Category Archives: John Ennis

velvet night ennis

Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
Rating: three-stars
Published: 198
Illustrator: John Ennis
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: War of 1812 Series #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Velvet Night, book #2 in the “War of 1812 Series” by Jo Goodman. The review for Book #1, Passion’s Bride, later reissued as The Captain’s Lady, is available on the blog.

The Plot

Velvet Night begins in England, 1805. Kenna Dunne, 13, the heroine, lives with her father, Robert; her stepmother, Victorine Dussault Dunne; her brother, Nicholas; and her stepsister, Yvonne. On this night, the Dunne is hosting a masquerade party at their family estate, Dunnelly.

The festivities will be brief. Before the night is over, an unknown criminal murders Robert.

Fast forward ten years. Kenna, now 23, is visited by Nicholas’ long-time friend Rhys (pronounced Reese) Canning, this book’s hero. And the person whom Kenna believes killed her father.

As the Velvet Night goes on, multiple attempts are made on Kenna’s life. She and Rhys draw close and eventually become lovers. Soon after that, she is kidnapped and brought to a brothel. Before the worst can happen, she is saved by Rhys’ “friend,”–who is also a madam.

Later, Kenna and Rhys marry, and he takes her to America, to Boston. After his father and brother were killed in a fire, Rhys inherited his family’s shipping business in the city. He has brought Kenner there to keep her safe from danger.

When they arrive in Boston, Kenna and Rhys make friends with Alexis Quinton-Cloud and Tanner Cloud (the heroine and hero of book #1 in this series, Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady); they own Garnet Shipping, the very competitors of Canning Shipping.

Kenna and Rhys also make enemies in Boston’s business and social circles.

Unfortunately, the threats against Kenna don’t stop after she arrives in America. Her life is in peril several more times. The bad guys kidnap her once again before her father’s killer’s true identity is revealed.

Rhys saves her, as the hero always does in these books. They unmask and dispose of the killers.

Kenna and Rhys have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Kenna and Rhys are fairly nice characters.

The Downside

Velvet Night reminds me very much of oatmeal or rice with nothing added: okay on some levels, but very bland.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman

The scenes that are supposed to be exciting (e.g., the many attempts on Kenna’s life) aren’t. Plus, there is little chemistry between Kenna and Rhys in or out of bed.

The “mystery” surrounding the killer of Robert Dunne is pretty easy to solve. I figured out who it was by the 25% point of the book.

Sex

A few love scenes, none of which are particularly hot or sensual.

Violence

There is some assault and battery. Then shootings and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Velvet Night

Velvet Night is a very pale sequel to Passion’s Bride/The Captain’s Lady. Jo Goodman’s previous Zebra historical was far superior to this lukewarm romance novel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis

HE BETRAYED HER FATHER
Ever since she was a girl, flame-haired Kenna Dunne had hated handsome Rhys Canning for lying about killing her father. Now, even though she hadn’t seen him since the war ended, the vengeance–seeking beauty swore to make the smooth-talking scoundrel confess his crime. But the moment she cop fronted him, all Kenna could do was stare breathlessly at his magnificent body, his ebony hair, and his entrancing eyes. Se knew she should denounce him as a murderer, but somehow all she could do was caress him as her lover…

SHE BROKE HIS HEART
As an American spy, Rhys could never reveal the truth to the fiery Kenna without jeopardizing his mission. It was best that he never again see the provocative temptress … but she d raged in his blood for years and now it was time for the reward or his patience. The brash colonial crushed her lips beneath his and molded his strong hands to her lush curves. Even though he knew she’d detest him forever after this evening, Rhys had waited too long to keep from recklessly plunging into splendor during this long luscious VELVET NIGHT.

Velvet Night by Jo Goodman
21-cover-artist-to-know

21 Old-School Cover Artists All Romance Readers Should Know

21-cover-artist-to-know

21 of the Best Historical Romance Cover Illustrators

I adore romances from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, partly due to the beautiful cover art. Over the years, I’ve amassed thousands of dazzling images. It’s a fun hobby trying to discover the artists who created them.

