Category Archives: Pocket Books

lion's lady morgan kane

Historical Romance Review: The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood

book review historical romance

The Book

The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood takes us to Regency Era England where we meet two firm-willed yet evenly matched partners in love. One is a lady of mystery from the former colonies raised among the Native people. The other is an English nobleman turned soldier and spy, now retiring from duty.

A disclaimer: I’m not a fan of tropes with nobility involved in espionage, especially during the Napoleonic era. It’s contrived, and spies in a romance don’t do it for me. I was never much into James Bond. So I braced myself to dislike this due to Lyon’s career. However, I was enchanted by the heroine and the chemistry between the main leads.

Plus, there’s not much official espionage, mostly the hero using his sleuthing skills to uncover the enigmatic lady’s past.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Alexander Michael Phillips, The Marquess of Lyonwood, is known to his intimates as Lyon. (What a cheesy, uber-macho name for a British nobleman–oh, it is cheesy! One thing I love about my romances is that they are ripe with the stench of Eau de Fromage.)

Lyon is a spy with an injured leg and a dashing scar. Lyon even looks like a lion (of course he does!) with his tanned skin, a mane of dark gold hair, and mysterious dark amber eyes.

The Lion’s Lady has another disliked trope of mine: the male protagonist vows never to get married again after losing his wife and child in childbirth. At least he’s not wallowing in mourning; he is bitter because his wife was unfaithful. The child was not his; the babe was his brother’s. Thus, he has serious trust issues when it comes to the fairer sex. 

The novel’s prologue starts in 1797 in the Black Hills of America. A Sioux tribe travels on. Among them are two Anglo females: a woman named Merry, who has married into the tribe, and her young daughter, Christina. The people call Christina a lioness for her golden hair and blue eyes, and fierce nature.

The shaman tells his people she is headed to a great destiny. Even though she is not one of their blood, they must take great care of this lioness.

the lions lady by Julie Garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books

The Plot

After a brief look into Lyon’s tragic background, the story begins. Each chapter begins with excerpts from Christina’s mother’s diary from 1795 to 1796, detailing her life married Christina’s abusive father, Edward.

Christina’s mother escaped her turbulent marriage, although not before stealing a treasure from her husband.

Now Christina returns to her mother’s birth land and takes England by storm. The ton calls her Princess Christina, and she is ever under the watchful eye of her aunt, Countess Patricia. Stories float around as to her “true” identity. Precisely who is this mysterious Princess Christina?

Lyon is at a ball chaperoning his sister when he sets eyes upon the most beautiful woman ever: Christina. He and his friend both appreciate her loveliness and notice her haughty demeanor. They make a bet on who can win her charms first. Then, like Cinderella, this princess makes an early disappearance.

What follows is Lyon’s chase to discover more about this lady of intrigue. The hero in pursuit is smitten from the first, although he won’t admit it. Having been betrayed by love, this wounded Lyon is not seeking marriage, just a diverting affair. Using his young sister’s admiration for Christina as an excuse, he charms his way in and out of The Princess’ social life.

Christina is on a quest to uncover the secret her mother left behind. Then she finds she must marry within weeks to inherit. She decides Lyon will make the perfect husband.

Remember, the lioness is the great hunter, not the lion!

Mysteries unfold, and danger lurks as the two get closer to each other and the truth.

My Opinion

Christina was a darling heroine on a quest to right past wrongs. In someone else’s hands, one could have accused her of being “annoyingly spunky.” Instead, Garwood wrote her as a girl beyond her years in wisdom.

Lyon was authoritative, not overbearingly so, and equally fascinating as his mate.

“Your eyes have turned as black as a Crow’s,” she blurted out.

He didn’t even blink over her bizarre comment. “Not this time, Christina,” he said in a furious whisper. “Compliments won’t get me off balance again, my little temptress. I swear to God, if you ever again dismiss me so casually, I’m going to––”

“Oh, it wasn’t a compliment,” Christina interrupted, letting him see her irritation. “How presumptuous of you to think it was. The Crow is our enemy.”

the lion's lady julie garwood
The Lion’s Lady, Julie Garwood, Pocket Books, 2010

Final Analysis of The Lion’s Lady

The Lion’s Lady is a well-crafted, humorous adventure that fans of sensual period romances should appreciate on a pure enjoyment level. Don’t look for the reinvention of the wheel. This is just a solid love story between two great leads.

One quibble I had with The Lion’s Lady. It’s full of side characters you know are getting their own stories. I hate sequel baiting. This romance was written before every book was part of a series. Still, I wasn’t a fan.

