Category Archives: Category romance

smoke in the wind len goldberg

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

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

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


Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Characters and the Set-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot

Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Smoke in the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis:

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

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

SMOKE IN THE WIND by ROBYN DONALD
SILHOUETTE-MOVIES

Movies Based on Romance Novels Part III: Silhouette Category Romances

silhouette romance movies

Silhouette Romances On the (Small) Screen

In the 1980s and 1990s, romance imprints Silhouette and Harlequin teamed up with Showtime and CBS to create television adaptations of some category novels. Here we’re covering the movies based on Silhouette romances.

Diamond Girl by Diana Palmer

Diana Palmer‘s 1984 Silhouette Desire, Diamond Girl is about a mousy secretary who gets a makeover. Her boss wants her to catch the eye of his stepbrother. However, a romance ensues between the boss and the secretary.

silhouette romance movies

A television movie based on the book came out in 1998. It starred Jonathan Cake and Joely Collins.

silhouette romance movies

Clair Barnard is an attractive–if somewhat dowdy–paralegal who takes care of the everyday running of a law practice owned by playboy lawyer Denny Montana. Denny is oblivious to the fact that Clair harbors romantic feelings for him.

Since the death of Denny’s father the family wine estate has been in financial decline and the family is considering a merger. Denny’s brother Regan has arrived to help protect the family’s interests as he does not have confidence that Denny will negotiate a suitable settlement, nor does he trust his gold-digging girlfriend Margo.

Regan has commandeered an office at Denny’s practice and the intrusion has meant that Claire and Regan bicker constantly. Despite this fact, he recognizes that Claire is a diamond in the rough and sets about transforming her into a ravishing beauty. Regan intends to enlist the air of the transformed Claire to lure his brother away from the seductive charms of Margo. She gets the man she loves and he gets Denny away from Margo’s evil clutches.

DIAMOND GIRL

Watch Diamond Girl on Youtube

Love with a Perfect Stranger by Pamela Wallace

Love With a Perfect Stranger, Silhouette Special Edition #63, was the first of three books by Pamela Wallace that were adapted to the screen.

love with a perfect stranger

This 1986 film starred Marilu Henner and Daniel Massey.

A beautiful wealthy American businesswoman meets an eccentric Irishman on an Italian train, who sets out to woo her. What ensues is something neither imagined happening.

LOVE WITH A PERFECT STRANGER

Watch Love With a Perfect Stranger on Youtube

Dreams Lost, Dreams Found by Pamela Wallace

Dreams Lost, Dreams Found was the next Pamela Wallace Silhouette Special Edition to come out as a film on Showtime. This romance took place in Scotland.

dream lost, dreams found
Dreams Lost, Dreams Found, Pamela Wallace, Silhouette, 1983

This 1987 production starred Kathleen Quinlan and Nick Nolte’s look-alike, David Robb.

A young American widow is mysteriously drawn to a historic castle in the Scottish Highlands…and finds herself at the center of a 200-year-old ghost story.

DREAMS LOST, DREAMS FOUND

Watch Dreams Lost, Dreams Found on YouTube

Tears In the Rain by Pamela Wallace

Tears In the Rain is the third Patricia Wallca Sihouette romance to be adapted into a movie.

Wallace had experience working in Hollywood, having developed two previous stories for film She had worked on the story for the film Witness, starring Harrison Ford.

She would then go on would go on to write scripts for other television productions. These include Christmas movies and other films for the Hallmark Channel.

silhouette romance movies
Tears In the Rain, Pamela Wallace, Silhouette,1983

The book blurb for Tears In the Rain:

Kentucky born Casey Cantre London, determined to fulfill her last request and deliver a letter to a mysterious stranger.

But when she reached the home of wealthy old Lord Bredon, she was met with only coldness and anger. Vowing to solve mystery, Casey went in search of an answer–and walked straight into the arms of a golden-haired aristocrat.

As open and sensual as his father was` and distant, Michael Bredon filled Casey with a tender, passionate longing. But could she give Michael her heart, when the . key to their future happiness lay in the dark shadow of a past love?

