This review is of Passion’s Web by Cassie Edwards.
The book begins in Key West, Florida, with the heroine of the book, Natalie Palmer, and the hero, Bryce Fowler, meeting in a carriage. Shortly after they meet, Natalie and Bryce become lovers.
Natalie lives with her father, Saul, a wealthy tobacconist. She also has an older brother, Adam. Natalie’s mother, Kathryn, passed when Natalie was younger. The circumstances of her passing is one of many secrets–the theme of the book–that Saul is trying to keep from Natalie.
Bryce–who has multiple aspects to his persona–has come to Key West at the request of his dying father, Tom. Bryce has been estranged from his father for a long time. Bryce also has to deal with his younger brother, Hugh, with whom he has bad blood.
Bryce is hired by a businessman in New Orleans, Clarence Seymour, to find three things. An opium shipment, and Seymour’s wife and daughter, who were taken in separate incidents years apart. Bryce won’t be able to bring back Seymour’s wife–she, Kathryn, is dead–but he can bring back his daughter…Natalie.
Bryce kidnaps Natalie and takes her to New Orleans to meet Clarence. He’s happy to see her, but one person who most definitely isn’t is Brenda Seymour, Clarence’s other daughter, Natalie’s sister…and Adam’s lover.
When Natalie decides to go back to Key West, Brenda helps her. This effort ends up with Natalie being forced to marry a man, Albert Burns, who is a former pirate.
Bryce saves her from this forced marriage and they return to New Orleans, to discover sadly that Clarence has been shot. He is later shot again.
In the end, the secrets Saul and Adam wanted to hide from Natalie are revealed She and Bryce have their Happily Ever After.
I got through it.
Passion’s Web contains many of the same literary weaknesses which mark the rest of Mrs. Edwards’ work: shallow, undeveloped characters and storylines; unsatisfactory endings; and way too many exclamation points! At unnecessary times! It’s annoying!
There are a lot of love scenes. None are as hot as what Mrs. Edwards would come up with for her Native American romances.
Assault, battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.
There are books I’m glad I got through because I paid for them and can now resign them to the dustbin of history–literally and figuratively. Passion’s Web is one such book.
When a handsome stranger overpowered her in her boudoir right after her marriage ceremony, inexperienced Laura Upton was too frightened to do more than faint. Later when she awoke, the scarcely clad beauty found herself on a galloping horse, in the powerful embrace of her virile kidnapper. How dare this riff-raff deprive her of the most romantic night of her life! Stroking her creamy flesh as she struggled, the bold cowboy whispered how wicked a man her husband was — and the ebony haired beauty didn’t know whether she should rejoice she was rescued… or be terrified she’d be ravaged.
CAPTIVE MELODY by NADINE CRENSHAW
***Welcome Blue Falcon to SweetSavageFlame.com, who will be contributing his great reviews to this site. Here, in his first review, he analyzes Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw***
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Captive Melody, a standalone Zebra from January 1989 by Nadine Crenshaw.
The book starts in July 1876, Northern California. A young wife, Ling Kee (I’m writing her name in the traditional Chinese way, last name first), is brutally attacked by three “men”. Among them is Richard Laird, a rancher. After being beaten and raped, Ling Kee commits suicide.
Fast forward five years. Laird has just married Laura Upton, the heroine of the book. Their marriage won’t last, however, as on their wedding night, Laura is kidnapped by Andre Sheridan, the hero of the book and Ling Kee’s husband. Andre plans to hold Laura as bait to draw Richard to Andre’s home and kill him.
As Andre takes Laura further away from Laird, they become attracted to each other, later acting on that attraction. Andre later takes Laura to one of his homes–he is quite wealthy–and their relationship deepens. One person not happy about this is Ling Soo, Andre’s housekeeper, and Ling Kee’s father, who tries to break up their relationship.
After some time together, Andre sends Laura back to Laird. Big mistake. He tries to rape Laura and beats her brutally. Laurea leaves Laird–say that three times quickly–and gets a job in a pharmacy. She also discovers she’s pregnant with Andre’s baby and obtains another suitor, Yale Talbot,
Andre finds Laura after a long search and breaks up her relationship with Talbot. Andre then compels Laura to marry him. They are happy for a while-Laura is pregnant-but then Laird shows up again. A violent confrontation takes place between Andre and Laird, and Laird is killed, not by Andre, but by Laura.
In the end, Laura becomes a famous concert pianist-fulling a dream her stepmother had for her-and Laura, Andre, and their daughter to have their Happily Ever After.
The fact that I finished it, which was accomplished only by speed reading and skimming. The reasons are explained below.
Captive Melody contains two tropes I HATE in books: revenge by proxy and Stockholm Syndrome. They’re both here, and they’re both terrible.
Question: Why do “heroes” in these books go after defenseless, innocent women? The answer: they’re really cowards. Going after a man requires emotional, financial, mental, and physical strength. There is also the possibility that the “hero” could get killed. Going after a woman: most of those things are much less likely to happen, especially when the woman is an oatmeal, milquetoast heroine like Laura Upton.
Andre is, to put it simply, an abusive, arrogant, brutal, egotistical, possessive, predatory, self-centered, uncaring, unfeeling bastard. There are no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.
Now, for an equal opportunity unloading on Laura, who is the dumbest romance novel heroine I’ve read since Eugenia Scott in Cassie Edwards’ putrid Eugenia’s Embrace. To be fair to her, she has been abused her entire life, first by her stepmother, then by Laird, then by Andre, then Yale, and finally back to Andre. Also be fair, Andre doesn’t physically strike Laura–big whoop–but every other action toward Laura is abusive) She has all the personality of white bread and similar intelligence.
One really good love scene and there are others, but the scene is dampened by the fact that Andre manipulated Laura into having sex with him, then used her lust for him to coerce more sexual favors as the book goes on.
When Laura goes back to Laird, he brutally beats her. Later, Andre and Laird have their confrontation; which is violent, before Laura shoots and kills Laird. The first scene is somewhat graphic; the latter is not.
