This review is of Texas Blonde, book #3 in the “The Lady and the Cowboy” series by Victoria Thompson. (Zebra/Kensington, October 1987). This review is of the ebook version of the book.
Heroine: Felicity Storm, 18. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Photographer.
Hero: Josh Logan, 28. Silver/white hair (it’s a hereditary thing), gray eyes. Owner, Rocking L ranch.
The book begins with the hero, Josh Logan, a rancher, rescuing Felicity Storm, the book’s heroine, from several calamities –flash floods, homelessness, hunger. As they spend more time together, they become attracted to each other, become lovers, and decide to marry. We also learn about their respective histories. However, Josh is determined not to fall in love with Felicity.
Even so, Felicity and Josh do fall in love and get married. However, many threats, both internal and external, challenge their happiness.
In the end, the external threats are vanquished, the internal threats are discussed and addressed, and Felicity and Joshua have their Happily Ever After.
This review is of Midnight Princess, book #1 in the “Marshall Brothers” series by Jo Goodman, a pseudonym used by Joanne Dobrzanski. Published by Zebra/Kensington, November 1989, the book was later reissued as Her Defiant Heart. (This series connects to Ms. Goodman’s “Dennehy Sisters” series). This review is of the original print book.
Heroine: Jenny Holland, 24. Brown hair and eyes. Mystery woman.
Hero: Christian Marshall, 31. Copper hair, aquamarine eyes. Publisher, New York Chronicle newspaper.
Location: New York City, New York. December 1866-May 1867.
Tropes: Historical Romance. Mystery woman. Newspaper publisher. New York City.
The book starts in New York City, December 1866. Christian Marshall, the hero, one of the series’ eponymous titular characters, and publisher of the New York Chronicle newspaper is at a hospital for people experiencing emotional distress. He’s watching one of the “patients,” a woman known as Jane Doe, being treated. He feels sympathy for her and decides to help her.
This review is of Texas Conquest by Caroline Bourne. This historical romance is a Zebra Lovegram, published in 1988.
The book starts in London, England, in 1810. Elsa Palmer is searching for her sister, Claretta, who became a prostitute after the death of her husband. He was a man their father didn’t approve of. Elsa convinces Claretta to travel to America with her and Elsa’s husband, William.
Fast forward 22 years. In Texas, on the Brazos River lives Mariah Palmer, 22, Elsa and William’s daughter and the heroine of the book. Mariah lives with Elsa (William has now passed away) and a younger brother, Jessie, who is away but coming home.
Mariah is a steadfast supporter of Texas independence from Mexico, which will place her squarely at odds with her new neighbor, Matthew Cade, the book’s hero. Even though he is an American, Matthew is the right-hand man for General Antonio Lopez y Santa Anna. Santa Anna has ordered Matthew to buy the home of Mariah’s neighbor, Francisco Gomez.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Conquest by Caroline Bourne”
I’ve read about half of the romances Deana James published and I must say Crimson Obsession is probably my least favorite of her works. It’s not a terrible romance, not at all. It simply pales in comparison to her other books. Due to my high expectations of James’ writing, Crimson Obsession was a bit of a disappointment, although if penned by another author, I daresay I might not have been so critical.
The Revenge Based Plot
It’s Victorian-era England and Cassandra MacDaermond is on a mission of revenge. She’s a beautiful red-haired orphan left penniless. Her father died after losing the family fortune by gambling. Cassandra blames Edward Sandron, owner of a gaming hall, for this. She’s determined to see Sandron pay for taking advantage of an elderly man. Cassandra disguises herself as an old, plump maid and gains employment in Sandron’s household.
Great Title, Beautiful Cover, Too Bad About the Book
Dark Before the Rising Sun is the last installment in Laurie McBain‘s trilogy that began with Moonstruck Madness. This is a direct continuation of that book’s sequel, Chance the Winds of Fortune. I am breaking my rule for reviewing books that I have didn’t fully read, as I made it fairly far into this book and then skimmed to the end. Yes, it was that bad.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been combined with the first book, and halved by length.
