. Initially, they were longer than the average Presents by about 20 pages. The covers were also colored and had individualized fonts for the authors’ names. By the time the last Presents Plus was published, the length no longer mattered, and the covers looked more or less like regular Presents.
Laura had been happily married to Dirk Thornton. The only thing that would have made their marriage perfect was a baby. After years of vigorous efforts, however, the couple had trouble conceiving. Laura became so obsessed with her inability to have a child, leading to their marriage crumbling. After a vicious argument, Dirk left her.
Six months have passed, and it seems Dirk has spent no time grieving over the end of his marriage. The high-powered attorney is seen around Sydney’s flashy events with even more striking brunettes dangling on his arm.
When the book begins, Laura sees Dirk at the Opera House with one of those sexy ladies. Laura can’t help but feel jealous. She has never stopped loving her husband. It had been almost impossible to bear seeing Dirk flaunting his many women, and without the support of her former in-laws, Dirks’ brother, and his wife, she’d be lost.
A Separated Couple
Laura realizes she wants her husband back and asks for reconciliation. Dirk is cruel and throws her offer back in her face. Did she really think he’d take her back so easily? If she wants him, she has a long line to wait behind.
Laura won’t be deterred. Then Dirk reveals to her that he’s sterile. There will never be any children for them. To his way of thinking, what’s the point of marriage if there can’t be children? Dirk proposes instead of reconciling, they engage in a no-strings affair.
Laura and Dirk do just that; this is where Miranda Lee shines. She excels at writing hot steamy scenes without delving into raunchiness.
Laura realizes that without Dirk, children don’t matter. She can live without offspring, but she can’t live without her husband!
So, holy moly, it’s a shock to the system when Laura finds out she’s pregnant!
The Reunited Lovers
Hold on to your horses because here is the revelation: Dirk was never sterile.
Moreover, all those women he’d paraded around town were part of a ruse to make Laura jealous to fight for her man. Dirk had read somewhere–perhaps on a paper placemat at a greasy spoon sometime in the wee hours of the night after a bender–that women have difficulty conceiving if they’re too obsessed with it.
Laura’s constant focus on having a baby was the very thing that prevented her from getting pregnant!
By removing that concept from the equation, Dirk knew Laura’s anxiety would subside, enabling them to engage in lots of steamy sex, and then… viola!
A miracle baby would solve all their problems.
Final Analysis of AnOutrageous Proposal
Laura and Dirk, and the child will make a happy family. And Dirk no doubt will come up with another outlandish ruse in the future to keep his marriage satisfactorily kinky.
I absolutely cherished this oddball romance. It indeed had an outrageous proposal for a wild plot. I marvel at the craziness of Harlequin Presents’ stories. The best writers could sell the wackiness, making these little books such entertaining and addictive reads. Miranda Lee’s sensuous writing shines here in An Outrageous Proposal. By this time in her career, she had hit her stride.
1995 would be a prolific and productive time for the writer, as this was also the year she released her Hearts of Fire miniseries.
An Outrageous Proposal won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents Plus in 1995.
Rating Report Card
Laura wasn’t surprised when she saw Dirk Thornton with a glamorous brunette: her estranged husband’s reputation as a womanizer was well-known to her. But she was shocked by her feelings for Dirk–they weren’t dead at all and, what was more, he knew it!
Soon Dirk, a top Sydney criminal lawyer, was pursuing her relentlessly, but Laura couldn’t forget that she’d been unable to conceive his child–which meant that there could be no future for them. Why then was she still tempted to accept Dirk’s simply outrageous proposal?
An English lady runs away to Texas, in pursuit of a groom.
Lady Cecily Thorndale has lived her whole life preparing for her future role as wife to the Earl of Devonshire. But when the future Earl, Charles Worthington, goes to Texas to oversee land the family has purchased – and stays there – Cecily decides the only thing to do is to track him down. Arriving in Texas with her lady’s maid and all the determination she can muster, Cecily sets out to conquer both the new world and her reluctant fiancé. She captivates her new neighbors and shows Charles that the one thing that’s been missing from his adventurous life is her. Originally published in 2000 under the title Nobility Ranch, To Love a Lady is the first volume in the Titled Texans series about a family of English nobility who set out to tame the American west. With humor, romance and authentic historical detail, To Love a Lady takes readers on a romantic journey to 1880s Texas.
This review is of Nobility Ranch (e-book title To Love a Lady), book #1 of 3 in the “Titled Texans” series from July 2000 by Cynthia Sterling.
The book takes place in Fairweather, Texas, circa 1882. Lady Cecily Anne Thorndale, the heroine of the book, has come to Texas to find her fiance’, Charles Edward Worthington, Lord Silsbee, the hero of the book, and get him to marry her. The thing is, Charles came to Texas to get away from marrying Cecily in England. (Charles came to Texas to manage a ranch his father and a business syndicate own).
Cecily’s arrival in Texas is memorable, as she is arrested for being a prostitute (she’s not, but she was in the company of three of them when arrested). Charles bails her out and takes her-and the three prostitutes-to his ranch, the Double Crown, also known as Nobility Ranch. Despite taking her to his home, Charles is not happy that Cecily is in Texas and spends a large portion of the book trying to get her to return to England. As the book goes on, Charles’ reasons for his behavior are revealed. Later, Cecily and Charles get a little push to realize that they truly do love each other.
Later, Charles’ younger brother, Reg, arrives. Like Charles, Reg has been sent to Texas to manage another ranch. By doing this, however, the Silsbee brothers acquire an enemy in local sheriff John Grady, who owned the ranch Reg will now be managing. (Charles has been at odds with Grady since the beginning of the book). Charles and Grady call a truce by the end of the book.
In the end, Charles is called to England by his father, who is ill. Cecily goes with him. On the way, they marry. Will their Happily Ever After be in England or Texas? You’ll have to read the series to find out!
Ms. Sterling has an easy, flowing writing style that is both complex and easy to understand. She immediately brought me into her story of Nobility Ranch, making me feel like I was in Fairweather, Texas, circa 1882, and watching her characters’ lives rather than reading words on a screen on my Kindle.
Cecily and Charles are both engaging, well-developed characters, and Ms. Sterling chronicles their relationship in a very linear way that creates and holds interest. She also introduces multiple other relationships and supporting characters who will appear in the later books in the series.
I also like the theme running through the series: when society has expectations for us, our families have expectations for us, and we have expectations for ourselves, which path do we take? The heroes and heroines of the “Titled Texans” series will answer those questions, in ways that may surprise readers, and even the characters themselves.
Nothing really that I can find.
One love scene between Cecily and Charles, that is fairly good, but not terribly erotic.
No “on-screen” violence, but one off-screen act of violence, which is not graphic.
