Category: 4 stars and a half

Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

Frost and the Flame
Frost and the Flame
The Frost and the Flame, Drusilla Campbell, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover Art

Spoiler Alert ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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 and liked the heroine’s growth as a character, but 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell”

Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream sabin
Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Blue Falcon gives Karen A. Bale’s Desperado Dream a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating. Introvert Reader, on the other hand, explains her negative perspective of the historical romance in her review.

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This review is of Desperado Dream, the sequel to The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale.

The Story:

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.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”

Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

Moonstruck madness

Mild Spoilers 😉

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Moonstruck Madness is old school in a clichéd, but still an oh-so-perfect way. For the very reasons some reviewers dislike this book, I adore it. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, her best book.

The Characters

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 them off to England to 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 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain”

Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber

Country Bride, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance # 3059

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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 Harlequins, 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, and I recall really loving it. Although this book maintains a largely positive rating overall, I was surprised that the top Amazon and Goodreads reviews were negative, blaming 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.

The Plot

Country Bride is the sequel to 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.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber”

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

Sweet Fire, Jo Goodman, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.

The Plot

Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies now residing in San Fransisco, 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 much more sophisticated and unsurprisingly young stepmother. But, of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.

On the other hand, Lydia is a woman of social conscience, as 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, killing women on the streets. Sadly, 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!... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman”

Category Romance Review: Forever Mine, Valentine by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Forever Mine, Valentine, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Harlequin, 1990, Daniel Crouse cover art

Harlequin Temptation #288

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Forever Mine, Valentine was my introduction to the now, sadly, defunct Harlequin Temptations line. The Temptation imprint launched in North America in March 1984. These books were far more sensual in nature than Harlequin’s other series, the Romance, Supperromance, and Presents lines. Temptations featured main characters from all walks of life, not just the rich. They took place anywhere, from small towns to big cities to tropical destinations.

The setting of Forever Mine, Valentine, is mostly in a shopping mall in Colorado, where St. Valentine, himself, is a character in the guise of Charlie Hartman, a sweet, seemingly doddering, old man.

The Plot

Jill Amory left her old life behind to wander across the country on foot, with just a backpack. Including a stable dentist boyfriend. She paints windows for businesses to earn a little money and has a deadline set to travel all the States. Jill doesn’t quite know what she wants in life, but she knows it is not commitment.

Spencer Jegger owns a successful sporting goods store in the mall.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Forever Mine, Valentine by Vicki Lewis Thompson”

Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan

Tender Feud, Nicole Jordan, Harlequin, 1991, Pino cover art

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The Plot

Nicole Jordan’s Tender Feud is an engaging Harlequin Historical where the enemies-to-lovers trope is used against the backdrop of 18th-century Scotland.

Katrine Campbell has left staid England behind for adventure in her ancestral Scottish homeland. Unfortunately, her Campbell relatives are feuding with the Macleans. On her first night in her family home, Katrine gets caught in the middle of it all, and is kidnapped.

Her captor is hunky Raith Maclean, leader of his clan. Maclean is a widower, not looking for remarriage, and certainly not looking for love with his half-Scots-half-English enemy.

There are tons of sparks flying between the fiery Katrine and stubborn Raith. They argue lots but are secretly attracted to one another. The romance takes time to unwind, as Katrine is one of those “spunky” heroines, and Raith is determined to “dominate” her by his will.

Instead, the two learn to build a relationship on trust. Raith has a young female relative with whom Katrine builds an endearing friendship. Raith’s sexy cousin Callum flirts with Katrine. Although she’s not interested in him beyond friendship, Raith glowers and disapproves.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Tender Feud by Nicole Jordan”

Historical Romance Review: Lovespell by Deana James

black steel helmet near black and gray handle sword
Lovespell, Deana James, Zebra, 1984, Pino cover art

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

Lovespell is yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like Captive Angel.

The Plot

Gillian is an English fletcher who poses as twins, the male Gil & female Gillian. A Norman knight named Brian is badly beaten and his armor has been stolen by an errant squire. He is rescued by Gil who cares for him and helps him heal. Brian is a man often too proud for his own good. His honor demands he must pay recompense to Gil for saving his life so he helps him/her make arrows. To satisfy his life debt, Brian must help Gillian bring the arrows to arm the English, the enemies of his people.

