Category: Book Review

Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan

Escape From Desire
Escape From Desire, Penny Jordan, Harlequin, 1983, Tom Bjarnason cover art

Harlequin Presents #569

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Penny Jordan’s Escape from Desire was for me a very satisfying, yet silly read.

A Tropical Vacation

Tamara is on vacation on the island of St. Stephen, all by herself, as her stuffy fiancé has no time for frivolities like lounging in the sun. Tamara is typical of Penny Jordan’s heroines, slightly repressed due to an overbearing aunt who raised her. But as she sunbathes on the beach, Tamara’s doubts about her engagement come to a head. While Malcolm is everything Tamara thought she wanted in a husband–staid, unemotional, professional–she recalls the happy, loving marriage of her parents and ponders if she can go through a loveless union so different than that of her deceased parents.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger on the beach admires her bikini-clad body with his eyes. When he notices her engagement ring, he’s cruel to her, thinking she’s just out in the Caribbean for one last hurrah.

A Jungle Nightmare

Tamara signs up for a jungle trek to take her mind off her worries when who should show up, but the mysterious stranger from the beach, our hero Zach Fletcher.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Escape From Desire by Penny Jordan”

Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

[He] might after a season let me go, but I had a frightening dread that if he possessed me long enough, he would drain me till I became his thing, his creature—that I wouldn’t go, even if he allowed it…

A Lady Bought with Rifles
3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

***SPOILERS***

A Lady Bought With Rifles is an amalgam of great writing and stupid characterization. I was extremely frustrated reading it because it could have been one of those legendary bodice rippers that old-school fans would be talking about to this day.

A Lady Bought with Rifles, Jeanne Williams, Pocket Books, 1977, Ron Lesser cover art

The Plot

Upon the death of her father, the British-raised Miranda is called back to her father’s ranch in Mexico. There she meets two strikingly different American men, Trace, a tall, dark, and mysterious pistolero, and Court Saunders, the foreman of Miranda’s newly inherited mines and lover to her resentful half-sister, Reina. Blond, panther-like, and roguish, his sensual presence is almost irresistible.

The sisters both inherit the ranch. Miranda, being a foreigner, is aghast by the circumstances of the ranch and mines, particularly how the indigenous Mexicans are treated, how the evil Reina treats her, how gorgeous hunk Court pursues her…and just about every other thing she can find to complain about, rightly or wrongly.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams”

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

Savage Possession. Margaret Pargeter, Harlequin, 1980, Bob Kebic cover art
Harlequin Presents #366
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Margaret Pargeter’s Savage Possession begins like any ordinary Harlequin Presents, with the hero & H meeting under unusual circumstances with the situation soon getting heated afterwards.

In this case, Melissa’s car is trapped in the snow and along comes the hero, Ryan Trevelyan, to give her a lift. She’s dressed in bulky winter clothes so he assumes she’s a boy. As they’re driving along in his car he’s berating ‘him’ for driving under such horrible circumstances. When she takes off her cap, Ryan realizes, “Oh noes, she’s this unbelievably beautiful, green-eyed, redhead woman! How easily mistaken I was to think she was a boy because she was wearing a hat and coat! Well since she tricked me, I’ll force her to spend the night at my house even though there are plenty of other places in town that she can stay. That’ll her teach her a lesson!”

I wondered to myself just where this book was going. It was weird. It seemed all over the place on plotting.

The heroine does not act like do not act out as the HP caricatures they’re supposing to: swooning, selfless, kind to all, and eager to work hard to prove her worth.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter”

Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

Call Back Yesterday. Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1978, Will Davies cover art
Harlequin Presents #253
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

There are two Harlequin Present writers I absolutely adore: Miranda Lee and Charlotte Lamb. While Lamb wrote mostly in the ’70s and ’80s and Lee was a modern woman of the ’90s and 2000s, both authors shared an ability to portray great heroines from vastly different lifestyles: from poor, innocent virgins to victims who rise above tragedy to mature sexually experienced sophisticates.

In this book, Oriel Mellstock belongs to the latter group. Oriel and Devil Haggard were cousins who grew up together and grew to love each other. (If that registers an ick-factor, they’re only second cousins). Cruel fate separates them. Oriel leaves and marries a man 30 years older. She actually has a normal marriage, sleeps with him (albeit without much passion) and has a child. Her multi-millionaire husband dies, and she returns to her home town to get a little revenge.

Call Back Yesterday was Charlotte Lamb’s first HP. So it’s a bit milder than her later works. There is no consummation in this book, but she throws a bunch of HP tropes at you: the much-beloved manor the heroine fights to own; a darkly-brooding, bastard hero who rides on a black stallion; the manipulative wife who separates the lovers; a vicious other-woman; multiple men who vie for the heroine’s affections; and even a couple of cute kids.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan

Highland Tryst, Pocket Books, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

Tapestry Romance #85

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Let me spoil this turkey and save anyone who’s even contemplating reading this mess of a book their valuable time. As far as I know, we only live one life, and there’s no reason to spend a moment of it in undeserved agony.

(Highland Tryst is also about 30 years out of print, so I don’t feel too bad about hurting anyone’s career.)

Kathlyn and Alex are from warring Scottish clans. When Highland Tryst begins, they are already lovers, meeting frequently for very intimate encounters. They’ve seen each other naked, inside and out. They know what the other looks like, sounds like, smells like… Just to be totally clear: they’ve HAD SEX WITH EACH OTHER MANY TIMES.

Their families discover the affair so Kathlyn and Alex are separated. Kathlyn flees into the wilderness and is rescued by Duncan, an ugly, deformed stranger. Kathlyn is repelled by his looks, at first. Duncan is kind to her and eventually they fall in love.