Ms. Sterling gets her “Titled Texans” series off to a great start with Nobility Ranch/To Love a Lady. It’s not a 5-star book, but it is a very good one.
This review is of Midnight Princess, book #1 in the “Marshall Brothers” series by Jo Goodman, a pseudonym used by Joanne Dobrzanski. Published by Zebra/Kensington, November 1989, the book was later reissued as Her Defiant Heart. (This series connects to Ms. Goodman’s “Dennehy Sisters” series). This review is of the original print book.
Heroine: Jenny Holland, 24. Brown hair and eyes. Mystery woman.
Hero: Christian Marshall, 31. Copper hair, aquamarine eyes. Publisher, New York Chronicle newspaper.
Location: New York City, New York. December 1866-May 1867.
Tropes: Historical Romance. Mystery woman. Newspaper publisher. New York City.
The book starts in New York City, December 1866. Christian Marshall, the hero, one of the series’ eponymous titular characters, and publisher of the New York Chronicle newspaper is at a hospital for people experiencing emotional distress. He’s watching one of the “patients,” a woman known as Jane Doe, being treated. He feels sympathy for her and decides to help her.
Later, she shows up at his home.
“Jane Doe” has a real name; it’s Jenny Holland, the heroine. As the book continues we learn more about the traumas she’s suffered in her life. We also learn about Christian’s trauma and that Jenny has three people who want her dead.
In the end, Christian rescues Jenny from a perilous situation. The villains trying to kill her are stopped. Christian gets a major—but very pleasant–Christmas surprise. Jenny and Christian marry and have their Happily Ever After.
Ms. Goodman is a licensed therapist, and this imbues her writing. Many of her heroes and heroines have significant trauma that they are trying to work through, and Jenny and Christian are in that category. This makes Midnight Princess an interesting, compelling book, and Jenny and Christian are interesting developed characters.
Even though I found the book compelling, I can’t say that I truly liked either Jenny or Christian. This is an issue I have with Ms. Goodman’s work. I find it interesting, but I can’t say I like her characters. The supporting characters only exist to advance Jenny and Christian.
Ms. Goodman writes good love scenes. They don’t get anywhere near erotica, but they do explore what the characters in the scenes are feeling and can be very emotional and romantic.
Assault, attempted rape, battery, sodomy, and murder all occur in the book. The violence is not graphic.
Midnight Princess/ Her Defiant Heart is a very dark book and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, readers who like books with solid character depth and interesting storylines may like it.
There are Christmas tales that inspire, ones that make us cry, and others that make us laugh with the joy of being alive. The Harlequin Temptation romance, Too Many Husbands by Elise Title, falls into the latter category. It’s a zany romp of a romance that could have been an old-fashioned screwball comedy on the live screen.
What does a woman do when she has not one, nor even two, but three husbands coming over for Christmas?
No, this is not a remake of the 1940 romantic comedy of the same name starring Fred MacMurray and Jean Arthur. Nor is it related to the similarly-styled film My Favorite Wife, which starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Even so, you can see their influences, as Too Many Husbands is as silly and enjoyable as those films.
The Wacky Plot
At only 28, Casey Croyden’s a hotshot in the commercial real estate market. Due to her laser-beam focus on business, she has one failed marriage behind her. When the largest Japanese hotel chain owner decides to set his sights on the US market, Casey is just the one to make the deal.
The only impediment is that Toho, the owner of the hotel chains, is a “traditional” man. This means he might not accept entering into a deal spearheaded by a single woman whose focus is solely on her career. So Casey concocts a plan to have Toho and his wife Akiko stay with her in a huge rented house in a cozy New England setting with Casey and her husband. That is, an actor hired to play her husband.
Enter John Gallagher. He’s Casey’s new next-door neighbor. His unexpected arrival on her doorstep has Casey mistaking him for the actor she hired. She plants a big kiss on him, to John’s bewilderment, and acts as if they’re madly in love. John, to his benefit, plays along.
It Gets Even Wackier
Things take a wacky turn when David, the real actor, shows up. Caught in a trap of her own making, what’s Casey to do? What would any good actor do? Improvise! David is relegated to Casey’s brother, who’s also spending Christmas with them.
Remember, though, this is called Too Many Husbands, not One Husband Too Many. Who else turns up? Casey’s ex-husband, Wes. Casey and her ex aren’t on bad terms, but his appearance is bound to cause confusion. As a result, he’s given the role of a family friend.
To make the situation even more insane, John’s ex-wife, Brenda, appears. An ex-wife would muddy the waters more, so she’s presented as Casey’s best friend.
If you’re counting, that’s three husbands and two wives, not including Toho & Akiko. That makes for a winning combination as a full house beats out a three-of-a-kind hand!
It’s a full house indeed when Casey’s PA drops by to check on how the merriment is progressing. She’s shocked to find her normally cool-headed boss all distressed. What’s with this Christmas tomfoolery?
Somehow Casey should be out of her mind trying to broker a deal with Toho, all while trying to keep up appearances. John is her solid rock, and she can’t help but rely upon and be attracted to him. The pair are forced to share rooms and matching robes. “The Walls of Jericho” (a reference to the famous 1930’s comedic romance It Happened One Night) are raised to keep things platonic.
John is even described as looking like Clark Gable. (Although he looks nothing like him on the cover!) John remains a man of mystery, as we never learn much about him. We do know that he has no feelings for Brenda, their divorce was amicable, and he only has eyes for Casey.
Final Analysis of Too Many Husbands
Too Many Husbands is a hilarious romance. Nothing is meant to be taken seriously except the love story. As said, this book is a screwball comedy in the style of films from the 1930s and 1940s.
Have you ever seen the Frasier episode “The Two Mrs. Cranes,” where Daphne, wanting to fend off an old boyfriend, pretends to be married to Niles? Then Roz shows up and pretends to be Nile’s wife, “Maris,” who is “married” to Frasier. And the cop father pretends to be an astronaut? That was one of the funniest moments on television, and that’s what this book is like. One bit of slapstick silliness followed by another!
An epilogue wrapping up this story would have been the perfect bow to add to this gift of a Christmas romance. There are some loose ends, so it’s not perfection. But whether it’s Christmas or any time of year, Too Many Husbands is an exceptional, sidesplitting tale that will keep you smiling for a long time.
Rating Report Card
Naughty and Nice…
All Casey Croyden wanted for Christmas was a husband. Not a permanent one – just a man to play the part and help her impress the traditional Japanese businessman she was entertaining over the holidays. Sounded simple enough. Hire one from Actor’s Equity.
When John Gallagher arrived on her doorstep, the attraction between them was no act. And the debonair Mr Gallagher was no actor! Casey didn’t have the faintest idea who he was, but she had no time to trifle over details. Especially over the other minor glitch in her plan…what to do with him when the lights went out!