TEARS IN THE RAIN
category romance movie

This 1988 film had Sharon Stone and Christopher Cazenove in the lead roles.

When Casey Cantrell’s mother died, her last wish was that her daughter would give a letter to Lord Richard Bredon, living in the UK. When Casey arrives in London, Lord Bredon denies ever having known her mother. Casey meets Lord Bredon’s son Michael and they fall in love. When Lord Bredon finds out about this new relationship he furiously assumes that Casey wants to blackmail his family and starts to investigate her background. The plot heightens dramatically when it appears that an event from the past might part the lovers.

TEARS IN THE RAIN

Watch Tears In the Rain on YouTube

Cloud Waltzing by Tori Cates

Tori Cates Cloud Waltzer is yet another Silhouette romance novel made into a movie.

silhouette romance movies

The title Cloud Waltzer was changed to Cloud Waltzing for the 1987 adaptation of the 1984 book.

The lead roles went to Kathleen Beller and François-Eric Gendron.

Journalist Meredith Tolliver is sent to do a story on wealthy wine vineyard owner Francois De Paul. Francois is a mysterious, gentle man who never talks about his personal life and seems to be hiding a secret. Meredith is a woman determined to get a story on him like no one has ever written-including an in-depth story on his personal life. Meredith is determined to become a fantastic journalist, even if it’s against her rich domineering fathers wishes. With Francois love, he’ll help her overcome her own secret, and she’ll help him overcome his.

CLOUD WALTZING

Watch Cloud Waltzing on YouTube (Part I)

At the Midnight Hour by Alica Scott (aka Lisa Gardner)

Silhouette Intimate Moments #558, At the Midnight Hour by Alicia Scott, was a 1995 release about a nanny caring for a scientist’s child.

At The Midnight Hour, Alicia Scott, Silhouette, 1995, cover artist TBD

The film version starred Patsy Kensit and Keegan MacIntosh.

Watch In the Midnight Hour on YouTube

Young nanny Elizabeth Guinness arrives at the mansion of the brilliant, widowed scientist Richard Keaton, to care for his gifted but troubled son Andrew. Complications arise when the scientist’s younger brother, Blaine and his girlfriend Jillian arrive at the mansion for an extended visit.

While trying to reunite father and son, Liz attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of Richard’s wife and at the same time find herself falling in love with the mysterious Keaton.

AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

Watch At the Midnight Hour On YouTube

Your Opinion

Have you seen any of these movies based on Silhouette romance novels? Or have you read the books that the movies were based on? If so, what did you think of them?

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

once more with feeling nora roberts

Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

once more with feeling
Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Intimate Moments #2
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 250
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

The Book

Once More With Feeling is the second outing from the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. Nora Roberts‘ category romance tells the love story between two musicians, one a rising star and the other an established musician, who previously knew each other.

Now they must try to make beautiful music together again–literally. Only later does the situation take a turn for the metaphorical.

The Plot

Five years prior to the opening of Once More With Feeling, a teenaged, black-haired Raven Williams was a fledgling artist. (Just once, I’d like to read a book where a blonde or redhead has that name. Or a brunette or a blonde named Flame to subvert expectations.) Raven and a seasoned Irish-British musician named Brandon Carstairs garnered great success together before her star went on the ascendency.

Their working relationship had made it to the front pages of the gossip columns. Was there more to the two beautiful musicians than music? There was, but alas, it came to an abrupt end. Raven had kept herself at a distance from Brandon, and he was unwilling to put up with her reticence.

Heartbroken, Raven immersed herself in music, putting her career above love. Now Brandon has a gig to score a potential blockbuster musical film—and he wants Raven to co-write it with him.

I enjoyed watching Raven and Brandon’s new relationship unfold. Now in her mid-twenties, Raven was still a young woman but more sure of herself, although just as close-guarded. Brandon is a sexy character with longish back hair, blue-green eyes, and Irish-British charm (it seems Roberts has a type). However, he runs roughshod over Raven, vowing to break through her inner resolve.

