Category Archives: year 1991

glory days michael herring

Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

category romance
Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick
Rating: one-star
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Michael Herring
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Temptation #308
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick is a Harlequin Temptation from the early 1990s. It’s one of the few books from that line that I truly disliked.

Why? Because it was so dreadfully dull.

The Plot

Glory Days is… an absolutely boring romance.

This is a story about two married professional runners, Ashby and Brian. Their marriage is strained because Ashby is a rising star who is more successful than her husband, who has hit a downward trajectory. Ashby is even projected to win the Olympics one day.

Brian, in the meantime, is experiencing a downward trajectory in his career, as he is recovering from an injury that hampers his ability to run

Then Roger, a handsome running coach, comes in to help train the couple. This creates even more trouble in their marriage as Brian’s jealousy and insecurity reach massive proportions.

Will Ashby fall for Roger’s masculine allure? Will Bryan get his mojo back? No, yeah, and who cares.

Final Analysis of Glory Days

The cover doesn’t of Marilynne Rudick’s Glory Days doesn’t look too bad as pictured. However, in person, I recall it being quite ugly. The blue sky contrasted with the orange-gold tones of Ashby and Bryan’s tanned skin and looked odd.

An ugly cover for a boring book means a miserable reading experience.

This was a rare 1-star Harlequin Temptation for me. 

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
1.5
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

What price glory?

Ashby and her husband, Brian O’Hara, shared a dream–to win the Olympic marathon. Only their passion for each other rivaled their passion for running. Training together, they were an unbeatable team–until Brian was sidelined by an injury. Roger Atlee, rumored to take a very personal interest in his women, began to coach Ashby.

A jealous Brian watched Ashby win race after race. Their struggles and sacrifices to make the American team together had now become a solo effort. But Brian realized he was losing something far more precious than Olympic gold. And he faced the biggest challenge of his life … to make sure their marriage went the distance

GLORY DAYS BY MARILYNNE RUDICK
pino romance

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel

historical romance review
Passion's Chains by Catherine Creel
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel was a crazy book that in 1991 could only have been published by the Zebra romance lines. Or in 1977 by Avon.*

It was utterly unrealistic, but I had a blast with it.

Passion’s Chains was the first romance novel I read after subscribing to the Lovegram line many, many years ago. The plot description on the back of the book sounded like this would be a riot. And it was!

The Characters

Lady Eden Parrish met American ship captain Roark St. Claire in England. The two people from different worlds shared a hidden, forbidden love.

The pair married in secret. However, before they could consummate their union, Eden’s family tricked her into believing the worst about Roark.

Thus, Eden is abandoned by her husband, and her is heart broken into pieces.

Then Eden’s family whisked her off to their Barbados plantation to avoid any taint of scandal.

The Plot

Eden is living a lonely existence in Barbados. Months later, Roark discovers her whereabouts in the Caribbean and follows her there. The American is captured by the British and sold into slavery.

Walking through town one day, Eden sees him at the auction block. To everyone’s scandalized shock, she purchases him as her servant.

Perhaps sentimentality plays a part in me remembering this novel so fondly. I thought this book was delightful.

Roark would sneak into Eden’s room at night and assume his “husbandly rights.” By day, he labored away in the sugar fields, plotting his escape and his revenge.

On the negative side, there was a bland secondary couple and some typical boneheaded villains.

Worse, were the stupid, big misunderstandings Eden and Roark could have avoided if they just talked and listened to each other’s words!

Final Analysis of Passion’s Chains

Fond Memories

I don’t want to re-read Catherine Creel’s Passion’s Chains to see if it stands the test of time. I want to recall it fondly because I had such a blast reading this one!

Roark was such an outstanding hero. Eden was likable enough for a heroine.

Passion’s Chains or Shanna?

*This historical romance was a rip-off/homage to Kathleen E Woodiwiss‘s Shanna, as the plots are similar identical. So are the heroes’ names, except the spellings are different.

Until 2022 I had never read Shanna. I appreciated the celebrated blockbuster considerably more than I thought I would. Still, at 600+ pages, it was a long read.

Passion’s Chains is a leaner story at 400 pages, without much filler. That is amazing for a Zebra romance!

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book more than Shanna. Maybe it’s for the reason I mentioned, out of nostalgia, or just because I read Passion’s Chains first. But I did love this one.

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

HE HAD BETRAYED HER
Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her own!

SHE STILL LOVED HIM
Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master. He knew just how to tame her wild spirit and make those emerald eyes shimmer with passion’s fire. Before long, he would possess every silken inch of her…for this night and all the nights to come!

Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
flashback 1991

Flashback: The Biggest or Noteworthy Romance Novels 30 Years Ago (1991)

flashback 1991

Let’s Look Back At Romance’s Past

At Sweet Savage Flame we love to look back to the past. After all, old-school romances are what we review! Now that we’re nearing the year’s end, there’s even more reason to look back at what came before us.

Let’s rewind all the way to…1991.

Back In Time 30 Years Ago

What was I doing back then? I was 14 on January 1, 1991. It was my confirmation year. In the Autumn of ’91, I started high school.

On tv I watched my soaps, Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live, then General Hospital in the daytime. Sitcoms to watch at night included Roseanne, Coach, The Golden Girls, and The Simpsons. On Nickelodeon, I watched Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats (I had little siblings), and the Canadian teen soap opera, Fifteen.

As far as music went, grunge was in full swing. As an avid metalhead I therefore avoided mainstream rock. Hits by bands like Color Me Badd, C+C Music Factory, TKA, and Mariah Carey had me dancing to the radio.

For romance reading, I subscribed to Harlequin Temptations, Harlequin Historicals, and Zebra Lovegrams. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and loved it. I also got my first kiss. It was nothing special, and I wouldn’t have a boyfriend until I was 16.

Romance Novels From 1991

What were the most popular romances from thirty years ago? We came to this list after looking at Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher’s Weekly, and NY Times Best Seller lists. Hopefully, these will take you back to a happy time period in romance history.

Some of these books we’ve reviewed, but many we haven’t.

Want Sweet Savage Flame to review any of these books? Let us know in the comments.