Bottom Line on Captive Melody
If it were possible to give less than one star to a book, Captive Melody would be the one. I’m not going to say “I’ll never read another book by” this author, Ms. Crenshaw, but Captive Melody certainly doesn’t inspire any enthusiasm for any books I’ll read by her in the future.
Lovespellis yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like CaptiveAngel. This medieval romance is as epic as any of her westerns.
Gillian is an English fletcher who poses as twins, the male Gil & female Gillian. A Norman knight named Brian is badly beaten and his armor has been stolen by an errant squire. He is rescued by Gil who cares for him and helps him heal. Brian is a man often too proud for his own good. His honor demands he must pay recompense to Gil for saving his life so he helps him/her make arrows. To satisfy his life debt, Brian must help Gillian bring the arrows to arm the English, the enemies of his people.
In due time Brian figures out Gil’s true identity. He falls for her, as she does for him. This is just the beginning of their love story.
There are many misadventures along the way, as a cast of multi-faceted secondary characters soon takes the stage, adding more drama, romance, and tragic elements to this story. The man who stole Brian’s knight returns, and he’s not quite the evil character Brian first thought he was. That character’s doomed love affair with a noblewoman is exquisitely portrayed, and its conclusion might bring you to tears, as it did for me.
Causing trouble for Gillian and Brian is a multi-faceted gay quasi-villain, Ranulf, who desires Gil, the boy. He beats Brian and captures Gil. In a tense scene, Ranulf attempts to rape her but is so excited he finishes prematurely. Then he is furious to discover he’s a girl!
Oddly enough, after that, Gil & Ranulf establish a friendship of sorts as they march through battle together. In the end, it’s strongly hinted Ranulf loves both versions of Gil/Gillian.
Nevertheless, it’s Brian who is the very intense love of Gillian’s life.
Brian is a conflicted character, a knight in a time when the methods of war were changing. His position and that of others like him were being made redundant through stronger firepower. With the advancement of weaponry, men were fighting at more long-distance ranges. Thus the dependence on utilizing knights on horseback who engaged in sword-to-sword sword combat was lessened.
It was an age where the commoner began obtaining financial power. Men such as Brian, who made their fortunes via the sword, were seeing their time come to an end.
Brian must question who he is as the world around him transforms into something he doesn’t recognize, and he becomes disillusioned. In the end, the hero gives up his knighthood to stay with his beloved, a lower-class arrow-maker who will, on occasion, still pose as a man.
Final Analysis of Lovespell
Lovespell is a great medieval romance. It’s an unconventional and deeply passionate book. Filled with surprises, twists, and turns, it kept me up late at night to read just one more page. Good stuff.
Deana James has yet to disappoint me. I know she (Mona Sizer) has authored mostly nonfiction westerns under her real name in the latter years of her writing career. I only wish she had written more romances.
With a tunic draping her sensuous figure and a cap hiding her wheat-gold hair, no one guessed that the boy Gil was really the voluptuous Gillian. Only men could belong to craftsmen’s guilds, and as the best bowmaker in all of England, the beautiful girl never minded the disguise…until she saw Sir Brian. The handsome knight’s hazel eyes and masterful body smote her to her very core – and for the first time in her life, Gillian longed to risk her career for just a moment of passion’s sweet fury!
When Brian de Trenanay discovered the gorgeous maiden beneath the coarse, mannish garments, he knew he had to brand her as his own. Even though she was an enemy Englishwoman, she had pierced the French man of war to the heart. His senses enflamed, Brian decided there would be time enough for fighting on the morrow. Tonight he would surrender his strength to the power of ecstasy and submit to the irresistible force of her Lovespell.
While Zebra still publishes historical romances, their heyday as paperback romance publishers is behind them. In the ’80s and ’90s, their dazzling romances would line shelves in drugstores and be piled into bargain bins in supermarkets. Now they’re something most only hardcore romance lovers recall fondly.
The covers would hypnotize with bright shades of red, pink, gold, and purple swirls. The embossed foil titles glittered with adjectives like “wild,” “seductive,” “scarlet,” ”violet,” & “amber,” or nouns like “temptation,” “Vixen,” “ecstasy,” “angel,” or “passion.” Often you’d get a state thrown in the title, like Colorado Temptation, Texas Star, Dakota Destiny,Wild Wyoming Love, or California Caress. The best covers would have a horse rearing in the background (or a bird, a ship, or a mansion) plus a pink or purple flower opening up in euphemistic symbolism.
Sadly, too often, the covers would be the best thing about the books. In this case, it’s certainly the best thing about Jolene Prewit-Parker’s Sweet Stolen Passion. Unfortunately, for a Zebra Lovegram, except for the heroine’s satin green dress and the pink-orange lilies in the foreground, the cover’s rather ho-hum. Also, I’m not too fond of the hero’s hair. It’s an anachronistic floppy 1990s style that might look cute on a 13-year-old boy. However, on a grown man, it makes him look like a villainous, preppy douche.
Why spend so much time discussing the cover? Because as I said, it’s the best part of Sweet Stolen Passion, a book as exciting as waiting in that line at the DMV to get a ticket to wait on another line.
“Promise me I’ll always be your booty.”
SWEET STOLEN PASSION
Set in the late 1600s in France, England, and the High Seas, Sweet Stolen Passion is a tale of insta-luv. Ameran is a French girl living near the coast, and Grayson (shouldn’t that be Greyson?) is commander of King Charles’ Navy whose fleet passes by her home. That’s right, he’s not merely a well-respected Captain, but Admiral of the whole British Naval Fleet. His age is never mentioned, but he’s mid-thirties as most.
Ameran’s parental heritage is of mysterious origin. All she knows is that her father was an important man whom her mother met at the French court. Now Ameran is orphaned, living alone, and a debauched Duke wants her in his bed. Since she won’t let him touch her, he declares her to be a witch. The ignorant villagers rush to burn down her home. Maybe Ameran is a witch, or maybe she isn’t. I don’t remember, nor did I care!