Before these two can have their happy ending, there are big misunderstandings–because the characters refuse to say what they have to!–and the heroine has to rush to her dying mother’s bedside in a dramatic scene.

Back cover of Once More With Feeling, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1983, George H. Jones cover art.

Final Analysis of Once More With Feeling

Five years before the start of Once More with Feeling Brandon broke Raven’s heart when he left her. Now Brandon is back and asks her to co-write the music for an upcoming, much-anticipated movie. Can these two learn to trust and love again? 

Written in the early 1980s, this book feels like part of that era, especially with how cruel Brandon can be to Raven. Other readers may be more discriminating and have difficulty digesting the caveman antics of the “hero,” but not me.

One of my favorite moments in the book is near the conclusion when our couple finally reveals their feelings for one another, and they have this exchange:

“You can’t own me Brandon.”

A quick flash of fury shot into his eyes. “Damn it, I don’t want to own you, but I want you to belong to me. Don’t you know there’s a difference?”

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS

Once More With Feeling was a solid romance, although Nora Roberts is capable of much better. This was only Robert’s 13th book, which sounds like a big deal. Considering that she’s written hundreds, it’s obviously created in the formative years of her career. Roberts’ writing has gotten sharper with age.

I had a fun time with Once More With Feeling, even if it was flawed in some respects. The heroine was a tad weak-willed, and the hero was too bossy.

This could have been lackluster in the hands of a less skillful author. One never knows how the wind will blow with a new series or writer.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with Raven and Brandon’s love story. Roberts always had the instinct to be a superb writer. She simply needed time to perfect her craft.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis:

THEIR SONGS AND THEIR PASSION WOULD ELECTRIFY A WAITING WORLD.

RAVEN WILLIAMS was a singer who had an overwhelming need to love and be loved, and whose voice had catapulted her to fame.

BRANDON CARSTAIRS was a musician in whom the charming Irish dreamer warred with a practical British reserve.

The music they made together was exciting, disturbing, erotic. Soon it would reach a dangerous crescendo.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS
7 category romance authors who made it big

Category Romance Authors Who Made It Big

7 category romance authors who made it big

Category Romance Writers Who Became Bestselling Sensations

Many famous mainstream fiction authors were originally writers of series or category romance. Category romances are a staple of the industry. Nevertheless, they get little respect because it’s a subgenre seen as derivative due to a reliance on tropes.

These slimmed-down editions forced authors to write tight plots within a limited amount of pages. This constraint actually helped sharpen many authors’ skills and enabled them to branch off into other genres.

The following seven authors wrote Silhouette, Harlequin, Loveswept, or Dell Candlelight romances before garnering widespread acclaim.

1. Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown
Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a former category romance author who became incredibly successful.

She has written over 80 novels, including 73 New York Times bestsellers. Over 80 million copies of her books are in print worldwide. They have been translated into 34 languages.

Her blockbusters include Blind Tiger, Thick As Thieves, Seeing Red, Outfox, Tailspin, Seeing Red, and Mean Streak.

mean streak

Sandra Brown got her start with Silhouette in 1982 with Not Even for Love. She wrote it using a pseudonym, Erin St. Claire. The book has been re-issued as Sting. She also penned many excellent romances for the Bantam Loveswept line.

Not Even for Love, Erin St. Claire, Silhouette, 1982, cover artist unknown

Brown has written historical romances as well as full-length contemporaries and mysteries.

She has made several television appearances on Ture Crime programs. Her novels French Silk, Smoke Screen, Ricochet, and White Hot resulted in television films.

Our Sandra Brown category romance recommendation: A Secret Splendor, Silhouette Intimate Moments #29, 1984

secret splendor
A Secret Splendor, Erin St. Claire, Silhouette, 1984, George Jones cover art

2. Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
Robyn Carr
Photo credit: Michael Alberstat

Carr’s A Virgin River Christmas was her first New York Times success in 2008.

Since then, her romances and women’s fiction books have spent nearly 250 weeks on that list. Her 20-book Virgin River series has produced more than 13 million copies.

