Category Archives: year 1988

angel heart victoria thompson

Historical Romance Review: Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Angel Heart by Victoria Thompson
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: A Hired Gunslinger #1; The Cowboy and the Lady #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 522
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of the western historical romance Angel Heart by Victoria Thompson. It is also known as Texas Angel, book #1 in the A Hired Gunslinger” series. Originally this was released as a Zebra Lovegram.

This book is also connected to Texas Triumph book #2 in Ms. Thompson’s “The Cowboy and the Lady series.

The other books in the latter series were #1 Texas Treasure and #3 Texas Blonde, which have been previously reviewed at Sweet Savage Flame.

The Plot

Part 1 of Angel Heart

As Angel Heart, or Texas Angel, begins, the hero of the book, Christian “Kid” Collins–who was a supporting character in Texas Triumph–is engaged in a gun battle at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Rose and Pete Hastings, with gunslicks hired by Harlan Snyder, a ruthless rancher.

Sadly, Rose, Pete, and their unborn child have been killed. Christian is seriously wounded when he tries to escape. He is found by Comanche Indians and taken to the Diamond R ranch, home to Angelica Ross and her younger brother, Robbie. The Comanche brought him here partially due to their respect for Angelica and Robbie’s late father, Cameron.

While nursing him back to health, Angelica and Christian discover they have a mutual foe in Snyder, and Angelica asks for Christian’s help to fight him. He agrees to do so.

However, they will also have to fight their attraction for each other. They don’t, and Angelica and Christian become lovers. After which, he proposes to her, but she refuses. Despite this, Christian agrees to stay on to help Angelica with Snyder as well as help the Diamond R fulfill an Army contract to provide beef to Indian reservations.

Part 2 of Angel Heart

To that end, Christian calls in some help from his friends from the Circle M ranch in Texas Triumph. These are not ordinary ranch hands. The men are some of the most notorious gunslingers in Texas.

In concluding a successful cattle roundup, Angelica and Christian’s relationship deepens. However, he is now reluctant to marry her. This is not due to Angelica’s earlier rejection; it has more to do with Christian’s shame over his family and his concerns about what his future will be. And whether or not he has one, given his history as a gunman.

He and Angelica also gain a new enemy, a prostitute named Sunny Day. The backstory: Sunny was being sexually and physically abused by Snyder when Christian intervened to stop it. He and Sunny slept together–as in, they slept in the same bed but did not have sex.

Afterward, Sunny interpreted these acts as Christian being in love with her and wanting to protect her from Snyder’s wrath. Christian, obviously, viewed things differently. Hurt and angry that her dream isn’t going to happen, Sunny hooks up with Snyder’s newest hired gun, Tom Rivers, who was brought in specifically to kill Christian.

Part 3 of Angel Heart

Rivers makes this attempt at a party, where he tries to goad Christian into a gunfight. Christian refuses, and Rivers tries to shoot him in the back. In a surprising turn of events, Rivers is shot and killed by Miles Blackmon, a friend of Christian’s.

After a legal inquiry, the shooting is ruled justifiable. This angers Snyder, who makes his final move, kidnapping Angelica and Robbie. Christian saves Angelica, killing Snyder in the process (Robbie was taken to another location and released)

In the end, Christian shares his fears with Angelica, who helps him get beyond them, and “Kid” Collins “dies.” That’s the story the townspeople of Marsden’s Corners, Texas, tell two gun-slicks who come to town to kill Christian. They both leave without violence.

Angelica and Christian have two children, with another third on the way–and celebrate their Happily Ever After.

angel heart texas angel thompson
Angel Heart later rereleased as Texas Angel

The Upside

Angel Heart is a rare book where the hero is more emotional than the heroine. Emotional heroes are something of a trademark of Ms. Thompson’s historical romances. Angelica and Christian are a well-matched couple: two people who believe that they are too flawed to be loved by anyone.

When they find each other, they discover that this is not the case.

The Downside

There isn’t a huge amount of character development or depth here. The supporting characters are pretty one-dimensional. It’s never really explained–other than the fact that he’s a greedy evil bastard–why Snyder wanted to court Angelica or why he wanted to kill Christian so badly.

Sex

The love scenes between Angelica and Christian are very mild and not very exciting.

Violence

There is assault, battery, shootings, and a fire. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel)

There are some areas that could use improvement, but the romance novel, Angel Heart, later reissued as Texas Angel, is a solid western historical by Victoria Thompson.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis

HEAVENLY PLEASURES
Ever since Angelica’s father died, Harlan Snyder had been angling to get his hands on her ranch, the Diamond R. And now, just when she had an important government contract to fulfill, she couldn’t find a single cowhand to hire on–all because of Snyder’s threats. It was only a matter of time before she lost the ranch…. That is, until the legendary gunfighter Kid Collins turned up on her doorstep, badly wounded. Angelica assessed his firmly muscled physique and stared into his startling blue eyes. Beneath all that blood and dirt he was the handsomest man she had ever seen, and the one person who could help her beat Snyder at his own game–if the price were not too high…

DEVILISH DESIRES
Before Kid Collins knew what hit him, he had somehow agreed to act as a hired gunfighter–and for a lady. Or at least she looked like a lady, with her carefully pinned red hair and proud green eyes. But no lady would be trying to run a ranch on her own, let alone take on the likes of Harlan Snyder. She needed Kid Collins’ help, all right, but his help came with a price attached.

Angel Heart (aka Texas Angel) by Victoria Thompson
texas-wildcat-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin

historical romance review
Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 414
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Texas Wildcat by Linda Benjamin, a 1988 Zebra Lovegram historical romance.

The Plot

Texas Wildcat begins in Texas with the heroine of the book, Cordelia “Cat” Jordan, 19, who lives on a ranch, the Circle J, with her mother, Olivia, and her brother, Matt. Matt is physically challenged due to a past incident.

As the book begins, Cat is trying to forestall the Circle J from being foreclosed on. The owners of the banknote on the Circle J are the Blackstone family, a family which has a history with the Jordans, not all of which is positive.

Cat decides to meet the representative who has come to Texas to conduct the foreclosure. She is shocked to find out that the person is Logan Blackstone. Olivia and Matt already know and detest him. She also discovers that her father Hadley’s death may not have been accidental.

Romantic feelings form between Cat and Logan. However, other potential love interests are both pursuing them. Ryan Fielding, the owner of the neighboring Rocking R ranch, wants Cat–in part to merge their two ranches. Logan, meanwhile, is being pursued by Chastity Vincent, the promiscuous daughter of the local banker.

As Texas Wildcat goes on, Cat and Logan become lovers. Matt learns to find his pride and self-respect. With the help of Matt’s girlfriend, Maria Hidalgo, more shocking secrets are revealed.