Category Romance

For The Love of Lilah, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1991, John Solie cover art
  • Night Shift by Nora Roberts, Silhouete Intimate Moments #365, January 1991
  • Luring A Lady by Nora Roberts, Silhouette
  • Courting Catherine by Nora Roberts, Silhouette Romance #801, June 1991
  • For the Love of Lilah by Nora Roberts, Silhouette Special Edition #685, August 1991
  • Sleeping Partners by Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin
  • A Forbidden Loving by Penny Jordan, Harlequin
  • A Fiery Baptism by Lynne Graham, Harlequin
  • Tempestuous Reuninon by Lynne Graham, Harlequin
  • Angel Creek by Linda Howard, Silhouette

Contemporary Single Issue Romance

  • Paradise by Judith McNaught, Atria (Released on hardcover, this was revolutionary in romance, where most romance authors printed directly to massmarket paperback first.)
  • Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown, Fanfare/ Bantam, (The romance of a widower and an old friend who was involved in his wife’s death. $4.99)
  • Texas! Sage by Sandra Brown, Fanfare/ Bantam
  • Silver Linings by Jayne Ann Krentz, Pocket Books

Historical Romance

  • And One Wore Blue by Heather Graham, Dell
  • Behind Closed Doors by Betina Krahn, Avon
  • The Gift by Julie Garwood, Pocket Books
  • Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey, Avon
  • Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey, Avon
  • The Prize by Julie Garwood, Pocket (In 1066, a Saxon woman marries a Norman warrior. $5.50) 
  • Scandal by Amanda Quick, Bantam
  • Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
  • Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
  • Rainbow’s End by Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner
  • The Conquest by Jude Deveraux, Pocket
  • Love & Triumph by Patricia Hagan, Avon
  • The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale, Avon
  • Through a Dark Mist by Marsha Canham, Dell
  • Promise Me Forever by Janelle Taylor, Zebra
  • The Duchess by Jude Deveraux, Pocket
  • Lady Gallant by Suzanne Robinson, Bantam

Paranormal Romance (Time Travel, Science Fiction, Etc.,)

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon Dell (Outlander was recognized by the Romance Writers of America as 1991’s “Best Romance of the Year.”  $4.99)
  • A Time For Love by Contstance O’Day-Flannery, Zebra
  • Beyond the Starlit Frost by Rebecca Brandewyne, Pocket Books
  • A Moment in Time by Bertrice Small, Ballantine
  • Once In a Lifetime by Constance O’Day-Flannery, Zebra

Inspirational Romance

  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Romantic Fiction

  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, (I remember purchasing Life magazine because they had a huge layout on the when this book was announced. When it was released I couldn’t afford hardbacks, so I had to wait until the paperback edition came out. Then I watched the TV miniseries. Sean Bean was the lone highlight there. At least the sequel to Gone With the Wind had a happy ending.)

1991 RITA Winners (For Books Published In 1990)

The Sandalwood Princess, Loretta Chase, Avon, 1991 cover artist unknown

Best First Book: Black Horse Island by Dee Holmes
Long Contemporary Series Romance: Patrick Gallagher’s Widow by Cheryl Reavis
Regency Romance: The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
Romantic Suspense: Night Spice by Karen Keast
Series Historical Romance: A Wild Yearning by Penelope Williamson
Short Contemporary Series Romance: Step into My Parlor by Jan Hudson
Single Title Historical Romance: Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart
Traditional Romance: Song of the Lorelei by Lucy Gordon
Best Romance of 1990: The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale

Books We Have Reviewed From 1991

Paradise and More

Historical Romance Review: Paradise and More by Shirl Henke

historical romance review
Paradise and More by Shirl Henke
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Book Series: House of Torres #1
Published by: Dorchester, Leisure
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 443
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Paradise and More by Shirl Henke

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and the Cover

Paradise and More by Shirl Henke is memorable to me for having one of the most eye-catching covers in romance. A dazzling beauty by Pino Daeni, it features a fully naked couple in a glorious clinch, their nudity covered by some strategically placed flowers and the book’s title.

Lamentably, I have a later reissue where their nakedness is hidden behind a respectable-looking stepback. Why would anyone want to hide that stunning beauty?

As for the book itself? I was conflicted. It’s both excellent at times and frustrating at others.

The Old World

A swashbuckling historical, Paradise and More is the first entry in the House of Torres duo. This romance is in late 1400s Spain. This is a seminal time in history with Columbus’ exploration into the “New World.” This was months after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. The Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon had just reconquered the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims who had entered Hispania 700 years prior.

Lady Magdalena Luisa Valdes–for some unfathomable reason–falls madly in love at first sight with Aaron “Diego” Torres, the son of a wealthy converso family (a Jewish family that converted to Catholicism).

Aaron is arrogant and contemptuous of Magdalena, a wonderful character with the kind of fortitude that makes a heroine legendary. Beautiful and kind-hearted, Magdalena has to navigate court intrigues to avoid the eyes of the Reyes Católicos. This is to say, the King’s wandering eyes and the Queen’s jealous ones.

To flee from prejudice and persecution, Aaron decides to travel the uncharted seas with Columbus as his second-in-command, to search for new lands. Meanwhile, Magdalena befriends Aaron’s family, becoming like a second daughter to them.

After a successful conquest, Aaron returns to find Magdalena living in his parents’ household. He takes advantage of her crush on him and forces himself upon her. After ravishing her, he leaves to return to the newfound colonies. The Torres family demands honor and avow their wayward son must marry their darling Magdalena.

Destiny has tragedy in store for the House of Torres, as they are accused of heresy by the Inquisition and then executed.

The New World

Alone in the world, Magdalena has but one mission in her life: to be with the man she loves. She follows Aaron across the ocean to Columbus’ settlement in Hispaniola. Despite his contemptible behavior towards her, Magdalena still wants to marry Aaron.

However, when Magdalena arrives, she finds Aaron already has a mistress, the Native Princess, Aliyah. What’s more, Aliyah is pregnant with Aaron’s child.

As a lone European woman in Hispaniola, Magdalena draws much attention from men, including the brothers of Columbus. Aaron cannot deny the allure she holds. And though he will never be forced to do anything against his will, Aaron knows his family’s final wishes were for him to marry Magdalena.

The tropical backdrop makes an appropriate setting for their heated attraction. Their passion for each other grows to a climax. After they marry, Aaron and Magdalena find that their adventures together are just beginning. Aaron’s spurned mistress connives with the villains to destroy him in every way she can. Aaron and Magdalena must work together to overcome even more obstacles.

Final Analysis of Paradise and More

I loved that Paradise and More took us to late 15th-century Spain, an era I can’t get enough of. Columbus’ expedition into the Americas was an unusual backdrop for a romance. Shirl Henke did a great job capturing the era, even though her protagonists were sometimes a bit too modern in their thinking.

This epic, late-era bodice ripper is a tumultuous read that features a loveable, resilient heroine, but the hero is a bit of a jerk and not in a good way. Although I must say, the love scenes were…oh my! ¡Muy caliente!

The first half of this book was so good and filled with action: bloody sword fights, the hero’s entire family being killed, forced seduction, and the spanning of years & continents. Although, when Magdalena got to Hispanola, the pace slowed down a bit.

Aaron was a douche canoe. If not for the machinations of the scorned “other-woman,” Aliyah, the last half would have dragged needlessly.

All in all, I found Paradise and More to be a mostly diverting historical romance that took both history and romance seriously. This had a great cover, a likable heroine, and a unique setting. It needed a to-die-for hero to elevate it to a spectacular level.

For those curious to continue the story, the love lives of Aaron’s two sons are told in the sequel, Return to Paradise.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

Second in command to Cristobal Colon, Aaron sets sail for the Indies seeking adventure in the new world and fleeing persecution in the old. Caught between King Fernando’s desire and Queen Ysabel’s jealousy, Magdalena follows the man she has always loved to the ends of the known world and beyond. Drawn together across religious barriers and storm-tossed oceans, they discover a lush paradise fraught with danger and desire.

PARADISE AND MORE by SHIRL HENKE
highland fire ireland

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, George Jones cover art

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals.

Highland Sisters

The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but in the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love? And with Megan gone from her home, who’s there to act as leader of the MacAlpin clan?

Final Analysis of Highland Fire

Megan is a real tough cookie and a great heroine. Kieran is a match for her toughness. While the action-packed romance entertained me, perhaps there was a bit too much focus on the action. Not that I don’t enjoy a bit of gratuitous violence, but not at the cost of the love story.

Still, Highland Fire was an engaging read, although my favorite of the three sisters’ stories is Highland Heather. There were other books in the series, but lamentably, this is where I stopped. However, these romances were so pleasing that I might just finish the series one day.

3 1/2 Stars

Sunday kind of love

Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday Kind of Love, Lois Faye Dyer, Kismet, 1991, cover artist unknown

KISMET #70

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Meteoric Rise and Fall for Kismet?

Lois Faye Dyer, who would produce numerous Special Edition romances for Silhouette Books, was one of Kismet’s more prolific writers. Her romance Sunday Kind of Love is book #2 in a series about 4 siblings.

According to the website FictionDB the Meteor Publishing Company, from somewhere out of Pennsylvania, USA, released 168 books through its Kismet Romance line. The series ran from July 1990 to August 1993. The final book was written by Suzanne Brockman, with authors such as Cassie Miles, Christine Dorsey, Janis Reams Hudson, Sharon Sala, and Christina Dodd releasing works with them.

Dark Memories

I sort of want to revisit this book to see if my feelings about it were clouded by the experience I went through while reading it. About 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, my husband was rushed to the ER with a serious asthma attack. I recall holding our 3-year-old daughter tightly as my husband used his last bit of adrenaline to try to convince the doubtful ER workers that he could not breathe before passing out. He was intubated for several days afterward, and we were all worried if he would make it, then later we wondered if he’d have lasting lung damage. Fortunately, friends and family were there, as always, to give support.

My mother watched our daughter as I kept vigil at the hospital. That meant praying, pacing, and waiting. Finally, I just pulled out whatever book was in my purse and started reading. (I always kept a book in my pocketbook. Now it’s usually a Kindle e-reader stuffed into an already cluttered bag.)

If it seems coldhearted to be reading a romance while my loved one was in critical care, it wasn’t meant to be. There were old issues of McCalls and Newsweeks collecting dust on the table in the waiting room, and there was a TV set placed on the wall to help people pass the time. Sunday Kind of Love seemed like some light reading that I’d pay attention to with one eye while keeping the other looking out for a nurse or doctor.

The Plot

Unfortunately, Sunday Kind of Love tried to be too light-hearted while dealing with a fairly deep and significant issue. It’s doubtful I’d have been engrossed by any subject matter at the time, but instead of keeping my mind busy from negative thoughts, it increased them.

Trace McFadden is the oldest brother of the large McFadden clan. He likes his women fast, just like his cars. It’s those interests that get him in trouble, as he finds himself driving down a street when he slams on the brakes to see a beautiful woman on the asphalt. Trace rushes the woman to the hospital, concerned for the worst. Fortunately, her injuries aren’t major, and the next day, he vows to make amends. He visits her almost every day and promises to care for her until she’s fully recovered.

Lily Townsend moved to a quiet town in Iowa to get away from her past, that is, her abusive ex. A relationship with a love them-and-leave-them type is hardly on her agenda. It’s obvious Trace is interested in her. He introduces her to his family, a large and loving clan. He’s always there for her, making plans, bringing her surprises. Despite her druthers, Lily finds herself falling for Trace, but is he earnest about her?

This was a sweet romance that kind of glossed over the darker thematic and plot elements. Lily’s stalker of an ex is dealt with in a quick, perfunctory manner. Basically, Trace and his brothers threaten him, and that’s enough to keep the dirtbag away from Lily.

Final Analysis of Sunday Kind of Love

I’ve read books during stressful periods, and sometimes the stories made those times pass easier. This wasn’t one of those occasions. Was this a case of “it’s-not-you-book, it’s-me?” Perhaps. I read two other books in the McFadden family series, and while I was disinterested in brother Josh’s story, I enjoyed Cole’s story of a second-chance-at-love. Sunday Kind of Love has bad memories attached to it, so it’s fair to say my judgment may be clouded. I just wasn’t gaga over this romance.

