This review is of Seduced and Betrayed, #8 in the “`Bachelor Arms” series, and book #2 of 3 in the series written by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation, September 1995).
The book begins in 1970. A woman finds her boyfriend, naked, in bed with another woman, who is also naked. Their relationship isn’t the only thing that ends that night.
Fast forward 25 years. Ezekiel “Zeke” Blackstone, 47, the book’s hero, is heading to a planning meeting for his daughter Cameron’s upcoming wedding. He is a famous actor turned producer/director and a major player in Hollywood. Zeke is nervous, however, because this meeting will bring him face-to-face with Ariel Cameron, 43, the heroine of the book, Cameron’s mother, and Zeke’s ex-wife. (They were the couple who broke up in the first paragraph!). Ariel, a successful actress turned model, has been estranged from Zeke for 25 years.
Since Halloween is just around the corner it’s time to take a look at the scary side of romance. No, not Gothics, although I promise we’ll get to more eventually.
The Harlequin Presents line was notorious for the cruelty some male protagonists could inflict upon their heroines. Some of these books are surprisingly well-written. Yet the horrific truth is that these heroes were villains.
Villainous heroes were popular forty years ago and they still are to this day. Why would anyone ever want to read romances where heroes are the bad guys? Why not? So long as we understand we’re reading fiction, at times it’s hypnotizing to take a peek at the darkness that lurks beneath the human surface. To witness what sadistic torments twisted love can create. And then thankfully close the pages on that misbegotten romantic nightmare.
At Sweet Savage Flame, we’re equally about the Sweet… and the Savage.
Tabitha in Moonlight is a Harlequin Romance about an efficient, capable nurse (aren’t they always in these books?) in an elderly men’s ward. She falls for the new temporary surgeon, the Dutch-born, Dr. Marius van Beek. Betty Neels wields the typical doctor-nurse romance into a Cinderella story, with Tabitha starring as the poor, down-trodden stepdaughter who gets no love from her wicked step-mother and step-sister.
Dr. van Beek plays the prince’s role, but fortunately, this Prince is far more astute than his fairy tale predecessor, not requiring a glass slipper to identify his true lady love.
When first we meet Tabitha, she is presiding over her ward, checking on patients in a pleasant, personal manner, going as far as taking care of one old gentleman’s cat. She’s no beauty, as Neels describes her, but with her lovely figure, wide smile, and fabulous hair that she keeps primly knotted up, the reader knows Tabitha is actually a swan in hiding.
Margaret St. George’s The Pirate and His Lady isn’t a historical romance, but a time-traveling adventure published through Harlequin’s American Romance line.
Elizabeth Rawley is a bookish young woman obsessed with all things pirate, especially the legend of captain Richard Colter and his ship, the Black Cutter which, along with its treasure, had been sunk off the Florida coast after being engaged in a battle over 200 years ago.
While attending a “Pirate’s Ball” she witnesses a strange sight: two ancient-looking ships blasting away at one another in the waters of the sea. When she goes to the shore, she finds a washed-up body. But the man isn’t dead; he’s very much alive and dressed in puffy white Seinfeld shirt and other pirate regalia. Was he a guest of the party dressed in costume? Who could this man be?
Why, it was Richard Colter, the captain of the Black Cutter. How could this be?
This review is of Lovers and Strangers, book #7 in the “Bachelor Arms” series by Candace Schuler. It’s a HarlequinTemptation from August 1995.
Like JoAnn Ross’ contributions to the “Bachelor Arms” series, Ms. Schuler’s three books contain a mystery within a mystery. There is an overarching mystery that runs through all 11 books in the series. There is the mystery that is contained in Ms. Schuler’s books (Reviewer note: The versions of the three books I am reviewing are the ebook versions of the original books published from August-October 1995. It appears Ms. Schuler regained the rights to her work from Harlequin and republished the books in 2012/13 under a new series name: Hollywood Nights. Perhaps owing to that, supporting character names and the name of the building have been changed from the print version. However, the titles and the core Harlequin Temptation stories remain intact.)
Sheila Holland née Coates, known to most readers of romance as Harlequin/ Mills & Boon author Charlotte Lamb is one of my favorite writers, period. Although she created seemingly simple category romances, her books were much more than that. She wrote like few others in her field could: fully inhabiting her characters’ minds and giving them larger-than-life personalities.
Her heroes could be fiercely chauvinistic and cruel with deep-seated psychological issues; others kind, understanding guys who still were emotionally intense. Lamb’s heroines ran the gamut from sheltered teenaged virgins, competent working women struggling to make it in their fields, and sophisticated, mature ladies who’d been around the block once or twice.
Lamb’s Harlequin Presents Seduction has been seared into my memory as one of the earliest romances I read. It was so chock-full of insanity and fantastic writing; I couldn’t get enough. I’ve reviewed it before, so I won’t go into details. If you hate it, read another Charlotte Lamb. She might have revisited similar tropes and characters, but she never wrote the same book twice!
