Category: Avon

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

chance winds of fortune
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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain”

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

So Speaks the Heart, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1983, Robert McGinnis cover art

Spoiler & Major Douchebag Hero Alert ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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, fights back, and is strong in her own way; and 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

Then Came You alt
Then Came You, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1993, cover artist TBD, cover model Steve Sandalis

Mild Spoilers 😉

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Heroine to Remember

The heroine of Lisa Kleypas’ 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 nose at society’s rules. Back in 1993, the wild Lily Lawson was, for the most part, 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 cannot marry the man she loves, “Lawless” Lily Lawson–as she is called–is determined to break her sister’s engagement with the stuffed-shirt Lord Raiford.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas”

Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain

Moonstruck madness

Mild Spoilers 😉

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Moonstruck Madness is old school in a clichéd, but still an oh-so-perfect way. For the very reasons some reviewers dislike this book, I adore it. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, her best book.

The Characters

The heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor. The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman, and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs them off to England to their absent father’s run-down estate. Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure a way to support her family.

The hero is His Grace, the golden-haired Lucien Dominick, Duke of Camareigh. When we first see him, he’s challenged to a duel by a young hothead. At dawn, he makes quick work of his opponent, displaying his sword-fighting talents.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain”

Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey

“Tanya, ya slut!”

ONCE A PRINCESS

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Cover

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

Perhaps it had to do with the book’s aesthetics. I’ve always been a curmudgeon who doesn’t like change simply for the sake of change when everything is fine. So it was a shock that particular June of 1991 to find the Lindsey covers had been revamped. The font was more “romantic” with its loops and curves. The book was a step back and I preferred an open clinch. Avon updated Johanna Lindsey’s pretty photo on the inside back to a less flattering extreme close-up. And the most glaring insult of all, where in the heck was Fabio?

The Plot

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

It’s the mid-19th century, and Stefan Barany from the kingdom of Cardinia is in Mississippi, USA, to find the long-lost Princess Tatiana.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

The Golden Sovereigns, Jocelyn Carew, Avon, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

“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 GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to rate or categorize as it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is an absolutely skillful writer to make me enjoy a book where the heroine, Carmody, doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 of this 404-page epic. This is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale, however, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end; he’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

Our story begins in late 17th century England. Carmody Petrie is in love with Waldo, who’s a no-good rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she 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.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew”

Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Was this tepid, dull romance actually penned by Johanna Lindsey? The Heir was the first book that I noticed a weird change in her writing. Previously, if there was a Lindsey I didn’t like, it was due to a dull plot or excessive fighting between the leads. In this one, there is friendship for sure, but romantic isn’t what I’d call the relationship between Duncan and Sabrina.

The Plot: Friends to Lovers

Duncan, a Highland Scot, is the new heir to be an English Marquess. Everyone is eager to meet this new laird, er lord, especially the young ladies in town. Sabrina has no designs on Duncan; she’s plump, plain, orphaned, and not anyone’s ideal candidate for a wife. Certainly not for an heir to a Marquessate.

Then there’s the manipulative, beautiful Ophelia, who desperately wants Duncan’s title.

Slowly, painfully slowly, Sabrina and Duncan’s relationship turns physical, and one night they make love. But Ophelia’s scheming makes it appear as if Duncan has ruined her, so the red-haired idiot decides to do the honorable thing: marry Ophelia. Duncan is too young and he flounders in areas where a more mature man might have acted differently.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Heir by Johanna Lindsey”

Historical Romance Review: Dawn of Desire by Joyce Verette

the great sphinx
Dawn of Desire, Joyce Verette, Avon, 1976, cover artist TBD

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

If Joyce Verette’s Dawn of Desire had been marketed differently, I would have read this Ancient Egypt-set novel with an open mind. Then I would not have been as disinterested as I initially was. This is not a romance novel, but paranormal historical fiction. The cover was a clinch, so I figured it was a bodice-ripper, as it and the title implied. Published by Avon in the mid-1970s, I imagined it would feature some rollicking and tawdry love-making. Mostly, I found Dawn’s Desire passionless.