Forbidden Fantasy cinille

Category Romance Review: Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White

category romance

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

A Book Burned Forever in My Memory

I burnt the beans!

Whenever I hear of Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White (aka Anna Eberhardt), a category romance from the 1990s, that’s the first thought that pops into my head. Then I recall the sweet twist that the plot hinges upon.

An Editor’s Choice pick for the Harlequin Temptation line, Forbidden Fantasy was a book I enjoyed, sure enough. Although I wouldn’t rank it as an all-time great, it is etched forever in my mind.

The Plot

In Forbidden Fantasy, Zoe is in Paris trying to put as much distance between herself and a bad relationship–namely, her marriage to her ex-husband. He was a cop who spent too much time at work and too little with her, both physically and emotionally. So she left him behind and fled to Europe on a voyage of self-discovery.

Now Zoe’s got French friends and loves to shop in the city. On one of her forays, she realizes a handsome American man is stalking her. What starts as a flirtatious game turns into a sensual love affair. Grey is everything her husband wasn’t: a good listener who shares his feelings with Zoe and is eager to spend time with her. What’s more, he’s a sensual, giving lover who engages in erotic delights that Zoe could have never imagined.

Is this passionate romance the real thing? Or is Zoe’s past too much of a burden to overcome, and she simply is enjoying a rebound fling?

The sex scenes in this book are not graphic. They focus very much on feeling and desire. My attention was certainly captured by their sensual nature.

Highlights include Zoe’s French friend, who is “man-hungry” in an adorable way, plus Grey makes for a sexy hero. Zoe’s character is probably the least memorable of the three. All in all, this was a fine romance, and I would recommend it to readers looking for a quick bit of escapism.

No Beans About It (A Side Story Not About the Book)

red seed lot
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

The Burnt Pot

So about the beans. I was in 7th grade, home from school, sick. My mother worked about five minutes from our house, so she came home during her lunch break. The beans had soaked overnight, so she put them in a pot to boil. Then she sternly reminded me that they should simmer on low for a little over an hour. I nodded in understanding, and she left back to work.

My siblings were either staying late after school or at daycare, so I had the house to myself for several more hours. I lay down in my upstairs bedroom and started to read this book.

At a little past 4, I heard my mother’s car pull into the driveway. Oh crap!

I ran downstairs. The house was filled with smoke.

My mother, who had a legendary temper, was infuriated! Not only would there be no beans to eat with dinner, but they had also burnt for so long that the pot was ruined, too.

I Hate Beans

So, these must be some beans, you might ask.

Ehhh. They might be the best damn beans on Earth. My siblings certainly love them.

As for me? Please don’t ask me to cook my mother’s white rice and pinto beans–or any other of her rice and bean recipes. For I’m sad to say when she goes, her recipes go with her. (Her Dominican cake with dulce de leche is another story.) Two of my sisters love her rice and beans but hate to cook. One loves to cook but is agnostic when it comes to beans. And while I enjoy cooking, I cannot stand the taste and pasty texture of beans.

Black-eyed peas, Pinto, black beans, cannellini, don’t care, I hate them all.

God bless my mother; she worked hard to stretch a dollar and feed five kids, so rice and beans–or “arro’ y ‘bichuela'”–was a staple of my young life. Except for Fridays. Then, we had eggs or bacalao–salted codfish–which I did like. Typically, though, some kind of rice with some form of bean was always served as dinner.

Rice, I have made peace with. The evil legume, however, is still my hated enemy. Peas are fine, though, as long as they’re fresh. Lentils, I abhor. While I pose as an epicurean, my stomach is that of a three-year-old child, for I am a shamefully picky eater.

forbidden fantasy tiffany white

Final Analysis of Forbidden Fantasy

As long as I have a memory, Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White is a romance I will never forget reading. Hopefully, if you pick it up, you’ll feel the same way.

But for a different reason.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

A stranger was stalking her…seducing her

When Zoe fled her humdrum life to do everything she’d never dreamed of doing in Paris, she’d never, even in her wildest dreams, imagined meeting a man like Grey. He was her every forbidden fantasy and he wanted her…body and soul.

Grey challenged her to explore intimacy, to share her deepest, most private dreams and secrets. Even as his passion thrilled her, Zoe knew this was not reality. What they had was only an affair – and she needed to choose….

Her lover or her husband?

FORBIDDEN FANTASY by TIFFANY WHITE
once a princess duillo

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Cardinia Royalty #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

Once a Princess was not one of my favorites by Johanna Lindsey. I’d put this in the unremarkable category with books like Glorious Angel and Tender is the Storm. Not her worst, by any means, but not her best either.

The Cover

Perhaps it had to do with Once A Princess’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine.

So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back, and I prefer an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up.

And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

once a princess cover

The Plot

The plot about the search for a secret princess from a fictional country was all right. It was the main characters that made this one almost unbearable.

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana. She was stolen as an infant from her family, who’ve searched for her for years. So how will Stefan know who she is? Well, she’s got a special little birthmark hidden away in a very private place that will prove her identity. That sounds positively regal.

Tanya, the princess they’re looking for, works in a tavern as a maid, gets paid a pittance, and is treated like garbage. I believe the first words spoken to her were “Tanya, ya slut!” so you know she gets no respect.

She tries to make herself look ugly on purpose for the customers not to harass her. All Tanya had was dirt and mud smeared on her face, but Stefan thought Tanya was unattractive, too. That is until her ugly makeup comes off when she does some naked swimming, and Stefan catches sight of her.

I couldn’t enjoy the story because I never warmed up to the characters. This was one of those Lindseys where the protagonists are unbearable. Stefan was a grouch, mainly because of his insecurity about being ugly. His face was scarred by an injury from an animal’s claws. Tanya was too feisty, always fighting for the sake of fighting. So together, they just argued and argued for ages.

I much preferred Stefan’s sexy cousin, Vasili, and I suppose Johanna Lindsey did also, as she gave Vasili his own book, You Belong to Me.

Final Analysis of Once a Princess

It took forever to finish Once a Princess, and I skimmed a lot to get to the end. For me to do that with a Johanna Lindsey book was unheard of at the time. I thought this one was a sign of ominous things to come, but for the time being, it was an anomaly, as I loved her next books from Prisoner of My Desire to Surrender My Love.

