Category Archives: Avon

Midnight angel kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review
Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg, Fredericka Ribes
Book Series: Stokehurst #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Lisa KleypasMidnight Angel is the predecessor to the only one of her novels I’ve been unable to finish, Prince of Dreams. I started Prince of Dreams, not knowing it was a sequel; the Elaine Duillo stepback cover lured me in.

I should have started with this one, which features a Max Ginsburg tip-in illustration, as this is by far the better romance.

The Plot

The story opens with Lady Anastasia Kaptereva. She is in jail, sentenced to hang for a murder she did not commit. Anastasia doesn’t have any recollection of the event.

She flees Russia for exile to England, where under an assumed name, she lands employment as a governess to young Lady Emma Stokehurst.

The hero Luke, Lord Stokehurst, is unique in that he’s disabled, missing a hand, with a hook in its place. He is a widower whose wife died in a fire. And he’s vowed never to love again.

His 12-year-old daughter Emma is in need of care. Emma is the heroine in Prince of Dreams, where she is paired off with Tasia’s annoying brute of a cousin Nikolas Angelovsky. He was such an awful hero; I DNF’d that book. Unthinkable for a Kleypas, but he rubbed me the wrong way. Strange, as he’s not so terrible here in Midnight Angel.

midnight angel lisa kleypas
Midnight Angel, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1995, Max Ginsburg cover art, John De Salvo model

Luke is about 15 years older than Tasia (she’s 18; he’s 34). Luke is “tortured” and domineering, not a thoughtfully sensitive but strong quasi-beta male with a cream-puff interior. The power dynamics may be off-putting to some. I didn’t mind.

When Tasia and Lucas get together, the steam factor is hot. Kleypas writes excellent love scenes, which is why the book was enjoyable.

The plot was a bit of a kitchen-sink affair, as there are many factors thrown in: the Gothic aura, amnesia, murder, a nasty other woman, and lots of drama. Plus, there are evil baddies, a tiger, and some paranormal factors. The supernatural stuff is further explored in Prince of Dreams.

My Opinion

Midnight Angel was good, better than its follow-up, but not anything exceptional. If you’ve read my reviews, you know where I stand on the grieving widowers trope, but it was mostly tolerable here. Mostly.

Some aspects were rushed, making my rating for this book drop a few percentage points. It’s melodramatic and cheesy at times. Then again, I don’t mind cheesy.

I liked this historical overall, but I don’t think it’s for every reader. Fans of Kleypas’ romances written in the 20th century–particularly her Hathaway and Ravenel series–probably will not have a good time as I did with Midnight Angel.

The ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are relatively low for a Kleypas romance, with a considerable number of 1 or 2-star reviews.

That didn’t sway my opinion, as I enjoy Kleypas’ 1990s to early 2000s romances more than her “modern” books.

Final Analysis of Midnight Angel

Historical romance is a broad genre and Lisa Kleypas’ is a rare author with broad genre appeal. Midnight Angel is a solid, if not stellar, romance. Tasia and Lord Stokehurst are an unlikely couple, but their story is full of passion, intrigue, and danger.

Opinions are mixed about this one, so your mileage may vary. As for me, while I won’t be returning to Midnight Angel, I am glad I read it.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

A noblewoman of frail beauty and exotic mystery fakes her own death to escape the gallows. And now she must flee. In disguise and under a false identity, she finds unexpected sanctuary in the arms of a handsome and arrogant yet gallant British lord—who must defy society to keep her safe . . . and overcome a tragic past to claim her as his own.

MIDNIGHT ANGEL by LISA KLEYPAS
hearts-aflame-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

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

Synopsis

Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.

HEARTS AFLAME by JOHANNA LINDSEY

Links

PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: JUNE 7, 1987

List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,
the golden sovereigns geer

Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

historical romance review
The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Charles Geer
Published by: Avon
Genres: Cavalier Era Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 404
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s a stellar piece of writing. The dazzling Charles Geer cover is just the cherry on top.

It’s difficult to categorize this romance it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is immensely gifted to make me enjoy a book where the heroine doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 into this 404-page epic.

The Golden Sovereigns is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale. But unlike salacious romps like Purity’s Passion or Passion’s Proud Captive, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end. He’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

The First Betrayal

Our story begins in late 17th-century England, in the era of Cavaliers. Carmody Petrie is a gentlewoman in love with Waldo, a no-good, sexy rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but stops there. Carmody knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:

“A new stirring, of springs moving deep inside her, a well of emotion she had never dreamed of had been uncovered. When Waldo had laid impertinent hands on her, she had felt a moving, rising, betraying response. Her own body–if she did not carefully govern it–might well turn traitor!”

That certainly brought me to attention. I was ready to enjoy a bawdy, lusty romp. But, as noted, The Golden Sovereigns isn’t like that at all.

Waldo steals Carmody’s dowry and has no intention of marrying her. He’s got another–a wealthier–woman in mind.

Then Carmody’s young brother Ralph gambles their inheritance away to the Duke of Monmouth. She goes to plead with the Duke for mercy. Instead, with him, she finds her first tragic love affair.

Awakened into passion by the Duke of Monmouth–who is written as a complex, tragically-doomed character–Carmody remains loyal to him. She is the only person who stays with him after his final defeat at Sedgemoor. He is now a criminal, and anyone aiding him is one as well.

In a shattering betrayal, Monmouth abandons Carmody to make his escape, the bastard! Well, history shows he gets his just desserts in the end!

Captured and Enslaved

Carmody assumes a false name. Despite this, she is captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to penal servitude in the West Indies for life.

She is given into employ to a multi-faceted man who is in deep mourning for his dead wife. He’s shockingly cruel to Carmody, even though he never forces her to engage in sex.

In time, she gets her freedom, but it’s temporary as more trials and tribulations face Carmody.

Later she’s forced into marriage and finds herself in the American colonies. Now the love story begins.

Finally, We Meet the Hero

At long last, we meet the hero, Mark Tennant, a truly decent human being who offers Carmody a different world she’s known, one filled with joy & love. Her response to him is heartbreaking:

“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”

The most unusual aspect of this bodice ripper is that Carmody and Mark don’t consummate their relationship. At least, not in the book, although I assume they would after the novel ends.

Carmody and Mark’s relationship transcends physical love. Theirs is a meeting of spirit. That is paramount to the meeting of flesh.

Final Analysis of The Golden Sovereigns

The Golden Sovereigns was such a pleasant surprise to encounter. Jocelyn Carew is an author whose works I’d like to know more about.

I admit I’m not a patient reader. Although I adore vintage romances, the older I get, the more difficult they are to read. The long-page counts and tiny fonts usually cause my interest to wane. (ADHD is no fun.) I’ll put a book down, forgetting I ever started it. So many half-finished books!

There have been other romances where I have been less forgiving about the same flaws that The Golden Sovereigns has (ie, the heroine meeting the hero more than halfway through the book). Carew makes the journey worthwhile.

This was a skillfully written bodice ripper, very philosophical in nature. It delved into the strange depths of humanity.

The Golden Sovereigns fell short of perfection, however, due to the limited interaction between Carmody and Mark. There was a more prominent emphasis on the villain, who was a fascinating character, but not as much as Mark.

I consider this to be an unexpected piece of great fiction. It simply lacked a little oomph at the end to make it perfect.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.5

Synopsis

Surging with passion and epic power, The Golden Sovereigns sweeps from the proud family estates of England to the exotic West Indies to the sprawling plantations of the Virginia Colony — and, against the pageantry and adventure of an enthralling age, reveals the fiery spirit of a beautiful woman destined for blazing desire.

Thrust into the tumultuous events of two continents — and into the lustful embraces of men of high and low station — Carmody Petrie braves enslavement, danger, and royal intrigue to conquer her tormentors…and to seal, in the arms of the adoring Mark Tennant, their fated bond of surpassing love.

THE GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS by JOCELYN CAREW
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
gay romance

Two Gay Romance Firsts: The Happily Ever After Ending and Clinch Cover

gay romance

Gordon Merrick, Victor Gadino, and Peter and Charlie

Gordon Merrick created the legendary and popular Peter & Charlie gay romance series. The trilogy portrayed the first mainstream love story between two men that concluded happily ever after.

The books provided another milestone for same-sex fiction when reprinted in the 1980s. A young artist named Victor Gadino illustrated the iconic clinch covers. Never before had male couples been pictured so intimately on the front of romance novels.

On the front of The Lord Won’t Mind, the blond pair are gazing into each other’s eyes and reaching out to hold hands.

the lord won't mind
The Lord Won’t Mind, Gordon Merrick, Avon, 1980 edition, Victor Gadino cover art

Gordon Merrick, Writer of Gay Melodramas and Romances

Gordon Merrick was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, in 1916. The new 20th century was moving on a more socially liberal trajectory. Merrick would be part of that cultural momentum.

The son of a stockbroker, Merrick studied French Literature at Princeton. He then got into acting, performing in several Broadway productions. Later, Merrick became a television screenwriter and journalist.

Merrick made history as one of the first novelists to depict graphic homosexual fiction for a mass audience. His tawdry novels were full of melodrama, sex, and beautiful men. Usually, they concluded in heartache for the main characters. Merrick’s books were tantalizing reads akin to those of Harold Robbins, Judith Krantz, or Jackie Collins, only much gayer.

Modern readers might chuckle at the almost-innocent vulgarity and campy nature of his works. Or they may cluck their tongues at the “outdated” themes and unapologetic preference for ultra-glamorous, gorgeous, continent-hopping, wealthy protagonists. Merrick essentially wrote man-on-man bodice rippers, after all.

Merrick wrote fourteen books over 40 years. He would die in Sri Lanka in 1988.

His final novel, The Good Life, was co-authored with his partner, Charles Hulse, and published after his death. Like most of Merrick’s books, it was a bestseller.

Gordon Merrick
Gordon Merrick

Merrick’s Peter and Charlie Trilogy

The Lord Won’t Mind, the First Mainstream Gay Romance (Sort of)

Merrick’s piece de resistance, The Lord Won’t Mind, came out in hardcover in 1970. The book told the turbulent and forbidden love story of two beautiful, blond Ivy Leaguers–one named Peter and the other Charlie.

