Category Archives: 5 stars

climb the highest mountain

Historical Romance Review: Climb the Highest Mountain by Rosanne Bittner

Climb the Highest Mountain by Rosanne Bittner
Climb the Highest Mountain by F. Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny Series #5
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Family Saga, Historical Romance
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Climb the Highest Mountain by Rosanne Bittner

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Climb the Highest Mountain, book #5 in the Savage Destiny series by Rosanne Bittner.

The Plot

The year is 1864. The Civil War is coming to an end, and more white migration west is going to soon affect Abigail Trent Monroe, her husband “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, and their seven children.

The more immediate threat to the Monroes comes in the form of Englishman Sir Edwin Tynes, their new neighbor.

While that is going on…

The Monroe Children’s Lives Take Major Turns

Wolf’s Blood, the Monroes’ oldest son, is seriously injured at the massacre at Sand Creek, becomes embittered, and joins his uncle, Swift Arrow, and the Sioux in fighting against white encroachment.

Daughter LeeAnn is kidnapped by Comanches and Zeke goes to rescue her.

Meanwhile, back in Colorado, the eldest Monroe daughter, Margaret becomes sexually involved with one of Tynes’ cowboys, who refuses to marry her.

After this, Margaret tries to disavow her Indian heritage and becomes a prostitute. Margaret later marries a man, Morgan Brown, a mulatto, who buys into the Monroe ranch to help the family get back on their feet financially.

On an even sadder note, the youngest daughter Lillian, whose health has always been fragile, passes away.

These events drive a major wedge between Zeke and Abbie.

Zeke’s Brother, Dan, Finds Love…Again

Zeke’s white half-brother, Dan, is back in the West and in the Army, but without his wife, Emily, and daughter, Jennifer, he’s starting to become attracted to Bonnie Beaker Lewis, whose husband was killed by Indians.

Later, Emily dies, giving Dan and Bonnie an opening to act on their feelings. Dan and Bonnie later marry.

As For Zeke and Abbie?

Zeke sleeps with Anna Gale, a former prostitute now boarding house owner, while he is debating whether to leave Abbie and his family due to all they have endured.

However, he and Abbie reconcile and they become a family again.

For now…

The Upside

I’m repeating myself, but Ms. Bittner is exceptional at digging deep into the soft underbelly of the emotions of her characters, both good and bad. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but Ms. Bittner’s fans–of which I am one–know it’s worth it.

The Downside

Not much to criticize here in Climb the Highest Mountain. I’d love to see the Monroes be happy, but I doubt that will happen.

Sex

Ms. Bittner’s love scenes are typically unimaginative.

Violence

One thing Ms. Bittner’s readers come to expect from her books is plenty of violence, and Climb the Highest Mountain certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Assault, rape, shootings, killings, they’re all here.

Climb the Highest Mountain
Climb the Highest Mountain, Reprint

Bottom Line on Climb the Highest Mountain

Frequent readers of Rosanne Bittner’s books know what they’re getting from her work. It’s all here in Climb the Highest Mountain (Savage Destiny Series Book #5): exceptional emotionalism, and rawness.

It’s not always happy, but it’s great nonetheless. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

Ever since her gaze locked with Lone Eagle’s over a crimson campfire, young Abigail Trent knew her fate lay with the virile Cheyenne scout. She had married him, borne him children, and endured all the hardships of the rugged frontier. But even though so many years had passed, each night found the white squaw melded to her Indian mate, burning with the need to prove their passion again and again.

Now new troubles rose to challenge them: Homesteaders poured into the unmapped territory, determined to wrest the land from the forbidden lovers and their “heathen” people. Abbie and Lone Eagle had conquered greater threats than this, surviving bandits and outlaws, fevers and wounds. They would overcome this danger, too, as together they struggled for their own way of life and fiercely embraced their savage destiny.

Climb the Highest Mountain by Rosanne Bittner
transcendence

Pre-Historical Romance Review: Transcendence by Shay Savage

 stone age romance transcendence
Transcendence by Shay Savage
Rating: five-stars
Published: 2014
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Transcendence #1
Published by: Shay Savage LLC
Genres: Historical Romance, Pre-Historical Romance, Science Fiction/ Futuristic Romance, Time Travel Romance
Pages: 312
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Pre-Historical Romance Review: Transcendence by Shay Savage

We’re Reviewing a “Modern” Romance for Opposite Day

[NOTE: This “Opposite Day” review was intended to post yesterday. Unfortunately, personal responsibilities came first, and my plans for the day fell apart. I had originally intended to post four articles related to this topic. I still might publish them, as Opposite Day is an upside-down, inside-out, topsy-turvy occasion. — J. Diaz, 1.26.2023]

It’s Opposite Day today, January 25, 2023. So instead of a review for an old-school retro romance novel, we’re discussing something more modern: a caveman romance.

Okay, sure, the following book was published eight years ago. It’s not the hottest new read. Still, this is one of our favorite love-stories from the last 23 years. As far as we old dinosaurs at Sweet Savage Flame are concerned, it’s modern! (The date of publication is, anyway. The setting for this romance is the Paleolithic Stone Age.)

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Shay Savage’s Transcendence is no great work of literature; I admit that. It’s Twilight fan-fiction with a twist.

The plot is not complex. This is a romance novel about a time-traveling teen girl who finds love thousands of years in the past with a caveman who acts like her protective puppy dog.

I have never read any of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight books nor have I seen the films. I’ve never desired to, although I did read a sample chapter long ago. Even so, I know more about the series than I care to.

If the names of the main characters weren’t Ehd (Edward) and Beh (Bella), I never would have caught on. Other than the hair colors and the fact that the hero is *OMG* so possessive, I don’t see any similarity between the two romances. There are no feuding groups, love triangles, baseball games, or battles.

It’s a primal story of a brutal, natural world, a lonely man, a frightened woman, and their enduring love for one another.

The Characters

Transcendence is told from the first-person perspective of a prehistoric young male named Ehd. His family is dead, so he lives alone, surviving through his strength and hunting skills. Interesting to note that Ehd lacks the ability to speak, but he can think and reason.

One day Ehd comes upon a beautiful young female who, for no apparent reason, seems terrified, She produces a lot of loud, shrieky noises with her mouth.

This frightened woman strikes a “primitive” chord in this primitive male, and he wants to protect her. Even more, he desires to pair-bond with her.

Ehd calls the woman Beh. Over time, they learn to communicate with one another using a fusion of body language, facial expressions, and sound. Beh astonishes Ehd with her capabilities. She can create fire and build structures his mind could never have conceived. Ehd recognizes how valuable this astounding female’s worth is.

The Plot

Ehd had been so lonely, with no clan to help him survive the cold nights, he had almost starved to death. Beh alone was more capable than a good-sized clan! With her skills and knowledge, and Ehd to protect and provide, they could create a clan of their own.

Ehd’s sole purpose is to please Beh, to keep her safe, and hopefully mate with her so he can put his baby inside her.

The reader’s perspective is limited to what Ehd experiences. Since the reader–presumably–has a higher IQ than Ehd and should be familiar with aspects of living in the present world, it’s evident that Beh is no cavewoman. She is a girl from the 21st century who accidentally finds herself catapulted back to the dawn of humanity, somewhere in the mid-to-late Paleolithic Era.

How could that happen?

80% of the book is just Beh and Ehd alone, dealing with the severe environment.

There’s almost zero spoken dialogue throughout, except for a few grunted words. (Which melted my heart!)

Transcendence is a simple, bare-bones love story between a young, frightened girl and a young, frightened male trying to survive in a heartless world. Together.

My First Impressions

I loved this book! I can’t believe the intensity this made me feel. Sure enough, I cried like a baby reading it. Must have been my time of the month. (If that comment offends you, you are on the wrong site).

Transcendence is a remarkably straightforward and increasingly repetitive story. I’m not knocking its simplicity, as I adored this romance. To be frank, however, it was written on a sixth-grade reading level. The terms baby, mate, or put a baby in my mate show up on every other page!

Transcendence was quite basic and crude, with a minimal plot, but it had its charms! I suppose it appealed to my inner 12-year-old, a being I did not know was still in existence.

More likely, it shares a startling similarity with the film I consider to be the most romantic ever (with a happy ending): “Quest for Fire.”

caveman romance
Quest for Fire

In a caveman romance, it makes sense that the hero is all:

“You, my woman. I, your man. We are mated. I protect you. I throw you over my shoulder. We make many babies.”

Some Book Blogger Paraphrasing Grunts into Words

That attitude doesn’t work for me in contemporary romance or most other genres. But here in the Stone Age, it works; it makes sense.

About the Unique Hero

I’ve seen many readers label Ehd an Alpha male, but he came off as totally Beta to me. Maybe my definition of an Alpha male isn’t jiving with the accepted definition of the word.

He was a caveman, yes, but an eager-to-please, genuinely nice one. Alphas are independent males who, through their strength, vitality, or charisma, convince other men to follow them to their deaths. They can seduce women and make them hyper-ovulate with just a steely glint in their sensual eyes.

Ehd wasn’t independent at all. The loyal guy he was, he wanted nothing more than to be with Beh, forever by her side.

Ehd was constantly thinking:

“I want protect mate. I never let mate out of sight. I growl at all who comes near mate.

“My penis is hard.”

Still that book Blogger Lady

He reminded me of my dearly loved and long-departed American Eskimo dog. He was poofy, insanely loyal, hated being alone, loved to cuddle, barked at all strangers, and had constant erections when he was happy.

eskimo dog
My old American Eskimo doggie, standing by, ready to defend his pack from all sources of danger, be it squirrel, bird, or UPS delivery man.

Some readers have assumed that Ehd is a Neanderthal, with a sloping forehead and a mouth full of huge teeth. But in her introduction to her book, Shay Savage states he is part of the early “Homo-Sapien” species. It’s just that he lacks the ability to speak. Artistic license and all that.

So rather than looking like this:

romance caveman quest for fire
Handsome fellow, eh?

Ehd looks more like this:

caveman romance
He cleans up nice for a caveman.

Final Analysis of Transcendence

Shay Savage’s Transcendence was a unique experience, told from a rare (for me, anyway) male 1st-person-POV. This worked on adding a sense of confusion to the story.

A young girl is propelled back in time, and we, the readers, must put the pieces together to figure out what’s going on.

As much as I loved this caveman romance, I hope there is no sequel or one of those alternate POV sequels. (Ugg. There is).

The story finishes rather definitively. There are some hanging questions, but the ending was an ending for me. It was both a bittersweet and happy ending. One of the best endings I’ve read in a long time.

