Passion Flowerbegins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.
Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.
Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.
He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.
In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.
Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.
One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.
The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.
When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.
The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.
Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.
There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.
There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.
In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.
Bottom Line on Passion Flower
Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.
Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.
PARADISE OF ECSTACY
Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.
Wild Island Sands opens with an explanation of Greek mythology, as the heroine’s name is Pandora–Pandora St. Ives to use her full nomenclature. Pandora lives in Hawaii with her aunt and uncle. Her parents passed away earlier.
Pandora will do anything to prevent being pushed into a loveless marriage. As a result, she flees to San Francisco, to live with her cousin, Cara Kalee. In California Pandora gets into an accident. Luckily, the houseman for Rogan Thorn saves her in time.
Rogan, a shipping magnate, owns his family’s company, Thorn Navigation. Rogan and Pandora are immediately attracted to each other. But as in most romance novels, there are barriers to their happiness.
Those barriers are:
Pandora’s amnesia from her accident
Cara, one of Rogan’s former mistresses
Rogan’s other paramours
Walter Riddock, Rogan’s professional and personal arch-rival
And perhaps most importantly, Rogan’s health issue
Rogan kidnaps Pandora to prevent her from marrying Riddock and forces her to marry him.
Later, Pandora moves back to Hawaii. Rogan follows her. They ignore each other, argue, and have sex.
This same pattern follows them back to San Francisco, where Pandora gives birth to their daughter, and she and Rogan have their Happily Ever After.
Well… I finished the book!
Like many of Ms. Pelton’s books, Wild Island Sands is a hot mess of tens of thousands of words–over 526 pages–yet saying absolutely nothing.
I felt no connection to either Pandora or Rogan, nor do they have any chemistry with each other. Ms. Pelton tries to manipulate her readers’ emotions with a storyline about how Rogan’s life is affected by his parents’ neglect but goes nowhere with this.
There is a mystery that is so poorly written that it doesn’t matter at all when it’s solved.
The sultry breezes tossed the island palms and caressed the aqua waves. And as beautiful, copper-haired Pandora walked the endless beach all she could think about was the handsome, arrogant sea captain, Rogan Thorn. His kiss was the first taste of desire she had ever known. Now she wanted Rogan with a feverish longing that scaled her heart and flames between her long silken limbs. But he was a wealthy, womanizing shipping tycoon, whose only love was the sea…
WINDSWEPT LOVE Hawaii was a paradise of romance and love–but Rogan believed in neither. He was tired of conniving, clinging women who were only after his money. Then he met Pandora, the ravishing Hawaiian goddess whose eyes sparkled like sapphires, whose lips tasted like sweet cherries, whose body was made for pleasure. He thought that if he bedded her, he’d get her out of his mind–but once he took her innocence he was branded by the joys of rapture on the WILD ISLAND SANDS.
This review is of Rapture’s Ransom by Betina Krahn, a Zebra historical romance. This was later reissued and retitled as Not Quite Married.
The book begins in the South of England in 1787.
It is here that Brien Weston, the heroine of the book, lives–a better term might be “exists”–with her father, Lord Lawrence Weston, the sixth Earl of Southward.
The relationship between father and child is strained and becomes even more so when Lawrence, after a trip to France, announces he has affianced Brien to a man, Raoul Trechard, whom she has never met.
When Brien and Raoul finally meet, Brien feels there is a possibility of a love match. That feeling quickly dissipates, however, when Brien learns Raoul’s true colors. She tries to end the engagement, even going so far as to lose her virginity to a stranger to deny Raoul that opportunity.
None of the efforts work, however, and Brien finds herself married to Raoul, who kidnaps, imprisons, and rapes her. She is freed from this torment when Raoul dies in a fire.
Over a year later, Brien meets the man she gave herself to, his name is Aaron Durham, the hero of the book. Brien is sailing to the colonies on business; Aaron is the captain of the ship she’s sailing on, and they re-establish their relationship as lovers during the trip and after they arrive at their destination, Boston.
Brien and Aaron’s happiness is threatened by several factors:
Horace Van Zandt: an evil privateer who has a history–and bad blood–with Aaron.
Differences in their viewpoints, Aaron wants to live in America and denies his status as a peer of the realm; Brien wishes to live in England.
The de Saunier Family: the unnamed patriarch of which tries to force Brien to marry his other son, Louis.
The book ends with Brien and Aaron married. They are parents of a son, Garrett, whose presence helps Aaron begin to repair the strained relationship he has with his father, Thomas.
Aaron and Brien have their Happily Ever After.
It is rare in early 1980’s books–Rapture’s Ransom was first published in November 1983–to have a non-Simpering Sara heroine, but Ms. Krahn does just that in this book. To be fair, this is not entirely about Brien’s strength-Lawrence doesn’t have any sons or male relatives, and Brien is his only surviving child–but still, strength is strength.
I didn’t feel that Ms. Krahn did enough to flesh out Brien or Aaron. We barely hear about their extended families and only meet Thomas Durham in the last few chapters of the book.
I also didn’t like the fact that two of the villains in the book–Van Zandt and de Saunier–escape basically unscathed despite their deviltry, and even though Raoul dies in a fire, it still feels less than it could have been. I love series-like E.J. Hunter’s “White Squaw”-where the bad guys get their comeuppance.
There are love scenes, but they are, for the most part, quite mild.
Scenes of assault, battery, and threats. The one death occurs “off-screen.”
Bottom Line on Rapture’s Ransom
Betina Krahn’s Rapture’s Ransom–aka Not Quite Married–is a sold low four-star book. There are simply too many areas of concern to rate it any higher.
