Category Archives: Harlequin

smoke in the wind len goldberg

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

category romance
Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1104
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

Your mileage may vary, as I have a weird penchant for these kinds of crazy stories–when they’re done right. Smoke in the Wind is one of them.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The reason this so-called hero didn’t detract from the story was the refreshingly capable heroine, Venetia Gamble (what a great name!), who had tons of fortitude. Alas, not enough for her to dump the porcine swine and get with a better man.

Venetia is a hot up-and-coming news reporter in New Zealand. Ryan Fraine, a famous documentary filmmaker, is in the Land of White Clouds looking to set up a new TV station. When these two high-powered professionals meet, the temperature is off the charts.

Venetia had been hurt in love before. At only 23, she has a failed marriage behind her. After getting pregnant at 17, her guardians–her aunt and uncle–forced her and her boyfriend into a shotgun wedding. The marriage ended not long after she miscarried the baby. Despite that, she and her ex-husband are on friendly terms.

Ryan is a bachelor who has pumped and dumped every Kiwi beauty from Cape Reinga to Wellington to Bluff. (Impressed with my geographical skills? It’s easy when you have the internet!) He’s a typical Robyn Donald hero, a sexist bigot sizzling with sensual intensity and irresistible to women.

Venetia is a well-adjusted human being, confident in her sexuality. Nevertheless, she’s wary of his “love ’em and leave ’em” reputation.

Ryan sizes up Venetia and thinks because she’s not a virgin: “She’s a very kinky girl/ The kind you don’t take home to mother…”

Venetia tells him she’s not into one-night stands, so Ryan translates that into: “She’s up for a steaming hot, quick fling.”

And Venetia can’t resist him. They’re at it every which way, and though Venetia is gaga for Ryan, our girl plays it cool.

The Plot

Part One

Venetia’s pretense of indifference fools Ryan. It turns out he’s a shallow guy for whom only surface-level appearances matter. Venetia’s relationship with Ryan turns dark when his true colors–fish belly white–begin to show.

He is looking for a wife, just not Venetia in that role. Our girl is perfect for bedroom fun, but she’ll never as the mother of his little Ryans and Ryanas.

You see, Mr. sex on legs has mommy issues as his mother was a businesswoman, i.e., a bad mother who had no time for babies, and his childhood left him traumatized. The dude has a deep-seated hatred towards working women, believing they make poor wives and mothers.

So he will be dumping Venetia in the near future. Very near.

Venetia is an orphan who had been raised by her traditionalist aunt and uncle and grew up with her younger cousin, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looks similar to Venetia but is the polar opposite in personality. She’s a “sweet” girl with no plans for an icky career, the kind a man like Ryan would take home to meet his family and be proud to call wife.

In actuality, Liz isn’t so sweet at all because when she comes with her family to visit Venetia and meets Ryan, she flutters her eyes at him in feigned innocence, and ball-brains Ryan falls for it. Within weeks, the two-timing scum sucker tells Venetia their “relationship” is over, and he’s marrying sweet Liz.

Venetia is left heartbroken–and pregnant. She quits her job and moves to Australia to live with her grandmother.

Venetia isn’t bitter with the hand she’s dealt. It is what it is.

“I won’t allow you to treat me as if I was an illness you can’ be vaccinated against, she said with an icy composure which hid her fear and despair.

“You won’t be able to stop me,” he said quietly, not bothering to mute the threat. “Because we both know I could take you on that kitchen table if I wanted to. And I do want to.”

Part Two

Years later, Elizabeth passes away. After a period of mourning, Venetia’s aunt and uncle let their beloved son-in-law know of his secret son with Venetia. Oh, yes, those two knew! Like their amoral dead daughter, they did everything to keep Ryan at their Liz’s side.

Ryan flies out to Australia to claim his child and reignite his relationship with Venetia.

In Australia, Venetia had been raising their son John and had a flourishing career as a novelist. When Ryan demands what’s his, she’s shaken but fights with all her iron will.

But Ryan will not be deterred. he knows their sexual bond was never severed and uses it to his benefit.

Despite his ruthless behavior, Ryan is self-aware, and his intense reactions toward Venetia stem from his inability to control his feelings for her. His marriage to Elizabeth wasn’t exactly what he wanted, even if he had thought it was. A man like Ryan thrived on passion, Elizabeth was just blech. Ryan married Liz because he saw her as a more idealized version of the sexually-secure working woman he rejected. Ryan’s strict standards for a partner stem from his unresolved mommy issues.

His desire–his love–for Venetia conflicts with all his self-imposed beliefs.

Meanwhile, Venetia’s grandmother is a supportive and wise character who adds depth to the story and provides a voice of reason amidst the chaos.

There’s a scene where Venetia bump into her ex at a dance, and they spend a pleasant time together, making me think, “Wouldn’t it have been a nice twist if she ended up with him?”

But no, Ryan is too vital a force to be ignored. One issue I had is Ryan never really expresses regret for his marriage to Liz. She was not emotionally deep, but she was genuine in her love for him, so he was content to have made her happy for a few years. (This made me want to throw an egg at Ryan, but almost 50 cents an egg right now, I wouldn’t waste valuable protein for a smeg head like him.)

Ryan’s cruelty towards the vulnerable Venetia is both riveting and gut-wrenching. Venetia is a fearless and determined woman who refuses to let Ryan break her spirit… Even as he captures her in the end. So, it’s mostly a happy ending, right?

In the end, Ryan acknowledges his feelings for Venetia, that he loves her. He fought against it because of inhibitions and childhood trauma.

“You wear your independence like a banner. I like to look at you and know that I can kiss you free of it any time I want to. It’s like owning my own small falcon that comes only to my hand, and gives up her freedom only for me.”

Final Analysis of Smoke in the Wind

Smoke in the Wind is a terrible romance but a riveting read that will leave you breathless. Ryan is par-for-the-course as far as Robyn Donald’s heroes go. (Okay, maybe one of her top 5 worst heroes. She really knew how to write a lot of dickhead male main characters.)

The dominant/submissive dynamic between Ryan and Venetia is both intense and fascinating. Venetia is strong and resilient, overcoming her traumatic past and standing up for herself. The plot is well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me engaged, even as I despised Ryan.

It’s Venetia who makes this Harlequin Presents shine. Ryan is both vicious and self-aware, reflecting the depth of his inner turmoil. Despite his porcine nature, he is a well-written, complicated, and intriguing character.

Ryan and Venetia’s sexual relationship is as extreme as the muted BD/SM powerplay in Harlequins can be, a dominant/submissive one, with Ryan exerting his control over Venetia.

Smoke in the Wind is a roller coaster ride of emotions, with a heroine who is capable and determined to overcome the challenges life throws at her. Despite Ryan’s cruel actions, Venetia refuses to be a victim and rises above the situation, proving that the heart can survive enormous pain.

Overall, Smoke in the Wind is a must-read for fans of intense, passionate romance. The multi-faceted characters, thrilling plot, and nail-biting drama make this an HPLandia stand out.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

Her response to him was frightening… Venetia Gamble had felt desire before. The result? Such a disastrous marriage that she felt she wanted never to experience desire again. And she hadn’t–until now. Ryan Fraine, famous documentary filmmaker, was in New Zealand to set up a new television station.

From the moment they met, Venetia, herself a TV reporter, knew this man could make her suffer as she never had before. So she shied away from his blazing sensuality. Yet there was something else, something in the very core of her soul that wouldn’t permit escape…. 

SMOKE IN THE WIND by ROBYN DONALD
savage possession

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

category romance
Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Bob Kebic
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #366
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 190
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

The Book

Margaret Pargeter’s Savage Possession begins like any ordinary Harlequin Presents series romance. The hero and heroine meet under unusual circumstances. Then the situation quickly gets heated.

The Characters and the Set-Up

In the case of Savage Possession, Melissa’s car is trapped in the snow. Along comes Ryan Trevelyan, to give her a lift.

She’s dressed in bulky winter clothes so he assumes she’s a boy. As they’re driving along in his car, he’s berating “him” for driving under such horrible circumstances. Then she takes off her cap.