The Plot

The first 200 pages are dull, with events happening that were quick and not fleshed out. Fortunately, the last half of the book was compelling enough for me to finish.

The story begins with the opening chapter where everybody lies in the heat, sleeping or waking up. Floating on her ship on the Nile, our heroine engages in the same activities for pages on end. It was like like that old meme “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat,” without the “rave,” just some “eat,” and a lot of “sleep.”

Queen Nefrytataten of Tamehu and Prince Amenemhet of Tashemau are betrothed to marry to unite the two kingdoms of Egypt.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dawn of Desire by Joyce Verette”

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

Surrender to Love, Rosemary Rogers, Avon 1982, cover artist unknown
3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers” wrote a few exceptional epics, but alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s my least liked of her books I’ve read so far.

The Heroine

Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky; she just hates convention and why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women and why couldn’t she have been born a man?

Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers; a meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Her attitude is very draining. But worse are the random italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.

Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s mania slipping though. The writing was erratic, the POV changed without warning from within paragraph. And did I mention those italics?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers”

Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

“The Kenton bad temper is not going to kill my husband! I have resolved on that!”

THE CURSE OF KENTON
4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon. My Avon 1972 first-edition features the typical Gothic cover, with a heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.

In this case, it’s Castle Kenton, a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.

The Plot

Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town, and the darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.

The Curse of Kenton, Janet Luoise Roberts , Avon, 1972, cover artist TBD

Despite her better judgment, Barbara falls for the Duke, and they are quickly married, as Gilbert needs an heir before he passes on.... Read more “Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts”

Historical Romance Neo-Bodice Ripper Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

Claiming the Courtesan, Anna Campbell, Avon, 2007, cover artist unknown

“Verity, you have a choice,” he said gently. “We eat, we talk, we pass the evening with an attempt at civility. Or we fuck. It’s up to you.”

CLAIMING THE COURTESAN

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

Although I’m not a fan of the execution of Claiming the Courtesan, I thought it was refreshing what Anna Campbell tried to accomplish in her first book. I categorize this style of romance as a neo-bodice ripper, in that it attempts to capture the sexual power struggles contained in those older books, but it’s very modern in its presentation.

The Plot: Something Old is New Again

I appreciated what Campbell wanted to create in Kylemore: a loathsome, detestable anti-hero who cared only for his spoiled, noble self. Initially, he drew my attention; however, what was produced on paper was mostly a bratty, uncharismatic, psycho-stalker.

I seem to be alone in this thought, but I yearn for the days of stoic, inscrutable heroes, whose love was shown through their actions, and when they did speak, the words meant so much. I prefer to be in the hero’s head as little as possible.... Read more “Historical Romance Neo-Bodice Ripper Review: Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell”

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas

Stranger in My Arms, Lisa Kleypas, Avon, 1998, Max Ginsburg cover art

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Stranger in My Arms was the first Lisa Kleypas romance I read and found it to be quite enchanting. Although I was already familiar with this kind of plot, the book came off very fresh, if a bit improable.

The Plot

If you’ve seen the Richard Gere and Jodie Foster movie, Sommersby, you know the basic story. Here, this romantic tale takes place in Regency England, not the American South. Lady Lara, Countess of Hawksworth, is happy to be a widow. Lara had a horrible marriage to a man who was a monster to her. Hunter was cold, dispassionate, and adulterous.

Her husband Hunter was pronounced dead, having been presumed drowned at sea, the body never recovered. Now Lara is a widow, free to live as she desires.

Then the worst imaginable occurs when Hunter mysteriously reappears. Although he looks exactly like her dead husband, this man doesn’t always act like it. He doesn’t seem to know or remember certain things, which could be due to injury from his accident at sea. More likely, as Lara suspects, he’s an imposter.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas”