Category Archives: Dell

liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?

LIAR’S MOON by HEATHER GRAHAM
a-love-to-last-forever-voyajolu

Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.

Characters

Stacy

Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse.

A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.

Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman. She drives an old jalopy of a station wagon. She has two radically distinct children: a hyperactive but helpful son and a truculent teenage daughter who seems to hate her.

Ex #2 is nowhere to be found, but ex #1 is still around, late with child support payments, occasionally hitting on Stacy, and usually drunk and mean. An ex-boyfriend, the local sheriff, also pops up to give her ten-year-old son tickets for speeding on a bicycle!

Mike

Mike’s life has changed, too but on a different trajectory. He was once the youngest kid in class due to being promoted several grades ahead due to his intelligence. Now, he’s a successful juvenile psychologist. Mike’s in good physical shape and at the prime of his life at 35.

Although he has one divorce behind him, Mike is well-adjusted, in touch with his feelings (so it seems), and a clear thinker.

Plot

Class of 1966

The attraction is instantaneous and palpable when Mike and Stacy reconnect at the class reunion. Mike had a big crush on Stacy back in the day, and Stacy can’t believe how hunky the former geek is now.

When they meet again, Mike makes no bones about his desire for Stacy. Stacy’s ambivalent about getting into yet another relationship. She’s made bad choices regarding men in the past, but Mike couldn’t be more different from them. He’s got it together, and as an “older” woman (she’s 38), she’s a bit insecure.

Nevertheless, Stacy can’t deny her attraction, and while Mike’s in town for a few weeks, she figured what’s wrong with a few dates?

Class of 1986

The problem is life cannot be compartmentalized so easily. Stacy finds herself falling deeply for Mike. Mike, in the meantime, has to deal with insecurities from the past coming back to haunt him. His marriage failed because a part of him was stuck back in high school, loving memory of a girl whose smiles were the only bright spots of miserable adolescence.

He’s a great father figure to her son. Stacy’s daughter Gail’s persnickety behavior is a mystery to her. Because of Mike’s profession, he’s able to draw Gail out of her shell and get mother and daughter to communicate and deal with Gail’s very complicated emotional issues.

Mike and Gail finally give in to their passion on a trip to St. Louis. They feel an intense bonding never experienced before. This is more than lust; it’s love. Mike wants forever, not an affair. But Gails’ insecurities may be too much and drive them apart. Will they ever be able to leave the past behind and move on to make a life together?

Final Analysis of A Love to Last Forever

Because A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is an older romance, the writing here isn’t as reflective as one would find in a modern one. Events occur, and people react and move on. There’s lots of head-hopping within the same pages but done in a way to keep the plot moving forward rather than pondering or focusing on internal angst.

As an aside, it’s funny how a book from 1986 makes me feel so young and old simultaneously. Stacy & Mike graduated from high school 29 years before I did, so that I couldn’t relate to her era of grooviness and mod/ midwestern styles. Plus, Stacy’s diet of spaghetti, pancakes, and hamburgers while keeping trim had me rethinking my diet.

Her daughter listening to Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper and Stacy knowing the artists had me cracking up. If I had a teenager today, there’s no way I could identify any modern music. It’s the same pulsing beats or bland pop to me.

When other women delight in Stacy’s fall from grace, they lambast her for wearing clothes she made herself from patterns in McCall’s (Vogue magazine, actually), I laughed. Can you imagine that today? Have you seen the price of bolts of fabric? Making your own clothes costs much more than buying the semi-disposable garments sold at basic stores.

So, my final analysis of A Love to Last Forever? This novel was a satisfying romance with flawed characters who felt like real people falling in love. The conclusion is fitting. Stacy returns to school, her kids are better-adjusted, and she and Mike are passionately in love with a blended family that accepts who they are. A genuinely joyful, happy ending.

3.62 Stars


Synopsis

Once Stacy McAllister had been Carver High’s Most Likely to Succeed, and Mike Harper had been the class outcast. But at the reunion a devastating new Mike Harper, a man she’d never known, swept Stacy off her feet. With the sadness and failures of her past, Stacy felt worlds removed from her golden days. Love seemed a luxury she could no longer afford. Mike had become an astonishing social and professional success, the talk of the town. Soon he’d go back to St. Louis, taking a chunk of her past and a piece of her heart with him. She’d already given him a lot, but Mike wanted more. But she was a two-time loser. Did she dare to dream of a love that could last forever? 

A LOVE TO LAST FOREVER BY LINDA RANDALL WISDOM
Man in Control

Category Romance Review: Man in Control by Alice Morgan

The Book

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

Just who is Steele, and what is he hiding?