Ryan thinks: “Oh no, she’s this unbelievably beautiful, green-eyed, redhead woman! How easily mistaken I was to think she was a boy [whom I was mildly attracted to] because she was wearing a hat and coat! Well, since she tricked me, I’ll force her to spend the night at my house even though there are plenty of other places in town where she can stay. That’ll teach her a lesson!”

I wondered to myself just where this book was going. It was not what I expected.

Melissa does not act like the HP caricature heroines are supposed to: swooning, selfless, kind to all, and eager to work hard to prove her worth. No, she’s a slothful freeloader with good, old-fashioned morals.

The Plot?

Home, Sweet Home

Melissa has returned home after spending years mooching off her wealthy socialite aunt. Auntie wanted to name Melissa her heir, but only if she marries the man of Auntie’s choosing. Not up for that, Melissa returns home to her family’s financially-troubled farm.

It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Melissa. Her parents are all too keen to pimp her out to their landlord as payment for past-due rents. Mom is 3 YEARS behind on the statements. The family hasn’t been evicted—yet.

Who is their patient, benevolent homeowner? Why Ryan Trevelyan, of course!

Mum and stepdad make not-so-subtle hints that Melissa should sell herself out to save the farm. Melissa is outraged and defiant. She may be a mooch, but she’s no whore!

Lazy Bones

Eventually, Melissa begs Ryan to give her mother and stepfather more time to keep the grange. She promises to work at the family store selling their farm goods.

Yet, despite her pleading, she refuses to actually do anything to help mum save her home.

Melissa doesn’t feel like going to work, you see. Instead, she spends her days with other men or relaxing. She’s utterly lazy, a committed slacker. I have never related to a heroine as much as this one! 😁

The only decent fellow in this whole story is Ryan Trevelyan, who–despite his sensible inclinations–keeps giving Melissa and her family chance after chance to make due on their past balances.

But did I mention that Melissa is:

L… A… Z… Y…

Final Analysis of Savage Possession

Ryan gets fed up with Melissa and sparks fly. Slowly a love evolves between these two very different people. Is it meant to last?

The underlying story in Margarate Pargeter’s Savage Possession doesn’t matter. The interactions between the complicated three-dimensional main characters make this a compelling read.

The writing isn’t overwrought. The sarcastic banter between the two mains is excellent.

By the end, Melissa grows as a character, realizing she needs to be a better person with drive and purpose. Ryan is to die for.

Looking forward to reading more of Pargeter’s work, as she was a Harlequin author with whose work I was unfamiliar.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

The future held no bright prospects.

Melissa’s wealthy cousin Helen tried to pressure her into a loveless marriage, so Melissa fled back to her Cornish home.

There she found that the small market garden business leased by her mother and stepfather had declined during her six absent years. Now it was nearly bankrupt! Worse still, their landlord, the handsome, aggressive Ryan Trevelyan, was demanding the three years’ back rent—unless Melissa agreed to his despicable plan.

She found herself trapped between concern for her mother, and Ryan—a man who had set himself to run her life! 

Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter
glory days michael herring

Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

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


Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

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

Why? Because it was so dreadfully dull.

The Plot

Glory Days is… an absolutely boring romance.

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Glory Days

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

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

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

1 Star

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

Synopsis

What price glory?

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

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

GLORY DAYS BY MARILYNNE RUDICK
lynne graham the italians wife

Category Romance Review: The Italian’s Wife by Lynne Graham

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Lynne Graham’s The Italian’s Wife is unusual from her other books I’ve read in the past.

Holly Samson is the first Graham heroine I can recall who was not a virgin, and who’s borne another man’s child. The hero is typical of her heroes: dark-haired, ultra-masculine, ridiculously wealthy, smitten with the heroine, and of Greek Italian descent.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The Italian’s Wife opens with Rio–a 6′ 3″ gorgeous, super-nice-guy, and celebrity billionaire extraordinaire–walking in on his supermodel fiancée in flagrante delicto with another woman.

Not only is he enraged at the infidelity, but he’s also repulsed by his fiancée’s suggestion of a threesome. (Only in an HP!)

Poor Holly, meanwhile, is down on her luck. Her old-fashioned parents kicked out their pregnant daughter because she didn’t do the right thing (whatever that means). Her boyfriend, whom she only had sex with once and hated it (natch), wanted nothing to do with the baby or Holly. Mother and baby are all alone in this cruel world.

The Plot

The English Woman’s Hero

Holly is pushing her pram through the street of London, drowning in her sorrows. She’s homeless, jobless, and hungry. At the end of a rope, Holly decides she must hand over her son to Social Services Distraught at the enormity of her decision, Holly is lost in thought when she’s almost hit by Rio’s limo.

This occurs a mere hour after he walked in on his girlfriend having sex with someone else.

Ever the hero, Rio whisks Holly off to his luxurious penthouse. He is entranced by her loveliness and aghast that this young mother is in such dire straits.

Rio buys her designer clothes and gets a nanny for her baby. Soon after, he declares they must marry. Holly, like any princess from a fairy tale, falls in love with her princely benefactor. And Rio is besotted with his damsel-in-distress.

(This is where a rational person would consider maybe the guy is seriously rebounding after being cheated on by his once-future-wife. But don’t think about that stuff. Just go with the story.)

The Italian’s Wife

These HPs are crazy, silly fantasies. Sometimes I don’t know why I like them so much with weird tropes like this.

During a steamy love scene, Rio does all the work, giving, giving, and giving some more. Despite doing absolutely nothing but having orgasms, Rio notes that Holly’s the best sex he’s ever had because she enjoys it so much!

(Earth to Rio: maybe the fact that his former fiancée was a lesbian might have been a reason why she wasn’t that into it.)

When Holly asks what she can do to make it better he replies:

 “Just lie there. I’m in a very uncritical mood… And during the next couple of weeks, I intend to teach you everything I want you to knowbella mia.” 

I really don’t know what to say about that, other than I can accept many things in a romance novel that I’d never ever tolerate in real life!

My Opinion

Holly is your typical Lynne Graham heroine: beyond clueless and helpless. She doesn’t read The Daily Mail, so she is unaware of Rio’s stardom. (In HPlandia Greek billionaires are the equivalent of Korean Boy Bands regarding fame and fans.) As a result, Holly’s all agog at the crowd of paparazzi at their wedding.

She’s not an erudite intellectual. She doesn’t have hobbies. There is nothing of interest in Holly’s life outside of her baby and problems.

Even so, there’s something charming about The Italian’s Wife. It’s so dumb in a typical Lynne Graham way, that it veers into entertaining.

However, I dislike that Holly is so “gracious” to those who wronged her. She thinks: 

“That her parents could forgive her all the grief she had caused had been a tremendous comfort to Holly, as was her mother and father’s loving acceptance of their baby grandson.” 

Um, hello? Her parents kicked out their barely-out-of-her-teen-years daughter from their home. They didn’t give a rat’s ass about Holly and their baby grandchild. That was until Holly returned home and was married to a billionaire. Only then did they welcome her and the baby.

Uggh. I dislike that kind of martyrdom in a female main character. I like my heroines with claws.

Holly’s too sweet and nice. Then again Rio is just kind and generous as she is. So it all works out in the end.

Final Analysis of The Italian’s Wife

The Italian’s Wife was a nonsensical story, as many Lynne Graham romances are. For some reason, though, it clicked for me.

I’m a mercurial reader. If I’m in a bad mood, it negatively affects my reading. If I’m feeling mellow, then it’s all good!

I appreciated The Italian’s Wife for being an escapist fantasy about a woman-in-need swept off her feet by an amazing man.

A man who is beyond her wildest dreams and will cherish and love her forever and ever.

3.62

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

Synopsis

Will he take a stranger to be his wedded wife?

Abandoned by her boyfriend and family after the birth of her son, Holly Sansom collapses in the street. Rio Lombardi, M.D. of Lombardi Industries, comes to her rescue.

Rio insists that Holly stay at his luxurious home, and proceeds to lavish her and her baby with all that money can buy. But Rio’s emotions are caught off guard by Holly’s natural charm and indifference to his wealth. In fact, Holly would make a perfect wife…. 