Also annoying was that Christina’s evil aunt didn’t get her full just desserts. Garwood tends to the sweet side. I don’t know if it’s in her to create a genuinely vicious ending that would satisfy my bloodthirstiness.

Despite that, there’s much to enjoy here. I dithered over, giving this Regency romance 4 stars or 4-and-a-half. Either way, you slice it, it’s one I’ll look back on fondly.

4.15 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

1810. She has taken London society by storm. Christina Bennett… the ravishing beauty with the mysterious past. Rumor whispers she is a princess from a far-off kingdom on the continent. But only she holds the secret –until the night Lord Alexander Michael Phillips, Marquis of Lyonwood, steals a searching, sensuous kiss. A proud, arrogant nobleman with a pirate’s passions, he tastes the wild fire smoldering beneath Christina’s cool charm and swears to possess her before he is done…

But Lyon soon discovers that his dream of conquest will not be easily satisfied. The feisty and defiant Christina has no fear of him–or of any other man. She alone is master of her heart, mistress of her fortune. And though Lyon’s hungry caresses dizzy her senses though his fierce embrace arouses her desire… she will not surrender to his love. For if she does, she must also forsake at last her precious secret–and her promised destiny!

THE LION’S LADY by JULIE GARWOOD
a lady bought with rifles jeanne williams

Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

historical romance review
A Lady Bought With Rifles by Jeanne Williams
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Ron Lesser
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: A Lady Bought with Rifles by Jeanne Williams

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

A Lady Bought With Rifles by Jeanne Williamsis an amalgam of great writing and stupid characterization.

I was extremely frustrated reading it because it could have been one of those legendary bodice rippers that old-school fans would be talking about to this day.

The Heroine

Upon her father’s death, the British-raised Miranda is called back to her father’s ranch in Mexico. There she meets two strikingly different American men, Trace, a tall, dark, and mysterious pistolero, and Court Saunders, the foreman of Miranda’s newly inherited mines and lover to her resentful half-sister, Reina. Blond, panther-like, and roguish, his sensual presence is almost irresistible.

The sisters both inherit the ranch. Miranda, being a foreigner, is aghast by the circumstances of the ranch and mines, particularly how the indigenous Mexicans are treated, how the evil Reina treats her, how gorgeous hunk Court pursues her…and just about every other thing she can find to complain about, rightly or wrongly.

The most frustrating aspect of A Lady Bought With Rifles is that I absolutely loathed the heroine. She ruined what could have been a fun read into painful torture at times.

Never have wanted to smack a protagonist as much as I have Miranda. She is ignorant of the new lands but thinks she knows better than everyone else before asking for advice. She is inflexible, a misguided do-gooder, the type who’s always offended on someone else’s behalf. Moreover–the worst about her–she has terrible taste in men.

The Two Men

Trace

Both Court and Trace take an interest in Miranda, but while Trace maintains an enigmatic distance, it’s Court who vows to make her his woman. Miranda quickly decides she loves Trace, the noble yet inscrutable gunman. Me, I’ll take wicked, sexy Court.

Sure, Trace is appealing with his darkly handsome cowboy looks, but it is Court who offers her genuine help. It’s Court who sticks around, who cares for her and her lands.

Meanwhile, it’s Trace who goes off on escapades of his own. He’s not even half as charismatic as Court. Plus, he has a sexual relationship with a young Native woman he and Miranda cared for when she was a child!

Court

Court offers marriage to Miranda after Trace runs off. Miranda flees, yet Court eventually finds her, and she vows to resist him at every turn, doing everything to deny her attraction to his intense magnetism.

“When I heard you were almost surely dead, that’s when I knew what you were to me. My woman. You rode back to me from the dead. I’ll never let you go again.”

Weak and spent, I said desperately, as if I were shouting at him in a foreign language, “You don’t love me or you’d care what I feel!”

“I do care. In a year you’ll love me.”

Even at that moment, when I hated him, my blood quickened as he smiled. I cried defiance as much to my treacherous body as to him. “I won’t. I’ll hate you more than I do know. “

“We’ll see.” He cupped my chin and raised my face. “You’re tired darling. Sleep now. You can give me your answer in the morning.”

I couldn’t let him kill Trace. But to submit to those muscular, golden-haired arms? Let him do the things Trace had? And it wouldn’t be for one time only, I was sure of that. Court might after a season let me go, but I had a frightening dread that if he possessed me long enough, he would drain me till I became his thing, his creature—that I wouldn’t go, even if he allowed it and Trace would t
ake me.

And this super charismatic hunk is the villain???