Bring Me Home for Christmas, the 16th entry in the series, hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Fans of Carr’s Virgin River books can now enjoy them as a Netflix series.

Carr has sold over 27 million books which have been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries.

Virgin River

In 2016, the Romance Writers of America awarded Robyn the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Robyn Carr was a young mother of two in the mid-1970s, an Air Force wife, and educated as a nurse when she started writing fiction. She published her first book in 1980, a bodice ripper historical called Chelynne.

chelynne

Almost a decade later, she wrote her first category romance for Harlequin. It was 1989’s Informed Risk, Harlequin Special Edition #517.

Informed Risk

Carr has published more than 45 books with Harlequin.

3. Iris Johansen

iris johansen
Iris Johansen

Iris Johansen achieved acclaim in the early 1980s when she entered the romance industry with her category romances. Her first book was Bantam Loveswept #14 Stormy Vows.

stormy vows

Iris Johansen had been writing category romances for a decade when she switched gears in 1991. She started to create long-length, suspenseful historical romances. The first was The Wind Dancer, which was a great hit.

In 1996 Johansen changed genres altogether, turning to crime fiction, where she has had smashing success. Titles include What Doesn’t Kill You, Dark Summer, Sleep No More, and Shadow Play.

shadow play

Johansen has over 30 consecutive New York Times bestsellers.

Johansen divides her time between Florida and Georgia. Her son–and frequent collaborator–Roy Johansen is an Edgar Award-winning screenwriter and novelist. Her daughter, Tamara, serves as her research assistant.

Our Iris Johansen category romance pick: The Delaney Series duo Wild Silver & Satin Ice from 1988.

wild-silver-pino
satin ice

4. Joan Johnston

Joan Johnston
Joan Johnston

Yet another New York Times bestselling author to have written series romance is the prolific Joan Johnston. Johnston’s books have also appeared in the top ten USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Her backlist consists of over 40 contemporary and historical romance novels. She has over 15 million books in print worldwide.

Johnston creates gripping family dramas and romantic adventures. Her popular series include her Bitter Creek and Blackthorne family novels, which overlap.

Joan Johnston

Johnston’s first two novels were historical romances, A Loving Defiance and Colter’s Wife. Then she entered the contemporary genre in 1988 with Silhouette Desire #424 Fit to Be Tied. Over the years, Johnston would alternate writing category romance with full-length contemporaries and historicals.

Fit to Be Tied.

Before dedicating herself to writing full-time, Johnston had many careers. She was an attorney, a newspaper editor, a drama critic, a theatre director, and a college professor.

Johnston has combined her passion for travel to conduct research for her novels and has been to Italy, England, Greece, and Scotland, as well as traveling across the United States.

My favorite Joan Johnston book is the Scottish-set historical romance, The Bodyguard.

delaney jackson

5. Heather Graham

heather graham
Heather Graham

Heather Graham, also known as Heather Graham-Possezzere and Shannon Drake, is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

Graham majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. She spent several years in dinner theater, performing backup vocals, and bartending. After the birth of her third child, Graham stayed home and began to write.

Her first book was published in 1983, When Next We Love, Dell Candlelight Ecstasy #117.

when next love graham

Her first category romance for Silhouette was Night Moves, Intimate Moments, 1985.

Since then, Graham has written over two hundred novels and novellas. They include series romance, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare.

Graham has 60 million books in print, published in twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels, more than half for Harlequin and Silhouette.

She was the launch author for Harlequin’s MIRA Books with her 1994 romance, Slow Burn.

slow burn graham

Graham has won a multitude of awards from prestigious institutions. She received a Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and the Thriller Master in 2016. Graham is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA.

6. Brenda Jackson

brenda jackson
Photo credit: Blue Franswa Fotografia

Brenda Jackson is a New York Times and the USA Today bestselling author of over 140 books and novellas, with 15 million books in print.