It was a graphic page-turner and sold like pancakes at the old World’s Fair. The Lord Won’t Mind spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list.

The mass-market paperback edition was then released by the publishing house Avon in 1971. This was a year before they gambled on Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ slush-pile manuscript for The Flame and the Flower.

The Lord Won’t Mind (from left to right): Bernard Geis Publisher, 1970, first edition hardcover; Avon, 1971, paperback edition; Alyson Publications, October 1995 paperback edition

A Genuine Romance Novel About a Same-Sex Couple

Due to societal changes, there was a hungry audience out there for explicit fiction. Merrick’s work was just that: raunchy and schlocky.

“For the love of God, have mercy on my aching cock. I want you in bed.”

“That, sure lord, is where I want to be.”

The Lord Won’t MinD, GORDON MERRICK

Even so, The Lord Won’t Mind was also sweetly romantic. The forbidden lovers vowed to be together forever.

“I say, if it’s love, the Lord won’t mind. There’s enough hate in the world.”

 The Lord Won’t MinD

Readers anxiously hoped for the pair to end happily but were left hanging instead. It would take two more books detailing the erotic, taboo relationship for fans to find out what would happen. The sequel came out in 1972; the final book followed in 1974.

Enter Artist Victor Gadino, Another Gay Icon

The success of the series led Avon to give Merrick the star treatment. His books would now receive extra attention to detail—especially the cover art, an area where Avon excelled.

In 1977, an up-and-coming artist named Victor Gadino landed the job of creating new covers for Merrick’s backlist. He started with An Idol For Others. This mass-market paperback showed two males–one in a suit, the other shirtless–in a positively seductive manner.

“Avon books decided to rerelease the Merrick novels as typical mass-market romance paperbacks. Up until then they had simple covers and were sold in specialty shops or from “under” the counter. The head art director was a strong female with vision and a great eye.

“It was the early days of gay liberation and she recognized the time was right. She saw my talent and gay sensibility and gave me the assignment for the first cover, the most conservative one, An Idol for Others. I never met Mr. Merrick, but I was told he was not happy with the mature model I used and thought he looked too old.

“He was, however, very pleased with the eight covers that followed, all using handsome young models.”

VICTOR GADINO, THE ADVOCATE

One For the Gods (Charlie & Peter Book #2): More Gay Romance, But No HEA Yet

The sequels to The Lord Won’t Mind documented Charlie and Peter’s glitzy lifestyle as the golden duo engaged in a thrilling, illicit, on-again-off-again relationship. The second book, One For the Gods, introduced a third person into the mix to form a crazy love triangle.

First there was Charlie and Peter.

Their love affair broke a lot of conventions… but it didn’t break them all. For Peter and Charlie are in love–with each other–and with Martha. And Martha is passionately in love with them both.

From St. Tropez to Athens to Mykonos, this powerful, moving novel follows their devastating triangle of romance and desire through a world of sun-drenched pleasure and Mediterranean adventure.

One For the Gods, Gordon Merrick
One For the Gods, Gordon Merrick, Bernard Geis,1971,
One For the Gods, Gordon Merrick, Bernard Geis,1971, hardcover
one-for-the-gods
One For the Gods, Gordon Merrick, Avon,1972, paperback edition

The Gadino cover art is more intimate than the previous one, with the couple holding hands. However, the third wheel in this romance is prominently pictured, showing all is not well in paradise.

one-for-the-gods-gadino-83
One For the Gods, Avon,1981 reissue, Victor Gadino cover art

Forth Into Light (Charlie & Peter #3): A Gay Romance with a HEA

Finally, in 1974, Forth Into Light concluded the romantic series.

In the final chapter of the bestselling epic love story of Peter and Charlie, the two men are forced to fight for their relationship like never before

For two men with the looks of Adonis and Narcissus, it’s no surprise that Greece was the destination for a romantic getaway. Once there, however, the two men fall into the beds of others, with the duplicitous Martha striving to steal Charlie away from Peter after he has a moment of infidelity.

For the final installment of the Peter & Charlie Trilogy, Gordon Merrick widens his focus on the couple to include the village in which they’re staying, creating a web of deceit and lust that comes to a head in unexpected and satisfying ways, while the love between Peter and Charlie is tested repeatedly with the emergence of a passionate young man named Jeff. The bond between these two has spanned the years and the globe, but it could well meet its end here on the lush Greek shores. 

FORTH INTO LIGHT, GORDON MERRICK

Below is the original cover for the conclusion to Charlie and Peter’s epic romance. The artwork is neither overt nor titillating. The two hands reaching out to touch the other appear reminiscent of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel.

forth-into-light
Forth Into Light, Gordon Merrick, Avon, 1974

Gadino Masterpiece: A Gay Romance Clinch Cover

Gadino’s clinch cover for the monumental gay romance Forth Into Light is more emotional and evocative than the original. The two men have their arms around each other’s shoulders. Their backs face the viewer as they stare out at an ocean sunset.

Readers knew this was not just another sex adventure by looking at the cover. This was a true romance novel, one for gay men.

GPF-Merrick-forth-gadino
Forth Into Light, Gordon Merrick, Avon, 1982, 6th printing, Victor Gadino cover art

The Peter and Charlie Trilogy by Gordon Merrick was monumental mainstream gay fiction. Unlike the slashy melodramas of the pulp era, the love story finished on a positive note. The protagonists got a joyful ending.

Merrick’s audience-pleasing, optimistic conclusion, and Gadino’s sensual clinch cover make the Peter and Charlie series–and Forth Into Light especially–pivotal in gay romance history.

Your Opinion

Have you heard of or read Gordon Merrick and the first gay romance novel with a HEA? Did you know about Victor Gadino’s history-making 1980s clinch cover art for the reissue of the series? What do you think about these romances and covers?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

shanna

Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

historical romance review
Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 666
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve long had a tenuous relationship with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ romances. Shanna is the fourth of her books I’ve attempted to read, but it’s the only one I’ve completed. That’s a net positive in this bodice-ripper-lite‘s column.

Now, did I love it? Love is a strong word. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable, if a bit long.

The Characters and Setup

Shanna Trahern is the spoiled only child of a wealthy Caribbean planter and widower, “Squire” Orlan Trahern. He’s part of the upstart merchant class and tres riche.

Fortune hunters and noblemen fallen upon hard times seek her hand, but Shanna will have none of them! Why can’t a man love her for who she is, dammit: a haughty, ill-tempered, busty, aqua-eyed blonde with a flawless complexion?

Her doting father has given his beautiful and independent daughter one year in England to choose an appropriate man to marry. Otherwise, he will arrange a marriage for her. Squire Trahern wants grandbabies, dammit! Besides, his daughter could use a husband to tame her wild ways.

Determined to be ruled by no man, Shanna colludes with her servant Pitney to arrange a quickie marriage to some black-sheep gentleman doomed to the hangman’s noose. That way, she’ll have official records she was legally wed. Then she’d return home, a widow in mourning, determined never to remarry.

The man she “chooses” is a bearded wretch convicted of killing a barmaid. Despite his thin, unkempt appearance, the hero has a charm in his hazel-gold eyes.

He’s our hero Ruark Beauchamp. Ruark gave me total Hugh Jackman vibes for some reason, so I was on board.

hugh-jackman

The Plot

Part One

Shanna promises to make the man’s last days pleasant by moving him to nicer quarters and keeping his belly fed. Instead, the prisoner arrogantly demands the consummation of his marital rights because Shanna is really hot.

She concedes to this, but any dingbat with two brain cells should know she’s full of it. But alas, our hero is besotted from the get-go over Shanna. His brains are in his balls. Ruark’s sole aim in this book is either getting into Shanna’s bed or obtaining vengeance in the form of getting Shanna into his bed!

Ruark is cleaned up, and wouldn’t ya know it? With some food in his stomach, a haircut, a shave, and a wash, Ruark is really hot.

Shanna’s southern girly parts tingle. Ruark eyes Shanna’s northern girly parts making promises of a pleasurable time to come.

The ceremony is performed. Into the carriage and on their way are the newlyweds. But Ruark can’t take it anymore, his lust for her bust overwhelms him, and he takes her. For a couple of humps, he is allowed to experience paradise. Shanna is confused by the fluttering sensations she’s experiencing.

Then the coach stops, and Ruark realizes Shanna had no intention of upholding her side of the bargain. He is taken away, but not without a bitter fight, before presumably being executed.

Shanna spares Ruark not another thought (okay, maybe one or two) and returns home to her father’s island of Los Camellos.

SHANNA PINK REISSUE
Shanna, Re-issue

Part Two

However…

Shanna’s other servant involved in her scheme decides to line his pockets in an even schemier scheme. He substitutes a dead man’s body for Ruark’s and takes him as a slave for Shanna’s father, of course. And wouldn’t ya know it? As Shanna sails home, Ruark is on that same ship.

Soon, to her great dismay, Shanna becomes aware of the new servant’s presence, and so does her father. Ruark never reveals he is Shanna’s legitimate husband (which would have made more sense since Ruark was so eager to get under Shanna’s petticoats).

As the new slave on the job, Ruark impresses the bossman with his engineering skills and–ahem–masterful knowledge of plantations. (It turns out Ruark’s family are wealthy colonial planters related to English nobility. What the hell was Ruark thinking, not contacting them or telling his father-in-law who he was?)

Trahern is so impressed that he gives Ruark special duties with special benefits. The day comes when the slave is dining at the table with the master and his wife—the slave’s wife, that is, not the master’s.

Apparently, Ruark is deep into some heavy roleplay because this slave thing turns him on. When Shanna sees him while riding her horse, he taunts her, and she hits him with her crop.

Instead of reacting violently, as these heroes in ‘rippers would, Ruark only smiles and vows to tame her to his will…

Funny enough, Shanna is viewed as having always gotten her way and in need of the right proper taming. She is a real itchbay, never satisfied with anything.

Everything displeased her, and even the flawlessness of her own beauty, regally gowned in rich ivory satin and costly lace, did not change her mood of discontent.

Ruark cares not. Nothing matters, not freedom, not clearing his name for a crime he didn’t commit, and not returning home. He must have his Shanna!

The give-and-take, push-and-pull between Shanna and Ruark is highly exciting until it reaches its apex. Ruark finally gets his honeymoon!

read shanna for free
Map of Los Camellos

Part Three

It seems that Ruark has found his Paradise on Earth. That is until a big misunderstanding sends Shanna into a jealous rage.

Shanna demands he daddy sell Ruark off to pirates… Oh, hell, that’s where this book takes a nosedive.

Let’s just “yada, yada, yada” this okay?

  • Yada… Nasty stinky pirates…
  • Yada… Ruark reveals the truth about his identity, and the true identity of other people comes to light.
  • Yada… And an evil villain named Gaylord gets his in the end.

Shanna realizes she loves Ruark and promises to stop being such a Seaward.

Shanna gives birth to twins, and her papa is happy as can be.

“In your madness you said you loved me,” she murmured shyly.

His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, “You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did.” Her voice was the barest of whispers.

Ruark’s gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. “Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is.”

My Opinion

The Writing

Woodiwiss and many romance writers of her age (ex. Jennifer Wilde, Rebecca Brandewyne, and Bertrice Small) wrote as if they got paid by the word, like their pulp predecessors.

If Shanna had ended at the 450-page mark–or 325 pages a la Johanna Lindsey–it would have been glorious, a book I’d track down every edition of. I could have easily overlooked the flaws in favor of the positive aspects.

But it keeps going and going—so many fillers. I read a thousand romances from age 12 to 15 of all lengths and could zip through a 1,000-page book per week. Today at 44, I do not have that patience. I have ADHD. I’ve said this before in a review of another book: “The paragraphs are too damn long!”

I’m no enemy of adverbs and adjectives. The world would be a dark place without modifiers. It’s that Woodiwiss didn’t believe in using one or two or three when ten or twelve would suit her better! There are innumerable adverbs, adjectives, adverbs, and dependent clauses.

Let us not forget the effusive purple prose, the poem at the beginning, and the seriousness with which she takes herself. It appeared that Woodiwiss employed every grammatical trick at her disposal.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Characters

Shanna

Shanna is your typical beautiful, cossetted, foot-stamping, won’t-listen-to-reason heroine with eyes that flash in anger, the kind that was so prevalent in old-school romances. Usually, I can’t stand this type because she’s written as “too stupid to live” (which is insulting to women who lived and endured hard times in the past).

I shouldn’t have liked Shanna, the character. For some reason, I did. She was caustic, yet she had a will. She contrived, and she plotted. Shanna tried to control her destiny instead of letting others do it for her.

Author Laura Kinsale wrote in her essay “The Androgynous Reader” about Shanna:

“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”

LAURA KINSALE, “The Androgynous Reader” from Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz

Shanna would qualify as the irksomely independent type. I typically don’t enjoy them, but when contrasting Shanna’s attitude with Ruark’s easy-going nature, it made for a sizzling combination.

So, apologies to Kinsale, but this reader did “identify with, admire, or internalize” some of Shanna’s characteristics. I’m an outlier, as ever.

Ruark

Ruark was an enigma. He was charming, handsome, and kind. Ruark was a dreamy hero, but I couldn’t grasp why he was so obsessed with Shanna. He should have been more concerned about his own hide.

First, he’s on death row, about to hang for a murder he did not commit. Then he’s sent overseas in chains to be a plantation slave.

Does he dream about getting free and plotting revenge against those who wronged him? Not really. From the moment he sees her in prison, his primary focus is having Shanna and putting his pee-pee into her wee-wee.

read shanna for free
Shanna, Re-issue

The Cover and More

In 1977 Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ long-awaited third novel made romance history when Avon released Shanna in trade paperback edition. It had a full-stretch green cover, illustrated by H. Tom Hall and designed by Barbara Bertoli. This was one of the first true American clinches. The entire exterior was painted, displaying the couple locked passionately together in a state of undress.

Playboy Press’ This Ravaged Heart by Barabara Riefe also came out in 1977 with a full-page color clinch. But Betty Maxey’s artwork doesn’t compare to Hall’s fabulous cover. Plus, Shanna had a map insert that you could unfold.

Avon heavily promoted this book, running commercial ads on daytime television and in national women’s magazines. It paid off. Shanna sold 3 million copies and was on the NY Times bestseller list for a year.

Shanna was optioned for a film, but negotiations fell through when Woodiwiss couldn’t agree with the producers on the vision. The romance genre might be different if this mild bodice ripper had been brought to the big screen in the 1970s or early 1980s!

Final Analysis of Shanna

I once referred to Shanna as the same book as Catherine Creel’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire romance Passion’s Chains. Creel certainly ripped off Woodiwiss as the main thrusts of the books are almost identical: secret marriage where the husband is a slave on the wife’s island plantation. The two novels deviate midway and then culminate in about the same place.

To be frank, I preferred Passion’s Chains more than I did Shanna, even though I enjoyed both. Perhaps the word count might have something to do with it. Passion’s Chains was 480 pages in a standard-size font. Shanna had teeny-tiny type-face on 666 super-thin pages.

Plotting and pacing matter. There was too much exposition and unnecessary antics in Shanna. In addition, I didn’t OMG love it enough at the beginning to forgive any sins that cropped up in the end, as I would in a fantastic epic book like Stormfire.

Ruark was the book’s high point, a charming, good-natured hero determined to have his woman. However, I did not understand his obsession with Shanna when he should have focused more on clearing his name. Shanna’s a spoiled, petulant brat, although, as I said, I didn’t mind that. I find mean, unlikeable heroines are more palatable than the shy, milk-and-water types or boring blank slates.

Was this a stellar old-school romance I’ll long to re-read? No, although maybe a passage or two might stay with me. However, I am glad I read Shanna. I can finally say I completed a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss romance and liked it!

Now on to The Flame and the Flower!

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

Synopsis:

A woman with surging desires of the spirit, the flesh, and the heart…

The only child of an 18th century sugar baron, lovely Shanna Trahern is given a year to find a suitable husband in London or to be married off to a dull planter. Instead, she contrives to marry Ruark Beauchamp, condemned to die for the supposed murder of a barmaid.

Certain her concocted story of a romantic elopement and marriage, followed by Ruark’s accidental death, will satisfy her father, Shanna embarks for home — the lush, intrigue-filled Carribean island of Los Camellos. But unknown to Shanna, her husband has escaped the gallows and under another name is among the bondsmen purchased by her father’s agent. Once home, Shanna is tormented by Ruark’s playful taunts — and his threat to collect “The night of love” she had promised him in prison. But when she is carried off by pirates; Ruark risks his life to save her. Now Shanna must deal with the searing passion the proud, virile Ruark has aroused…

RUARK

A man burning to possess her in vengeance and in ecstasy…

SHANNA

A romance of passion beyond wildest dreams!

SHANNA by KATHLEEN E. WOODIWSS

***

READ SHANNA FOR FREE BORROW FROM OPEN LIBRARY

defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Gentle Rogue duillo

Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #3
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Pirate Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 426
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey was her third entry in the Malory series.

Arguably it is her most popular book. After 30 years, it is still in print and read by many new-to-the-romance-genre readers.

Johanna Lindsey Mania

I first read Gentle Rogue eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know?

I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!

The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit on the cover.

I was a bit disheartened because for a DuilloFabioLindsey outing, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was lackluster. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed.

When I saw Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I would be even more disappointed in the cover design. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a stepback with a floral font on the front. I actually preferred that weird, pointed sci-fi-looking type.

The “old” Duillo-Lindsey era (1987 to 1990) was over with Gentle Rogue.

gentle rogue spiak
Gentle Rogue, Avon re-issue, 2020, Sharon Spiak cover art

The Plot

Gentle Rogue starts hilariously. Georgina Anderson is in a grungy inn in a seedy part of London. She attempts to kill a cockroach on the wall by propelling food at it, fails, but doesn’t care so long as it’s out of sight.

As usual with a Lindsey book, things get ridiculous, so check your brain at the door. Just enjoy the ride.

Stuck in England after secretly traveling there to search for her long-lost love who’d abandoned her years before, the American Georgina and her companion, Mac, lack both funds connections. They are desperately looking for a way back home.

Mac signs them up to work their way home. Georgina disguises herself as a boy to obtain passage on The Maiden Anne.

Little does she know that the ship’s captain already knows she’s a female because: #1 He’s James Malory, so he has eyes.

And #2, he’d met her before at a tavern when she was dressed in her masculine garments. Thinking she was someone else, he picked her up, only to cop a feel of her boobies.

Hardly someone the so-called “connoisseur of women” would forget.

James has the time of his life as he slowly seduces Georgina–or George, as he lovingly calls her.

But the tables are turned on this love-’em-and-leave-’em rake as Georgina leaves him when they land in the Caribbean. One of her sea-faring brothers is there at the port and whisks her away to Connecticut.

Parts of this book run parallel to its precursor, Tender Rebel (which, for me, was so-so due to a dull-as-dishwater heroine). There is some word-for-word repetition of previous scenes (perhaps to pad the word count).

Unlike its predecessor, the heroine in Gentle Rogue is a delight. All the characters are a blast: James, Georgina, James’ droll and equally rakish brother Anthony, and best of all, Georgina’s five belligerent older brothers.

In a memorable scene, they all take turns beating James into a pulp before holding him and his crew prisoners.

Lindsey and her readers must have loved George’s brothers as I did. Three of the Anderson men feature as heroes in subsequent books of their own.

Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue

The title of the book is quite accurate. The hard-muscled ex-pirate James Malory is an unrepentant rogue, taking advantage of Georgina. He thoroughly disgraces her in front of her brothers, so they’re forced to wed.

James is a droll charmer, witty, and arrogant. The perfect hero.

My favorite Anderson brother was Warren. His book, The Magic of You, is my second favorite in the Malory-Anderson series. There, he meets his match with the much younger and very persistent Amy Malory.

Those two romances are the high points for me in the Malory-Anderson series, although Gentle Rogue is a wee better.

I enjoyed Gentle Rogue very much when I first read it.

I’ve grown to love it much more now that I picture James looking like another blond, green-eyed Englishman: a young Sean Bean!

sean bean
Sean Bean as James Malory. Grrrr…

Nothing against Fabio, he’s a legend, but he can’t be the hero of every romance from ’87 to ’95!