Cat and Logan realize they truly do love each other and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Cat and Logan are both strong characters. Once again, Ms. Benjamin wrote a book where her hero felt his emotions strongly, and that is great to see. She also made me care about the characters, which is extremely important to me as far as liking a book.

The Downside

The love scenes could be hotter, but that was never a strength of Ms. Benjamin’s books for me.

Sex

There are several barely lukewarm love scenes.

Violence

Multiple assaults and battery scenes. A couple of shootings and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Wildcat

There isn’t enough overall strength in Linda Benjamin’s Texas Wildcat for 5 stars, but it’s a definitely solid 4-star book.

4 Stars

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

***

Categories: , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

No-Wit Banker
From the moment spirited “Cat” Jordan met handsome Bostonian Logan Blackstone, she couldn’t stand his overbearing arrogance. How dare he deny her ranch credit because he didn’t think a woman could do the job? Though the slender blonde had never before played the flirt, she realized that approach was her last gamble to keep her property. But the closer the long-limbed beauty sidled up to her dark-haired enemy, the more she enjoyed her role, and the less control she had over what the results might be!

Gun-Toting Hoyden
Virile, aloof Logan Blackstone was no stranger to women, but when he came across Cat Jordan, he knew she was one of a kind. The Texas filly could break horses, herd cattle, mend fences, and ignite his desire as no other female ever had! The cool Yankee refused to acknowledge her effect on him, and swore they would part the sooner the better! But once she pressed her nubile body against him and opened her lips to his, Logan was past the point of no return, swept up in the sensuous tempest of his Texas wildcat.

TEXAS WILDCAT by LINDA BENJAMIN
lone star surrender

Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

historical romance review
Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Lone Star Surrender by Carol Finch, a standalone Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Part 1 of Lone Star Surrender

Lone Star Surrender starts in Texas, circa 1885. Tara Winslow, the heroine, has come southwest from St. Louis to spend the summer with her father, Terrance, a newspaper publisher. She hasn’t seen him in three years.

Tara had been living in St. Louis with her grandfather, Ryan O’Donnovan, a wealthy businessman, and her mother, Libby. Terrance and Libby are separated, in large part because of her inability (or unwillingness) to stand up to her father. Tara is also engaged, unhappily, to Joseph Rutherford, one of Ryan’s business associates.

On Tara’s first day in Texas, she witnesses a murder, and is rescued by Sloane Prescott.

She meets Sloane again at the home of her friend, Julia Russel, the daughter of Merrick Russel, Sloane’s “boss.”

Sloane works for Russel as his head wrangler at Russel’s ranch, the Diamond R. Sloane isn’t working for Russel because he needs to. He has other reasons for working there: to expose Merrick as a criminal. He was also hired by Ryan and Joseph, who are investors in the Diamond R and are concerned with illegal activities they believe Merrick is involved in.

Julia wants Tara to work with Sloane to teach him manners so Julia can invite him to a dance. Unbeknownst to Julia, Tara and Sloane have a raging attraction to each other and will become lovers.

As time goes on, Tara discovers Sloane’s secrets, they marry–after she gets into trouble–and she finds out a secret he doesn’t know.

Merrick tries to kill Tara, and nearly succeeds, but she survives. Merrick later dies trying to flee Sloane after Merrick confesses his misdeeds.

Part 2 of Lone Star Surrender

After Merrick’s death, Tara thinks she and Sloane will have a clear path to happiness. She would be wrong.

Ryan and Joseph show up in Texas and forcibly take her back to St. Louis, where Ryan plans to marry her off to Joseph.

Upon hearing of her abduction, Sloane and Terrance head for St. Louis. Sloane goes to give his report and get Tara back, and Terrance to try to reconcile with Libby. Both Sloane and Terrance succeed in their endeavors to reunite with their loves.

Although, Sloane faces some token resistance from Joseph, who shows his true colors: yellow. To put it another way, Sloane was more of a man when he was born than Joseph is now.

In the end, Tara and Sloane, with Libby and Terrance–and Ryan–decide to go to Texas. The two couples have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

When she writes under the names Carol Finch and Gina Robins, Connie Feddersen has a template she uses for her books. That template: feisty, spirited heroines, bad-boys-but-good-men heroes, and lots of humor. All of these are on display in Lone Star Surrender.

Tara and Sloane are a very well-matched couple. Their chemistry jumps off the pages and sizzles throughout the book. They are a likeable pair and the story is well-plotted and engaging. The romantic suspense element is strong, and there is a twist at the end of that part of the book.

Ms. Finch goes into her characters’ emotions and gives both of them free rein to be who they are.

I never felt as if I was reading a book; I felt like I was watching their lives in front of me, and those are the kind of books I really enjoy.

I also like the way Ms. Finch uses humor in her books. While Lone Star Surrender isn’t as funny as Beloved Betrayal–which was hilarious–there are a lot of funny moments here, especially toward the end.

Way too many romance novels have an ultra-serious tone to them. It’s a romance novel, authors! Humor is a much-underutilized feature in romance novels.

The Downside

If I had to nitpick, it would be that Ms. Finch tends to be a little hero and heroine heavy in her writing. Meaning she focuses almost entirely on her main characters.

The supporting cast in her books serves two purposes: to move storylines along and to act as foils for the protagonists. I find it nice sometimes when supporting characters have scenes when the hero and heroine aren’t in them.

Sex

Ms. Finch’s love scenes focus more on the feelings of the act than the esoterics of it. There are lots of purple prose and spiritual New Age writing about the deed.

Violence

Although people draw guns in the book, no one fires them. There are several scenes of assault and battery. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on The Book

Readers who like humor and romance with high-spirited heroines and strong heroes will find lots to like in Carol Finch’s Lone Star Surrender.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
When the rugged cowboy found a gorgeous, unconscious woman and her dead companion along a Texas dirt road, he knew he had to try everything to save the unlucky lady. He spirited her off to his mountain shack, gave her a potion to deaden the pain, and slashed away her bloody bodice to expose the wound. But when the virile horseman saw only her creamy, flawless flesh, he realized the blood was not hers — and that the vulnerable female needed saving only from himself!

THE HEAT OF THE DAY
When golden-haired Tara Winslow awoke in he father’s canyon retreat, she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten there. What was even more baffling were the sensual dreams, that plagued her every waking moment. As she fantasized a muscular Texas lover showing her the myriad mysteries of pleasure, the innocent adventuress realized it was too vivid to not be true! Now that she knew she’d been with the only man who could win her heart, the determined beauty vowed he’d track him down and enslave him forever with the wild rapture of her Lone Star Surrender.

Lonestar Surrender by Carol Finch

night fire catherine coulter

Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

book review historical romance
Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Steve Assel
Book Series: Night Series #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 388
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Night Fire by Catherine Coulter

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter features one of her few truly nice guy heroes. This romance was a pleasant surprise–despite its dark themes–due to the charming Burke Drummond.