The Italian’s Wife by Lynne Graham
rumor has it kalan

Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

rumor has it
Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Frank Kalan
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3040
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Celia Scott‘s Rumor Has It is a modern-day Cinderella story where the fairy godmother is not an actual person, but a false rumor that transforms a frumpy heroine into a glamorous new woman who finds her prince.

Well, a British guy, anyway. That’s close enough.

The Plot

Part One

Lucinda is a sweet and slightly overweight librarian. Really she’s a voluptuous gal with curvy thighs, big boobs, and full hips. If this book was written today, she’d be described as thicc. Lucinda is clumsy, nearsighted, and plagued by insecurity.

She lives with her father, stepmother, and model-slim stepsisters. Poor Luce is constantly berated by her family members. In their eyes, she’s a hopeless mess.

Enter Leo, a dashing Englishman who has business with her father. The family conspires to set up Leo with Lucinda’s more glamorous, slim stepsister. However, Leo’s mind is just on work.

Circumstances lead to Leo and Lucinda being forced to share a one-bed motel during a storm, a typical sitcom/rom-com situation. Except for a brief glimpse at Leo’s butt cheeks, their night is wholly innocent.

Part Two

Soon after, Leo heads back to England. Gossip travels fast in Lucinda’s small hometown when Lucinda’s family learns the two spent a night together.

Of course, it was purely platonic (Thi but the townfolks’ shocked reaction makes Lucinda let people think what they want. They all wonder what did a hunk like Leo see in a frump like Lucinda?

Lucinda is now viewed by the townspeople in a different light as she blossoms with confidence. She gets a new hairdo. Instead of losing weight, she learns to dress appropriately for her shapely figure instead of what’s dictated as “fashionable.” (Just like Clinton and Stacy on What Not to Wear recommended! Remember that show?)

Leo returns to the States. He is shocked that everyone, including Lucinda’s angry father, thinks they had an affair.

He then turns the tables on Lucinda and “blackmails” her into pretending they’re a couple. But as they spend more time together, is it really pretending?

Final Analysis of Rumor Has It

Celia Scott’s Rumor Has It was a sweet, funny, and very adorable romance. There’s humor, a delicious hero, and a heroine who learns to love herself before love finds her.

It’s an old favorite. Arguably my most-favorite Harlequin Romance.

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

Synopsis

It wasn’t a lie, exactly

The rumors about the night Lucinda spent stranded on Marshall’s Island with the dashing Englishman, Leo Grosvenor, simply got out of hand.

Denials of an affair only brought knowing smiles, and Lucinda began to enjoy having people believe someone as glamorous as Leo found her desirable. As the rumors flourished, so did Lucinda.

Besides, she reasoned, Leo was safely home in England. She certainly never expected he would return to South Port and force her to live the lie.

Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,

***

the marriage war charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

the marriage war by charlotte lamb
The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: half-star
Published: 1997
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1913
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 186
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb may not have the absolute worst cruel hero in Harlequin Presents’ history, but he certainly ranks in the top twenty…maybe forty.

Okay, maybe the top 50. The HP line has at least a thousand crappy heroes in its 50 years of existence.

The Plot

Sancha is a stressed-out housewife with a handsome, workaholic husband named Mark. While she’s not yet middle-aged, she feels and looks her age, while Mark gets better each year like a fine vintage wine.

She is a stay-at-home mother responsible for cooking, cleaning, raising the children, and keeping her husband satisfied. She works hard on the first three. Lately, though, Sancha’s been neglecting her final “responsibility,” as her husband keeps telling her.

The twin beds in their bedroom don’t help. That became a habit when their twins were young, and Sancha had to wake up for midnight nursings and nappy changes. It had been Mark’s idea since he didn’t want his sleep disturbed by her movements.

Sancha and Mark have been married for six years. Well, if you’ve heard of the seven-year-itch, you know what happens next.

Mark has a charming secretary in the office. Capable, beautiful, attentive, and young.

Sancha starts receiving letters hinting that her husband is getting down and dirty with someone during his late-night work sessions. Is Mark having an affair with his secretary? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure looks like he is when Sancha catches them out at a late-night dinner.

Sancha’s life crumbles around her. Even as it does, she decides, like any good woman from the lyrics of Country Music, to fight for her philandering man.

Romances with adultery are difficult enough to pull off. Combine that plot with a male protagonist–who, if classified by scientific terms, would be considered non-Newtonian fluid–you get a wall-banger that requires great force when tossed across the room.

It’ll be over my dead body,

So get out while you can!

‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.

LORETTA LYNN, “YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH”

Sancha gets a makeover and decides to be sexier, but now Mark thinks his wife is getting sexy for other men! Could things get any worse?

Spoiler: The Shocking Revelations

Perhaps Mark’s twisted conscience led him to do what he did. For he tells Sancha the shocking truth. He is the one behind all the letters Sancha received, not his secretary.

Apparently, Mark has a super good reason–to motivate his wife to get over herself to fight for their marriage (i.e., cater to all of Mark’s wants and needs).

In truth, he was only planning to have an affair. Nice guy, right?

Mark figured he could have his matronly wife tend to his children and home. Meanwhile, his carnal desires would be fulfilled by other women. Starting with his secretary, who was down for it.

Instead of shagging her right away, though, Mark decided first to torment his wife with anonymous letters to make her re-evaluate what was important: him!

It all works out for Mark, as Sancha gets her mojo back, and insecurity drives her to be the devoted, horny Stepford wife he knew she could be.

So Mark dumps the floozy of a secretary. In return, Sancha promises never again to get too overwhelmed by her many responsibilities. Mark will always come first. (Yeah, he seems like he’d be that type.)

“See that? How much I want you?”

“As much as you wanted her the other night?” she asked bitterly, and he shut his eyes, groaning, turning away.

“Oh, not again! Do we have to bring that up again? Forget Jacqui!”

“I can’t. Can you? Working with her every day, seeing her, being alone with her? You may not have slept with her–but you admit you almost did. Is she going to accept the end of the affair?”

Final Analysis of The Marriage War

I’ve mentioned before how Charlotte Lamb is one of my two most beloved authors in the Harlequin Presents line. I’ve given her more 5-star ratings than any other writer in that line. But she’s also written a lot of clunkers. This is one of them.

Oh, boy, did I hate this book!

Mark was a paramecium scum-sucker. Not worthy of the title of “man.” Cruel hero? More like absolute zero!

Sancha was not much better. She was a bland, reactive character and not too many rungs above her husband in the animal kingdom.

I love Charlotte Lamb’s writings, so I’ll forgive her for this hideous attempt at “romance.” Out of her 160-plus books published, there are bound to be bad ones. And sheesh, was this one ever that!

File The Marriage War under “suck-suckity-suck.”

(Note: the cover rating does not count toward the final score.)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis

Something worth fighting for!

Sancha’s first instinct was to burn the anonymous letter. Its malicious message couldn’t be true: Do you know where your husband will be tonight? Do you know who he’ll be with?

Sancha adored Mark now as much as when they were first married, even though family life meant that they were no longer so close. She’d never dreamed that her tough, handsome husband would fall into the arms of another woman!

The battle was on – though when Sancha confronted Mark, she discovered the physical attraction between them was as strong as ever. But she wouldn’t let herself be seduced by him…. Not yet!

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

category romance
Mansion For My Love by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #567
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are average reads which make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.

And, last, there are books like Mansion for My Love. This kind of book splits readers every which way, the kind no matter what you feel, everyone can’t stop talking about.

mansion for my love robyn donald
Mansion For My Love, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Faine is a great heroine, charming, independent, and open to love. She meets Burke Harding and is drawn to his strong magnetic presence.

He pursues her with a cold determination, and against her better judgment, she finds herself head over heels for him.

But while Burke is interested in her, he keeps himself at a distance.

So when Burke proposes, Faine says yes, but strangely love is never mentioned.

Finally, Faine and Burke get married, and that’s where the drama starts. This all hinges on a gimmick:

Girl meets guy, he pursues her like crazy, she falls in love, they have a whirlwind wedding, and on their wedding day, she overhears the hero declare his love for his sister-in-law who’s married to his sick brother.

