Category: 4 stars

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

So Speaks the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1983, Robert McGinnis cover art

Spoiler & Major Douchebag Hero Alert ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Caveat Emptor:

I acknowledge that not all readers can tolerate a cruel, rapacious hero in their romance; that’s why I gave a rare warning for this book. It’s fair to compare So Speaks the Heart (which should be subtitled: Medieval Norman Psychopath Falls for French Co-Dependent and Fellow Anger Management Classmate) to another of Johanna Lindsey’s works, A Pirate’s Love, which had a similar captor/captive trope.

However, So Speaks the Heart is IMO better than the latter because: 1) This heroine is not a spineless jellyfish, fights back, and is strong in her own way; and 2) The hero is more than just a good-looking rapist who eventually falls in love with the woman he’s been tormenting. Ok, he’s as deep as a crack in the sidewalk, and, yeah, he’s still a bully and a douche. But his background is fleshed out a lot more; therefore, we understand why he’s such an arsehole. So I can sort of forgive this hunk of a warrior for his caveman behavior. Plus, this is not a book to take seriously; it’s too whacktastic.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”

Category Romance Review: Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White

Forbidden Fantasy
Forbidden Fantasy, Tiffany White, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #367

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Book Burned Forever in My Memory

I burnt the beans!

Whenever I hear of Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White, a category romance from the 1990s, that’s the first thought that pops into my head. Then I recall the sweet twist which the plot hinges upon. An Editor’s Choice pick for the Temptation line, Forbidden Fantasy was a book I enjoyed, sure enough, although I wouldn’t rank it as an all-time great, even if it is etched in my mind.

The Plot

Zoe is in Paris trying to put as much distance between herself and a bad relationship–namely, her marriage to her ex-husband. He was a cop who spent too much time at work and too little with her, both physically and emotionally. So she left him behind and fled to Europe on a voyage of self-discovery.

Now Zoe’s got French friends and loves to shop in the city. On one of her forays, she realizes a handsome American man is stalking her. What starts as a flirtatious game turns into a sensual love affair. Grey is everything her husband wasn’t: a good listener who shares his feelings with Zoe and is eager to spend time with her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White”

Category Romance Review: This Hell Called Love by Jane Donnelly

This Hell Called Love
This Hell Called Love, Jane Donelly, Playmore Inc and Waldman Publishing, 1969, cover artist unknown

Baronet Books #4200-104

Spoiler-free review 🙂

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Power of Love

Though I try not to get too personal in my reviews, here I must note that my favorite romance trope is
“Such is the power of love.” Someone does something extraordinary for love. It might break the rules,
defy the law, or fly in the face of common sense. It typically means great effort, sacrifice, sorrow, and
angst. But a protagonist does it anyhow. His or her love is mightier than anything else.

This Hell Called Love is a remarkable example of this trope. It also deals with themes we don’t usually
find in category romances of any generation, mental illness, and substance abuse. Make no mistake, this
isn’t a light read. But if you can take a load of gritty realism, it’s a very moving one.

First, a bit of bibliographic info. The author, Jane Donnelly, was a prolific contributor to various Mills &
Boon/Harlequin series. According to her Wikipedia page and Goodreads bio, she had over sixty
romances published by these companies between 1965 and 2000.... Read more “Category Romance Review: This Hell Called Love by Jane Donnelly”

Historical Romance Review: Savage Conquest by Janelle Taylor

Savage Conquest, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1985, Elaine Duillo cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review is of Savage Conquest, the 9th and final book–although the 6th published–in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series by Janelle Taylor.

The Plot:

Savage Conquest begins in 1873, approximately 17 years after the previous book, Forever Ecstasy, ended. It is not a happy time for Miranda Lawrence, the “heroine” of the book–only the second half–and her fraternal twin, Amanda, the heroine of the first half, both 18. Their parents, Joe and Marie “Morning Star” Lawrence, are presumed dead in a boating accident. (Their bodies have not been recovered.) Amanda, who is seeing fellow shipping company owner Weber Richardson, decides to take over the family business. She also later meets Reis Harrison, a man whom she is attracted to, and starts to fall in love with. There are, however, issues standing in their way: Reis is not entirely truthful about why he came to Virginia, and he has a long-standing beef with Weber, who feels similarly predisposed towards Reis.

Amanda and Reis become lovers and later marry surreptitiously, and Reis sets into motion a plan in which he hopes to trap Weber and expose him for what he really is.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Savage Conquest by Janelle Taylor”

Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

Siren Song, Roberta Gellis, Playboy Press 1980, cover artist TBD

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Siren Song, the first in Roberta Gellis’s Medieval Song trilogy, takes us to 13th century England.