Jackson’s professional writing career began in 1995 with the release of her first Madaris family book, Tonight and Forever, for Pinnacle‘s revolutionary Arabesque Line.

tonight and forever brenda jackson

In 2002, she signed with Silhouette to create steamy romances for their Desire line. Delaney’s Desert Sheikh, #1473, was the initial book in her super popular Westmoreland family saga.

delaney jackson

Since then, Jackson has received numerous national and literary awards and accomplishments. She was the first African-American author to make the New York Times Bestseller’s List and the USA Today’s Bestseller’s List in the romance genre. Jackson earned the Romance Writers of America’s Nora Robert’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2012.

Jackson has been involved in numerous charities. She promoted scholarship programs to enable low-income students to access higher education.

Jackson has been featured in magazines such as Essence, Sister-2-Sister, Today’s Black Woman, Ebony, Romantic Times, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and Cosmopolitan.

She has released full-length contemporary romances to great acclaim, including her Catalina Cove Series.

forget me not jackson

Her novels, One Special Moment and Truly Everlasting, have been made into movies by BET and Five Alive Films, respectively. Passionflix produced A Brother’s Honor from her Granger Series.

7. Sherryl Woods

Sherryl Woods Photo credit: Nina Subin
Sherryl Woods Photo credit: Nina Subin

Sherryl Woods has published millions of romances and mysteries. In addition to her more than 120 romances for Silhouette and MIRA Books, Woods has written thirteen mysteries. There are 9 in her Amanda Roberts series, and the rest are part of her Molly DeWitt series.

Her first book, Restoring Love, was published in 1982 by Dell Candlelight Ecstasy under the pseudonym of Suzanne Sherrill.

Restoring Love

Her second romance novel, Sand Castles, followed later that year under the pseudonym of Alexandra Kirk. Woods would use her real name when she moved to Berkley Publishing to write for their Second Chance at Love line.

Then in 1986, she started her long career for Silhouette Desire with Not at Eight Darling set in the world of television.

Like many prominent romance authors, Woods’ books have made it to the small screen. As a result, fans of her Sweet Magnolia Series can now enjoy them as a program on Netflix.

Sweet Magnolia

My first Sherryl Woods was baseball romance Fever Pitch, a 1991 Silhouette Desire that I heartily recommend.

Fever Pitch

Your Opinion

Have you read any of these authors’ category romances? Or are you more familiar with their mainstream full-length releases? Did you know these romance writers got their start in category romance?

Please, drop us a comment, and let’s talk romance.


Links

savage possession

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

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

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

The Book

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

The Characters and the Set-Up

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot?

Home, Sweet Home

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

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

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

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

Lazy Bones

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

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

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

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

But did I mention that Melissa is:

L… A… Z… Y…

Final Analysis of Savage Possession

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

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

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

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

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

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

The future held no bright prospects.

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

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

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

Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

Poll: Favorite Romance Author (Contemporary or Series)

favorite romance author

Choose Your Favorite Writer of Contemporary Romances

Who is your favorite romance author of old-school, vintage, or retro-contemporary novels? Whether series or full-length romance, Sweet Savage Flame wants to hear your choice!

Vote for any of the authors in the poll listed below. If your choice isn’t on the list, vote for “OTHER” and leave your pick in the comments.

We’ll place this poll in the sidebar so if you can’t decide now, think about it, and then come back to vote.

We can’t wait to hear who your favorites are!

glory days michael herring

Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

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


Category Romance Review: Glory Days by Marilynne Rudick

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

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

Why? Because it was so dreadfully dull.

The Plot

Glory Days is… an absolutely boring romance.

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Glory Days

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

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

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

1 Star

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

Synopsis

What price glory?

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

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

GLORY DAYS BY MARILYNNE RUDICK
lynne graham the italians wife

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

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Characters and the Set-Up

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

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

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

The Plot

The English Woman’s Hero

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

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

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

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

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

The Italian’s Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of The Italian’s Wife

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

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

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

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

3.62

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

Synopsis

Will he take a stranger to be his wedded wife?