What a betrayal. How can the hero ever be redeemed?

There’s more. Done wrong, the heroine, Faine, runs away from Burke, who tracks her down, demands a real marriage, pretty much forces his way into her bed, and makes her mad with love and lust.

Then the brother dies. And there is still lots of drama to come! That’s quite a bit of romantic angst to pack into a 188-page book.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

Robyn Donald was certainly an above-average writer for the HP line. Her works evoke vivid visions of their natural settings, her heroes written in a similar brutal & obsessive vein, her heroines fighting their inner struggles to submit to cruel passion.

Mansion For My Love is genre fiction that grips you in the gut. It’s a controversial romance among its fans and detractors. It’s always a book I’ll remember, if not the tiny details, then the way it made me feel.

The heroine is great. If she were a weak pushover type, this story wouldn’t be as strong. What Burke did was so wrong, not just one deed, but another followed by another. Faine didn’t deserve to be wronged, but at the end of the day, she chose to be with Burke.

Mansion For My Love leaves me with a ton of questions.

Why did Faine love him so much? Is Burke’s transformation at the end believable? Is she second-best or first in his heart? Can he be forgiven? Does he deserve to? So many unknowns!

Despite the middling rating, an average read it is not. Mansion For My Love is not an easy book to pin down. It inspires conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. I love this romance–and I hate it.

I don’t know if I could stomach ever reading this angsty “love story” again, but it holds a place on my keeper shelf.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

“He’s not a good man to fall in love with!”

Faine had not ignored the warning, but even without his wealth, charm and good looks, Burke Harding had magnetism.

His determined pursuit and assault on her heart soon overcame her wavering resistance. She agreed to marry him, but some deep instinct of self-preservation kept her from revealing her love–and in time her decision was vindicated.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you,” he told her when Faine discovered she was a stand-in for the woman he really loved–but could not have.

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.

The Plot

Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior when she was only 18. They lived in California and she hoped to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. Logan controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait.

They argued, he raped her, and she left and filed for divorce. The rape resulted in a child.

For five years Mommy and Daddy never see each other while sharing custody of their son. Now Christie is a hot movie star with a male “friend” whom she mercilessly cock-teases. The press hounds Christie so much that she moves to England with her son–-without telling her ex-husband. This obviously angers Logan and he and Christie fight it out for custody.

Drama ensues and Christie and Logan realize their feelings for each other still run hot.

My Opinion

It’s not the plot of A Naked Flame I object to; it’s the horrific execution.

Up until page 100, the hero and heroine interact twice, except for a brief flash-back into their marriage. It’s as if Charlotte Lamb wanted to write a longer book, but found she had almost maxed out her word count. So she just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with another guy.

The actual romance portion of this book is limited to two, maybe two and a half chapters. I wouldn’t have minded if the scenes with the other man were fun, or at least we saw the heroine’s personal journey to “enlightenment” or sumthin’…but no.

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

Christie is a Cnidarian of the lowest order. (That’s a fancy word I learned for jellyfish. See, home-schooling works for parents and kids.)

As for the other man…why isn’t he ever named something strong like Wolf or Magnus? Instead, he’s named Sheldon or Arnie or Dilbert or in this case Ziggy!

So our major conflict in Charlotte Lamb’s A Naked Flame consists of a love triangle between the Sensitive-New-Age-Guy slacker type:

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

What a pointless boring book with a wishy-washy, stupid heroine who wouldn’t know her butt crack from the Grand Canyon.

Uggh.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

Christie had been far too young and intoxicated with love when she and Logan had married. He’d wanted a family. She’d needed sometime to pursue her career.

After their painful breakup Christie had resented carrying Logan’s child. But now her son was even more vital to Christie’s happiness than her career as a famous film star had ever been. And she wouldn’t let Logan use lies and gossip to take Kit away from her.

Losing Logan’s love had almost destroyed Christie. She couldn’t bear to lose their son as well.

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB

Romance Firsts: The First Kissing Couple on a Cover

lucifer's angel Violet Winspear kiss

The “First” Couple to Kiss on a Romance Cover

Violet Winspear’s Lucifer’s Angel

What is the first romance novel to have a kissing couple on the cover? I don’t know for certain, but one of them is Lucifer’s AngeI by Violet Winspear.

The book summary:

“DO YOURSELF A FAVOR,” LEW SAID. “FORGET ME.”

Fay had worked desperately in the train crash — using all her nurse’s knowledge. Even Lew didn’t know all she’d gone through that night to save his life.

But what could she do now to save their marriage? Was it worth saving?

There’d been so many mistakes, so much bitterness and hurt in their past. Was it possible that she and Lew, despite their differences, could really have a future together? 

LUCIFER’S ANGEL by VIOLET WINSPEAR, back of the book

The Four Virgins Versions of Lucifer’s Angel

Harlequin Romance #593 (1961)

I ordered Violet Winspear‘s Lucifer’s Angel sight unseen from Amazon. I had hoped to get either the original Harlequin edition or the second Mills & Boon edition.

The OG 1961 version shows the heroine smoking a cigarette. Back in the day, that was common for pulp covers, and I’ve seen heroes on a few old romance covers puffing away at the not-so-wacky-tobaccy, but never the female MC!

And there she is, looking as toasted as melba and draped over the hero’s white tuxedo jacket in a flirty manner. Wonder how this image got past the prim and proper editors:

Lucifer's Angel first kissing couple on romance cover

Mills & Boon #857 (1973)

The 1973 first Mills & Boon edition is pretty enough, but I try to collect first-run M & B’s that were never published as Harleys. So I wasn’t that interested in this one:

lucifer's angel mills boon

Mills & Boon Classic Re-Issue (1980)

No, the copy I really wanted was the 1980 Mills & Boon reissue. I’ve read that this is the first romance (contemporary/category, anyway, not so sure about historicals) to feature a kissing couple on the cover.

Whether it is or isn’t, it’s certainly one of the firsts. And what a pretty one it is.

Lucifer's Angel first kissing couple on romance cover

Harlequin Seasons Greetings (Bah, Humbug!)

But unlucky sucker that I am, I got stuck with the worst option, the plain Harlequin Seasons Greetings reissue in Pepto-Bismol pink that doesn’t do the title any justice.

Lucifer's Angel violet winspear

No First Kiss For Me From This Winspear!

I should have paid for a more expensive version of Lucifer’s Angel to guarantee I got the first (?) kissing couple on the cover… B Damn, this book-collecting obsession I have adds up!

Oh, I’ll review this one eventually. I’m just not super inspired to read it yet.

The covers are half the fun of these books!

an outrageous proposal

Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

an outrageous proosal category romance
An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1737
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Miranda Lee’s An Outrageous Proposal is an outrageously sexy Harlequin Presents. This book was released as a Presents Plus, a special series within the regular Presents line that ran for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.

I gather that these books were written by the line’s best-selling authors. Initially, they were longer than the average Presents by about 20 pages. The covers were also colored and had individualized fonts for the authors’ names. By the time the last Presents Plus was published, the length no longer mattered, and the covers looked more or less like regular Presents.

The Characters

Laura had been happily married to Dirk Thornton. The only thing that would have made their marriage perfect was a baby. After years of vigorous efforts, however, the couple had trouble conceiving. Laura became so obsessed with her inability to have a child, leading to their marriage crumbling. After a vicious argument, Dirk left her.

Six months have passed, and it seems Dirk has spent no time grieving over the end of his marriage. The high-powered attorney is seen around Sydney’s flashy events with even more striking brunettes dangling on his arm.

When the book begins, Laura sees Dirk at the Opera House with one of those sexy ladies. Laura can’t help but feel jealous. She has never stopped loving her husband. It had been almost impossible to bear seeing Dirk flaunting his many women, and without the support of her former in-laws, Dirks’ brother, and his wife, she’d be lost.

The Plot

A Separated Couple

Laura realizes she wants her husband back and asks for reconciliation. Dirk is cruel and throws her offer back in her face. Did she really think he’d take her back so easily? If she wants him, she has a long line to wait behind.