Let it be known that I do not take offense easily. Generally speaking, I don’t care what’s written in fiction because it is all make-believe. A story exists only on paper and in the mind. However, the one thing I do take offense at is being bored. I don’t mind authors who can’t write well, as long as they tell an exciting story. For me, nothing is more unforgivable than being boring. Well, sadly, this book is just that.
Ameran and Gray declare their boring love for each other, cue stupid misunderstanding, cue separation, cue boring reunion… And the book’s still got 75% left to go. There is a villain who wants Ameran and a villainess who wants Gray (what a perfect name for a bland, dull hero). The latter character makes no sense. She is a crazily obsessed woman who has had minimal, if any, contact with the hero. She’s just there. Gideon, the villain, an old friend of Gray’s, has turned to pirating and lusts after Ameran. Heis the most interesting character in the book. Either the author or the editor thought so because Gideon’s name is sometimes written instead of Gray’s.
Oh spoiler, which I don’t care about spoiling: It turns out the poor peasant Ameran, is actually the daughter of the English king.
Fifty Shades of Boring?
Gray was lackluster and bland. How can a woman swoon at such lyrical poetry as:
Gray: “Have no fear my love. I intend to do all in my power to insure your comfort and happiness forever more.”
Ameran: “You’re too kind to me.”
Gray: “Nay, my darling, I haven’t begun to show you the magnitude of my love for you.”
Gray: “What is it you feel to compel to unburden from your soul? Have I done something which angered or offended you? If I have, I beg your forgiveness & will make immediate restitution.”
Gray: “I can truthfully swear to you that even though I love you with all my heart, come dawn I shall love you even more.”
My Final Ranting Analysis of Sweet Stolen Passion
Seriously, if, like me, you’re a hard-core Zebra historical romance fan with an OCD-like need to read through the entire catalog, do yourself a favor, read the back blurb, which is far more exciting than the actual book, take a gander at the cover, and if you really need to, read the last chapter (two pages long), and consider yourself done. I do not know why I continued reading, except that I must be a committed masochist who believes if you’re going to do something stupid and painful, why not go the whole way?
Gray says to Ameran that he hopes her time spent with him was worth it: “Just as long as I’m not boring you.”
Sorry, bud, way too late for that.
Anyway, at least Ameran has some interesting lines, like telling Gray:
“Promise me I’ll always be your booty.”
In my life, I’ve spent countless hours on the phone on hold with businesses, government offices, and utility, phone, & credit card companies, forced to listening to staticky music while idly doodling pictures of cats or picking grit out from under my nails with a paperclip. However, all that time spent was more enthralling than reading this boring as heck book.
Texas Torment, a Zebra Lovegram by Catherine Creel is set in Texas, naturally, in the post-Civil War era. In this book, Adelaide has left her husband Daniel and Daniel seeks her out again.
Catherine Creel liked using the “secretly married couple that is separated & then reunited under crazy circumstances” plot, didn’t she? She had a similar thing going on in the much more fun Passion’s Chains.
Daniel’s a Yankee, while Adelaide’s family were Confederates. Daniel and Adelaide fell in love and eloped, but the war tore them apart.
Adelaide’s family moved to Texas to start a ranch. Daniel pursues and finds her, buying a neighboring ranch of his own. He agrees to keep their marriage a secret from her family and the townsfolk but is determined to win her love again.
Adelaide is an abrasive heroine and I really could not understand why she was so adamant against being with Daniel. He is such a better hero than she deserved.
Final Analysis of Texas Torment
I wish I knew where I put this book because I had some passages marked noting Daniel’s awesomeness. However, at almost 500 pages, this premise wore thin, leading to a so-so experience. It took me so long to finish Texas Torment that it became Introvert Reader’s Torment!
ACE OF HEARTS Gloria Daniels was prepared for adventure–her first trip away from home was bound to be exciting. But nothing could have matched the true thrill that coursed through her young body when she first spotted Sterling Caulder. He may have had a reputation as a gambler, but he was like no man she had ever seen before. He walked with an elegant grace and carried an air of sophistication that drew Gloria into his spell. All she wanted at that moment was to experience his embrace, to feel his warm lips against her own, to have him sweep her off of her feet for a night of unbridled ecstasy!
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS Sterling Caulder made his living by making decent men part with their hard earned money. A gambler and a rogue, Sterling did his job without thinking of the consequences–at least until he met Gloria. Her soft gray eyes appealed to his only weakness–the desire to protect the innocent beauty from the dangers of the world. All he wanted to do was to run his fingers through her flaxen curls, to caress her with a passion that knew no bounds. Making Gloria his own would be a risk, but for a night in her arms he was willing to chance it all in Love’s Glorious Gamble.
In Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble a young and naïve blonde named Gloria Daniels seeks to avenge her father’s death. She transforms herself into the vixenish redhead, Glory Dane. As Glory, she’ll cheat men out of their money and seek out retribution. Meanwhile, her mentor, and sometimes-savior, Sterling Caulder, a notorious gambler, fights his attraction to her. Sterling’s been hurt by love in the past. Is Gloria the woman who will mend his heart?
Here in Love’s Glorious Gamble, the hero is no overbearing bully. He’s a charismatic rogue who shares a great, supportive relationship with the heroine. The heroine is courageous and plucky, all alone in a world that holds mystery and despair.
A girl of intelligence and wit, Glory devises a complicated trap in which to ensnare her enemies. Everyone is hiding the truth to some extent in this tangled tale of vengeance.
Love’s Glorious Gable was published in 1988 under Zebra‘s Heartfire imprint. It is an entertaining, emotional romance. This book should merit at least 4 stars, especially by the low-quality standards of Zebra romances.
So why does my official rating stand at only 3 stars?
Love’s Glorious Gamble falls short when contrasted with my personal favorites. It’s unfair to make such comparisons, I know. I went in with immense expectations only to find an entertaining, above-average love story.
That doesn’t sound bad at all, does it?
I had to take a full star rating off this book because Sterling is still madly in love with his dead fiancée, Eliza. So much, that even in bed, he calls Glory by Eliza’s name…twice. Yikes!