What can I say? Sometimes a story appeals beyond all rationalization and reason.

I loved Transcendence.

“ehd luffs beh”

-ACTUAL QUOTE FROM TRANSCENDENCE BY SHAY SAVAGE
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Do NOT Read This Unless You Really, Truly Want To

The ending: after many years together, producing many children and grandchildren, Beh dies of old age and illness while Ehd holds her in his arms, lets the fire in the cave burn out, and dies lying next to her, heartbroken. Just like a loyal doggie would.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

It’s said that women and men are from two different planets when it comes to communication, but how can they overcome the obstacles of prehistoric times when one of them simply doesn’t have the ability to comprehend language?

Ehd’s a caveman living on his own in a harsh wilderness. He’s strong and intelligent, but completely alone. When he finds a beautiful young woman in his pit trap, it’s obvious to him that she is meant to be his mate. He doesn’t know where she came from, she’s wearing some pretty odd clothing, and she makes a lot of noises with her mouth that give him a headache. Still, he’s determined to fulfill his purpose in life – provide for her, protect her, and put a baby in her.

Elizabeth doesn’t know where she is or exactly how she got there. She’s confused and distressed by her predicament, and there’s a caveman hauling her back to his cavehome. She’s not at all interested in Ehd’s primitive advances, and she just can’t seem to get him to listen. No matter what she tries, getting her point across to this primitive but beautiful man is a constant – and often hilarious – struggle.

With only each other for company, they must rely on one another to fight the dangers of the wild and prepare for the winter months. As they struggle to coexist, theirs becomes a love story that transcends language and time.

Transcendence by Shay Savage
CATEGORIES: , , , , , ,

***

my name is clary brown

Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

BOOK REVIEW gothic
My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo, Charles Geer
Published by: Berkley, Random House
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 246
Format: Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel was first published in 1976 under the title When I Say Goodbye, I’m Clary Brown. Charlotte Keppel, née Ursula Torday, also wrote romances and Gothics under the names Charity Blackstock–Lee Blackstock in the USA–and Paula Allardyce.

Unlike other Gothic romances, the cover of My Name is Clary Brown doesn’t feature a frightened heroine running from a dark manor, castle, or estate. I couldn’t obtain a copy of the original 1976 release. But all covers, including my 1978 Berkley Medallion issue with an Elaine Duillo-illustration, portray the heroine front and center, looking as strong as can be.

And so she should, for Clary is a woman of great fortitude and intelligence.

my name is clary brown geer
Random House, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

The Plot

Part One

It’s the mid-18th century in London, England. Clary “Diamond” Browne is an actress of little renown, working bit parts while performing under David Garrick. She’s honest with herself that she’ll never be a star, just a pretty face with the ability to memorize a few lines and turn on the waterworks.

Diamond is the mistress of an old man with whom she has an emotionless, strictly business relationship. In a moment of anger, she destroys it, telling her domineering “protector” precisely what she thinks of him: not much. Though she might depend upon him for her income, she deserves better. I loved the way she told him off. Alas, by doing so, Diamond seals her doom.

He counters that he’s tired of her and their arrangement is over. In retaliation for her cruel remarks, he conspires to have Diamond return to the village where she grew up as a poor outcast.

Clary had escaped her hometown in the boonies–aptly named Middleditch–in disgrace. She is part Rom, so her mixed heritage had marketed her as an outsider even though she had been born there. Her father was hanged for a minor crime. Then Clary was sent to live in a workhouse for homeless girls. If not for the generosity of a benefactress, Lady Caroline, Clary would have ended up on the streets.

clary brown UK Coronet version
UK Coronet version

Part Two

Now going by her stage name Diamond Browne, Clary returns to Middleditch to live in an elegant home much grander than the one in which she’d grown up.

The village is in worse condition than when she left. It is marked with eerieness and dread. The few friends Clary had in town have died under peculiar violent incidents. The poor-house burned down, killing some. Others passed from illnesses. And then some were murdered.

Her posh gowns, refined speech, and handsome manners fool the villagers for a while. However, as time goes on, it is evident that Diamond Browne really is old Clary Brown, the itinerant daughter of a gypsy thief. 

Diamond faces the soldier who ruined her life: Captain William Ringham. She had vowed revenge against the Capitan for convicting her starving father for stealing a rabbit. Now Diamond scoffs at his attempts at kindness. Who was he trying to fool?

Soon the dark forces seem to be directed at her and those close to her. Lady Caroline dies a gruesome death. The pastor of the old church is found crucified.

Two men offer her protection in distinct ways: Captain Ringham with his seeming concern and Lady Caroline’s widower with thinly-veiled insinuations.

Something preternatural element lurks in the woods. Who were the creatures that stalked the night? Could she be the next victim of a heinous murder? Was Ringham behind the evil occurrences in Middleditch? Of course, he must! Who else could it be…?

The conclusion sees the wicked baddies get their due comeuppance. And best of all, Clary finds genuine love with Captain Ringham, who is not the villain she had believed him to be.

Final Analysis of My Name is Clary Brown

Charlotte Keppel’s My Name is Clary Brown has a strong, creepy plot filled with enough mystery to keep one turning the pages to see what happens next. Still, the main appeal of this book is the characterization.

Diamond/ Clary was intelligent, outspoken, and refreshingly likable. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (the Georgian era). She is a great vintage romance heroine, for sure.

Captain Ringham, the hero, was a pure gentleman. He doesn’t show up much too often, as this is Clary’s story to tell. But whenever she required support, he was there for her.

As this is a 1970s Gothic, the steam factor is not relevant here, as it never goes beyond sweet yet passionate kisses. Nevertheless, the connection between the hero and heroine is palpable.

My Name is Clary Brown is a fantastic romantic read for Halloween.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

THE RIGHT TO LOVE…

Miss Diamond Brown was the toast of the London stage. She had jewels and fine satins to caress her tawny skin, everything a woman could want–except the urgent warmth of a man’s passion…

For the thousandth time, Diamond searched the mirror and found there the gypsy orphan girl who had fled to London only six years before. But had she escaped? Was she now free to love the man whose dark eyes had burned into her soul on that never forgotten night…

MY NAME IS CLARY BROWN by CHARLOTTE KEPPEL
river of love bittner

Historical Romance Review: River of Love by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
River of Love by F. Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #3
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 413
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: River of Love by Rosanne Bittner

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of River of Love, book #3 in the “Savage Destiny” series by Rosanne Bittner.

River of Love begins in 1853. Abigail Trent Monroe, her husband “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, and their three children, son Little Rock, and daughters Blue Sky and Young Girl, are living in Colorado. Abbie is also expecting a fourth child.

Happiness, however, will continue to elude the Monroes, as trouble will find them from multiple sources.

The Plot

Part One of River of Love

The first of these troubles is Zeke’s half-brother, Red Eagle. Red Eagle is an alcoholic, and one day he sells his wife, Yellow Moon, to a white outlaw, Nick Trapper, for whiskey.

Trapper and his men repeatedly rape Yellow Moon, kill her and Red Eagle’s son, Laughing Boy, and sell Yellow Moon into prostitution.

Red Eagle begs Zeke to find her. He is especially motivated when he learns that Trapper’s partner is the infamous female outlaw “Lady Z,” aka Dancing Moon. She is Zeke’s former lover who has a history of terrorizing the Monroe family.

Zeke will find “Lady Z” in this book, but once again, won’t kill her, and again, he will regret that decision.

The second source of trouble for the Monroes is the U.S. government and white settlers, whose westward migration causes trouble for Zeke and Abbie, their Cheyenne brethren, and all Indian tribes.

Part Two Of River of Love

While searching for Yellow Moon, Zeke encounters two women who will play a role in his life. They are: Bonita “Bonnie” Beaker, a missionary who Zeke saves from outlaws and who later falls in love with him; and Anna Gale, a prostitute-turned-madam.

Bonnie and her future husband and Anna help Zeke and Abbie when they have issues.

In other developments, Danny, Zeke’s white half-brother, falls in love with and marries a woman, Emily Epcott. Their marriage, however, is not a happy one, and Danny has a brief affair with an Indian woman. Danny and Emily reconcile and have a child later.

By the end of the book, Zeke and Abbie are parents of seven children. There is their son, Little Rock, who later takes the name Wolf’s Blood. He is the only one of the Monroe children who refuses to be baptized and given a white name. Two other sons, Jeremy and Jason, and daughters Margaret, LeeAnn, Ellen, and Lillian round out the family.

For a time, Zeke and Abbie are happy. But, as always, fate and society have other plans.

river of love by rosanne bittner

Upside

As always, Ms. Bittner’s writing is full and emotional. It’s hard to come up with different ways to say how exceptional Ms. Bittner’s writing is.

Downside

The only downside was the pain I felt for Zeke, Abbie, and some other characters since they were treated so poorly by society.

Sex

Ms. Bittner’s love scenes were a little hotter this time around, but she will never be accused of writing erotica.

Violence

Ms. Bittner writes very violent scenes for a romance novel, and the pattern continues in River of Love: multiple scenes of assault, battery, and killings, which are mildly graphic.

river of love bittner

Bottom Line On River of Love

No author I’ve read pushes my emotional buttons–good and bad–the way Rosanne Bittner does with the “Savage Destiny” series. River of Love is just one more shining example of that.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis

Abigail Monroe had been pierced by an arrow as a young girl…and pierced even more deeply by the love of a half-breed Cheyenne brave named Lone Eagle. But now Abigail and Lone Eagle could lose everything–and each other. Trouble was coming across the Plains to challenge them and test their love. No longer could they hide in a paradise of their own making. Yet even as the hardships of frontier life grew, nothing could diminish their passion. Together they would tight to forge a dynasty In a harsh, unyielding wilderness and fulfill their daring dreams. 

RIVER OF LOVE by ROSANNE BITTNER
lone star surrender

Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

historical romance review
Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch, a standalone Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Part 1 of Lone Star Surrender

Lone Star Surrender starts in Texas, circa 1885. Tara Winslow, the heroine, has come southwest from St. Louis to spend the summer with her father, Terrance, a newspaper publisher. She hasn’t seen him in three years.

Tara had been living in St. Louis with her grandfather, Ryan O’Donnovan, a wealthy businessman, and her mother, Libby. Terrance and Libby are separated, in large part because of her inability (or unwillingness) to stand up to her father. Tara is also engaged, unhappily, to Joseph Rutherford, one of Ryan’s business associates.

On Tara’s first day in Texas, she witnesses a murder, and is rescued by Sloane Prescott.