Laura won’t be deterred. Then Dirk reveals to her that he’s sterile. There will never be any children for them. To his way of thinking, what’s the point of marriage if there can’t be children? Dirk proposes instead of reconciling, they engage in a no-strings affair.

Laura and Dirk do just that; this is where Miranda Lee shines. She excels at writing hot steamy scenes without delving into raunchiness.

Laura realizes that without Dirk, children don’t matter. She can live without offspring, but she can’t live without her husband!

So, holy moly, it’s a shock to the system when Laura finds out she’s pregnant!

The Reunited Lovers

Hold on to your horses because here is the revelation: Dirk was never sterile.

Moreover, all those women he’d paraded around town were part of a ruse to make Laura jealous to fight for her man. Dirk had read somewhere–perhaps on a paper placemat at a greasy spoon sometime in the wee hours of the night after a bender–that women have difficulty conceiving if they’re too obsessed with it.

Laura’s constant focus on having a baby was the very thing that prevented her from getting pregnant!

By removing that concept from the equation, Dirk knew Laura’s anxiety would subside, enabling them to engage in lots of steamy sex, and then… viola!

A miracle baby would solve all their problems.

Final Analysis of An Outrageous Proposal

Laura and Dirk, and the child will make a happy family. And Dirk no doubt will come up with another outlandish ruse in the future to keep his marriage satisfactorily kinky.

I absolutely cherished this oddball romance. It indeed had an outrageous proposal for a wild plot. I marvel at the craziness of Harlequin Presents’ stories. The best writers could sell the wackiness, making these little books such entertaining and addictive reads. Miranda Lee’s sensuous writing shines here in An Outrageous Proposal. By this time in her career, she had hit her stride.

1995 would be a prolific and productive time for the writer, as this was also the year she released her Hearts of Fire miniseries.

An Outrageous Proposal won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents Plus in 1995.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis:

Laura wasn’t surprised when she saw Dirk Thornton with a glamorous brunette: her estranged husband’s reputation as a womanizer was well-known to her. But she was shocked by her feelings for Dirk–they weren’t dead at all and, what was more, he knew it!

Soon Dirk, a top Sydney criminal lawyer, was pursuing her relentlessly, but Laura couldn’t forget that she’d been unable to conceive his child–which meant that there could be no future for them. Why then was she still tempted to accept Dirk’s simply outrageous proposal?

AN OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL by MIRANDA LEE

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Link by Patricia Potter

Synopsis:

Why would her heart not listen to reason?

Antonia Ramirez knew that the tall, blond American was not to be trusted. Hadn’t it been American soldiers who had killed her mother and left her father a cripple? Yet Tristan Hampton had awakened something deep inside her that would not be denied.

Since the moment he’d first laid eyes on Antonia, Tris Hampton had been lost. He was haunted by her dark beauty. She made him feel he’d finally found the completeness he’d spent a lifetime searching for. But her father clearly hated him, and someone wanted to see him dead. Of Antonia’s love, he was certain. The question of her loyalty was still to be answered.

THE SILVER LINK by PATRICIA POTTER

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Patricia Potter creates a wonderful Latina heroine in Antonia Ramirez in her Harlequin Historical The Silver Link. She falls in love with the Anglo-American Tristan Hampton. The two are from different worlds. Despite the great risks in front of them, they are united by a love stronger than any bond. As such, they share a link that never can be severed.

The Plot

Tristan Hampton is a military man from Virginia. He is on a mission to oversee Albuquerque’s stable transition from Mexican rule to American governance.

Antonia Ramirez is a beauty he must have. She is descended from noble, land-owning Spanish lineage. Her New Mexican roots go back generations. Her family–and more importantly her would-be husband, Ramon–are hostile to Tris, the Yanqui soldier.

When Antonia and Tristan first meet, it’s instant love. There will be many obstacles ahead before they can be together if that happens.

This was one of the first Harlequin Historicals I read. The Silver Link was a sweeping epic of two people from different societies. I enjoyed how Tris and Tonia would always find times to meet in secret. They would return to their mesa time again to share their passion.

Forbidden love is at its best here.

Here is a word of warning for those who dislike violence. The Silver Link is also quite gruesome and bloody. Tristan is shot, beaten, and has to save Antonia numerous times from attempted rape.

latina heroine
French Edition of The Silver Link

The Silver Link by Patricia Potter is packed with thrilling action. It’s also an outstanding love story.

Antonia is a rare Latina heroine, for the time. Her proud and resilient nature made her stand out. Tristan is an equally strong American hero. The Mexican-American War era is an intriguing period of transition and is a remarkable setting. Overall, it’s a hard book to forget.

4 Stars

flora kidd beloved deceiver

Category Romance Review: Beloved Deceiver by Flora Kidd

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Beloved Deceiver

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

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

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

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

3.45 Stars


Synopsis:

She was a magazine writer, he was a famous novelist

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

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

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

BELOVED DECEIVER by FLORA KIDD
could it be magic

Category Romance Review: Could It Be Magic by Gina Wilkins

category romance
Could It Be Magic by Gina Wilkins
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Temptation #283
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 229
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Could It Be Magic by Gina Wilkins

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Gina WilkinsCould It Be Magic is a comfy yet romantic read. It’s a sensually-charged Harlequin Temptation from the early 1990s.

The Characters

Gwen DeClerck is a staid, young widow who had been married to a man twice her age.

When Jeremy Kane, a famous magician, moves next door, he turns her stable world upside down with excitement and passion.

The Setup

Gwen De Clerck owns a lovely house she shared with her deceased husband. She’s a little plump and considers herself homely, even though she’s not yet 30.

Suffice it to say that Gwen has a nice, settled existence and enjoys her work as a school teacher.

One day she notices a truck pulling into her next-door neighbor’s driveway and movers bringing in boxes.

And an assortment of strange creatures, including… a monkey?

Gwen instinctively knows her life is going to change. She glimpses long, leggy women entering the house at all hours.

It figures. A playboy has moved next door!

But when she meets her neighbor, he’s unlike any man she’s ever met. Gwen doesn’t know what to think about him.

The Plot

Jeremy Kane is a superstar magician who’s a bit of an introvert despite his showmanship ways. He has tall, lithe redheads as his assistants, a far cry from Gwen’s brunette and curvy cuteness.

But any good magician would tell you the “eye candy” is a mere distraction from the trick. Plus, Jeremy’s not interested in his co-workers. He views them as young sisters.

The handsome showman is instantly smitten with Gwen and declares his intention to make her part of his life.

His pursuit of her takes him to every aspect of her life, from home to work.

There, Jeremy contrives to be Gwen’s winning prize in the “Teacher Must Kiss a Pig Contest.”

To Gwen’s shock, Jeremy shows up in a pig mask to claim his prize. He also performs a dazzling show for Gwen’s eager students.

Jeremy breaks down Gwen’s reserve. Her resolve leaves her, and she enters what she believes will be a brief fling.

Because there couldn’t possibly be anything more for a woman like her and a man like Jeremy?

The title of Could It Be Magic is based on the Barry Manilow song. Gwen hears the tune while driving and gets emotional as she realizes how deep her feelings for Jeremy run.

She wants more than a temporal romance. Is that even possible? It would take the magic of love to make their relationship last forever.

Final Analysis of Could It Be Magic

Jeremy doggedly goes after the woman he desires–as he knows he has a magical connection with her that transcends the material.

Modern-day readers may see his pursuit blur into “stalker-ish,” but it’s written without any nefarious, overly macho intentions.

Gwen’s recalcitrant attitude did get a bit frustrating, but she soon melts for Jeremy, so it’s good.

As I said, Gina Wilkin’s Could It Be Magic is a delightful romance novel worthy of a look.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

Schoolteacher Gwen DeClerk was stable and reliable – and furious that those were the qualities her new neighbor, international showman Jeremy Kane, found most attractive. She didn’t want to be admired for her practicality. She wanted to be lusted after…the way she secretly craved Jeremy.