Final Analysis of Man in Control

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

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

3 Stars


Synopsis

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

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

MAN IN CONTROL BY ALICE MORGAN

Historical Romance Review: Halfway to Paradise by Emily Bradshaw

Halfway to Paradise, Emily Bradshaw, Dell, 1993, Elaine Duillo cover art

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

2 Stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Brooklyn-born artist Elaine Duillo, who, in her long and storied career, earned the well-deserved moniker of “The Queen of Romance Cover Art,” did it to me again! How many books have I purchased simply because I was dazzled by the hypnotic painted covers, only to find disappointment within the pages of those supposedly lurid novels?

The best thing about Emily Bradshaw’s Halfway to Paradise is its stunning jacket, which is an excellent representation of Duillo’s flair for making even the most mundane tale seem enticing. This one is done primarily in purple hues, with the heroine’s long blonde locks that flow down to her knees providing a bright complement to the hero’s dark-violet doublet.

Back in the day, an Elaine Duillo cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. That was not the case with this book.

Why have I spent so much time in this review discussing Duillo’s talent rather than the content of this Halfway to Paradise? Because, lamentably, the book put me halfway to sleep.

The Plot

It took me six weeks to finish this dull story about a widowed Puritan lady who adopts an imprisoned Cavalier’s son. The English Civil War and Restoration eras generally hold great appeal for me, but this lifeless romance just didn’t cut it.

The Earl of Chester, Matthew Hawkins, as an enemy of Cromwell, has had everything taken from him, including his liberty. He escapes prison to become an underworld criminal called, predictably, the Hawk. Determined to find his son, Hawk plots vengeance upon the woman who stole him. Instead of revenge, he finds love with Mrs. Jane Alexander, who, like many widowed heroines in Romancelandia, was unhappy in her first marriage.

Eventually, Jane, Matthew, and their son leave England for the safety of Holland, where they do nothing but pine for home and write letters, and then it’s back to England for a happy ending. This was a lackluster read with minimal conflict in the plot and little chemistry between protagonists.

Final Analysis of Halfway to Paradise

I read this one back when I was determined to complete every book I started. It was like water torture, every page a painful drip, drip, drip. According to my stats, I began this book in early November 2010 and finished it on New Year’s Eve, just in time to add it to my annual tally of read-books.

Ten years later, I’m much wiser when it comes to reading habits. If I get into a slump, I know it’s time to reread old favorites or turn to different genres to get my mojo back. And most importantly, I understand that it’s okay to categorize a book as “did-not-finish.” I used to feel that DNFing a book was a wasteful extravagance, like not finishing a meal that I’d paid for (I got that attitude from growing up poor. If we spent money on anything, the item had to be put to use, no excuses.) What’s truly wasteful is spending time on a book that brings no pleasure, no matter how many pages you’ve read so far, or how costly the book was, or how great everyone else thinks it is.

For me, Halfway to Paradise isn’t the worst book ever, so it’s worth more than a 1-star rating. As I said, that cover is a thing of beauty, so I’ll give this 2 stars for that superficial reason alone.

dedicated man

Category Romance Review: The Dedicated Man by Lass Small

category romance
The Dedicated Man by Lass Small
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Romance #192
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Dedicated Man by Lass Small

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

“Well…I suppose we could have…one for the road.” Garret’s breath was quick, his hands hot. How hard he felt against her softness. He thought she was being flippant; couldn’t believe she’d leave him.

THE DEDICATED MAN

The Dedicated Man by Lass Small is a delightful romance between a slightly older man and a young woman just starting to grow her wings. It’s a story about compromise to make a relationship work. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Small’s trademark humor is a big part of the book as she’s incorporated into other works, like Four Dollars and Fifty One Cents.

Piper is part of a large, loving family. Her younger siblings are a riot. Her parents are good, salt-of-the-earth folks.

Garret is a casual family friend who is drawn to the vivacious Piper. While Garret is an established man with a career, Piper’s barely eighteen. Despite their age difference, the two are attracted to each other and begin to date. They fall in love and in due time, get married.

Things are great for Garret and Piper as far as romance goes. But Piper wants a little more out of life. She’s out of high school and hasn’t experienced much of the world.

So Piper decides to go to school and get a job. But this leads to her having to move far away while Garret has his own business to tend to at home. As he’s very focused on his own job, he feels he can’t abandon it.

At first, Garret can’t believe his newlywed wife wants to leave him. Finally, after some arguments, Piper explains that it’s not that she’s leaving him, but she needs some time for growth. The growth can’t happen in the sleepy little Mid-Western town they’re from. But while Garret is old-fashioned, he’s not an over-controlling man. He understands his young wife needs some life knowledge.

