Category Archives: year 1979

tempt not this flesh

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

historical romance review
Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe
Rating: two-stars
Published: June 1, 1979
Illustrator: Jordi Penalva
Book Series: Lorna & Paul Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

The Book

Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh was yet another inexplicable bestseller for the gender-bending author whose real name was Alan Riefe. It’s a 1970s bodice ripper Playboy Press published that has very little romance, includes some rape, and lacks any real excitement.

One wonders how desperate readers in the 1970s were for anything interesting to happen in their “romances.”

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Tempt Not This Flesh, definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes like this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage. His logic, his love-supplanted-by-hate-which-in-turn-could-be-supplanted-once-again-by-love idea was false. Absurd as far as she was concerned.

so wicked the heart
So Wicked the Heart, Barbara Riefe, Playboy, 1980, Sanjulian cover art
(Book #2 in the Lorna & Paul trilogy)

The Plot

Poor Lorna only wanted to enjoy her honeymoon and make love to her husband.

That’s how the book starts, with Lorna Singleton-Stone, formerly of Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and her husband Philip making love at an inn in Boston. But before the night is out, her husband is brutally murdered right before her eyes, and Lorna is kidnapped and set on a ship headed to a nightmare.

A nefarious Count holds Lorna held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy. He has plans for her, as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna looks. almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa. The Count forces Lorna to pose as her double. He has her head s shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Many evildoers threaten Lorna with torture, terrorize her, and attempted assassination. She raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is steel. She will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans to survive at all costs.

Along the way, she meets and falls for Paul, the Queen’s lover, who has a secret plan of survival himself. Twists and turns occur. Sadly, though, what started out as a promising adventure turned into a slow, painful slosh through muddy waters.

Final Analysis of Tempt Not This Flesh

You know the meme with the guy with the awesome sideburns, who rages on about “The rent being too damned high!”? In this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” It was full of info-dumps that bored me and caused me to skim.

A lot.

A whole lot, especially past the halfway point when all I wanted was to get it over with!

By the end, my eyes couldn’t handle those page-long paragraphs on yellowed paper. Or the words in a faded size-8 old-timey serif font. (What is the name of that font, anyway? It’s not Baskerville, right? I should know this!)

Yeesh, it turns out that trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving. You hope to find an untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of those fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. But…

It’s possible, for sure. However, it’s a messy slog to get there. And there’s a 100% chance you’ll end up with lots of stinky crap in your hands first; if ever you do find one.

P.S. If anyone knows the name of that font/typeface that many of these old books were written in, let me know. [Somehwere from the mid-1950s to the early-1980s era. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.4

Synopsis

Tempt Not This Flesh is a story of abduction and sexual enslavement, a story of passion unleashed and unbounded. And above all it is the story of a woman’s love, shattered like glass, then resurrected, rekindled by a dashing captain of dragoons. A love so powerful it is forged into a weapon that topples a dynasty. 

TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH by BARBARA RIEFE
heather cordia byers

Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

Heather by Cordia Byers
Rating: one-star
Published: 1979
Illustrator: James Griffin
Published by: Fawcett
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Cavalier Era Romance
Pages: 316
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book – Heather by Cordia Byers

The best thing I can say about Heather by Cordia Byers is that it’s a terrific cure for insomnia.

Why, oh why, did I not listen to the words of wisdom and DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper? Like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur.

It turned out things did happen. Another event followed those things. And then another thing happens…

However, none of it has any zing or excitement. It’s all just words on paper.

So Boring

In Heather, events occur while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. That’s absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper.

These are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the reader. Either by offending or delighting, or titillating them.

I was a little offended, I suppose. Not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.

heather cordia byers
Heather, Cordia Byers, Fawcett, 1979, cover artist unknown

The Plot

Part One: Heather, the Ward

Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative. Even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either.

Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David, although she knows that her love is hopeless.

Enter Sir Nicholas Guyon, the studly and handsome Captain of the king’s guard. He takes one look at Heather and becomes instantly obsessed. Why? Because she’s bee-uu-tee-full, of course.

Did you expect any other reason, like her charm, personality, wit, or even foot-stomping, spicy temper? Egads, no. None of that here. Heather is the blankest slate of a character I’ve read in a long time.

Nevertheless, Heather’s heart is only for David. She despises Nicholas since that’s what the story demands.

Part Two: Heather, the Mistress

After David is assumed dead at sea and the Marquis is arrested for treason, Heather heads to London to live an exciting life in the big city. But Heather’s so dumb; she gets conned and robbed of her money.

Subsequently, she ends up in a whorehouse as Madame’s specialty. Of course, because Heather is so bee-uu-tee-full, she’s not pimped out right away. The Madame has plans to sell her to the highest bidder. Well, guess who that happens to be?

Nicholas has now been promoted to the high rank of British Ambassador to France (that made no sense to me). Heather still hates him, but she realizes his exalted position could benefit her.

So she devises a plan to play along, being Nicholas’ mistress, to save the Marquis. For a virgin who hates a guy so much, Heather sure has a lot of confidence in the magic powers of her cuca.

Part Three: I Don’t Care Anymore

After Nicholas seduces her into his bed, causing passion to stir between Heather’s loins, who should come back from the dead?

It’s Heather’s beloved David, who was held captive by pirates and now has a secret identity as…

Oh, forget it, I don’t care anymore.

Final Analysis of Heather by Cordia Byers

Stuff happens, and Cordia Byers’ Heather ends as these books always do. It’s happily ever after for Heather and Nicholas.

I suppose I should apologize for spoiling this great piece of romantic literature, but I won’t.

This book was so dull. I couldn’t even get excited about writing a review. This just blew big, giant whale chunks.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis:

HEATHER… She was a golden-haired beauty who’d never known her parents. Brought up as a foundling with David, the son of a marquis, she learned the manners of a lady. All of which helped her when she was captured one night and sold to a fancy brothel.

Captain Nicholas Guyon, David’s friend, who had long lusted after Heather, rescued her from that notorious palace of pleasure. He planned to make her his mistress. He had not reckoned on falling in love with her. But Heather had no intention of surrendering to the man who once had almost raped her…

A lusty tale of fiery passions and deadly intrigue of men at war and women in love…

HEATHER by CORDIA BYERS
raven

Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol

Synopsis:

Named for the bird of night, she vowed to fly free and soar on the wings of passion. Once, she had been Marie Celeste Ravenne, a shy and lovely free spirit plucked from her Caribbean island home to become the ward of a cruel, scheming English nobleman. But now she was Raven – a fiery temptress whose daring spirit astonished all who sailed the sea…whose sumptuous body excited the lust of the powerful men who longed to claim her, to use her, perhaps to kill her… and whose aching woman’s heart led her across elegant ballrooms and raging oceans in search of the dashing rebel chieftain who had won her love forever. 

RAVEN by SHANA CARROL

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer)–not to be confused with Evelyn Rogers’ Raven— is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One, Raven by Shana Carrol

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Arrow Books edition (UK),
cover artist unknown

Part Two, Raven by Shana Carrol

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three, Raven by Shana Carrol

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

The Shana Carrol team created a frustrating read with Raven. The first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

Raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Sheridan Books

My Opinion by Shana Carrol

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

Raven was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it.

3.49 Stars

the coach to hell

Historical Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

Synopsis:

DESPERATION AND DESIRE
Rescued from poverty to live in an opulent mansion filled with servants…loved by two adventurous and passionate men…Georgina’s new life was wantonly wonderful. But she was caught between her arrogant benefactor and his rakehell coachman brother — and their fierce obsession threatened to shatter everything. Each man claimed to be the rightful heir to a noble title. Each man thought Georgina knew the secret location of the missing proof. And though each man already possessed Georgina’s body — each demanded more…

COACH TO HELL by RACHEL COSGROVE PAYES

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.

The Plot

The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it.

Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.

She heads to a far-away town to seek out a distant cousin in hopes that he will care for her, a relative in need. On the coach ride to her new environs, Georgina meets a dashing red-haired coachman whom she falls for. However, well-meaning fellow passengers warn her that he’s the love-them-and-leave-them type, with different women in every village. Georgie ignores their advice and engages in a secret love affair.

The hero, Charles Collins, supposedly has lots of sex appeal (didn’t see it) but no fortune, as he is the bastard son of a nobleman. He believes he is legitimate, however. Charles is working as a coachman to save money to hire a barrister. He tells Georgina that the relative she’s going to live with is his younger half-brother, Francis, his father’s legal heir.

He’s convinced there must be some shenanigans afoot. Charles, not his brother, is the true inheritor of the manor and title.

Charles and Georgie get down with each other, and he sweet talks her into promising to search for any information that will prove his claim. Georgie vows to do her best.

Her best is… Well, you’ll see.

