Category Archives: year 1977

shanna

Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

historical romance review
Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 666
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve long had a tenuous relationship with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ romances. Shanna is the fourth of her books I’ve attempted to read, but it’s the only one I’ve completed. That’s a net positive in this bodice-ripper-lite‘s column.

Now, did I love it? Love is a strong word. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable, if a bit long.

The Characters and Setup

Shanna Trahern is the spoiled only child of a wealthy Caribbean planter and widower, “Squire” Orlan Trahern. He’s part of the upstart merchant class and tres riche.

Fortune hunters and noblemen fallen upon hard times seek her hand, but Shanna will have none of them! Why can’t a man love her for who she is, dammit: a haughty, ill-tempered, busty, aqua-eyed blonde with a flawless complexion?

Her doting father has given his beautiful and independent daughter one year in England to choose an appropriate man to marry. Otherwise, he will arrange a marriage for her. Squire Trahern wants grandbabies, dammit! Besides, his daughter could use a husband to tame her wild ways.

Determined to be ruled by no man, Shanna colludes with her servant Pitney to arrange a quickie marriage to some black-sheep gentleman doomed to the hangman’s noose. That way, she’ll have official records she was legally wed. Then she’d return home, a widow in mourning, determined never to remarry.

The man she “chooses” is a bearded wretch convicted of killing a barmaid. Despite his thin, unkempt appearance, the hero has a charm in his hazel-gold eyes.

He’s our hero Ruark Beauchamp. Ruark gave me total Hugh Jackman vibes for some reason, so I was on board.

hugh-jackman

The Plot

Part One

Shanna promises to make the man’s last days pleasant by moving him to nicer quarters and keeping his belly fed. Instead, the prisoner arrogantly demands the consummation of his marital rights because Shanna is really hot.

She concedes to this, but any dingbat with two brain cells should know she’s full of it. But alas, our hero is besotted from the get-go over Shanna. His brains are in his balls. Ruark’s sole aim in this book is either getting into Shanna’s bed or obtaining vengeance in the form of getting Shanna into his bed!

Ruark is cleaned up, and wouldn’t ya know it? With some food in his stomach, a haircut, a shave, and a wash, Ruark is really hot.

Shanna’s southern girly parts tingle. Ruark eyes Shanna’s northern girly parts making promises of a pleasurable time to come.

The ceremony is performed. Into the carriage and on their way are the newlyweds. But Ruark can’t take it anymore, his lust for her bust overwhelms him, and he takes her. For a couple of humps, he is allowed to experience paradise. Shanna is confused by the fluttering sensations she’s experiencing.

Then the coach stops, and Ruark realizes Shanna had no intention of upholding her side of the bargain. He is taken away, but not without a bitter fight, before presumably being executed.

Shanna spares Ruark not another thought (okay, maybe one or two) and returns home to her father’s island of Los Camellos.

SHANNA PINK REISSUE
Shanna, Re-issue

Part Two

However…

Shanna’s other servant involved in her scheme decides to line his pockets in an even schemier scheme. He substitutes a dead man’s body for Ruark’s and takes him as a slave for Shanna’s father, of course. And wouldn’t ya know it? As Shanna sails home, Ruark is on that same ship.

Soon, to her great dismay, Shanna becomes aware of the new servant’s presence, and so does her father. Ruark never reveals he is Shanna’s legitimate husband (which would have made more sense since Ruark was so eager to get under Shanna’s petticoats).

As the new slave on the job, Ruark impresses the bossman with his engineering skills and–ahem–masterful knowledge of plantations. (It turns out Ruark’s family are wealthy colonial planters related to English nobility. What the hell was Ruark thinking, not contacting them or telling his father-in-law who he was?)

Trahern is so impressed that he gives Ruark special duties with special benefits. The day comes when the slave is dining at the table with the master and his wife—the slave’s wife, that is, not the master’s.

Apparently, Ruark is deep into some heavy roleplay because this slave thing turns him on. When Shanna sees him while riding her horse, he taunts her, and she hits him with her crop.

Instead of reacting violently, as these heroes in ‘rippers would, Ruark only smiles and vows to tame her to his will…

Funny enough, Shanna is viewed as having always gotten her way and in need of the right proper taming. She is a real itchbay, never satisfied with anything.

Everything displeased her, and even the flawlessness of her own beauty, regally gowned in rich ivory satin and costly lace, did not change her mood of discontent.

Ruark cares not. Nothing matters, not freedom, not clearing his name for a crime he didn’t commit, and not returning home. He must have his Shanna!

The give-and-take, push-and-pull between Shanna and Ruark is highly exciting until it reaches its apex. Ruark finally gets his honeymoon!

read shanna for free
Map of Los Camellos

Part Three

It seems that Ruark has found his Paradise on Earth. That is until a big misunderstanding sends Shanna into a jealous rage.

Shanna demands he daddy sell Ruark off to pirates… Oh, hell, that’s where this book takes a nosedive.

Let’s just “yada, yada, yada” this okay?

  • Yada… Nasty stinky pirates…
  • Yada… Ruark reveals the truth about his identity, and the true identity of other people comes to light.
  • Yada… And an evil villain named Gaylord gets his in the end.

Shanna realizes she loves Ruark and promises to stop being such a Seaward.

Shanna gives birth to twins, and her papa is happy as can be.

“In your madness you said you loved me,” she murmured shyly.

His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, “You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did.” Her voice was the barest of whispers.

Ruark’s gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. “Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is.”

My Opinion

The Writing

Woodiwiss and many romance writers of her age (ex. Jennifer Wilde, Rebecca Brandewyne, and Bertrice Small) wrote as if they got paid by the word, like their pulp predecessors.

If Shanna had ended at the 450-page mark–or 325 pages a la Johanna Lindsey–it would have been glorious, a book I’d track down every edition of. I could have easily overlooked the flaws in favor of the positive aspects.

But it keeps going and going—so many fillers. I read a thousand romances from age 12 to 15 of all lengths and could zip through a 1,000-page book per week. Today at 44, I do not have that patience. I have ADHD. I’ve said this before in a review of another book: “The paragraphs are too damn long!”

I’m no enemy of adverbs and adjectives. The world would be a dark place without modifiers. It’s that Woodiwiss didn’t believe in using one or two or three when ten or twelve would suit her better! There are innumerable adverbs, adjectives, adverbs, and dependent clauses.

Let us not forget the effusive purple prose, the poem at the beginning, and the seriousness with which she takes herself. It appeared that Woodiwiss employed every grammatical trick at her disposal.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Characters

Shanna

Shanna is your typical beautiful, cossetted, foot-stamping, won’t-listen-to-reason heroine with eyes that flash in anger, the kind that was so prevalent in old-school romances. Usually, I can’t stand this type because she’s written as “too stupid to live” (which is insulting to women who lived and endured hard times in the past).

I shouldn’t have liked Shanna, the character. For some reason, I did. She was caustic, yet she had a will. She contrived, and she plotted. Shanna tried to control her destiny instead of letting others do it for her.

Author Laura Kinsale wrote in her essay “The Androgynous Reader” about Shanna:

“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”

LAURA KINSALE, “The Androgynous Reader” from Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz

Shanna would qualify as the irksomely independent type. I typically don’t enjoy them, but when contrasting Shanna’s attitude with Ruark’s easy-going nature, it made for a sizzling combination.

So, apologies to Kinsale, but this reader did “identify with, admire, or internalize” some of Shanna’s characteristics. I’m an outlier, as ever.

Ruark

Ruark was an enigma. He was charming, handsome, and kind. Ruark was a dreamy hero, but I couldn’t grasp why he was so obsessed with Shanna. He should have been more concerned about his own hide.

First, he’s on death row, about to hang for a murder he did not commit. Then he’s sent overseas in chains to be a plantation slave.

Does he dream about getting free and plotting revenge against those who wronged him? Not really. From the moment he sees her in prison, his primary focus is having Shanna and putting his pee-pee into her wee-wee.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Cover and More

In 1977 Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ long-awaited third novel made romance history when Avon released Shanna in trade paperback edition. It had a full-stretch green cover, illustrated by H. Tom Hall and designed by Barbara Bertoli. This was one of the first true American clinches. The entire exterior was painted, displaying the couple locked passionately together in a state of undress.

Playboy Press’ This Ravaged Heart by Barabara Riefe also came out in 1977 with a full-page color clinch. But Betty Maxey’s artwork doesn’t compare to Hall’s fabulous cover. Plus, Shanna had a map insert that you could unfold.

Avon heavily promoted this book, running commercial ads on daytime television and in national women’s magazines. It paid off. Shanna sold 3 million copies and was on the NY Times bestseller list for a year.

Shanna was optioned for a film, but negotiations fell through when Woodiwiss couldn’t agree with the producers on the vision. The romance genre might be different if this mild bodice ripper had been brought to the big screen in the 1970s or early 1980s!

Final Analysis of Shanna

I once referred to Shanna as the same book as Catherine Creel’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire romance Passion’s Chains. Creel certainly ripped off Woodiwiss as the main thrusts of the books are almost identical: secret marriage where the husband is a slave on the wife’s island plantation. The two novels deviate midway and then culminate in about the same place.

To be frank, I preferred Passion’s Chains more than I did Shanna, even though I enjoyed both. Perhaps the word count might have something to do with it. Passion’s Chains was 480 pages in a standard-size font. Shanna had teeny-tiny type-face on 666 super-thin pages.

Plotting and pacing matter. There was too much exposition and unnecessary antics in Shanna. In addition, I didn’t OMG love it enough at the beginning to forgive any sins that cropped up in the end, as I would in a fantastic epic book like Stormfire.

Ruark was the book’s high point, a charming, good-natured hero determined to have his woman. However, I did not understand his obsession with Shanna when he should have focused more on clearing his name. Shanna’s a spoiled, petulant brat, although, as I said, I didn’t mind that. I find mean, unlikeable heroines are more palatable than the shy, milk-and-water types or boring blank slates.

Was this a stellar old-school romance I’ll long to re-read? No, although maybe a passage or two might stay with me. However, I am glad I read Shanna. I can finally say I completed a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss romance and liked it!

Now on to The Flame and the Flower!

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis:

A woman with surging desires of the spirit, the flesh, and the heart…

The only child of an 18th century sugar baron, lovely Shanna Trahern is given a year to find a suitable husband in London or to be married off to a dull planter. Instead, she contrives to marry Ruark Beauchamp, condemned to die for the supposed murder of a barmaid.

Certain her concocted story of a romantic elopement and marriage, followed by Ruark’s accidental death, will satisfy her father, Shanna embarks for home — the lush, intrigue-filled Carribean island of Los Camellos. But unknown to Shanna, her husband has escaped the gallows and under another name is among the bondsmen purchased by her father’s agent. Once home, Shanna is tormented by Ruark’s playful taunts — and his threat to collect “The night of love” she had promised him in prison. But when she is carried off by pirates; Ruark risks his life to save her. Now Shanna must deal with the searing passion the proud, virile Ruark has aroused…

RUARK

A man burning to possess her in vengeance and in ecstasy…

SHANNA

A romance of passion beyond wildest dreams!

SHANNA by KATHLEEN E. WOODIWSS

***

READ SHANNA FOR FREE BORROW FROM OPEN LIBRARY

these golden pleasures

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Jim Dietz
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood‘s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512-page 20th-century historical starts out wonderfully.

Somewhere afterward, it falters, lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

The Plot: Part One

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

These Golden Pleasures then heads back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds.

As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood novel, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. As a result, she has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas, and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes, who sails ships.

This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot…

And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers. She had a great setup and just let it fizzle.

The Plot: Part Two

After they both betray her, Roxanne marries sad, pathetic Denby. This is where the book draaagggsss. She spends about 150 pages married to him, moving from Georgia to Washington to Alaska as they run out of money and opportunities. There Roxanne has a brief affair with Case, a dark, mysterious gambler.

After Denby croaks, she has a common-law marriage with dull, boring Leighton, whom the author constantly calls a golden giant. I kept picturing him as a hulking Brock Lesnar type. That’s not sexy to me. We’re told that Leighton is a really nice guy. Regardless, he leaves Roxanne stranded in Asia and returns to his ailing wife in the States!

Later on, Roxanne has four or five other lovers because she is alone and has to support herself somehow.

That’s when Rhodes comes back for revenge, so I thought: okay, now it’s on. Not so fast! They’re quickly separated, and it’s back to Gavin in San Francisco.

Final Analysis of These Golden Pleasures

I don’t mind romances where the heroine has more than one lover, as long as the love story is well-developed or the other men in the book are exciting. While the scenes with Rhodes and Roxanne are hot, they’re all too brief.

There was very little true romance in These Golden Pleasures. The history is wonderfully detailed, as one would expect in a Valerie Sherwood novel. There is one scene in particular where Denby, a glove-maker/salesman, puts leather gloves on Roxanne which is written so beautifully. But authentic history was not enough for me in this one.

This was a rare deviation for Sherwood from her Cavalier/Georgian era books, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it as much as her other works.

Roxanne is a strong, fascinating heroine. The book is at its best whenever she’s with the brothers. It’s unfortunate that it’s not front and center in this epic saga.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
3
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis:

They called her That Barrington Woman. She was beautiful – and notorious. But beneath the silks and diamonds, within the supple body so many men had embraced, was the heart of a girl who yearned still for love. At fifteen she had learned her beauty was both a charm and a curse. It had sent her fleeing from Kansas, had been her downfall in Baltimore and Georgia, yet had kept her alive in the Klondike and the South Seas.

Now on this fateful night in 1906, here in San Francisco’s most glittering atmosphere, will she at last be able to reveal her secret longing? Will she be able to call love by name – and claim it?

THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by VALERIE SHERWOOD
Moonstruck madness

Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

historical romance review
Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Moonstruck Madness is old school historical romance in an oh-so-perfect way. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, best book.

The Characters

Moonstruck Madness begins as the heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick, watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor.

The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs her family off to England to reside in their absent father’s run-down estate.

Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure out a way to support her family.

The hero is His Grace, the golden-haired Lucien Dominick, Duke of Camareigh. When we first see him, he’s challenged to a duel by a young hothead. At dawn, he makes quick work of his opponent, displaying his sword-fighting talents.

Lucien’s face bears a dashing scar from when one of his cousins had cut his face as a child.

Speaking of Lucien’s cousins, they share a strange quasi-incestuous relationship and are the obvious villains of this book. They connive to have Lucien done away with to obtain the Dukedom.

Meanwhile, Lucien’s grandmother wants to see Lucien married, and Lucien seems resigned to seeking a wife, but certainly not one for love.

Moonstruck madness
Moonstruck Madness, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1977, H. Tom Hall

The Plot

So Sabrina takes on the wild idea of becoming a highwayman. With the help of two burly locals, she takes on the name “Bonny Prince Charlie,” puts on a mask and hat, deepens her voice into husky timbre, wraps herself in a tartan, and holds up the rich nobles who travel the dark country roads in their coaches.

Lucien, after being robbed and taunted by the Bonny Prince, snares a trap to catch “him.”

I love how Sabrina and Lucien have a sword fight, Lucien gets the best of her, as he is the better swordsman. They engage in tender lovemaking; there is no force, no dominance. I’ve said before in other reviews Laurie McBain might have been old-school, but she was never a bodice-ripper author.

When it’s discovered Sabrina is pregnant, the Marquess, in a rage, whips her mercilessly, only for Lucien to put a stop to the brutality and carry her off in his arms.

That’s more or less the first one-half to two-thirds of this book.

Unfortunately, in the second half, Sabrina and Lucien are at odds for too long.

However, it does pick up and get exciting towards the end as a search for hidden treasure brings them back together.

Final Analysis of Moonstruck Madness

I adored Moonstruck Madness. the first time I read it, I was in my twenties and loved it. The second time, I was in my thirties and enjoyed it a little bit less, but still found it a thrilling read.

As I said, the end falters a bit because the two stubborn hotheads are at odds for too long. nevertheless, this story was an entertaining, swashbuckling romance.

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

She’s one thing by day, something else altogether by night…

After escaping the slaughter of her clan at a young age, Scottish noblewoman Sabrina Verrick provides for her siblings by living a double life, until the night she encounters the Duke, and her secret and all she holds dear is threatened…

He’s so disillusioned, he’s completely vulnerable…

With his inheritance at stake, Lucien, Duke of Camareigh, sets a trap for the Scottish beauty with the piercing violet eyes, never imagining what will happen when the trap is sprung…

As their lives become irreversibly entangled, Lucien and Sabrina become each other’s biggest threat, as well as their only salvation… 

Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
Bride at Whangatapu Donald

Category Romance Review: Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald

Bride at Whangatapu, Robyn Donald, Harlequin, 1977, Craig cover art

From the back of the book:

Nothing has changed,” Fiona said in desperation. “Jonathan is my son.

Fiona had had five years to think about her youthful folly–five years to remember Logan Sutherland’s treatment of her. Now, a whim of fate had brought them together again, and he laid claim to the son he hadn’t known existed.

Well, for Jonathan’s sake she would marry this cool, calculating stranger as he demanded. But she would never be his wife!

Harlequin #232

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Book

Bride at Whangatapu includes the hallmark of almost every one of Robyn Donald’s books. It intimately details the natural environment of New Zealand. Whether her books were set on a sheep station, on a yacht in the Pacific, or just a tropical backdrop, you could see the bright green grass, feel the ocean spray on your face or smell the hibiscus blossoms (which don’t even have much a scent, do they?).

Bride at Whangatapu
Bride at Whangatapu, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Also present, Robyn Donald’s first published book is the other hallmark of her writing: an ultra-jerky hero who bullies his way over the heroine.

Right from chapter one, when Logan finds that Fiona was the mother of his son who resulted from a one-night stand many years ago, he demands she marry him. He blames Fiona and her dead parents for not having told him the truth.

However, he was a pig about their lovemaking, calling Fiona a slut and a promiscuous bitch for sleeping with him (she was an 18-year-old virgin, he was a more experienced 26 years of age), so Fiona left and never looked back.

Final Analysis of Bride at Whangatapu

Donald’s heroes are odd, as they are incredibly cruel, yet sometimes that meanness makes them so appealing. Not so much here in Bride at Whangatapu, her first HP. I guess it took a bit of practice to master that fine line.

THIS RAVAGED HEART

Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

barbara riefe historical romance review
This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Betty Maxey
Book Series: Dandridge Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Paranormal Romance, Time Travel Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – This Ravaged Heart

This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe–aka Alan Riefe–is a 1970’s Playboy Press bodice ripper. This weird work of fiction sold almost two million copies; no joke!

While it wasn’t a great book, it had enough bizarre twists to qualify for a grudgingly positive review.

This was one freaky-deeky read.

A Weird, Wild Trip

This Ravaged Heart opens up with Ross Dandridge aboard a ship that is headed from England to the USA. He has brought his bride, the English Rose, Lisa, to meet his wealthy shipbuilding family in Rhode Island.

They make love on the ship while sailors bet on when the pair will finally leave their room for some fresh air. And that’s it for romance.

That’s right. The hero and heroine have already met, fallen in love, and gotten married before the book starts, so what the hell else is there?

I tend to enjoy bodice rippers penned by male authors as they usually bring a lot of crazy fun into their works.

However…

Unlike Mr. Melissa Hepburne, who knew how to keep the pages turning with rompy, rapey/forced seduction stupidity…

Or Mr. Janette Seymour, who threw bodice-ripping tropes one after another, handled with surprising grace and sentiment…

Or Mr. Jennifer Wilde, with his penchant for verbose purple prose and clothes porn…

Barbara Riefe/ Alan Riefe is like a monkey banging away on a typewriter, putting letters onto paper in random chaos, attempting for anything remarkable to appear.

And sometimes it does, but there are a lot of dull parts to trudge through to get to them.

The Plot?

Ross has zero personality and is really quite stupid. Lisa has a good head on her shoulders, but the situations she’s in aren’t that engaging, despite how bat-guano-crazy they seem. Don’t expect any fun between Lisa and Ross; they’re separated for almost the entire book. Yup, this is a romance novel, just one without any romance.

The best thing about This Ravaged Heart is Lavinia. In her early 40’s, Lavinia is Ross’s aunt, who is engaged to her brother-in-law, Ross’s father. However, she hungers for her nephew, Ross–and shockingly, it’s revealed she is actually his mother!

Her twin sister was unable to conceive, so Lavinia switched places with her. She slept with her sister’s husband and gave birth to Ross in secret while the wife pretended to be pregnant.

And Lavinia’s a witch. Not just any old witch, but one in league with Satan’s minions, a witch who engages in sexual romps with other local witches, and has the devil’s demon, Ledion, lusting after her for hot demonic sex.

Her lack of remorse for her evil deeds and incestuous love, her unwillingness to surrender in the face of failure, and her tireless efforts to get what she wants, made Lavinia the star of the show.

Lavinia plots to get rid of Lisa and does so in a completely unexpected way. Lisa is retro-incarnated back to England in the 1660s into the body of a dying blonde. Lisa awakens to a confusing world that her post-Enlightenment, Industrial-Age mind has trouble accepting.

Then Lisa is raped various times by wicked men, makes some friends and loses them, is jailed for murder, and becomes a witch so that she can get back to her beloved (but absolutely boring) Ross.

Sounds exciting, right?

My Opinion

Well, it’s okay, but not great.

Plus, the last third of this book really draaaaagsss. Thank the Devil for Lavinia’s malicious, murderous and incestuous shenanigans. She knows how to get what she wants.

He had adored her, reveling in her body, in her movements, unable to control his passion. She laughed…a man half her age, in the prime of his youth and in one hour she had worn him down to the brink of exhaustion. It was fantastic, too beautifully barbarous to be believed. Her own flesh and blood, her own fetus grown to manhood had fallen in love with her!

It’s so freaking sick, but that’s Lavinia.

Warning to Book Collectors About the Paperbacks

Sidenote: These 40-year-old Playboy books were made of really crappy material.

My edition looked as if was in good condition but literally disintegrated in my hands: falling apart, piece by piece, the glue cracking in the spine, the cover chipping and tearing until it fell off completely.

Even my old Zebras have withstood the test of time and various re-reads with ease.

Fortunately, I had 3 extra copies of this “romance “(don’t ask me how or why!). This Ravaged Heart is notable for being one of the first romance novels to have a full-stretch cover clinch instead of a smaller image centered in the middle.

Either Barbara Riefe ‘ripper or Kathleen E. WoodiwissShanna was the first to have this style. Both novels were published in 1977. In my opinion, Betty Maxey‘s artwork isn’t as memorable as H. Tom Hall‘s illustration.

Final Analysis of This Ravaged Heart

So This Ravaged Heart by Barbara Riefe is the first in a series of three novels. Which I have to read since I own them.

Although I’m not feeling compelled to do so anytime soon. Alan–that is, Barbara–may have gotten the WTF factor of bodice rippers right. But there are no romantic elements or engaging leads to draw me in.

This was supporting character Lavinia’s book to shine. The main characters blew.

Still, I had to give this an overall positive rating. If not for the romance, just for Lavinia’s wicked, son-loving heart, with her ridiculous Satan-worshipping, witchy antics, and of course, her cat, Mody, who was all kinds of awesome.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis:

Lisa Allworth Dandridge, a young English bride, came to America as mistress to a vast shipping fortune. Desperately in love, she and her dashing husband, Ross, never dreamed that they would soon be parted by malevolent forces beyond their control.

A powerful story of one woman’s tender love and another’s overwhelming jealousies. Their struggle for the same man sweeps across continents and across time – from the 19th century world of aristocratic splendor to plague-ridden London; from the heights of passion to the darkest pits of hell. It is a magnificent novel of star-crossed lovers caught in a web of horror.

THIS RAVAGED HEART by BARBARA RIEFE