This romance is the first in Coulter’s “Night Trilogy,” which is set in Regency-era England and in the final book, America.

The Plot

In Night Fire, Arielle and Burke had met years prior when she was 15 and he in his twenties. Burke instantly fell in love with Arielle but couldn’t do anything about it as he was called to war against the French.

In the interim, Arielle was forced into marriage with a cruel, elderly lecher.

Burke returns to find Arielle a bitter widow, suffering post-traumatic stress from the abuse she endured. She wants nothing to do with men.

Meanwhile, Burke’s feelings for Arielle still run strong. He wants her and pursues her. When he discovers the horrors of her marriage, Burke changes to a gentler approach.

Thus unfolds a tender, emotional love story where Burke patiently woos Arielle–although he is a randy rascal. Her recovery takes time, and Burke is there to give her genuine support and understanding.

Meanwhile, a wicked villain has his eye on Arielle. Will Burke also be there to save her before it’s too late?

Read Night Fire and find out!

Final Analysis of Night Fire

I’ve read a handful of Catherine Coulter romances and disliked more than half of them. Night Fire was one of her bests due to the wonderful hero, Burke.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the final entry in her “Night Trilogy,” Night Storm, whose arrogantly condescending hale protagonist made me rethink my penchant for blonds. But that’s a review for another day.

Night Fire is a solid read for those who like to see a heroine recover from trauma and be healed by love.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis

ONLY HIS BURNING LOVE COULD SAVE HER.

Trapped into a loveless marriage, Arielle Leslie knew a life of shame and degregation. Even after the death of her brutal husband, she was unable to free herself from the shackles of humiliation. Only Burke Drummond’s love could save her . . . if she let it. But as his passion blazed, his patience wore thin . . . and Arielle risked a future as terrifying as her past.

Night Fire by Catherine Coulter
lion's lady morgan kane

Historical Romance Review: The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood

book review historical romance

The Book

The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood takes us to Regency Era England where we meet two firm-willed yet evenly matched partners in love. One is a lady of mystery from the former colonies raised among the Native people. The other is an English nobleman turned soldier and spy, now retiring from duty.

A disclaimer: I’m not a fan of tropes with nobility involved in espionage, especially during the Napoleonic era. It’s contrived, and spies in a romance don’t do it for me. I was never much into James Bond. So I braced myself to dislike this due to Lyon’s career. However, I was enchanted by the heroine and the chemistry between the main leads.

Plus, there’s not much official espionage, mostly the hero using his sleuthing skills to uncover the enigmatic lady’s past.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Alexander Michael Phillips, The Marquess of Lyonwood, is known to his intimates as Lyon. (What a cheesy, uber-macho name for a British nobleman–oh, it is cheesy! One thing I love about my romances is that they are ripe with the stench of Eau de Fromage.)

Lyon is a spy with an injured leg and a dashing scar. Lyon even looks like a lion (of course he does!) with his tanned skin, a mane of dark gold hair, and mysterious dark amber eyes.

The Lion’s Lady has another disliked trope of mine: the male protagonist vows never to get married again after losing his wife and child in childbirth. At least he’s not wallowing in mourning; he is bitter because his wife was unfaithful. The child was not his; the babe was his brother’s. Thus, he has serious trust issues when it comes to the fairer sex. 

The novel’s prologue starts in 1797 in the Black Hills of America. A Sioux tribe travels on. Among them are two Anglo females: a woman named Merry, who has married into the tribe, and her young daughter, Christina. The people call Christina a lioness for her golden hair and blue eyes, and fierce nature.

The shaman tells his people she is headed to a great destiny. Even though she is not one of their blood, they must take great care of this lioness.

the lions lady by Julie Garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books

The Plot

After a brief look into Lyon’s tragic background, the story begins. Each chapter begins with excerpts from Christina’s mother’s diary from 1795 to 1796, detailing her life married Christina’s abusive father, Edward.

Christina’s mother escaped her turbulent marriage, although not before stealing a treasure from her husband.

Now Christina returns to her mother’s birth land and takes England by storm. The ton calls her Princess Christina, and she is ever under the watchful eye of her aunt, Countess Patricia. Stories float around as to her “true” identity. Precisely who is this mysterious Princess Christina?

Lyon is at a ball chaperoning his sister when he sets eyes upon the most beautiful woman ever: Christina. He and his friend both appreciate her loveliness and notice her haughty demeanor. They make a bet on who can win her charms first. Then, like Cinderella, this princess makes an early disappearance.

What follows is Lyon’s chase to discover more about this lady of intrigue. The hero in pursuit is smitten from the first, although he won’t admit it. Having been betrayed by love, this wounded Lyon is not seeking marriage, just a diverting affair. Using his young sister’s admiration for Christina as an excuse, he charms his way in and out of The Princess’ social life.

Christina is on a quest to uncover the secret her mother left behind. Then she finds she must marry within weeks to inherit. She decides Lyon will make the perfect husband.

Remember, the lioness is the great hunter, not the lion!

Mysteries unfold, and danger lurks as the two get closer to each other and the truth.

My Opinion

Christina was a darling heroine on a quest to right past wrongs. In someone else’s hands, one could have accused her of being “annoyingly spunky.” Instead, Garwood wrote her as a girl beyond her years in wisdom.

Lyon was authoritative, not overbearingly so, and equally fascinating as his mate.

“Your eyes have turned as black as a Crow’s,” she blurted out.

He didn’t even blink over her bizarre comment. “Not this time, Christina,” he said in a furious whisper. “Compliments won’t get me off balance again, my little temptress. I swear to God, if you ever again dismiss me so casually, I’m going to––”

“Oh, it wasn’t a compliment,” Christina interrupted, letting him see her irritation. “How presumptuous of you to think it was. The Crow is our enemy.”

the lion's lady julie garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books, 2010

Final Analysis of The Lion’s Lady

The Lion’s Lady is a well-crafted, humorous adventure that fans of sensual period romances should appreciate on a pure enjoyment level. Don’t look for the reinvention of the wheel. This is just a solid love story between two great leads.

One quibble I had with The Lion’s Lady. It’s full of side characters you know are getting their own stories. I hate sequel baiting. This romance was written before every book was part of a series. Still, I wasn’t a fan.

Also annoying was that Christina’s evil aunt didn’t get her full just desserts. Garwood tends to the sweet side. I don’t know if it’s in her to create a genuinely vicious ending that would satisfy my bloodthirstiness.

Despite that, there’s much to enjoy here. I dithered over, giving this Regency romance 4 stars or 4-and-a-half. Either way, you slice it, it’s one I’ll look back on fondly.