This compilation began as an attempt to list the ten artists every lover of old-school romances and clinch covers should know. Ten became fifteen, then twenty. Finally, I settled on 21 illustrators to identify.

This catalog of names consists of some of the best romance cover artists of all time.

That doesn’t mean these are the only artists to know, as this list is limited to historical romances written in the last third of the 20th century.

These 21 entries provide a starting point for the novice learner.

1. Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis illustrated Gothic books before he turned to mainstream romance.

His first bodice ripper was Avon‘s reissue of Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower. McGinnis then designed the cover for her sophomore outing, The Wolf and the Dove. His suggestive clinches for Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Hagan, and Laura Parker gained him acclaim and notoriety.

McGinnis worked almost exclusively in tempera paints.

His mature, angular style was an instant draw for romance. McGinnis created the first naked man covers, which delighted genre fans.

But it was the McGinnis woman who was a being of legend. McGinnis depicted the feminine form in a most alluring fashion.

“The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”

(Source: Vanity Fair)

2. H. Tom Hall

H. Tom Hall’s artwork for romance book covers is legendary. His technique is instantly recognizable: refined and sensual.

The strokes are broad yet precise. Hall’s scenes contain a dark, smoky essence. The heroines’ long locks flow wildly, while the heroes’ faces are shadowed and inscrutable.

Hall had a sensitive, respectful touch when portraying people of different races and ethnicities. Thus his illustrations were prominent on paperbacks set all over the world.

3. Harry Bennett

Harry Bennett‘s dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.

While his work inspired many other artists, Harry Bennetts covers have been confused with those of H. Tom Hall. While their depictions might appear similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference.

Of his artwork, Bennett’s son Tom, also a painter, said:

“My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil.

He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache.

Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.”

TOM BENNETT, KILLER COVERS OF THE WEEK

4. Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Romance Covers.” She started in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance.

Duillo was not ashamed to be sexy and outrageous with her art. She embraced camp to the hilt. Her reverence for beauty and perfection made her creative style a wonder to behold.

Duillo’s technique was marked by hyper-realism, unparalleled attention to detail, and a vast palette of colors.

Elaine would paint light hues onto a black canvas. This achieved stunning results for elements such as platinum-blonde or red-gold flowing waves of hair or sumptuous, satin gowns that looked like one could touch them.

Duillo worked in acrylics and oils. She placed her signature, “Elaine,” as close to the bodies as possible.

Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also produced romance covers, in a manner similar to Elaine’s.

5. Pino Daeni

Pino Daeni’s brushstrokes, the curves of his feminine subjects, and their facial expressions make his covers uniquely recognizable.

Daeni was always willing to experiment with different methods and poses. He was one of the early artists to employ the wraparound cover design and the pose and clinch style.

Pino worked in oils and preferred to stand while painting.

Pino’s innovative technique precedes him. He mixed impressionism and realism to create his own intoxicating style.

“I used to paint in the academic way. Then I changed. I could no longer stay with just one school. Everything was interesting to me. I was curious about various schools of thought.”

Pino, (2006)

6. Elaine Gignilliat

Elaine Gignilliat designed covers for hundreds of romances. Her artwork demonstrated exquisite attention to detail, especially with the textures of fabrics and hair. Her use of bright colors against dark backdrops made for remarkable images.

Like most other cover artists of her day, Gignilliat worked in oils.

Also, like many other of her contemporaries, Gignilliat designed covers for epic historical blockbusters and shorter category romances.

After making the initial sketches for a cover, she would start her paintings by drawing everything in oil with a small brush.

Next, she established the color values, where the darkest, middle tones, and lightest areas would be. Then she would add the general colors in a light oil wash.

Afterward, the real painting began as Gignilliat developed the faces and hands, giving them more color and form. This eventually resulted in a beautiful picture which was then made into a book cover.

7. Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg‘s fine art is considered to be contemporary realism. He excels at depicting emotional scenes,

Ginsburg’s book covers are more romantic than sensual. The edges of his subjects blur into the background,

While Ginsburg could display the human body in an alluring way, his covers were rarely gratuitous.

He has a compassionate eye that highlights the humanity of his subjects. Like H. Tom Hall, Ginsburg has a talent for empathetically painting people of diverse heritages.

Ginsburg’s style influenced many artists of Avon covers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

8. Morgan Kane

No one could capture the ornate, intricate patterns of fabrics as Morgan Kane could.

Whether presenting a lacy gown, a multi-textured cape, or a mosaic of hues on a blanket, Kane can make one can feel the material just as well as one sees it.

In contrast, he depicted human forms in a much softer manner. The difference between the grounded beauty of his subjects against ornate backgrounds, textiles, or flowers makes for a visual treat.

9. Robert A. Maguire

Robert A. Maguire was another of the many illustrators who created lurid pulp covers. While his pulp art was highly sexualized, his romance covers are more sedate.

An emotional connection is the focus, not sex. The faces of Maguire’s females are delicate, with thickly-lashed eyes and rosebud lips.

Maguire played light and dark tones against each other in an enchanting manner. His method is not surreal nor hyperreal. Instead, it is idealized unrealism, approaching the imagined perfection of a cartoon.

Like Elaine Duillo, Maguire often placed his signature–“R. A. Maguire”–as close to the bodies as possible, in the shade lighter than the background.

10. Roger Kastel

Famous for his movie posters, Roger Kastel‘s romance style shares similarities with that of Maguire & most significantly, Max Ginsburg.

Kastel favored a romantic, blurred technique instead of a precise, angular reality.

Kastel’s brushstrokes fused colors together, creating a hazy aura around the couples.

11. Walter & Marie Popp

Walter and Marie Popp designed Regency, Gothic, and bodice ripper covers. Each genre had its own method to it.

The Gothics were shrouded in darkness and mist.

Regencies were marked with a sweet, crisp quality.

For the historical romance covers, the Popps embraced sexy with their curvaceous heroines and muscular heroes.

The female faces look similar, as Walter often used his wife Marie, a model, as his muse. Their expressions are a variation of hers, from their full lips to their round eyes.

12. Victor Gadino

The great Victor Gadino‘s technique is masterful. His attention to fine detail is exquisite.

Note the musculature of the hero’s abdominal and pectorals, the lace on the hem of the heroine’s skirts, the silk pattern of pillows, and the heavy-lidded eyes in the hero’s lusty expression.

His use of jewel-tone colors results in covers that sparkle like precious gems.

More than any other artist since Elaine Duillo, Gadino’s art is typified by a carnal sensuality. His approach is hyperrealistic, with figures as close to perfection as the human eye can conceive.

13. Sharon Spiak

Sharon Spiak’s mentor, the Italian master artist, Pino Daeni, was a massive inspiration to her when she was his apprentice.

She painted in oils, creating an atmosphere of enchantment always backed by passion. Spiak’s paintings for romance novels capture sensuality, beauty, and fantasy by captivating the viewer in the intimacy of the moment.

Her approach differs from cover to cover. There is always a delicacy to the females’ features and a lovely interplay of pastels against darker tones.

14. John Ennis

John Ennis utilizes a “Disney Princess” method of painting, as his human images are beautiful but unrealistic. His covers have a fanciful, almost cartoon-like, fairy-tale quality. His work is based more on fantasy than romanticism.

Ennis played around with shades of light and contrasting hues, resulting in striking covers that made him a natural fit for Zebra.

If one notes the texture of the heroines’ hair, one can see individual strands and curls against blocks of solid color.

Like Franco Accornero, John Ennis was an early innovator of digital artwork.

15. Franco Accornero

Franco Accornero, also known as “Franco,” pioneered computerized art design. Due to his fascination with the capabilities of technology, Franco always pushed boundaries.

Before he transitioned to digital artwork in the 1990s, Franco worked primarily in oils.

As an independent freelance artist, he was responsible for all cover design elements, from setting up the scene to models, costumes, and props. He arranged various poses with different lighting arrangements.

His fine director’s eye created a dramatic and flattering balance of light and shadow.

Franco would use a wind machine in the photo sessions to get that flowing hair look.

16. Renato Aime

Renato Aime worked primarily in oils in addition to other mediums. He frequently designed covers for Dorchester and Kensington, two publishing houses that hired artists with an eye for the outlandish.

Aime captured the curvaceous female forms in contrast against the more rigid muscles of the males in a most pleasing way.

While Aime’s technique is recognizable as his own, it does bear some resemblance to his fellow Italian illustrators. One can see similarities to the covers of Pino Daeni and Franceso Accornero. Note the blending of colors and the identifiable strokes.

17. Melissa Duillo-Gallo

Melissa Duillo-Gallo, daughter of artists John and Elaine Duillo, was influenced by both her parents, her mother’s romance covers in particular.

Elaine’s work is titillating and highly elaborate. Melissa’s art tends to the sweeter side with more playful emotions. Duillo-Gallo applied flamboyantly bright colors, exemplifying the feel of the 1980s and 1980s.

After she married, Melissa signed her covers as Gallo, not Duillo. Unlike her mother, she usually placed her signature away from the bodies.

Melissa also used less eyeshadow than her mother did, which is saying something!

18. Gregg Gulbronson

Gregg Gulbronson utilized a distinctive approach, making his covers both breathtaking and easy to recognize. Romance, sexuality, fantasy, and reality all meld together in Gulbronson’s art.

Gulbronson used spraying/airbrushing techniques, which made for a striking and individualized look.

Enveloped in a romantic haze, the couples in clinches are surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The figures seem to glow as the light plays against their hair, skin, and clothes.

19. Ray Kursar

Ray Kursar was yet another artist with a noticeable style. His paintings look more like drawings. Kursar worked with multiple mediums to create his illustrations, such as pastels and watercolors.

He employed various elements to make his covers stand out: emphasis on bright colors, flowers, animals, and fabrics.

Hair is constantly flowing in the wind, while the locks of waves and curls are well-defined.

20. James Griffin

James Griffin‘s covers from the 1980s and 1990s are quite distinct from his 21st-century ones, even though both periods are stunning.

The late-era clinches are made digitally and approach hyperrealism.

Griffin’s illustrations of the “classic” era are more dramatic, with windswept hair and passionate embraces. The couples are shown leaning back or lying down, rarely standing straight up.

His graceful aesthetic resulted in book covers that emotionally resonated with the romance reader.

21. Charles Geer

Charles Geer might be known to readers of children’s books published from the 1960s to the 1980s–two of which he wrote himself.

Geer’s style is so distinct. There is much going on in his images, whether sketches or paintings.

His attention to the tiniest of subjects amazes the eye. He used uniform brush strokes to create spectacular backgrounds, intricate curls in the hair, or elaborate textures in clothing. The bright pigments twinkle like stars against their darker settings.

Geer’s scenes appear dream-like but are far more memorable.

Final Thoughts on Cover Artists

Sweet Savage Flame believes it’s essential to keep the memory of these skilled cover illustrators and their works alive.

Hopefully, by familiarizing yourself with these artists’ techniques, you’ll quickly identify their covers on sight. No more having to confirm with a signature!

Your Opinion

Do you think this a fair compilation of some best romance cover artists? Who are your favorite old-school illustrators?

Is there an artist you think we should have placed on this list but missing? What are your thoughts on painted versus digital cover art?

Please drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance!

texas triumph victoria thompson

Historical Romance Review: Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: John Ennis
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: The Cowboy and the Lady #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Texas Triumph by Victoria Thompson

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

This review is of Texas Triumph, #2 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson. This is the follow-up to her book, Texas Treasure.

The Plot

Texas Triumph begins at the Circle M ranch near Canaan, Texas, where Rachel Anne McKinsey lives. Rachel is mourning the death of her father, Sean, who a rival rancher killed. To help her hold on to her ranch, Rachel proposes marriage to her foreman, Cole Elliot, the book’s hero. He accepts her proposal, and they marry.

Not everyone in their area of Texas is happy with their marriage. Among the unhappy is Will Statler, the rancher who killed Sean. Also unhappy: Hank Oliver, a mercantile store owner who had a thing for Rachel.

After a period of time, Rachel and Cole consummate their marriage. Later they become parents to a daughter, Colleen. Rachel and Cole are happy for a while, especially because they believe Statler is dead.

They’re wrong. Statler is very much alive and joining together with Hank to try to kill Cole and get Rachel. These efforts are thwarted, and Rachel, Cole, and Colleen have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

I frequently criticize authors for failing to reach their characters’ emotions. That certainly isn’t the case with Ms. Thompson, who goes into Rachel and Cole’s emotions in very deep detail. Very. Deep. Detail.

Downside

This detail, however, can also be construed as a weakness. Much of Texas Triumph is about Rachel and Cole not communicating with each other. They assume things that are not based on facts until about page 400, when they finally begin to talk with each other. There isn’t a great deal of character development here.

The ending of the book could have been more exciting.

Sex

The love scenes are not graphic or exciting.

Violence

Assault and battery, and two shootings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Triumph

Reading Ms. Thompson’s work is frustrating for me, as she has a good foundation for a good book in Texas Triumph, but she doesn’t quite get there.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis

HE SAID “I DO”
Ranch foreman Cole Elliott couldn’t say no to his enticing boss Rachel McKinsey when she proposed they have a marriage in name only. The virile gunslinger had had his eye on the shapely filly since he first hired on and dreamed of her raven hair caressing his broad chest, her full curves filling his strong hands, and her luscious mouth questing for his heated kiss. Even though he’d promised to protect her property and not lay a finger on her, the hot-blooded cowboy never intended to wed the arousing beauty without getting a real honeymoon in the bargain!

SHE SAID “I WON’T”
Nothing was more important to determined Rachel McKinsey than the Circle M – and if it meant taking a near-stranger as a husband to scare off rustlers, she would do it. Still, the gorgeous rancher felt a secret thrill that towering Cole Elliott was going to be her man. But now that Rachel had sworn they be business partners, she could never ever admit that all she really wanted was to consummate their vows and have Cole release her sensual response in the glorious moment of their…TEXAS TRIUMPH

TEXAS TRIUMPH by VICTORIA THOMPSON
Bold Destiny

Covers of the Week #15

melissa duillo gallo

Artist: Melissa Duillo-Gallo

The Duillo family was filled with artistic talent. There was John Duillo, the great pulp cover artist. Of course, his wife Elaine was a pioneer for women in the field. She not only painted pulp covers but went on to become the “Queen of Romance Covers.” Did you know their daughter, Melissa Duillo-Gallo, was also a romance cover illustrator?

From the 1980s to the 1990s, Melissa Gallo (née Duillo), was a prolific historical romance cover artist, creating works for publishers such as Avon, Dell, Warner, Zebra, and more. While she and her mother no longer illustrate romance covers, Melissa is still creating art as a talented painter.

Melissa Gallo Paints is where you can get access to her current work. I also have a dedicated Pinterest page to her romance covers here.

For a long time, I used to get Elaine and Melissa’s artwork confused. Now I can spot the differences between mom’s and her daughter’s work. For one thing, Melissa Duillo preferred her models to wear more clothes, and also, she was more conservative with the use of eyeshadow, especially for the heroes!

Both Duillo ladies collaborated with supermodel Fabio many times.

The Covers

Here are some lovely romance covers that Melissa Duillo Gallo designed for you to enjoy. These are our Covers of the Week for Monday, July 19 to Sunday, July 25,

My Lord Monleigh

Covers of the Week #14

Theme: Highland Romance Novels

For the week starting Monday, July 12 to Sunday, July, 18, I thought some Historical Highland romance novels or Scottish-themed covers would be a bonny sight for your eyes to enjoy.

hearts surrender ennis

Covers of the Week #9

Take a look and enjoy Blue Falcon’s favorite covers! For the week of June 7 to June 13, we asked our dear friend Blue Falcon to choose his favorite covers for this week’s theme. Thanks to these picks, I discovered a new line, Richard Gallen Books, which preceded the Tapestry imprint for Pocket Books.

Gentle Rogue duillo

Covers of the Week #8

“A bird, bird, bird, b-bird is the word!”

For the week of May 31 to June 6, can you spy the birds on these Elaine Duillo and John Ennis illustrated historical romance novel covers? Enjoy!

love's glorious gamble

Historical Romance Review: Love’s Glorious Gamble by Dana Ransom

Synopsis:

ACE OF HEARTS
Gloria Daniels was prepared for adventure–her first trip away from home was bound to be exciting. But nothing could have matched the true thrill that coursed through her young body when she first spotted Sterling Caulder. He may have had a reputation as a gambler, but he was like no man she had ever seen before. He walked with an elegant grace and carried an air of sophistication that drew Gloria into his spell. All she wanted at that moment was to experience his embrace, to feel his warm lips against her own, to have him sweep her off of her feet for a night of unbridled ecstasy!

QUEEN OF DIAMONDS
Sterling Caulder made his living by making decent men part with their hard earned money. A gambler and a rogue, Sterling did his job without thinking of the consequences–at least until he met Gloria. Her soft gray eyes appealed to his only weakness–the desire to protect the innocent beauty from the dangers of the world. All he wanted to do was to run his fingers through her flaxen curls, to caress her with a passion that knew no bounds. Making Gloria his own would be a risk, but for a night in her arms he was willing to chance it all in Love’s Glorious Gamble
.

LOVE’S GLORIOUS GAMBLE by DANA RANSOM

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

In Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble a young and naïve blonde named Gloria Daniels seeks to avenge her father’s death. She transforms herself into the vixenish redhead, Glory Dane. As Glory, she’ll cheat men out of their money and seek out retribution. Meanwhile, her mentor, and sometimes-savior, Sterling Caulder, a notorious gambler, fights his attraction to her. Sterling’s been hurt by love in the past. Is Gloria the woman who will mend his heart?

The Plot

Here in Love’s Glorious Gamble, the hero is no overbearing bully. He’s a charismatic rogue who shares a great, supportive relationship with the heroine. The heroine is courageous and plucky, all alone in a world that holds mystery and despair.

A girl of intelligence and wit, Glory devises a complicated trap in which to ensnare her enemies. Everyone is hiding the truth to some extent in this tangled tale of vengeance.

My Opinion

Love’s Glorious Gable was published in 1988 under Zebra‘s Heartfire imprint. It is an entertaining, emotional romance. This book should merit at least 4 stars, especially by the low-quality standards of Zebra romances.

So why does my official rating stand at only 3 stars?

Two reasons.

Reason #1

Dana Ransom (real name Nancy Gideon) has written some of my all-time favorite books–not just romances–in particular, Rebel Vixen and Dakota Destiny. Other thrilling epics are Temptation’s Trail and Dakota Promises.

I’ve never hated any of Ransom’s works I’ve come across, although some have drawn conflicted emotions, namely, Alexandra’s Ecstasy and its predecessor, The Pirate’s Captive.

Love’s Glorious Gamble falls short when contrasted with my personal favorites. It’s unfair to make such comparisons, I know. I went in with immense expectations only to find an entertaining, above-average love story.

That doesn’t sound bad at all, does it?

Reason #2

I had to take a full star rating off this book because Sterling is still madly in love with his dead fiancée, Eliza. So much, that even in bed, he calls Glory by Eliza’s name…twice. Yikes!

The dead wife/dead lover-fetish trope is a giant pet peeve and a major no-no for me… Uggh!

I don’t mind a hero who believes he is in love with another living woman and then falls truly in love with the heroine. I can even tolerate a cheater if he’s redeemed. It’s that when the heroine has to compete with a perfect ghost for the hero’s affections, I tend to nope out. 