The Plot

Lady Elizabeth is not a beauty, but she is intelligent, capable, and now heiress to vast lands, with her brothers and father recently deceased. Elizabeth is married to Mauger, a cruel, murderous lord who wishes for nothing more than to aggrandize himself by whatever means necessary. Mauger has the looks of an angel yet the disposition of a demon. There is no deed too vile for him, as he eagerly breaks every Commandment. It is no mere coincidence that Elizabeth’s brothers conveniently died, leaving her, and thus Mauger, quite wealthy.

Years ago, Elizabeth had been in love with Sir William of Marlowe, and he with her. But parental manipulations led to them being forced to wed others. Now, William is a widower with a daughter of soon-to-be marriageable age.

Mauger has eyes on Marlowe and seeks to wed his and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Aubrey, to William’s daughter, Alys. Once the two are married, Mauger has plans for William’s untimely demise.

William seeks only one thing: to be near to Elizabeth again.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis”

Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan

Beyond compare
Beyond Compare, Penny Jordan, Harlequin 1990, Ted Sizemore cover art

Harlequin Presents #1282

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Holly Witchell, the heroine of Penny Jordan’s Beyond Compare, suffers a bit from an overinflated ego combined with an oblivious nature. Thankfully, Drew, the wonderful hero of this book, sorts matters all out for her.

The Plot

Holly was ignominiously dumped by her boyfriend Howard for the more sophisticated, Rosamund. That’s not something Holly will accept laying down, so she concocts a plan to get him back. Hadn’t Rosamund been dating old, reliable Drew Hammond before she’d gotten together with Howard? Well, who better than he to help Holly break up the new couple than Rosamund’s old former flame?

Holly approaches Drew, a farmer, whose the salt-of-the-earth type, with her plan. They’ll pretend to be a couple and make Howard and Rosamund jealous.

Drew isn’t exactly chomping at the bit at her plan to get Rosamund back, and Holly assumes it’s because Drew’s insecure. Holly assures him he has nothing to be insecure about. He’s handsome, even if–OMG–he wears glasses of all things, has a steady income from his farm, and any woman would want him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Beyond Compare by Penny Jordan”

Historical Romance Review: The Heart Remembers by Barbara Hazard

The Heart Remembers, Barbara Hazard, Signet, 1990, Gregg Gulboronson cover art
4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Fitting Sequel to a Great Love Story

The Heart Remembers is Barbara Hazard’s sequel to one of the more poignant and beloved romance novels I’ve enjoyed reading: Call Back the Dream. In it, Camille Talbot, a mere vicar’s daughter, and Alexander Maxwell, a Viscount and heir to an Earldom, find love but are only reunited only after many years of separation and loss. Because of Alexander’s father’s nefarious machinations, Camille and Alexander married other people even though Camille was pregnant with their son Jack. Though a tearjerker for certain, Call Back the Dream ended happily, as all romance novels should.

However happy endings aren’t perfect endings because the actions of years past can have lasting and damning effects.

Camille and Alexander from Call Back the Dream suffer for the cruel manipulations enacted upon them, mainly those by Alexander’s father, a bigoted earl whose evil deeds brought down his own destruction as well as hurting the generations after him.

The Plot

Jack is dealt the shocking blow that the man he thought his father was actually not.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Heart Remembers by Barbara Hazard”

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

Harlequin Historical #157

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Sequel to My Personal Favorite Romance

As I’ve said before, author Louisa Rawlings (aka Sylvia Halliday) wrote exquisite romances. She penned the sensational Stolen Spring, which took place during the era of Louis XIV. Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books, Stranger in My Arms.

Wicked Stranger, Louisa Rawlings, Harlequin, 1992, cover artist TBD
Wicked Stranger, Louisa Rawlings, Harlequin, 1992, cover artist TBD

The Hero, the Heroine, & the Plot

Noel, this books’ hero, is the devil-may-care twin brother of Adam from Stranger in My Arms is as different from Adam in temperament as they are as similar in looks. Noel is a flirt, a charmer who always sees the positive in life, and prefers to live without responsibilities. Adam is broody, quiet, gruff, duty-bound, awkward with women, and suffers from the horrors of the Napoleonic wars as he was a general, while Noel was a mere corporal.