Gwen sensed a smoldering undercurrent between them, and she had a choice: remain a timid schoolmarm for the rest of her life or show Jeremy a side of her he had yet to discover. What could she lose? Miss Prim and Proper was about to become Ms. Hot and Heavy!

COULD IT BE MAGIC by GINA WILKINS

wish on the moon

Category Romance Review: Wish on the Moon by Sally Wentworth

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

Wish on the Moon by Sally Wentworth has gotten mixed to low reviews around the internet, but it’s a romance I fully enjoyed.

The Plot

The heroine of Wish on the Moon, Skye, is a plain-looking, sweet girl who goes out to a Caribbean island for her cousin Jodi’s wedding.

Skye has always been in Jodi’s shadow: not as pretty, not as popular, not as rich. Skye is mopey but likable because she’s imperfect. You get the idea. She’s a portrait painter, and Jodi wants her to paint a picture of her fiance.

The sparks fly for the heroine and the hero. Who’s the hero? The very man she’s to paint a portrait of. Thane is very handsome and from the upper-crust of society. And he’s engaged to marry Skye’s cousin, Jodi.

Thane seems antagonistic to Skye at first, and that’s because he’s fighting his feelings for her. He’s not ga-ga over Jodi, but he cared enough about her to consider her the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Thane is not a willing cheater. But along comes Skye with her gentleness, openness, and sporting no airs of superiority.

Jodi is instinctively aware of the attraction between the pair, although she finds it hard to accept, as Skye is so “beneath” her in every way. Jodi isn’t written as a perfect martyr. She’s not very nice, and other than her wealth and beauty. One wonders what Thane sees in her.

There is a scene towards the end when Jodi sees the portrait Skye painted. She flies into a rage and destroys it. So stunning was Skye’s work that it cried out her love for Thane.

Skye and Thane struggle with their attraction. Surprisingly, Skye is more willing to take a chance than Thane is. Perhaps that was to show Thane wasn’t written to be an utterly callous monster with no regard for other people’s feelings.

My Opinion

Nevertheless, love finds a way in Wish on the Moon. Even though Jodi tries to get revenge, it’s not enough to stop what must be.

This is an unusual romance because technically, the heroine is “the other woman.” She comes in and breaks up a seemingly happy engagement–and not just a random stranger’s but her cousin’s. This trope seems to be unliked around Harlequin-loving circles, and it’s easy to understand why.

If I put myself in Jodi’s shoes, I’d see she had every right to be upset with her cousin and fiance. But Harlequin Presents exist in a part of the universe where crazy topes are acceptable and, within the hands of a solid writer, can be emotional-wrenching reads you actually enjoy. Sally Wentworth was one of Harlequin’s talented writers who could handle this plot.

Final Analysis of Wish on the Moon

Perhaps if I had read Sally Wentworth’s Wish on the Moon from Jodi’s point of view, I would have felt differently toward the main couple and viewed them as antagonists, not as the protagonists they were. Even so, perspective can alter the way opinions are formed.

Plus, with Wentworth’s solid writing, she had me rooting for Thane and Skye. She’s written some crazy books in her day, but for the most part, Wentworth was in my top tier of writers from this imprint.

Obviously, holidays for this family will mean separate households! But such is the case in HP Romancelandia.

4 Stars


Synopsis:

She felt betrayed by fate…

From England, Skye Holman had traveled to the colorful Bahamas, happily anticipating her cousin Jodi’s wedding. But when she met Thane Tyson, the groom-to-be, she couldn’t deny the spark that ignited between them.

Resolutely, Skye convinced herself that she had nothing in common with Thane. She was an artist who valued tranquility—whereas Thane was a lawyer, driven by ambition. In fact, social-climbing Jodi would be perfect for him.

Yet Skye longed for Thane, even though she was reaching for the moon. And, despite her own pain, she would never deliberately hurt Jodi. 

WISH ON THE MOON by SALLY WENTWORTH
moon witch sinclair

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

anne mather category romance
Moon Witch by Anne Mather
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1970
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #38
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

SPOILER WARNING ⚠

The Book

Anne Mather‘s Moon Witch is an early Harlequin Presents that features a far-too-young heroine paired with a much older wealthy man who’s assigned to be her guardian after she is left orphaned.

Yeah, this sounds like a wholesome romance! /sarcasm

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

That 70’s Show

Around the time I read this, my (at the time) 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. I was then catching up with “That 70’s Show.” Although I refuse to watch the final season of the show, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining. I loved the retro 1970s shtick. A group of teens hang out, fall in love, and act stupidly.

Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something about myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 to 18-year-olds are dumb-asses.

What the heck does any of this babble have to do with Anne Mather’s Moon Witch? Well, “That 70’s Show” depicted Mid-Western American teens doing what dumb-ass teens do: obsess over sex, TV, drugs, candy, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

What Does That Have to With the Price of Tea in England?

Neither being a teen in the ’70s nor being British, I can’t attest if that depiction is also accurate for average UK teens of that era. Still, I’m going out on a limb and ass-u-me that in rural 1970s England, dumb-ass 17-year-old kids were aware of their own existence

The barely post-adolescent heroine of Moon Witch is more than a dumb-ass, specifically because she has zero clue about life. And even less about love.

For full disclosure, I met my husband-to-be when I was 18. He was 22, and we were both dumb-asses. Somehow we’ve made it together for almost 25 years. So some dumb-ass kids can make the right decision when it comes to love.

anne mather romance

The Set-Up

Little Sara’s grandfather has just died. She’s a 17-year-old orphan who only finished her freaking O levels at school. Now she has no one. A cranky neighbor with 7 kids temporarily cares for her, but fortune is on its way to save our heroine from ending up on social services.

In his will, Sara’s grandfather left her guardianship to his former boss and CEO of Kyle Industries, Jarrod Kyle.

However, he didn’t specify exactly which Jarrod Kyle. So in a bizarre twist, Sara is made the ward of Jarrod Kyle Sr.’s son, Jarrod Kyle Jr., the new CEO.

Instead of being an old grandfatherly sort, this Jarrod is more of a fatherly sort as he’s only twice Sara’s age. He’s a silver-blond-haired, tanned, cheroot-smoking, sex-god who drives a Mercedes one day, a Ferrari the next, then a Rolls Royce on Sunday. Junior flies planes and sails his yacht. He has multiple girlfriends (who practically come to a catfight over him near the book’s denouement). Plus, he’s got an overbearing mommy who wants to run Jarrod’s love life. Good thing he ain’t listening to her.

The Plot

So that’s the setup. A sheltered, beautiful teen is made the legal ward of a 34/35-year-old playboy guardian.

Fortunately, Jarrod’s father, JK (as in Just Kidding about this nonsensical plot!), steps in and takes responsibility for Sara. Meanwhile, Jarrod galivants around the world, both for business and pleasure trips.

Moonwitch is not a love story of a middle-aged man paired up with a 20-year-old college student–who in the US might be too young to buy alcohol legally, but at least would be armed with some basic skills: how to drive a car, how to read a bank statement, how to type, or do some filing.

Sara is 17, and her only skill is how to ride a horse or a pony. Her favorite subjects in school are Art and English. She’s never had any feelings for a man before, no stolen kisses with boys, no harmless dates to the soda shop. She’s just a pink-cheeked little girl who looks nothing like the sophisticated auburn-haired beauty on the original cover.

The first time our hero lays eyes on the heroine, the chick is decked out in a sexy pinafore.

 photo sexy doll pinafore.jpg

The Crazy Plot Continues

There’s lots of hinting at the attraction between our leads. It comes full force when the kid, er heroine, starts dancing to some of her favorite tunes—hits from Sammy Davis, Dave Brubeck, & Dean Martin.

Mather could have gone with Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Rolling Stones, Elvis, or even freakin’ Tom Jones. Instead, she chose older adults’ music. Harlequin Presents were always anachronistic. No matter what decade they were written in, they were at least 15 years out of style.

(Side note: that’s a reason why I’m not too fond of the recent batch of Harlequin Presents. They abandoned the weird, old-timey fantasy setting in favor of some chick-lit/50 shades/new adult sex fusion. That is perfectly fine for just about every other contemporary romance, but not HPs! Harrumph to that, I say!)