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

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

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

Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

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


Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

The Plot

Part One

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

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

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

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

Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Rumor Has It

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

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

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

Synopsis

It wasn’t a lie, exactly

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

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

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

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

***

the marriage war charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

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


Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’ll be over my dead body,

So get out while you can!

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

LORETTA LYNN, “YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH”

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

Spoiler: The Shocking Revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“See that? How much I want you?”

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

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

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

Final Analysis of The Marriage War

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

Oh, boy, did I hate this book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Something worth fighting for!

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

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

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

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
liar's moon heather graham

Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

category romance
Liar's Moon by Heather Graham
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme #159
Published by: Dell
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 286
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Liar’s Moon by Heather Graham

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Liar’s Moon, a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme by Heather Graham is an overwrought foray into romantic suspense.

There’s intrigue, murder, and a long-ago love affair between a teenage girl and a much older, close family friend.

Events lead to a dramatic and happy conclusion in this so-so-category romance.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Tracy Kuger has come to New York for her father’s funeral. Who was her father? He was Jesse Kuger, Liar’s Moon’s version of The Beatle’s John Lennon. Only in Liar’s Moon, these Beatles consisted of Jesse, Leif, Tiger, and Sam, and they called themselves The Limelights.

(Incidentally, this was also the name of a string of nightclubs run by entrepreneur and Ecstasy kingpin Peter Gatien. The most (in)famous of the clubs was located in an old, converted church in Manhattan. Lots of memories for me from the mid-1990s! Today it’s a gym. Do techno dance clubs even exist anymore? I’m old, so I don’t know about these things.)

Tracy’s father was inexplicably killed, and his murderer was shot dead by police in a subsequently prompt fashion.

Tracy’s instincts tell her this was not the work of a mere maniacal fan.

Leif Johnson was Jesse’s best friend. Years before the book starts, a “sexually precocious” yet virginal Tracy threw herself at Leif, and he being the mature Rock Star that he was, just couldn’t say no to his BFF’s daughter.

Tragedy and circumstances forced Tracy into exile to Switzerland for seven years. The Tracy who returns from Europe to bury her father is now a thriving and (supposedly) independent businesswoman.

The Plot

The plot may be uncomfortable for readers who dislike significant age differences. Tracy was 17 years old when she “seduced” Leif, who was in his late 30s. But she came on to him, not the other way around! You can’t blame the guy, right?

Complicating matters is that Tracy became pregnant from the fling. As a result, her parents conspired to make Tracy believe her baby died at birth.

Then they shipped the baby off to Leif, who raised his son with his wife Celia, whom he deeply loved. The reader knows from the opening pages about Leif’s happy marriage, even as his dreams are haunted by images of an alluring Tracy in the moonlight.

Leif (with a name like Leif, you’d think he’d be a blond, but no, he’s a dark and hirsute stud) is concerned for Jesse’s children’s safety. He, too, suspects the killing was not an isolated incident. Jesse’s 20-year-old son Jamie is an up-and-coming musician whom Leif has taken under his wing.

And of course, there is Tracy (an independent woman, remember?), who does not need Leif’s role as her–ahem–guardian. But guard her he will, whether she likes it or not.

Leif and Tracy are still hot for one another, and passion rears its purple head. All the while, danger lurks as the pair search for clues to the mystery.

Someone had reason to murder Jesse, who wasn’t the saintly icon everyone painted him as being. Assembled together is a cast of assorted characters, with members of the old band, friends, and family forming a list of potential killers.

In the end, major revelations come to light, the bad guy’s identity is revealed, and he/she receives their punishment.

The lovers get their happy-ever-after ending.

However, the conclusion left me feeling like I’d been forced to swallow a pint of sour, curdled milk.

My Opinion

Liar’s Moon has “sort of” an icky plot with a big age gap between the main characters. But that wasn’t the icky part of it.

What skeeved me out was Leif’s role as the best friend of Tracy’s father. He was practically an uncle to Jesse’s kids.

Even worse is how Leif rides roughshod over Tracy. He confronts her with the truth about their “dead” baby in a sadistically cruel manner. Leif dismisses Tracy’s pain over the perceived loss, then forcefully demands Tracy be his wife.