4.15 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

1810. She has taken London society by storm. Christina Bennett… the ravishing beauty with the mysterious past. Rumor whispers she is a princess from a far-off kingdom on the continent. But only she holds the secret –until the night Lord Alexander Michael Phillips, Marquis of Lyonwood, steals a searching, sensuous kiss. A proud, arrogant nobleman with a pirate’s passions, he tastes the wild fire smoldering beneath Christina’s cool charm and swears to possess her before he is done…

But Lyon soon discovers that his dream of conquest will not be easily satisfied. The feisty and defiant Christina has no fear of him–or of any other man. She alone is master of her heart, mistress of her fortune. And though Lyon’s hungry caresses dizzy her senses though his fierce embrace arouses her desire… she will not surrender to his love. For if she does, she must also forsake at last her precious secret–and her promised destiny!

THE LION’S LADY by JULIE GARWOOD
destinys-splendor drymon

Historical Romance Review: Destiny’s Splendor by Kathleen Drymon

historical romance review
Destiny's Splendor by Kathleen Drymon
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Don Case
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Savage Splendor Series #2
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Destiny’s Splendor by Kathleen Drymon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Plot

This review is of Destiny’s Splendor published in December 1988. This Zebra romance is book #2 in an unofficial Native American “series” by Kathleen Drymon. The series, in order, consists of:

  1. Savage Dawn – September 1984
  2. Destiny’s Splendor – December 1988
  3. Velvet Savage – September 1989
  4. Gentle Savage – February 1990
  5. Savage Heaven – February 1995

The Book

Destiny’s Splendor starts with two births. In a Blackfoot Indian village, chief Golden Eagle and his wife Singing Moon welcome a son, Star Hawk. In New Orleans, on a plantation, Dennis Coltin and his wife Hope welcome a daughter, Jessica Star. None are aware of what fate and destiny have in store for them.

Fast forward many years. Jessica, now 19, is in despair. Dennis and Hope were killed in a carriage accident–which really wasn’t one–a year ago, and Jessica has to deal with Dennis’ cousin, Edmond DeVaugn’s, guardianship. This will end when Jessica turns 21 or marries.

Edmond has been parading a group of lecherous men in front of her to force her to marry. Edmond wants Jessica to marry a man he can control, along with the Coltin fortune.

One day, Jessica meets Star Hawk, now 22. Star Hawk shows kindness and empathy to her, something she needs in her life.

However, in a turn of events, Star Hawk kidnaps Jessica and takes her to his village. They eventually marry and consummate their marriage.

Not everyone is happy about Jessica and Star Hawk’s marriage. Golden Eagle tries to talk Star Hawk out of marriage to her; this fails. Later, a Blackfoot woman, Spring Lilly, tries to kill Jessica; Star Hawk stops her. For a long while, Jessica–now named Silver Star–and Star Hawk are happy.

That happiness is soon threatened, however, as Jessica is kidnapped by two trappers and returned to New Orleans and Edmond’s evil clutches. He takes her to London to marry her off to a lecherous Earl. Star Hawk finds the trappers and makes them sorry for their actions. He then sets sail for England to find Jessica, who is pregnant.

Star Hawk stops Jessica’s planned marriage, kills DeVaughn, and returns to America with Jessica, just in time for her to deliver twins, a boy and a girl. Jessica and Star Hawk have their Happily Ever After. And the story will continue.

Upside

It is very rare to see two people so deeply in love as Jessica and Star Hawk are. From the moment they meet to their marriage to their separation, reunion, and birth of their children, Ms. Drymon lets their love for each other shine through. Jessica and Star Hawk are both, for the most part, likable characters.

Downside

Although Ms. Drymon tries very hard to skip past this, the fact is that Destiny’s Splendor is a Stockholm Syndrome romance. Star Hawk kidnapped Jessica. No matter the fact that they love each other, this is still a Stockholm Syndrome romance; which is a trope I loathe.

While I liked Jessica, she wasn’t my favorite type of heroine. She has no skills beyond knowing about plants for medicinal purposes. Having said that, though, two points need to be made:

Point #1

Although Ms. Drymon doesn’t specify the time setting of Destiny’s Splendor, there are references to “the colonies”, therefore, an inference can be made that the book is set during or before 1776. Women clearly didn’t have as many life choices as they do today.

Point #2

Jessica comes from a well-to-do family. Women from wealthy families weren’t supposed to have skills or intelligence that were made public. Her role was to look beautiful and become a wife and mother.

Mini Bottom Line

Although Jessica isn’t my favorite type of romance heroine, there are mitigating factors that I must acknowledge.

There isn’t any real depth or character development here, and though she falls deeply in love with him, I feel that most of Jessica’s love was out of gratitude to Star Hawk for showing her kindness, something she didn’t get from most males after her father died.

Sex

Most of the love scenes are very mild and filled with extremely purple prose.

Violence

Assault, battery, slashings, and one killing take place here. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line On Destiny’s Splendor

Kathleen Drymon’s Destiny’s Splendor probably isn’t as good a book as I’m making it sound. It also probably isn’t as bad a book as I’m making it sound.

My final grade would be just under 3.5 stars

3.45 Stars


Synopsis:

NO WAY OUT

Jessica Star Colton had nowhere to turn. At nineteen, she had two years before being free of the cruel guardian who intended to marry her off to the highest bidder and keep her fortune for himself. Jessica thought she would never escape this loveless fate… until the day she met Star Hawk in the forest. As the magnificent Indian warrior appeared from behind the dense trees, his dark eyes seemed to penetrate her very being, and his bronzed arms reached out to offer her comfort. There was something about him that made Jessica yearn to taste his kiss – it was as though she were meant for his embrace…

ONLY ONE CHOICE

Star Hawk knew Jessica was the woman of his dreams. They were fated for union from birth and he was not about to let the white beauty slip from his grasp. From the first moment he spotted her from afar, he knew of the heaven he would find in her caress. Her silver-blue eyes and silky red hair haunted him, obsessed him. Star Hawk wanted to take Jessica and claim her as his woman, even if that meant capturing her against her will. He knew that once their lips met in a searing kiss, all of their sleeping passions would awaken, and together they would join in Destiny’s Splendor.

DESTINY’S SPLENDOR by KATHLEEN DRYMON
dark fire

Category Romance Review: Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell

dark fire category romance
Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: The McCalls #2
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 187
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell, a 1988 Silhouette Desire, takes us on a trek through the jungles of Peru.

The hero is Trace Rawlings, the ‘stache. He’s pictured on the cover as the apex of hirsute handsomeness: a full head of hair; a thick mustache; and a chest full of more hair than a bar of soap at a YMCA.

Cynthia McCall is going by Cindy Ryan, and she needs Trace’s help.