After that, I was busy with school and a social life that consisted of dating guys rather than reading about them. Therefore I had neither the time nor inclination to read romances until I settled down years later.

(TMI, I know, but that’s what I do in these reviews.)

2.12 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 2.6

Synopsis:

Once Upon A Time…In a rustic Mississippi tavern, a beautiful exiled princess was forced to dance for the pleasure of others unaware of her regal birthright…and infuriated by a magnificent golden-eyed devil who crossed an ocean to possess her. From A Far Off Land… A bold and brazen prince came to America to claim his promised bride. But the spirited vixen spurned his affections while inflaming his royal blood with passion’s fire…impelling virile Stefan Barany to take in sensuous and searing conquest the love Tatiana vowed never to yield.

ONCE A PRINCESS by JOHANNA LINDSEY
blood red roses

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

historical romance review
Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Book Series: Medieval Series #1
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”

BLOOD RED ROSES by Katherine Deauxville

The Book

Blood Red Roses is, understandably, a difficult book for some readers to enjoy. However, it stands as one of my most-loved medieval romances.

It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderful piece of romantic fiction, styled to appeal to a niche audience.

I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (aka Maggie Davis) twice. Once in middle school and then years later in high school. The story swept me away both times.

The Plot

Alwyn, the Heroine

Alwyn, the heroine of Blood Red Roses, is 28 years old. That is practically ancient for her time period for her to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands.

They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William.

It rang true to me that a woman would be forcefully bonded to her enemy. It seemed authentic that her husband, being a man of war and conquest, would go off to fight while she lived in her castle, awaiting his return.

Blood Red Roses
Blood Red Roses, Katherine Deauxville, St Martin’s Press, 1991, cover artist Leslie Pellegrino-Peck

Fulk, the Hero

What initially drives Fulk is simple. He won lands in conquest and to help solidify the bonds of conquest, he must marry the daughter of the former lord of said lands. What drives Alwyn is simpler: hate towards her enemy and a desire to be free.

Fulk and Alwyn don’t spend much time together, they’re not deep on intimate conversations either. Their times together are passionate and forceful.

My liking for Blood Red Roses could be because I love the brutal incivility of the Middle Age era. Deauxville injects an earthy historical ambiance that I really appreciate. What is the point of historical romance without history?

There’s a scene where Fulk and his men torture a man and semi-castrate him before he flees. Fulk comments that it could have been worse: “At worst yon Welshman has one dangling nut.” Another scene depicts Fulk and his men as they stare at a woman with hairless pudenda.

The Medieval Setting of Blood Red Roses

The genital references seem to be a theme in the Deauxville Medieval series. There is a dwarf with a giant dong in the second book, Daggers of Gold, which also has lots of talk about circumcised penises (the hero is Jewish). The third, The Amethyst Crown, features more references to dwarves, foreskin, castrations, and shorn vulvas.

Blood Red Roses has middling ratings on some review sites, yet here I am praising it. I often have a contrarian opinion on certain books due to my personally peculiar tastes.

The red-haired hero is extremely cold and distant.

While Fulk is away, Alwyn has an emotional romance with a blond Scottish mason she fantasizes about and kisses.

Later is taken captive by Powys, a black-haired Welsh lord from the hills. The latter was foretold to Alwyn by a fortune-teller who told her to choose Powys as her man.

Then, there is Fulk’s cousin Geoffrey who seems to have designs on Alwyn himself.

Final Analysis of Blood Red Roses

Fulk and Alwyn have a lust-based relationship, one not based on trust or communication. Is it a love story for the ages? Probably not, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the authenticity of the time period. Blood Red Roses is a Historical romance with a capital H on the history.

Fulk is no reformed kind-hearted hero at the end, and Alwyn will always be a disagreeable shrew. Still, I can’t give this book a lower than “I love it” rating, because frankly, I did.

Perhaps it’s a matter of temporal tastes, as back in 1991 when Blood Red Roses was released, it was fairly successful, winning the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Medieval Romance.

5 Stars


Synopsis:

IN A LAND DIVIDED BY TREACHERY AND ENDLESS WARRING, THEY SHARED A PASSION THAT KNEW NO BOUNDS

When King William’s knight, Fulk de Jobourg, is sent to reclaim the lands of a hanged traitor, he is also commanded to take the man’s unwilling daughter as his wife. Bound and gagged, the furious Lady Alwyn is wedded to this dark-eyed, massive man who spends but one night in her bed before galloping off to fight the king’s battles once more.

Left behind to tend to the Castle Morlaix, Alwyn cannot bring to mind the face of the husband she barely knows. But her body remembers the feel of his hot touch…and the urgent passion he ignited within her. When Fulk returns, Alwyn fights his efforts to take control of her family’s estate. But she cannot resist what he brings to her at night…a sensual pleasure that binds her to him forever against her will…

BLOOD RED ROSES by KATHERINE DEAUXVILLE
sweet fire pino

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

historical romance review
Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.

The Plot

Part One

Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies. They now residein San Francisco, California.

The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her more sophisticated and only slightly older young stepmother.

Of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.

Lydia is a woman of social conscience. She tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, murdering women on the streets.

The mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was. But I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.

Lydia lets Nathan and Brigham know she’s onto their game and is having none of it! She knows their flattery and claims of affection are false. She wants nothing to do with either of those fortune-seekers.

For Nathan, it’s not so false at all.

Part Two

Nathan is a devil, however. When circumstances lead to Lydia getting injured, it results in amnesia.

Nathan takes advantage of the situation, whisks Lydia far away, and marries her.

With Lydia’s wall of reserve removed, they embark on a passionate honeymoon.

One steamy love scene follows another as Nathan tries to cement a solid foundation if–or more likely, when–Lydia’s memory returns.

It does return, and so does the danger that lurked around her. Who can Lydia trust? Who can she love?

Final Analysis of Sweet Fire

There are multiple threads woven throughout Sweet Fire. Jo Goodman skillfully created a vast tapestry of characters that I cared about. Events led to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.