Breaking the Mold

Several points. Most romances in 1977, when A Lady Bought With Rifles was written, had heroes who acted exactly as Court did. Heroines responded to their true loves (and yes, sometimes villains) just as Miranda does: “with her treacherous body betraying her.”

I’m a bit familiar with Williams’ writing style as I’ve read other of her books. If she had written romances in the current era, her values would be more in line with the genre as it is today.

I’m guessing that Williams purposely turned the tables on how historical romance novels (i.e., the bodice ripper) were written during the 1970s.

She wanted to write a bodice ripper that subverted expectations to make it compelling, but she just “Rian Johnsoned” it instead. (Yeah, The Last Jedi fans, I went there.)

Rather than ending up with wildly sexual and devoted Court, a man who would walk through the fires of hell and back to get his woman, whose fatal flaw was more “macho” than “sensitive,” it’s the tough but tender guy, a guy who abandons his woman and child to fight a war that isn’t his, who gets the heroine.

The two men are not so distinctly different as perhaps the author meant for the reader to feel: Court is evil, and Trace is good. It’s more nuanced than that, and it’s a risky line for the writer to tread because then the villain becomes more intriguing than the hero.

The Wrong Guy

I compare A Lady Bought With Rifles to Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame and Anita Mills’ Lady of Fire because the villains in those books were more compelling than the heroes.

ALBWR is less fun than The Frost and the Flame, and in Lady of Fire, I actually liked the hero. The main difference is in those other two books, the villain was indeed villainous.

Here, Court is the antagonist, although I wouldn’t call him the villain. For example, despite major doubts that his son is actually his–he’s not, Trace is the dad–Court treats the boy with love and care. That is until Miranda cruelly throws it into Court’s face that he is not the father.

Then Court ignores him, simply counting the days until Trace’s son is to be sent off to boarding school.

This leaves Miranda upset and befuddled. “Why, oh why has Court’s behavior changed?”

Gee, what could it be, you stupid cow? Court knew the kid wasn’t really his son, as Court could do basic math. Still, he was willing to pretend that the son of another man—a man he despised—was his, so long as Miranda went along with the pretense.

When she viciously admits to Court that he wasn’t the father, did she really expect Court to react with glee?

I can’t emphasize enough how I hated her stupid, self-centered, sanctimonious character. Court was way too good for her. He warranted his own story with a happy ending.

Williams didn’t want that. As the author, that was her decision. As the reader, it was not one I appreciated.

Final Analysis of A Lady Bought With Rifles

Like many older romance novels, this is truly a romance in the complete meaning of the word: an epic of great scope. Ostensibly the main part should be the love story between Trace and Miranda, yet it’s actually a much smaller part of the story that makes up the book.

In summary, as I wrote in my notes:

Take one exasperating, young, self-righteous heroine.

Add one hero who spends 50 pages max with the heroine, disappears halfway through, and is reunited 10 pages from the end with the heroine.

Then add a plethora of side characters whose deaths are used to manipulate sympathy for the annoying heroine. Finally, add one sexy-as-hell, multifaceted antagonist/anti-hero whose downfall brought me to tears.

Mix with uneven pacing and plotting.

End result: über disappointing 3.5 star read. I would have rated this 2.5 stars, but the writing is quite exceptional.

And Court (sigh)! Wonderfully erotic, tragically misunderstood Court deserved so much better than he got.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis:

Court Sanders… Yankee adventurer, tawny lion of a man whose obsession for gold and beautiful women was second only to his lust for Miranda.

Trace Windslade… Dashing Texan pistolero with eyes of blue fire. Miranda was his – no matter how many times Court Sanders possessed her.

Miranda… from a frail, convent-bread girl she blossomed into a woman as fierce as the rebels she befriended. Men lived and dies for her. She was… A lady bought with rifles!

A lady bought with rifles by Jeanne Williams

Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Pocket Books/ Richard Gallen, 1981, cover artist TBD

Gallen Contemporary Romance #43801-8

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

4 1/2 Stars

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

A Category Romance on Steroids

Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie.

It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!

It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.

Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.

That’s not an issue here. Except for a few flashbacks, Alexie’s Sometimes a Stranger starts in 1970 and ends in 1979. With tweaks, it could take place nowadays. But in retrospect, the author was smart to lock the story into its timeframe.

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Paradise Press, 1990 edition, cover artist unknown

Greeks Bearing Gifts

Andrea Carswell, an American travel journalist, goes to Athens to write about the splendors of Greece. And promptly falls in love with one. Alexander Deklos, the playboy heir of a powerful family in the shipping business. His uncle Spyros Demitriades runs the far-flung enterprise, Delphi, Limited. Alex is too busy having fun to take part in it.

He falls in love with Andrea as quickly as she does with him. Which throws a wrench into the plans of his mother, Olympia Deklos, to marry him to another child of a wealthy Greek family, Athena Lampos. Olympia’s marriage was arranged by her parents. Isn’t that good enough for Alex?

Well, no. He won’t give up Andrea for anything. But he does give up his carefree lifestyle. Alex becomes a major player on Team Delphi. Both choices come with consequences.

Life In the Fast Lane

Then stuff happens. Lots of stuff! To avoid spoilers, that’s as far as my summary will go. But here’s a hint. The plot covers jealousy, business intrigue, workaholism, medical crises, disaster, family feuds, secrets, revenge. Plus, a theme forbidden in today’s romance fiction. Infidelity.

But these disparate themes all work together to enrich the main one, the love between Andrea and Alex. It’s central to the story even when their relationship hits the rocks. Which it does with a force that can be measured on the Richter scale! 

The author employs multiple points of view. But the most frequent POV character is Andrea. A woman who deeply feels every emotion. Which the author conveys with great sensitivity.

And Alex? He’s an alpha hero, all right. He displays that millennia-old failing of his fellow countrymen, hubris. He’s always right, even when he’s wrong!

Though the heroine remains sympathetic throughout the story, the hero is all over the good-bad spectrum. A paragon and a ruthless businessman. A family man and a libertine. A dream lover and a total ass. 

Yet these extremes and everything in between are all phases of the same man. Such is the author’s skill that I can believe Alex as every one of them. And all are fascinating. Even when he’s at his worst, I understand why Andrea still loves him. 

The settings are numerous. Mainly Athens, the Aegean island of Mykonos, London, and New York. These places seem real; reading about them is the next best thing to being there. But in a profound sense, the story unfolds in the hearts and minds of the main characters. Which IMHO is where any story should.

Dutch edition of Sometimes a Stranger, Zo Dichtbij en Toch Ver Weg (So Close and Yet Far Away), Phoenix, 1982, Franco Accornero cover art (front & back cover)

Nearly Perfect

Sometimes a Stranger does almost everything right. Almost? Yes. A few aspects could be better. 

The cast of characters is large, and some of their names sound similar to those of others. And can be in the wrong form given the characters’ ethnicities. For example, Alexander should be Alexandros. I know, that’s just a picky little detail.

More serious is this. A major plot thread, the heroine’s career, is handled poorly. Early on, Andrea gets into writing novels. But success comes too easily. And with a minimum of drama. That’s one of only two aspects of this book with insufficient drama.

The other is her family. Wisely, the author gives them less attention than Alex’s relatives. But they don’t warrant even that. They’re just not that interesting. And in the case of Noah Truesdale, Andrea’s grandfather, it’s hard to believe a powerful newspaper magnate can be such a nice guy. Though I must admit my idea of a man in his position was formed by watching “Citizen Kane”!

Alex’s kinfolk and their interactions make for fascinating reading. Andrea’s don’t. One of these families is dysfunctional. Guess which one.

But don’t let that stop you from reading this novel. And how I wish someone in Hollywood would buy it from a used-book website, find it as enthralling as I do, and turn it into a movie!

frost and flame drusilla campbell

Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

historical romance review
The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Published by: Gallen Books, Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

Drusilla Campbell‘s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain.

For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.

The Crazy Plot and Characters

I loved the Russian setting of The Frost and the Flame. The heroine’s growth as a character was fun to watch. Alas, the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!

Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked.

The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her. The Prince seems so sweet and kind at first, but he soon proves to be a lustful rogue. Nothing will stop him from possessing Tanya.

Prince Oleg is seriously obsessed with Tanya, but he’s not in love. He’s not capable of true feeling. Don’t dare think the villain in The Frost and the Flame has a heart

Even the demonic, baby-killing Robert Bellesme of Anita Mills’s Lady Of Fire was more of a romantic softy than Oleg. Oleg loves to abuse and use his Tanya, but he does not care about her. He degrades her in awful sorts of ways, so make no mistake about finding redemption in him!

Plus, the dude is going crazy. It’s hinted that Oleg has a brain tumor or something because his headaches make him act more insane.

Even as Oleg will do whatever it takes to make Tanya his, he also has a cruel and jealous wife who will stop at nothing to see Tanya pay. Poor Tanya suffers so much through this book. It’s one catastrophe after another.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a twisted secret–

No, no, I won’t say. I spoil enough romances; I won’t spoil another. Although I’d hardly call this bodice-ripper a true romance.