The dead wife/dead lover-fetish trope is a giant pet peeve and a major no-no for me… Uggh!
I don’t mind a hero who believes he is in love with another living woman and then falls truly in love with the heroine. I can even tolerate a cheater if he’s redeemed. It’s that when the heroine has to compete with a perfect ghost for the hero’s affections, I tend to nope out.
I really wish that had not been such a significant part of Sterling’s background. With any other author, this would have been a complete deal-breaker for me. However, due to Ransom’s exceptional writing, I avoided tossing the book on the floor and was able to continue.
Final Analysis of Love’s Glorious Gamble
As I said, that one plot point did color my final opinion of Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble. If I don’t dwell on it, I can honestly say that, while not perfect, this Zebra Heartfire is worthy of a positive review.
But it did happen, so that tempers my overall enjoyment, although certainly not enough to hate it. I just wouldn’t put it on my Desert-Island-Keeper list.
However, if you’re a more open-minded reader who appreciates the power of love’s ability to heal wounds and also looking for a Zebra that doesn’t suck, then this may be an old-school romance you’d like to explore.
DEFIANT BEAUTY Ginny Courtney faced the tall intruder with cool mockery in her wide gray eyes and prayed he would not sense her fear. She could not let this Roundhead colonel cast her out of her home! For the sake of the royalist fugitives hidden on the estate, she had to remain …even f it meant being at the mercy of the man who stood so arrogantly before her. She wanted to hate him, but as she watched his handsome face soften with compassion and felt his green-brown eyes shower her with unexpected warmth, her defenses began to crumble, leaving her heart as vulnerable as her trembling body.
BOLD CONQUEROR Alex Marshall was not a man who took defiance lightly, but somehow the impertinent chestnut-haired beauty intrigued him. He had the power to destroy everything the girl held dear, yet she taunted him with her glances, challenged him with her words, showed her willfulness with every graceful move of her slender frame. Alex couldn’t help but wonder if she would respond to his kisses with that same spirit and fire, and he swore he’d have his answer before too many nights had passed. He would take her in his arms and caress her silken curves until she begged for the tender touch of her BELOVED ENEMY.
BELOVED ENEMY by JANE FEATHER
MILD SPOILERS 😉
When my cat destroyed the cover of my edition of Jane Feather’s Beloved Enemy, chewing it to shreds, I lamented the loss. It was a pretty cover, although I cared nothing for the book. Beloved Enemy begins with an intriguing premise, then about 20 pages in, the annoying “insta-luv” trope rears its head. Everything goes downhill from there.
I’ve read Jane Feather’s books before. They’re the kind one loves or hates, and usually, I’ve enjoyed them. One positive about this was that it was originally published as a Zebra Heartfire in 1987, and compared to other Zebras, the writing is like Tolstoy.
Ginny Courtney is a war widow. Her older brother is presumed dead, and her family remains fiercely loyal to the crown. At the same time, Alex Marshall is a Colonel in Cromwell’s Army. He takes command of her family home as his army looks for fugitives.
The hero is…not charismatic. All he does is shout and yell at Ginny. He gives Ginny one of the worst pet names I’ve heard a hero say to his heroine. Alex calls her his beloved “chicken.” No, not his “henny” or something cute like “chickadee” or even “pigeon.” If Ginny ever reciprocated in kind by calling him her “cock,” Feather never let us readers know, more’s the pity.
The two fall for each other instantly, although why I don’t know. He has zero charm, and she never trusts him and hides various secrets. Even though Alex is her enemy and her “captor,” Ginny chooses to be Alex’s personal camp follower. I don’t know how authentic it was for a supposed Puritan Colonel to have his high-connected Loyalist lover follow him from camp to camp. Then again, how important is historical accuracy in these books?
Ginny even gets to talk to King Charles and acts as his spy, passing on information to other agents.
Alex and Ginny move from location to location. They bivouacand decamp from town to town as occupying an occupying army would do. That’s about it for the first half. Unfortunately, Beloved Enemy takes about three hundred pages for any action to start. When it does, it’s a bit wild, from accusations of witchcraft, death of an interesting secondary character, a return from the dead, and more death.
Final Analysis of Beloved Enemy
If it takes more than half the book for a story to get going, it’s too late for me to care. I don’t mind a slow burn build-up, but this book was one half of nothing happening, then for the other half, everything was tossed into the plot but the kitchen sink. As a result, the pacing was uneven, the book took an excruciating 500 pages to tell its story when it should have been cut down to a tight 350.
Beloved Enemy blew like a Category 4 Hurricane. It could have been worse, yet it wasn’t a fun time.
My disappointment was such a shame as I love English Civil War and Restoration Era romances filled with priggish Roundheads & debauched Cavaliers.
All through the dull parts, I kept thinking, “Why am I reading this boring book?” Sure it ticked boxes of categories I love, such as: an illicit romance among enemies; a redheaded, stoic military hero; and a pretty Zebra cover by Ray Kursar. However, it was so tedious. Still, I finished it.
As said, boring it may have been, for what it was, it was written by Jane Feather, an author with some literary skill talent. For that, I’ll give it a two-star rating. I am doubtful, though, that I’d have been so generous if I’d read the reissue or Kindle version and not have been so dazzled by the Kursar cover.
First of all, I love the original Pirate’s Angel Zebra Heartfire cover, but man-oh-man, have you taken a look at the e-book version? Authors, why are you doing this to your books? Lots of folks love to mock old-school covers and Fabio, but there are e-book covers that make clinches look like Rembrandts. Even a plain black cover with white Comic Sans font would be sexier than whatever the heck that new version is.
Besides loving the original Pino cover, I loved just about everything else in Marsha Bauer’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire pirate romance. Sure, the heroine is a two-faced hussy, as she has a dependable guy back home whom she plans on marrying while she enthusiastically partakes in lovemaking sessions with the hero. But I couldn’t blame Ivy. Drake was wildly attracted to her.
Plus, he was hot. (God, I’m so shallow.)
Our story begins with a lovemaking session some 20+ years prior to the start of the main plot, with the pirate Keils Cauldron making love to a beautiful woman he calls Sunny.
Ostensibly, the product of this union is our heroine, Ivy Woodruff. Her pregnant mother settled down with a nice guy who raised Ivy and gave her his last name. From what her mother told her of her conception, Ivy is convinced that Keils is her natural father.
Conveniently enough, Ivy is sailing on a ship when Keils and his crew seize it. Keils’ first mate Drake is instantly taken with the violet-eyed vixen, so he makes her his captive. Ivy resists Drake and tries to convince Keils that she is his daughter, but he’s not keen on believing her as he’s in mourning for his dead son, who was mysteriously murdered. For the time being, Keils is determined to find the killer. So he allows Drake to take Ivy aboard, even though Keils doesn’t trust her.
There was an engaging plot at the heart of this book; however, what really drew me to Pirate’s Angel was the chemistry between Ivy and Drake. Blond heroes always intrigue me. Drake’s intense pursuit of Ivy had me reading and rereading many scenes.
I remember as a teen pestering a friend over and over to read this one, not resting until she finished it. I had to share the sexy, cheesy awesomeness with someone! When she gave it back, she gushed about how she finished it in one sitting.
The sex scenes were very steamy. I should not have been reading his trash. What did my mother think these books were about? The covers explicitly told you what was going on!
Despite her prim and proper upbringing, Drake brings out the wild siren in her, and they become lovers. Who then shows up, but Ivy’s fiance, Alan? Ivy begs him for forgiveness, which he gives her without any quarrel. As a man-of-the-cloth, he believes in redemption.
Plus, Ivy’s hot.
The trouble is, whenever she and Drake are together, Ivy can’t resist him; their passion is so intense.
Ivy remains convinced that Keils is her father. Despite there being no solid evidence one way or another if they’re related, Keils accept Ivy as his own.
There is a slight surprise at the end when Drake and Ivy get married. They rush off to enjoy the consummation of their nuptials when Keils notices that Ivy transposed the “V” and “Y in her own name as she signed the wedding register. Since Keils does that to his name, too, it’s all the proof needed of parenthood. No DNA test could be more precise.
Although, Keils might have a point. The “I before E, except after C, etc.,” rule should mean his name is pronounced “Kails,” but I read it as “Keels,” which makes sense with him being a ship captain and all. So it’s understandable he has trouble spelling his own name. Certainly, there are given names that would be hard for any adult, let alone a child, to spell: Tiphaniee; Quvenzhane; Chrysanthemum; Donnabháin; ABCDE–actually, that one’s pretty easy to spell, it’s just hard to pronounce.
Final Analysis of Pirate’s Angel
I’m not going to pretend as if there’s any doubt to a HEA in this book. Ivy and Drake are obsessed with each other and will spend the rest of their days together, whether on land or on the sea, always getting some booty.
Anyway, whether you buy Pirate’s Angel as an e-book or have an original copy, it’s a story you’ll want to read over and over again. This is one sexy pirate romance.
Sea Fires, a Zebra Lovegram written by Christine Dorsey, is an exciting pirate romance set in the late 17th century and takes place on the high seas and in the American colonies.
The Characters and the Setup
The heroine is a bookish and feisty Englishwoman, Miranda Chadwick. Her only interests are her microscope–which had specially ground lenses designed by the Leuwenhoek himself–and examining the animalcules of various flora and fauna.
(If I ever have to hear that irritating word “animalcule again,” I swear I will go screaming around like a raging madwoman.)
Our dashing hero is Captain Gentleman Jack Blackstone, who has to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the evil Spanish.
(Sigh, I’ve seen that plot before, many times over. Oh, well. Que sera sera.)
Sea Fires begins with tragedy striking the Blackstone family when Spaniards attack their Port Royal, Carolina settlement, and the parents are killed. As he is beaten and about to be knocked unconscious, Jack sees his younger sister taken prisoner. For 15 years, he yearns for vengeance for his loss.
Fast forward to 1699 in England, as Miranda prepares for a trip across the Atlantic to be with her father. She hasn’t seen him in years as her deceased mother’s family did not approve of him.
Miranda’s father has some shady dealings with Jack; the two are both smugglers. Now he’s under investigation by the Crown, so he convinces Jack to kidnap Miranda for several weeks until the magistrate leaves town. Miranda is such a do-gooder that she wouldn’t think twice about ratting them out and exposing her father’s—and Jack’s–pirate enterprise.
Jack is on the gray side of the law, certainly no villain. Jack is a pirate. However, he was forced into the lifestyle to seek revenge. His soul was destroyed, and he could never hope for a genuinely happy life.
Jack never wanted to be a pirate. He says this over and over so often that…
Gar! I had visions of Jerry Seinfeld in a ruffled white shirt whining repeatedly, “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!”
Miranda battles wits with Jack as they fight their attraction. The sexual tension is high between the two, but it takes a while to heat up.
Meanwhile, Miranda spends much of her time on the ship getting to know the individual men who make up the crew.
These are tough, grizzled sailors with names like Scar, King, and Phin. No, these aren’t criminal buccaneers, just solid, salt-of-the-earth guys who got into a bad situation. They appreciate having an elegant lady on board. Miranda educates them on biology, and they are charmed by her beauty and brains.
Jack keeps himself at a distance, not wanting to fall for the lovely girl when he must focus on… revenge!
Miranda and Jack eventually give in to their desires, but many perilous adventures await them before they can have a HEA.
Final Analysis of Sea Fires
I’ve read Christine Dorsey’s Sea Fires twice; the first time liked it very much. I enjoyed it even more recently this second time, as it was just the right book at the right moment. Last month was a bit crazy, and Sea Fires was a pleasant diversion from it all.
Despite the well-worn setup, this romance is sweetly entertaining. The love scenes were erotic, and a tart sense of humor shone throughout the book. It was funny but a little too cutesy for me to consider it a perfect read.
Sea Fires is the first in a series of a generation of sea-faring Blackstones. I might give those a try. As far as Zebra’s romances go, Christine Dorsey appears to have been one of the more talented authors in their writer’s stable.