I’ve read Jo Goodman’s Sweet Fire twice so far. While the second time around wasn’t as exhilarating as the first, I still had a fun time. The 13-year-old me loved this book, while her 35-year-old counterpart enjoyed it very much.

Instead of rating this 5 stars as I would have when I first read it, I’m settling on a 4.5 rating for Sweet Fire.

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

SHE LONGED TO LOVE HIM
Told all her life that she was plain, Lydia Chadwick knew no man would come courting because of her looks. So it was with some suspicion that the shy, sweet San Francisco heiress woke one morning with a tall, dark, dangerously handsome husband she couldn’t recall marrying. Lydia had lost her memory, and was desperate to discover if there was truly a love to remember. For as she looked at Nathan Hunter’s lean, muscular frame, she longed to abandon herself to the sensual stranger, and believe—if only for a little while—that the possessive passion in his smoky gray eyes was really for her.

HE ACHED TO HAVE HER
Business and pleasure weren’t supposed to mix, but in this case Nathan Hunter was willing to make an exception. After all, it was in his best interests to keep his new bride’s mind off the secrets of her past. Making sure she didn’t remember her hatred for him turned out to be the easy part, as he initiated the innocent Lydia to womanhood. Not so easy was keeping sight of his own goals as Lydia’s sweet surrender wove a seductive spell around Nathan’s heart, arousing emotions he had thought forever buried…

SWEET FIRE by JO GOODMAN
Nelsons Brand palmer

Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer

category romance
Nelson's Brand by Diana Palmer
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Desire #618
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 188
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Nelson’s Brand by Diana Palmer

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Nelson’s Brand was my first and, so far, only foray into Diana Palmer‘s little corner of Romancelandia. Palmer has got a bit of a reputation in the genre as an author of ultra-macho, hairy-chested heroes and virginal, too-stupid-to-live heroines.

I read Nelson’s Brand back when in the 1990s when I subscribed to the Silhouette Desire line. They used to run a Man of the Month theme and Nelson’s Brand was that month’s pick (January 1991). I recall never being too impressed with the Desire editors’ choices, and this was one of those books that failed to impress. The Desire staff really dropped the ball by not picking Lass Small’s Four Dollars and Fifty-One Cents over this one.

The Plot

Allison Hathoway is new in town. She’s got a tragic back story where her missionary parents were killed in South America. Her friend, Winnie, treats her with kid gloves as, if she’s so delicate she might break at the slightest touch.

Gene Nelson is Winnie’s fiance’s brother. Gene and his brother, Dwight, run their family ranch together, although lately, Gene hasn’t been tending much to his responsibilities. He’s been drowning his sorrows in drink and women. Although now deceased, the man Gene thought was his father all his life, turned out not to be his biological parent at all.

Allison is inexplicably drawn to Gene, seeing something in him. Maybe it’s his furry chest, cool green eyes, or his ridiculously large…cowboy hat.

The Bad Seed Hero

Gene is supposed to be an independent, “I go my own way” kind of man. Not so much an “alpha” male, but a “lone wolf” or I guess what’s called a “sigma” male in some circles. I recently found out I’ve been erroneously referring to this type as “gamma” which is a whole ‘nother kind of guy. Sigmas are men who are traditionally “masculine” but shun groups and hierarchies.

Whatever he was supposed to be, Gene came off as… I wouldn’t call him whiny, perhaps emo is more accurate. He was an emo cowboy, a sad, pathetic case, always moping about his woes. I suppose one can say he found some solace in Allison’s purity, but it just came off as phony “dwama.”

Every time these two get together someone tries to separate them. It got a little silly, reminding me of the Seinfeld episode where George acts like a bad boy and dates one of Elaine’s employees, and Elaine desperately tries to keep them apart, because George is a “bad seed:”

Final Analysis of Nelson’s Brand

More than anything, Nelson’s Brand was dull. Silhouette Desires are short books, maxing out at 188 to 189 pages. In my eyes, this just went on forever.

I understood Gene was hurting, Allison was hurting, and they found comfort in each other despite everybody trying to keep them apart. Good for them.

Unfortunately for me, I had to vicariously experience their boring romance.

I keep hearing about how crazy-fun Diana Palmer’s books are. To my misfortune, Nelson’s Brand was not one of them.

Oh, well, Palmer has written over 160 romances. There’s bound to be a better book out there.

(COVER POINTS DO NOT COUNT TOWARDS RATING)

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.5

Synopsis

Can he get past betrayal?

Allison Hathoway’s life was about healing. And she was good at it. Or had been good at it until the tragedy in South America. Now she couldn’t even fix herself. She didn’t know how to go on, didn’t know what to do, or who to be.

She had that in common with Gene Nelson. After the rancher found out the truth about his father, he’d realized his whole life was a lie. He’d gone a little wild, and saw no reason not to give in to his every desire. And the minute he saw Allison, he wanted her. But underneath their explosive passion, Allison and Gene found comfort in each other’s wounded souls. And a chance to start over.

NELSON’S BRAND BY DIANA PALMER
uncommon vows

Historical Romance Review: Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney

Synopsis:

Lady Meriel de Vere had deceived Adrian, Earl of Shropshire. Standing in the royal forest, her falcon perched on her arm, she boldly claimed to be a Welsh commoner, not a noble Norman. Lord Adrian beheld in wonder her raven-black hair and defiant blue eyes, heard her lies, and felt a dark, primeval passion rob him of all reason.

In one irrevocable move of fate, he ordered this fair beauty locked in his castle’s tower, vowing to entice her into surrendering her kisses with lips as hungry as his own. Never to give in, to die if she must, was Meriel’s vow … until one rash moment of impetuousness swept them both up in the royal battles of kings … and into a dangerous intrigue of sweet caresses … and fiery, all-consuming love. 

UNCOMMON VOWS by MARY JO PUTNEY

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

I’ve read Mary Jo Putney‘s Uncommon Vows several times and have always enjoyed the compelling romance. It’s a passionate medieval bodice ripper about obsessive love.

The Plot

Lord Adrian was set for a life of priesthood when a family death changes his destiny. Lady Meriel seemed fated for a life in a nunnery. But twists and turns made it, so neither of these things came to pass. Instead, Adrian becomes the Earl of Shropshire and Meriel renounces her calling to live under the protection of her brother, a knight.