So, anyhow, Sara’s alone, shaking her butt, dancing to the “latest” sexy beats. Then she turns around, and there he is: Jarrod, lusting after her.

Turning the volume up she allowed her own inhibitions to melt away, closing her eyes, and dancing with the same abandon she had seen teenagers on television adopt…Sara halted abruptly, conscious of the informality of her attire, the bare feet, and the damp untidy tangle of her hair. She switched off the radiogram, and for a moment the silence seemed as deafening as the music had been. He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…

As I said, wholesome, right?

The Thrilling Conclusion

Jarrod gives Sara a car. She starts driving lessons and gets to experience one measly party where all the boys her age are hot for her. Unfortunately, she gets pneumonia immediately afterward.

Thus Sara is out of commission, lying around doing nothing for the rest of the book until Jarrod decides to take her with him on a glamorous trip.

First to NYC for some wining and dining in the finest Manhattan restaurants, shopping trips, and carriage rides through Central Park.

Then it’s off to Jamaica to meet his disapproving mother.

Mather introduces another man into the story near the end: a rich, sexy friend of the hero who’s the same age as Jarrod. Sara rejects him, which confirms she truly knows her heart. Jarrod’s her only love, like 4-eva!

The pair share their first kiss a few pages from the end. Jarrod reminds Sara there is more to male-female sexual relations than just kissing.

To which Sara’s eyes open wide with awe and surprise. She must have been absent from school the day they taught Sex-Ed.

moon witch sinclair

My Opinion

I’ve read tons of historicals with 16, 17, and 18-year-old girls paired off with heroes in their mid-30s through early 40s. And I rarely ever am bothered by that. Historicals play by different rules.

Yet, in a contemporary romance, this is a fine line to walk. The plot should be approached with an understanding of the difficulty such a relationship faces. In Moon Witch, the older man/younger woman thing is… creepy. Even the hero knows it, so he spends half the book avoiding the heroine.

Admittedly, Anne Mather’s Moon Witch is not a “modern” contemporary. Plus, this is a Mills and Boon/ Harlequin Presents we’re talking about. This is as far away from real romance as Star Wars is to space travel and history, so eventually got on board. Despite my admitted prejudices, I ended up liking this book, even though it takes a while to get going.

Hey, if Courtney Stodden’s marriage is still going strong, [ETA: No, it’s not! They divorced in 2020.] then the readers of Moon Witch can hope that Sara and Jarrod will be happy together for many long years.

That is until Jarrod gets cancer 15-20 years later from all the smoking and tanning he does and leaves Sara a wealthy widow before she hits 40.

Anne Mather did not write Moon Witch in a psychologically intense way Charlotte Lamb would handle the older man-younger woman trope, as she did in the wonderful Temptation and Crescendo. But Anne Mather is no armchair psychologist.

Nevertheless, she did write some oddly entertaining books. She utilized plots involving large age differences, cheating (married or engaged), and evil mothers-in-law who try to break up the protagonists. Mather wrote many controversial romances. Moon Witch was one of them.

All-Time Favorite Best Seller

Moon Witch wasn’t just a hit with readers. For Harlequin, it was an “All-Time Favorite Best Seller.” 

moonwitch
9th printing
 photo Monnwithc back.jpg
All-Time Best Seller

My copy is the 9th printing since the original 1970 hardcover release. Who knows how many times it’s been reprinted or rereleased since 1982? 

 photo moonwitch ninth.jpg
Many Reprints

And of course, Moon Witch is now on Kindle for a new generation to enjoy!

moon with alt

Final Analysis of Moon Witch

Moon Witch reminded me of another book by Anne Mather, Stormspell. That was a full-length novel, with a similar older-man younger woman scenario, although without the guardianship-ward/ temporary daddy “ick” factor.

In that romance, the hero was a cheating sleaze who “initiated the heroine into womanhood” before leaving her to back to his fiancée. Still, the readers got to see inside the hero’s mind to understand him better. Except for his sexual attraction to Sara, Jarrod is inscrutable.

Also, in Stormspell, the heroine spread her wings a bit before she and the hero settled down. Sara got to live independently for a week before getting engaged.

Even so, I can see why Moon Witch appealed to the romance-loving masses.

Moon Witch, you are an awful book, straddling a fine line between romantic and pervy. I hate myself for liking you.

Gods above, forgive me, but I do.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis:

Jarrod guarded Sara even against himself.

Sara Robins had never even heard of Jarrod Kyle until he became her guardian. He was far removed from anyone Sara, at seventeen, had known in the small, quiet world she’d lived in until her grandfather’s death

Jarrod Kyle was just twice her age, handsome, rich, successful and surrounded by sophisticated women. Perhaps it was inevitable that Sara would fall in love with him.

But was it love or only a teenage crush? Whichever, Sara couldn’t imagine Jarrod’s returning her feelings!

MOON WITCH by ANNE MATHER

Borrow Moonwitch for free at Library Thing

passionate affair oakley

Category Romance Review: A Passionate Affair by Anne Mather

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

In Anne Mather’s A Passionate Affair, the heroine, Cassandra, is a widow whom the hero pursues fervently. Eventually, Cassandra realizes she desires him as much as he does her, so they engage in a…passionate affair.

For a Harlequin Presents from 1982 to pull this plot off was revolutionary. Before this book, lovemaking in this line had been restricted to married couples or “forced seductions” of initially unwilling virgins whose bodies “betrayed them.”

I had heard through the Romancelandia grapevine that Anne Weale’s  1983 release, Ecstasy, was the first HP where an unmarried heroine has a consensual, no-strings-attached fling with the hero. However, A Passionate Affair was published long before Weale’s book. So this book is technically the first to employ that revolutionary plot point. Ecstasy was the first where a virgin heroine practiced her autonomy to enter a sexual relationship.

The Characters

Cassandra’s first marriage was a disaster. Her husband, a race car driver, had enjoyed living on the edge, driving fast cars and seducing faster women. His antics were fodder for the tabloids. He’s dead now, and Cassandra has moved on in life. She does have a flourishing career and a normal sex drive. This was very refreshing to see in an old-school Harlequin Presents. Unfortunately, her unhappy marriage left deep insecurities. Cassandra’s doubts about herself prevent her from seeking relationships with men.

Enter Jay Ravek. Her life will never be after they meet.

A Passionate Affair, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 2014 reissue

The Plot

Jay and Cassandra encounter each other at a party. Their attraction is instantaneous and powerful. Jay chases after Cassandra, while she is hesitant to date him, as he has a reputation. Cassandra is all too familiar with that type of man he is. She is reluctant to give in to the attraction with a cold marriage behind her.

Despite her wariness, Jay’s charm melts through her icy demeanor. He’s handsome, funny, kind, and most of all, he wants her.

Cassandra and Jay embark on an amorous romance, throwing caution to the wind.

Their affair leads to an unexpected pregnancy. Fearing that Jay will abandon her, she flees, keeping her pregnancy a secret. It doesn’t help that her supposed best friend is whispering malicious gossip into her ears.

Cassandra runs away, yet Jay runs after her. He does much of the chasing in this romance. Her bad marriage left her with emotional issues. Even though Cassandra wants more than a short-term fling, she runs because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. Thank goodness Jay knows his own mind and is a man of integrity.

In the end, the villainy of the “friend” is revealed, and Jay expresses his love for Cassandra.

Final Analysis of A Passionate Affair

For all its radical plot, A Passionate Affair was still a typical Harlequin. The story was somewhat marred by a heroine who did not have the fortitude to follow through on her romantic wishes while listening to poisonous rumors. Rather than facing her fears head-on, she ran. And ran.

Jay, on the other hand, was a wonderful hero. He had all the characteristics that make up a great one. This was quite a deviation for Mather, whose heroes could be quite cruel and overbearing.

Despite the wishy-washy heroine, this was a solid romance. Anne Mather doesn’t usually awe me, but she rarely ever disappoints.

3.5 Stars


Synopsis:

“He’s quite famous—and notorious.”