So the pair have a long-distance relationship and try their best to make it work. Garret visits her, they talk on the phone, and like real human beings, not dumb caricatures, they actually succeed. In the end, Piper realizes it’s Garret she wants to be with. Even so, she’s glad for the time she spent on her own, as it helped her to mature.

Garret is indeed worthy of the title The Dedicated Man because he stands by his woman while Piper does what she needs to do for herself and her marriage.

desert hostage gignilliat

Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway

historical romance review
Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Elaine Gignilliat
Published by: Dell
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance
Pages: 474
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Other than E. M. Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik, or Johanna Lindsey‘s Captive Bride, the Dell-published Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway would qualify as my most-liked sheik romance.

Harems and desert sheiks romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, as I prefer historical heroes to be swordsmen, cowboys, or knights. Nevertheless, a man like Karim, who is passionately devoted to his heroine, makes for a great hero, and a romance with such a male protagonist will certainly catch my interest.

The Plot

Desert Hostage is another book where the half-European, half-Arab sheik carries off his object of desire into the sandy dunes and makes her his.

The story starts with a bang, where we read about Karim’s mother and her desert abduction at the hands of a ruthless sheik. She plots and manipulates to have her son be taken to Europe, where he will be educated and ”civilized.”

In England, Karim then meets and falls for Juliette, a lovely and genteel young British woman. He pursues her with restrained fervor. Karim does his gallant best to woo Juliette. But Juliette is so dumb that she can’t make up her mind about what she wants in life.

There is a love triangle where Juliette can’t decide which man she wants. The other man is nothing compared to Karim, and it’s obvious who she should choose!

The middle of Desert Hostage lags a bit as Juliette is incredibly annoying with her indecisiveness. She also speaks in hushed whispers, like a Barbara Cartland heroine…very…slowly…like…this…

Then Karim finds out that Juliette is the daughter of his father’s sworn enemy. She has toyed with his heart as all evil British women do to men, as Karim thinks.

She will receive her due punishment, and Karim will have his revenge! He turns from a once gentlemanly suitor into a man set upon vengeance, and Juliette will pay dearly for treating him so callously!

While there is a harem here, it’s only featured briefly, as this story is a one-man-one-woman romance. Karim is a dedicated, faithful hero who is incredibly appealing.

Final Analysis of Desert Hostage

I read Diane Dunaway’s Desert Hostage not too long ago and found it a wonderful romance, just with a few lagging moments.

The hero is strong and powerful but not viciously cruel. Juliette is not a memorable heroine; it’s Karim who really makes this one shine.

I’ve put this book in storage for the time being, as one day, I will have to dig it out to give it a reread. It’s certainly worth it.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

The Searing Passion, The Savage Ecstasy…..

Behind her lay England and her innocent first encounter with love. Before her lay a mysterious land of forbidding majesty. Kidnapped, swept across the deserts of Araby, Juliette Clayton saw her past vanish in the endless, shifting sands.

Desperate and defiant, she sought escape only to find harrowing danger and to discover her one hope in the arms of her captor, the Sheik of El Abadan. Fearless and proud, he alone could tame her. She alone could possess his soul. Between them lay the secret that would bind her to him forever, a woman possesssed, a slave of love.

DESERT HOSTAGE by DIANE DUNAWAY
escape not my love outside

Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

historical romance review
Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Published by: Dell
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 468
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Escape Not My Love by Elaine Coffman

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

As I’ve mentioned before, Elaine Coffman‘s Escape Not My Love was not my first venture into romance. It was, however, was my first historical. And for that, I am grateful.

This is a fantastic western romance that took me on an emotional ride.

escape not my love western romance
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Dell, 1990, Leslie Pellegrino-Peck cover art

Escape Not My Love, My First Historical Romance

Superficially, Escape Not My Love drew me in from the outset. It had a stunning stepback, designed with a pattern of a woman’s purple and white-flowered gown. The cover opened to reveal the protagonists embracing in a Laura Ashley-designed clinch. (Thank God for that step-back! I first read this as I sat in church, waiting for my turn to enter the confessional and talk to the priest. He didn’t know what kind of trashy book I was reading, and I wasn’t about to volunteer that tidbit. Ha!)

The book quickly drew me in and I instantly fell in love with the genre. I found in historicals a frequent theme of this thrilling battle of the sexes that was lacking from most of the tame Harlequin Romances and modern Temptations I was used to. (I had yet to discover the Presents line).

While hardcore “bodice rippers” no longer dominated the market as they had in years past, in the early 1990’s most heroes in historical romances had not yet been gelded into modern-minded wankers that are so prevalent today. I’m being snarky and don’t mean to offend, but that’s just my no-holds-barred opinion.

If contemporary readers prefer forward-thinking, sensitive gunslingers, Vikings, warriors, noblemen, etc., in their historicals, well as they say: Chacun à ses goûts, n’est-ce pas? 