She meets Sloane again at the home of her friend, Julia Russel, the daughter of Merrick Russel, Sloane’s “boss.”

Sloane works for Russel as his head wrangler at Russel’s ranch, the Diamond R. Sloane isn’t working for Russel because he needs to. He has other reasons for working there: to expose Merrick as a criminal. He was also hired by Ryan and Joseph, who are investors in the Diamond R and are concerned with illegal activities they believe Merrick is involved in.

Julia wants Tara to work with Sloane to teach him manners so Julia can invite him to a dance. Unbeknownst to Julia, Tara and Sloane have a raging attraction to each other and will become lovers.

As time goes on, Tara discovers Sloane’s secrets, they marry–after she gets into trouble–and she finds out a secret he doesn’t know.

Merrick tries to kill Tara, and nearly succeeds, but she survives. Merrick later dies trying to flee Sloane after Merrick confesses his misdeeds.

Part 2 of Lone Star Surrender

After Merrick’s death, Tara thinks she and Sloane will have a clear path to happiness. She would be wrong.

Ryan and Joseph show up in Texas and forcibly take her back to St. Louis, where Ryan plans to marry her off to Joseph.

Upon hearing of her abduction, Sloane and Terrance head for St. Louis. Sloane goes to give his report and get Tara back, and Terrance to try to reconcile with Libby. Both Sloane and Terrance succeed in their endeavors to reunite with their loves.

Although, Sloane faces some token resistance from Joseph, who shows his true colors: yellow. To put it another way, Sloane was more of a man when he was born than Joseph is now.

In the end, Tara and Sloane, with Libby and Terrance–and Ryan–decide to go to Texas. The two couples have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

When she writes under the names Carol Finch and Gina Robins, Connie Feddersen has a template she uses for her books. That template: feisty, spirited heroines, bad-boys-but-good-men heroes, and lots of humor. All of these are on display in Lone Star Surrender.

Tara and Sloane are a very well-matched couple. Their chemistry jumps off the pages and sizzles throughout the book. They are a likeable pair and the story is well-plotted and engaging. The romantic suspense element is strong, and there is a twist at the end of that part of the book.

Ms. Finch goes into her characters’ emotions and gives both of them free rein to be who they are.

I never felt as if I was reading a book; I felt like I was watching their lives in front of me, and those are the kind of books I really enjoy.

I also like the way Ms. Finch uses humor in her books. While Lone Star Surrender isn’t as funny as Beloved Betrayal–which was hilarious–there are a lot of funny moments here, especially toward the end.

Way too many romance novels have an ultra-serious tone to them. It’s a romance novel, authors! Humor is a much-underutilized feature in romance novels.

The Downside

If I had to nitpick, it would be that Ms. Finch tends to be a little hero and heroine heavy in her writing. Meaning she focuses almost entirely on her main characters.

The supporting cast in her books serves two purposes: to move storylines along and to act as foils for the protagonists. I find it nice sometimes when supporting characters have scenes when the hero and heroine aren’t in them.

Sex

Ms. Finch’s love scenes focus more on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it. There are lots of purple prose and spiritual New Age writing about the deed.

Violence

Although people draw guns in the book, no one fires them. There are several scenes of assault and battery. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on The Book

Readers who like humor and romance with high-spirited heroines and strong heroes will find lots to like in Carol Finch’s Lone Star Surrender.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
When the rugged cowboy found a gorgeous, unconscious woman and her dead companion along a Texas dirt road, he knew he had to try everything to save the unlucky lady. He spirited her off to his mountain shack, gave her a potion to deaden the pain, and slashed away her bloody bodice to expose the wound. But when the virile horseman saw only her creamy, flawless flesh, he realized the blood was not hers — and that the vulnerable female needed saving only from himself!

THE HEAT OF THE DAY
When golden-haired Tara Winslow awoke in he father’s canyon retreat, she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there. What was even more baffling were the sensual dreams, that plagued her every waking moment. As she fantasized a muscular Texas lover showing her the myriad mysteries of pleasure, the innocent adventuress realized it was too vivid to not be true! Now that she knew she’d been with the only man who could win her heart, the determined beauty vowed he’d track him down and enslave him forever with the wild rapture of her Lone Star Surrender.

Lonestar Surrender by Carol Finch

the golden sovereigns geer

Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

historical romance review
The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Charles Geer
Published by: Avon
Genres: Cavalier Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 404
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s a stellar piece of writing. The dazzling Charles Geer cover is just the cherry on top.

It’s difficult to categorize this romance it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is immensely gifted to make me enjoy a book where the heroine doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 into this 404-page epic.

The Golden Sovereigns is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale. But unlike salacious romps like Purity’s Passion or Passion’s Proud Captive, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end. He’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

The First Betrayal

Our story begins in late 17th-century England, in the era of Cavaliers. Carmody Petrie is a gentlewoman in love with Waldo, a no-good, sexy rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but stops there. Carmody knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:

“A new stirring, of springs moving deep inside her, a well of emotion she had never dreamed of had been uncovered. When Waldo had laid impertinent hands on her, she had felt a moving, rising, betraying response. Her own body–if she did not carefully govern it–might well turn traitor!”

That certainly brought me to attention. I was ready to enjoy a bawdy, lusty romp. But, as noted, The Golden Sovereigns isn’t like that at all.

Waldo steals Carmody’s dowry and has no intention of marrying her. He’s got another–a wealthier–woman in mind.

Then Carmody’s young brother Ralph gambles their inheritance away to the Duke of Monmouth. She goes to plead with the Duke for mercy. Instead, with him, she finds her first tragic love affair.

Awakened into passion by the Duke of Monmouth–who is written as a complex, tragically-doomed character–Carmody remains loyal to him. She is the only person who stays with him after his final defeat at Sedgemoor. He is now a criminal, and anyone aiding him is one as well.

In a shattering betrayal, Monmouth abandons Carmody to make his escape, the bastard! Well, history shows he gets his just desserts in the end!

Captured and Enslaved

Carmody assumes a false name. Despite this, she is captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to penal servitude in the West Indies for life.

She is given into employ to a multi-faceted man who is in deep mourning for his dead wife. He’s shockingly cruel to Carmody, even though he never forces her to engage in sex.

In time, she gets her freedom, but it’s temporary as more trials and tribulations face Carmody.

Later she’s forced into marriage and finds herself in the American colonies. Now the love story begins.

Finally, We Meet the Hero

At long last, we meet the hero, Mark Tennant, a truly decent human being who offers Carmody a different world she’s known, one filled with joy & love. Her response to him is heartbreaking:

“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”

The most unusual aspect of this bodice ripper is that Carmody and Mark don’t consummate their relationship. At least, not in the book, although I assume they would after the novel ends.

Carmody and Mark’s relationship transcends physical love. Theirs is a meeting of spirit. That is paramount to the meeting of flesh.

Final Analysis of The Golden Sovereigns

The Golden Sovereigns was such a pleasant surprise to encounter. Jocelyn Carew is an author whose works I’d like to know more about.

I admit I’m not a patient reader. Although I adore vintage romances, the older I get, the more difficult they are to read. The long-page counts and tiny fonts usually cause my interest to wane. (ADHD is no fun.) I’ll put a book down, forgetting I ever started it. So many half-finished books!

There have been other romances where I have been less forgiving about the same flaws that The Golden Sovereigns has (ie, the heroine meeting the hero more than halfway through the book). Carew makes the journey worthwhile.

This was a skillfully written bodice ripper, very philosophical in nature. It delved into the strange depths of humanity.

The Golden Sovereigns fell short of perfection, however, due to the limited interaction between Carmody and Mark. There was a more prominent emphasis on the villain, who was a fascinating character, but not as much as Mark.

I consider this to be an unexpected piece of great fiction. It simply lacked a little oomph at the end to make it perfect.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.5

Synopsis

Surging with passion and epic power, The Golden Sovereigns sweeps from the proud family estates of England to the exotic West Indies to the sprawling plantations of the Virginia Colony — and, against the pageantry and adventure of an enthralling age, reveals the fiery spirit of a beautiful woman destined for blazing desire.

Thrust into the tumultuous events of two continents — and into the lustful embraces of men of high and low station — Carmody Petrie braves enslavement, danger, and royal intrigue to conquer her tormentors…and to seal, in the arms of the adoring Mark Tennant, their fated bond of surpassing love.

THE GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS by JOCELYN CAREW
white lions lady

Historical Romance Review: White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)

historical romance review
White Lion's Lady by Lara Adrian, Tina St. John
Rating: five-stars
Published: 2001
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Ivy Books
Book Series: The Warrior Trilogy #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

White Lion’s Lady is book 1 in “The Warrior Trilogy” by Lara Adrian. This medieval historical romance was originally published by Adrian under her real name, tina St. John in 2001. The book was released in digital format several times in the previous decade.

The Plot

Part 1 of White Lion’s Lady

White Lion’s Lady begins in 1179 with the heroine, Isabel de Lamere, age 8, running in tears from a party after being made fun of. Isabel–or Izzy as she is known then–goes into the woods, gets lost, and is attacked by a wild boar. Griffin of Droghallow, the hero, saves her life. He kills the boar, and Izzy falls in love with him.

Fast-forward 10 years. Isabel is now 18. She had been sent to a convent after her father was tried and executed as a traitor to the Crown. Her mother was exiled to her native France.

Now King Richard of Plantagenet summons Isabel to marry Sebastian of Montborne, a man she has never met.

And she may not because–unbeknownst to her–Isabel is slated to be kidnapped by Griffin by order of his foster brother, Dominic of Droghallow. The rationale behind the abduction is that the Earl of Montborne is a hated rival of Dominic’s.

It is only when Griffin takes Isabel back to Droghollow and she sees Dominic again that Isabel realizes who Griffin is. Although she still doesn’t know why she was kidnapped.

The reason Griffin agreed to do Dominic’s dirty work is that Dominic has promised him money to go away and live his own life. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Dominic has no plans to pay Griffin. And Dominic won’t let him leave Droghollow alive.

Once Griff realizes he’s being played, he schemes to take Isabel and take her to Montborne. The plan almost works. Griff gets himself and Isabel off Dominic’s land, but Isabel brains him and tries to escape.

white lions lady lara adrian

Part 2 of White Lion’s Lady

This freedom is short-lived, as Griff soon finds her. It may be even more short-lived. Now, as Dominic is aware that Griff and Isabel are gone, he has put a price on both of their heads.

As they travel to Montborne, Griff and Isabel start to fall in love with each other, but each fights their attraction. Griff is a man without a home and doesn’t know who he truly is. Isabel is a woman betrothed to another, bound by honor. She has reasons to marry a man she’s never met, namely to save her younger sister, Maura, age 8.