I really wish that had not been such a significant part of Sterling’s background. With any other author, this would have been a complete deal-breaker for me. However, due to Ransom’s exceptional writing, I avoided tossing the book on the floor and was able to continue.

Final Analysis of Love’s Glorious Gamble

As I said, that one plot point did color my final opinion of Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble. If I don’t dwell on it, I can honestly say that, while not perfect, this Zebra Heartfire is worthy of a positive review.

But it did happen, so that tempers my overall enjoyment, although certainly not enough to hate it. I just wouldn’t put it on my Desert-Island-Keeper list.

However, if you’re a more open-minded reader who appreciates the power of love’s ability to heal wounds and also looking for a Zebra that doesn’t suck, then this may be an old-school romance you’d like to explore.

3 Stars

runaway bride

Historical Romance Review: Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook

runaway bride
Runaway Bride, Rosalyn Alsobrook, Zebra, 1987, John Ennis cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook left a bad taste in my mouth. While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful. Either they were boring or just freaking bizarre.

The Plot

Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness when the hero, Jason, comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy and is even willing to be a father to her child.

Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced her to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.

The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out of her, her husband was a good man. And maybe at one point in his life, he was, but he let major demons take over, and he ruined that goodness. Fortunately, the heroine ended up with Jason, but the fact that this book even tried to pull a love triangle plot was disgusting. Katherine should have had nothing but hatred for her husband.

And at the final pages of the story, do we see the happiness that Katherine and Jason should have had? Well, sure, they lived a long married life together, but the epilogue was bizarre and floored me. The son of Katherine and her first husband stands at his father’s grave, weeping for him, and pretty much says, “No matter what happened, Dad, you were a great man, and I’m sorry I never got to know how wonderful you were.”

Final Analysis of Runaway Bride

Look, I’m no pearl-clutcher when it comes to controversial issues. I love un-PC bodice rippers. I can deal with a lot of craziness and don’t take offense too much (except boredom). Having a heroine who was in love with her drunk husband who mercilessly beat her was a very difficult pill to swallow. I don’t think Rosalyn Alsobrook handled the topic well.

I remember feeling sick after reading this, and that was 30 years ago. The feeling stays with me to this day when I think about Runaway Wife.

1 Star

winter's heat ennis

Historical Romance Review: Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning

Synopsis:

Her years in a nunnery taught Rowena of Benfield many things, but not how to be a wife to the powerful lord who claimed her as his bride. She vows never to submit to this aloof and ruthless man who claims her.

Rannulf of Graistan has been a woman’s fool once before and has sworn to never be again, but he cannot refuse the rich estate that this marriage brings him.

But a tide of treachery is rising around them and their only hope lays in daring to trust and to love unconditionally.

WINTER’S HEAT

Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 🙂

“It may be that you will find my manner too straightforward for your tastes, but, my lord, it is just that – my manner. Would that I die before I give up that part of me.”

WINTER’S HEAT

The Book

A medieval romance that takes medieval life seriously is usually one I enjoy, but Denise Domning’s Winter’s Heat fell a bit flat for me.

The Plot

Rowena is forced into marriage with Lord Rannulf of Graistan. After a quick consummation, Rannulf leaves Rowena at his castle to deal with his surly servants, evil sister-in-law, Maeve, and his young son.

After I was more than 30% into the book, I realized that the hero was nowhere to be found. Strangely enough, I was ok with that. I enjoyed reading about Rowena’s attempts to turn Rannulf’s pigsty into a livable home.

Unfortunately once Rannulf re-enters the picture, the book doesn’t get better. Rannulf mistrusts his capable wife and only believes Maeve’s ridiculous lies. Winter’s Heat reminded me of the worst of the worst of Johanna Lindsey’s romances. The ones where we see the hero and heroine bickering for no real reason, refusing to engage in basic communication, and making lots of love even though they hate each other.

Final Analysis of Winter’s Heat

As this was Domning’s first book, I’m willing to forgive the unsatisfying romance and read on to the next book in the Graistan series, as I did appreciate the historical authenticity. Hopefully, the characterization and romance are better handled in her later works.

2.5 Stars