Rating Report Card
THE COST OF COMFORT Golden-haired Brien was indescribably happy: soon she would be the wife of a rich, handsome Frenchman. But when the glowing bride-to-be heard her fiance’s drunken bragging about his past exploits, she couldn’t bear the thought of matrimony to such a scoundrel. There was no way out — and Brien decided that if she must suffer a lifetime by the wastrel’s side, she would delight in just one night of pleasure before her hateful marriage began.
THE PRICE OF PASSION Dark, rugged Allen Stewart wondered who had summoned him to the discreet, quiet inn, but when he saw the lush, lovely lady, he felt the need for ecstasy, not explanations. They shared a night of unbridled desire — then Allen awoke to a cold, empty bed. the soft, fragrant beauty had bewitched him and he swore that he’d search the whole world and pay any price for RAPTURE’S RANSOM.
Once More With Feeling is the second outing from the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. Nora Roberts‘ category romance tells the love story between two musicians, one a rising star and the other an established musician, who previously knew each other.
Now they must try to make beautiful music together again–literally. Only later does the situation take a turn for the metaphorical.
Five years prior to the opening of Once More With Feeling, a teenaged, black-haired Raven Williams was a fledgling artist. (Just once, I’d like to read a book where a blonde or redhead has that name. Or a brunette or a blonde named Flame to subvert expectations.) Raven and a seasoned Irish-British musician named Brandon Carstairs garnered great success together before her star went on the ascendency.
Their working relationship had made it to the front pages of the gossip columns. Was there more to the two beautiful musicians than music? There was, but alas, it came to an abrupt end. Raven had kept herself at a distance from Brandon, and he was unwilling to put up with her reticence.
Heartbroken, Raven immersed herself in music, putting her career above love. Now Brandon has a gig to score a potential blockbuster musical film—and he wants Raven to co-write it with him.
I enjoyed watching Raven and Brandon’s new relationship unfold. Now in her mid-twenties, Raven was still a young woman but more sure of herself, although just as close-guarded. Brandon is a sexy character with longish back hair, blue-green eyes, and Irish-British charm (it seems Roberts has a type). However, he runs roughshod over Raven, vowing to break through her inner resolve.
Before these two can have their happy ending, there are big misunderstandings–because the characters refuse to say what they have to!–and the heroine has to rush to her dying mother’s bedside in a dramatic scene.
Final Analysis of Once More With Feeling
Five years before the start of Once More with Feeling Brandon broke Raven’s heart when he left her. Now Brandon is back and asks her to co-write the music for an upcoming, much-anticipated movie. Can these two learn to trust and love again?
Written in the early 1980s, this book feels like part of that era, especially with how cruel Brandon can be to Raven. Other readers may be more discriminating and have difficulty digesting the caveman antics of the “hero,” but not me.
One of my favorite moments in the book is near the conclusion when our couple finally reveals their feelings for one another, and they have this exchange:
“You can’t own me Brandon.”
A quick flash of fury shot into his eyes. “Damn it, I don’t want to own you, but I want you to belong to me. Don’t you know there’s a difference?”
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS
Once More With Feeling was a solid romance, although Nora Roberts is capable of much better. This was only Robert’s 13th book, which sounds like a big deal. Considering that she’s written hundreds, it’s obviously created in the formative years of her career. Roberts’ writing has gotten sharper with age.
I had a fun time with Once More With Feeling, even if it was flawed in some respects. The heroine was a tad weak-willed, and the hero was too bossy.
This could have been lackluster in the hands of a less skillful author. One never knows how the wind will blow with a new series or writer.
Ultimately, I was satisfied with Raven and Brandon’s love story. Roberts always had the instinct to be a superb writer. She simply needed time to perfect her craft.
Rating Report Card
THEIR SONGS AND THEIR PASSION WOULD ELECTRIFY A WAITING WORLD.
RAVEN WILLIAMS was a singer who had an overwhelming need to love and be loved, and whose voice had catapulted her to fame.
BRANDON CARSTAIRS was a musician in whom the charming Irish dreamer warred with a practical British reserve.
The music they made together was exciting, disturbing, erotic. Soon it would reach a dangerous crescendo.
The book begins in 1851 in France. The coming revolution forces Jules Dubonne, his wife Marie, their three children, sons Alexander and Dante, and daughter, Celeste, to leave France. They sail to a new home they believe will be free from war and violence, America.
They will soon discover the fallacy of that belief.
Tragedy strikes when a storm hits, throwing Dante overboard. He is taken in by a couple, Virginia and Gregory Wakefield, who desperately wants a son. Virginia has had four miscarriages. Dante, who believes his family is dead, is adopted by the Wakefields. He takes the name Dan Dubonne-Wakefield.
The rest of the Dubonne family make their way to their planned destination, Philadelphia.
At 16, Dan meets Abby Southerland and falls in love with her. Abby, however, doesn’t share his feelings.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the other Dubonnes’ lives go on, albeit with a hole in their hearts for Dante. Daughter Celeste falls in love with a young man, Wesley Rainey, whom she later marries.
Meanwhile, Alexander meets Abby at a party. They soon become lovers.
What Alexander doesn’t know is that Abby is a Confederate spy. The information she receives from him and other Northerners is used against them in the Civil War. Alexander later finds out about Abby’s activities, thus creating a major rift between them.
At one point, Alexander and Dan/Dante face each other on the battlefield, bringing home the stark point of the Civil War was “Brother against Brother.”
Cherish Me, Embrace Me concludes as the Civil War ends. Dan marries Catherine Markland, Abby’s cousin, and Alexander and Abby marry. Dan learns the truth about his past.
Finally, a figure from Alexander’s past helps the Dubonne-Southerland-Wakefield triumvirate heal the wounds. They all can look forward to a bright future and several Happily Ever Afters.