The Plot

In Dark Fire, Cindy’s father is Big Eddy McCall, a well-connected multi-millionaire (it’s the 1980s, and the billionaire craze was a decade away) who controls politicians and businessmen. Big Eddy wants one thing: to have plenty of grandchildren to expand his dynasty.

His daughter has no interest in marriage. Cindy isn’t willing to settle down yet and focuses more on her business. That’s okay. Big Eddy’s a modern kind of patriarch, and he’ll accept biological grandchildren on either side of the blanket.

Cindy’s involved in a boutique clothing company purchasing textiles from a Peruvian connection in Quito. The contact was associated with a shady emeralds dealer and went missing. Now Cindy’s business partner Susan has gone missing looking for said textiles contact.

Word has it that a powerful cartel boss named Raul has Cindy’s friend in his clutches. Cin hires Trace Rawlings to help guide her on her trip through the jungles as she searches for her friend.

The only catch is that Big Eddy McCall has gotten to Trace first and is paying him a whopping ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY (picture Dr. Evil with a finger curled at his lip) a day to keep an eye on Cin and make sure she’s safe.

The Conflict

Trace views Cindy as pampered, spoiled “princess” and repeatedly calls her this throughout the book. He is a macho kind of guy and doesn’t cotton to dainty city gals galivanting through the dangerous territory for specious reasons. Especially when they have their wealthy Daddies are paying him to babysit them.

Of course, there is adventure along the way in Dark Fire, bringing Cindy and Trace together against their wills. Trace doesn’t help Cindy as she struggles through the environment because he’d perversely prefer to watch her struggle for his enjoyment.

But Trace isn’t an absolute caveman, and the two start to bond over their pasts. Although Trace does have that virile body hair and facial hair, which has an allure of its own. I’ve only read a few Elizabeth Lowell romances, but she seems to have a type.

The two leads form a bond that turns from merely carnal into spiritual, and that’s when you believe that this isn’t just another love story but one that’s worth telling.

In the end, there are some twists revealed about her father, which aren’t so shocking, and don’t prevent our mains from getting together.

Final Analysis of Dark Fire

The lovemaking in Dark Fire was deep and purple and reached religious heights. At first, it irritated me, but then I realized that if Elizabeth Lowell was going to write a romance, it might be a romance that is one for the ages, not just a humdrum story of two strangers passing in the night.

This book was over the top with its overwrought mess, it should rate it a 3-star read, but I had to give it 4 stars for the ‘stache alone.

4.00

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

Synopsis

INTO THE WOODS

Cynthia’s father had insisted she hire a survival specialist for her Ecuadorian trip, and she’d reluctantly complied, only to find Trace Rawlings was everything she disliked in a man: ruthless, domineering, egotistical. Yet traveling through the treacherous South American rain forest, she found he was all the man she needed ….

Trace was no tour guide, particularly not for some pampered rich kid. But he could name his price, and he rarely said no to an opportunity. When Cynthia Ryan appeared on his doorstep, he knew he’d made the right decision. She was the exception to all his rules–especially the one about never falling in love.

DARK FIRE by ELIZABETH LOWELL

Historical Romance Review: Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

When a book begins with a typo, that’s not a good sign as Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook does. On the back blurb, the heroine is identified as Victoria Connors. In the book, she’s named VIRGINIA Connors. Not a good beginning.

The Characters and Setup

Ecstasy’s Fire begins with VIRGINIA–not Victoria–Connors, applying for and getting a job as a private tutor for Daniel Pearson’s, daughter. Mary is recuperating from an accident and is homebound. This decision by Virginia is not a random one. Virginia has applied for this position in hopes of finding dirt on Daniel’s uncle, Caleb Pearson.

Virginia strongly believes cheated her grandparents out of their home. This belief has mostly been fed to Virginia by her late grandmother, Essie Henderson Elder. Virginia applied for this job as a way to force Daniel to give up Valley Oaks–by any means necessary. This is the Pearson estate which she believes belongs to her family.

The Plot of Ecstasy’s Fire

Part One

As the book plods on, Virginia and Mary bond with each other. Meanwhile, Virginia has two men chasing her. One man is William Haught, brother to Amanda Haught, Daniel’s “girlfriend”, who hates Mary, and vice versa. The other man is her old friend Mark Langford. He hopes for more than friendship between himself and Virginia. However, there is one man who Virginia wants to be caught by. That is–much to her horror–Daniel.

Several things happen quickly in succession. Daniel and Virginia have their first kiss–and their second and their third. This causes Virginia to start to feel something other than the hatred she started out feeling for Daniel.

Part Two

She also learns a little more about the accident that severely injured Mary. The same accident killed Mary’s mother, but there’s more to this story. (More on that later.) Virginia also gains access to Daniel’s library, hoping to find information to discredit Caleb.Iin this regard, she fails. She finds only vituperative letters written by her grandmother to Caleb, but no other evidence.

The day after attending a party at the Haught estate–during which William Haught tries to rape Virginia but is stopped by Daniel and his fist. Virginia gets very drunk, and Daniel proposes marriage to to her. This is not inspired by love. Daniel candidly tells Virginia that he is incapable of loving any woman anymore. This has to do with his late wife. Their marriage will be mostly for Mary’s benefit, although it will not be a platonic one. Daniel does want other children and expects Virginia to bear them for him. So she agrees.

Part Three

On the morning of their wedding, Virginia wants to tell Daniel that she can’t go through with the marriage, but seeing Mary so happy about it, Virginia agrees to go ahead with the ceremony. At the ceremony, almost everyone is happy except Amanda Haught, who wanted Daniel to marry her; Mark Langford, who has unrequited feelings of love for Virginia, and Virginia herself, who dreads the wedding night.

When Daniel doesn’t try to assert his “husbandly rights” for several days after their marriage, Virginia doesn’t know what to think. Also on their honeymoon, Virginia falls down an abandoned well and has to be rescued from that and the snake that resides in it by Daniel.

After being rescued, Daniel and Virginia make love. It is then that she tells him that she loves him. The response she gets isn’t what she expects. Daniel tells Virginia that he will never love her, because he doesn’t want to give her a chance to hurt him the way his first wife, and Mary’s mother, Josie Kilburn, did to him. This saddens Virginia, but it also makes her fearful of what he’ll do if/when he finds out why she came to see him in the first place and if/when he discovers why she married him, a primary reason of which was to get Valley Oaks, the home she believes Caleb Pearson cheated her grandparents out of.

Part Four

That fear becomes a reality soon after their return from their honeymoon. Daniel meets up with Mark Langford, and after a few drinks, Langford tells Daniel the truth about who Virginia really is, who she’s related to, and why she came back to East Texas. Naturally, Daniel is virulently angry over being played again–there are similarities in what Virginia did to what Josie, Daniel’s first wife, did to him–and they have a nasty argument.