This review is of Timeless Love, book #11 and the final book in the “Bachelor Arms” series. It is the second of two written by Judith Arnold, a pseudonym for Barbara Keiler. (Harlequin Temptation #565, published December 1995).
Heroine: Hope Henley, 25. Black hair, brown eyes. Sales clerk in a retail store.
Hero: Morgan Delacourt, 30. Brown hair and eyes. Cartoonist. New millionaire.
At the beginning of the book, Morgan Delacourt is celebrating his newly minted millionaire status. That happiness, however, is short-lived as Morgan hits Hope Henley with his car. Although it wasn’t his fault, Morgan feels immense guilt as Hope is in a coma as a result of the accident. He vows to take care of Hope, pays her medical expenses, and lets her move in with him.
As they spend time together, we learn more about them, including Hope’s connection to the mystery that began in the first book in the series. They also fall in love with each other, although both try to fight it.
In the end, the mystery of Bachelor Arms and Hope’s part in it are revealed. She and Morgan become lovers. They get married and have their Happily Ever After.
Both Hope and Morgan are likable, developed characters. I liked the fact that Morgan took responsibility and cared for Hope even though he didn’t have to. He and Hope are very nice relatable characters who are the type of people I would love to know as real people.
Slightly nitpicking, but at times Morgan was condescending towards Hope for her beliefs. I probably would be too, but it was still annoying.
Two love scenes that are not graphic but fit in well with the rest of the book.
Other than Morgan hitting Hope with his car, no violence.
Bottom Line on Timeless Love
Readers who like a romance with a caring hero and sensitive heroine will find lots to like in Judith Duncan’s Timeless Love.
Flights of fancy were not Hope Henley’s style. So why did she flee in terror after just one glance at the infamous mirror in Apartment 1-G–straight into the path of Morgan Delacourt’s car? Having just arrived in L.A., Hope reluctantly accepts Morgan’s generous offer of convalescence at his home. Suddenly she is believing in all sorts of crazy notions. Like destined, timeless love with sexy Morgan. But that couldn’t possibly be. Determined bachelor Morgan is tied to Hope by guilt, not by love. And the secret of Bachelor Arms isn’t connected to her. Or is it?
Could the history of Bachelor Arms be about to repeat itself?
I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.
A Legendary Romance
Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.
The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And if you do, it will cost you quite a penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars.
I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!
There’s a good reason this book is highly prized.
The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers, he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.
Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.
“He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.”
THE SILVER DEVIL
It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.
For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.
Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the overwhelming heat and decay of Fidena during a hot summer when the plague that runs through town.
Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.
The Villainous Hero: The Silver Devil
One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and with a snap of his fingers, she is made his.
Felicia does not want to go willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? In vain, she resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her to surrender to the devil’s demands.
Although Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.
Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.
Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.
As they travel through the hot, dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants escort Domenico and Felicia. Former mistresses accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them callously when they seek his favor.
The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and, for its time, took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro, who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.
Once Domenico’s affection dies out, only contempt remains. Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.
I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice it enough to say he does his admirers wrong. He is ruthless in his brutality.
A Difficult to Believe HEA
As a result, it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.
The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Domenico is humbled several times over while Felicia remains at his side. Felicia proves she is more than an object of desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. With her by his side, Domenica will rise to power once more.
The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.
“I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.“
THE SILVER DEVIL
The writing in The Silver Devil is gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.
Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, and too gruesome for me to call it one.
It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.
I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.
Final Analysis of The Silver Devil
Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Duchy, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.
He is feared by others but not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.
In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a gloriously positive note.
Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.
For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.
Rating Report Card
Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online
I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to several sources where you can read the free PDF or internet version of The Silver Devil at no cost.
He was cold. He was cruel. A ruthless sensualist riding headlong to hell. He was the Silver Devil – Domenico, Duke of Cabria.
Felicia was the illegitimate sister of a tavern-keeper. She felt nothing but terror when they told her that she had been chosen as the Duke’s next mistress, and when they took her, decked in silks and jewels to the Silver Devil’s bed…
Reeve Holden had bailed out Clea Moore’s brother one too many times. He wished his best friend would finally grow up. As for Clea, she’d been daddy’s little girl for too long.
In fact, Reeve didn’t want anything to do with the Moore family. As far as they were concerned, he’d come from the wrong side of the tracks. His rebellious, streetwise manner had been too much for Clea’s class-conscious, affluent parents. But he owed her brother a lot. Now was his chance to pay him back – maybe his chance to show Clea the stuff he was really made of.
Madeline Harper’s The Jade Affair happens to be one of my top Harlequin Temptations due to its engaging reunited lovers’ plotline. The duo of Madeline Porter and Shannon Harper wrote historical romances as Anna James or Leigh Bristol and Gothic romances under the pen name of Elizabeth Habersham. They published several category romances for Harlequin by combing one first name and last name.
In this romance, the chemistry between the protagonists is fantastic as they play detectives to find some missing jade artifacts.
A Gem of a Romance
Clea and Reeve had been dated as teenagers and fallen deeply in love. But their relationship could never be as they were from different social classes. Clea’s family was part of the upper-crust echelons, while Reeve was a tough boy from the wrong side of the tracks. They ran off to be together, but Clea’s parents tracked them down. Through lies and manipulation, they were able to separate the couple for years.
But Clea and Reeve each held a special place for the other in their hearts, never forgetting their forbidden romance.
Over the years, Reeve has maintained a friendship with Clea’s brother. Now he’s in trouble due to a mysterious jade artifact, and Clea needs Reeve’s help.
The pair embark on an investigation. They must pose undercover in a wild scheme to get to the bottom of the elusive jade mystery. Can Clea and Reeve leave their past behind them to focus on what needs to be done in the here and now? Has what’s been left in the past been truly gone?
Final Analysis of The Jade Affair
Despite the mystery of the jade affair, this is no intense romantic suspense story. As a Harlequin Temptation, the relationship and sexual chemistry are always at the forefront. Clea and Reeve struggle with their feelings for each other, but their connection is undeniable. That’s a massive part of The Jade Affair‘s charm. The duo works well together as partners-in-solving-crime, and they’re even better together in a romantic partnership. There’s plenty of humor in here besides sexy scenes.
Once Reeve lets go of resentment of their past breakup, the emotional walls come down. They’re able to delight in each other’s company. Although out of print, I’d recommend giving this one a try if you can pick up a used copy. The Jade Affair is a second-chance-at romance done right.
This review is of Seduced and Betrayed, #8 in the “Bachelor Arms” series, and book #2 of 3 in the series written by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation, September 1995).
The book begins in 1970. A woman finds her boyfriend, naked, in bed with another woman, who is also naked. Their relationship isn’t the only thing that ends that night.