If you haven’t read Gentle Rogue, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a romance classic.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she’ll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship’s irrepressible captain, James Mallory.

The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.

GENTLE ROGUE by JOHANNA LINDSEY
Sweet Savage love

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Unknown, H. Tom Hall
Book Series: Ginny & Steve #1, Morgan & Challenger Saga #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 636
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Sweet Savage Love, The (Other) Mother of Romance

Where to begin with this review? Sweet Savage Love by the great Rosemary Rogers is–along with Kathleen E. WoodiwissThe Flame and the Flower–the blockbuster historical that launched a new genre: the modern romance novel.

Published by Avon in 1974, this 700+ page doorstopper was a monumental game-changer in an era of social transformation. Sweet Savage Love showed readers that “good” women could have passionate sex with a hero outside of marriage and also have passionate sex with men other than the hero.

Of course, the hero was laying pipe across the United States and Mexico, the primary setting for Sweet Savage Love.

This is a true bodice ripper, featuring rape, forced seduction, abduction, cheating, adultery, multiple sex partners, a dominant, magnetic hero, and a heroine who stomps her feet in anger while her eyes flash in defiance.

sweet-savage-love-hall
Sweet Savage Love, Alternative Cover version, Avon, Tom Hall cover art

The Hero & The Heroine

Our heroine Virginia “Ginny” Brandon, is the half-French, half-American convent-raised daughter of a US Senator. She has fiery copper hair and flashing, slanted green eyes.

Ginny loves to dance like a gypsy, kicking her legs up in the air, her skirts swirling around her. You will hear this repeated constantly throughout the book.

Steve Morgan is this romance’s–ahem–hero. He is a darkly-tanned former Union soldier with deep blue eyes and black hair.

Rogers modeled him after Clint Eastwood, among others. I also got a Gregory Peck vibe from “Duel In the Sun” about Steve.

Imagine the most macho, virile man you possibly can. Picture ovulating women throwing themselves at his feet while low-T males shrink in self-awareness as that super-male confidently swaggers by.

That imaginary ideal isn’t fit to be a pimple sprouting hair on Steve Morgan’s muscular chest.

Steve is a soldier, a spy, a cowboy, and a Comanche ally. He’s a wealthy ranchero of mixed American and Spanish-Mexican descent. He is muy hombre, as we shall see.

Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

The Epic Plot

Steve the Stud Meets Ginny the Dancing Gypsy

The lovely Virginia Brandon returns to the United States from France, where she had been raised in a convent. Her widowed father has remarried a gorgeous woman young woman. Much, much younger.

Ginny’s stepmother, Sonya, is quite familiar with Steve “The Stud” Morgan. They shared a passionate night together, where Steve practically raped her. Of course, Sonya enjoyed his illicit forced seduction. There are few women who haven’t fallen prey to Steve’s animal magnetism.

A scandal ensues from Sonya and Steve’s dalliance and Steve finds himself potentially facing the death penalty. He agrees to act as a spy in exchange for his life. It’s suspected that Senator Brandon is up to traitorous acts.

Senator Brandon has interests in Mexico, particularly with the controlling government of Emperor Maximillian. Steve–who is against the French–is charged with accompanying the Brandons across the country. He plans to draw them into a trap with the help of some Bandidos. The plot takes off from here.

Steve kidnaps Ginny, and though she fights him like a hellion, she–like all women with a pulse–falls for his ultra studliness. Circumstances find Ginny and Steve caught in a compromising situation and they are forced to marry.

But do you think marriage will stop Esteban Alvarado (Steve’s Spanish name) from being el tigere that he is? No way. He’s kissing broads in front of his new wife and banging other women on the side.

sweet savage love bodice ripper
Sweet Savage Love, Alternate Version, Troubador

Two Strong-Willed, Beautiful Idiots

The best part of the story is when Ginny and Steve are trekking through the Western wilderness. But Rogers doesn’t like her characters being happy. She throws everything imaginable at them.

The action takes us to Mexico, where Ginny and Steve are separated multiple times. There are lies, deceptions, and double-crosses. Mexican soldiers violate Ginny. A deranged doctor tortures Steve…and then some!

Ginny believes Steve is dead, so she becomes the willing mistress of a young señor.

When she finds out Steve is alive, she goes in search of him. Steve believes Ginny betrayed him, so he despises her, even as he lusts after her ravishing body. Lack of communication and big misunderstandings rule the day.

Oh, will these crazy kids just get over themselves and stay together forever?

My Opinion

Hablo Espanole?

One thing I recall about Sweet Savage Love is that much of the Spanish written was almost gibberish. This was a common occurrence in a lot of 1970s and 1980s romances, be they Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers. Rosemary Rogers’ good friend Shirlee Busbee had that same issue in her book While Passion Sleeps.

Spanish is, I think, the third most common language on Earth. It should have been easy for a former secretary like Rogers to get an English-to-Spanish dictionary and copy down a few words.

Ah, well, that’s a minor gripe.

rosemary rogers bodice ripper

Fast and Furious

The book is divided into sections and begins with a long prologue. It’s a hefty brick of a novel with words in tiny font. Thankfully, Rogers’ prose isn’t as purple and verbose as Woodiwiss’, so the pace is fast.

Still, Rogers has a penchant for repeating descriptions. Mentions of Ginny’s coppery hair and slanted green eyes and Steve’s lean, muscular figure seemed to be on every page. It got tedious.

Once the book got rolling, Sweet Savage Love was a gripping read. Rogers threw so much trauma at her characters; sometimes, I didn’t want to look!

This novel is not for the squeamish, sensitive reader. I first read this at 13, which I think was too young to truly appreciate the grand scope of this tawdry bodice ripper. Sweet Savage Love scared me. I couldn’t conceive heroes and heroines could act the way Ginny and Steve did.

It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I could handle that kind of behavior because my perspectives on romance novels had expanded to be open to new experiences.

sweet savage love rosemary rogers
Sweet Savage Love, Harlequin, 2014

Final Analysis of Sweet Savage Love

Sweet Savage Love is a seminal piece of fiction, a lusty saga all lovers of old-school romance should read.

I wouldn’t rank it the most incredible bodice ripper ever, however. Christine Monson’s Stormfire, Teresa Denys’ The Flesh and the Devil and The Silver Devil, and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire are better written and engaging.

In my opinion, Rogers’ Wicked Loving Lies is her best book, with more sensitive characterization and deeper themes. It was just more fun than Sweet Savage Love.

The protagonists were wishy-washy and emotional, despite being adults. (At least Steve was a full-grown adult. I think Ginny was 16 or 17 in the beginning.) Steve was a slut. Ginny was a Mary Sue, too beautiful and desirable.

The immature duo couldn’t decide if they wanted to be together or not. The only thing these two could agree on was that they liked banging.

Even so, I enjoyed this overall. Ginny and Steve were larger-than-life people in a story that was larger-than-life.

Sweet Savage Love is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a thrilling co-progenitor of the modern romance genre.

I’d rate this bodice ripper between 4 and 4.5 stars. Although it’s not without flaws, I’d say it does merit a high mark.

4.24 Stars

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

Synopsis:

A tale of human emotion that lays bare the heights and depths of love, passion and desire in old and new worlds…as we follow Virginia Brandon, beautiful, impudent and innocent, from the glittering ballrooms of Paris to the sensuality of life in New Orleans to the splendor of intrigue-filled Mexico.

A tale of unending passion, never to be forgotten…the story of Virginia’s love for Steven Morgan, a love so powerful that she will risk anything for him…even her life.

SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by ROSEMARY ROGERS
the wild one

Historical Romance Review: The Wild One by Danelle Harmon

Synopsis:

England, 1776:

Lord Gareth de Montforte is known as an irresponsible rake with a heart of gold. When he takes a bullet for boldly thwarting a stagecoach robbery, he is stunned to discover that the beautiful young woman he has heroically rescued, Juliet Paige, is his deceased brother’s American fiancée, accompanied by her infant daughter. Despite his brother the duke’s refusal to acknowledge Juliet, Gareth is determined to do right by the courageous woman who crossed an ocean to give her baby her rightful name. But Juliet is wary of marrying this black sheep aristocrat, even while she is hopelessly charmed by the dashing devil.

Never has she met anyone who embraces life so thoroughly, who makes her laugh, who loves her so well. And, even when it seems the odds are against them, Juliet has absolute faith that Gareth will go beyond the call of duty, risking his life itself to give her and her daughter a home — and a love that will last a lifetime.

THE WILD ONE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book and the Setup

Danelle Harmon’s Georgian-era historical romance series of four brothers and one sister begins with The Wild One. Lord Gareth de Montforte is one of the younger sons of the de Montforte clan. His eldest brother is a Duke. Another older brother, Charles, was a soldier who went to fight in the Americas and is presumed dead. The family will soon find that particular brother left behind some unchecked baggage they will have to carry.

The Plot

Each one of the de Monforte Clan has a moniker describing their personalities. Gareth is an impetuous rake-in-the-making with a heart of gold and is labeled “The Wild One” of the group. He’s like an overgrown frat boy who likes to party with his buddies and play practical jokes. It is upon his irresponsible shoulders where familial duties will fall.

Gareth daringly thwarts a stagecoach robbery and takes a bullet in the process. On that coach is Juliet Paige, a lovely woman who harbors a secret that stuns the de Montfortes. She claims to be dead Charles’ American fiancée and has borne Charles an illegitimate daughter. Lucien, the eldest brother, the Duke, and the family’s patriarch, doesn’t accept Juliet and her daughter as part of the family.

With no one else to do right by her, Gareth, the unlikeliest of brothers to be responsible, offers her his name. Juliet, despite herself, is attracted to Gareth. However, she dithers about her feelings, going back and forth so often and quickly. It was like watching Forrest Gump play Ping-Pong against a Chinese champion.

Juliet bit her lip, her stomach knotting with confusion and, yes, fear. But I don’t love him! I desire him, yes, but what if that’s only because he’s Charles’s brother? What if I only feel that desire because he’s as close as I can get to Charles, the next best thing? I should want this man for being the man he is, not for resembling, or being related to, the man I wish I could have!