Finally, Leif introduces Tracy to her own child as the boy’s new stepmother. A cheerful epilogue doesn’t make up for Leif’s atrocious behavior.

Final Analysis of The Book

Liar’s Moon was an angsty read, for sure. Regardless, the unheroic hero’s faults were too numerous to overlook. I mean, how could Graham name the main male character Leif and not make him blond? Unforgivable.

Still, Heather Graham is a solid author, even when writing for a restrictive category line. I can’t blame her for trying.

Liar’s Moon is an alright story that could have been better if the hero hadn’t been such a pompous and domineering jerk.

2.95 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.1

Synopsis:

She’d been a wild teenager willing to risk anything for revenge. But when she seduced Leif Johnston, she hadn’t counted on falling in love…hadn’t believed her family would intervene and sweep her off to Switzerland.

Seven years later, Tracy Kuger was a successful, independent woman. But her determination to find her father’s killer would carry her right back into New York’s deceiving limelight…into the treacherous bosom of her powerful family…into Leif’s lean, hungry arms. Passion and peril bound them together even as doubts and dangerous secrets tore them apart.

Tormented by the past, could Tracy face the truth and embrace the future—a love born under a liar’s moon?

LIAR’S MOON by HEATHER GRAHAM
mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

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


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

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

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
devil in silver room

Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

category romance
Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1973
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #5
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Violet Winspear certainly had sympathy for the Devil. Several of her book titles contain the words Demon, Lucifer, Satan, or Devil–including Harlequin Presents #5, Devil in a Silver Room.

It also features another male main character named Paul, like the hero from The Honey Is Bitter. This Paul is French, not Greek. And also, like The Honey Is Bitter, Devil In a Silver Room was reprinted many times over, proving that Winspear was a powerhouse writer for series romance.

There’s a good reason this Harlequin had so many reprints: it’s an enthralling, hypnotic love story that pulls you in from the moment the hero enters the story. And what a hero he is!

devil in a silver room violet winspear
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1973, cover artist unknown

The Set-Up

Five years before the Devil In a Silver Room opens, a teenaged Margo Jones had fallen for the wealthy, handsome, and carefree Michel Cassalis. Michel had only toyed with Margo’s heart; she was a brief fling to discard. Margo was an English au pair with no family, and Michel wen ton to marry a French lady from his own social class.

Now Michel is dead, having left behind a young son. His traumatized, grieving widow is confined to a wheelchair.

Because Margo still loves Michel, she cannot bear the thought of his child being alone. When she hears he requires an English nanny, she offers the Cassalis family her services. First, Margo meets Michel’s haughty mother, Madame Cassalis. Then Margo heads to the Cassilis family home, ominously named Satancourt.

As prickly as Madame is, she is nothing compared to Michel’s older brother, Paul. Upon Margo’s arrival in France, she meets the domineering Paul Cassalis. Sparks fly. Soon Michel will be a faint memory.

The Plot

Paul is like night to Michel’s day. Margo wonders how two men so different could have been brothers. Paul’s dark looks and menacing nature paradoxically intimidate and intrigues her.

Margo forms a strong bond with Desi, Michels son. In due time he becomes attached to the loving nanny.

But not all is well at Satancourt. People whisper rumors about Paul causing a girl’s death years ago. They say her ghost haunts the castle. Perhaps there are more deaths for which Paul is responsible?

And just what is Paul’s position at Satancourt? All the workers and residents treat Paul as their lord. But despite being the oldest male Cassalis, it is his young nephew who will rule the chateau one day.

devil in silver room
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1980 reprint, cover artist unknown

“I work the terraces, Miss Jones. I bring forth the champagne and the wine. I ensure that the chateau remains a perfect example of French architecture. I pay the wages of the workers. I give the orders and flourish the phantom whip, but I am only the caretaker of Satancourt and its cellar.”