Driving Force, a Sally Wentworth Harlequin Presents, offers few surprises but is a satisfactory read regardless.
West Marriot– our hero, not a 3-star hotel but a famous race car driver–was terribly injured in a race several months ago. Madeleine French, a nurse and physiotherapist, had been married to West for four years. Maddy couldn’t withstand the anxiety of being married to a man with such a dangerous career, so she gave him an ultimatum, married life or fast cars. When he refused to quit, she left him. Several months later, West was in an accident that immobilized him.
Maddy receives a call from West’s mother, requesting to catch up. In fact, Laura, West’s mother, declares to Laura West isn’t recovering at all and may never walk again. She begs Maddy to come to help her ex-husband, and although Maddy initially refuses, in time, she realizes she still loves her ex and can’t abandon him. Maddy knows it won’t be easy for West to accept her, as their divorce was acrimonious, with West, a man a proud man, begging Maddy to stay.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Driving Force by Sally Wentworth”
This review is of The Strong, Silent Type, book #2 in the “Bachelor Arms” series and the 2nd of 3 books in the series written byKate Hoffmann.
The book begins with Josh Banks, the hero of the book and a tax accountant (yes, you read that correctly), meeting with one of his clients, actress Olivia Wilde (NOT the current actress using the stage name, this Olivia Wilde is a 75-year-old octogenarian actress). Olivia asks Josh for a favor; to keep her granddaughter, Taryn, out of Los Angeles for a few weeks (Olivia is up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and feels that Taryn–a tabloid darling–might scupper her chances for the award with her behavior).
When Josh meets Taryn, the heroine, he offers her money to leave L.A. She refuses. She’ll only agree to behave if Josh does something for her, which he is not willing to do at first. (He does agree, eventually, to pose for her).
The story begins at a mall in Los Angeles. Tru Hallihan and Josh Banks have come to the mall to shop for gifts for their respective wives. Tagging along is their friend Garrett McCabe, the hero of the book and a columnist for The L.A. Post newspaper. When Tru and Josh discover that domestic diva Emily Taylor is having a book signing in the mall, Tru and Josh decide to get autographed copies of her books for their spouses. Garrett, meanwhile, decides to write a vituperative column about Emily, ripping her up one side and down the other. He thinks the column is funny.
Others, however, don’t see it that way. Female readers call to cancel their newspaper subscriptions, and Richard Parker, Garrett’s boss, orders him to apologize to Emily, the heroine of the book. (There are other reasons Parker wants Garrett to apologize; he’s trying to buy “At Home,” the magazine Emily owns with her business partner, Nora Griswold). ... Read more “Category Romance Review: A Happily Unmarried Man by Kate Hoffmann”
This 11 book continuity series takes place in/around the Los Angeles apartment complex the “Bachelor Arms”. Why there are only 11 books in the series instead of 12 is an unsolved mystery. The books are written by four different authors: books 1-3 are written by Kate Hoffmann; 4-6 by JoAnn Ross; 7-9 by Candace Schuler; and 10-11 by Judith Arnold. Although the series has four different authors, there is a subplot running through each book of the series.
Private Eyes…They’re Watching You
Bachelor Husband begins with Harry Truman “Tru” Hallihan, the hero of the book and a private investigator, working a case. He has been hired by multi-millionaire Simon Marshall to find out if his son-in-law, Hollywood producer Ellis Stone, is cheating on Marshall’s daughter, Marianne. Although Stone has had three after-hours meetings with a woman, Tru hasn’t found any really incriminating evidence. ... Read more “Category Romance Review: Bachelor Husband by Kate Hoffmann”
Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals. The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.
Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.
Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love?... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan”
Viking Magic by Angela Welles was the entry for the nation of Denmark in Harlequin Presents’ line 1990s Postcards from Europe mini-series. I don’t know why the Nordic nations of Europe don’t feature more prominently in HPlandia. I find those heroes just as exciting as the Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Arab ones. Plus, I adore blonds! Viking Magic features a nice guy hero and a neurotically insecure heroine (aren’t they all?) united on a quest of sorts.
Gina Price is in Copenhagen to find her wayward teenage sister, who’s run off with a young Danish student. She’s given an address that might be a clue as to her sister’s whereabouts and knocks on the door of an apartment. Who should open the door but a Viking god of a man dressed in nothing but boxers! The man’s not too keen on seeing Gina, as: #1 she’s interrupted his sleep, and #2 he thinks she’s one of his conniving ex’s friends trying to steal a valuable painting from him. Things are clarified in short order, and the man, Rune Christenson, has nothing to do with Gina’s sister.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles”
A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance, somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Like so many of her works, the major themes are the philosophy of love and what are the defined roles of being a man and a woman, especially when it comes to amorous relationships.
In general, I think she was better restrained by the limitations of category romance as at times here she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, A Violation was a satisfactory read, not as good as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but much better than a few of Lamb’s other Mills and Boon/ Harlequins that also dealt with sexual assault (I am looking at you Dark Fever).