Fast forward 25 years. Ezekiel “Zeke” Blackstone, 47, the book’s hero, is heading to a planning meeting for his daughter Cameron’s upcoming wedding. He is a famous actor turned producer/director and a major player in Hollywood.
Zeke is nervous, however, because this meeting will bring him face-to-face with Ariel Cameron, 43, the heroine of the book, Cameron’s mother, and Zeke’s ex-wife. (They were the couple who broke up in the first paragraph!). Ariel, a successful actress turned model, has been estranged from Zeke for 25 years.
As Zeke takes an apartment–ironically the same one he lived in before at the “Bachelor Arms”–we learn how he and Ariel met, became lovers, married, and the circumstances that led to their divorce. We also learn that despite all that has happened between them, Ariel and Zeke are still very attracted to each other. They later act on their attraction and become lovers again. For a while, Ariel and Zeke are happy again.
However, Ariel soon finds a reason to doubt Zeke again. In the end, however, Ariel and Zeke commit to each other and their love and find their Happily Ever After.
Ariel and Zeke are both strong characters, both as younger people and as the mature adults they are in the primary setting for Seduced and Betrayed. They are fairly well-developed and interesting people.
Ms. Schuler is very good at getting me, as a reader, into her characters’ minds and their emotions. So much so that even during the lovemaking scenes between Ariel and Zeke, I felt like I was there with them, not as a voyeur but as part of them.
One of the drawbacks to the category romance format is that certain things can get short shrift because of the relatively short nature of the books (around 200 to 300 pages). In Seduced and Betrayed, this crops up in Ariel’s relationship with her mother, Constance, who controls Ariel’s career. Constance’s reasons for doing so and why Ariel allows it are hinted at but never truly explained.
Given that this relationship had major implications for the early days of Ariel and Zeke’s marriage, this was a rather large miss.
Several love scenes between Ariel and Zeke. They’re not quite as good as in Lovers and Strangers,but they’re good nonetheless.
Ariel throws several objects at Zeke, who also kicks in a door.
Bottom Line for Seduced and Betrayed
Seduced and Betrayed is a very good book, with one issue keeping it just below the great category.
* * *
Hero: Zeke Blackstone. Actor/producer/director. Black hair, brown eyes.
Heroine: Ariel Cameron. Actress/model. Golden blonde hair, blue eyes.
In 1970, Zeke Blackstone was a smokin’ hot 22-year old bad boy actor staring in his first Hollywood movie. His co-star was 18-year-old Ariel Cameron, America’s TV sweetheart. Their instant chemistry—both on and off the screen—culminated in a whirlwind affair that came crashing down one night in the tragic aftermath of a wild party at the Wilshire Arms.
Now, twenty-five years later, Zeke is still smokin’ hot with a well-earned reputation as both a ladies’ man and a leading man. Ariel is one of the most respected actresses in America. Neither has willingly been in the same room together since their divorce was final.
But their beloved daughter is getting married and all she asks of her estranged parents is that they make nice for the wedding. Thrown together for the wedding festivities, the attraction between Zeke and Ariel reignites and all the old feelings come rushing back, stronger than ever.
Can they work through the hurt and betrayals of the past to make it to their happy ending?
First Love, Wild Love, a Zebra Lovegram romance, begins in Texas, where Calinda Braxton, the heroine, has come from England to investigate the disappearance of her father, Elliott “Brax” Braxton. Her arrival in Texas is not welcoming, as the stagecoach she’s on is robbed. The stagecoach guard is killed, and the other passengers blame her because she fought back. Disconsolate and penniless, Calinda is taken in by the madam of a house of ill repute and given a room. What happens here sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Calinda is given laudanum by the madam (not for nefarious purposes, but to help her sleep). Into the room comes the owner, Lynx Cardone, the hero of the book. Thinking that Calinda either was sent to his room or heard about him and decided to come on her own, Lynx has dubious consent sex with Calinda. She agrees to have sex with him, but she’s under the influence of the drug. Afterward, they argue and vow never to see each other again.
Later, Calinda is visited by Rankin Cardone, Brax’s former partner in their ranch and, unknown to her at the time, Lynx’s father. Rankin invites Calinda to come to the ranch (not entirely for altruistic reasons; he also wants to know what happened to Brax, and he’s hoping to match Calinda and Lynx, not knowing they already know each other in the biblical sense). When Lynx comes home, he sees Calinda and thinks she’s a gold-digger out to trap him, which is not the case. Once that issue is resolved, Calinda and Lynx fall in love and marry. Calinda’s happy, Lynx is happy, Rankin’s happy.
One person who is definitely NOT happy is Salina Mendoza, the Cardone’s housekeeper, who fancied herself the future Mrs. Lynx Cardone. She tries various tactics to get rid of Calinda, from defiance to trying to seduce Lynx, to kidnapping to conspiracy to commit murder. None of these efforts ultimately succeed, but they do drive a wedge between Calinda and Lynx.
Another issue between Calinda and Lynx is his frequent absences from home. Eventually, the reasons behind this are explained.
By the end of the book, the reasons for Brax’s disappearance are explained as well, and Calinda and Lynx have their Happily Ever After.
Calinda is a strong character. She has to deal with a lot of heartache, pain-physical and emotional-as well as various forms of danger, but she survives.
Some of Calinda’s dangerous situations occur due to her naivete, and she finds herself in trouble and relies on Lynx to save her.
Lynx is too perfect a hero. He finds himself in dangerous situations and always comes out scot-free without a scratch. I found this unrealistic.
What I REALLY didn’t like, however, is the way Mrs. Taylor resolved the Brax issue. Rather than Brax explaining in his own words, there are hints throughout the book and a summary at the end. I feel the book would have been better if Brax–and the others involved–could have spoken in their own words about what happened and why it happened. I found the ending very unsatisfying.
Lots of love scenes with lots of euphemisms and purple prose. That’s how Mrs. Taylor writes her love scenes.
In addition to the stagecoach guard being killed, Calinda is shot in the shoulder but survives. Plus other scenes of shootings, assault, and batteries. The violence is not graphic.
Books like First Love, Wild Love deserve a gradient of stars. It’s not really a 5-star book; more like 4.25 or 4.5 stars.
Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie.
It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!
It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.
Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.
That’s not an issue here. Except for a few flashbacks, Alexie’s Sometimes a Stranger starts in 1970 and ends in 1979. With tweaks, it could take place nowadays. But in retrospect, the author was smart to lock the story into its timeframe.
Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Paradise Press, 1990 edition, cover artist unknown
Greeks Bearing Gifts
Andrea Carswell, an American travel journalist, goes to Athens to write about the splendors of Greece. And promptly falls in love with one. Alexander Deklos, the playboy heir of a powerful family in the shipping business. His uncle Spyros Demitriades runs the far-flung enterprise, Delphi, Limited. Alex is too busy having fun to take part in it.
He falls in love with Andrea as quickly as she does with him. Which throws a wrench into the plans of his mother, Olympia Deklos, to marry him to another child of a wealthy Greek family, Athena Lampos. Olympia’s marriage was arranged by her parents. Isn’t that good enough for Alex?
Well, no. He won’t give up Andrea for anything. But he does give up his carefree lifestyle. Alex becomes a major player on Team Delphi. Both choices come with consequences.
Life In the Fast Lane
Then stuff happens. Lots of stuff! To avoid spoilers, that’s as far as my summary will go. But here’s a hint. The plot covers jealousy, business intrigue, workaholism, medical crises, disaster, family feuds, secrets, revenge. Plus, a theme forbidden in today’s romance fiction. Infidelity.
But these disparate themes all work together to enrich the main one, the love between Andrea and Alex. It’s central to the story even when their relationship hits the rocks. Which it does with a force that can be measured on the Richter scale!
The author employs multiple points of view. But the most frequent POV character is Andrea. A woman who deeply feels every emotion. Which the author conveys with great sensitivity.
And Alex? He’s an alpha hero, all right. He displays that millennia-old failing of his fellow countrymen, hubris. He’s always right, even when he’s wrong!
Though the heroine remains sympathetic throughout the story, the hero is all over the good-bad spectrum. A paragon and a ruthless businessman. A family man and a libertine. A dream lover and a total ass.
Yet these extremes and everything in between are all phases of the same man. Such is the author’s skill that I can believe Alex as every one of them. And all are fascinating. Even when he’s at his worst, I understand why Andrea still loves him.
The settings are numerous. Mainly Athens, the Aegean island of Mykonos, London, and New York. These places seem real; reading about them is the next best thing to being there. But in a profound sense, the story unfolds in the hearts and minds of the main characters. Which IMHO is where any story should.
Dutch edition of Sometimes a Stranger, Zo Dichtbij en Toch Ver Weg (So Close and Yet Far Away), Phoenix, 1982, Franco Accornero cover art (front & back cover)
Sometimes a Stranger does almost everything right. Almost? Yes. A few aspects could be better.
The cast of characters is large, and some of their names sound similar to those of others. And can be in the wrong form given the characters’ ethnicities. For example, Alexander should be Alexandros. I know, that’s just a picky little detail.
More serious is this. A major plot thread, the heroine’s career, is handled poorly. Early on, Andrea gets into writing novels. But success comes too easily. And with a minimum of drama. That’s one of only two aspects of this book with insufficient drama.
The other is her family. Wisely, the author gives them less attention than Alex’s relatives. But they don’t warrant even that. They’re just not that interesting. And in the case of Noah Truesdale, Andrea’s grandfather, it’s hard to believe a powerful newspaper magnate can be such a nice guy. Though I must admit my idea of a man in his position was formed by watching “Citizen Kane”!
Alex’s kinfolk and their interactions make for fascinating reading. Andrea’s don’t. One of these families is dysfunctional. Guess which one.
But don’t let that stop you from reading this novel. And how I wish someone in Hollywood would buy it from a used-book website, find it as enthralling as I do, and turn it into a movie!
This 11 book continuity series takes place in/around the Los Angeles apartment complex the “Bachelor Arms”. Why there are only 11 books in the series instead of 12 is an unsolved mystery. The books are written by four different authors: books 1-3 are written by Kate Hoffmann; 4-6 by JoAnn Ross; 7-9 by Candace Schuler; and 10-11 by Judith Arnold. Although the series has four different authors, there is a subplot running through each book of the series.
Private Eyes…They’re Watching You
Bachelor Husband begins with Harry Truman “Tru” Hallihan, the hero of the book and a private investigator, working a case. He has been hired by multi-millionaire Simon Marshall to find out if his son-in-law, Hollywood producer Ellis Stone, is cheating on Marshall’s daughter, Marianne. Although Stone has had three after-hours meetings with a woman, Tru hasn’t found any really incriminating evidence.
Later that night, at a poker game, Tru bets his friends he can discover the true identity of radio sex therapist Dr. Carly Lovelace and bring her to the weekly poker game. If Tru succeeds, his friends will cure his current financial anemia.
Tru easily discovers the real name of “Dr. Carly Lovelace”; she is really Dr. Caroline Leighton, the heroine of the book, and the woman Stone was meeting with. When Tru asks her to come to his poker game, she at first refuses but agrees when he agrees to help her out of a jam she’s in. (Caroline has an offer to take her radio show to television, but she needs a husband; Caroline is divorced. Tru agrees to play the role of “Lance Lovelace”, “Carly’s” paragon-of-virtue husband at a party Caroline is attending). Another reason for Tru’s agreeing: he’s very attracted to Caroline.
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
Tru is less happy to play Lance when Caroline micromanages his actions. Caroline is unhappy about having to spend significant amounts of time with Tru, as she is also attracted to him, but trying to fight it. Caroline and Tru stop fighting their attraction to each other and become lovers.
After their intimate encounter, Caroline discovers Tru’s current job. She breaks up with him after jumping to a conclusion.
Method of Modern Love
Realizing he can’t live without her, Tru confesses his love for Caroline at the taping of her television show. They reconcile and have their Happily Ever After.
There’s a lot to like here. Caroline and Tru are the same age: 35. They both have doctorates, although Tru doesn’t use his. They’re both professionals. Caroline and Tru are a well-matched couple with good chemistry between them.
Not much to complain about from my end of the world, although Caroline’s at times controlling personality-which Ms. Hoffman explains the reasons for in the book- may not appeal to all readers.
One love scene that takes place during Caroline’s radio show, which is fairly hot but not super erotic.
No physical violence.
With Bachelor Husband, Kate Hoffmann gets the “Bachelor Arms” series off to a good start. It’s not a perfect book, but it is certainly in the “good-to-very-good” category.
Ready, Willing and Abel was my first foray into the Silhouette Desire line. Nancy Martin penned a ridiculous, sexy romp that made me fall in love with the series. Featuring an Indiana Jones-like hero and a button-downed heroine working in fast-paced Washington DC, this story was not based at all in reality. It was so over-the-top and silly; I adored it.
Abel Fletcher has just come back from a recent archaeological expedition. He carries with him a sacred totem that supposedly is imbued with magical powers. Namely the power to make a person fall madly in love after touching it and gazing upon a special someone. The charm is supposed to work both ways, but Abel believes it’s all nonsense. That is until he falls madly in love at first sight with Samantha Wyatt.
He first sees Samantha at a softball game, swinging away at a pitch, her skirts and hair swirling around her. Abel stares dumbfounded at her as she runs the bases. The love-struck fool stands there as she slams into him, and they roll onto the ground, creating the scene that’s on the cover.