As I said in my review of Chance the Winds of Fortune, the second and third books combine for over 1000 pages. In the previous installment, the pride and joy of the Dominic family, the eldest daughter Rhea Claire was kidnapped. Events led her to be an unwilling passenger on a ship sailing the Caribbean, captained by Dante Leighton, former English Marquis turned pirate. Rhea charmed the pants off of the ship’s men, metaphorically speaking for the crew, but literally speaking of Captain Dante.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Dark Before the Rising Sun by Laurie McBain”
First Love, Wild Love, a Zebra Lovegram romance, begins in Texas, where Calinda Braxton, the heroine, has come from England to investigate the disappearance of her father, Elliott “Brax” Braxton. Her arrival in Texas is not welcoming, as the stagecoach she’s on is robbed. The stagecoach guard is killed, and the other passengers blame her because she fought back. Disconsolate and penniless, Calinda is taken in by the madam of a house of ill repute and given a room. What happens here sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Calinda is given laudanum by the madam (not for nefarious purposes, but to help her sleep). Into the room comes the owner, Lynx Cardone, the hero of the book. Thinking that Calinda either was sent to his room or heard about him and decided to come on her own, Lynx has dubious consent sex with Calinda. She agrees to have sex with him, but she’s under the influence of the drug.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: First Love, Wild Love by Janelle Taylor”
This review is of Desperado Dream, the sequel to The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale.
It is 11 years in publishing time, but only 1 year in book time as the relationship between Lisa Jordan Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, continues. The couple and their daughter, Raya, live on a ranch in Monterey, California. The relationship between Lisa and Eric was tumultuous in The Forever Passion, and nothing changes in this book. After Eric and Lisa’s brother, Tom, go to San Francisco on a legal matter, they become involved in rescuing a woman, Teresa Torres, who falls for Eric, and he becomes attracted to her too. Meanwhile, back at the Del Mar ranch, Lisa has been kidnapped by a bandido named Cruz Estacan, who has orders to kill her, Eric, and Eric’s grandfather as a means of retaking the land Cruz and his cohorts believe belongs to them.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”
The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”
This review is of Passion’s Treasure (later republished and retitled as Just Say Yes), a standalone from March 1989 by Betina Krahn.
The Plot: Part One
The book begins in the town of Culpepper, Maryland Colony, 1748. We meet Treasure Barrett, one of 10 children born to Aniss and Buck Barrett. Treasure is an intelligent, precocious child, and the townspeople are encouraged to allow those qualities free rein. As the book begins, Treasure, age 9, learns about “sport”.
Fast forward nearly 9 years. A sad pall has come over Culpepper. The town’s most prominent citizen, Squire Darcy Renville, has passed away. His estranged son, Sterling Renville, the hero of the book, arrives from England and demands that the villagers-who are all in hock to Squire Darcy in one way or another-pay back their debts or he will seize their property and make them all homeless. He will then return to his home in England. The town turns to Treasure, the town thinker, now nearly 18, and the heroine, for help.
Moonstruck Madness is old school in a clichéd, but still an oh-so-perfect way. For the very reasons some reviewers dislike this book, I adore it. Written in 1977, Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain’s second and, in my opinion, her best book.
The heroine, Lady Sabrina Verrick watches on as the Scots lose at the bloody Battle of Culloden Moor. The eldest daughter of a deceased Scotswoman, and an itinerant English Marquess, she and her family are without resources. As she’s responsible for her two younger siblings, she packs them off to England to their absent father’s run-down estate. Her father is more interested in his young Italian bride than being responsible for his children. It’s up to Sabrina to figure a way to support her family.
It’s the mid-1830’s and Scottish immigrant Reiver MacPherson has been granted lands by the new Texas government. The dilapidated property he acquired belonged to an old Spanish family, but the place is now abandoned. Or at least Reiver thinks it is, because to his surprise, there he finds an emaciated young wisp of a girl, Mercedes-Maria, whose family once owned the lands but has fled to Mexico, leaving her behind. So begins Deana James’ Texas Storm.
Mercedes is a bit of a wild child, and Reiver has no patience for her at first. She insists the land is hers; he claims it’s is. The two butt heads but eventually agree to work together. Slowly, a romance unfolds as the pair get to know one another—sexual attraction forms. With James’ trademark earthy sensuality describing the passages, their passion results in vivid lovemaking sessions.
Mercedes & Reiver get married more out of convenience than love. However, their love grows as they experience adventure after adventure.
A Five-Star Book, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly
After deliberation, I decided to give Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri five stars, although I do so with some high degree of reluctance. The explanation why follows.
The Story: Part One
This Zebra Lovegram begins with the hero of the book, Freya Jorgenson, being born. Her father, Thorfast, is a warring Viking who wanted a son. He orders his man, Sven, to kill Freya. Sven, however, being a kind soul, chooses not to and, with the help of a captured English slave, raises Freya as his daughter.
Earlier, Sven did a similar thing. Years earlier, when Thorfast and his men went a-Viking–i.e., murdering, pillaging, and raping–they sacked an English village, killing all the males and raping the females. One of the women, Wilone, wife of the head of the earldom whom Thorfast killed, offered herself as a sexual slave to Thorfast in exchange for sparing her life and the life of her unborn child. Thorfast raped Wilone and ordered Sven to kill her and her child, which he did not do.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri”
Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.
Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies now residing in San Fransisco, California. The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her much more sophisticated and unsurprisingly young stepmother. But, of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.
On the other hand, Lydia is a woman of social conscience, as she tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, killing women on the streets. Sadly, the mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was, but I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.
Janelle Taylor’s Sweet Savage Heart, a Zebra Lovegram historical romance, begins in Dakota Territory, May 1867. It is here that an Oglala Indian maiden, Wild Wind, the heroine of the book, is troubled, for she is arguing with her brother, Lone Wolf, over her future. (Backstory: Wild Wind is not actually Indian at all. Her name is Rana Michaels, and she was adopted into her band of Lakotas by Soaring Hawk, a Lakota chief who stole her from the Kiowa tribe which captured and enslaved her after they killed her parents, Marissa Crandall Michaels and Raymond Michaels). Rana is conflicted about her life, and things are about to get more complicated…
In Texas, rancher Nathan Crandall, owner of the Bar-C ranch and Rana’s grandfather, sees a painting of her and realizes it’s his granddaughter. He asks his foreman, Travis Kincade, the hero of the book, for help in getting Rana back. (Travis is half-Hunkpapa Lakota Indian and half-white).. Their efforts are successful, but are complicated by many factors, including Rana herself. However, she does agree to go with Nathan and Travis, and on the way to the ranch, Rana and Travis become lovers (According to Oglala customs, they are married.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sweet Savage Heart by Janelle Taylor”
***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***
Rating: 1 out of 5.
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.
Lovespellis yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like CaptiveAngel.
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.
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.
Texas Torment, a Zebra Lovegram, 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.
Sea Fires, a Zebra Lovegram written by Christine Dorsey, features bookish yet feisty Miranda Chadwick as the heroine. She’s embarking on an ocean voyage home to the colonies. 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. Why can’t other folks be the bad guys in these pirate stories? Oh, well. Que sera sera.)
Miranda’s father has some shady dealings with Jack, as he is a smuggler himself. He’s under investigation and convinces Jack to kidnap Miranda for several weeks until the magistrate leaves town. Miranda is such a do-gooder that she won’t think twice about ratting out Jack to anyone and everyone, thus exposing his—and her father’s—pirate enterprise.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Fires by Christine Dorsey”
Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel was a crazy book that in 1991 could only have been published by the Zebra romance lines. It was completely unrealistic, but I had a blast with it. This was the first book I read when I subscribed to the Lovegram line many years back. The plot description on the back of the book sounded like it would be a riot!
Lady Eden Parrish met ship captain Roark St. Claire in England and they had shared a hidden, forbidden love. The pair secretly got married. However, before they consummated their marriage, Eden was forced to abandon Roark. Her family tricked her into believing he betrayed her. They whisk her off their Barbados plantation as Eden is now marred with the taint of scandal.
Roark follows her to her Caribbean, where he is captured and sold into slavery. Eden sees him at the auction block. To everyone’s scandalized shock, she purchases him as her slave.
The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independent creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
*** Spoiler alert ***
An Unusual Romance
How do I begin to review this amazing, conflicting journey through a woman’s incredible 19th-century life? I have to tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.
By all rights Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should have tossed into a blazing fire and gleefully cheered, “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”
Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having read a few of Deana James’s books, I knew it couldn’t be that horrible. The cover even had a quote from Johanna Lindsey, stating: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down,” which is 100% true.
Captive Angel surpassed my expectations with probably one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels’ Captive Series.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James”
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 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 was 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 to flee in fear for her life and her child’s safety.
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.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Zebra’s Texas Tempest features yet another great, steel-willed Deana James heroine. James has written many resilient heroines before, such as in the seafaring antebellum romance, Captive Angel, and the medieval romance, Lovespell.
The prologue begins with Eugenia Leahy getting beaten by her no-good drunkard of a husband, Cormac. When he goes after her daughter, that’s when mama bear springs into action, grabs a firearm, and shoots him, paralyzing the abuser for life!
We then flash forward 10-15 years later, and Eugenia is running her ranch and doing a great job at it! Tough, cold, and stern, Eugenia is known as “The Diamondback,” as deadly as her namesake. But she is still a woman in a world dominated by men, so she needs some muscle to enforce her rules. Enter the mysterious MacPherson, a gunslinger who saves Eugenia’s life and is just the man for the job.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Texas Tempest by Deana James”
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.
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.
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Wow… What an experience! Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw is a Zebra Lovegram romance published way back in 1989. 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.