Noel Bouchard is in New York after living in France. He’s looking to make his way in life, and meets the elite Babcock family. The Babcocks have several daughters, one being the lovely, yet prickly, Elizabeth, whom Noel is strangely drawn to.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings”

Historical Romance Review: This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Lovely red-gold-haired, violet-eyed Lenore is the female protagonist of Valerie Sherwood’s This Towering Passion and the primary heroine of its sequel, Her Shining Splendor, which tells the tale of both Lenore and her daughter, Lorena, from the English Civil War to the Restoration eras.

Lenore’s beauty is of little use to her because while she can get a man, she has trouble keeping him.

The Plot

First, as is standard in a Sherwood novel, the heroine gets together with her first lover, who’s typically a hunky block of wood. Here, Lenore becomes infatuated with the hottest guy in town, a big blond stud who’s a charismatic black hole. Although he’s a mite too friendly with other ladies, he and Lenore get handfasted.

But, alas, he leaves Lenore behind, looking for adventure by fighting against the English army. Lenore, who has no one else in the world, won’t be left all alone and seeks him out, only to find he’s killed in action.

Meanwhile, the dashing Cavalier, Geoffrey Wyndham, is on the run himself. He and Lenore meet on the road, and within hours of finding Lenore’s “husband’s” dead body and with Roundhead troops hunting them down, Geoffrey says, “What the hell, life’s too short!”... Read more “Historical Romance Review: This Towering Passion by Valerie Sherwood”

Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway

Desert Hostage, Diane Dunaway, Dell, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Other than E. M. Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik, the Dell-published Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway would qualify as my most-liked sheik romance.

Harems and desert sheiks romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, as I prefer historical heroes to be swordsmen, cowboys, or knights. Nevertheless, a man like Karim who is passionately devoted to his heroine makes for a great hero, and a romance with such a male protagonist will certainly catch my interest.

The Plot

This is another book where the half-European, half-Arab sheik carries off his object of desire into the sandy dunes and makes her his.

The story starts with a bang where we read about Karim’s mother and her desert abduction at the hands of a ruthless sheik. She plots and manipulates to have her son be taken to Europe where he will be educated and ”civilized.”

In England, Karim then meets and falls for Juliette, a lovely and genteel young British woman. He pursues her with restrained fervor. Karim does his gallant best to woo Juliette. But Juliette is so dumb, she san’t make up her mind about what she wants in life.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway”

Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan

Spell of the Mountains, Rosalie Henaghan, Harlequin, 1989, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Presents #3027

From the Back of the Book:

I’d sooner kiss a snake than you!”
When Sophie had angrily insulted New Zealand hotelier Jon Roberts, she’d never expected him to respond with a wager. If he managed to wangle her cherished homestead motel away from her, he’d announced, he would claim a kiss as his prize…
Sophie had no intention of losing out to arrogant Jon! Until a fateful mountain snowstorm trapped them both together — and all her best laid plans went awry…
In the wintry wonderland of the mountains, Sophie — the icy snow queen — began to melt with Jon’s charms. But chilling winds from their past still blew between them… 
.”

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan was the first “adult” romance I read. I had read some Carolyn B. Cooney and the like, but never a love story about adults.

Back in January or February of 1990 a mysterious package of 4 books came in the mail. Whoever ordered them I never learned, but my mom gave them to me, since she knew I was a book-worm.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan”

Historical Romance Review: Sea Fires by Christine Dorsey

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Plot

Sea Fires, a Zebra Lovegram written by Christine Dorsey, features bookish yet feisty Miranda Chadwick as the heroine, who’s embarking on an ocean voyage home to the colonies. Her only interests are her microscope (which had specially ground lenses designed by the Leuwenhoek himself) and examining the animalcules of various flora and fauna. (If I ever have to hear that irritating word “animalcule again,” I swear I will go screaming around like a raging madwoman.)

Our dashing hero is Captain Gentleman Jack Blackstone, who has to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the evil Spanish. (Sigh, I’ve seen that plot before, many TIMES over. Why can’t other folks be the bad guys in these pirate stories? Oh, well. Que sera sera.)

Miranda’s father has some shady dealings with Jack, as he is a smuggler himself. He’s under investigation and convinces Jack to kidnap Miranda for several weeks until the magistrate leaves town. Miranda is such a do-gooder that she won’t think twice about ratting out Jack to anyone and everyone, thus exposing his—and her father’s—pirate enterprise.

But Jack’s no villain. Jack is a pirate, but he was forced into the lifestyle to seek revenge.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Fires by Christine Dorsey”