Rating Report Card
Spirited, impetuous Miranda Chadwick arrived in the untamed New World prepared for any peril. So when the notorious pirate Jack Blackstone kidnapped her, she was certain she could somehow make the insufferable golden-haired rogue surrender to justice. But Miranda soon found that she was the one surrendering — to the shameless desires that the scoundrel’s bronzed, lean body and demanding caresses ignited … and her own reckless hunger for more!
Jack Blackstone regarded the furious Miranda Chadwick with a triumphant grin. He would hold this feisty wench just long enough to fulfill his secret plans, then he’d toss her back and return to the sea. But he’d reckoned without the temptation that made him fall under the spell of her deep blue eyes, hunger again and again for her meltingly soft, slender body, and yield to an all-consuming passion from which he could never escape!
Ravenby Evelyn Rogers is one of those books with a little bit of everything. Of course, there’s romance–the chemistry between the protagonists was sizzling–but there’s also adventure, painful tragedy, and a dash of gothic intrigue.
Raven, an American Southerner living in England, is a broken woman with a tainted past. She has to learn to let go of her hurts to become the mature, independent woman she was destined to be.
Acting is her calling, so our heroine takes to the London stage to be an actress. There, she shines as a bright star. Still, there is an emptiness inside her.
Marcus Bannerman is just the man she needs. He is a wealthy and arrogant nobleman. Marcus is a multi-faceted character, however, as he is also a kind, understanding man.
Marcus is a very patient and dedicated lover. He was an incredibly sensual hero, and the dialogue between him and Raven was so steamy!
Besides having to get over the major trauma she experienced long ago, now there is danger afoot that could threaten Raven’s life!
Final Analysis of Raven
I’ve read several books by Evelyn Rogers, and I’ve always been impressed. This was one of her best romances so far! She was one of the better authors for Kensington’s Zebra imprint and later wrote for Dorchester.
Raven was the second in a series of books about three sisters trying to flee from their pasts. I’ve yet to read them all, although I will correct that very soon because Raven was an excellent read.
Rating Report Card
A WOMAN OF SECRETS Haunted by memories of the terrible night that left her innocence shattered, Raven Chadwick prefers the world of make-believe to the cruel realities of everyday life. So she leaves her girlhood home of Savannah to pursue a stage career — and uncover a mysterious family secret.
A MAN OF MYSTERY In London, Raven meets Marcus Bannerman, the enigmatic Earl of Stafford. Powerful and hotly sensual, he fills her with doubt — and awakening desire…
A WORLD OF PASSION Then Raven discovers the truth that was once hidden amid the shadows of the elegant Stafford mansion — a secret that could change her life. Only if she believes in herself and the man she adores will Raven be able to take on her greatest role: a woman ready to fight for her true, undying love!
Runaway Bride by Rosalyn Alsobrook left a bad taste in my mouth. While I enjoyed many of the old Zebra Lovegram and Heartfire lines, what I disliked about some of them is that when they were bad, they were awful. Either they were boring or just freaking bizarre.
Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was about Katherine, a pregnant woman who left her drunk, abusive husband. She’s on her own in the wilderness when the hero, Jason, comes upon her naked in a water pond. Jason, a rancher, takes her in and helps her heal. Katherine eventually finds love with this new man, who is a fundamentally decent guy and is even willing to be a father to her child.
Katherine’s abusive husband finds her and begs for forgiveness. I didn’t care how sorry he was. In my eyes, the husband could never redeem himself. He beat her so awfully while she was pregnant that was black and blue and forced her to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.
The book was written to keep you guessing up until the end who she would choose. The heroine genuinely thought that besides beating the hell out of her, her husband was a good man. And maybe at one point in his life, he was, but he let major demons take over, and he ruined that goodness. Fortunately, the heroine ended up with Jason, but the fact that this book even tried to pull a love triangle plot was disgusting. Katherine should have had nothing but hatred for her husband.
And at the final pages of the story, do we see the happiness that Katherine and Jason should have had? Well, sure, they lived a long married life together, but the epilogue was bizarre and floored me. The son of Katherine and her first husband stands at his father’s grave, weeping for him, and pretty much says, “No matter what happened, Dad, you were a great man, and I’m sorry I never got to know how wonderful you were.”
Final Analysis of Runaway Bride
Look, I’m no pearl-clutcher when it comes to controversial issues. I love un-PC bodice rippers. I can deal with a lot of craziness and don’t take offense too much (except boredom). Having a heroine who was in love with her drunk husband who mercilessly beat her was a very difficult pill to swallow. I don’t think Rosalyn Alsobrook handled the topic well.
I remember feeling sick after reading this, and that was 30 years ago. The feeling stays with me to this day when I think about Runaway Wife.
As usual, the folks at Zebra were just slapping generic titles onto these books! Only a tiny portion of Veronica Blake’s Texas Princess takes place in Texas. The hero and heroine travel across the western US, and they only get to the Lonestar State at the tail end of the book.
My main recollection of this tepid romance is while reading, I kept wondering: “When do they get to Texas? The book’s almost over. What about Texas?” Not a good sign. The editors could have gone with something like Gypsy Princess (although perhaps in today’s environment, that would be seen as insensitive), Emerald Princess, or Forbidden Passions. I checked & no other romance novels had those titles.
As for the book itself?
Sad to say that Texas Princess was a forgettable Heartfire. Tasmin, the eponymous Texas princess who is not actually royalty from America’s 28th state, is betrothed to the leader of her Roma tribe. He’s a kind and handsome man. However, she falls for a gadjo cowboy drifter, Blayde (I think that was his name) instead.
He watches her intently as she dances by a fire. Tasmin feels Blayde’s gaze upon her. She is drawn to this strange man, even though it spells her damnation.
Because of her forbidden passion, Tasmin is banished from all that is familiar to her. The hero has his inner demons to battle and isn’t looking for commitment. Destiny ties them together as he and Tasmin trek through the West. Tasmin & Blayde only have each other for support, yet can these two people from differing backgrounds make true love work?
Not for nothing, but this is a standard romance novel, so what else do you think is going to happen?
Final Analysis of Texas Princess
Dull, dull book. I love Zebra romances in general, but on an individual level, a lot of them were unremarkable. I’ll give this one an extra half star because I like the cover.
Zebra‘s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before. Such heroines include the ones from the seafaring antebellum romance,Captive Angel, and the medieval, Lovespell.
The prologue of Texas Tempest begins with Eugenia Leahy being beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action. Eugenia grabs a firearm and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!
We then flash forward 10-15 years later. Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it. Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” deadly as her namesake is. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men. She needs some muscle to enforce her rules.
Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life. He is exactly the man Eugenia needs.
The action is intense here. On page 75, Eugenia Leahy has shot already three men. You don’t mess with the Diamondback!
As usual, Deana James’ heroines are the major draw of her books.
In a Deana James romance, a hero who matches the heroine in greatness is pure icing on the cake. And what a hero he is!
MacPherson was the little boy from Texas Storm. His Comanche father rejected him, declaring him dead. So MacPherson was forced to walk naked, following after his tribe. He lived off their leavings. He was adopted by the protagonists of that book, Reiver MacPherson, and his wife, Mercedes-Maria.
Mac is 5 years younger than the 35-year-old Eugenia. This is a major concern for her since in the mid-19th century older women generally did not have relationships with younger men. Even if they were their secret lovers.
Yes, MacPherson and Eugenia become lovers and except for her husband, their romance has the all-clear. Eugenia’s daughter approves and that’s the only person whose opinion matters to her.
As usual in a Deana James book, romance is not the only plot point. Texas Tempest is a high-stakes western drama. There’s a lot of lovemaking. There’s also even more action.
An evil rancher has designs on Eugenia’s land. His men capture Macpherson. They then beat and whip him, before attempting to hang him. Yet he miraculously survives despite all his violent suffering.
The grandee arranges to kidnap Eugenia. Then a whoremonger purchases her. Thankfully, MacPherson is able to save her just in time.
There is a scene where Mac is forced by the villains to hurt Eugenia and it disgusts him.
Like an automaton, MacPherson struck again. Only by remaining absolutely motionless could he control the anger that was rising in him. Far from being aroused by the spectacle, his own feelings were revolted. His own sexuality he recognized as propinquity, tenderness, caring, the beauty, and gentleness of a woman’s body. The infliction of pain, even pseudo-pain, excited him not at all.
So our hero isn’t into dominating BDSM or using force on a woman. MacPherson may be a man of mystery, but he’s very simple in his preference. He has nothing but appreciation and love for the female body. Sex is not entwined with violence for him. Very refreshing for a retro hero.
The main conflict keeping Eugenia and Mac from getting together permanently isn’t her husband because we readers know:
1) Eugenia doesn’t give a damn about Cormac!
2) Her ailing, wheelchair-bound husband is going to die in the end, anyway.
It’s when MacPherson’s true heritage is discovered that Eugenia’s insecurities come to the forefront. Not only is MacPherson more than the simple loner she initially thought he was, but then Eugenia feels abandoned by her teenage daughter. The girl finds love with the son of a prosperous Spanish family.
Final Analysis of Texas Tempest
Texas Tempest got a little drawn out for me after the 70% mark, so this enthralling read turned into just a very entertaining one.
Regardless, for me, it’s another 4-star keeper by Deana James. This is one I will have to reread just for how tenacious and capable Eugenia was, a woman of that greatest and rarest of strengths: fortitude.
Rating Report Card
SHE NEEDED TO HAVE HIM Jet-haired Eugenia Leahy was sensuous and slender with an iron will that intimidated even the most powerful of men. Then a handsome stranger rescued her after a bad fall and the steel-hearted beauty suddenly felt soft and vulnerable. With one caress her body yearned to clasp him in an intimate embrace. But Eugenia had struggled too long for independence and vowed to drive away the man who threatened her freedom with the weakness of desire!
HE HAD TO POSSESS HER When virile, towering MacPherson first saw the petite, fragile form sprawled at his feet, he knew he would ultimately make love to her. His blood clamored to be one with her and his passion rose as never before. Then Eugenia stirred, opening eyes filled with challenge and anger. In that moment, MacPherson resolved to take her soon, whether she consented or not, with all the force and fury of a raging Texas Tempest.
Ashland Price‘s Viking Rosehas to be the worst Viking romance I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s one of the worst romances I’ve ever read.
I’m sorry to be blunt and mean, but I did not enjoy this boring, meandering tale of a Viking and his “captive” traveling through Ireland together.
Storr is a Viking who lands in Eire, He kidnaps Alanna for some reason. He doesn’t want her body, as Storr is nothing but a big crybaby.
I HATE books where the hero is in eternal mourning for his dead wife. That is my #1 pet peeve in romances.
It’s one thing to have had a love that died, but when 95% of the book is about how the hero can’t get over her, there’s really not much room for romance with the heroine.
Quite frankly, I prefer the other woman to be alive. It’s one thing to have a flesh-and-blood woman to compete with, but how can the heroine ever win out to a perfect ghost?
Final Analysis of Viking Rose
Not to mention, Viking Rose was boring as hell. Did anything happen, except for Alanna and Storr traveling together endlessly, while Storr hates Alanna and cries (over and over–oh, those pillows!!) about his wife?
If it did, I blocked it out.
It’s also weird how at the beginning of the book, the heroine has black hair, but by the end, it’s red.
Eh, that’s a superficial gripe, but probably the most fascinating aspect of this mind-numbing read.
(POINTS FOR COVER ART DO NOT COUNT)
Rating Report Card
SHE WAS A SPIRITED IRISH MAIDEN
When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…
HE WAS A FEARLESS VIKING RAIDER
Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone. He would calm her with his soft caresses, thrill her with his fiery kisses, then bring her to rapturous heights with a masterful Viking passion she would crave again and again!
With a shimmering Pino Daeni cover featuring a muscled guy who looks a lot like Fabio embracing a blonde on a Viking ship (spot the horse on the cover!) this could just have been another ho-hum romance.