Cherish Me, Embrace Me is Mrs. Sommerfield at her best with this Civil War drama. It’s a quality Zebra romance that is very emotional. The characters find themselves dealing with changes and heartache but come out the other side stronger.
Despite the emotions displayed, I feel Mrs. Sommerfield could have gone deeper into her character’s emotions than she did.
There are several love scenes focusing on the emotional aspect of lovemaking and far less on the esoterics of the act.
Most of the violence takes place “offscreen.” There are scenes of Jules having to kill two people who try to stop the Dubonnes from leaving France.
Bottom Line on Cherish Me, Embrace Me
Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylve F. Sommerfield was a wonderful, highly emotional book, but there was still the potential for more.
Rating Report Card
CHERISH ME Possess me. Never let me go. These fiery words of love lingered in Abby’s heart, although she knew it was wrong to want Alexander. She’d sworn she’d never surrender to the Yankees, that she’d never let them rule her plantation or her life. But once she felt the exquisite ecstasy of his demanding lips, she damned him, despised him, yet desired him like no other man she had ever known.
EMBRACE ME Caress me. Be mine forever. If only Alexander could convince the southern vixen that passion was more important than loyalty that together their love could conquer the war! No matter how hard she tried to fight him, he could feel her whole body respond to his touch. He would tease her with searing kisses, torture her with his flesh, make her cry out in rapture and torment.
This review is of Savage Obsession, book #1 in the “Chippewa” series by Cassie Edwards. (Note, only the first two books in the “series” appear to be related to each other).
The book begins in Minnesota in 1859 in a remote area outside of modern-day St. Paul. It is here that Lorinda Odell, 17, the heroine of the book, lives with her father, Derrick, her mother Mavis, and her 5-month-old sister, Amanda. The Odells are not a well-off family, and so Derrick’s sister, Rettie, who owns a boarding house in town, urges Derrick and Mavis to let Lorinda stay with her for a better life. They reluctantly agree.
Lorinda runs into problems in town, however, namely being accosted, kidnapped, and nearly raped by Lamont Quimby, owner of a mining camp and one of Rettie’s boarders. She is saved from him by Yellow Feather, the hero of the book. Yellow Feather is the son of–and therefore future chief of–a band of Chippewa Indians led currently by his father, Chief Wind Whisperer.
As their relationship deepens, Lorinda and Yellow Feather face many challenges:
The kidnapping of Amanda by Sioux Indians after they kill Derrick and Mavis; Amanda is later rescued.
Another villain, Silas Konrad, tries to rape Lorinda.
Flying Squirrel, Yellow Feather’s friend, is far less a loyal friend than Yellow Feather believed at one time.
Foolish Heart: Before being banished for her actions, she was one of Yellow Feather’s wives. Another wife, Happy Flower, is pregnant with his child. She is used and abused by Quimby before being abandoned.
By the end of the book, Amanda is found, Lorinda and Yellow Feather-somewhat-reconcile with Rettie, Lorinda gives birth to a son, Gray Wolf–who gets his own story later–,and Lorinda and Yellow Feather have their Happily Ever After.
Mrs. Edwards does a lot of research into each Tribe of the books that she writes about, and it shows.
Although I am a fan of Mrs. Edwards–mostly for her love scenes–I am also not unaware of her many issues as a writer. Mrs. Edwards’s career essentially ended after being accused by the romance novel blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. of being a plagiarist.
Then there is the fact that Mrs. Edwards’ novels, especially her Native American books, are horribly formulaic. That formula, which is on full display in Savage Obsession, goes like this:
The beautiful, innocent, naive, sweet heroine, who is almost always Anglo, meets and falls in love with handsome, noble, strong, Indian brave, who is ALWAYS either the chief or son of–and therefore future chief–of his band of the Tribe of the Book.
After they fall in love, the hero and heroine’s love is threatened by the Evil White Man, the Evil Indian Brave, and/or the Evil Indian Maiden. While these efforts ultimately fail, the Evil characters do manage to cause the hero and heroine pain and suffering before the hero and heroine find happiness. (All of the above characters appear in Savage Obsession. Quimby and Konrad are the Evil White Men, Flying Squirrel is the Evil Indian Brave, and Foolish Heart fills the Evil Indian Maiden quota).
I didn’t find either Lorinda or Yellow Feather particularly likable. Lorinda is whiny–although to her credit, she kills Quimby as he’s trying to rape her. But Yellow Feather is an obnoxious, unfeeling individual whose verbal tone toward Lorinda is described–constantly–by Mrs. Edwards using the adjective “flatly”. The “romance” between Lorinda and Yellow Feather is very much a Stockholm-Syndrome type of romance with little to no passion or tenderness.
Mrs. Edwards’s love scenes are the best part of her books for me. They aren’t super erotic all the time, but she is willing to occasionally add some pepper to the soup.
Savage Obsession contains scenes of assault, battery, attempted rape, and murder. Most of the scenes aren’t graphic.
Bottom Line on Savage Obsession
Mrs. Edwards’ books are like going to a fast-food chain restaurant. You pretty much know what you’re going to get. From what I read of others’ reviews of her books, there is no middle ground with Mrs. Edwards’ work. Some love her, and others absolutely hate her. I’m kind of in the middle.
Savage Obsession won’t make anyone a fan of Mrs. Edwards’ work who wasn’t already one.
POSSESSED BY HIS STRENGTH Orphaned when Indians slayed her parents, kidnapped by a lustful lumberjack, stunning Lorinda was sure nothing worse could ever happen in life… until she saw the broad- shouldered, copper-skinned brave towering over her. Instant terror made her shiver with fear, but shameless instinct made her tremble with desire–and somehow she felt that her fate would always he bound to his.
CHARMED BY HER BEAUTY As Yellow Feather gazed at his white captive’s satiny mane of auburn hair, he was compelled to caress her creamy skin and gentle curves. His burning touch commanded her to respond to his ardor; his enflamed need demanded she return his love. The handsome Indian wanted her to be more than his prisoner; he wanted a woman to possess forever. And, deep inside, Lorinda sensed he was so much more than a heartless captor–he was the only man for her. He was her…
Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This romance is set in mid-19th century California, a time of radical changes.
Some Things We Don’t Talk About In Public
This book was written before Rivers became “born again.” However, she was nominally Christian at the time. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, includingSarina, dismissing them as:
“BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.”
She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.
As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.
WARNING! I Talk Religion Here, Sort Of
A Non-Church Goer Goes to Church
I worked for a small company many years ago where the boss’s wife (BW) took a friendly liking to me. She was Evangelical, and I was a lapsed Catholic (My mother worked for this company, too & BW was close to her. So Mami told her about my “lack of faith,” which they both found disturbing.).
Long story short, I got hoodwinked into attending a two-day, one-night religious revival at a local hotel. Gathered to worship, there were hundreds of people. I’m Hispanic (Dominican heritage), and I’d say the racial makeup there was 80% European-American, 10% African-American, and 10% Mixed/Other. For two tedious days, I sat through mass, concerts, prayers, and a couple of conferences. It was charismatic-based: laying of hands, people speaking in tongues, collapsing, crying, etc.
I felt…uncomfortable. I had no patience for the ceremonial Catholic Mass as a child: Sit, rise, sit. Kneel, rise, consume the Eucharist. Kneel, sit, rise, kiss a stranger, sit. Rise, wait for twenty minutes while churchgoers socialize, go home, take off church clothes, and see if any good cartoons are on TV.
Mass had been dull but at least predictable. This was strange to me.
Sex and Religion
Anyway, the best part of that weekend (besides the rum cocktail I was able to sneak during a rare minute of solitude) was a panel given by a Black married couple who talked about the importance of sex in Christian matrimony. They did not speak obscenely but openly and honestly, and yes, biblically. The couple talked about how sacred sex is and how physical bonding reinforces spiritual bonding in a marriage. They spoke about the equal pleasure both men and women receive in sex and how it joins two people together just as much as faith and children and everything else that matters.
I sat fascinated. This spoke to me! Finally, something that had actual utility!
However, like George Costanza, I can sense discomfort in other people. I saw it in that audience through the awkward expressions and the fiddling of hands. Afterward, the couple asked if anyone had questions, which no one did. The session ended, and the room quickly emptied out. No one remained to chit-chat with the speakers–as was usual with these panels–except for me, who complimented them on a speech well done.
My Point, And I Do Have One
The point of that extemporaneous babbling–and there is a point–is from this non-adherent’s perspective, sex and Christianity do go hand in hand. It’s lamentable that Rivers views her “BC romances” through a lens of shame. She now writes works that, in my estimation, preach to the choir rather than spread the Word to “unbelievers,” for lack of a better term.
I am a believer. Although I’m not entirely sure about what.
Now, About the Book!
Sorry for all that. You know me and my meanderings. So, let’s focus on the plot of Sarina and my opinion of the book.
Sarina Azevedo-Cahill is the daughter of a Californio family who’ve lived in southern California for centuries. Her father, Dale Cahill, married into the Azevedo family to take control of those lands. The time is the 1850s, and new American settlers are moving into the newly-minted 31st state by the droves.
Sarina’s father, also known as El Señor, is a stern, cruel patriarch who gives his daughter no affection. Their ranch Vallecitas and his legacy are all he cares for. Sarina tries to be a dutiful daughter but finds herself butting heads with her father instead.
The hero is Lang Rossiter, the son of an Anglo family that runs the neighboring Val Verde ranch. Incidentally, El Señor would love to have the Rossiter lands, as they would combine with Vallecitas to form the greatest ranch in the area.
Sarina and Lang first meet while out riding alone. There is an instant attraction between the two. They arrange to meet again. However, when they are caught in a compromising position, Lang becomes furious with Sarina, accusing her of arranging a setup. Obviously (insert eye-roll here), she’s scheming with her father to snag Val Verde.
Lang’s enchantment with her turns into bitterness. He’s a big dick and becomes an even bigger dick before he gets nicer.
A Marriage Made Neither In Hell Nor In Heaven
So, their families force Sarina and Lang to marry. Sarina finds herself tied to a man who is attracted to her but resents her. Lang is at times incredibly cruel to Sarina, who fights back with a resilient will (until the end of the book, where both she and Lang get personality transplants).
Despite their rocky beginning, Sarina and Lang find unity through their passion and faith, which helps them through strife. During a sensually charged love scene, when they finally come together after those rough patches, the ever-dominant Lang places Sarina’s hands upon his body and tells her:
“A woman has the real power…”
And then they erotically wash each other before engaging in passionate love-making.
“A kind of baptism. Washing away the past and beginning again.”
Final Analysis of Sarina
Sarina is a wonderful romance. Lang and Sarina’s tale is of a love transformed from innocent sweetness to resentment to a lifelong bond affirmed in myriad ways.
The two stern heads of the different families receive nuanced characterization. Well represented here are the politics and contentiousness between the old Spanish families and the new Americans. (I do question the authenticity of the name Azevedo as a Spanish surname because I’ve always thought it was Portuguese, but that’s a minor quibble.)
Lang and Sarina’s faith helps fortify them during difficult times in the story. Religion is not hamfistedly inserted anywhere. It plays a historically accurate and natural part in their story, just as Sarina’s complicated relationship with her father does.
I do not understand why Rivers feels that her “BC” romance Sarina is a misrepresentation of Christianity. Actually, I think I do, but that would require a much more extended essay.
Suffice it to say, if you can get your hands on this hard-to-find book, give it a chance. It may surprise you as it did me. And that’s a good thing.
Rating Report Card
Fiery Sarina Azevedo was a Californio, with a heart as wild and proud as the magnificent untamed land she loved. Yet her desire and her destiny were both denied her. Her first love was the land, Vallecitas, the magnificent ranch that was her birthright.
But fate had drawn her into the demanding arms of her father’s bitterest enemy, Lang Rossiter, the land-hungry Anglo whose touch set her smoldering passions aflame…
There was only one way Sarina could have them both: the land that was her legacy, and the man her body and soul cried out for…and though her father, el senor, would never forgive her, she would defy her very heritage to seize the happiness she knew love promised…
In 1845, a wagon train is headed from Tennessee west to Oregon. Among those on the train is Jason Trent, a widower, and his three children: daughters LeeAnn, 17, Abigail (Abbie), 15, the heroine of the book and the series, and son Jeremy, 7.
The Trent family is leaving Tennessee because the memories of Jason’s late wife are too strong. Later, they meet up with two men who are hired to scout and lead the train, one of whom is “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, 25, the hero of the book and the series.
The fact that Zeke is half-white and half-Cheyenne doesn’t sit well with everyone on the train, and Zeke faces bigotry from some of the train’s denizens, including some with less than savory reputations.
As the book continues, Abigail and Zeke fall in love, but their love is threatened by his past, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, scandal, and tragedy. However, even knowing that the Cheyenne Indians–and the Indian people in general–would be facing tremendous hardship, sorrow, and tragedy, Zeke and Abbie fall in love and vow to be together.
I have said this many times: in order for me to truly love a book, television show, or movie, I have to truly care about the characters and feel what they feel. Ms. Bittner makes me feel that as a reader. I felt every emotion of every character, good and bad, in Sweet Prairie Passion.
Zeke and Abbie make up one of the strongest hero and heroine combinations I have ever read. I never felt as though I was reading a book. I felt as though I was watching Zeke and Abbie’s lives playing out in front of me, and that is something that only the truly great authors can make me feel. That’s Sweet Prairie Passion.
As much as I love Ms. Bittner’s writing style, there are two parts of her writing-which happens in every book I’ve read by her–that really annoy me:
#1. Violence Against Women
In every one of Ms. Bittner’s books, including Sweet Prairie Passion, the heroine–and sometimes the female supporting characters–are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. In Sweet Prairie Passion, for example, Abbie is beaten and nearly raped twice. The violence really doesn’t advance the story.
While Ms. Bittner’s heroines are very strong emotionally, they aren’t as strong in other areas. Once again, in every book, Ms. Bittner places her heroines in some form of peril, which leads to the hero having to rescue them. It reminds me too much of the old “Popeye” cartoons where Olive Oyl is constantly needing Popeye to save her.
Ms. Bittner’s love scenes are descriptive enough to let a reader know what is going on, but not graphic enough to be exciting.
In addition to the violence mentioned above, there are multiple scenes of assault and killing. Most of the violence is not graphic in this book; Ms. Bittner’s later books in the series are more graphically violent.
Bottom Line on Sweet Prairie Passion
If one wants to read books to make themselves forget about what’s going on in the world, Ms. Bittner is not your author. However, if you love books that will stir your emotions-good and bad-and leave you feeling as if you’ve been on a roller coaster, books like Ms. Bittner’s Sweet Prairie Passion will be your jam.
Where the mountains reared up to kiss the sky, where the land stretched out to a vast, distant sea — that’s where Abigail Trent was heading. But the moment the spirited lovely girl set eyes on the handsome Cheyenne brave, she instantly knew that no life was worth living if it wasn’t by the side of the Indian scout.
Together they fought nature’s violence on the harsh, unmapped plains; together explored their passion on the stark, hostile frontier. And as they journeyed westward through America’s endless forests and fertile acres, their desire deepened into love. A forbidden dream blossomed into a courageous vision, and they set out to forge a destiny of their own!
Cordelia, a young British woman, visits her birthplace of Sri Lanka with her emotionally distant father. Her father has a heart attack, and Marcus Stone, an older, sophisticated gentleman, comes to her rescue.
They both experience a deep, instant attraction, but Marcus is cold and pushes her away for some mysterious reason. There’s a nasty other-woman who makes trouble and a younger guy who’s mad about the heroine. Cordelia dates him and makes him think she likes him even though she’s in love with Marcus.
Drama ensues. Some mild nookie. Happy ending.
The Weird Stuff
This was a perfectly adequate book, not exciting, but worth a couple of hours of reading.
One thing I found funny was that Marcus kept pushing Cordelia away because he thought she was only wowed by his celebrity status. His claim to fame? He’s a writer of popular non-fiction books about history and global politics, not unlike Francis Fukuyama or Thomas Friedman. Fine, worldly men, true enough, but I hardly consider them glamorous sex symbols who seduce legions of 20-year-olds out of their panties.
(Or am I wrong, ladies?)
The other thing that stands out from this book is the–how do I put this?– less-than-gallant attitude depicted toward the Sri Lankan setting. I try to imagine how the brainstorming for this book went on:
Editors:Hullo, Sally, how was your holiday in Sri Lanka?
SW:I hated it. This place sucks; it’s too hot, the food is too spicy, the people are lazy, there are no hospitals, the native dances stink, the local guys are creepy. Ceylon, pardon, Sri Lanka, is lost without Europeans to guide it. But at least there are some nice Buddhist statues to take pictures of.
Editors:Great. Now you know our readers love those exotic settings, so we want you to set your new book there. Make it as authentic sounding as you can.
SW:Oh, I‘ll make it authentic all right.(Grumble!)
Final Analysis of The Lion Rock
The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth was a ho-hum, kind of meh romance but a pleasant enough way to pass the time on a train ride. Despite the book’s odd points, I’ll give it a tepid thumbs up.
Rating Report Card
She was more than willing to surrender to love
Never before had Cordelia experienced such desire as she felt for Marcus Stone. And one sultry night in the exotic gardens of his Sri Lankan home, he revealed his own fierce passion for her.
Then suddenly he became remote and strangely reluctant to accept what she wanted to give. “Aren’t you willing to take a risk if you want something badly enough?” Cordelia had asked him.
Marcus had shown he was a risk-taker in other ways. But now he was clearly showing Cordelia that he didn’t want her.
Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is typical of the many schlocky bodice rippers 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 look like a “faces-of-meth” poster.
However, no matter how battered and bruised, emaciated, lice-infested her hair, and filthy and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is Augusta Raleigh with emerald eyes and raven curls.
Augusta seals her fate on July 4, 1774, when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army.
The story starts 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.
The plot, as convoluted as it is, is interesting.
David is an unapologetic man-slut horndog. He courts Augusta but intends to love her and leave her. His first time with Augusta goes something like this:
David: Hey, baby… I just saved you from being raped. How’s about a little thank you? Augusta: Okey-dokey. David: How’s about I rape you? Augusta: Okey-dokey. Wait… What?
Later Augusta visits him at headquarters and finds him entertaining a woman in bed. Naturally, Augusta leaves in anger. Then a few paragraphs down, he’s seducing her!
David’s a wonderful cad. So it’s unfortunate the couple is separated for a significant portion of this short 346-paged novel–as often occurs in these books.
A Gender Bender of a Bodice Ripper
After a life-changing heartbreak, Augusta is off to war. She disguises herself as a boy, wraps those boobs up tightly, and spends a year (years?) marching and camping with lots of men.
Hmm. What could possibly go wrong with that?
She fights bravely at the Battle of Long Island, killing all Redcoats in her sights, and she saves her best friend, Tad. Young and gay, Tad–like so many men–falls in love with her.
Dressed as a boy, Augusta’s powers of seduction are irresistible. All men are attracted to her: gay, straight, and bisexual. This book was definitely a gender-bending read, and at times Augusta flirts heavily with transgenderism, thinking:
“What will I be? What will I do? I will have destroyed myself as a woman. The gentleness and softness that men find so appealing will be gone. Yet I can never be a man. I will be neither fish nor fowl…”
Part Deborah Samson, part Scarlett O’Hara, part Mata Hari, and part Helen Reddy, Augusta, spends years searching for revenge and love. She experiences the “cruel sexual humiliation of lustful men” (at least, that is what the cover says) before she gets her happy ending.
Final Analysis of Divided Heart
Divided Heart‘s bodice ripper highlights include attempted rape, forced seduction, heroine-dressing-as-a-boy, whippings galore, adult-man-on-teen-female-sex, adult-man-on-teen-male-sex, sex with men besides the hero, oral sex, anal sex…
Yup. Divided Heart is tawdry.
Is it any good? Well, it wasn’t horrible. It had its moments.
Divided Heart waffles between being a tasteless, balls-to-wall bodice ripper and a dry historical lesson of the early battles in the American Revolution.
Angelica Aimes wasn’t skilled enough to pull off the history part. She should have stuck to what she was good at, the trashy side. Apparently, after writing bodice rippers, Aimes wrote several novelizations of The Young The Restless, which about sums it up.
I’m not knocking soaps. As a youngun, I watched them all, Y&R included. I remember plots from 40 years ago, like Lauren being buried alive by that crazy wacko and then losing her and Paul’s baby (I am old.)
Divided Heart, at times, feels rushed, more like a summary of scenes than an actual narrative tale. Significant events are glossed over. Scenes transition oddly. It’s just a mess.
I can overlook lousy writing if the plot is to my liking. In this case, sort of.
Despite being horribly written, Divided Heart is not without a sleazy bit of charm. It entertained.
Rating Report Card
MY ENEMY, MY LOVE In 1774, Augusta Raleigh is a southern belle with her father’s fiery temper and her mother’s dark beauty, and she’s easy prey to the charms of a handsome British officer. But when war is declared, headstrong Augusta is hopelessly divided between her broud Virginian family and the dashing Redcoat captain…
Torn from her lover’s side, Augusta will be condemned as a traitor, despised by the Colonists and distrusted by the British. She will know the cruel sexual humiliations of lustful men, and she will flee the ravaged battlefields of home for the sophisticated salons of Paris. But her wild, warring heart will not know peace until she is reunited with the one man who is both her country’s enemy and her greatest love.
While Passion Sleeps by Shirlee Busbee made me feel really old. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the actual book itself.
This just-under-500-pages epic is printed in a tiny font on yellowed paper (my edition is 38 years old). Reading it strained my eyes something awful. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, but now things up close are getting blurry. I’ll be going to the eye doctor this week for a new Rx because I need bifocals. *Sigh.* Damn you, the passage of time!
Speaking of the passage of time, While Passion Sleeps features a macho hero who would be booed out of Romancelandia if he were to appear in a romance novel today. Rafael Santana, who’s one tough Texan (1/4 American, 1/4 Comanche, and 1/2 Spanish), was kidnapped by the Comanches as a child. He lived with them for years before being rescued by his Spanish relatives.
He is a savage man, torn between two worlds, as he never fully adjusted to polite society. A forced marriage to a cold-hearted woman and several fleeting sexual affairs have jaded Rafael’s perspective about females.
Women were such deceptive little bitches, [Rafael] thought viciously as he kicked his horse into a gallop. They had faces like angels and bodies to drive men wild, and yet they lie, cheated, and would merrily rip a man’s heart from his body for the sheer joy of watching him writhe.