Cassandra had been warned, and she didn’t care. After enduring a disastrous marriage, she was now ready for an affair with no strings attached.

But Jay Ravek was not like any man she’d known before. He was a totally new experience, and quickly she realized she wanted much more than a casual relationship.

If she was foolish enough to put her heart in his keeping, she might never recover. Better for her to run now than to suffer the inevitable anguish.

A Passionate Affair
melting ice davies

Category Romance Review: Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash

category romance
Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance (Special Subscription) #55
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 191
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash is a hard little book to find in its original form. It was released by Mills & Boon in 1989 but only published as a special edition for Harlequin Romance subscribers. The book was #55 of that line.

The author has rewritten and “updated” Melting Ice as part of a trilogy, so the modern e-book version vastly differs from the original print copy.

This review refers only to the Mill & Boon/ Special Harlequin Romance edition of Melting Ice.

The Characters

Victoria Francis is an airy-fairy young woman living in the English countryside. The story begins as she’s walking on her hands outside and meets the hero while she’s upside-down. It’s a good metaphor for demonstrating Victoria and Julius’s opposite perspectives about life.

Julius Korda is a cold and calculating icicle. He is an avaricious businessman who wears power suits and ties. Julius works in the fast-paced world of… antiques.

(Wait a minute, that can’t be right. Let me double-check that. Nope, that’s correct.)

Julius Korda is a big deal in the throat-cutting world of old-time estates and furniture sales.

(I can see why Ash decided to give this book a rewrite. The hero’s occupation bugged the hell out of me. That did not fit his described persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying and selling antiques. But buying and selling stocks would have made it in line with how Ash wrote Julius to be.)

“Julius Korda is as cold as steel, as ascetic as a monk, and the only god he worships is the almighty dollar.”

The Plot

Despite their decade-and-a-half age gap, the innocent Victoria and the money-hungry Julius form a connection. Victoria finds herself falling for him.

In a surprising turn of events, the buttoned-down Julius has a moment of weakness, and he and Victoria make love. Victoria was a virgin, and a confused Julius leaves her.

Years pass. When they meet next, it will be under different circumstances. And Victoria will have a surprise in store for Julius.

(Sigh) Yes, this is a secret baby plot.

Yada, yada, yada, you get the deal. Julius and Victoria reconnect and form a new relationship. Passion reignites. Julius learns that there are things in life more precious than gold–or 19th-century golden candelabras.

Final Analysis of Melting Ice

I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Generally, plots with uptight heroes paired with free-spirited heroines are a joy to experience. There were good elements here. However, they were wasted.

I shouldn’t be so shallow, but I couldn’t mesh Julius’ career with the identity the author had created for him. Antique dealing is a step above being a beautician in terms of macho jobs for a hero (See my review of Easy Lovin‘. I wasn’t overly fond of that hero’s profession as a hairdresser.)

The secret baby surprise came out of left field. Victoria was too young and childish; it didn’t seem right for her to become a single mother abandoned by her one-night stand. And where the heck was Julius for all that time? Polishing his silverware?

Melting Ice started out quite charming. However, I couldn’t get over a few issues, making this an average reading experience. Maybe the updated version is better, but I’m not curious enough to check it out.

3 Stars

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

Synopsis:

From the moment they met, young, carefree, Victoria was infatuated with Julius. But Julius made it clear that as far as he was concerned she wasn’t his type and in any case, she was far too young for him. However, everything changed one night — with far-reaching consequences for both of them.

MELTING ICE by ROSALIE ASH
lovers touch

Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

category romance
Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1216
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penny Jordan is a Harlequin Presents writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lovers Touch is kind of blah.

The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.

Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.

The Characters

Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?

Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations for wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.

Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.

The Plot

An Arranged Marriage of Convenience

In Lovers Touch, Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness.

He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.

A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!

Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery.

Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences.

But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.

Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money.

The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.

Big Misunderstandings

More misunderstandings ensue in Lovers Touch.

Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under.

He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.

That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.

Final Analysis of Lovers Touch

For me, Lover’s Touch failed to achieve the excellence it advertised.

Penny Jordan‘s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots.

If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.

In Lovers Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.

This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.

Lovers Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten.

2.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis:

Lady Eleanor de Tressail was simply mortified.

Bad enough that before his death, her old-fashioned grandfather had ensured that their impoverished estate wouldn’t have to be sold–by arranging her marriage. But to Joss Wycliffe of all people–the self-made millionaire who despised her!

Mistaking Nell’s shyness for aristocratic disdain, Joss contemptuously told her that he was marrying her only for her social status. He never suspected that icily untouchable Nell loved him desperately.

Her wounded pride kept her from revealing her true feelings. Particularly when Joss’s jealous secretary did her best to widen the rift between them…

LOVERS TOUCH by PENNY JORDAN
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

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


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

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

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

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

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

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

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

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

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

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

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

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

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

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

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

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
guarded moments

Category Romance Review: Guarded Moments by JoAnn Ross

Synopsis:

It was a command performance

Chantal Giraudeau de Montcroix was every inch a princess, and she expected the red-carpet treatment during her American tour to promote a traveling art exhibit. What she didn’t expect – and wouldn’t tolerate – was special agent Caine O’Bannion hounding her every move and cramping her formidable style.

Caine had this crazy notion that someone was out to kill her, and his constant surveillance was becoming a royal pain for Chantal – until the first attempt on her life. It was then that she commanded he keep watch over her…day and night.

GUARDED MOMENTS

SPOILER FREE REVIEW😊

The Book

JoAnn Ross’s Harlequin Temptation, Guarded Moments, takes us to the fictional European royal nation of Montcroix. Or, more precisely, it introduces us to the princess of the said fictional kingdom, the proud Chantal Giraudeau. The Giraudeau family is styled after Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco and their jet-setting brood that the paparazzi hounded.

The Plot

Princess Chantal has quite a reputation behind her. She’s been pictured in the glossies with lots of men, and her intense but brief marriage to a race-car driver was no surprise to the press. However, she’s a woman of many identities, and there is more to her than meets the eye.

Chantal is coming to America to promote an art exhibition. There’s danger afoot, as a potential threat is making the rounds against her. Several mysterious accidents seem to have followed Chantal, and the government is taking those as serious threats.

It’s up to the recently injured-on-duty Secret Service Agent Caine O’Bannion, who is appointed as her bodyguard. As the haughty Chantal would bristle at the idea of protection, Caine pretends to be her bureaucratic US guide. Another agent poses as a limo driver.

The sparks fly between the buttoned-down agent and the beautiful and independent Chantal. She demands her own way, but it’s Caine’s job to protect the princess. Chantal dismisses them outright. Who could possibly be out to hurt her?

Caine’s instincts prove to be correct, as there is an attempt on her life. Now, rather than just accompanying her to events, Caine is there with her, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the two spend every moment together, they get to see there’s more than meets the eye to one another. Chantal is a vulnerable woman who was hurt in the past by love. What the press reported about her love life was highly exaggerated. Caine has his own issues, but he can’t help but care for the vulnerable princess.

Still, the danger is constantly lurking as attempts on Chantal’s life get more flagrant. Who could be behind them? And even if Caine can get to the bottom of it all, what kind of future would he and Chantal have? Although they form an intense connection, they’re from two disparate worlds. How can they ever be together?

Final Analysis of Guarded Moments

Chantal starts off as a whiny brat, but life has not been as easy-breezy for her as it seems. Like an onion, she’s got multiple layers to her. The closer Caine gets to the center, the more the tears flow.

Caine, for his part, has his eye on his job. It’s one he takes seriously, even if it’s not protecting the US President anymore. Caine can’t deny his instantaneous attraction to Chantal, but he holds his cards close to his chest. Until the very end…

Chantal’s brother Burke gets a book of his own in a later Harlequin Temptation, The Prince & the Showgirl, which I have not read, but am sure to track down one day.

This was a passionate and pleasant Harlequin Temptation. I love bodyguard romances and heroines who don’t want protection. I wouldn’t rank this Guarded Moments as a keeper, but I certainly am glad to have read it. 3.59 stars

3.59 stars