And HAVE SEX.

So now, Kathlyn is torn between her former handsome lover, and the kind, yet ugly stranger who’s saved her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan”

Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass

Charlotte, Tower & Leisure Sales Co., 1978, cover artist unknown

From the back of the book:

Lovely young Charlotte Bourne was the apple of her father’s eyes and a belle of New York society. The onset of the War Between the States introduced her to young Liam Brady, whom her dissolute brother Richard had hired to serve as his substitute in the Union Army. Liam and Charlotte fall deeply in love, but before they could marry, Charlotte had to come to terms with her turbulent feelings for the two other men in her life. The raging Civil War echoed the conflict in Charlotte’s heart…

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Charlotte is…

It’s…

Well, it’s a book.

The best thing about this circa 1980 mini-bodice ripper is the Newport cigarettes ad in the middle of it:

 photo Newport ad.jpg

Charlotte takes place during the Civil War in New York City beginning 1863 or 1864 (both dates are given). For a historical book, it’s historical, but for a romance, the romance is lacking.

This book is only 239 pages long, but the hero doesn’t make an entrance until page 144. And he is Missing-In-Action for most of it. The back blurb tells you the entire plot of this dreck.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Charlotte by Amanda Douglass”

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model
Defy Not the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1989, Elaine Duillo cover art, Fabio cover model

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

Defy Not the Heart
5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market Romance author in the 1980s-1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success. Lindsey even reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list with Defy Not the Heart.

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak, and in a span of 10 to 15 years, churned out book after book (with the best covers ever!), that, for but a few exceptions, were all great reads or rank among my most beloved romances. For sure, they were not always the best written, often rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing, and so often, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Yet, oddly I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages and overbearing, handsome men who usually treated the heroine like crap one minute, and then was passionate making lurv to her then brushing her hair as afterplay.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

Viking Rose , Zebra, 1993, Pino cover art
From the back of the book:

SHE WAS A SPIRITED IRISH MAIDEN

When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…

HE WAS A FEARLESS VIKING RAIDER

Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone.

... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price”

Historical Romance Review: The Innocent by Bertrice Small

The Innocent, Bertrice Small, Ballantine, 1999, Elaine Duillo cover art

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

It was a bad sign that Bertrice Small’s The Innocent features one of her dullest covers ever. The lone positive was that it was designed as one last covers created by legendary artist Elaine Duillo, for her dear friend Bertrice.

Taking a break from Small’s usual romances where the heroine is captured by some salacious sultan and enslaved in his harem, The Innocent is a rather ho-hum medieval. The heroine is a former nun named Eleonore, who goes by the ridiculous name Elf. Elf is a paragon of virtue, saintliness, and sweetness and is totally dull. She is made to marry Ranulf, an equally boring character who patiently introduces Elf into the arts of love.

There’s an evil villain, a hired killer, who falls in love with Elf for her purity and goodness, but all I could wonder was WHY? She, like most Small heroines, is perfect beyond belief.

Ok, I lied when I said the reason behind the cover was the sole positive aspect of this book. The villainess, Isleen, is such a caricature of slutty evilness, she’s hysterical. She hates Elf and is her total opposite: a cruel, bitchy who-ore who will stop at nothing to have Elf killed.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Innocent by Bertrice Small”

Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

Rebel Vixen, Dana Ransom, Zebra 1987, cover artist unknown
5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beginning: Love & Betrayal

As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, Miss Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean. They are bringing food and medical supplies to her Southern brethren, a noble effort. Then, 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, swearing to save the handsome Yankee officer, despite everyone’s potestations, including her Uncle, who’s in charge of the mission. Savannah takes the Yankee on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps the Northern officer recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. Savannah is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, too, quickly falls for the woman who saves his life.

Upon a tropical beach, Savannah and Skyler exchange their words of love, promising to be together. 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom”

Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes

Divided Heart, Angelica Aimes, Pinnacle, 1983, Norm Eastman cover art
Divided Heart, Angelica Aimes, Pinnacle, 1983, Norm Eastman cover art

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Pinnacle Books Bodice Ripper

Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is a typical bodice ripper like the many that glutted the market in the 70s and early 80s. The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies–attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings, and whippings–that would make the average woman end up looking like a “faces-of-meth” poster.

However, no matter how battered and bruised, how emaciated, how lice-infested her hair, how filthy, and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world: Augusta Raleigh, she of the emerald eyes and raven curls.

The Plot

On July 4, 1774, Augusta seals her fate when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army. The story starts out promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl. Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times, there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.... Read more “Historical Book Review: Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes”

Historical Book Review: Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

The Plot (with Spoilers)

Mark this down as one of those books where the hero first catches sight of the heroine bathing.

Ruy and Mirjana are from two different cultures: she is a princess from Al-Andalus, while Ruy is a knight for the kingdom of Castile y Leon. She will become his captive, but will he become the captive of her heart? For despite their great disparities, the pair quickly bond and engage in a forbidden romance.

No matter the obstacles that fall in their way, the betrayals, lies, and tragedies, they still love each other. Ruy’s and Mirjana’s relationship is intense & steadfast.

For that reason, let me get this right out of the way: the ending is not a conventional one. Even so, I was satisfied with the conclusion because there is no denying Ruy and Mirjana desperately love each other and will do their best to succeed.

Despite the unorthodox-yet-still-happily-ever-after ending there is no denying Ruy de Bivar’s and Mirjana’s deep and abiding affection for the other. You know they will make it through together until their deaths.

***SPOILER ALERT*** Besides, Ruy did wed Jimena, ward of the King of Castile, so this is historically accurate.... Read more “Historical Book Review: Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels”