Category Archives: year 1984

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 574
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penelope Neri is one of the more versatile authors I’ve read from Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Neri’s first two books were set in England in the 1700s. Her third book was set in 19th-century Hawaii. Her fourth, Hearts Enchanted, takes place in Medieval England in the 13th century.

For the most part, the books have worked, some better than others. Hearts Enchanted is one of Penelope Neri’s “better than others.”

The Plot

Hearts Enchanted begins with an introduction to the hero, Brian Fitzwarren, a part-French, part-English, part Welsh Lord. He is gifted by King Edward I with land called Striguil, which is on the border between England and Wales. It is there that Brian meets the heroine, Lady Maegan Ruthven.

Brian actually doesn’t meet Maegan, he spies on her bathing and immediately becomes attracted to her, despite the fact that their people are at war with each other. This comes to a head when Maegan’s father and three brothers are captured making war against an English Lord. King Edward I summons Maegan and gives her an ultimatum. She must marry Brian or her male relatives will be killed. Naturally, Maegan agrees to the marriage, although she hopes to leave Brian eventually.

As their marriage goes on, Maegan and Brian are in lust with each other–they’re clearly sexually attracted to each other–but they don’t want to fall in love, as both have been hurt by lost loves. Maegan’s fiancee died. Brian was betrayed by the woman he previously loved, who married his stepbrother for power and wealth. Maegan and Brian also don’t trust each other because of their ethnic backgrounds and Maegan’s belief that Brian is unfaithful to her. He’s not, by the way.

The woman Maegan believes Brian is having an affair with, Lady Moina, is his cousin. She is trying to help Brian regain his rightful title and lands from his evil stepmother, stepbrother, and faithless ex-fiancee. Eventually, Brian regains his lands, title, and most importantly, the love of Maegan as they realize that they truly do love each other, and that overcomes their initial hatred and mistrust of the other person.

The Upside

Hearts Enchanted is a good book, with lots of chemistry.

The Downside

There are some formulaic parts. Namely the fact that, once again, Ms. Neri puts the heroine in peril when she has to be rescued by the hero. This is something that happens in virtually every one of Ms. Neri’s books. This is rather annoying as her female characters are pretty strong women mentally. Yet they always seem to be dumb enough to get into a perilous situation that they need their men to get them out of.

Sex

Quite a few semi-hot sex scenes, but none approach erotica.

Violence

There are a few violent moments, but none too graphic.

Bottom Line on Hearts Enchanted

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri is a nice book for those who like medieval romance. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

PASSIONS ENFLAMED
The moment Lord Brian Fritzwarren saw the saucy, slender wench bathing in the river he could not staunch his desire. Her fresh, sun-warmed skin beckoned for his touch. Her flawless, seductive face invited him to rain fiery kisses along her delicate curves. That she was his enemy’s daughter no longer mattered. The masterful lord resolved that somehow he would claim the irresistible beauty as his own.

WILLS ENTHRALLED
While she frolicked in the sparkling water, tawny-haired Maegan felt she was being watched… then she met the smoldering gleam in Brian’s smoke gray eyes. Her cheeks flushed with shame—but her blood pounded hotly in her veins as he boldly gazed upon her body. Shivering with fear and delight, Maegan fought what she instinctively knew: she could never let herself love her foe, but their paths would forever be entwined, their lives entangled, their HEARTS ENCHANTED.

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

ride the free wind

Historical Romance Review: Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

book review historical romance
Ride the Free Wind by F. Rosanne Bittner
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Robert Sabin
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage Destiny #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 445
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

The Book

This review is of Ride the Free Wind book #2 in the “Savage Destiny” series by Rosanne Bittner.

The Plot

Ride the Free Wind begins shortly after the first book in the saga, Sweet Prairie Passion, ended. Abigail “Abbie” Trent Monroe and her husband, “Cheyenne” Zeke Monroe, are traveling to find Zeke’s Cheyenne mother and three Cheyenne half-brothers.

Zeke also has three white half-brothers, one of whom is Danny Monroe. Danny and one of Zeke’s Indian brothers, Swift Arrow, will play pivotal roles as the series continues.

Three evil characters who will adversely affect Zeke, Abbie, their family, and the Cheyenne are introduced. They are:

  • Dancing Moon: An Arapaho Indian woman and Zeke’s former lover, Dancing Moon becomes intensely jealous when Zeke brings Abbie into the Cheyenne camp. This emotion leads to a series of attacks against both Zeke and Abbie. Zeke takes revenge on Dancing Moon but does not kill her, a decision he will come to rue as the series continues…
  • Winston Garvey: A U.S. Senator who lusts after money and power, Garvey aspires to become a war profiteer when the U.S. and Mexico go to war, among other plans.
  • Jonathan Mack: Garvey’s right-hand man. Mack hires Zeke to act as a scout for a dangerous expedition. Zeke doesn’t know Mack has stashed contraband in the wagons so HE can profit from the Mexican-American War.

As the story unfolds, Zeke and Danny discover each other’s existence.

Zeke and Abbie become parents of two children–a son, Little Rock, and a daughter, Blue Sky. The family, the Cheyenne, and the rest of the Native American tribes deal with sadness and anger as their ways of life are forever altered by the encroachment of white society.

Ride the Free Wind

Upside

As usual, Ms. Bittner’s writing is exquisite. I never feel as if I’m reading a book she writes, but rather that I am watching the characters in front of me. I feel every one of their emotions, especially Zeke and Abbie’s. I feel their happiness, and I feel their pain. That is something only the truly great authors can engender in me.

I also like that Ms. Bittner writes Zeke as a totally human character. Unlike Gray Eagle, the “hero” of Janelle Taylor’s “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series and often written as omnipotent, Ms. Bittner doesn’t write Zeke that way.

During the course of the “Savage Destiny” series, Zeke is shot and injured and allowed to be human. This is great to see and makes Zeke an authentic character rather than a caricature.

Downside

In addition to what I wrote in my review of Sweet Prairie Passion, I can add another criticism of Ms. Bittner. At times, the “Savage Destiny” series is formulaic. The formula goes like this: Zeke and Abbie are happy. Zeke and Abbie are separated. Abbie and/or Zeke is attacked. Zeke finds the attackers and inflicts maximum pain on the malefactors before–usually–killing them. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the same for Ride the Free Wind.

Sex

Ms. Bittner’s love scenes are very salty. This is not a compliment. Salt, to me, is a very basic spice. That also describes Ms. Bittner’s love scenes. Basic, at best.

Violence

Ms. Bittner’s scenes here, however, are far from basic. As usual, there are scenes of assault, rape, and various killings. When Zeke does it, it’s a little more graphic and creative.

ride the free wind

Bottom Line on Ride the Free Wind

I’m much more willing to forgive Ms. Bittner for the somewhat formulaic nature of some of her scenes in Ride the Free Wind due to how exceptional she is in other areas. Ms. Bittner’s books will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who like Native American romances will find lots to love in Rosanne Bittner’s books.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

SYNOPSIS

Abandoning everything she had ever known, Abigail Trent left her family and chose her fate–to ride with Zeke Monroe, half-Cheyenne scout, into the unexplored west. Together they faced peril, until Zeke found his mother’s people and became Lone Eagle, turning his back on the white man’s world. To stay with him, Abigail must become Cheyenne too–even if it means death and warfare.

Ride the Free Wind by Rosanne Bittner

READ FOR FREE AT THE INTERNET ARCHIVE

a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.

The Plot

Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior when she was only 18. They lived in California and she hoped to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. Logan controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait.

They argued, he raped her, and she left and filed for divorce. The rape resulted in a child.

For five years Mommy and Daddy never see each other while sharing custody of their son. Now Christie is a hot movie star with a male “friend” whom she mercilessly cock-teases. The press hounds Christie so much that she moves to England with her son–-without telling her ex-husband. This obviously angers Logan and he and Christie fight it out for custody.

Drama ensues and Christie and Logan realize their feelings for each other still run hot.

My Opinion

It’s not the plot of A Naked Flame I object to; it’s the horrific execution.

Up until page 100, the hero and heroine interact twice, except for a brief flash-back into their marriage. It’s as if Charlotte Lamb wanted to write a longer book, but found she had almost maxed out her word count. So she just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with another guy.

The actual romance portion of this book is limited to two, maybe two and a half chapters. I wouldn’t have minded if the scenes with the other man were fun, or at least we saw the heroine’s personal journey to “enlightenment” or sumthin’…but no.

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

Christie is a Cnidarian of the lowest order. (That’s a fancy word I learned for jellyfish. See, home-schooling works for parents and kids.)

As for the other man…why isn’t he ever named something strong like Wolf or Magnus? Instead, he’s named Sheldon or Arnie or Dilbert or in this case Ziggy!

So our major conflict in Charlotte Lamb’s A Naked Flame consists of a love triangle between the Sensitive-New-Age-Guy slacker type:

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

What a pointless boring book with a wishy-washy, stupid heroine who wouldn’t know her butt crack from the Grand Canyon.

Uggh.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

Christie had been far too young and intoxicated with love when she and Logan had married. He’d wanted a family. She’d needed sometime to pursue her career.

After their painful breakup Christie had resented carrying Logan’s child. But now her son was even more vital to Christie’s happiness than her career as a famous film star had ever been. And she wouldn’t let Logan use lies and gossip to take Kit away from her.

Losing Logan’s love had almost destroyed Christie. She couldn’t bear to lose their son as well.

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB
midnight fires carol finch

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Fires by Carol Finch

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Midnight Fires by Carol Finch.

The Plot

Part One of Midnight Fires

Midnight Fires begins in a tavern in Bristol, England, circa 1812. Among the citizens, there is Glenna Lombard. Glenna is the sister of Norina Shaw, wife of Lord Edwin Shaw, whom Glenna wanted to marry. As a result, Glenna feels a deep hatred for her sister, who is far more well-off than she is.

We later meet Danielle Shaw, the heroine and one of Norina and Edwin’s children. They also have a son, David. Edwin is pushing Danielle to marry Thomas Seward, the son of one of his business associates. When Thomas tries to take too many liberties with Danielle, she rejects and embarrasses him publicly.

Humiliated by her rejection, Thomas conspires with Glenna and an evil pirate, Colby Morgan, to kidnap Danielle.

Danielle is rescued from Morgan’s ship by Travis Radbourne, an American sea captain, who has his own reasons for wanting to get revenge on Morgan.

Travis has many dilemmas with Danielle, not the least of which is that he can’t take her back to England as they are at war with the U.S. As they spend time together, Danielle and Travis become attracted to each other.

In an attempt to end the attraction, Travis takes Danielle to his tobacco plantation in North Carolina and enrolls her in boarding school. There is a considerable age difference between the pair. Danielle is much younger at 16 than Travis’s 31 years.

These efforts fail to end their attraction for each other. Soon after, Danielle and Travis become lovers.

After their intimacy, Travis leaves, partially out of guilt and partially because of the differences in their ages.

Part Two of Midnight Fires

He continues to fight the British and ends up wounded in one fight. Danielle then nurses him back to health.

While Travis was away, Danielle became engaged to Blair Ramsey, a son of a North Carolina banker. Travis makes it clear he disapproves of Blair–his dislike is justified–and eventually succeeds in breaking up their engagement and marrying Danielle himself.

While in America, Danielle makes some enemies, and those enemies try to do Danielle harm. They don’t succeed. When the war ends, Travis plans to take Danielle back to England to her family.

A lot has changed in the four years she’s been away. Glenna has ensconced her daughter, Annice, into the good graces of the Shaws’. Annice is married to Thomas. Glenna’s financial situation has improved.

And no one knows about her evil scheme. Or so she thinks.

Glenna’s house of cards begins to fall when Danielle and Travis show up in London, followed by Morgan, who survived the destruction of his ship and is now out for revenge against Glenna and Danielle.

Morgan assaults Glenna, kidnaps Danielle, and shoots Travis.

Travis is nursed back to health by Seward, who takes him to the Shaw estate. Seward confesses his part in Danielle’s earlier kidnapping, and Edwin and Travis cross swords on many subjects, among them: the fact that Travis is an American, and his wish to take Danielle back to America rather than live in England.

Travis is able to rescue Danielle from Morgan’s clutches, killing Morgan in the process. He also wins over Edwin–grudgingly–and Danielle and Travis have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Danielle and Travis are strong characters and they are well-matched, both strong, passionate people who occasionally cut each other to ribbons verbally, but also eventually realize they love each other.

Downside

Like so many 1980s romance novels, Midnight Fires is based on the trope of assuming facts not in evidence. Characters ruminate incessantly over what they think the other person is thinking and feeling, as opposed to knowing. All of this could have been avoided had Danielle and Travis actually TALKED WITH EACH OTHER!

Of course, had that happened, this book and probably hundreds of other books in the romance genre would not exist.

Sex

There are far more love scenes in Midnight Fires than there are typically in Ms. Finch’s books.

However, one thing remains: enough purple prose to make Minnesota’s sports teams proud.

Violence

Assault, battery, stabbings, shootings, and killings appear in the book. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line On Midnight Fires

Midnight Fires is a typical Carol Finch book. It’s very good but lacks the dynamic qualities to make it great.

4 Stars


Synopsis:

Abducted from her beloved England, trapped aboard a pirate ship, and rescued by a handsome American captain, beautiful Danielle Shaw had had her fill of adventure! She should have been terrified when Captain Travis Radbourne informed her they were now in the midst of a war, but all she could think of was the way his tight black breeches clung to his muscled thighs and the way she would love to cling to his strong, broad chest…

When Travis saw the treasure he had pulled from the sea, he was stunned. From Dani’s wide emerald eyes to her smooth alabaster skin and silky golden tresses, she was alluring, enticing, and altogether irresistible. He longed to taste her full, red lips, caress her satiny curves, lose himself in her sweet, seductive embrace, and take her on a passionate journey to a summit ablaze with MIDNIGHT FIRES.

Midnight Fires by Carol Finch
And Gold Was Ours duillo

Historical Romance Review: And Gold Was Ours by Rebecca Brandewyne

Synopsis:

In faraway Spain Aurora’s fortune was foretold –the exile from the home of her aristocratic ancestors, the journey to the steaming jungles of Peru, and at last, the love of a fiery dark man.

Now on a plantation haunted by a tale of lost love and hidden gold, the raven-tressed beauty awaits the swordsman and warrior she has seen in her dreams. Will he come-and protect her from the enemies that seek to destroy her? Will he love her with the promised passion-wilder than the tropic storms and brighter than the most precious treasure?

AND GOLD WAS OURS by REBECCA BRANDEWYNE

Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and the Setup

And Gold Was Ours is a sequel to Rebecca Brandewyne‘s Love, Cherish Me. However, I’d consider this more of a companion piece. The hero, Esteban, is the cousin to Wolf (Lobo), the male protagonist from Love Cherish, Me. Wolf’s story takes place in Texas, USA. Esteban’s begins in Spain and ends in Peru. While both novels have Brandewyne’s hallmark baroque-gothic atmosphere, And Gold Was Ours is not as dark and emotional as its predecessor.

What this romance does have are swashbuckling intrigue and a unique setting. It also employs a supernatural element.

Our story begins in Spain, sometime in the mid-19th century, under the reign of Isabel II. The book opens with a swordfight between Esteban and his evil stepfather. Although Esteban has right on his side, after he kills his stepfather, his wicked stepbrother vows revenge. So Esteban is forced to leave everything behind and flee to the New World.

Aurora Leila, also in Spain, has a fortune teller foresee her future. She is told that she’ll have to leave her home for faraway lands. There, she will find a love that has awaited her for eternity. While Aurora scoffs at the seer, the woman is correct. Some misadventures with a lusty nun occur while Aurora is in a convent. Like Esteban, Aurora must leave her birthplace behind. She travels thousands of miles away to Peru.

The Plot

It takes some time for the love story to begin, as Brandewyne puts the players into their starting places.

When Esteban and Aurora meet in South America, it’s as if they’ve known each other for all time. A bond exists between them, which seems to have existed since time primordial. Theirs is a fated love, one passionate and thrilling.

There are villains aplenty and crazy adventures along the way as they fall in love in the jungles of Peru. Danger lurks as enemies compete for land. A search for legendary ancient treasure leads to mortal peril.

Midway through the book, Esteban and Aurora take a side trip to Texas. They share happy moments with Storm, Lobo, and their son, Chance. If you’ve read Love Cherish Me, this part hits hard in the feels. This was a brief halcyon period for Storm and Lobo before tragedy struck.

Then it’s back to Peru for Esteban and Aurora, who must overcome scheming antagonists.

And unfortunately, we encounter Esteban’s 180-degree heel-turn. He starts out as a dashing, romantic character and then, out of nowhere, turns into a jealous stalker. It was out of place and made Esteban less likable.

Meanwhile, Aurora has visions of the two of them in times past. She sees images from ancient Egypt to Viking lands and other eras long ago when she and Esteban had loved each other. Through forces of fate, they were forever being separated.

Is their love doomed to fail in this time and place as well?

and gold was ours
And Gold Was Ours, Leisure/ Dorchester reissue, 1999, Lina Levy cover art

Final Analysis of And Gold Was Ours

I didn’t particularly appreciate Esteban’s personality transplant, how became an insecure stalker mid-way through. There was no reason for him to mistrust Aurora, who was totally devoted to him.

While I enjoyed And Gold Was Ours as it had its adventurous moments, it pales compared to Love Cherish, Me. That book was far grander in scope and emotional depth.

I didn’t expect the paranormal elements, although they added a unique twist to the plot. The prose is at times overwrought and very florid, typical of Brandewyne’s style. The love scenes are euphemistically erotic.

And Gold Was Ours started a little slow-paced and gets too wordy in certain sections. It was not one of my favorites by Rebecca Brandewyne, but it’s not the worst book by any means.

File this under the “I enjoyed it very much but didn’t love it” category. Esteban’s misplaced jealousy aside, for the most part, it was a compelling read.

3.63 stars

hard to get mortimer

Category Romance Review: Hard To Get by Carole Mortimer

Synopsis:

He seemed completely immune to her
Rich girl Lara Schofield had never met a man she couldn’t instantly captivate, and in fact she’d made a hobby of collecting hearts and breaking them while she remained personally uninvolved.

Until she encountered Jordan Sinclair. He was devastating, everything a woman could ask for. And he was utterly indifferent to Lara.

But what Lara wanted, Lara got, and she was determined to have Jordan Sinclair. Even if it meant playing with the potent fire of his passion, and playing with Jordan was very dangerous indeed….

HARD TO GET by CAROLE MORTIMER

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

Oh boy, when I read “the heroine in pursuit plot” synopsis for this Harlequin Presents, was I ever excited to read it. Heroines who are determined to get their men are my favorite kinds! Alas, when the object of said pursuit is a mean arsehole, the chase isn’t worth it. Still, Hard to Get by Carole Mortimer was a wild, emotional whirlwind. With a more charismatic hero, I could have loved this as opposed to liking it.

As with so many Presents, this is an utter trainwreck, so you can’t look away.

The Characters

Lara Sinclair, our heroine, is beautiful, rich, vain, and spoiled–the very opposite of a heroine. She’s a daddy’s little girl type. Lara’s used to getting what she wants with ease. All the boys want her. She flirts and trifles with their hearts, never giving what she knows is so easy to get.

At a party, she sees the hero, Jordan Sinclair, and decides she wants him as another toy to play with. She approaches him with supreme confidence just to be stunned with brutal dismissal.

The game is on, and Lara is more determined than ever to have him.

The Plot

Lara chases after Jordan only to be rebuffed at every turn. Even so, Jordan shows up in her life at parties and spends time with her wealthy father getting all buddy-buddy.

Lara overplays her hand with an unhinged guy who then attempts to rape her and Jordan saves her. He shows contempt for Lara, blaming her for what almost occurred.

Then Jordan does a 180 and decides he’s the man for her. But now she doesn’t want anything to do with him, so Jordan convinces Daddy-dear that it would be in Lara’s best interest to do so.

This is all a rather contrived way to get there, but the pair do go out. Before anything serious can occur, Jordan goes off on a business trip. However, it seems as if Jordan is still playing hard to get, as Lara hears he’s back in town, yet he hasn’t contacted her.

So Lara goes on a revenge date with the guy who previously tried to rape her, only to have Jordan show up and find her flirting like a drunken Scarlett O’Hara at a barbeque. So Harlequin’s logic entails that Jordan picks her up like a white knight and brings her to his home, before violating her. Jordan is horrified to find she’s a virgin. Lara is horrified, too, of course! It was rape, no euphemistic forced seduction here.

Despite this, when Jordan proposes Lara accepts–to her father’s delight. As a wedding present, Lara’s company shares will be transferred to Jordan. Lara and Jordan get married and embark on a loveless distant union. Too late, Lara discovers her love for Jordan. She also realizes she’s pregnant. Wisely, she doesn’t tell her husband, because Jordan reveals that the reason he married her was for revenge. His revelations as to who and why he’s seeking vengeance stun Lara, and she agrees to a divorce.

But you know there’s got to be a happy ending, in some over-the-top melodramatic way! There is, and these two insane people will find their way together in an unhealthy romance that will last a lifetime.

Final Analysis of Hard To Get

Carole Mortimer can make me enjoy some really wacky plots. Unfortunately, Jordan was too cold, which I usually enjoy as a trait in a hero. But he was also very cruel. There was little time to understand his motivations until the big revelation. And then it was too little, too late. I never warmed up to him.

Lara, on the other hand, grew as a character from a spoilt rich princess to a young woman of self-regard and control. I liked her and wished she got a better man.

Hard to Get was a heck of a ride, but it felt disjointed and uneven at times. The tug and pull of their relationship could give a reader whiplash. The so-called hero deserved an anvil to the head.

Still, it hits so many crazy buttons, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

3.62 Stars

Man in Control

Category Romance Review: Man in Control by Alice Morgan

The Book

If you watch Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, that pretty much sums up the plot of this category romance. Man in Control by Alice Morgan features a unique heroine. She’s an avaricious young woman who openly acknowledges that she’s looking to settle down with a man, not for love but for money.

This Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme wasn’t fabulous or anything (few of them really were). However, the book was quirky enough to hold my interest, even if it could have been shortened by 100 pages.

The Plot

Samantha Thatcher has come to San Francisco to look for a rich sugar daddy to sink her red claws into. And why shouldn’t she? She’s young, beautiful, and poor, so a girl ought to know what’s in her best interest. Her aunt has lined up several prospective candidates for Sam to date.

On her way to her aunt’s, she gets a flat tire. A handsome red-haired trucker named Steele pulls over to fix her flat. He’s a charming fellow who takes an immediate interest in Sam. When he finds out why she is in town, he’s determined to show her that there’s more to a husband than what’s in his pants–er, wallet.

Sam has no patience for the arrogant trucker, who thinks he knows her better than she knows herself. Steele volunteers to show Sam a good time, that is, when she’s not busy going on dates with millionaire duds.

Steele takes her on picnics and drives her around in his beat-up old truck, openly pursuing Sam while she plays a flirtatious game with him. Sam is intrigued by this strange man, who has enough cash to take her to fine restaurants but can’t seem to assemble a decent wardrobe.

Just who is Steele, and what is he hiding?

Final Analysis of Man in Control

This was a funny, silly book, not exactly the best written, but it was amusing to see the openly- greedy Sam fall for Steele’s charming antics. I appreciate flawed main characters, so it was a nice change of pace to read a book about a spoiled heroine instead of a perfect Mary Sue.

Although the premise does wear a bit thin for a 300-page book, it’s an amusing way to spend a few hours.

3 Stars


Synopsis

Samantha Thatcher was seeing red! The very thought of the redheaded knight-of-the-road who’d fixed her flat tire still filled her with fury He was a brute! A beast!

Beautiful Sam had come to San Francisco with a single purpose: to many a millionaire. Her aunt Margaret had lined up three likely prospects. Spoiled, outspoken, outrageously opinionated, Sam always managed to have her own way. But the handsome hunk of a trucker was insolently indifferent to what Sam said. Her breathless response to his kisses contradicted her every word, from the battered seat of a wrecked pickup to the plush banquettes of the best restaurants in town, Steele Whitfield pursued her. Rich man, poor man, high roller or hick–who was he? And how long could she resist him… a man she couldn’t manipulate… a man in control?

MAN IN CONTROL BY ALICE MORGAN
Lovespell

Historical Romance Review: Lovespell by Deana James

historical romance review
Lovespell by Deana James
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 558
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Lovespell by Deana James

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Lovespell is yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like Captive Angel. This medieval romance is as epic as any of her westerns.

The Plot

Gillian is an English fletcher who poses as twins, the male Gil & female Gillian. A Norman knight named Brian is badly beaten and his armor has been stolen by an errant squire. He is rescued by Gil who cares for him and helps him heal. Brian is a man often too proud for his own good. His honor demands he must pay recompense to Gil for saving his life so he helps him/her make arrows. To satisfy his life debt, Brian must help Gillian bring the arrows to arm the English, the enemies of his people.

In due time Brian figures out Gil’s true identity. He falls for her, as she does for him. This is just the beginning of their love story.

There are many misadventures along the way, as a cast of multi-faceted secondary characters soon takes the stage, adding more drama, romance, and tragic elements to this story. The man who stole Brian’s knight returns, and he’s not quite the evil character Brian first thought he was. That character’s doomed love affair with a noblewoman is exquisitely portrayed, and its conclusion might bring you to tears, as it did for me.

Causing trouble for Gillian and Brian is a multi-faceted gay quasi-villain, Ranulf, who desires Gil, the boy. He beats Brian and captures Gil. In a tense scene, Ranulf attempts to rape her but is so excited he finishes prematurely. Then he is furious to discover he’s a girl!

Oddly enough, after that, Gil & Ranulf establish a friendship of sorts as they march through battle together. In the end, it’s strongly hinted Ranulf loves both versions of Gil/Gillian.

The Hero

Nevertheless, it’s Brian who is the very intense love of Gillian’s life.

Brian is a conflicted character, a knight in a time when the methods of war were changing. His position and that of others like him were being made redundant through stronger firepower. With the advancement of weaponry, men were fighting at more long-distance ranges. Thus the dependence on utilizing knights on horseback who engaged in sword-to-sword sword combat was lessened.

It was an age where the commoner began obtaining financial power. Men such as Brian, who made their fortunes via the sword, were seeing their time come to an end.

Brian must question who he is as the world around him transforms into something he doesn’t recognize, and he becomes disillusioned. In the end, the hero gives up his knighthood to stay with his beloved, a lower-class arrow-maker who will, on occasion, still pose as a man.

Final Analysis of Lovespell

Lovespell is a great medieval romance. It’s an unconventional and deeply passionate book. Filled with surprises, twists, and turns, it kept me up late at night to read just one more page. Good stuff.

Deana James has yet to disappoint me. I know she (Mona Sizer) has authored mostly nonfiction westerns under her real name in the latter years of her writing career. I only wish she had written more romances.

4.59 Stars


Synopsis:

With a tunic draping her sensuous figure and a cap hiding her wheat-gold hair, no one guessed that the boy Gil was really the voluptuous Gillian. Only men could belong to craftsmen’s guilds, and as the best bowmaker in all of England, the beautiful girl never minded the disguise…until she saw Sir Brian. The handsome knight’s hazel eyes and masterful body smote her to her very core – and for the first time in her life, Gillian longed to risk her career for just a moment of passion’s sweet fury!

When Brian de Trenanay discovered the gorgeous maiden beneath the coarse, mannish garments, he knew he had to brand her as his own. Even though she was an enemy Englishwoman, she had pierced the French man of war to the heart. His senses enflamed, Brian decided there would be time enough for fighting on the morrow. Tonight he would surrender his strength to the power of ecstasy and submit to the irresistible force of her Lovespell

LOVESPELL by DEANA JAMES
Born to Love

Historical Romance Review: Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 576
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Valerie Sherwood‘s Cavalier & Colonial Era romance Born to Love takes us to England and the American colonies as four women seek love.

Valerie Sherwood, Cat Fancier & Romance Novelist

Sherwood would always lovingly dedicate her books to the special cats in her life. In Born to Love, it was Mopsy and Chow. She was slightly cat crazy.

So in honor of Ms. Sherwood–and from one crazy cat lady to another–I would like to dedicate my review of Born to Love to one of my cats.

To Bear,

You sweet, gentle soul, a little black-furred, black-nosed, green-eyed wonder.

Bear, you came into my life at 19, when your mother, a feral queen, bore her kittens in the warehouse of the office where I worked. I took you home at four weeks old and because you had not been weaned, I had to feed you milk and mush. Every night before I’d fall asleep, you’d suck at my earlobe as you would have at your mother’s teat.

Even when you grew, you still held on to this adorable kittenish trait.

Sadly Bear, you were in my life for just over a year. I went back to college and my landlady would not allow cats so you stayed home with my mother and siblings. Perhaps life there without me was not what you desired, because you ran away.

I never saw you again and I cried many tears of loss. But I have never forgotten you.

To you Bear, this review is dedicated.

The Set Up: A Family Saga

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, on to the book.

Born to Love is actually four stories of several generations of women with the same name, Dorinda, and their (mis)adventures in love. As repeated over (and over), the premise of the tale is: “It takes one generation to make it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.”

The First Three Dorindas

The book opens up with the most exciting story of the group. Angel-faced, golden-haired Dorinda, a chambermaid, escapes the Great London fire. She valiantly saves Grantland Meredith from street toughs. Then the two marry each other. The simple Dorinda is shocked when she learns he is an Earl.

Unfortunately for sweet Dorinda, she is not his true love. That would be Polly, an amoral, evil black-haired she-devil of a woman. Polly is the best character in the book, relentlessly calculating and conniving, willing to do anything to have her man. It’s no surprise when this tale ends in tragedy.

Their daughter Rinda’s tale is the second part. Rinda is a wealthy, hereditary Countess. That struck me as odd, as I don’t think that English titles were passed on through the female line back then, but what do I know? Rinda falls in love with Rory, the son of her mother’s rival.

This second Dorinda risks everything to save her man at the Monmouth Rebellion. Sherwood kept repeating how brave, how bold, how valiant Rinda was to ride into battle and save Rory. It would have been nice to see it happen, not hear about it again and again. This story is kind of a letdown.

Of the third Dorinda, we hear about only in a summarized tale told to the fourth Dorinda.

It takes a generation to make a it, one to lose it, one to talk about it, and one to make it again.

The Main Story

The last half of the book deals with Dorinda IV, an indentured servant in Virginia. I liked this Dorinda and her cat, Lady Soft-Paws. Her story, while enjoyable, was uneven.

After her time as an indentured servant is over, Dorinda seeks adventure. She pretends to be a long-lost heiress to a plantation.

Two handsome men vie for her attention, although it’s obvious who the hero is. He is Tarn Jenner a man shrouded in mystery. He hides a secret identity, but we don’t know this until the end.

The characters play deceitful games, but this delightful plot point is squandered as Dorinda spends most of her time mooning over the villain.

Tarn Jenner, who is really a witty character, isn’t seen enough to be fully appreciated. The parts we do see are terrific but fleeting.

The back of the book claims:

“She was the Beauty… He was the Blade-dark debonair, the most dangerous highwayman to rove the colonial roads.”

And yet the highwayman portion is a tiny part of the story and only revealed in brief towards the end!

Final Analysis of Born to Love

The conclusion of Born to Love is wrapped up in a neat package. Although it’s left up to the imagination what the fate of the fifth Dorinda will be.