Dominic has placed bounties on both their heads. His men are now aware of their traveled path and are getting closer to them.

When Isabel agrees to go with Father Aldon to Montborne instead of with Griffin, they argue. This culminates in Griffin stalking off and leaving Isabel to leave with the priest. What Isabel doesn’t know is Father Aldon has no inclination to take her to Montborne. Instead, he’s taking her to another of King Richard’s cronies, Prince John of Lackland.

Griffin discovers the plot before Isabel does. He is captured but manages to escape. As he tries to rescue Isabel from her captors, she is shot. An arrow meant for Griffin pierces her.

Isabel’s wound becomes infected, so Griffin takes her to a monastery to hopefully get some aid. The monks help Isabel recovers. However, being there brings them closer to the fact that Griffin has to let Isabel go to Montborne.

Yet that is easier said than done. Isabel and Griffin nearly consummate their relationship before finally giving in. They make love twice.

lara adrian

Part 3 of White Lion’s Lady

Now, they have more problems to deal with when Sebastian, the Earl of Montborne, arrives at the monastery to take Isabel as his bride. Isabel doesn’t know that Montborne arrived due to a message Griffin sent him.

Griffin is trying to do the right, honorable thing, even though he knows in his heart that he and Isabel will be devastated beyond belief by that action. Later, Griffin is arrested by Montborne’s guards and is taken to the earl’s castle to stand trial.

When they arrive at Montborne, Sebastian deduces that Isabel and Griffin are in love. He questions Griffin about it.

Griffin doesn’t deny it, but he is willing to leave Isabel with Montborne because of his honor. He loves her.

Then there is a shocking twist in the tale. Sebastian’s mother, Lady Joanna Montborne, finds an amulet that Griffin gave to Isabel, which sets off a chain of events. This leads to Griffin’s release from prison as all charges of a crime are dropped.

Shortly after his release, he learns of the stunning revelation. Griffin leaves Montborne and heads back to Droghollow. His goal is to confront and kill Dominic for his treachery. Griffin asks Sebastian to marry Isabel in the event that he doesn’t return.

Later, a wedding takes place. The wedding is not for Isabel and Sebastian but for Isabel and Griffin. The pair bring Maura to live with them, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Why did Sebastian give up Isabel to Griffin? Did Griffin kill Dominic?

For the answers to these questions, you’ll have to read the book.

The Upside

The romance in White Lion’s Lady is exquisite. The characters are fully developed. Their emotional depth is so deep that I felt as though I was looking at actual lives as opposed to reading a book.

The Downside

There is absolutely nothing bad to say about White Lion’s Lady.

Sex

There are two love scenes. In the first, Griffin and Isabel nearly consummate their love but stop. Then they eventually do. Both scenes are spectacular: not erotica, but lovely and beautiful.

Violence

In addition to an arrow intended for Griffin harming Isabel instead, there are other incidents of violence. Humans and animals are both killed in the book. The violence is not overly graphic.

Bottom Line on White Lion’s Lady

For anyone who loves historical or medieval romance, White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John) is an absolute keeper. I highly recommend it.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

She was promised to another
Abducted on the way to her wedding, heiress Isabel de Lamere is unaware that the scoundrel planning to use her for his own gain is the cherished champion of her childhood: Griffin, the White Lion. Yet even as she discovers his treachery, Isabel cannot deny that Griffin lingers in her dreams, awakening the passion in her steadfast heart.

He was nobody’s hero
Then a twist of fate puts a price on both their heads, embroiling them in a life-and-death chase that will force Griffin to choose between his own freedom and his fierce desire for the woman who would redeem his noble spirit. But to reclaim his lost honor, the White Lion could lose Isabel forever. . . .

White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)
ride the free wind

Historical Romance Review: Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
Ride the Free Wind by F. Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 445
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

The Book

This review is of Ride the Free Wind book #2 in the “Savage Destiny” series by Rosanne Bittner.

The Plot

Ride the Free Wind begins shortly after the first book in the saga, Sweet Prairie Passion, ended. Abigail “Abbie” Trent Monroe and her husband, “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, are traveling to find Zeke’s Cheyenne mother and three Cheyenne half-brothers.

Zeke also has three white half-brothers, one of whom is Danny Monroe. Danny and one of Zeke’s Indian brothers, Swift Arrow, will play pivotal roles as the series continues.

Three evil characters who will adversely affect Zeke, Abbie, their family, and the Cheyenne are introduced. They are:

  • Dancing Moon: An Arapaho Indian woman and Zeke’s former lover, Dancing Moon becomes intensely jealous when Zeke brings Abbie into the Cheyenne camp. This emotion leads to a series of attacks against both Zeke and Abbie. Zeke takes revenge on Dancing Moon but does not kill her, a decision he will come to rue as the series continues…
  • Winston Garvey: A U.S. Senator who lusts after money and power, Garvey aspires to become a war profiteer when the U.S. and Mexico go to war, among other plans.
  • Jonathan Mack: Garvey’s right-hand man. Mack hires Zeke to act as a scout for a dangerous expedition. Zeke doesn’t know Mack has stashed contraband in the wagons so HE can profit from the Mexican-American War.

As the story unfolds, Zeke and Danny discover each other’s existence.

Zeke and Abbie become parents of two children–a son, Little Rock, and a daughter, Blue Sky. The family, the Cheyenne, and the rest of the Native American tribes deal with sadness and anger as their ways of life are forever altered by the encroachment of white society.

Ride the Free Wind

Upside

As usual, Ms. Bittner’s writing is exquisite. I never feel as if I’m reading a book she writes, but rather that I am watching the characters in front of me. I feel every one of their emotions, especially Zeke and Abbie’s. I feel their happiness, and I feel their pain. That is something only the truly great authors can engender in me.

I also like that Ms. Bittner writes Zeke as a totally human character. Unlike Gray Eagle, the “hero” of Janelle Taylor’s “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series and often written as omnipotent, Ms. Bittner doesn’t write Zeke that way.

During the course of the “Savage Destiny” series, Zeke is shot and injured and allowed to be human. This is great to see and makes Zeke an authentic character rather than a caricature.

Downside

In addition to what I wrote in my review of Sweet Prairie Passion, I can add another criticism of Ms. Bittner. At times, the “Savage Destiny” series is formulaic. The formula goes like this: Zeke and Abbie are happy. Zeke and Abbie are separated. Abbie and/or Zeke is attacked. Zeke finds the attackers and inflicts maximum pain on the malefactors before–usually–killing them. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the same for Ride the Free Wind.

Sex

Ms. Bittner’s love scenes are very salty. This is not a compliment. Salt, to me, is a very basic spice. That also describes Ms. Bittner’s love scenes. Basic, at best.

Violence

Ms. Bittner’s scenes here, however, are far from basic. As usual, there are scenes of assault, rape, and various killings. When Zeke does it, it’s a little more graphic and creative.

ride the free wind

Bottom Line on Ride the Free Wind

I’m much more willing to forgive Ms. Bittner for the somewhat formulaic nature of some of her scenes in Ride the Free Wind due to how exceptional she is in other areas. Ms. Bittner’s books will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who like Native American romances will find lots to love in Rosanne Bittner’s books.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

SYNOPSIS

Abandoning everything she had ever known, Abigail Trent left her family and chose her fate–to ride with Zeke Monroe, half-Cheyenne scout, into the unexplored west. Together they faced peril, until Zeke found his mother’s people and became Lone Eagle, turning his back on the white man’s world. To stay with him, Abigail must become Cheyenne too–even if it means death and warfare.

Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

READ FOR FREE AT THE INTERNET ARCHIVE

cherish me, embrace me berni

Historical Romance Review: Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

book review historical romance
Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Oliviero Berni
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylvie F. Sommerfield, a 1983 Zebra historical romance set during the American Civil War.

The book begins in 1851 in France. The coming revolution forces Jules Dubonne, his wife Marie, their three children, sons Alexander and Dante, and daughter, Celeste, to leave France. They sail to a new home they believe will be free from war and violence, America.

They will soon discover the fallacy of that belief.

The Plot

Tragedy strikes when a storm hits, throwing Dante overboard. He is taken in by a couple, Virginia and Gregory Wakefield, who desperately wants a son. Virginia has had four miscarriages. Dante, who believes his family is dead, is adopted by the Wakefields. He takes the name Dan Dubonne-Wakefield.

The rest of the Dubonne family make their way to their planned destination, Philadelphia.

At 16, Dan meets Abby Southerland and falls in love with her. Abby, however, doesn’t share his feelings.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the other Dubonnes’ lives go on, albeit with a hole in their hearts for Dante. Daughter Celeste falls in love with a young man, Wesley Rainey, whom she later marries.

Meanwhile, Alexander meets Abby at a party. They soon become lovers.

What Alexander doesn’t know is that Abby is a Confederate spy. The information she receives from him and other Northerners is used against them in the Civil War. Alexander later finds out about Abby’s activities, thus creating a major rift between them.

At one point, Alexander and Dan/Dante face each other on the battlefield, bringing home the stark point of the Civil War was “Brother against Brother.”

Cherish Me, Embrace Me concludes as the Civil War ends. Dan marries Catherine Markland, Abby’s cousin, and Alexander and Abby marry. Dan learns the truth about his past.

Finally, a figure from Alexander’s past helps the Dubonne-Southerland-Wakefield triumvirate heal the wounds. They all can look forward to a bright future and several Happily Ever Afters.

Upside

Cherish Me, Embrace Me is Mrs. Sommerfield at her best with this Civil War drama. It’s a quality Zebra romance that is very emotional. The characters find themselves dealing with changes and heartache but come out the other side stronger.

Downside

Despite the emotions displayed, I feel Mrs. Sommerfield could have gone deeper into her character’s emotions than she did.

Sex

There are several love scenes focusing on the emotional aspect of lovemaking and far less on the esoterics of the act.

Violence

Most of the violence takes place “offscreen.” There are scenes of Jules having to kill two people who try to stop the Dubonnes from leaving France.

Bottom Line on Cherish Me, Embrace Me

Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylve F. Sommerfield was a wonderful, highly emotional book, but there was still the potential for more.

4.80

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.7

SYNOPSIS

CHERISH ME
Possess me. Never let me go. These fiery words of love lingered in Abby’s heart, although she knew it was wrong to want Alexander. She’d sworn she’d never surrender to the Yankees, that she’d never let them rule her plantation or her life. But once she felt the exquisite ecstasy of his demanding lips, she damned him, despised him, yet desired him like no other man she had ever known.

EMBRACE ME
Caress me. Be mine forever. If only Alexander could convince the southern vixen that passion was more important than loyalty that together their love could conquer the war! No matter how hard she tried to fight him, he could feel her whole body respond to his touch. He would tease her with searing kisses, torture her with his flesh, make her cry out in rapture and torment.

CHERISH ME, EMBRACE ME by SYLVIE F. SOMMERFIELD
rumor has it kalan

Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

rumor has it
Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Frank Kalan
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3040
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Celia Scott‘s Rumor Has It is a modern-day Cinderella story where the fairy godmother is not an actual person, but a false rumor that transforms a frumpy heroine into a glamorous new woman who finds her prince.

Well, a British guy, anyway. That’s close enough.

The Plot

Part One

Lucinda is a sweet and slightly overweight librarian. Really she’s a voluptuous gal with curvy thighs, big boobs, and full hips. If this book was written today, she’d be described as thicc. Lucinda is clumsy, nearsighted, and plagued by insecurity.

She lives with her father, stepmother, and model-slim stepsisters. Poor Luce is constantly berated by her family members. In their eyes, she’s a hopeless mess.

Enter Leo, a dashing Englishman who has business with her father. The family conspires to set up Leo with Lucinda’s more glamorous, slim stepsister. However, Leo’s mind is just on work.

Circumstances lead to Leo and Lucinda being forced to share a one-bed motel during a storm, a typical sitcom/rom-com situation. Except for a brief glimpse at Leo’s butt cheeks, their night is wholly innocent.

Part Two

Soon after, Leo heads back to England. Gossip travels fast in Lucinda’s small hometown when Lucinda’s family learns the two spent a night together.

Of course, it was purely platonic (Thi but the townfolks’ shocked reaction makes Lucinda let people think what they want. They all wonder what did a hunk like Leo see in a frump like Lucinda?

Lucinda is now viewed by the townspeople in a different light as she blossoms with confidence. She gets a new hairdo. Instead of losing weight, she learns to dress appropriately for her shapely figure instead of what’s dictated as “fashionable.” (Just like Clinton and Stacy on What Not to Wear recommended! Remember that show?)

Leo returns to the States. He is shocked that everyone, including Lucinda’s angry father, thinks they had an affair.

He then turns the tables on Lucinda and “blackmails” her into pretending they’re a couple. But as they spend more time together, is it really pretending?

Final Analysis of Rumor Has It

Celia Scott’s Rumor Has It was a sweet, funny, and very adorable romance. There’s humor, a delicious hero, and a heroine who learns to love herself before love finds her.

It’s an old favorite. Arguably my most-favorite Harlequin Romance.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

It wasn’t a lie, exactly

The rumors about the night Lucinda spent stranded on Marshall’s Island with the dashing Englishman, Leo Grosvenor, simply got out of hand.

Denials of an affair only brought knowing smiles, and Lucinda began to enjoy having people believe someone as glamorous as Leo found her desirable. As the rumors flourished, so did Lucinda.

Besides, she reasoned, Leo was safely home in England. She certainly never expected he would return to South Port and force her to live the lie.

Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,

***

Dangerous Obsession natasha peters

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Don Stivers
Book Series: Culhane Duo #2
Published by: Ace
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 630
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters‘ first epic bodice ripper romance, Savage Surrender.

However, don’t feel you need to read one to be comfortable reading the other. The relationship between the two books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

The Set-Up

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans twelve years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman.

American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years.

The Plot and the Characters

The Heroine, Rhawnie

Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!

She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken!

When caught red-handed, she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this, Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter, [Note: she was 7 when I originally wrote this review] who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness.

Men duel and die over her. She is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.

Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

The Hero, Seth

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work, and it took me a long time to warm up to him.

He’s no Sean Culhane or Duke Domenico, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. Her lecherous, older uncle then, in angry retaliation, beats and kicks Rhawnie while Seth just sort of stands there.

Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on!

He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress.

And the evil Seth inflicts upon Rhawnie in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice that never occurs.

But…he does properly declare himself at the end (if that redemption/groveling arc matters to you). He gives himself completely to Rhawnie.

Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together, they are perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Dangerous Obsession is written in the first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and Natasha Peters could have cut it 75 to 50 pages shorter.

Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American west.

They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river. Seth gets injured, and Rhawnie nurses him back to life. Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment of camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less)!

They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures; she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, gets addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…

And before you know it–whew! It’s over.

Final Analysis of Dangerous Obsession

Natasha Peters’ Dangerous Obsession was so close to perfect. It’s such a shame that, like so many bodice rippers, in the end, it falters under its own hefty weight.

Nevertheless, I’m rounding my initial 4.5-star rating up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

She was daring and defiant; tender and wanton. She was child; she was woman. she was Rhawnie.

From a starving gypsy in Russia to an exotic demi-mondaine in Paris to a countess in Bavaria to a sensation in New York from a survivor in the western wilderness to a card shark in San Francisco — such were the heights and depths of existence for Rhawnie.

Her wit, her cunning, her beauty, the sensuous delights she performs to well protect her even as they cause her agony and shame. For deep in her soul is a love for a man, a man who has brought her only degradation and heartbreak.

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Rhawnie cannot escape Seth Garrett. The constant ache for his arms, the ever present need for the fires of passion he alone can ignite, and his relentless pursuit of her have made her his prisoner. Across continents fleeing danger and death, Rhawnie runs…from this man…from herself…until she knows that with a love so powerful, a love so shameless, she can do nothing but surrender!

DANGEROUS OBSESSION by NATASHA PETERS
devil in silver room

Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

category romance
Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1973
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #5
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Violet Winspear certainly had sympathy for the Devil. Several of her book titles contain the words Demon, Lucifer, Satan, or Devil–including Harlequin Presents #5, Devil in a Silver Room.

It also features another male main character named Paul, like the hero from The Honey Is Bitter. This Paul is French, not Greek. And also, like The Honey Is Bitter, Devil In a Silver Room was reprinted many times over, proving that Winspear was a powerhouse writer for series romance.

There’s a good reason this Harlequin had so many reprints: it’s an enthralling, hypnotic love story that pulls you in from the moment the hero enters the story. And what a hero he is!

devil in a silver room violet winspear
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1973, cover artist unknown

The Set-Up

Five years before the Devil In a Silver Room opens, a teenaged Margo Jones had fallen for the wealthy, handsome, and carefree Michel Cassalis. Michel had only toyed with Margo’s heart; she was a brief fling to discard. Margo was an English au pair with no family, and Michel wen ton to marry a French lady from his own social class.

Now Michel is dead, having left behind a young son. His traumatized, grieving widow is confined to a wheelchair.

Because Margo still loves Michel, she cannot bear the thought of his child being alone. When she hears he requires an English nanny, she offers the Cassalis family her services. First, Margo meets Michel’s haughty mother, Madame Cassalis. Then Margo heads to the Cassilis family home, ominously named Satancourt.

As prickly as Madame is, she is nothing compared to Michel’s older brother, Paul. Upon Margo’s arrival in France, she meets the domineering Paul Cassalis. Sparks fly. Soon Michel will be a faint memory.

The Plot

Paul is like night to Michel’s day. Margo wonders how two men so different could have been brothers. Paul’s dark looks and menacing nature paradoxically intimidate and intrigues her.

Margo forms a strong bond with Desi, Michels son. In due time he becomes attached to the loving nanny.

But not all is well at Satancourt. People whisper rumors about Paul causing a girl’s death years ago. They say her ghost haunts the castle. Perhaps there are more deaths for which Paul is responsible?

And just what is Paul’s position at Satancourt? All the workers and residents treat Paul as their lord. But despite being the oldest male Cassalis, it is his young nephew who will rule the chateau one day.

devil in silver room
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1980 reprint, cover artist unknown

“I work the terraces, Miss Jones. I bring forth the champagne and the wine. I ensure that the chateau remains a perfect example of French architecture. I pay the wages of the workers. I give the orders and flourish the phantom whip, but I am only the caretaker of Satancourt and its cellar.”

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

Although Paul is a steward, he resonates with an aura of authority and power. He is a man who commands respect, no matter how low his station is. He reminded me of Felipe Tristan, the sigma-male hero from Teresa Denys‘ other masterpiece, The Flesh and the Devil. Although Paul is more of a leader than a lone-wolf type.

Margo is drawn to Paul’s demonic allure, even as she fights her desire. Her infatuation with Michel is supplanted with a more tremendous passion for his brother.

In the end, Paul reveals to Margo that his servile role at Satancourt is because he is not a true Cassalis. His mother was pregnant with another man’s child when she got married. So Monsieur Cassalis excluded Paul from his will. But still, Paul’s heart belongs to Satancourt.

Ultimately, he remains a humble vintner. Paul does not get the castle, but he does get the girl.

Suddenly all the loneliness was gone and she could surrender herself, her life, all her future, into the keeping of this man…not quite an angel, but not altogether a devil.

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

The Devil in a Silver Room is one of the best examples of a 1970s Harlequin romance novel that is erotic despite the lack of sex. There are plenty of passionate kisses–but no consummation.

The tone is deeply Gothic: from the chateau’s name to the dark, brooding hero to the heroine who flees from him even as she longs to submit to his deadly embrace.

It’s old-school in style and absolutely representative of its time.

Paul is autocratic and proud; Margo is dignified and strong-willed. She is a perfect match for him.

Devil in a Silver Room may be my favorite Violet Winspear yet.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

Margo Jones had loved Michel Cassalis, but her love had brought her only pain. Michel had married someone else.

Now, five years later. Michel was dead. And Margo was at the Cassalis’s remote French Chateau, Satancourt, to look after Michel’s small son. She wanted nothing to do with men, especially with Michel’s ruthless brother, Paul Cassalis.

But what if Paul wanted her? As master of Satancourt, would he exercise le droit de seigneur – the right of the master to take whatever he desired!

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
the sheik

Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

 classic romance
The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull
Rating: five-stars
Published: November 10, 1919
Illustrator: N/A
Book Series: Sheik Duo #1
Genres: Classic Romance, Contemporary Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance, Forced Seduction
Pages: 296
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Classic Romance Review: The Sheik by Edith M. Hull

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Sheik by Edith M. Hull, published in 1919, is as influential to the modern romance genre as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps, more so.

The salacious book was a blockbuster of a success, despite its many detractors. While some modern readers may cringe at its depiction of women, sexual roles, and racial attitudes, The Sheik remains a compelling read one hundred years after its publication.

the sheik

The Sheik: The Grandmother of Bodice Rippers

“Shall I make you care? Shall I make you love me? I can make women love me when I choose.”

This year, 2022, is the 50th anniversary of Kathleen E. Woodwiss’ the Flame and the Flower, the first “modern romance novel.” The roots of modern romance go back further than 1972, however.

Although Pride and Prejudice and other works by Jane Austen were critiques of manners and social mores, the love stories were at the heart and center. For that reason, her books are considered both as literature and among the first romance novels.

As far as I’m concerned, Jane Austen and all her imitators–Georgette Heyer included–didn’t influence the modern historical genre as The Sheik did.

Oh, I liked the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy just fine. I don’t obsess over it as many do. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of Jane Eyre was far more to my liking, anyway. Jane Eyre, however, is more of an ancestor to Gothic romance.

the sheik grandmother of the bodice ripper.

The First Modern Romance Novel?

“What I have I keep, until I tire of it–and I have not tired of you yet.”

For the kind of romances I enjoy, their roots lie with Edith Maude Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik. It is the grandmother of the bodice ripper. If not for the closed-door bedroom scenes, this book would have fit right in with the romances penned in the 1970s.

In 1921, the silent film adaptation of the novel starring Agnes Ayres came out. It catapulted Rudolph Valentino’s career into movie stardom. I recall watching the film as a teen and practically swooning over the fantastic tale.

Decades later, I finally got around to reading the novel.

the sheik

The Characters and the Plot

He had seen her, had wished for her, and had taken her, and once in his power it had amused him to break her to his hand.

British-born Diana Mayo has it all: fashionable looks, wealth, and a multitude of male admirers. She’s young, thoroughly modern, and fiercely independent. If someone tells her not to do something, she considers it a dare.

Filled with boredom, the wild Diana travels to Algeria to seek adventure.

And she finds it in the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who kidnaps her and whisks her off to his desert oasis.

Between the two will be fierce, passion-filled clashes filled. Diana is a contemporary-minded woman who demands equality from her peers. Even so, she cannot resist the allure of the savage, almost primitive male who seeks to dominate her.

When first published, there was nothing like this book.

the sheik

Intriguing Gender Dynamics

Some historians have noted that during “conservative” eras, the idealized feminine form becomes more “traditional.” Typically, in times of social transformation, she is perceived to be more fluid.

In the 1960’s natural hair, short skirts, and slim figures, a la model Twiggy or Mia Farrow, reigned.

In the 1980s, the style was big hair, full lips, and 36-24-36 figures like Kelly LeBrock and Cindy Crawford.

The 1920s was a post War society with women in politics and the popularization of the motion picture. Ideas of sex, gender, and sexual mores were radically changed from the rigid Victorian/Edwardian and Gilded Age Eras on both sides of the Atlantic. Hair was bobbed, hemlines were raised, and large breasts were out-of-fashion.

The Sheik is a product of its time, with Hassan noting:

But the emotion that this girl’s uncommon beauty and slender boyishness had aroused in him had not diminished during the months she had been living in his camp.

The omniscient narrator constantly refers to Diana’s boyish figure and her as a splendid example of a “garcon manque,” a French term for tomboy. That was the old-fashioned term for girls who “behave” like and hang around boys.

It made for a fascinating sexual dynamic that was only flirted with and never really delved deeply into.

the sheik

The Sheik, A Controversial Novel

To say this is a controversial book is an understatement. Because it was such a phenomenal hit, critics could not ignore it, and they were divided in their opinions. Unlike, say, Fifty Shades of GreyThe Sheik cannot be dismissed for lack of quality.

The New York Times labeled the book as “shocking” but written with “a high degree of literary skill.” It was considered “salacious” and “tawdry.”

“What do you expect of a savage? When an Arab sees a woman that he wants he takes her. I only follow the customs of my people.”

If there was contention about this book 123 years ago, it’s practically obscene today and viewed as problematic. It has been accused of promoting part of rape culture, and it reeks of colonial attitudes.

There may be merit to discussing those arguments, as nothing exists in a vacuum. Nevertheless, I say, “Yes. And?” Fiction demands the freedom to write from any perspective. If it is a story worth telling, the story will be told.

the sheik

My Opinion

“If he killed me he could not kill my love!”

From its initial publication continuing to this day, The Sheik remains scandalous. It was an immediate bestseller, yet it received no respect from critics. The novel was labeled “poisonously salacious” by the Literary Review. It was even banned from some communities.

And it was a huge sensation, launching a subgenre of desert romances, several sequels, film adaptations, and Rudolph Valentino’s career.

The influence of The Sheik on romance is undeniable. For many readers, it still strikes a chord today. Despite Diana’s position as a kidnapping victim, there is a strong theme of female power and independence.

Even so, The Sheik gives a picture of the social order of its time. It captured the contemporary attitudes toward colonialism. Perhaps worse, The Sheik portrayed sexual dominance as a means to love.

the sheik

Final Analysis of The Sheik

E. M. Hull’s desert epic made me feel like a 12-year-old young girl discovering romance. For me, The Sheik was a thrilling experience! It’s pure entertainment, a rush from start to finish. I loved the film; the book was even better.

Without this romance, I don’t know if bodice-rippers or Mills & Boon romances, or the Harlequin Presents line would have ever existed. As stated, The Sheik is grandmother of the bodice ripper.

As for the naysayers?

Perhaps it’s good advice not to take fiction so seriously.

The Sheik is unreality. A dark fantasy. An erotic nightmare. Perhaps a little of both.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis:

Diana Mayo is young, beautiful, wealthy–and independent. Bored by the eligible bachelors and endless parties of the English aristocracy, she arranges for a horseback trek through the Algerian desert. Two days into her adventure, Diana is kidnapped by the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who forces her into submission. Diana tries desperately to resist but finds herself falling in love with this dark and handsome stranger.

Only when a rival chieftain steals Diana away does the Sheik realize that what he feels for her is more than mere passion. He has been conquered–and risks everything to get her back. The power of love reaches across the desert sands, leading to the thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

THE SHEIK BY EDITH MAUD HULL
Rebel Vixen

Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

historical romance review
Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 445
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

MILD SPOILERS 😉

Love & Betrayal

The Beginning: Love

Rebel Vixen commences by diving right into the story.

As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, 21-year-old Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean bringing food and medical supplies to her Southern brethren when she spots a body floating in the water. She urges the sailors to bring him aboard.

However, when they see the man’s Union buckle on his uniform, everyone but Savannah wants to throw the enemy back into the sea. Savannah is defiant and swears to help save the Yankee sailor, despite what anyone says, including her Uncle, who’s in charge.

Savannah takes the officer on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps him recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. She is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, in turn, falls madly for the woman who saved his life.

Upon a tropical beach, Savannah and Skyler exchange their words of love, promising to be together forever.

The Beginning: Betrayal

As they begin to make love, an explosion shatters the silence. In horror, Savannah realizes that the Union army has taken her Uncle’s ship. Skyler tells her that the ship was loaded with weapons and ammunition, not medicine and supplies, and as a Union soldier, he had a responsibility to report it.

He vows his love for Savannah, as she sees that every man on board, including her uncle, is now a prisoner of war. In a rage, Savannah strikes at Skyler, reinjuring his arm, and flees away in horror, declaring her eternal hatred.

The Book: Rebel Vixen

Thus begins one of my all-time favorite romance novels, Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon).

Yes, it’s a cheesy-looking Zebra Heartfire, with a bosomy-clinch cover and cornball title. It must be read to be fully appreciated.

The scope is grand, spanning years across the American North and South, with war, death, love, and birth. This “bodice-ripper lite” was so well written and emotional that it made me cry tears of sadness and joy.

Seriously, Rebel Vixen is one of the best books I’ve read.

Not surprising, as Dana Ransom’s Zebras are almost all among my favorites, along with the great Deana James and, to a lesser extent, Penelope Neri.

The Plot: The American Civil War

Savannah

Savannah is the oldest daughter of three children. Her father was a casualty of war, her brother is off fighting, and now with her uncle imprisoned, she finds herself burdened as the head of the family with an enormity of responsibilities on her shoulders.

Unconventionally beautiful, she has no time for gaiety as the war rages on, destroying everything she ever knew. Saving Skyler was instinctive, as she deeply values human life. She has the weight of the world upon her, and despite her recalcitrance, Skyler is her one bright spot in the darkness.

Skyler

A Man Without Purpose

Skyler Reade has no real purpose in life, bouncing aimlessly along from adventure to adventure. As the middle son of an upper-crust Philadelphia family, he’s sort of flitting along in life when the war starts.

His father is a respected doctor, his older brother is settled down with a family and fighting for the Union, and even Skyler’s wayward younger brother seems to be following in the family’s footsteps of pursuing a medical degree.

Skyler has a “girlfriend” at home, not someone he feels serious about–although she absolutely does about him–who encourages him to pursue politics. To be a politician, he’ll have to have some military experience. But as Skyler was not keen on fighting a war he cared nothing about, he entered the Navy because he thought he’d see little battle action at sea.

A Genuinely Nice Guy

Although Skyler is a drifter suffering from middle child syndrome, he seeks to be virtuous. The main characteristic I adore about Skyler is that he is a nice guy. A decent, caring, empathetic human being.

Yes, he is a bit domineering at times, but if 19th-century women weren’t 3rd wave feminists, you damn sure can’t expect the men to have been. He is relentless in his pursuit of Savannah, vowing to make her love him once again. Most times, he’s generous and kind. Even so, other times, he can be demanding.

However, spoiler warning here: there is one bodice ripper-type scene.

A “forced seduction” occurs after Savannah taunts Skyler and tells him of her many lovers–a lie–for which he is instantly regretful and never repeats.

Skyler is genuinely kind to Savannah despite her shrewishness. He pursues Savannah across the North and South, confident that there is nothing that could ever shatter their love.

Then again, maybe there is.

A Sensitive Subject Matter

As this Rebel Vixen is set during the US Civil War, slavery is a large part of the plot. I can understand that the sensitivity on this topic repels a lot of modern romance readers from this era. However, there’s no sugar-coating it. Savannah’s family owns plantations, and as such, they own slaves.

As far as Savannah’s views on slavery, like the war, it’s complicated. Ever since she was a child, Savannah’s father has allowed one slave to be freed at her request on her birthday. Although Savannah herself questions the righteousness of slavery, she will not betray her family, her state, and “The Cause.”

On the other hand, Skyler is aghast at the practice. He finds purpose in life through two motivations: to reobtain Savannah’s love and trust and fight for his nation until slavery is eliminated.