Besides being a founding member of “The He-Man Women’s Hater Club,” he’s capable of and has committed extreme violence:
“I was 12 the first time I went on a raid & yes, I did enjoy it,” Rafael interrupted coolly. “I was 13 when I stole my first horse and scalped my first white man and a year later, I raped my first woman and took my first captive. By the time I was 17, I was raiding w/ the warriors for over five years; I owned fifty horses, had my own buffalo skin teepee, three slaves of my own & several scalps taken by my hand decorated my lance.”
(I can hear the clacking sound of myriad strings of pearls being clutched by the “How dare you!” crowd.)
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the heroine Beth. A beautiful violet-eyed, platinum-haired Englishwoman (Are there really women who naturally look like that in real life? I’ve yet to see one.), Beth is forced to marry a profligate gambler who drinks too much. Her noble father has no use for her now that he has a new wife and son.
Nathan Ridgeway is handsome and not that bad of a guy despite his errant ways. The problem is Nathan has “teh ghey” and try and try as he might, he just can’t get a chubby for his sweet 16-year-old bride. Only hot, young men will do it for him and Beth ain’t that.
Dismayed at first by the inability to consummate their marriage, he and Beth fall into a contented, platonic arrangement, where Beth capably mages the household affairs. At the same time, Nathan not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours. A whiff of potential scandal hits the air, so the pair hightail it off to the United States to make a new life for themselves.
They move to Louisiana, then later to Mississippi, where eventually Beth, the super-perfect woman, manages a huge plantation that turns a tidy profit, while Nathan again not-so-discreetly enjoys the company of his paramours.
Let’s rewind a bit to their time in Louisiana. There at a ball, Beth’s shimmering violet eyes met the passionate smoky-gray gaze of Rafael Santana. The attraction was instantaneous, leading Rafael to make a crude proposition. Of course, Beth wanted nothing to do with the married Rafael, being an honorable married woman herself, even if her marriage was not quite a “marriage.”
Rafael’s wife was jealous of the pair and arranged for Rafael’s cousin to rape a drugged Beth, then have Rafael come upon the scene. Moments before the cousin could do the deed, an enraged Rafael enters the room, catching what he believes are two lovers in flagrante delicto.
Furious that another man had his way with Beth yet enchanted by her naked body, Rafael becomes maddened with lust. Under the influence of intoxicants, Beth’s only sensation is desire.
She begs Rafael to take her, which he eagerly does. Thinking he’s having sloppy seconds and in a state of anger, somehow Rafael fails to notice that Beth’s a virgin, even though her hymen is still intact. (I always question when this sort of thing happens in romances: how can a man who’s been around the entire neighborhood not notice the major resistance a hymen makes upon entry? These heroes just plow through like it’s made of wet tissue paper.)
After their one night of passion, Beth flees in shame. She and Rafael don’t see each other until four years later when Beth decides to travel through Texas to visit an old friend. But, when they meet again, their lust can’t be controlled, and they go at it again. And again. And again!
Rafael’s wife is now dead, and he thinks Beth is a shameless adulteress, beguiling innocent men with her beauty. I’ve never read Gypsy Lady, but for those of you who have, it’s interesting to note that Sebastian, the son of that book’s protagonists, is featured in While Passion Sleeps as Rafael’s cousin. He, too, is mad about the lovely Beth.
Sebastian is the only one who knows the true nature of Beth’s marriage, having witnessed Nathan in bed in the arms of another man. He vows to save Beth from her phony marriage and make her his bride.
Sebastian’s illusions are shattered in a powerful scene after he catches Beth and Rafael in an embrace. Rafael and Sebastian, who are good friends, almost come to blows until Rafael claims Beth is his mistress. Sebastian leaves the field to his cousin; his heart is broken.
Never having felt such deep emotion for a woman before, Rafael is conflicted. Not only is his cousin in love with Beth, but she also had a husband to contend with. Ultimately, he decides to make Beth his and his alone. No matter what, passion will find a way.
An Aside: Language Lesson
I did have an issue with the bad Spanish in While Passion Sleeps.
Rafael’s wife is named Consuela; it should be Consuelo.
Also, Rafael refers to Beth as “mi cara,” which means “my face.” Instead, it should be “querida” as “cara” is Italian for “my beloved.” I’ve seen that mistake so often in older romances when the hero speaks Spanish, especially in Harlequins. Fortunately, Rafael doesn’t call her that too often, preferring to call Beth his “English.”
Please permit me to go over this for a moment. Any romance reader worth their salt should know how to say this to a woman in multiple languages. There are many ways to say “my beloved,” “my dear,” or “my love” in various languages, but here in random order, are the ones I know off the top of my head:
Except for my eyes squinting in vain to read the words, While Passion Sleeps was an enjoyable ride. It is a bodice ripper that spans continents and years and has lots of steamy love scenes and plenty of violence. That’s enough for me to like it.
There are times when this book lags, especially during the first half when Beth and Rafael don’t spend much time with each other. For some reason, Busbee went into extreme detail over the most unimportant things, like Beth and her husband traveling from New Orleans to Texas or about Comanche & Texas history. The editing could have been tighter.
Beth and Rafael had crazy, intense chemistry. You feel the heat coming off the pages whenever they are together. The love scenes, while a bit lavender, were sexy as hell. But… that’s all they have.
They don’t really converse, don’t go through shared experiences (except for towards the end), heck they don’t even argue that much. They have sex every chance they get when they’re alone. I would have preferred more time spent together bonding emotionally than physically.
A Mustache Aside
Also, for some reason, I imagined Rafael with a mustache. Busbee makes no mention of one. Yet after reading this scene:
“Let me,” he muttered, roughly. “You are as beautiful there as anywhere, and I want the taste of you on my mouth, the scent of you in my nostrils. Let me!”