I prefer my historical heroes to have a rougher edge.

The girl would be more than a job to him. He had known it the moment he’d looked at her face. Was that why her eyes were so wide and round? Because she knew it too? It was ordained and irrevocable. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow. He would take her to his bed.

The Plot

In this western romance, Jay Culhane is a bounty hunter. His job is to travel deep into Mexico where armed criminals roam and bring home the well-meaning but naïve heroine, Jennifer Baxter, who moved from TX to open a school for underprivileged children. Jennifer–who is the youngest of 11 girls–is used to getting her way.

So you know this book will be one long power play between the pair.

Jay kicks down the door of her little house when he first lays eyes upon her black-haired, violet-eyed (of course!), lingerie-clad body. Lust takes over reason, and he immediately orders Jenny to strip naked at gunpoint and then enjoys the show. Cuz that’s the kind of guy he is.

Jay takes Jennifer on a long, arduous trip back to Texas.

He’s occasionally violent, at times even abusive to Jenny. To prevent her from escaping, he ties her to the back of his horse and makes her walk in the scorching midday sun while he rides comfortably wearing a protective hat. He forces her to cook meals and punishes her with kisses–to which she responds with passion!

Yet he also treats her sores and wounds with gentleness, not to mention ill-hidden guilt. He kills snakes for her when she cries out in terror and unflinchingly murders renegade Bandidos who try to kidnap and rape Jennifer.

My Opinion

When I first read Escape Not My Love, I was twelve years old, and my parents had just divorced, so I had begun to immerse myself in books for escape. It sounds a bit trite to say a romance changed my life–and I won’t be so extreme as to go that far. However, this book definitely influenced me in a profound way.

It gave me something to look forward to and enjoy: hope. The love story between Jay and Jennifer is phenomenal.

Elaine Coffman’s writing is so rich and lyrical. It’s moving. And yes, happy tears form every time I read that sweet ending.

Read the Original Version of This Western Romance

I will mention that if you want to see this western, old-school romance portrayed at its best, read the original edition. I would not recommend the re-issue that came out in 1997. “Jay-lite” isn’t as sexy as the tortured, lone-wolf of the 1990 version.

escape not my love
Escape Not My Love, Elaine Coffman, Ballantine, 1997 re-edited version, cover artist unknown

I dislike that many romance writers think all readers take offense at the “traditionally macho” heroes of old. Today, the worst types of anti-heroes and tortured, abusive man-hoes are accepted in contemporaries, Dark Erotica, New Adults, and lots of paranormals–where anything can happen.

Meanwhile, men who lived 100, 500, or 1,000 years ago have to be represented as ultra-sensitive proto-feminists. The fact that historicals have so many SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guys) type heroes makes me wary of reading modern romances.

Yup, I’m an old fart, what can I say?

Final Analysis of Escape Not, My Love

Nostalgia may have a bit to do with my ratings of older books. Regardless, I’ve read this many times over the years, and for me, Elaine Coffman’s Escape Not My Love holds up.

If you don’t like cruel heroes who treat the heroine nastily from the get-go, keep in mind that a devastating past tormented Jay. It’s his love for Jennifer that teaches him to let go of the old hurts.

The epilogue might have you reaching for your hankies. Or make you smile as the tough-hombre Jay Culhane settles down into married life with children.

I wasn’t the only reader who loved this book. Escape Not My Love (in its original un-PC form) won the 1990 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Western Historical Romance.

Because it was my first historical romance, and one that–to this day–I extremely enjoy, it’s a keeper.

5 Stars

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

SYNOPSIS

A GENTLY BRED HELLION
With hair as dark as sin and a face and a body that were pure heaven, Jennifer Baxter was a woman who knew her own mind and did as she pleased…until she ran off into dangerous territory south of the border. Suddenly she was the captive of a commanding gunslinger sent by her wealthy father to bring her back home. Not about to take orders from any man, she fought the arrogant stranger, struggling to resist his raw masculine virility and recklessly challenging his determination to vanquish her in every way.

AN ARROGANT GUNSLINGER
U.S. Deputy Marshal Jay Culhane had tracked down outlaw gangs and renegade Indians, but he’d never encountered a prisoner as infuriating as the beautiful schoolteacher Jennifer. From the first time he saw her he swore he would take her to his bed, claim her innocence, and bring her to a woman’s natural fulfillment. But first he had to tame her. From the shimmering desert to a magnificent Texas ranch to the genteel drawing rooms of Savannah, he would pursue her relentlessly, ruled by a fierce passion for a woman who dared him to believe in the redeeming power of love.

ESCAPE NOT MY LOVE by ELAINE COFFMAN