Sometimes I hate rating a book 4-stars, particularly when with just more care to detail and pacing, it could have been a 5-star read. Born to Love was a book that reached great highs and very middling lows.

Although I love her voice, this is a problem I’ve run into when reading Valerie Sherwood’s romances. Plus, she makes a great hero and sometimes doesn’t do much with him.

If I’m focusing too much on the negatives of this family saga it’s because this one could have been great, a book I loved. As it is, I just liked it very much.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

She was The Beauty — reckless Dorinda Meredith, heiress to the wind!

He was The Blade — dark, debonair, most dangerous of highwaymen to rove the colonial highroads.

A world of intrigue and danger stood between them, but they were star-crossed lovers — born to meet, born to clash, and Born to Love

Born to Love by Valerie Sherwood
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , , ,

***

stormfire pino

Historical Romance Review: Stormfire by Christine Monson

historical romance review
Stormfire by Christine Monson
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Napoleonic Era Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 568
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stormfire by Christine Monson

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, in the early 2010s, I finally got around to Stormfire by the late Christine Monson.

Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice-ripping, Stormfire, is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it’s great!

The Most Controversial Bodice Ripper Ever?

The main attraction of Stormfire is its writing. If it were a poorly authored book, no one would still be talking about it 30-plus years after it was published.

The chapters each have titles such as “Silken Irons,” “Into Eden,” or “The Nadir.”

When Lady Catherine Elderly meets her captor, Sean Culhane, her first thoughts are of Milton’s poetry: 

“His form had not yet lost

All his original brightness, nor appeared

Less than Archangel ruined…” 

PARADISE LOST, JOHN MILTON

The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize over Catherine’s enslavement; we feel the angry passion between the lovers; we grieve Catherine’s loss and suffer from Sean’s torture.

How much misery can two people take?

There is an intense love/hate dynamic between the main characters that is the stuff of legends.

I wish writers of historical romances today wrote like this. Not necessarily the same plot lines, but with action and intensity that doesn’t delve into vulgarity.

To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of things in the book. Regardless, Stormfire is enthralling. Even those who hate this book can’t say it’s boring.

The Plot

Sean Culhane kidnaps Catherine, the daughter of a British lord, seeking vengeance for wrongs committed against his people.

He keeps Catherine captive in his estate in Ireland, where he doesn’t hesitate to rape her before sending Catherine’s bloodied undergarments to her father.

While Catherine is an innocent pawn, she is not weak. She’s a fighter who will meet Sean’s cruelties with a will of iron.

You will not believe what these two go through, what they do to each other, or what they do to others. It’s incredible, but as I said, it’s Monson’s compelling skill at writing that makes this book so special.

His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance.

Then again, maybe I’m a sicko because I like the plot. Yes, it’s epic and melodramatic. There’s everything but the kitchen sink. That includes: kidnapping, rape, starvation, forced slavery, multiple marriages, miscarriage, insanity, beatings, brothers fighting for the same woman, incest, castration, forcible sodomy, murder…

So much happens here!

Perhaps it’s a bit too much in the last quarter, as Sean and Catherine needed some moments together introspecting rather than acting.

Final Analysis of Stormfire

There are many detractors of Christine Monson’s controversial bodice ripper. In its defense, I say this: Stormfire isn’t supposed to be a sweet romance. It’s an old-school historical romance novel, a bodice ripper, and I use the term with great affection.

It’s a fantasy.

A dark one, definitely. Then again, so too are the vampire, werewolf, bestiality, BDSM, step-dad/ stepbrother kink, and ménage fantasies of today. Books like Stormfire present a different kind of fantasy, where the most tremendous hate can transform into love.

Would this relationship work in real life? Probably not. That’s why it’s make-believe.

Stormfire is entertaining, emotional, and unforgettable. It falters a bit towards the end, so it’s not perfect.

This is not the best romance novel ever written, but for me, it’s up there.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Abducted on her way to boarding school, a terrified Catherine Enderly was brought from England to the coast of Ireland, the prisoner of the angry and powerful young Sean Culhane—a man sworn to vengeance against her family.

Frightened but defiant, the young countess met her captor with a strength that belied her fragile loveliness. But even as Sean vowed to have his revenge on Catherine, with each encounter he became more attracted to her. Her fiery innocence was a seduction that lured the passions of long smoldering hostility into a blazing inferno of desire.

Locked in a love-hate duel, he did not suspect that the captivating beauty who fought him with such tenacity was struggling desperately against her own awakened desires, and that his touch had become the burning reminder that the fierce hatred she felt for him had become an all-consuming love.

STORMFIRE by CHRISTINE MONSON

Download or Read Online at Book Vooks: Stormfire PDF Book by Christine Monson (1984)