I adore the conclusion of this book as it’s reminiscent of the end of John Jakes’ mini-series North and South Part I and the scene with Lesley Anne Downs and Patrick Swayze. It always makes me chuckle. What the hell, that series was so good, so it’s ok with me that Ransom borrowed a bit from that ending.

“Why me? Why would you want me?” she asked in bewildered frustration.

“You–you make everything else so unimportant… I’ve never had much direction in my life, nothing I wanted to devote myself to until you held my hand and sat with me when I prayed I would die. Just wanting to hear your voice made me fight to get through the hell of each day. I loved you before I even saw your face.”

Final Analysis of Rebel Vixen

Rebel Vixen is a book I go back and enjoy every few years. For me, it’s an old friend with reliable characters who go through tragic circumstances but come out of it united and secure in their love for each other.

I truly hope author Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon) regains her rights to this book from Kensington and is able to republish it in digital format. It would be a shame for this romance to remain a hidden gem, for only lovers of old paperbacks to discover.

If you’re in the mood for an old-skool romance read that skirts with being un-PC but doesn’t have an over-the-top-Alpha hero you’d want to hit in the head with a frying pan, I can’t recommend a better read than Rebel Vixen.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis:

TENDER INNOCENCE
When Savannah Russell spotted the lone survivor drifting among the shipwreck’s debris, nothing could have stopped her from rescuing him. Not even that she was sailing on a Confederate blockade runner while he wore the uniform of the Union Navy. As a spirited Southerner, she hated to help the enemy, but as a woman she could not let him die. So she nursed him herself, rejoicing as pain left his startling gray eyes and strength returned to his lean, muscular body. And before she had time to guard against the unwanted desire his gentle touch aroused in her, she had given her enemy more than her compassion …. she had given him her heart.

WANTON PASSION
Skyler Reade felt more than gratitude for the raven-haired rebel who’d saved his life. Her courage had earned his boundless admiration; her beauty had sparked his limitless desire. She’d risked everything to help him and he knew that staying with her would only endanger them both. Still, he had to taste the beckoning sweetness of her lips, had to caress the ivory smoothness of her skin before he could leave her. Someday he would return to build a future with his seductive Savannah, but for tonight he could only give her the warmth of his embrace and the promise that she would always be his treasured, tantalizing REBEL VIXEN.

REBEL VIXEN by DANA RANSOM
defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Gentle Rogue duillo

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Pirate Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 426
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey was her third entry in the Malory series.

Arguably it is her most popular book. After 30 years, it is still in print and read by many new-to-the-romance-genre readers.

Johanna Lindsey Mania

I first read Gentle Rogue eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know?

I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!

The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit on the cover.

I was a bit disheartened because for a DuilloFabioLindsey outing, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was lackluster. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed.

When I saw Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I would be even more disappointed in the cover design. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a stepback with a floral font on the front. I actually preferred that weird, pointed sci-fi-looking type.

The “old” Duillo-Lindsey era (1987 to 1990) was over with Gentle Rogue.

gentle rogue spiak
Gentle Rogue, Avon re-issue, 2020, Sharon Spiak cover art

The Plot

Gentle Rogue starts hilariously. Georgina Anderson is in a grungy inn in a seedy part of London. She attempts to kill a cockroach on the wall by propelling food at it, fails, but doesn’t care so long as it’s out of sight.

As usual with a Lindsey book, things get ridiculous, so check your brain at the door. Just enjoy the ride.

Stuck in England after secretly traveling there to search for her long-lost love who’d abandoned her years before, the American Georgina and her companion, Mac, lack both funds connections. They are desperately looking for a way back home.

Mac signs them up to work their way home. Georgina disguises herself as a boy to obtain passage on The Maiden Anne.

Little does she know that the ship’s captain already knows she’s a female because: #1 He’s James Malory, so he has eyes.

And #2, he’d met her before at a tavern when she was dressed in her masculine garments. Thinking she was someone else, he picked her up, only to cop a feel of her boobies.

Hardly someone the so-called “connoisseur of women” would forget.

James has the time of his life as he slowly seduces Georgina–or George, as he lovingly calls her.

But the tables are turned on this love-’em-and-leave-’em rake as Georgina leaves him when they land in the Caribbean. One of her sea-faring brothers is there at the port and whisks her away to Connecticut.

Parts of this book run parallel to its precursor, Tender Rebel (which, for me, was so-so due to a dull-as-dishwater heroine). There is some word-for-word repetition of previous scenes (perhaps to pad the word count).

Unlike its predecessor, the heroine in Gentle Rogue is a delight. All the characters are a blast: James, Georgina, James’ droll and equally rakish brother Anthony, and best of all, Georgina’s five belligerent older brothers.

In a memorable scene, they all take turns beating James into a pulp before holding him and his crew prisoners.

Lindsey and her readers must have loved George’s brothers as I did. Three of the Anderson men feature as heroes in subsequent books of their own.

Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue

The title of the book is quite accurate. The hard-muscled ex-pirate James Malory is an unrepentant rogue, taking advantage of Georgina. He thoroughly disgraces her in front of her brothers, so they’re forced to wed.

James is a droll charmer, witty, and arrogant. The perfect hero.

My favorite Anderson brother was Warren. His book, The Magic of You, is my second favorite in the Malory-Anderson series. There, he meets his match with the much younger and very persistent Amy Malory.

Those two romances are the high points for me in the Malory-Anderson series, although Gentle Rogue is a wee better.

I enjoyed Gentle Rogue very much when I first read it.

I’ve grown to love it much more now that I picture James looking like another blond, green-eyed Englishman: a young Sean Bean!

sean bean
Sean Bean as James Malory. Grrrr…

Nothing against Fabio, he’s a legend, but he can’t be the hero of every romance from ’87 to ’95!

If you haven’t read Gentle Rogue, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a romance classic.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she’ll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship’s irrepressible captain, James Mallory.

The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.

GENTLE ROGUE by JOHANNA LINDSEY
captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

historical romance review
Captive Angel by Deana James
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical
Book Series: Gillard-Macpherson #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 511
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The cover of Deana JamesCaptive Angel includes a quote from Johanna Lindsey that states this book is: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down.”

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

How do I evaluate this amazing journey through a super-resilient woman’s incredible 19th-century life?

I must tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.

By all rights, Deana James’ Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should toss into a blazing fire while gleefully cheering: “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”

Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having previously a few of James’ books, I knew Captive Angel couldn’t be that horrible. James was one of the finest authors to have come out of Kensington’s Zebra imprint.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Captive Angel surpassed my expectations. It stars one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical (other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels‘ Captive Series.

Hunter Gillard’s not a crazed protagonist like Sean Culhane (Stormfire) or Duke Domenico (The Silver Devil) because he’s not super-obsessed over his woman (until the middle-end). He’s just a selfish prick. It’s all about him.

On one hand, we have a Caroline, who’s in my “Greatest Heroine” hall of fame, while the hero is relegated to the “Jerky Pig” hall of shame. That list is reserved for only the most porcine of Romancelandia’s leading men.

Caroline, or Fancy as she prefers, has a fantastic character arc. She starts down in the dumps: “Woe is me, I’m depressed, mourning for my dead child. I’m fat, and my husband doesn’t love me anymore. Sure, he’ll bang me something fierce, but it’s not only me who’s getting his love!”

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

Caroline and Hunter Gillard have been married for ten years. Their baby daughter died some years earlier. They still have a young son, but Caroline’s fallen into a deep depression, as she cannot have any more children.

Naturally, she’s let herself go. Caroline has gained a few (or more) pounds. Even so, her lusty husband doesn’t mind giving her a good porking. Hunter does hate her crying, how she wallows in self-pity, and oh, her refusal to worship him and treat him like the king he is.

So Hunter has other things on his mind. He’s a seaman by nature and despises being tied to his wife’s plantation, “England’s Fancy” with the responsibilities it entails. He loathes how mopey Fancy is. Often he leaves for long instances.

Caroline’s no longer the same beautiful woman who caught Hunter’s eye at a ball. She’s dumpy and fat now, even if that doesn’t stop Hunter from plowing her furrows every so often.

Life for Fancy isn’t great and it’s about to get worse.

Her plantation is not producing as it should, despite her husband providing fertilizer, as he’s nothing but excrement.

For a horrible truth comes to light. Hunter has many lovers, including one young miss he’s especially keen on. Worse yet, the mistress is pregnant!

Hunter resolves he’s had enough of Fancy. He decides to sail to Europe with his no-longer-a-virgin of a paramour. Even crueler, he takes his and Fancy’s son, Alex, with them.

As for Caroline? Well, kiddo, it’s been fun, but see ya!

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

One final blow is to come. Hunter leaves Fancy penniless, their bank accounts wiped empty. All that Fancy has is her run-down plantation.

If not for Holy Dulcibella, the servant who raised her from infancy, Caroline would be alone in the world.

There is also her plantation’s overseer, to help. Fancy should have had a fling with him. But she had no mind for men, just for “England’s Fancy.” With her overseer & Dulcibella, Caroline engages in back-breaking labor to keep her plantation up and running.

At long last, when it seems Caroline’s hard work will bring a good harvest, a terrible storm comes. It wipes out the crops, utterly ruining her.

Caroline can fall no lower. Does give up? No! She is determined to make her way, somehow.

For the first time in Caroline’s life, she has nothing. Like Janis Joplin sang (or was it Kris Kristofferson?) “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Fancy is free.

The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independet creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.

A Light in The Darkness

Certain revelations come to light. Holy Dulcibella is not a slave but a free servant. She discloses to Fancy that she was Fancy’s grandfather’s lover and secret wife.

He was a ship captain who sailed the seas like Hunter. Dulcibella was a princess of Madagascar. They fell in love even though he had a wife and family in America. Dulcibella willingly gave up her royal life to live with her man as a second-best.

This shocks Fancy to her core.

It was refreshing that Deana James wrote Captive Angel with a sense of historical authenticity. It sounds odd, but I appreciated that Fancy Caroline was uncomfortable knowing this truth. Her prejudices made her real, not some manufactured idea of perfection.

Even though Holy Dulcibella was the only person who had Caroline’s back from day #1, who’d stuck with her through the worst, Caroline still saw Dulcibella as an “other.” Dulcieblla was “inferior” because of her race and station. Caroline was a real person of her time, filled with preconceptions.

Over time Caroline does get over it. Through their shared travails she sees Dulcibella not as a slave or servant but as family, calling her “grandmother.”

It takes time to unfold. Their relationship is one of genuine, selfless love. The most honest connection Caroline has with a person is not with her wayward husband, but with this great friend.