THE WILD ONE

Egads, woman, will you make up your mind?

the wild one
The Wild One, Danelle Harmon, 2020 Reissue

A Marriage With Loose Ends

With no one to turn to but some of Gareth’s friends in low places, Juliet finds herself and her daughter spending time in a brothel as their guests. She berates her young husband for going out, getting drunk with friends, and being reckless. Gareth gives it right back to Juliet:

“We haven’t even been married a day, and already it’s obvious that you’re hopelessly out of your element. You have no idea what to do with a wife and daughter. You have no idea where to go, how to support us — nothing. Yet you had to come charging after us, the noble rescuer who just had to save the day. I’ll bet you didn’t give any thought at all to what to do with us afterward, did you? Oh! Do you always act before thinking? Do you?

He looked at her for a moment, brows raised, stunned by the force of her attack. Then he said dryly, “My dear, if you’ll recall, that particular character defect saved your life. Not to mention the lives of the other people on that stagecoach.”

THE WILD ONE

Ouch! 2nd-degree burns all around!

Eventually, Juliet loosens up a tad while Gareth straightens himself out. It’s not the most conventional arrangement, but marrying his dead brother’s betrothed to give his niece a name and home isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The pair find themselves falling for each other, and attraction turns into love.

However… The Beloved One is the next book in the series. Just who is “the Beloved” de Montforte brother? Why it’s the presumed dead Charles, who’s actually alive, and will find love with a new woman in his own book. Oopsie!

I would have preferred The Wild One deal with this juicy conflict as this romance was too breezy and lighthearted.

Final Analysis of The Wild One

I can’t say I loved this book. My quibbles with Danelle Harmon’s The Wild One are all personal. When I dislike the main characters and feel icky about the plot, it’s hard to give a book a positive rating. Sure older brother Lucien, the supposed “Wicked One,” was an intriguing character, but one side character was not enough to make me enjoy The Wild One.

Juliet couldn’t make up her mind about what she wanted. Gareth is a wet-behind-the-ears college boy. While he developed some maturity, I couldn’t see him settling down and becoming a responsible husband and father for the long haul.

Lastly, I couldn’t get over the “yuck” factor of Juliet having an affair with Gareth’s older brother, Charles, bearing Charles a child, and then marrying and falling in love with Gareth. All that, when Charles is very much alive and will be the hero in the next installment of this series.

The writing was decent here, so I can’t fault Harmon for her talents. It was the story that mainly drew me away. I don’t know how I’ll feel about Charles’ story. Maybe I’ll skip over that one and get to Lucien’s instead.

1.85 stars

Angel In Scarlet duillo

Historical Romance Review: Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde

Synopsis:

Angela Howard was the toast of London — a breathtaking vision every woman envied and every man longed to possess. Few would have dreamed this violet-eyed beauty was the precocious child of a country schoolmaster… the feisty girl who had spurned Lord Clinton Meredith, the “fairy tale prince”, to surrender her innocence to Hugh Bradford, his illegitimate brother… the young woman who had come to London with nothing but a broken heart — and a fierce determination to survive.

Now she was a celebrated actress; immortalized on canvas by Gainsborough; adored by Jamie Lambert, the playwright who made her his star; desired by the golden-haired lord obsessed with making her his lady… and still tormented with longing for the man who had branded her very soul with his passion, and who has now returned to reawaken past splendors of a love he means to reclaim….

ANGEL IN SCARLET by JENNIFER WILDE

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Angel In Scarlet

Jennifer Wilde, aka Mr. Thomas E. Huff, wrote a few bodice rippers before writing romances that weren’t bodice rippers but not quite traditional romances either.

Angel In Scarlet isn’t a bodice ripper. It’s a Georgian-Era chick-lit. This is a hard one to categorize. It’s not just a romance, but more of a heroine’s journey through life and her relationships with several men she meets along the way.

The Plot

Angel in Scarlet begins when our heroine Angela Howard is a child. At twelve years old, she meets Hugh, the man who will haunt her for her entire life. They have a strange first meeting: she’s a peeping Tom trying to catch an eyeful of some action, when Hugh, who’s 16, discovers her then gives her a spanking as a discipline!

Angela grows up with her cruel sisters and mother. Poor Angie, she’s so unattractive with her rich, chestnut hair, violet-gray eyes, and enormous boobies. Who would ever love her?

She goes through ups and downs. Angela carves her way into society, falls in love, and has her heart broken. She then moves to London to make it big as an actress. She gets married and is widowed, her heart gets broken once more.

Three men vie for Angela’s love: Hugh Bradford, the bastard son of a nobleman, whose passion for Angela is surpassed only by his desire for legitimacy & a title. There’s the arrogant womanizer, Lord Clinton Meredith, Hugh’s half-brother, who is more than what he seems. And last, the famous playwright, James “Jamie” Lambert, has a tumultuous professional and personal career with Angela.

Highlight to View Spoilers Below

In the end, Angela picked the last man I thought she should be with. It broke the rules to end up with the guy she did, but that’s what Mr. Huff was good at, breaking the rules. I can’t forget how shocked I was at the end of Love Me, Marietta.

So it was the “right” choice because the man she loved could never be content with just loving her.

(Highlight the white area below to read spoilers.)

Past the age of thirty, a person shouldn’t blame their parents for their shortcomings, yet Hugh had a rough childhood, so I couldn’t fault him. His life was so difficult, and he had nothing except his dreams. They were absolutely shattered at the end. He got what he wanted, but it wasn’t worth it without Angela.

Still, I felt bad for him. I guess that’s the mark of a good writer if you can make your “villain” sympathetic. He was single-minded and wrong, but Angela was so harsh because he wanted to get his fortune. Finished! Angela, you broke that man’s heart! He was cruel and misguided, but he loved you. After what happened to Clinton, she had every right to be. Clinton was not the man for her, but I loved him. He was so sweet (plus a blond) and got teary-eyed when he made his exit.

As for Jamie, he was a great character, but Angela lived with him for years and never realized she loved him until they were through. Certainly not the kind of epic love you’d expect in a romance. I wish Hugh hadn’t turned into a jerk for her to have to make that decision.

The scene where Jamie revealed his true feelings for Angela was fantastic, and if it had been more of those, I don’t think I’d feel as conflicted.

Let’s Get It On

Wilde never met a word that wasn’t a friend. Adverbs, adjectives, subjective clauses, it’s all there, and then some! One particular passage struck out to me as ridiculously cartoony:

We ate slowly, looking at each other the whole while, silent, anticipating, savoring the sensations building, mounting inside. Utterly enthralled I watched him eat chicken, his strong white teeth tearing the flesh apart, and it was thrilling, tantalizing. I observed the way his neck muscles worked when he swallowed his wine, and that was thrilling, too and I watched with fascination as his large brown hand reached out, fingers wrapping around a fuzzy golden-pink peach, clutching it. He took up a knife and carefully peeled the peach and divided it into sections and ate them one by one, his brown eyes devouring me as he did so. The tip of his tongue slipped out and slowly licked the peach juice from his lips…

ANGEL IN SCARLET

I think this was supposed to be a sensually-tinged scene like the one out of the film “Barry Lyndon.” As for me, I was reminded of the “3rd Rock From the Sun” Thanksgiving episode where Harry and Vicki have leftover foreplay, eating turkey legs and dipping their fingers in gravy. Then Harry puts a turkey carcass on his head, and the loving begins.

“3rd Rock From the Sun,” Carsey Werner Company/NBC

Final Analysis of Angel in Scarlet

This was the story of the rise of actress Angela Howard and her (not too many) loves.

At 600 pages long, Jennifer Wilde’s Angel in Scarlet runs a tad overlong. That might have been due to Wilde’s penchant for purple prose, clothes porn, and food porn. Sex porn? Nah, Wilde uses a stream of consciousness perspective and euphemisms for love scenes. Hardly porn.

Mr. Wilde could have cut out 100 pages of description. I didn’t need to know the details of every outfit worn by every character in every scene.

Although I enjoyed it, I’m not 100% certain Angela made the right decision in the end.

I wanted to hate this, but something about Huff’s writing pulled me in. Yes, it’s as purple as grape jelly and full of run-on sentences, but for some reason, I can tolerate it more than Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ prose. The tension of not knowing who Angela was going to choose and the resulting emotions when she did are feelings I won’t forget.

3.88 stars

through-the-storm

Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins Through the Storm
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: LeVeq Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.

I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.

Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.

The Set Up

Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.

Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.

The Plot

Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.

Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.

She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.

However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.

Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.

Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.

Final Analysis of Through the Storm

Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.

Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.

Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.

The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.

I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.

All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.

Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
the present

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
The Present by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #6
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Over 22 years and under two different publishers, Johanna Lindsey wrote 12 romances about the Malory & Anderson clans. These books were massive hits with her many fans, with some readers claiming them as favorites, especially Gentle Rogue. Her novel, The Present, is moderately short at just over 300 pages. It tells two parallel love stories set in different eras in England, portraying the Malory clan in the past and the “present.” No matter how time changes, the love lives of the family remain the same.

The Plot

It is Christmas time. The Malorys–wives, husbands, and children–assemble at Haverston, the family patriarch’s estate. Lord Jason Malory is a Marquis and father to Derek, the hero from Say You Love Me. Readers familiar with that novel should know the dark family secret. Derek is not a child of the legitimate union between his father and his wife. Jason had an affair with a mysterious woman, and Derek was the result of that. The mystery woman is Jason’s long-time maid, Molly.

Jason’s marriage was for convenience. It is an unhappy one, as he and his wife have lived apart for years. Jason has always been a stickler for propriety and forever covering up scandals. It was a struggle reigning in his two wild younger brothers, Anthony and James.

Out of blue, a package in Christmas wrapping appears. The Malorys open it to find a diary.

It details how the second Marquis of Haverston, Christopher, found love with a gypsy princess named Anastasia. Curious, the family reads the book aloud, discovering long-kept secrets.

The five couples from the previous installments have their roles in the book. Fortunately, my favorite Malory couples feature prominently throughout. There’s little focus on boring Roslynn and Kelsey and more on Uncle James, his wife Georgina, and niece Amy.

Derek, and his parents, Jason and Molly, are the main characters in the current timeline.