Virginia tries to explain, but Daniel isn’t in a listening mood. He later shoves her so hard she hits her head against the foot of their bed in their bedroom. It’s not intentional, but it is done nonetheless. Later that night, William Haught shows up claiming that Daniel is with Amanda and so William has come to offer his “comfort” to Virginia, which she refuses.

Later, Virginia decides to visit Mattie Williams, Caleb Pearson’s former housekeeper, to try to get some dirt on what Caleb allegedly did to her grandparents. The truth, however, is far different than what she has been brought up to believe. The truth: Joseph Elder was a compulsive gambler who lost a lot of his money.

After being threatened with violence, Elder sold Caleb Valley Oaks. Caleb only bought the estate with the intent of selling it back to Elder when he got his affairs in order, which never happened. In exchange for buying Valley Oaks, Elder made Caleb promise never to tell anyone the reasons why the transaction took place.

Part Five

Caleb also provided the family with food and other necessities when needed, which Elder claimed he got from working odd jobs. Elder also led everyone, especially Essie Elder, to believe that Caleb cheated him out of Valley Oaks, which is decidedly not the truth. Virginia doesn’t want to believe Mattie’s story but eventually has to face the truth of the matter.

Virginia hopes to be able to talk to Daniel and apologize and try to make amends with him. Daniel, however, has no interest in doing so, informing her by letter that he wants her out of Valley Oaks and never wants to see her nor will he let Mary see her again. Virginia refuses to leave until she sees Daniel and speaks to him and tries to explain her behavior, and she’s less inclined to leave once she discovers she’s pregnant with his baby.

We also learn the truth about what happened with Daniel’s first wife, Josie Kilburn. Josie only married Daniel to get back at one of her many lovers who left her for another man. After Mary was born, Josie decided she didn’t like being married and left Daniel for one of those former lovers. When Caleb died, Josie demanded large sums of money from Daniel, kidnapping Mary as part of her plan to get the money. While Josie held Mary captive, they were in a carriage accident which killed Josie instantly and severely injured Mary.

Conclusion of Ecstasy’s Fire

The book then ends somewhat lamely. Virginia refuses to leave Valley Oaks, and later, Daniel has an accident and develops amnesia. Virginia then takes care of him and conveniently takes advantage of the fact that he doesn’t remember what he was so enraged with her about.

The book ends with Amanda showing up and jarring Daniel’s memory again. Afterward, Daniel apologizes to Virginia for being mean to HER, then she apologizes for lying to him, tells him about the baby she’s carrying and they have their happily ever after. Kind of a lame ending.

Upside

Ecstasy’s Fire is really the first book I’ve read by Mrs. Alsobrook where there is even an effort to get into any emotional depth.

Downside

…But that is somewhat ruined by the fact that to get there, Mrs. Alsobrook had to base it on lies, foolish pride, and ego. Virginia is a cross character. sometimes I like her, but I hated what she started as. Daniel becomes less likable when he shoves Virginia and she hits her head.

Sex

Mrs. Alsobrook’s love scenes are reminiscent of old Harlequin Romance novels from the ’70s; they’re almost as cold as the location where I live: the Northeast. And, as always, Mrs. Alsobrook uses the EXACT same phrase in a love scene in all of her books.

Violence

William Haught tries to rape Virginia and is stopped by Daniel. Later, Daniel threatens to strangle Virginia before he shoves her into the bed. That’s the extent of the violence.

Bottom Line on Ecstasy’s Fire

Ecstasy’s Fire was another slow, laconic, book by Rosalyn Alsobrook that fails to fulfill any potential it had. It’s becoming a broken record, isn’t it?

3.5 Stars


Synopsis:

DESIRABLE DEVIL
Victoria Connors had returned to Valley Oaks for only one reason — to get back her land. And if it meant working for the incredibly handsome new owner to reclaim it, then she would. But she would not allow the dark-haired devil to work his magic on her. His deep blue eyes would not trap her in their depths, nor would his strong, muscular body lure her to his bed. And even though his kisses had made her fall deeper under his spell, she would not let him conquer her….

TEMPTING ANGEL
Daniel Pearson had been fooled once by love and vowed never to give any woman the power to betray him again. Yet the beautiful, brown-eyed angel with her sweet, honeyed lips and her soft, pliant body made him hungry with desire. Despite her resistance, Daniel wanted her more than he had ever wanted any woman. He was determined to take the unwilling beauty to the heights of passion, to show her the joys of being a woman, and to make her soul burn with Ecstasy’s Fire.

ECSTASY’S FIRE by ROSALYN ALSOBROOK
flora kidd beloved deceiver

Category Romance Review: Beloved Deceiver by Flora Kidd

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Lately, I’ve been trying to write as many reviews as I can, before I forget what I read. Even though I read this romance in the early Noughties, Flora Kidd’s Beloved Deceiver still sticks out in my mind for one big reason. It’s the only Harlequin/Mills-and-Boon I’ve read to feature a hero from the Dominican Republic, which is my parents’ birth country.

There have been plenty of Hispanic, Latino, and Latin-American-born heroes in the HP line, but up until this one I’d never encountered a Dominican and a blond one, to boot! That, for me, was like hitting the romance lottery jackpot.

The Plot

Our heroine, Glenda, is an independent divorcee whose first marriage ended when her husband decided fidelity was too taxing on him. Glenda’s a magazine writer from Canada visiting the Dominican Republic on holiday. Her former college classmate, Cesar Estrada, is now a bestselling author and Glenda seeks him out for an interview.

Upon meeting Cesar again, Glenda notices some changes, mainly her attraction to him. Back in Montreal, they’d just been friends, however, this tanned, tropical hunk makes her motor run at super high RPMs!

Glenda and Cesar get it on, but all is not what it seems as Cesar appears to be hiding something about himself. What is it about his past that he’s keeping a secret? Is Cesar really the man she used to know? Who is this Rafael character she keeps hearing about? And worst, could there be another woman with whom Cesar is involved?

So many questions for Glenda, but she’s a slave to her passions.

The zig-zaggy trail of breadcrumbs that Flora Kidd gives us leads to new revelations and some slight HP angst.

Final Analysis of Beloved Deceiver

To be completely honest, for me this was a good Harlequin Presents that made the time pass quickly and leisurely even though it wasn’t a super-wrecky, extra-memorable experience. I’ve read a handful of Flora Kidd romances and have found them to be just fine to above average, with the exception being Stay Through the Night, which was excellent.

Here, it was the hero’s unique background that ticked the right boxes for me.

Plus, I pictured him looking like Carlos de la Mota, a Dominican-born telenovela actor who’s an absolute dream!

beloved deceiver flora kidd
Dominican-born actor Carlos de la Mota. Yummy!