One day Adrian comes upon Meriel in a field and believes her to be a commoner. Adrian becomes fixated on Meriel’s stunning beauty. He takes her captive. Meriel, who is half-Welsh, deeply values her freedom and cannot understand how Adrian supposedly loves her if he keeps her prisoner.

She refuses Adrian’s attempts to seduce her so forcefully. Meriel throws herself out a stained-glass window, causing her to lose her memory.

Without all the baggage hanging on, Adrian is able to woo Muriel into loving him. But will her feelings remain the same when her memory returns?

When writing about the Medieval Era, many authors avoid religion. They treat it as a third rail topic. Here, in Uncommon Vows, it’s used uniquely and romantically. Adrian and Muriel cite phrases from the Bible–the Song of Solomon–to each other during their lovemaking. It works beautifully and poetically to enhance this thrilling love story.

Final Analysis of Uncommon Vows

Uncommon Vows is a fantastic battle of wills between a hero who is obsessed with the heroine and will do anything to have her and a heroine who refuses to submit to her enemy. Putney’s writing is at her best here, although maybe it’s because she so often borrows from one of the most poetic books ever written!

PS: I wish Mary Jo Putney had written a sequel about Adrian’s illegitimate brother. Does anyone know if she ever did?

5 Stars

asking for trouble ed tadiello

Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

category romance
Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Ed Tadiello
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1614
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

The Book

I was unfortunately underwhelmed with Asking for Trouble by Australian romance author Miranda Lee. This is unusual, as she’s a reliable favorite.

The problem with reading a much-beloved author almost 50 times is that their books begin to blend together. Plotlines get replayed. And replayed. And replayed.

The Plot

In Asking for Trouble, we see a familiar Lee storyline. We have a sexually inexperienced woman who ironically looks like sex on legs. Then there’s the hero who’s been burned in the past by a bad relationship and is unwilling to commit.

I don’t know if this is the fourth or fifth book where the couple watches the film Out of Africa on a romantic date.

After a few passionate nights of sex, the heroine Sirena gets pregnant, and that magically solves all their problems.

Of course, this is a Harlequin Presents, so it’s all par for the course. But when it’s the same story over and over, I wonder if I should take a break from reading a particular writer.

At least for a while, so that when I read a new book by them, I’d appreciate it more.

Final Analysis of Asking for Trouble

If I had read Asking For Trouble ten years ago, this would have been new and exciting to me, maybe meriting a 4-star rating.

This isn’t a bad book, but I’ve read at least a dozen better variations of the same exact story, just with different character names and descriptions. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around as previously.

Sorry, Asking For Trouble, it’s not you; it’s me.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.6

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

The real thing

Serina hasn’t seen Aaron Kingsley for eleven years, but she hasn’t forgotten him. When they meet again, it’s clear that what had begun as a schoolgirl crush has blossomed into a mature adult love. He shares the attraction, but all he’s offering her now is a temporary, going-nowhere affair.

What angers her most is that she’s tempted to agree. She’s not about to turn her back on a chance to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a man poisoned by a bad marriage hardly makes the perfect Prince Charming.

ASKING FOR TROUBLE by MIRANDA LEE

Historical Romance Review: Pirate’s Angel by Marsha Bauer

pirate's angel
Pirate’s Angel, Marsha Bauer, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Book

First of all, I love the original Pirate’s Angel Zebra Heartfire cover, but man-oh-man, have you taken a look at the e-book version? Authors, why are you doing this to your books? Lots of folks love to mock old-school covers and Fabio, but there are e-book covers that make clinches look like Rembrandts. Even a plain black cover with white Comic Sans font would be sexier than whatever the heck that new version is.

Besides loving the original Pino cover, I loved just about everything else in Marsha Bauer’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire pirate romance. Sure, the heroine is a two-faced hussy, as she has a dependable guy back home whom she plans on marrying while she enthusiastically partakes in lovemaking sessions with the hero. But I couldn’t blame Ivy. Drake was wildly attracted to her.

Plus, he was hot. (God, I’m so shallow.)

The Plot

Part One

Our story begins with a lovemaking session some 20+ years prior to the start of the main plot, with the pirate Keils Cauldron making love to a beautiful woman he calls Sunny.

Ostensibly, the product of this union is our heroine, Ivy Woodruff. Her pregnant mother settled down with a nice guy who raised Ivy and gave her his last name. From what her mother told her of her conception, Ivy is convinced that Keils is her natural father.

Conveniently enough, Ivy is sailing on a ship when Keils and his crew seize it. Keils’ first mate Drake is instantly taken with the violet-eyed vixen, so he makes her his captive. Ivy resists Drake and tries to convince Keils that she is his daughter, but he’s not keen on believing her as he’s in mourning for his dead son, who was mysteriously murdered. For the time being, Keils is determined to find the killer. So he allows Drake to take Ivy aboard, even though Keils doesn’t trust her.

Part Two

There was an engaging plot at the heart of this book; however, what really drew me to Pirate’s Angel was the chemistry between Ivy and Drake. Blond heroes always intrigue me. Drake’s intense pursuit of Ivy had me reading and rereading many scenes.

I remember as a teen pestering a friend over and over to read this one, not resting until she finished it. I had to share the sexy, cheesy awesomeness with someone! When she gave it back, she gushed about how she finished it in one sitting.

The sex scenes were very steamy. I should not have been reading his trash. What did my mother think these books were about? The covers explicitly told you what was going on!

Despite her prim and proper upbringing, Drake brings out the wild siren in her, and they become lovers. Who then shows up, but Ivy’s fiance, Alan? Ivy begs him for forgiveness, which he gives her without any quarrel. As a man-of-the-cloth, he believes in redemption.

Plus, Ivy’s hot.

The trouble is, whenever she and Drake are together, Ivy can’t resist him; their passion is so intense.

Alan who?

Ivy remains convinced that Keils is her father. Despite there being no solid evidence one way or another if they’re related, Keils accept Ivy as his own.

Part Three

There is a slight surprise at the end when Drake and Ivy get married. They rush off to enjoy the consummation of their nuptials when Keils notices that Ivy transposed the “V” and “Y in her own name as she signed the wedding register. Since Keils does that to his name, too, it’s all the proof needed of parenthood. No DNA test could be more precise.

Although, Keils might have a point. The “I before E, except after C, etc.,” rule should mean his name is pronounced “Kails,” but I read it as “Keels,” which makes sense with him being a ship captain and all. So it’s understandable he has trouble spelling his own name. Certainly, there are given names that would be hard for any adult, let alone a child, to spell: Tiphaniee; Quvenzhane; Chrysanthemum; Donnabháin; ABCDE–actually, that one’s pretty easy to spell, it’s just hard to pronounce.

Final Analysis of Pirate’s Angel

I’m not going to pretend as if there’s any doubt to a HEA in this book. Ivy and Drake are obsessed with each other and will spend the rest of their days together, whether on land or on the sea, always getting some booty.

Anyway, whether you buy Pirate’s Angel as an e-book or have an original copy, it’s a story you’ll want to read over and over again. This is one sexy pirate romance.

Night Shift

Category Romance Review: Night Shift by Nora Roberts

Night Shift, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1991, cover artist unknown

“I’m in love with you, Cilla.” Slowly, his eyes steady on hers, he pulled her closer. “With every part of you.” Soft, persuasive, his lips cruised over hers. “I only want fifty or sixty years to show you.”

NIGHT SHIFT


Silhouette Intimate Moments #365

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Night Shift Memories

If you follow my reviews, you may notice I inject some personal vignettes or anecdotes into them. If it’s TMI, apologies for oversharing. But like music or scents, each book I read is imprinted with a certain memory. When I hear “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, it takes me back to Junior Prom and my supposedly platonic date getting all clingy with me. I’ll think about a different man whether it’s Brut, Joop!, Davidoff Cool Water, or Grey Flannel cologne I smell. (Brut is my dad; the rest…are not.) If I have no memory of the book, there’s because there is no recollection to go with it.

Nora Robert’s Night Shift is vividly memorable because I recall sitting in the cancer ward at Mather Hospital waiting with my mother while my grandmother got her chemo treatments. In hindsight, perhaps it was rude of me to sit there and read rather than comfort my mom, who was worried about her dying mother. Still, I helped translate to doctors for my mom, who spoke broken English when she had questions. There’s a memory of going to the cafeteria and eating Utz potato chips for the first time. This book was released in January of 1991. My Mamá would be dead by December 23 of that year.

So many books I read that year are filled with remembrances.

The Plot

Cilla O’Roarke, short for Priscilla–but don’t dare call her that–is a nighttime disk jockey whose silky smooth voice enthralls legions of fans, including policeman Boyd Fletcher. He’s arrived on the scene with his partner Althea to investigate the increasingly threatening calls that Cilla’s been receiving.

Boyd has a major crush on her from hearing her voice on the radio. It’s no surprise he’s instantly smitten upon seeing her in person. Cilla tries her best to keep her distance, even as the police do their best to stay close to her and find who’s her stalker. Boyd is extremely protective and a great hero.

Cilla is a prickly character. She’s not a very open person, and all she cares about is her younger sister, Deborah. And keeping her radio program. She refuses any course of action to defend herself, so Boyd is determined to be there to save her if need be. Cilla wants nothing to do with cops, as one of her parents was one, and Cilla secretly fears getting hurt by letting him in her life.

But that Boyd is a charmer. Slowly, but slowly, he’s able to get her to admit her attraction to him. They become friends and then lovers.

However, as usual in these romantic suspense plots when you let your guard down that’s when the villain strikes.

Who is Cilla’s deranged fan? Will Boyd be able to get there before it’s too late?

Final Analysis of Night Shift

Night Shift was a satisfying romance, even though you knew pretty much what was going to happen. Nora Roberts’ writing was of fine quality, and Boyd was a great, protective hero. It was thoroughly believable that he was able to get Cilla to fall for him despite her fears.

to touch the sun york

Historical Romance Review: To Touch the Sun by Barbara Leigh

Synopsis:

Beloved Captive…To be a knight, chivalrous in deed and courageous in battle, was all that Drue had ever wished for. Dubbed Sir Drue, she had sworn to serve her king and seek revenge against her enemy, Connaught. She had vowed to slay the treacherous knight, yet one look into the depths of his fire-blue eyes and she knew she could never kill him… Though she had captured him fairly on the field of battle, it was Drue who was completely in his power, and she shuddered to think what the proud Connaught would do when he discovered that the ‘lad’ who had defeated him was nothing more than a woman.

TO TOUCH THE SUN by BARBARA LEIGH

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – To Touch the Sun

To Touch the Sun is an older Harlequin Historical by Barbara Leigh. This is a unique tale about a woman in Medieval England who is raised alongside her brother as a boy and eventually becomes a knight. Not just any knight, but one of the most virtuous, valiant, and admired knights in the kingdom.

The Plot

Druanna takes on the persona of Dru to such a great extent that even her brother almost forgets her true identity.

Although she dominates in the masculine arts of war, Dru’s heart is that of a woman who loves men. Unfortunately for Druanna, she falls for her enemy, Connaught.

Connaught is married when they meet and has no idea she is a female. He is confused and tormented by his attraction for this brave knight. Lucky for him, when Druanna is injured in combat, Connaught tends to her wounds and finds her boobies—itty-bitty as they may be–but a woman’s breasts nonetheless. Whew, so at least he’s only a lustingin-his-heart adulterer, not a homosexual!

 photo blackadder_bells_396x222.jpg to touch the sun
“So before we go at it, just what exactly is the penis situation?”

There are a few twists and turns along the way. Connaught is a married man, after all, with children. Then there is a shocking accusation made at Sir Dru, who is considered one of the most eligible and handsome of knights. I imagine Dru looked like a young Tilda Swinton or Annie Lennox, a lean, tall, and blond ambisexual beauty.

And of course, there are the major problems Connaught and Druanna face when their relationship becomes known.

An Unusual HEA

The book is unique in that they have their Happily Ever After, but an unconventional one. They live their lives happily fighting alongside one another as two knights, and no one, except the hero and the heroine’s brother, knows she is really a woman!

4 Stars