Abel is confounded. Who is this beautiful creature? Why is he so head-over-heels gaga for her? And why doesn’t she reciprocate the feelings?
Samantha Wyatt is a respectable, no-nonsense type. She has a dream job working in politics, and her life is fine, if a little dull. She’s not the wild, adventurous type. In fact, even playing that softball game was completely out of character for her, as some friends had cajoled her into the at-bat. Then she literally runs into this crazy, disheveled, although admittedly handsome man who claims they’re destined to be together.
Abel is determined to convince Samantha he’s the man for her. But what could these two disparate people possibly have in common?
Hmm… What could it be?
Oh, that’s right! This is a red-covered Desire romance. That means some sexy times are ahead!
Despite her misgivings, Samantha can’t help but be charmed by the besotted treasure-hunter. He’s so honest and direct, unlike anyone she’s ever met. As Abel gets to know Samantha, he realizes his love-at-first-sight isn’t skin deep. There’s a warm, passionate, giving woman beneath the icy veneer. Abel is set on proving to her that their love is the real deal!
The Love Story
The characters are older in Ready, Willing and Abel than in the usual romances I had come upon. That is, both the hero AND the heroine were. Abel is in his early 40s, and Samantha is well into her 30s. So it makes sense that Samantha is mature and level-headed. On the other hand, Abel is a kid at heart who is supposed to be like Harrison Ford with charisma.
I know, you’re probably thinking: “What? Harrison Ford was Han Solo and Indiana Jones and the US President kicking ass on Air Force One.” Yes, the roles he’s played are intriguing, but I’m talking about the man. Have you ever seen him do an interview? Total snoozeville.
Anyway, Samanta and Abel make a romantic pairing that is a delight to read about.
Abel decides to return the stone to show Sam what he feels isn’t magic; he truly loves her. So he does just that, going back to the jungles where he found the totem. The natives are straight from an episode of “Gilligan’s Island,” so unclench your butts and take it all in with a sense of humor because this book is played for laughs, not enlightenment.
Final Analysis of Ready, Willing and Abel
Upon finishing Nancy Martin’s Ready, Willing and Abel I tore out the postcard mailer in the middle of the book and filled it out, anxious to read more Desire romances. I found a wonderful variety in that series, some books funny, like this one, some deep and tragic, and most of them were enjoyable, erotic entertainment.
Like all things, the category line has changed over the years. Now it’s basically an imitation of Harlequin Presents but with American billionaires instead of foreign ones.
Eh, keep your jet-setting billionaires. I’ll take the wacky, madly in-love adventure-seekers any day.
Professor Abel Fletcher didn’t believe in love at first sight. It had to be the sacred love stone he’d recently acquired that was making him act like such a dope. What else could explain his sudden attraction to coolly aloof Samantha Wyatt? And anyway the charm was supposed to turn her into his sex slave. Why wasn’t she tearing off her clothes and falling at his feet?
Samantha knew she should stay far away from dangerously distracting Abel. She kept trying to convince the footloose adventurer that she wasn’t interested in a relationship–especially with a man who traveled halfway around the world in search of lost treasures. But she knew if she wasn’t careful, Abel would realize she was ready and willing!
Ruth Langan‘s Highland Heather is the sequel to her previous Scottish romance, Highland Barbarian. I liked this Harlequin Historical much more than its predecessor. Why? I enjoyed the conflict between the hero and the heroine and the English setting, plus introducing Queen Elizabeth I to a story always makes things interesting.
Brenna MacAlpin is the middle MacAlpin sister, whose elder sister Meredith went and married her beloved Highlander. Brenna is now the leader of their Scots clan. However, it’s not easy going for her as she has enemies, namely the English. Moreover, Brenna does not have the same fierce disposition as her elder sister. Brenna is more even-tempered, dare I say, more lady-like. Her men are blindly loyal to her, regardless, but leading is no easy task.
The Queen’s Savage
One day, the Queen’s Savage himself, Lord Morgan Grey, arrives to implement Queen Elizabeth’s plan to marry the MacAlpin off to an English lord, which she believes will lead to peace. The MacAlpin household warily welcomes Morgan and his men. Upon hearing the intentions of the English, Brenna flees into the wilderness. Morgan pursues her and takes Brenna as his “unwilling guest.” The scene where Morgan catches her in a field of heather is beautifully depicted on the front cover.
The Queen believes that by uniting the MacAlpins to a powerful English family, “the bloodletting will cease.” Brenna meets several prospects while under Grey’s captivity, but strangely, Morgan appeals to her more than any other. Morgan, too, finds Brenna captivating.
Although Brenna and Morgan form a bond beyond captor and captive, Brenna is always conscious that she is his prisoner. She vows she will never be forced into marriage. This will-they-or-won’t-they struggle is filled with erotic tension.
A few adventures in store for the potential pair draw them closer together before their story comes to a thrilling conclusion.
Final Analysis of Highland Heather
One reason I was drawn to Highland Heather more than its predecessor is that I’m more partial to the English setting than Scotland. Blasphemy, I know, as there’s an entire romance genre built around Highlanders. There are only so many stories about feuding clans I can take before they seem the same. That also may be why I also preferred the third entry in this series, Highland Fire, as it’s set mainly in Ireland. Regardless, it was the overall love story that was compelling here.
Despite his moniker of the Queen’s Savage, Morgan is gentle with Lady Brenna. While she fights her feelings for him, it’s evident that if she must marry an Englishman, there’s only one man she’d choose. Seeing their romance unfold was a thrilling experience that had me looking forward to the next installment in the series.
Drusilla Campbell‘s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain.
For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.
The Crazy Plot and Characters
I loved the Russian setting of The Frost and the Flame. The heroine’s growth as a character was fun to watch. Alas, the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!
Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked.
The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her. The Prince seems so sweet and kind at first, but he soon proves to be a lustful rogue. Nothing will stop him from possessing Tanya.
Prince Oleg is seriously obsessed with Tanya, but he’s not in love. He’s not capable of true feeling. Don’t dare think the villain in The Frost and the Flame has a heart
Even the demonic, baby-killing Robert Bellesme of Anita Mills’s Lady Of Firewas more of a romantic softy than Oleg. Oleg loves to abuse and use his Tanya, but he does not care about her. He degrades her in awful sorts of ways, so make no mistake about finding redemption in him!
Plus, the dude is going crazy. It’s hinted that Oleg has a brain tumor or something because his headaches make him act more insane.
Even as Oleg will do whatever it takes to make Tanya his, he also has a cruel and jealous wife who will stop at nothing to see Tanya pay. Poor Tanya suffers so much through this book. It’s one catastrophe after another.
But wait, there’s more! There’s a twisted secret–
No, no, I won’t say. I spoil enough romances; I won’t spoil another. Although I’d hardly call this bodice-ripper a true romance.