So the Lord of a half-brother is also a charismatic hunk (I saw it here) and lives openly with his mistress, who’s naturally contemptuous of Georgina. If Georgie would say the word, he’d gladly throw his courtesan aside to have Georgina instead. But Georgie has her dashing coachman and wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to her beloved.

No, I’m just joking. Remember, this is a 1970s Playboy Press bodice ripper!

One Hell of a Crazy Scene

Back in her hometown, when some creepy old dude wanted her for his mistress, Georgie’s upstanding morals wouldn’t allow for such dishonor. Now, things are different. Yes, she’s in love with a young, handsome dude, but she’s living with his equally hot and much richer brother…

Morals? Pffft. That’s for poor people who don’t live in fancy manors.

The best part of Coach to Hell is when Georgina has Charles in her room for a late-night tryst. Then his brother enters her chambers with the same intention, forcing Charles to hide in her wardrobe. Georgina can’t shoo Francis away by being smart enough to say she’s on her period, so while Charles conceals himself in the closet like some teenage boy hiding from an angry father, Georgie bangs Francis in her bed. And Francis is so good at it that Georgina forgets everything and moans away in ecstasy, giving our sad-sack hero something extra-special to listen to.

This book is a bodice-ripper, and Charles is our supposed “Alpha” male hero. So does he burst out into the room and kill them both in a blind rage? Nope. Charles stays there, sitting and sulking, while his hated enemy joyously screws the woman he loves, bringing her to orgasmic heights.

This scene was so WTF and made me wish that The Coach to Hell had fully embraced its campy nature and included more juicy bits like this!

After that, I admit I lost all respect for the hero. I certainly didn’t expect him to go all wifebeater on Georgina, but he at least could have punched the lights out of Francis. Unfortunately, I can’t root for a cucked hero, so I just read to get to the end of the story.


  photo cuckold horns.png 

Moving on, then.

Final Analysis of The Coach to Hell

Remember Georgina’s special kind of ESP? Well, it served the plot’s purpose. She’s able to find evidence that proves Charles’ legitimacy.

You didn’t actually think Charles wasn’t the real Lord, did you? Oh no, I gave away the ending! Look, if you’re reading these cheesy romances, you know they’re supposed to end “Happily Ever After,” no matter how discombobulated the path to “Ever After” is.

I do wish I had enjoyed this book more, but Georgina was just too stupid for words. I lost any admiration I’d had for Charles after he was ignominiously crowned with a set of horns. Instead, I rooted for his brother from another mother to get the girl.

In the end, this Rachel Cosgrove-Payes Gothic ‘ripper, The Coach to Hell, was a so-so read for me, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

2 1/2 Stars

silver storm

Historical Romance Review Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright

Silver Storm, Cynthia Wright, Ballantine, 1979, cover artist unknown

MILD SPOILERS 😉

It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…

SILVER STORM

The Book

I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down. It was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentlemanly hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!

The Plot

The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.

But oh, he has a plan–a cunning plan–to trap his strawberry-haired prey, and when he finally gets what he wants, he plans just as cruelly to be rid of her, eagerly awaiting his next new lay.

In one scene, Andre attempts to seduce his ex-mistress while her brother and new husband play cards downstairs, and Devon, his current mistress, naps. But poor Devon wakes up and witnesses the dog’s hounding!

He’s jerk all right, but he’s French, so it evens out. I enjoyed the break from the English heroes that dominate Historical Romancelandia. There’s something about a Frenchman that’s so sexy. I can listen to Eric Ripert recite recipes all day…

The second half takes on Devon and Andre’s passionate adventures. Ah, Andre, what a hero!

Final Analysis of Silver Storm

Years ago, I read a book that designated romance novels, specifically bodice rippers, into two genres: “Sweet” or “Savage.” (Even though it was Kathleen Woodiwiss who started the bodice ripper genre, it was Rosemary Rogers that gave it a name.) “Sweet” defined a story with a hero who may be cruel, callous, forceful, or cheats, but he is the heroine’s one and only. In a “Savage” styled-romance, anything and everything goes.

In Silver Storm‘s case, although here the heroine is almost raped, her bodice ripped, she is abandoned and cheated on, it’s still sweet. But it’s very spicy too!

One nit to pick: a reference to “Empire”-styled gowns in the early 1780s when Napoleon wasn’t crowned Emperor until 20 years later.

This book would have been excellent if not for the slow start.

However, once it gets there… Oh my.

3.5 Stars