The Present tells of how the incongruous pairing between an English nobleman and a lovely gypsy came to be. It also details the romance between the mature quinquagenarian Jason and his forty-something beloved, Molly.

Christmas is a time of miracles. Indeed, it would be a miracle if Jason and Molly could openly declare their love for each other. A rigid class structure controls society.

Nevertheless, the past foretells the future, and love wins out in the end.

Final Analysis of The Present

If you’re unfamiliar with the Malory clan, I wouldn’t recommend The Present as your first foray into the series. You can skip the first two books, but reading Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Say You Love Me is essential.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

As the entire Malory family gathers at Haverston to celebrate the season, a mysterious present arrives anonymously. The gift is an old journal — a tender and tempestuous account of the love affair between the second Marquis, Christopher Malory, and a dark gypsy beauty named Anastasia, who seeks a love match with a non-gypsy in order to save herself from a prearranged marriage to a brute.

Though the dashing English lord Anastasia sets her sight upon burns for the exquisite, exotic miss, Christopher could never consent to wed such a lowborn lady. But miracles have been known to happen in this season of peace and giving and love, as two extraordinary people seperated by cicumstance of birth begin a passionate dance of will and wiles.

And in the miraculous blossoming of a glorious romance at a long ago Christmastime, there are wise and well-learned lessons that will enrich the hearts of the Malory descendants — and, indeed, of everyone who has ever dreamed.

The Present by Johanna Lindsey
Dark Before the Rising Sun

Historical Romance Review: Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain

Synopsis:

A LADY’S PLIGHT
Lady Rhea Claire Dominick, fair and flawlessly beautiful daughter of a Duke, was stolen from her father’s house — and shipped to the Colonies as a slave.

A CAPTAIN’S DARING
Dante Leighton, who squandered a Marquis’ inheritance in his dissolute youth, pursued his fortune at sea — and found his destiny in the amethyst eyes of a fascinating woman.

A STORM OF DESIRE
They sailed the West Indian isles, discovering fabulous riches… and the raptures of a love more precious than treasure. On a secluded shore, in an idyll apart from the world, they surrendered themselves to ecstasy. But on returning to England, their joy was beset by a tempest of scandal, spite and murderous peril — which was the end of their happiness, or the dark before the radiance of their love…. 

DARK BEFORE THE RISING SUN by LAURIE McBAIN

SNOOZE ALERT ⚠

Great Title, Beautiful Cover, Too Bad About the Book

Dark Before the Rising Sun is the last installment in Laurie McBain‘s trilogy that began with Moonstruck Madness. This is a direct continuation of that book’s sequel, Chance the Winds of Fortune. I am breaking my rule for reviewing books that I have didn’t fully read, as I made it fairly far into this book and then skimmed to the end. Yes, it was that bad.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been combined with the first book, and halved by length.

The Plot

As I said in my review of Chance the Winds of Fortune, the second and third books combine for over 1000 pages. In the previous installment, the pride and joy of the Dominic family, the eldest daughter Rhea Claire was kidnapped. Events led her to be an unwilling passenger on a ship sailing the Caribbean, captained by Dante Leighton, former English Marquis turned pirate. Rhea charmed the pants off of the ship’s men, metaphorically speaking for the crew, but literally speaking of Captain Dante. Rhea and Dante found treasure and true love.

Now the pair have returned to England so Dante can regain his title as the Marquis of Jacobi, and his beloved, Rhea Claire, daughter of Moonstruck Madness‘ Sabrina and Lucien, can let her parents know she’s alive and well.

After reading the soporific precursor to this book, I found myself looking at another 500 pages to complete their stupid, boring love story. Why? I don’t know. What was the point? Rhea’s dad doesn’t like Dominic. Society still looks down at Dante. Rhea and Dominic are united in their love for one another as they head to Dante’s estate of Merdraco to re-establish his place as the rightful Marquis. There’s a nasty villain who wants to destroy Dante.

There’s Rhea acting cute as always: “Let’s meet my great family and they’ll help get your titles and estates restored now that you’re not a pirate anymore. I love you, darling. Aren’t we so wonderfully dull?”

And Dante reveals his dirty little secret: “Years ago, I once saw your mother at a party when I was a young man and had a crush on her.” That’s like a .05 on a scale of 1-100 for old-school romance craziness!

Final Analysis of Dark Before the Rising Sun

I suppose to really enjoy this book, you had to love the prior novel, and I didn’t. So I was destined to hate this one.

Dark Before the Rising Sun has a largely positive consensus in reviews I’ve seen online. I guess most people who read this far into the trilogy, do genuinely love it. Not me, the eternal contrarian.

I keep these books only for the covers, but as far as re-reading them, life’s too short!

1.5 Stars

Secret Fire

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 416
Format: Audiobook
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey

The Book

Secret Fire was the second Johanna Lindsey romance I read. It cemented her works among my favorites. Published in 1987, this book was written during Lindsey’s peak years of output.

The cover is another Elaine Duillo gem, this time featuring white, cream, and brown hues, appropriate for the wintery Russian setting. There’s also a blond male cover model whom I’ve been searching for for years. Forget Fabio and his long-haired colleagues; it’s this guy I have often imagined as the hero of many love stories I’ve read. He’s a perfect model for the ultra-gorgeous hero of Secret Fire, Dimitri.

The Plot

Dimitri is a half-Russian, half-English Prince who is in England to visit family and smooth over a scandal his sister has gotten into by engaging in an affair with a married man. The uber-sexual Dimitri doesn’t mind his sisters’ affairs, only that she’s so flagrant about them. So he decides to bring her back to Russia on his ship and perhaps find a dutiful spouse for her.

Meanwhile, Lady Katherine St. John, the eldest daughter of an Earl, is enraged to find that her sister has decided to run off and elope. Although Katherine has a father and brother, it’s upon her dainty shoulders that familial responsibilities lie. She concocts a plan to exchange garments with a maid and search the London streets for her sister.

As she’s walking about, Dimitri’s carriage is stuck in traffic, and he happens to see Katherine. Although she’s short and rather plain with dull brown hair, there’s something about her that appeals to Dimitri. A prince who’s gotten anything and everything he’s ever wanted with a snap of his fingers, Dimitri sends a servant off to procure the woman for a night of passion. Katherine dismisses the man, but he won’t take no for an answer. Before Katherine knows what’s happening, she’s kidnapped and finds herself trapped in strange quarters. Her adamant refusals prompt Dimitri’s servant to ply her with”Spanish Fly” to make her willing for the prince’s touch.

When Dimitri finds out what’s been done, he’s disgusted at first. He was just looking for a quick tryst, not a sex marathon. Dimitri figures he’ll have to let his men have a go with her, as Spanish Fly makes a woman insatiable. Then he enters the room, and those thoughts go out the window. For while Katherine might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, she certainly is one of the most sensual visions he’s ever witnessed, naked on the bed and writhing in desire.

And so begins Secret Fire, with a night of pure ecstasy for both Katherine and Dimitri.

The Prince in Pursuit

However, the next day Katherine is back to her old self and threatens Dimitri’s servants with arrest, as she is the daughter of an Earl. No one believes her, of course. What would an Earl’s daughter have been doing roaming the London docks alone and wearing the clothes of a servant? Still, to prevent any scandal, his servant has the brilliant idea of locking Katherine in a chest and taking her with them to Russia.

When Katherine finds herself at sea, she demands to be returned. Dimitri had not expected to find her aboard the ship but is pleased to see her. Despite his hundreds of past amours, their night together was one of the best in memory, and the lady had been a virgin, to boot!

Dimitri pursues Katherine with an ardor he hadn’t imagined possible. Of course, Katherine rebuffs him at every turn. She’s no common trull but a lady deserving of respect. Dimitri ignores Katherine’s claims of nobility, mostly because he wants to believe that his Katya can be easily had. He knows he has to marry a noble Russian woman to produce an heir for his line, but Katya can be his mistress in the meantime.

Over the seas and rivers, through Europe, and into Russia, Dimitri tries what he can to seduce her back into his arms.

But Katherine has a will made of steel. Even though she wants him just as much as he wants her.

[He] wanted her. Incredible fantasy. This fairy-tale prince, this golden god wanted her. Her. It boggled the mind. It defied reason. And she said no. Stupid ninny!

SECRET FIRE

Final Analysis of Secret Fire

I love Katherine. Like Georgina Anderson from Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, she has a habit of talking to herself, a trait I share, to my husband’s annoyance. Katherine’s fiercely proud, stubborn, and resilient. She’s not my favorite Lindsey heroine, but she is up there with the best. One of my favorite scenes is after Dimitri’s aunt decides to discipline Katherine, and Dimitri’s horrified reaction to it all, combined with Katherine’s stiff-upper-lip reserve.

Dimitri is as equally stubborn and proud as Katherine. But nowhere near as brilliant. That’s ok. His charm and godlike looks make up for it!

This is another of Lindsey’s excellent romances that I’ve re-read many times. Secret Fire is an absolute wonder, the hero, the heroine, the plot, the writing, all of it.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

He’d caught only a glimpse of her from the window of his carriage, but the young prince knew he had to have her. Within minutes, Lady Katherine St. John was dragged from the London street and carried off to a sumptuous town house — for the pleasure of her royal admirer…

From the tempestuous passion of their first encounter, across stormy seas, to the golden splendor of palaces in Moscow, she was his prisoner — obsessed with rage toward her captor even as an all-consuming need made her his slave. Yet theirs was a fervor beyond her understanding, carrying them irrevocably toward final surrender to the power of undeniable love.

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey
tender is the storm

Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Tender Is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

So… About Johanna Lindsey‘s Tender Is the Storm.

Did You Hear the One About the Naked Guy?

A Cover Collectible

If you’re familiar with your romance history, then you must know of this book, even if you haven’t read it.

The cover of Tender Is the Storm is the notorious one designed by Robert McGinnis with the naked hero standing tall as the heroine kneels before him, her ample breasts pressed firmly against his–er…dongle.

Robert McGinnis, Cover Artist

Tender is the Storm was released in 1985 as Lindsey’s 10th consecutive bestseller. McGinnis’ artwork and Lindsey’s novels made for a powerhouse combination.