As for the hero? Well, Tanya spends much of it separated from her boring Alexei. He vows to have his Tanya and pines for her, however, ends up having affairs of his own. Not much of a hero, but Tanya loved him, so I tried not to dislike him. There’s not much to like or dislike about Alexei. He’s just there.
The Unconventional Ending to an Unconventional “Romance”
At the conclusion of The Frost and the Flame, Tanya is reunited with her beloved Alexei. Sadly, Tanya has been so hurt by Oleg’s torments that marriage is not on her agenda right away. She loves Alexei, yes, although wants to have a deeper relationship with him before taking it further.
Final Analysis of The Frost and the Flame
So this is a unique romance, The Frost and the Flame, has a Happy For Now ending, not necessarily a Happily Ever After.
Am I ok with that? Bodice rippers occupy a strange corner in Romancelandia, where they can do just about anything. As long as it’s an optimistic ending and the book was fun, I don’t mind. This one was.
Oleg, the psycho villain, was the star of the show. I enjoyed watching his mental and spiritual decline while Tanya grows from an innocent girl to a mature woman. This may not be everyone’s idea of an entertaining romance; however, I consider myself a satisfied reader. I’m holding on to this one!
Rating Report Card
Convent-bred and seductively beautiful, eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova was journeying across Russia when suddenly a band of murderous serfs attacked her traveling party. Soon she was rescued from her frozen hiding place by none other than the dashing Prince Oleg Romanov — only to become the object of his insatiable lust.
Helpless to defend herself against this cruel aristocrat, Katiana had no choice by to become his frigid, taunting mistress — despite the vindictive jealousy of Oleg’s wife, Princess Elizabeth.
But Katia longed only for Alexei, the gentle handsome nobleman whose very soul seemed to burn with a quiet passion — for his people and — could she hope? — for her.
Ravished and betrayed, Katia would eventually escape Oleg’s clutches to a country half a world away. But would she ever be reunited with the man who could melt her frozen passion with the glorious flame of his love?
This review is of Desperado Dream, the sequel to The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale.
It is 11 years in publishing time, but only 1 year in book time as the relationship between Lisa Jordan Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, continues. The couple and their daughter, Raya, live on a ranch in Monterey, California. The relationship between Lisa and Eric was tumultuous in The Forever Passion, and nothing changes in this book. After Eric and Lisa’s brother, Tom, go to San Francisco on a legal matter, they become involved in rescuing a woman, Teresa Torres, who falls for Eric, and he becomes attracted to her too. Meanwhile, back at the Del Mar ranch, Lisa has been kidnapped by a bandido named Cruz Estacan, who has orders to kill her, Eric, and Eric’s grandfather as a means of retaking the land Cruz and his cohorts believe belongs to them.
Cruz is falling in love with Lisa, so he makes a deal with his boss to save Lisa’s life. The bargain: Her marriage to Eric will be dissolved, and she and Cruz will be married. Cruz decides to take Lisa back to his ranch in San Diego. Along the way, they stop at the home of an old friend of Cruz, Miguel Figueroa, who is Teresa’s cousin and is engaged to be married. The shock: Miguel’s future bride is Cruz’ wife, Soleda. Cruz and Soleda are not legally divorced; therefore, Cruz and Lisa are not legally married, either.
Cruz eventually takes Lisa back to his ranch, where they live together until Eric, Tom, and Teresa arrive. A tragedy takes place and Eric, Lisa, and Cruz are plunged into a dramatic love triangle. Who does Lisa choose? The answer is…you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Ms. Bale is a very evocative author. I felt her characters’ emotions and understood–if not always agreed with–their motivations for their behavior. The characters of Lisa, Cruz, Eric, and Teresa are fully developed. Ms. Bale made me feel as though I was watching real people instead of reading a book, a huge thing for me. Only the best writers can make me feel that way.
The “man or woman falling in love with two men or women” trope is, sadly, one Ms. Bale has used before; in at least 8 of Ms. Bale’s books that I’ve read. (Ms. Bale has 18 titles to her credit: Source: FictionDB. I’ve read 17 of them.) I do understand that creative individuals will repeat themselves, but to do it on 40% of your work is a bit much to me. Eric is a hypocrite. He hates the fact that Lisa was with Cruz but got upset with her when she objected to his sleeping with another woman in The Forever Passion. Do as I say, not as I do. The storyline about Cruz and his henchmen is somewhat weak.
There are sex scenes in the book, but they are quite mild.
Multiple scenes of assaults shootings, knifings, and killings. Most of the scenes are not graphic.
Desperado Dream is not good enough for a five-star rating, but it is a good low-to-mid 4-star book.
Moonstruck Madness is old school historical romance in an oh-so-perfect way. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, best book.
Moonstruck Madness begins as the heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick, watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor.
The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs her family off to England to reside in their absent father’s run-down estate.
Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure out a way to support her family.
The hero is His Grace, the golden-haired Lucien Dominick, Duke of Camareigh. When we first see him, he’s challenged to a duel by a young hothead. At dawn, he makes quick work of his opponent, displaying his sword-fighting talents.
Lucien’s face bears a dashing scar from when one of his cousins had cut his face as a child.
Speaking of Lucien’s cousins, they share a strange quasi-incestuous relationship and are the obvious villains of this book. They connive to have Lucien done away with to obtain the Dukedom.
Meanwhile, Lucien’s grandmother wants to see Lucien married, and Lucien seems resigned to seeking a wife, but certainly not one for love.
So Sabrina takes on the wild idea of becoming a highwayman. With the help of two burly locals, she takes on the name “Bonny Prince Charlie,” puts on a mask and hat, deepens her voice into husky timbre, wraps herself in a tartan, and holds up the rich nobles who travel the dark country roads in their coaches.
Lucien, after being robbed and taunted by the Bonny Prince, snares a trap to catch “him.”
I love how Sabrina and Lucien have a sword fight, Lucien gets the best of her, as he is the better swordsman. They engage in tender lovemaking; there is no force, no dominance. I’ve said before in other reviews Laurie McBain might have been old-school, but she was never a bodice-ripper author.
When it’s discovered Sabrina is pregnant, the Marquess, in a rage, whips her mercilessly, only for Lucien to put a stop to the brutality and carry her off in his arms.
That’s more or less the first one-half to two-thirds of this book.
Unfortunately, in the second half, Sabrina and Lucien are at odds for too long.
However, it does pick up and get exciting towards the end as a search for hidden treasure brings them back together.
Final Analysis of Moonstruck Madness
I adored Moonstruck Madness. the first time I read it, I was in my twenties and loved it. The second time, I was in my thirties and enjoyed it a little bit less, but still found it a thrilling read.