3.45 Stars


Synopsis:

She was a magazine writer, he was a famous novelist

Yet eight years ago Glenda Thompson and Cesar Estrada had known each other as students at university in Montreal.

Now, trying to interview him in his own country, the Dominican Republic, Glenda is puzzled by the mystery surrounding him. Why is he referred to as ”Rafael” and why doesn’t he want to be interviewed. Is he trying to hide something?

When they do meet again, in spite of unsuccessful marriages and the intervening years, they cannot conceal their feelings for each other.

BELOVED DECEIVER by FLORA KIDD
captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

historical romance review
Captive Angel by Deana James
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical
Book Series: Gillard-Macpherson #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 511
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The cover of Deana JamesCaptive Angel includes a quote from Johanna Lindsey that states this book is: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down.”

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

How do I evaluate this amazing journey through a super-resilient woman’s incredible 19th-century life?

I must tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.

By all rights, Deana James’ Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should toss into a blazing fire while gleefully cheering: “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”

Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having previously a few of James’ books, I knew Captive Angel couldn’t be that horrible. James was one of the finest authors to have come out of Kensington’s Zebra imprint.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Captive Angel surpassed my expectations. It stars one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical (other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels‘ Captive Series.

Hunter Gillard’s not a crazed protagonist like Sean Culhane (Stormfire) or Duke Domenico (The Silver Devil) because he’s not super-obsessed over his woman (until the middle-end). He’s just a selfish prick. It’s all about him.

On one hand, we have a Caroline, who’s in my “Greatest Heroine” hall of fame, while the hero is relegated to the “Jerky Pig” hall of shame. That list is reserved for only the most porcine of Romancelandia’s leading men.

Caroline, or Fancy as she prefers, has a fantastic character arc. She starts down in the dumps: “Woe is me, I’m depressed, mourning for my dead child. I’m fat, and my husband doesn’t love me anymore. Sure, he’ll bang me something fierce, but it’s not only me who’s getting his love!”

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

Caroline and Hunter Gillard have been married for ten years. Their baby daughter died some years earlier. They still have a young son, but Caroline’s fallen into a deep depression, as she cannot have any more children.

Naturally, she’s let herself go. Caroline has gained a few (or more) pounds. Even so, her lusty husband doesn’t mind giving her a good porking. Hunter does hate her crying, how she wallows in self-pity, and oh, her refusal to worship him and treat him like the king he is.

So Hunter has other things on his mind. He’s a seaman by nature and despises being tied to his wife’s plantation, “England’s Fancy” with the responsibilities it entails. He loathes how mopey Fancy is. Often he leaves for long instances.

Caroline’s no longer the same beautiful woman who caught Hunter’s eye at a ball. She’s dumpy and fat now, even if that doesn’t stop Hunter from plowing her furrows every so often.

Life for Fancy isn’t great and it’s about to get worse.

Her plantation is not producing as it should, despite her husband providing fertilizer, as he’s nothing but excrement.

For a horrible truth comes to light. Hunter has many lovers, including one young miss he’s especially keen on. Worse yet, the mistress is pregnant!

Hunter resolves he’s had enough of Fancy. He decides to sail to Europe with his no-longer-a-virgin of a paramour. Even crueler, he takes his and Fancy’s son, Alex, with them.

As for Caroline? Well, kiddo, it’s been fun, but see ya!

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

One final blow is to come. Hunter leaves Fancy penniless, their bank accounts wiped empty. All that Fancy has is her run-down plantation.

If not for Holy Dulcibella, the servant who raised her from infancy, Caroline would be alone in the world.

There is also her plantation’s overseer, to help. Fancy should have had a fling with him. But she had no mind for men, just for “England’s Fancy.” With her overseer & Dulcibella, Caroline engages in back-breaking labor to keep her plantation up and running.

At long last, when it seems Caroline’s hard work will bring a good harvest, a terrible storm comes. It wipes out the crops, utterly ruining her.

Caroline can fall no lower. Does give up? No! She is determined to make her way, somehow.

For the first time in Caroline’s life, she has nothing. Like Janis Joplin sang (or was it Kris Kristofferson?) “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Fancy is free.

The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independet creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.

A Light in The Darkness

Certain revelations come to light. Holy Dulcibella is not a slave but a free servant. She discloses to Fancy that she was Fancy’s grandfather’s lover and secret wife.

He was a ship captain who sailed the seas like Hunter. Dulcibella was a princess of Madagascar. They fell in love even though he had a wife and family in America. Dulcibella willingly gave up her royal life to live with her man as a second-best.

This shocks Fancy to her core.

It was refreshing that Deana James wrote Captive Angel with a sense of historical authenticity. It sounds odd, but I appreciated that Fancy Caroline was uncomfortable knowing this truth. Her prejudices made her real, not some manufactured idea of perfection.

Even though Holy Dulcibella was the only person who had Caroline’s back from day #1, who’d stuck with her through the worst, Caroline still saw Dulcibella as an “other.” Dulcieblla was “inferior” because of her race and station. Caroline was a real person of her time, filled with preconceptions.

Over time Caroline does get over it. Through their shared travails she sees Dulcibella not as a slave or servant but as family, calling her “grandmother.”

It takes time to unfold. Their relationship is one of genuine, selfless love. The most honest connection Caroline has with a person is not with her wayward husband, but with this great friend.

The Creep “Hero” Returns

Dulibella tells her about her grandfather’s secret treasure hidden off the coast of Africa. Caroline determines to find it.

She obtains a ship, captain, and crew who will sail with her across the world in search of the gold.

Ultimately, Hunter hears that Caroline is risking her life for a foolish idea of an impossible treasure. Without a care for her, he abandons his pregnant mistress to save his wife.

But Caroline doesn’t need saving! In fact, Hunter’s the one who gets captured, and she must rescue him. In the end, she lets Hunter think he saves her, to please his ego. She understands her husband’s nature now.

Hunter has never seen Caroline like this before, so confident in herself. It excites him to see this new woman of adventure. With the other woman long out of his mind, he attempts to seduce his wife.

As Caroline never stopped desiring Hunter, she engages with him eagerly. The makeup sex is steamier than ever before. The two reunite, promising to love one another forever.

The Thrilling Conclusion

And as for the treasure? Why it was lost in the seas, never to be found!

Hunter’s cast-off mistress gives birth. She goes away and leaves her baby with Hunter, to be raised by him and Caroline.

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

Be happy that the heroine is happy. She loves her husband. When the book ends Hunter promises to be on his best behavior. He still will go out to sea once every so often while Caroline raises her son and her husband’s lovechild as their own.

She will remain home and tend to their plantation. Hunter will be a good boy from here on out. He enjoys plowing Fancy’s fields now a lot more now than he ever did before.

However, Fancy’s no dummy. Once that trust is lost, it can never wholly be regained, no matter how much love exists. Fancy is determined her love will last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

Namely, that the treasure wasn’t a legend and it wasn’t lost. Caroline sneakily hid it from Hunter. Maybe she’ll let him know about it. Maybe not.

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

Why did I love Captive Angel? It is not really a romance, or more correctly, it’s more than just romance. It’s women’s fiction, an action-adventure saga, historical fiction, and a character study, too.

You may read it and hate it and I wouldn’t blame anyone for that. This is a romance novel, so one expects certain rules in romance. Here, Deana James broke the rules. Despite me being a stickler for them, James turned the tables to create a story I loved. I was drawn to it like a cat to a crinkly toy ball covered in catnip.

Deana James’ Captive Angel was an emotional, turbulent read with a heroine whose identity was forged in fire.

Maybe her love story is not an all-time great. But her life story was.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

SHE SWORE TO STAY WED
Abandoned, penniless, and suddenly responsible for the biggest tobacco plantation in Colleton County, distraught Caroline Gillard had no time to dissolve into tears. The previously pampered, indulged mistress of the South Carolina estate had to learn fast how to manage her workers, her money — and her broken heart. By day the willowy redhead labored to exhaustion beside her slaves … but each night left her restless with longing for her wayward mate. Soon, though, her misery gave way to anger, and the determined woman knew that somehow she’d make him regret his betrayal until he begged her to take him back!

HE VOWED TO BE FREE
Handsome Hunter Gillard had been born to ride the everchanging sea, not to harvest and plant year in and year out. Tired of his commitments, the virile, hot-tempered captain meant to call his destiny his own like he had before he’d met his tantalizing Caroline. When his adventure was over, maybe he’d return to his patient, understanding wife. But when he learned she’d left him for parts unknown, the furious philanderer promised he’d track her down to teach her how to be Hunter’s loyal partner, his unquestioning concubine, his forgiving… Captive Angel.

CAPTIVE ANGEL by DEANA JAMES
Tangled Web

Historical Romance Review: Tangled Web by Janice Bennett

Tangled Web, Janice Bennett, Zebra, 1988, cover artist TBD

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

The Book

This review is of Tangled Web a Zebra Regency romance by Janice Bennett.

The Plot

At the beginning of the book, Miss Celia Marcombe, the heroine, is informed by her grandfather, Roderick, that he has arranged a marriage between Celia and his godson, Lord Trevor Ryde, the hero of Tangled Web. Suffice it to say, Celia is less than thrilled with this prospect and tries to get out of it by claiming she already is betrothed to her brother’s best friend, Jonathon Edelston. Celia is even less enthused about the impending nuptials when she visits Trevor’s home and realizes the state of dishabille it’s in.

Despite that disappointment, Celia does begin to develop a romantic tendre for Trevor, which is somewhat broken when she discovers he’s keeping a woman at his home. (The woman in question–Therese de Bourgerre–later becomes the heroine of another book, An Intriguing Desire by Ms. Bennett.) The reasons Trevor is keeping Mademoiselle de Bourgerre in London later come to light, leading to intrigue and danger. Eventually, most of the mysteries are solved, Celia and Trevor realize they love each other, Jonathon finds his true love–Celia’s companion Elizabeth–and the two couples have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

It’s a Regency romance. I learned a few new phrases. (I do love Regency phrases. Sometimes they are so much more descriptive than American phrases.)

Downside

I found both Celia and Trevor to be unlikeable. While I understood Celia’s desire not to be forced into marriage with Trevor, the way she goes about expressing that displeasure was, to me, immature and childish (in her defense, she is 19 years of age.) Trevor, on the other hand, is an arrogant, stiff, unfeeling boor for the majority of the book. I found the “romance” between them to be both unromantic and unbelievable. Toward the end of the book, Trevor threatens to kill Celia and spanks her; yet, despite this, she agrees to marry him!

Sex

Other than a few kisses, there is no sexual content.

Violence

Shootings, killings, and a swordfight. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line

I really wanted to like Tangled Web, as I currently own four of Ms. Bennett’s books and have many more on my TBR lists, but this was a seriously disappointing book. My hope is that Ms. Bennett’s future books will be better; they can’t be much worse.

love's glorious gamble

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

Synopsis:

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

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

LOVE’S GLORIOUS GAMBLE by DANA RANSOM

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

The Plot

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

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

My Opinion

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

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

Two reasons.

Reason #1

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

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

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

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

Reason #2

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Love’s Glorious Gamble

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

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

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

3 Stars

stolen spring

Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Doug Gray
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stolen Spring by Louisa Rawlings

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Lousia Rawlings, the writer of such greats as Stranger in My Arms was a masterful author.

It’s unfortunate she no longer writes wonderful historical romances. And by that, I mean “historical romance” in the truest sense of those words. Her novels are authentic to their time. They were also beautiful love stories.

Stolen Spring is another example of her stellar work.

The Plot

France and Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV was a decadent, lavish era. Louisa Rawlings captures it perfectly in Stolen Spring. Her dedication to details was amazing, like portraying how the nobles must salute the King’s food while servants carry the dishes throughout the halls.

The writing was marked by a depth of emotion. The colorful cast of minor characters is standard for a Rawlings novel. These facets come together, transforming this book into a superb historical romance.

Marie-Rouge, daughter of a Comte, is blackmailed into spying for France. Her father has gambling debts, and she seeks to keep him out of prison.

Along the way, she captures the hearts of many men, notably Pierre, a peasant miller who is not all that he seems. This man of mystery opens Marie-rouge’s heart to love.

I liked Pierre, a tortured yet sensitive man, although the villain, Arsene, almost overshadows him a bit with his rough sensuality. Still, their love is a passionate one.

Final Analysis of Stolen Spring

Marie-Rouge and Pierre don’t meet until about 80 pages into this 467-page epic. They are separated for various durations. That usually bugs me. Here, that trope was fine by me.

As I said, Rawlings is an excellent author, and she takes time to build the story. When the two main characters are together, the sparks fly!

Not a perfect book, but so enjoyable it’s a keeper I expect to read again in the future!

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.4

Synopsis:

Mademoiselle Marie-Rouge’s bewitching gray eyes widened with shock. King Louis’ minister had made his offer very clear: Rouge must become a spy or else her beloved father would be thrown in debtor’s prison. She chose to flee into a storm-swept night away from the golden court at Versailles and the intrigues that threatened her life…In a miller’s cottage she found a stranger–a brazen, daring man who claimed to be a simple peasant. His arms sheltered her, his kisses intoxicated her more than royal wine, and his desire showed her a paradise no riches could buy. Would he forgive the girl who took his sweet love tonight–only to run from his heart tomorrow?

STOLEN SPRING by LOUISA RAWLINGS