The Creep “Hero” Returns

Dulibella tells her about her grandfather’s secret treasure hidden off the coast of Africa. Caroline determines to find it.

She obtains a ship, captain, and crew who will sail with her across the world in search of the gold.

Ultimately, Hunter hears that Caroline is risking her life for a foolish idea of an impossible treasure. Without a care for her, he abandons his pregnant mistress to save his wife.

But Caroline doesn’t need saving! In fact, Hunter’s the one who gets captured, and she must rescue him. In the end, she lets Hunter think he saves her, to please his ego. She understands her husband’s nature now.

Hunter has never seen Caroline like this before, so confident in herself. It excites him to see this new woman of adventure. With the other woman long out of his mind, he attempts to seduce his wife.

As Caroline never stopped desiring Hunter, she engages with him eagerly. The makeup sex is steamier than ever before. The two reunite, promising to love one another forever.

The Thrilling Conclusion

And as for the treasure? Why it was lost in the seas, never to be found!

Hunter’s cast-off mistress gives birth. She goes away and leaves her baby with Hunter, to be raised by him and Caroline.

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

Be happy that the heroine is happy. She loves her husband. When the book ends Hunter promises to be on his best behavior. He still will go out to sea once every so often while Caroline raises her son and her husband’s lovechild as their own.

She will remain home and tend to their plantation. Hunter will be a good boy from here on out. He enjoys plowing Fancy’s fields now a lot more now than he ever did before.

However, Fancy’s no dummy. Once that trust is lost, it can never wholly be regained, no matter how much love exists. Fancy is determined her love will last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

Namely, that the treasure wasn’t a legend and it wasn’t lost. Caroline sneakily hid it from Hunter. Maybe she’ll let him know about it. Maybe not.

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

Why did I love Captive Angel? It is not really a romance, or more correctly, it’s more than just romance. It’s women’s fiction, an action-adventure saga, historical fiction, and a character study, too.

You may read it and hate it and I wouldn’t blame anyone for that. This is a romance novel, so one expects certain rules in romance. Here, Deana James broke the rules. Despite me being a stickler for them, James turned the tables to create a story I loved. I was drawn to it like a cat to a crinkly toy ball covered in catnip.

Deana James’ Captive Angel was an emotional, turbulent read with a heroine whose identity was forged in fire.

Maybe her love story is not an all-time great. But her life story was.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

SHE SWORE TO STAY WED
Abandoned, penniless, and suddenly responsible for the biggest tobacco plantation in Colleton County, distraught Caroline Gillard had no time to dissolve into tears. The previously pampered, indulged mistress of the South Carolina estate had to learn fast how to manage her workers, her money — and her broken heart. By day the willowy redhead labored to exhaustion beside her slaves … but each night left her restless with longing for her wayward mate. Soon, though, her misery gave way to anger, and the determined woman knew that somehow she’d make him regret his betrayal until he begged her to take him back!

HE VOWED TO BE FREE
Handsome Hunter Gillard had been born to ride the everchanging sea, not to harvest and plant year in and year out. Tired of his commitments, the virile, hot-tempered captain meant to call his destiny his own like he had before he’d met his tantalizing Caroline. When his adventure was over, maybe he’d return to his patient, understanding wife. But when he learned she’d left him for parts unknown, the furious philanderer promised he’d track her down to teach her how to be Hunter’s loyal partner, his unquestioning concubine, his forgiving… Captive Angel.

CAPTIVE ANGEL by DEANA JAMES
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
guilty love charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: Guilty Love by Charlotte Lamb

Synopsis:

Nowhere to run.

Linzi York loved her husband — but Barty had changed. His rage and growing despair since the accident had taken a brutal toll. Linzi was trapped in a nightmare. And Ritchie Calhoun knew it.

Linzi and Ritchie’s relationship had always remained on a cool professional level — but now facades were beginning to crumble. Needs and desires they were powerless to deny tormented them…and it was Linzi who was paying the highest price.

Then a horrible tragedy shattered their lives — and Ritchie’s courage proved his love in a way that few men ever could…

GUILTY LOVE by CHARLOTTE LAMB

SPOILER & SENSITIVE CONTENT ALERT ⚠

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Harlequin Presents romance Guilty Love is crazy and full of over-the-top drama. I loved every wild moment of it. As always, YMMV, although this sort of book is right up my alley.

Lamb always tried to outdo herself in her writings. Whenever I picked up one of her books, I was never certain whether it would be a 5-star keeper or a weird slog through the heroine’s life. This one is a 5-star book. But a word of warning: it handles a dark subject that may cause readers some discomfort.

The Characters

Linzi York is a married woman who has worked for Ritchie Calhoun for about a year. Her marriage is not a happy one. She’s been with her husband Barty for four years and loves him deeply. She’s always wanted a big family. But Barty was in a devastating accident that affected his brain cognition. And performance in the bedroom. He has become a changed man, full of rage and anger. The prospects of having that big happy family seem impossible now.

Ritchie and Linzi have a great working relationship. Unsurprisingly, Ritchie carries a torch for his married secretary and can sense something’s not right with her marriage.

Barty started drinking to overcome his chronic depression. He views himself as half a man and has violent outbursts that he seemingly can’t control.

The Plot

Like in her book A Frozen Fire, a Charlotte Lamb heroine finds herself trapped in a marriage. In the previous book, the heroine was married to a cheating louse. Here, Linzi is married to an abusive spouse. Both Lamb heroines are intensely loyal to their partners for some unfathomable reason. They are the for better or worse types; even it makes them self-inflicted martyrs.

Barty’s affliction has made him homicidal. He beats Linzi constantly. He even tries to rape her but can’t perform.

Linzi has to spend more time working as Ritchie has a big project to finish. The late hours make Barty jealous. One night when Linzi gets home, Barty flies into a jealous rage and begins to beat her. Then events take a strange and horrific turn. Ritchie shows up. Barty is killed. What did Ritchie do?

The police arrest Ritchie for Barty’s murder. Ritchie goes to prison for several years.

Upon his release, Ritchie comes back into Linzi’s life, seeking revenge. Altered by years of incarceration, the formerly nice beta-male boss is now a cruel, remorseless being.

For her part, Linzi wants nothing to do with the man who killed her husband. Ritchie won’t be thwarted. Revenge turns into passion. Then a shocking revelation changes everything.

Final Analysis of Guilty Love

I won’t analyze this book with a realistic outlook; that’s too depressing.

With Harlequin Presents–especially certain authors like Charlotte Lamb–you’re bound to have a crazy, emotional time. Lamb would tackle controversial issues like rape and abuse with a psychoanalytical intensity that was riveting. (Usually.)

At 190 pages, Guilty Love is too short to delve properly into the very serious issues of abuse, trauma, and repression. It’s fair to make an argument that the violence displayed here was for gratuitous reasons.

In a lesser author’s hands, this would be a failure. When Lamb pulled out all the stops, she made a dark premise work. Rather than dwell on grim reality, Lamb ramped up the melodrama. It does create a heck of a page-turner.

Guilty Love is a twisted tale of revenge and dark revelations. Full of continuous action with a quick-moving plot, it’s hard to look away. It had me hooked from the first and never let go.

5 Stars

texas blonde

Historical Romance Review: Texas Blonde by Victoria Thompson

Synopsis:

When dashing Josh Logan rescued her from death by exposure petite Felicity Morrow realized she’d never survive rugged frontier life without a man by her side. And when she gazed at the Texas rancher’s lean hard frame and strong rippling muscles, the determined beauty decided he was the one for her. To reach her goal, feisty Felicity pretended to be meek and mild: the only kind of gal Josh proclaimed he’d wed. But after she’d won his hand, the blue-eyed temptress swore she’d quit playing his game–and still win his heart!

After a long day in the saddle the last thing hot-blooded Josh Logan wanted was a clinging wife. All he needed was a hot bath, a warm a meal, and a loving little lady who knew her place. Then golden-haired, Felicity came into his life and the virile cowboy knew he’d have to marry her if he ever wanted to taste her pouting lips and stroke her satiny skin. The reward of her charms was reason enough to give her his name – but the proud man vowed he’d never give up his independence…not even for his sultry, sensuous…

TEXAS BLONDE by VICTORIA THOMPSON 

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book & Characters

This review is of Texas Blonde, book #3 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson. (Zebra/Kensington, October 1987). This review is of the ebook version of the book.

Heroine: Felicity Storm, 18. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Photographer.

Hero: Josh Logan, 28. Silver/white hair (it’s a hereditary thing), gray eyes. Owner, Rocking L ranch.

The Plot

Texas Blonde begins with the hero, Josh Logan, a rancher, rescuing Felicity Storm, the book’s heroine, from several calamities –flash floods, homelessness, hunger. As they spend more time together, they become attracted to each other, become lovers, and decide to marry. We also learn about their respective histories. However, Josh is determined not to fall in love with Felicity.

Even so, Felicity and Josh do fall in love and get married. However, many threats, both internal and external, challenge their happiness.

In the end, the external threats are vanquished, the internal threats are discussed and addressed, and Felicity and Joshua have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Ms. Thompson has once again written a very emotional book with likable, well-developed characters.

Felicity begins the book as a young woman with a transient lifestyle. She’s looking for security, stability, and someone to love. She finds all of these in Josh. I liked the fact that Ms. Thompson gave Felicity a skill–photography–and allowed her to use it. Felicity began the book as a little girl; she ended it as a woman. It was great to see her growth.

Joshua is a slightly unusual hero, in that he has white hair (it’s a hereditary thing among Logan males). At first, all he cares about is his land. He tries really hard not to fall in love with Felicity but realizes that things aren’t important if you don’t have anyone to share them with. Josh comes to realize that Felicity completes him and opens himself to loving and being loved.

The storylines take a lot of twists and turns that are very well-written and unexpected.

Downside

Not much, but Ms. Thompson uses the overused “Lack of Communication” trope in Texas Blonde. Some of the issues Felicity and Josh have could have been settled earlier had they actually TALKED with each other. However, as I’ve written before, if couples actually talked with each other, romance novels wouldn’t probably exist. So maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.

Sex

Multiple love scenes between Felicity and Josh. Ms. Thompson’s love scenes are not particularly graphic nor erotic.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, shooting, and killing all take place here. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Blonde

Readers who like slow-burn romances with a great payoff at the end will find much to like in Texas Blonde. It’s the best book in the “The Lady and the Cowboy” series.

Location: Prospect, Texas. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1867-1868.

Tropes: Historical romance. Photographer heroine. Rancher hero. Zebra historical romance.

4.87 stars