In due time Brian figures out Gil’s true identity. He falls for her, as she does for him. This is just the beginning of their love story.

There are many misadventures along the way, as a cast of multi-faceted secondary characters soon takes the stage, adding more drama, romance, and tragic elements to this story. The man who stole Brian’s knight returns, and he’s not quite the evil character Brian first thought he was.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Lovespell by Deana James”

Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

“The Kenton bad temper is not going to kill my husband! I have resolved on that!”

THE CURSE OF KENTON
4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon. My Avon 1972 first-edition features the typical Gothic cover, with a heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.

In this case, it’s Castle Kenton, a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.

The Plot

Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town, and the darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.

The Curse of Kenton, Janet Luoise Roberts , Avon, 1972, cover artist TBD

Despite her better judgment, Barbara falls for the Duke, and they are quickly married, as Gilbert needs an heir before he passes on.... Read more “Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts”

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas

Stranger in My Arms, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1998, Max Ginsburg cover art

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Stranger in My Arms was the first Lisa Kleypas romance I read and found it to be quite enchanting. Although I was already familiar with this kind of plot, the book came off very fresh, if a bit improable.

The Plot

If you’ve seen the Richard Gere and Jodie Foster movie, Sommersby, you know the basic story. Here, this romantic tale takes place in Regency England, not the American South. Lady Lara, Countess of Hawksworth, is happy to be a widow. Lara had a horrible marriage to a man who was a monster to her. Hunter was cold, dispassionate, and adulterous.

Her husband Hunter was pronounced dead, having been presumed drowned at sea, the body never recovered. Now Lara is a widow, free to live as she desires.

Then the worst imaginable occurs when Hunter mysteriously reappears. Although he looks exactly like her dead husband, this man doesn’t always act like it. He doesn’t seem to know or remember certain things, which could be due to injury from his accident at sea. More likely, as Lara suspects, he’s an imposter.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas”

Category Romance Review: Changing the Rules by Gina Wilkins

Changing the Rules, Gina Wilkins, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Temptation #299
4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Plot

Changing the Rules is a sweet Harlequin Temptation from Gina Wilkins. Elise Webber and Dustin Chandler are two career-oriented people living in Georgia. He’s a high-powered attorney, she’s a news anchor for Atlanta’s top station. They’ve been dating for six months. Dustin is not a marriage-minded type of man, nor is Elise looking for anything more than a short-term relationship. The pair have an active, satisfying sex life and Elise has been diligent about taking her birth control pills. However, as Jurassic Park taught us, life always finds a way.

Elise’s pregnancy is a shock to both her and Dustin. Elise was the product of a single mother, who resented being a parent, and so Elise never thought about having children herself. But now that she’s pregnant, Elise knows what she has to do. Elise graciously allows Dustin an “out.” While Dustin might not be a lifetime commitment kind of guy, he’s not an irresponsible deadbeat, either. He has just as much to do with the pregnancy as Elise does and he vows to support her whether she chooses to keep the baby or give him/her up for adoption.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Changing the Rules by Gina Wilkins”

Historical Romance Mini-Review: Raven by Evelyn Rogers

Raven, Evelyn Rogers, Zebra, 1995 cover artist TBD

From the back of the book:

A WOMAN OF SECRETS
Haunted by memories of the terrible night that left her innocence shattered, Raven Chadwick prefers the world of make-believe to the cruel realities of everyday life. So she leaves her girlhood home of Savannah to pursue a stage career — and uncover a mysterious family secret.

A MAN OF MYSTERY
In London, Raven meets Marcus Bannerman, the enigmatic Earl of Stafford. Powerful and hotly sensual, he fills her with doubt — and awakening desire…

A WORLD OF PASSION
Then Raven discovers the truth that was once hidden amid the shadows of the elegant Stafford mansion — a secret that could change her life. Only if she believes in herself and the man she adores will Raven be able to take on her greatest role: a woman ready to fight for her true, undying love!

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Plot

Evelyn Roger’s Raven was one of those books with a little bit of everything: of course, there’s romance–the chemistry between the protagonists Marcus and Raven was sizzling, but there’s also adventure, painful tragedy, and a dash of gothic intrigue.... Read more “Historical Romance Mini-Review: Raven by Evelyn Rogers”