As I said, the end falters a bit because the two stubborn hotheads are at odds for too long. nevertheless, this story was an entertaining, swashbuckling romance.
Rating Report Card
She’s one thing by day, something else altogether by night…
After escaping the slaughter of her clan at a young age, Scottish noblewoman Sabrina Verrick provides for her siblings by living a double life, until the night she encounters the Duke, and her secret and all she holds dear is threatened…
He’s so disillusioned, he’s completely vulnerable…
With his inheritance at stake, Lucien, Duke of Camareigh, sets a trap for the Scottish beauty with the piercing violet eyes, never imagining what will happen when the trap is sprung…
As their lives become irreversibly entangled, Lucien and Sabrina become each other’s biggest threat, as well as their only salvation…
Debbie Macomber‘s Country Bride was my introduction to this hugely popular author. I’m ashamed to admit that although I’ve read a handful of her romances, I had no idea that Debbie Macomber was such a commercial hit with her small-town romances. Up until recently, I had no clue that she’s got a whopping 200 million books in print and has written several movies for the Hallmark channel.
Country Bride was released in 1990. I recall really loving it. This book maintains a largely positive rating overall. But I was surprised that the top Amazon and Goodreads reviews were negative. They blamed the heroine for being too self-centered or the hero for being too overbearing. I thought nostalgia might have colored my opinion of this book, but after a recent re-read, my feelings on Country Bride remain unchanged; I love this little series romance, and a big reason was the hero, Luke.
Country Bride is the sequelto Macomber’s A Little Bit Country, and I read the books in reverse order, which negatively affected my opinion of the first book in the series. In A Little Bit Country, countryman Clay dumped his girlfriend and fiancee, Kate Logan, for Rorie, a city girl. Country Bride picks up at Rorie and Clay’s wedding, where the heroine keeps up a brave face, pretending to be happy for the newly wedded couple, even though she’s heartbroken inside. Giving her support is her long-time ranch foreman, Luke Rivers.
I was really into soap operas back when I first read this book, so my head did a bit of mental casting for Luke. I pictured him as actor Randolph Mantooth, of Emergency fame, whom I knew from the ABC daytime soap Loving as the smooth, level-headed half of the super couple Alex and Ava. Ava was a manic, crazy “bad-girl,” a perfect foil for the sedate Alex. (Side note: you could always tell who Loving’s big couples were because of the alliteration, like Trisha and Tucker, Rocky and Rio, etc., although lots of soaps did that, too).
I thought Mantooth’s handsome, even-keeled attitude fit perfectly for Luke.
Anyway, Kate downs one too many champagnes at Rorie and Clay’s wedding reception and flirts outrageously with Luke, going so far as to propose to him. The next day she’s embarrassed. But Kate is sure that Luke will quietly forget all about her silliness. To her shock, he’s insistent that the proposal was real, and what’s more, that Kate has feelings for him.
He stands firm on acting if their engagement is genuine and that they truly are a couple. That confession blindsides Kate. Where had all this come from? To her, Luke was just dependable, reliable Luke. He was always there to do what was expected of him. How dare he act as if he knows what’s in her heart?
It’s All About Perspective
Now I suppose if I have imagined Luke like this:
I would have thought Luke’s behavior was pushy and creepy. But in the land of romance, our heroes are always handsome, and on rare occasions that they aren’t, they have lots of magnetism that draws people to them.
Kate is stubborn. Luke is a bullheaded man. The two are certain that their way is right. Luke calls Kate his “princess,” which is a bit squicky. However he knows Kate is a high-maintenance type of gal, and he’s up to the task been of keeping her happy. He’s tired of being ignored. So he takes advantage of the best opportunity he gets to show Kate her love for Clay was an illusion.
Final Analysis of Country Bride
I think it’s possible that readers who dislike this romance don’t like heroes who claim to know the heroine’s mind better than she does hers, which is a fair argument. It’s just in this case, Luke’s right. Kate’s feelings for Clay might have been genuine, but they never ran deep. She just saw him as the perfect guy and partner. Kate, who tried to cultivate a reputation as the perfect woman, had her mind fixated on Clay. It was never truly her heart.
This over 30-year-old small-town romance may seem from another world entirely and may not appeal to modern readers who don’t like men who come on as strong as Luke did. I don’t mind it if it’s presented appealingly. For me, this book worked. I thought this was a sweet romance about two people who made an unusual but convincing pair and would rank it as one of the better Harlequin Romances I’ve read.
Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies. They now residein San Francisco, California.
The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her more sophisticated and only slightly older young stepmother.
Of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.
Lydia is a woman of social conscience. She tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, murdering women on the streets.
The mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was. But I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.
Lydia lets Nathan and Brigham know she’s onto their game and is having none of it! She knows their flattery and claims of affection are false. She wants nothing to do with either of those fortune-seekers.
For Nathan, it’s not so false at all.
Nathan is a devil, however. When circumstances lead to Lydia getting injured, it results in amnesia.
Nathan takes advantage of the situation, whisks Lydia far away, and marries her.
With Lydia’s wall of reserve removed, they embark on a passionate honeymoon.
One steamy love scene follows another as Nathan tries to cement a solid foundation if–or more likely, when–Lydia’s memory returns.
It does return, and so does the danger that lurked around her. Who can Lydia trust? Who can she love?
Final Analysis of Sweet Fire
There are multiple threads woven throughout Sweet Fire. Jo Goodman skillfully created a vast tapestry of characters that I cared about. Events led to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.
I’ve read Jo Goodman’s Sweet Fire twice so far. While the second time around wasn’t as exhilarating as the first, I still had a fun time. The 13-year-old me loved this book, while her 35-year-old counterpart enjoyed it very much.
Instead of rating this 5 stars as I would have when I first read it, I’m settling on a 4.5 rating for Sweet Fire.
Rating Report Card
SHE LONGED TO LOVE HIM Told all her life that she was plain, Lydia Chadwick knew no man would come courting because of her looks. So it was with some suspicion that the shy, sweet San Francisco heiress woke one morning with a tall, dark, dangerously handsome husband she couldn’t recall marrying. Lydia had lost her memory, and was desperate to discover if there was truly a love to remember. For as she looked at Nathan Hunter’s lean, muscular frame, she longed to abandon herself to the sensual stranger, and believe—if only for a little while—that the possessive passion in his smoky gray eyes was really for her.
HE ACHED TO HAVE HER Business and pleasure weren’t supposed to mix, but in this case Nathan Hunter was willing to make an exception. After all, it was in his best interests to keep his new bride’s mind off the secrets of her past. Making sure she didn’t remember her hatred for him turned out to be the easy part, as he initiated the innocent Lydia to womanhood. Not so easy was keeping sight of his own goals as Lydia’s sweet surrender wove a seductive spell around Nathan’s heart, arousing emotions he had thought forever buried…