Rape, especially a violent rape by a stranger who debases the heroine, leaving her life in tatters, isn’t the most comfortable backstory for a romance. As stated, though, this isn’t strictly a romance novel, so if you’re looking for more than a “Happy For Now” ending, you might be disappointed.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb”
Ruth Langan’s Highland Heather is the sequel to her previous Scottish romance, Highland Barbarian. I liked this Harlequin Historical much more than its predecessor. Why? I enjoyed the conflict between the hero and the heroine and the English setting, plus introducing Queen Elizabeth I to a story always makes things interesting.
Brenna MacAlpin is the middle MacAlpin sister, whose elder sister Meredith went and married her beloved Highlander. Brenna is now the leader of their Scots clan. However, it’s not easy going for her as she has enemies, namely the English. Moreover, Brenna does not have the same fierce disposition as her elder sister. Brenna is more even-tempered, dare I say, more lady-like. Her men are blindly loyal to her, regardless, but leading is no easy task.
The Queen’s Savage
One day, the Queen’s Savage himself, Lord Morgan Grey, arrives to implement Queen Elizabeth’s plan to marry the MacAlpin off to an English lord, which she believes will lead to peace. MacAlpin household warily welcomes Morgan and his men. Upon hearing the intentions of the English, Brenna flees into the wilderness.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Heather by Ruth Langan”
Dillon After Dark, Harlequin Temptation #362, is a cute, fun romance by Leandra Logan. Dillon Danvers is a laid-back California DJ who airs a talk/ music show where he discusses many topics: surfing, books, music, clubs, and lots of other fun subjects to delight in. Dr. Kristina Jordan is a psychologist and single mother with no time for relaxation. Together these two opposites could make for an exciting couple. However, Kristina needs major convincing to be part of it.
Kristina’s teenaged daughter, Julianne, is absolutely ga-ga over Dillon. His sexy voice makes her adolescent hormones run wild. She’s a frequent caller to his show, making herself seem older than her tender years while complaining about her overbearing mother. Julianne enters a poetry contest for the show and wins the grand prize: a date with Dillon! Her mother thinks this is all silly nonsense And is appalled by her daughter’s behavior. She’s merely fourteen, while Dillon is twice her age!
At the beginning of Tiffany White’s category romance Cheap Thrills, the hero Crew Harper is working this side gig as a window-washer when he becomes an accidental peeping Tom. Transfixed, can only stare as sees a woman enter an office. She undresses, and he’s shocked at what’s revealed: yes, her gorgeous body, but with a delightful secret butterfly tattoo on her pert, peachy derriere. That’s right, I do read “The Daily Mail” on occasion!
After the woman changes her clothes and leaves, Crew sees a man come into her office and rifle through her desk. How outrageous! How dare this man invade a woman’s privacy?
I think it’s kind of funny how rapidly times have moved. Alexa, the heroine, has a small butterfly tattoo on her butt, and the hero acts as if it’s the naughtiest little secret a woman can keep. It’s amazing how quickly social norms change, as this was written in 1990.
Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.
Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.
It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.
Penny Jordan was an immensely popular author for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin. She wrote romantic love stories that readers have enjoyed for 40 years. Penny Jordan was not her real identity but one of her many pseudonyms. Let’s take a look back at the career of this talented author.
Life Before Writing
Born on November 24, 1946, Penelope “Penny” Jones came into the world in a nursing home in Preston, Lancashire, England. Like many future writers, Penny had a vivid imagination as a child and was an active reader. Starting at age 10 or 11, her mother introduced Penny to the romantic serials in the Woman’s Weekly magazines. She became hooked on reading Mills & Boon and was a devoted fan. In those days, private lending libraries were the only source to obtain those books. Not until years later would the books go on sale in shops so Penny could have her keep of them.
She had met the love of her life, Steve Halsall, as a teenager, whom she married after her graduation. Steve was supportive of Penny’s burgeoning ambitions to write and purchased a typewriter for her to create romantic fiction.
Enter Caroline Courtney, Penny Jordan, and Anne Groves
An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to. In this category romance, Sirocco, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.
The Stalker vs. the User
One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).
Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.
In Patricia Matthews’ late-Victorian era set Sapphire, treasure hunting and separated lovers are the two driving plot points of this 1989 historical romance.
Down on her luck, when Englishwoman Regina Paxton hears tales of treasure–jewels–in far-away India, she is immediately intrigued. She forms a strange association with burly, bearded Irishman Brian MacBride. Together, the two travel to India in search of treasure. Their journey is rough and arduous. But together, they make it. And what’s more, they actually find the jewels they were searching for.
Of course, the two bond in various ways, enjoying a quick romantic affair.
Regina and Brian separate, as Brian has never been the settling done type. Unfortunately, for Regina, she’s with a child, and settling down is exactly what she needs to do. So in comes along old what’s his name, Will, a nice, unassuming man, who Regina convinces herself will do. She marries him, all the while knowing she’s pregnant with Brian’s child. Indeed, it’s no surprise to her when her son is born with a red shock of hair.