Their first two covers were pleasing enough, but starting with 1980’s Fires of Winter, McGinnis would upend the romance industry. Before that, most clinch covers would show the heroine’s heaving bosoms while the hero remained fully clothed. Fires of Winter portrayed a fully naked hero, his legs bent and splayed open, with the heroine lying between his thighs.

McGinnis was a great admirer of the sensual female form. Much of his work featured nude or scantily clad women–of all skin and hair colors–with tightly muscled yet voluptuous figures.

As a pulp, detective, and movie poster artist, he had many opportunities to display his talents for painting ladies. The romance revolution of the 1970s would now allow him to demonstrate his ability to create beautiful male figures.

I’ve said before that I am not fond of modern covers with dehumanizing headless torsos, waxed naked chests, and rippling 8-pack-abs. Even so, male eye candy is a sweet sight to behold! So thank you, Robert McGinnis, for being an equal opportunity exploiter of undressed males and females.

Yeah, He Was [CENSORED]

tender is the storm
From The Art of Robert McGinnis

I owned a first-edition copy of Tender Is the Storm when I initially read it 25 years ago. Alas, it was lost in the Great Book Purge, which I’ve spoken of many times before. Now, I’m stuck with a later edition with the hero’s ass [CENSORED].

The cover was so controversial at the time that booksellers from “coast to coast” refused to stock Tender Is the Storm on their shelves.

Avon had to rush out golden star stickers printed with “#1 EVERYWHERE” to place upon the hero’s buttocks. A second printing followed, this one with a circular starburst emblazoned upon the area of controversy, with the words “A COAST TO COAST BESTSELLER” on it.

tender is the storm
See? Now you can’t notice anything!

Did anyone really believe that no one would figure out what was going on beneath that “subtle” distraction?

The dude is titty-banging her, and she loves every minute!

About That Review of Tender Is the Storm

So… about Johanna Lindsey’s Tender Is the Storm.

Yuppers. It was a romance novel.

Perhaps if I’d read this from a “new-to-me” author, I would have enjoyed it more. Sadly, by Lindsey’s standards, this was mostly a meh read for me. She’s written much better books. (And some worse.)

The Plot

It’s the late 1800s in New York City. The Eastern heiress Sharisse Hammond finds herself fleeing from an arranged engagement to a high-society scion in a convoluted setup. Sharisse wants nothing to do with the union. When she discovers her sister is in love with the man, the two of them hatch a plan.

They find a newspaper ad a rancher placed looking for a wife. Sharisse responds to it, deciding her best option is to move out West and be a mail-order bride (to a man she knows nothing about). Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer!

Her groom turns out to be Lucas Holt. He’s a white man who’s familiar with the ways of the Native American people. He’s also a handsome devil, and Sharisse is very attracted to him.

The trouble is that she’s also attracted to Lucas’ identical twin brother, Slade. Slade shows up whenever Lucas isn’t around to torment and flirt with her.

Over time, Sharisse becomes accustomed to the arduous labors of being a Western bride. And in due course, she and Lucas draw closer. She becomes his wife in the complete sense of the word. Nevertheless, Sharisse remains strongly attracted to his bothersome twin.

Whatever will she do?

I usually appreciate a plot where the heroine is torn between twin brothers (My, that sounds absolutely naughty, doesn’t it?😋). I just wasn’t wowed here. Maybe it was the ugly font that soured me.

Final Analysis of Tender Is the Storm

This isn’t a terrible romance, not really. I judged Tender Is the Storm on a curve with the other Lindseys I’ve read and found it lacking in places.

The chemistry between Sharisse & Slade and Sharisse & Lucas was hot. But the plot was thin, even for this barely 300+ page book. The ending was predictable.

But please don’t let my opinion stop you from reading this one. Your mileage may vary.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

Headstrong heiress Sharisse Hammond wants no part of the New York society marriage that has been arranged for her. So she heads west across a vast and dangerous land–with no intention of honoring her agreement to become the mail-order bride of a rugged Arizona rancher. But Lucas Holt needs a wife–any wife–if his plan to destroy his most hated enemy is to succeed. And this gullible Eastern lady would do quite nicely. However, their separate schemes to use one another are complicated by raw, aching passion. For Lucas’s beautiful, unsuspecting pawn was not supposed to be so irresistibly alluring. And freedom-loving Sharisse never dreamed she could ever desire one man so much!

Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
Rangoon pino

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

book review historical romance
Rangoon by Christine Monson
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Pino
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Christine Monson‘s second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor from her previous romance Stormfire. That bodice ripper was legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance.

Rangoon still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.

West Meets East

It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life.

Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system.

She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.

A name like Lysistrata should give a hint about the heroine’s independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience.

Over time I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.

The Plot

Lysi is ever cognizant of her expected role in society but sticks to her convictions in an admirable and likable way.

Intrigued by Harley’s outsider status, Lysistrata pursues Ram–to her detriment.

For although their mutual desire results in a night of passion, Harley turns the tables on her, revealing a cruel nature that a veneer of civility had hidden.

When Harley is framed for a murder he did not commit, he assumes Lysi is behind the false accusations. Before he makes his getaway, he vows he will have revenge!

Lysi’s bold behavior made her numerous enemies. These unscrupulous foes collude to have her kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Revenge Turns to Passion

It’s no surprise when Harley purchases her for his own enjoyment. Now that he’s lost his life and status in the so-called civilized White society, he has nothing to lose. Harley takes her to his majestic jungle hideaway, where he will exact his vengeance.

Now going by the name Ram, he shows Lysi a darker side of his nature. For those readers who cannot stomach abuse, fear not.

Whereas in Stormfire, Monson had the hero imprison, torture, rape, and humiliate his heroine, in Rangoon Ram is not near as extreme in his cruelty. He does make Lysi his unwilling mistress.

Ram’s actions may blur the line on consent, although it’s clear Monson has written his behavior more as a “forced seduction” fantasy than a brutal violation.

“You’re practiced enough at rape,” she hissed. “It must be your only alternative to buying a bed partner.”
“But I only had to rape you a little,” he teased, “and of course, I will pay you if you prefer.”
“I prefer to be left alone!”
He laughed. “After last night, even you don’t believe that lie. Why not admit you enjoy what I do to you?”
“Go to hell.”

Despite Lysistrata’s defiance, she finds herself enchanted by Ram and his magical palace in the wilderness.

This middle portion of the story is the best part of the book as Ram and Lysi engage in a tug-and-pull power play. As a mixed-race corsair, Ram has always lived on the fringes, torn between two worlds that never truly accepted him. As a free-thinking woman, Lysistrata has been constrained by the dictates of society.

I could have read hundreds of pages more about their engrossing battle of wills.

The Faltering End

Alas, Lysistrata and Ram’s idyll in the Burmese jungle does come to an end. The false murder charges finally catch up with Ram, and he is arrested.

Now with Ram on trial, Lysistrata fights to save him from the hangman’s noose.

This is where Rangoon fell apart for me. No longer an engaging character-driven romance, the book turned into a dull courtroom drama that went on and on.

Plus, there were multiple side characters who added nothing to the story except for one charismatic fellow.

Final Analysis of Rangoon

Despite Christine Monson’s thoughtful writing, the lackluster conclusion of Rangoon caused my initial delight to wane.

It was a disappointment that the incredible, thrilling highs of her first book were not reached here.

Monson’s characters are strong. Her sensitive skill at her craft was undeniable. However, the plotting was weak in Rangoon. 

It’s one of those romance novels I’m glad to have read but have no plans to ever revisit.

On to the next book.

3.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
3
Cover
3
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

WILLING PRISONER IN A PALACE OF DREAMS…
Rangoon. Lysistrata’s heart raced with excitement. A world away from Boston. A place where she could forget…

Rangoon—land of color and adventure—where, like an emerging butterfly, she would taste the exotic and dangerous life of the streets, and dance in the palaces of princes.

But one man made her want even more. Richard Harley’s dark and wicked eyes warned of danger…and hinted at pleasures beyond her wildest fantasies. Drawn, like a moth to the flame, by the lure of the East and the man who was its soul, Lysistrata traveled forbidden roads and journeyed deep into the heart of Burma. And in the secluded majesty of Richard Harley’s castle of erotic dreams, she could at last yield to the man whose passion possessed her, as they both surrendered to the obsession of their love.

RANGOON by CHRISTINE MONSON
chance winds of fortune

Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain

Chance the Winds of Fortune, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1980, Tom Hall cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Chance the Winds of Fortune A Disappointing Sequel

Chance the Winds of Fortune is the sequel to Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness, a romance about a gender-bending highwayman (girl) who falls for an arrogant, scarred Duke, notorious for his dueling skills. I LOVED Moonstruck Madness… The follow-ups to that wonderful book about their daughter, Rhea Claire, Chance the Winds of Fortune & Dark Before the Rising Sun, though…uggh.

Please forgive my bluntness. They’re too long, boring, and stink. Even McBain’s tepid first outing, Devil’s Desire, was better than these.

The two sequels books combine to over 1000 pages, telling the tale of a vanilla-bland daughter of the protagonists of a much more compelling story. Perhaps if McBain had combined both novels into one 700 page epic, I would have found more enjoyment out of the romance.

If you take Chance the Wind of Fortune as a historical adventure, this read might not be so bad. Perspective matters. However, this was not marketed as Historical Fiction, but a Historical Romance, which made all the difference to me.

The Plot

Dante Leighton is titled lord turned pirate. Nefarious deeds have resulted in his having to leave behind his life in England as the Marquis of Jacobi. Now Dante and his crew are after lost gold that’s said to be found in a sunken Spanish ship.

Rhea Claire Dominick is the daughter of Lucien and Sabrina, the hero and heroine of Moonstruck Madness. Returning to this saga is Lucien’s cousin, who vows revenge upon Lucien and his family for killing her brother. Her machinations result in Rhea getting kidnapped.

After a long series of tedious events, Rhea ends up on Dante’s ship, and that’s when the adventure begins.

Oh, did I forget to mention that in this 500+ page tome, Rhea and Dante don’t meet until well over halfway through it! 100 pages, I could have tolerated, but that was way too much exposition to get to the meaty parts. Their romance is maybe 1/5 max of this book.

Chance the Winds of Fortune is one of those pirate books where the entire crew is filled with softies who adore the baby-ish, innocent violet-eyed heroine, Rhea, who farts potpourri. Just as in Moonstruck Madness, there’s a treasure hunt for gold, but the real treasure is true love. *Sigh*

Things do get better at the end with Rhea and Dante’s romance, but at that point, I barely cared. It did bump my rating up from 1 1/2 stars to 2, so bully for that.

Final Analysis of Chance the Winds of Fortune

I have read  Dark Before the Rising Sun, the final book in the series, although it will be a while before a review comes out. Life’s too short to dwell on things you don’t enjoy.

My apologies for sounding like a grouch. It’s that I was so enamored by Moonstruck Madness, I wanted to experience another thrill like it. Perhaps Moonstruck Madness was an aberration for Laurie McBain. Or maybe her novels are fine, and it’s just me. I do have weirdly perverse tastes in books.

The Tom Hall covers lured me in. They often did, as my bookshelves can attest. Avon knew what they were doing, having him illustrate so many covers. That man’s art could sell a pamphlet, or convince readers that anything featuring his dazzling work had to be just as wonderful.

I seem to be a rare dissenter when it comes to negative reviews for Chance the Winds of Fortune, therefore, as always, take my opinion for what it’s worth. (Apparently less than .01 cent a review, so click on more ads, please.😁)

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 358
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

Spoiler & Major Douchebag Hero Alert ⚠

Caveat Emptor

I acknowledge that not all readers can tolerate a cruel, rapacious hero in their romance; that’s why I gave a rare warning for this book. It’s fair to compare So Speaks the Heart (which should be subtitled: Medieval Norman Psychopath Falls for French Co-Dependent and Fellow Anger Management Classmate) to another of Johanna Lindsey‘s works, A Pirate’s Love, which had a similar captor/captive trope.

However, So Speaks the Heart is–IMO–better than the latter because:

  1. This heroine is not a spineless jellyfish; she fights back and is strong in her own way.
  2. The hero is more than just a good-looking rapist who eventually falls in love with the woman he’s been tormenting.

Ok, he’s as deep as a crack in the sidewalk, and, yeah, he’s still a bully and a douche. But his background is fleshed out a lot more; therefore, we understand why he’s such an arsehole. So I can sort of forgive this hunk of a warrior for his caveman behavior. Plus, this is not a book to take seriously; it’s too whacktastic.

The heroine is spunky, although not in a too-feisty-she’s-annoying-way. She gives as good as she gets to a hero who is a thick-headed block of wood.

The Violent Hero

After his life is saved in battle, Sir Rowland de Montfort vows to repay his savior by visiting the knight’s castle and ensuring all is well with the knight’s beloved sister, Brigitte. Instead, greedy relatives trick Rowland into believing Lady Brigitte is, in fact, a trouble-causing serf.

Rather than listen to reason, the dude is dead set against hearing anything the filthy “peasant” has to say. Rowland is a crazy character and would be diagnosed today with Borderline Personality Disorder and maybe Narcissistic Personality Disorder as well.

He goes from spouting things like this:

“On the contrary. I know a woman can have sweet words when she wants something, and that otherwise, she is a bitch. No, I want no wife nagging at me. I would sooner rot in hell than marry.”

To being nice:

He brought his hand up and caressed her cheek with his fingers. “For you I will change…”

There was a long, surprised pause, and then she asked, “Why?”

“To see you smile more often.”

To back to being crazy, this time rapey and violent:

“Before Brigitte could find the words to plead with him, Rowland’s belt descended on her back. She gasped and cried out.”

He’s crazed and all over the place. Most sane readers would stop after one of Rowland’s brutal outbursts, but for some reason, I went on, fascinated. Rowland is a primitive Dark Ages knight who believes he has a right to treat disrespectful servants with discipline, as he is the son of a powerful lord. Rowland refuses to believe Brigitte is who she claims she is because he’d prefer to think he’s merely kidnapped and violated a serf girl rather than pissing all over his “honor” by abusing the sister of the man who saved his life.

The Beyond Feisty Heroine

Rowland is cruel to Brigitte, but she doesn’t cower or cry. She knows she is a lady and rages at the injustice of her situation. Although perhaps her reactions are not “lady-like,” she responds with righteous anger:

“I do not ever want to hurt you!” he said furiously. “You force me to it!”

“Oh, of course, milord,” she said, just as furiously. “I am the cause of all my pain. I even beat myself.” He stepped toward her menacingly, but she stood her ground. “What? Am I going to beat myself again, milord?”

“You are awfully saucy for a wench who has just been beaten.” He frowned. Her eyes grew larger.

“Norman bastard! If I were a man I would kill you!”

Rowland’s not the only one who catches Brigitte’s ire. When catty ladies call Brigitte a bitch, she gives it right back:

Brigitte laughed humorlessly. “Well, perhaps a bitch is what I am, but of the two of us, you are the whore. I have heard the gossip about you, and surely Rowland has, too.”

Hey, at least they have being jerks in common. That’s a soli6yd basis for a stable, long-lasting relationship, right?

Final Analysis of So Speaks the Heart

So Speaks the Heart is a no-holds-barred, non-PC, old-school romance. If this kind of stuff melts your twisted heart, regardless of how dickish the hero’s been:

But there was a rage in him that fought to be released, the rage of a little boy begging for love, the rage of a little boy beaten, scorned, humiliated cruelly. All of it, his rage reminded him, need not have been.

Then you might enjoy the emotional ride.

Rowland denies his actions against Brigitte were cruel or excessive. In the end, though, he realizes what a jerk he was and tries to become a changed man when he realizes he’s in love. Rowland does get a sort of comeuppance, a humbling, where he comprehends how badly the situation was FUBAR’d.

He does a decent grovel at the end, if that matters. Not that I think groveling makes up for all of Rowland’s misdeeds, but this is a romance novel, a fantasy, so reality has no bearing in this story.

“What do you want to hear from me? That I could not bear to see you go? That if you are not near me I feel as if a part of myself is gone? I am a man of war, Brigitte. I know nothing of tender words. So do not expect them from me.”

“You just said them, Rowland,” she whispered softly.

I’m twisted. Plus, I have bad taste, so I like this sort of thing. It’s understandable if this book turns you off; it certainly didn’t turn me on!

This was a dark descent into the minds of two beautiful, self-centered people who lived in a time where, perhaps, such brutal, fanciful events could occur. I kept turning the pages to the very end. I’m not sure about So Speaks the Heart as a romance, but as a character study, it’s fascinating.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

Born a wealthy French heiress but betrayed into bondage, Brigitte de Louroux swears she will never be any man’s slave. Rugged and powerful Rowland of Montville sees only a beautiful enchantress in peasant’s rags–a wench to serve his every need. Defenseless against his unbridled passions, Brigitte is forced to yield her innocence to the desires the warrior lord arouses in her heart. But her surrender will vanquish the handsome knight–awakening within him a love as mighty and relentless as his conquering sword

So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
then came you lisa kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

book review historical romance
Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg
Book Series: Gamblers Duo #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Regency Era Romance
Pages: 371
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Then Came You written by Lisa Kleypas is easily one of my favorite romances. It has all the key elements to make this one I would adore. There’s a strong-willed (but charmingly so) heroine, a hero in my all-time hall-of-fame, steamy love scenes, and a magnificent love story.

Not to mention a captivating side character who earned his own book and would show up in about a dozen Kleypas novels.

A Heroine to Remember

The heroine of Then Came You was, at the time of the book’s initial release, a unique female protagonist. Today, Romancelandia is replete with hoydenish, unmarried non-virgins who thumb their noses at conventional rules. Back in 1993, the wild Lily Lawson was most unusual for a historical romance heroine.

The novel begins with Lily aboard a fancy sea vessel for a daytime event that bores her senseless. She allows her hat to fly off into the waters of the Thames in an attempt to prod her male admirers into fetching it for her. The reserved Lord Alex Raiford looks on, disgusted by her antics.

Lily is on the fringes of polite society as she is estranged from her family for her shocking behavior. Many years ago, she was involved in a love affair with an Italian gentleman who turned out to be a cad.

Now, she takes pleasure in shocking the ton. Upon hearing that her dear sister has been forced into a betrothal to the stuffed-shirt Lord Raiford and cannot marry the man she loves, “Lawless” Lily Lawson–as she is called–is determined to save the day.

She will use all her will and wiles to stop Raiford from marrying her sister.

A Hero to Die For

When Lily does succeed, Alex vows revenge and in scene after memorable scene, his vengeance turns to passion. (I admit to fanning myself to Alex’s reaction when Lily is painted with a serpent on her flesh!) Then passion yields to love when he realizes that Lily’s outward behavior is just a cover for the dark secrets that torment her.

Lord Raiford is a responsible man. He has a little brother to care for and estates to run. He was looking for a responsible bride to round out his life.

Alex’s first fiancee died in a horseback riding accident, so Alex is hesitant to get close to anyone, especially a woman of such a free spirit. If you know me and my reviews, you know where I stand on that trope, but here it’s no ghost who’s part of the conflict.

Lily has gained even more notoriety as the only female allowed to gamble in a gaming hell belonging to Derek Craven. Lily even shares a bit of chemistry with the sexy, snaggle-toothed proprietor.

Many Kleypas fans prefer Derek, the hero of this book’s sequel, Dreaming of You, as their favorite Kleypas MC. (Or Sebastian from The Devil in Winter which I haven’t read yet.) As for me, I think Alex Raiford was the better man. He’s strong, kind, intense, and deeply loyal.

Although, the scene where Alex confronts Craven about being Lily’s lover does make Derek look amazing!

There are more obstacles preventing Lily and Alex from being together besides being polar opposites who butt heads.

But Alex’s surprising love will make Lily’s impossible dreams come true. I can’t help but gush over a hero like Alex. He’s principled, a little uptight, beautiful, and great with kids!

Final Analysis for Then Came You

What to say about Then Came You? Lisa Kleypas proved herself to me as one of the best writers in the modern era of romance.

There’s so much to appreciate here: an assertive, unconventional heroine, a virtuous hero I adore, and a wonderfully plotted affair. This is one of my all-time favorites!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.8