As for the hero? Well, Tanya spends much of it separated from her boring Alexei. He vows to have his Tanya and pines for her, however, ends up having affairs of his own. Not much of a hero, but Tanya loved him, so I tried not to dislike him. There’s not much to like or dislike about Alexei. He’s just there.

The Unconventional Ending to an Unconventional “Romance”

At the conclusion of The Frost and the Flame, Tanya is reunited with her beloved Alexei. Sadly, Tanya has been so hurt by Oleg’s torments that marriage is not on her agenda right away. She loves Alexei, yes, although wants to have a deeper relationship with him before taking it further.

Final Analysis of The Frost and the Flame

So this is a unique romance, The Frost and the Flame, has a Happy For Now ending, not necessarily a Happily Ever After.

Am I ok with that? Bodice rippers occupy a strange corner in Romancelandia, where they can do just about anything. As long as it’s an optimistic ending and the book was fun, I don’t mind. This one was.

Oleg, the psycho villain, was the star of the show. I enjoyed watching his mental and spiritual decline while Tanya grows from an innocent girl to a mature woman. This may not be everyone’s idea of an entertaining romance; however, I consider myself a satisfied reader. I’m holding on to this one!

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.4

Synopsis

Convent-bred and seductively beautiful, eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova was journeying across Russia when suddenly a band of murderous serfs attacked her traveling party. Soon she was rescued from her frozen hiding place by none other than the dashing Prince Oleg Romanov — only to become the object of his insatiable lust.

Helpless to defend herself against this cruel aristocrat, Katiana had no choice by to become his frigid, taunting mistress — despite the vindictive jealousy of Oleg’s wife, Princess Elizabeth.

But Katia longed only for Alexei, the gentle handsome nobleman whose very soul seemed to burn with a quiet passion — for his people and — could she hope? — for her.

Ravished and betrayed, Katia would eventually escape Oleg’s clutches to a country half a world away. But would she ever be reunited with the man who could melt her frozen passion with the glorious flame of his love?

The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell

The Frost and the Flame is available for borrowing for free at the Internet Archive

whitney my love

Covers of the Week #10

For the week of June 14, 2021, to June 20, we’re looking back over our favorite Harry Bennett covers for Tapestry and Gallen imprints and Pocket Books.

hearts surrender ennis

Covers of the Week #9

Take a look and enjoy Blue Falcon’s favorite covers! For the week of June 7 to June 13, we asked our dear friend Blue Falcon to choose his favorite covers for this week’s theme. Thanks to these picks, I discovered a new line, Richard Gallen Books, which preceded the Tapestry imprint for Pocket Books.

emmies love

Historical Romance Review: Emmie’s Love by Janette Seymour

Emmie’s Love, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Janette Seymours Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” here is a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”

The Plot

The same terms and motifs are used in Emmie’s Love, as were in Seymour’s other raunchy books. There is a violent opening involving a near-rape that has nothing to do with the protagonists and also an alluded castration. We see frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”😉 and dampened sheer muslin gowns. There’s another blond stud who performs for an audience. And the heroine has a one-night stand with a doomed soldier.

Of course, there is a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero who is rarely seen.

Finally, there is a heroine with no personality, save for being a busty, lusty wench.

The Romance?

Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, mooching family. After grandpa’s death, Emmie is sold into marriage to an old man who lives another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.

But love does not come easily to our dear Emmie. Many travails lie ahead. There is a family sex romp in an orangery. There are church sermons brimming with hellfire and damnation, plus a satanic sex orgy in the said church led by a goat-headed stud. Lots of violence galore: a beheaded dog, followed by a shocking use for the dismembered head. We have a blackmailing, Peeping Tom. A robust Irish maid gives Emmie an erotic massage. And there’s much, much more.

Except for a doomed French hunter and his sad tale, there’s not much depth. One salacious encounter is followed by another–not that I’m complaining.

The hero, Nathan, is really not a factor in this book. He’s a prize that Emmie earns at the end for completing her bodice ripper adventures. There’s no epic love story here.

Final Analysis of Emmie’s Love

While I was entertained by this Michael Butterworth (Janette Seymour’s real name) bodice ripper, I do have a few gripes. The book blurb gets some minor plot points wrong. Typos such as “$a1shouted” are annoying. And my pet peeve is the wrong hair color on the cover. Harry Bennett’s artwork shows the hero as blond. Alas, in the book, he’s black-haired, with a white streak running through it.

The heroine is a bit of a twit. No, not the other word, this is no pornographic book, after all! If you are searching for explicitness and gratuity, look elsewhere (and tell me about it when you find it)! Everything is alluded to, with water metaphors galore: waves crashing, crests swelling, waters breaking, dams bursting. It is a saucy tale, replete with ribaldry.

And yes, bodices were ripped.

Titillating though it is, Emmie’s Love is not quite a bodice ripper masterpiece. Still, it’s a satisfying journey, even if the final destination holds little interest.

3.5 Star

highland velvet 2

Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Montgomery Velvet #2; Montgomery/Taggert Family Saga #3
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Jude Deveraux‘s Highland Velvet, the second entry in her Velvet series about four Montgomery brothers set in the early 16th century, is one of my favorite romances.

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux, Arrow, 1984

The Plot

Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna Mac Arran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.

Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent, Miles and Raine. In Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was made from the stuff of girlish dreams.

“You’ll regret that! Someday you’ll know that one drop of my blood is more precious than any angry feelings you carry!”

Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.

When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed.

Heck, he even changed his last name so that her Mac Arran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.

If anything, Bronwyn was the “bad” one: she stabbed him on their wedding night; she was the one who betrayed Stephen again and again. He deserved a much better heroine.

“Together,” he whispered. “For once, let’s do something together.”

Final Analysis of Highland Velvet

After over thirty-plus years, Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet‘s Stephen Montgomery remains one of my most beloved heroes in romance. He was a real nice guy, the kind of man any woman would be happy to have in real life.

I wonder why the terms nice guy and beta male get conflated so often. A man can still be an “alpha,” a leader to his people, but that doesn’t mean he has to be an over-bearing, woman-hating douchebag.

Bronwyn was awful, but her woe-is-me attitude wasn’t enough to overshadow Stephen, who was such a great character that he made this book. Other pluses were the wicked antics of Roger Chatworth and the doomed love story of his brother Brian with the Montgomery’s sole sister.

I really loved this one. Highland Velvet is a keeper. Of only I had the British Arrow edition of this book!

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Bronwyn MacArran was a proud Scot. Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English.

He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished. But still she would abhor him.

She owned a temper hot enough to forge the armors of battle or inflame a valiant soldier’s passion. Yet still she would resist him.

She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him.

But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood — their destiny was made… and this mighty warrior pledged himself to his woman’s pride, her honor and her name — and made of their love a torch to burn through the ages

HIGHLAND VELVET by JUDE DEVERAUX
whitney my love

A Closer Look At Pocket Books

I hope our readers view SweetSavageFlame as more than just a blog. We’re not academics, but we try to document the romance genre’s history since the last quarter of the 20th century. Even though this site is just a couple of weeks old, Sweet Savage Flame is building a substantial catalog of old-school romance books. We analyze and sort by reviews, authors, publishers, imprints, and/or cover artists. In addition, we look at the history behind the individuals and the companies that helped form the romance novel industry.

Every few weeks, we’ll highlight institutions or people archived on our pages. So let’s begin at the beginning with the originators of the paperback movement, Pocket Books.

Pocket Books: America’s First Mass Market Paperbacks

Started in 1939, Pocket Books was the first mass-market paperback distributor in the United States. They initially just reprinted classic works. Over time, Pocket Books developed their own stable of writers.

Through the years they would produce thousands of books that were accessible to readers. The revitalization of the romance genre started with Avon‘s 1972’s The Flame and the Flower. 1974 would see the one-two punch release of The Wolf and the Dove and Sweet Savage Love. Not to be outdone by Avon, Pocket Books quickly tapped into the market.

The company would release the hugely popular Purity trilogy, written by Janette Seymour (aka Michael Butterworth) in the late 1970s. The eponymous heroine, Purity Jarsy, finds herself in harrowing misadventures. She is often “separated from her true love, and must f— her way back to him.” The first installment Purity’s Passion was a great success. It was followed by Purity’s Ecstasy and finally Purity’s Shame. Over two million books were sold.

Tapestry Romance

In October 1982, Pocket Books launched the Tapestry line, releasing two historical romances a month for four years, which consisted of 97 books total. Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood both wrote for the Tapestry line. Other authors included Ena Halliday (aka Sylvia Halliday and Louisa Rawlings), Maura Seger, Linda Lael Miller, Patricia Pellicane, and Ruth Ryan Langan.

Tapestry Backlist at FictionDB

Whitney, My Love

In 1985 Harlequin writer, Judith McNaught would release the historical romance Whitney My Love which revitalized the Regency genre by making it more sensual. Pocket Books marketed McNaught’s romances as more sensitive and serious works than the tawdry bodice rippers of the 1970s. She would sell over 30 million books worldwide.

How many Pocket Books romances have you read? Do you have a favorite author? Drop a comment and let’s talk romance!

purity's ecstasy harry bennett

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour

SYNOPSIS:

A novel of stolen embraces beneath blazing skies of war, of desire that sweeps across turbulent seas from England to Algiers, of a beautiful woman enslaved by lawless pirate corsairs…a woman bound by no law but endless love.

PURITY’S ECSTASY by JANETTE SEYMOUR

SPOILER ALERT

Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.

PURITY’S ECSTASY

The Book

Like many other late 1970s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, John Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is fun. It’s a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.

The Setup

In the previous book Purity’s Passion, Purity survived the French Revolution, and then she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she overcame numerous obstacles before getting her man (namely other men).

The same is–more or less–the case with this sequel.

Here Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive, and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.

The Plot

Alas, Purity has to search for employment after her cruel in-laws kick her out to the street. In her own words, her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth,” so what’s a girl to do? Put those assets to work!

And… oh… my… God…

Not even halfway through this romp, there were more trashy elements here than the previous five ‘rippers I’d read combined. There was lots of kidnapping, lots of rape-and/or-forced seduction, a female pirate, regular pirates, eunuchs, male virgins, lesbian orgies, multi-racial gang-bangs, whippings, bigamy, and amnesia…

Yet, it was so tastefully done—nary a peep of manhoods, members, or dewy petals here. There were plenty of water-based euphemisms to disguise the naughtiness. Still, it had plenty of titillation.

Purity is thrown into the ravishing clutches of the evil pirate/slave-trader called El Diablo, The Devil. He hides a shocking true identity. For he is the same minister she knew back home in England. Her local friend, Reverend Mauleverer, is the evil pirate/slave-trader, El Diablo.

Debauched by an older boy at Eton, ordained as a man of the cloth at Oxford, the mild-seeming minister reveals to Purity that it was he who kidnapped her husband. He who led the Corsair fleet in the Mediterranean. It was he who took Purity into slavery. And he who ravished her.

And Purity had no clue who he was? This girl is seriously lacking in IQ and EQ.

But as bad as it gets, no naughty escapades and no thrilling, charismatic villains will ever prevent Purity from being with her dull, bland, zero-personality-having soulmate!

Final Analysis on Purity’s Ecstasy

Purity’s Ecstasy was, for the most part, an entertaining romp. Although a romance, it was not!

I don’t know if I will read book #3 (Purity’s Shame) in the series. I assume more of the same will occur. Namely, that Purity and her beloved are separated by mysterious forces. She will have to use her gold-plated “poon” as currency to get back to zero-personality-having, dull-gray Mark.

Just like she always does.

3.5 Stars

highland tryst

Historical Romance Review: Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan

Highland Tryst, Pocket Books, 1986, Elaine Gignilliat cover art

Tapestry Romance #85

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Book

Let me spoil this turkey and save anyone who’s even contemplating reading this mess of a book their valuable time. As far as I know, we only live one life, and there’s no reason to spend a moment of it in undeserved agony.

(Highland Tryst is also about 30 years out of print, so I don’t feel too bad about hurting anyone’s career.)

The Plot

Kathlyn and Alex are from warring Scottish clans. When Highland Tryst begins, they are already lovers, frequently meeting for very intimate encounters. They’ve seen each other naked, inside and out. They know what the other looks like, sounds like, smells like…

So to be totally clear: they’ve HAD SEX WITH EACH OTHER MANY TIMES.

Their families discover the affair. The secret lovers are cruelly separated. Kathlyn flees from her family into the wilderness and comes into danger.

Duncan, an ugly, deformed stranger, rescues her. His looks repel Kathlyn at first. He cares for her and shows her his gentle nature. Duncan is so kind that eventually, they fall in love.

And HAVE SEX.

So now, Kathlyn is torn between two men. On the one hand, there is her handsome former lover. On the other is the kind–yet ugly–stranger who saved her.

Guess what? There’s a twist…

Duncan is actually Alex! He was in disguise the whole time. With a bit of mud here, some padding there, a change of facial expressions, and viola! He created a new secret identity that only he and the plastic surgeons of the 21st century could master.

All is well and Kathlyn and Alex have their HEA.

Final Analysis of Highland Tryst

Highland Tryst by Jean Canavan. What can I say about it? It was dumb… Just dumb.

And boring, to boot!

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
4
Overall: 1.2
purity's passion

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour

Synopsis:

Purity
She was Purity, a maddeningly beautiful woman who wanted to save herself for the one man she had always loved-the man who rescued her from the horror of the French Revolution, who found her a place in England’s highest aristocracy and who refused, because of a painful secret in his past, to open his heart to her longings.

Passion
And she was Passion, a woman who drove men wild with desire, who submitted to cruel tormentors, a blackmailer’s demands, a hypnotist’s powers and an innocent young man about to die. But she, while giving her body, steadfastly refused to give her heart.

Ecstasy
Scorched by burning dreams!

PURITY’S PASSION by JANETTE SEYMOUR
Purity’s Passion, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1977, Harry Bennett cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

She would come to him a complete woman…

PURITY’S PASSION

The Book

The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) by Janette Seymour begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between, we witness the epic tale of Purity. She is a woman so beautiful that many men desire her; they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her…

In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.

The Plot

Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love. Later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.

Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward.

Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and then finally marries her. Her relationship with Mark is one of the weaker parts of the book, but since there are two sequels their romance will undoubtedly develop further.

(Edited: How wrong I was! There’s no character development to be found anywhere!)

Purity has many men before being with her true love, and each experience shapes her uniquely. There is a touching one-night romance Purity shares with a soldier doomed to die at sea and a sweet love affair with a wounded Gypsy boxer.

And many more.

If the hero was more interesting, this might have detracted from the story, but since he wasn’t, I just enjoyed the ride and didn’t worry about the romance. As Purity says to herself: “She would come to Mark a complete woman.”

Other high points include a tawdry girl-school game with a dumb stud, a dominatrix-villainess who wears transparent gowns, and an aging duchess who makes constant fart references.

Final Analysis of Purity’s Passion

The story’s pacing is a bit uneven–because most of the juicy parts are packed into the first third. But the author is skilled enough to make most of it enjoyable. Even if the ending is a bit flat.

Purity’s Passion is a romance only because at the end of the book the female protagonist is united with the man she loves. Otherwise, it’s a soapy, door-stopper historical epic, typical of the ’70s and ’80s.

Readers, mostly women, from all walks of life used to openly enjoy these pulpy paperbacks with kaleidoscopic covers. They were taken to fantastical worlds where the heroines’ beauty got men so carried away with mad lust that they’d have her… at any cost (dun, dun, dun!)!

Now, not unlike tobacco cigarettes (which I never smoked), bodice rippers are banished to the darkest corners, reviled in public for the unwholesome filth they contain. Like a smoker relegated to puffing away in a cold alley, bodice ripper readers are banished to Romancelandia Siberia.

And that’s really a shame–because these books are a lot of fun!

4 Stars

the taming deveraux

Historical Romance Review: The Taming by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
The Taming by Jude Deveraux
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Lisa Falkenstern
Book Series: Peregrine #1
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 311
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Taming by Jude Deveraux

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

The Taming by Jude Deveraux was a rare clunker from this talented author. This medieval romance was not a one-star read due to the valiant, terrific heroine. She deserved a better book and hero than the one she got!

As a teen, I loved Jude Deveraux’s books and devoured them like candy corn.

I loved the spicy dynamic between her heroes and heroines. However, the one hero I HATED more than any was Rogan in The Taming–even more than Gavin in The Velvet Promise!

The Plot

The Taming is the opposite of Highland Velvet, where the hero works his butt off to make his wife happy. Here, the wife works her fingers to the bone to help her lazy husband and his annoying siblings.

Sir Rogan Peregrine needs a wealthy wife and Lady Liana Neville needs a husband. She is a wealthy heiress. His castle is in disrepair, and his family–a younger brother and sister–run wild. They’re two attractive people, so you expect some sexy antics to occur.

They do after Rogan stops being such a swine, but why would I want a great heroine to settle for a loser like Rogan?

Rogan was such a lazy jerk with mistresses aplenty. He had one for each day of the week. Seriously. He named each woman after each day, as he couldn’t be bothered to remember their real names.

Liana loved him, but he did not deserve her.

Liana was a resilient lady who worked hard to make her husband’s castle a livable place. I remember reading that the moat was so clogged with excrement and how it stank up, and nobody cared! Gross!

Plus Rogan had no charisma. A hero can be a jerk, oblivious, or even a pompous arse at times, but charm goes a long way.

Final Analysis of The Taming

The Taming got me so angry I didn’t even bother to read the sequel! And back then I read all of Jude Deveraux’s books!

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
1.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

England’s most valiant knights paid court to wealthy Liana Neville, but only the infamous warrior Rogan Peregrine made no secret of his powerful desires. His very caress melted Liana into liquid fire, and she vowed to capture this manificent, wild man. Boldly the delicate beauty gave him her hand — and Britain’s richest dower. Yet he was bound to a bitter feud: for love betrayed, brothers killed, and ancestral land usurped. In Rogan’s war-ravaged castle, Liana would lay her tender seige…to redeem his embattled spirit and win his untamed heart!

The Taming by Jude Deveraux