But it’s not.
This is how the tale begins:
The world was a colder, darker place then. It was an axe age, a wind age, a time when men didn’t dare give mercy, and a time when the powerful exacted what they could and the weak granted what they must.
Ok, that definitely piqued my interest.
The ominous effect is spoiled a bit in the next paragraph with a glaring misspelling, thanks to the ever so diligent Zebra editors (who were so lackadaisical that even I could’ve easily found work there!).
There are several typos to be found, which is a shame, as such a good book deserved more cautious editing. For example, the word hardier is used instead of heartier.
On the other hand, Crenshaw diligently tries to portray the authenticity of the Viking era and sticks to lots of historical facts. This book also borrows heavily from the Icelandic sagas.
The Vikings are portrayed as pitiless warriors. The heroine is a lady, not the clichéd young girl trained by her father as a boy in the arts of war.
The Plot of Edin’s Embrace
The plot of Edin’s Embrace seems like your standard Viking fare. Warriors from the North come to the British Isles. They kill all the men and pillage a castle. Edin, the heroine, sees her family killed and is taken as a slave by the hero, Thoryn.
Ever so slowly, a love story unfolds.
In a typical bodice ripper, sometimes the Viking uses force. Whereas in modern romances, he’s a sensitive toned-down version of what should be a ferocious beast of a man.
Thoryn is more of an in-between type. He starts out a rough sort then steadily transforms into a man willing to search within himself and change his ways if he has to.
Edin’s Embrace: The Love Story
While the genuine Viking atmosphere is a major plus here, the real draw is the love story.
Edin is Thoryn’s thrall. He finds he is enslaved by her.
Thoryn threatens Edin with violence and rape. In actuality, he treats her with care and is eager to satisfy her in bed.
I appreciate that there is no other woman for Thoryn (except for a brief encounter with a prostitute), no other great love of his. He is a primal force of a man and love is not part of his mentality.
“What is love?” is a phrase often queried here. Sometimes this book gets philosophical about the nature of man and woman and their bonds together.
Women are a biological need for Thoryn. Yet before Edin came along, they offered little in terms of mental stimulation and affection. With her, he becomes a better man and a better lover.
There is a scene where Thoryn approaches a Viking friend and asks him if women enjoy sex–and if they do, how can men go about pleasing them?
His friend proves to be no expert as he laughs at the idea that women are supposed to enjoy sex.
Despite his friend’s poor advice, Thoryn learns how to pleasure Edin by being an attentive lover. She, in turn, learns to pleases him. For although Edin had been a virgin and Thoryn with more sexual experience, in reality they were both novices at making love.
Their passion for each other soon transcends the carnal growing into a spiritual adoration. But can their love unite such different people?
Edin is gentle and pacific. Thoryn is a brutish man of war. They are two disparate yet complementary individuals drawn together.
A Great Scene
This is the scene that won me over in Edin’s Embrace. It made me realize I was not reading another tame, ho-hum Viking book:
There he held her. She felt the sword point keenly. She became aware of her ribs beneath it, how delicate the bones were, how easily they could be pierced.
“I’m waiting thrall! What say you know?”
She whispered, “I-I am free, a nobleman’s daughter.”
“I’m challenging you—fight me, my lady!”
“I can’t fight you, Viking, as well you know.”
“Aye,” he said slowly, lowering his weapon at last, “as well I know.”
Her gaze lifted again, all the way to his face. “But I will never be your slave,” she said stubbornly.
This time he reacted with immediate anger, the most parlous kind of anger, the kind born of frustration. The jerk of his head told her of his ire, and her breath froze at the cold flare of temper in his eyes. In an instant, he became fearsome, furious mad. His mighty sword swung again, and he closed in. There was an ice storm rampaging in his eyes. The flat of his sword lifted her chin, until she was looking at him down its long gilt and silver length. All he said now was, “Slave or sword point?”
The flames snapped in the fire pit behind her. The cold, steel point pricking her throat never moved the slightest. For an immeasurable extent of time, she stood perfectly still, living in a state of strain. She searched for an answer. And impaled on his gaze, feeling all those wild and hungry eyes on her, something of her pride broke inside her. In the end, she could only whisper: “Slave.”
Final Analysis of Edin’s Embrace
When I read a bodice ripper, I expect juicy, pulpy drama. Despite the riveting opening chapters, there’s more introspection than action here; far more than I usually enjoy. Somehow in Edin’s Embrace, it works.
As a reader of historicals, I have always been searching for that great Viking romance. This might be the best. I still rate Johanna Lindsey’sFires ofWinter a 5-star read because, for me at 13 (and 15 then 18), the book was a 5-star read.
Today I might view that romance through different eyes. But I’m not the kind of reader who decides if a book I once appreciated now somehow displeases me, any negative feeling erases my past pleasure.
However when I look at a new book, I need something different. Something more hardcore. Edin’s Embrace comes close to perfection. It’s not–still, I loved it.
Edin’s Embrace is a fabulous romance worthy of acclaim.
Rating Report Card
WAR HUNGRY VIKING
The crash of a wooden club and the howl of a Norse cur forever shattered innocent Edin’s dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart. And when the svelte young beauty found herself in the grip of her betrothed’s killer, Edin vowed one day she’d give the devilish invader his due. But as she hardened her heart against him, the gorgeous captive’s body couldn’t shut out his nearness. His broad chest heated her, his strong hands molded her…and Edin was soon longing for the ruthless raider from the North to show her his uncivilized kind of love!
Ever since his father had been murdered by a British bedthrall, fierce Thoryn Kirkynson had sworn vengeance on all the English dogs. The accursed land was for pillaging, its men meant for hard labor, and its women for illicit pleasures. Yet even as the bearded Nordic chieftain swung his axe in slaughter, he could not staunch the rush of tender feelings that flooded him when he saw the enemy princess. Loathing himself for his father’s weakness, Thoryn sought not only to dominate his captive…he yearned for her whispers of love and endless hours of ecstasy in Edin’s Embrace.