I couldn’t picture him without a flavor-saver on his face! Usually, mustaches are a turn-off. However, imagining Rafael as Mexican actor Mauricio Islas, one of the few men who can pull it off, made it all good.
Until I pictured another face. With the show The Mandalorian in the news lately, for some reason, Mauricio’s image kept morphing into actor Pedro Pascal. Nothing against Pedro. He just looks exactly like my cousin Felix! Nice-looking enough, but he’s not my idea of a brutal lover and killer whose cold, pale eyes barely hide the passions which simmer beneath the surface.
That’s just my baggage. I’ve got to stop imagining actors as heroes. When the cover (sadly) fell off While Passion Sleeps, I had no guy to look at and did some head casting.
Final Analysis of While Passion Sleeps
This is the third Shirlee Busbee I’ve read and definitely the best of the bunch. While Passion Sleeps has a hero you either love or hate. I loved him in all his pigheaded, dark alpha-ness.
Beth grows as a character. She transforms from a naïve, biddable housewife stuck in a loveless union to a fiery spitfire who endures trauma and hardship.
If Busbee had tightened the manuscript a bit more by reducing the filler and adding more emotionally intimate scenes between Beth and Rafael, this would have been amazing. As it is, it’s still a very gripping read, even if, at times, I did skim a page or two.
Rating Report Card
THE LADY: Beth Ridgeway was a violet-eyed platinum beauty — the kind of woman who made men burn with desire. Yet her husband Nathan didn’t want her…
THE ROGUE: Rafael Santana, the darkly handsome and arrogant son of a wealthy Texas family, had been kidnapped by the Comanches and raised as a warrior. Even now, all his gentleman’s breeding couldn’t conceal the savage strength beneath his aristocratic bearing.
THE FURY: Beth thought he was cruel and insensitive, a man who used women only for his selfish pleasure and then tossed them away. Rafael thought she was a common wench — flirtatious and unfaithful — who took pride in breaking men’s hearts.
THE FIRE: Yet something had happened when their eyes first met at a dazzling New Orleans ball. Something their hearts could not deny, something neither the years nor the violent misunderstandings could diminish. Because for the first time, both Beth and Rafael were awakening to the magnificent passions of love.
I first readLove, Cherish Memany years ago as a teenager, so it’s a long-time favorite.
You have to read this book as a lover of the genre because Rebecca Brandewyne is at her bodice-rippiest.
Rebecca Brandewyne, Author
What I loved about many of Rebecca Brandewyne’s past romances was their baroque style. For example, every so often, she’d pose on the back of the book wearing a dress similar to what the heroine wore on the front cover.
At the beginning of the novel, a poem detailed the love story. Then there was a great list of the cast of characters. The book was broken into several parts. Then to start, there was a prologue, often with the couple together. Finally, the epic novels ended with an epilogue.
And don’t forget the Elaine Duillo cover art. In the 1980s, that was practically de rigeur for a romance diva.
What can I say? I’ve always preferred intricate, elaborate heavy metal or progressive rock rather than streamlined, gritty punk.So it’s no surprise my taste in romances is no different.
Love Cherish Me book is a great western saga. For that reason, you can expect it to be full of murder, sex, death, and trauma.Get your hankies out, because his one is a tearjerker!
The heroine is a Southern belle named Storm Aimee Lesconflair. The hero is a dark stranger people call “Lobo,” or Wolf. On her way out West to marry a stranger, her carriage is held up, and Storm is kidnapped. But her kidnappers make a fatal mistake.
Storm’s life is decided in a fatal card game played by Lobo and her abductors.
Before she knows it, she is violently pulled into the lone gambler/gunslinger’s life.
The tale is epic, set in the epic state of Texas. Storm finds herself in one harrowing situation after another. Villains almost rape her on multiple occasions, but Wolf is there to save her.
Wolf is a dark, sexy hombre of mysterious heritage. Not only does he speak fluent Spanish, but he knows the ways of the Comanche. He also dresses in nothing but black clothes, smokes cheroots, and calls Storm “baby.”
For a while, Storm and Lobo have an idyllic life together before circumstances separate them.
Afterward, Storm is forced to make difficult choices to survive. She becomes the unwilling bride of a man she hates.
Then tragedy strikes. Storm is accused of and put on trial for murder.
And most tragically of all, she undergoes the worst pain a mother can feel.
Will she ever find her beloved again?
Final Analysis on Love Cherish, Me
Before finally being reunited with her soul mate, Storm must face the worst a woman can encounter.
Love Cherish, Me is a companion piece to And Gold Was Ours. The latter book was swashbucklingly fun but not as great as this.
The only Brandewyne book I like more than this is her Gothic romance reminiscent of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Upon a Moon-Dark Moor.
The conclusion to Love Cherish Me is bittersweet. The book ends with an epilogue of Storm, Lobo, and their family who skirt the fringes of acceptable society. Brandewyne created a masterpiece of a romance here.
Love, Cherish Me wrenches all sorts of emotions from the reader. As hard as it is to describe the complicated feelings it evoked, I am forever glad to have experienced them.
Rating Report Card
Storm was her name and her destiny… Born on a night when lightning flashed and thunder rolled, the raven-haired beauty was sixteen before the promise of her name became the path of her life… Born to wealth, the belle of five counties wagered away to a middle-aged rancher by her wastrel uncle. On her way to Texas to marry Gabriel North, she was captured by outlaws — and wagered away again by her captor to a blue-eyed bounty hunter, a dark-skinned gunslinger called El Lobo, the wolf. A man who could kill in cold blood, then take her with fire and tenderness when she whispered to him.