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

Although Paul is a steward, he resonates with an aura of authority and power. He is a man who commands respect, no matter how low his station is. He reminded me of Felipe Tristan, the sigma-male hero from Teresa Denys‘ other masterpiece, The Flesh and the Devil. Although Paul is more of a leader than a lone-wolf type.

Margo is drawn to Paul’s demonic allure, even as she fights her desire. Her infatuation with Michel is supplanted with a more tremendous passion for his brother.

In the end, Paul reveals to Margo that his servile role at Satancourt is because he is not a true Cassalis. His mother was pregnant with another man’s child when she got married. So Monsieur Cassalis excluded Paul from his will. But still, Paul’s heart belongs to Satancourt.

Ultimately, he remains a humble vintner. Paul does not get the castle, but he does get the girl.

Suddenly all the loneliness was gone and she could surrender herself, her life, all her future, into the keeping of this man…not quite an angel, but not altogether a devil.

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

The Devil in a Silver Room is one of the best examples of a 1970s Harlequin romance novel that is erotic despite the lack of sex. There are plenty of passionate kisses–but no consummation.

The tone is deeply Gothic: from the chateau’s name to the dark, brooding hero to the heroine who flees from him even as she longs to submit to his deadly embrace.

It’s old-school in style and absolutely representative of its time.

Paul is autocratic and proud; Margo is dignified and strong-willed. She is a perfect match for him.

Devil in a Silver Room may be my favorite Violet Winspear yet.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Margo Jones had loved Michel Cassalis, but her love had brought her only pain. Michel had married someone else.

Now, five years later. Michel was dead. And Margo was at the Cassalis’s remote French Chateau, Satancourt, to look after Michel’s small son. She wanted nothing to do with men, especially with Michel’s ruthless brother, Paul Cassalis.

But what if Paul wanted her? As master of Satancourt, would he exercise le droit de seigneur – the right of the master to take whatever he desired!

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

My Opinion

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

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

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

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

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

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

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

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

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

Uggh.

1 Star

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

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

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

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

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

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB
dark fire

Category Romance Review: Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell

dark fire category romance
Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: The McCalls #2
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 187
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell, a 1988 Silhouette Desire, takes us on a trek through the jungles of Peru.

The hero is Trace Rawlings, the ‘stache. He’s pictured on the cover as the apex of hirsute handsomeness: a full head of hair; a thick mustache; and a chest full of more hair than a bar of soap at a YMCA.

Cynthia McCall is going by Cindy Ryan, and she needs Trace’s help.

The Plot

In Dark Fire, Cindy’s father is Big Eddy McCall, a well-connected multi-millionaire (it’s the 1980s, and the billionaire craze was a decade away) who controls politicians and businessmen. Big Eddy wants one thing: to have plenty of grandchildren to expand his dynasty.

His daughter has no interest in marriage. Cindy isn’t willing to settle down yet and focuses more on her business. That’s okay. Big Eddy’s a modern kind of patriarch, and he’ll accept biological grandchildren on either side of the blanket.

Cindy’s involved in a boutique clothing company purchasing textiles from a Peruvian connection in Quito. The contact was associated with a shady emeralds dealer and went missing. Now Cindy’s business partner Susan has gone missing looking for said textiles contact.

Word has it that a powerful cartel boss named Raul has Cindy’s friend in his clutches. Cin hires Trace Rawlings to help guide her on her trip through the jungles as she searches for her friend.

The only catch is that Big Eddy McCall has gotten to Trace first and is paying him a whopping ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY (picture Dr. Evil with a finger curled at his lip) a day to keep an eye on Cin and make sure she’s safe.

The Conflict

Trace views Cindy as pampered, spoiled “princess” and repeatedly calls her this throughout the book. He is a macho kind of guy and doesn’t cotton to dainty city gals galivanting through the dangerous territory for specious reasons. Especially when they have their wealthy Daddies are paying him to babysit them.

Of course, there is adventure along the way in Dark Fire, bringing Cindy and Trace together against their wills. Trace doesn’t help Cindy as she struggles through the environment because he’d perversely prefer to watch her struggle for his enjoyment.

But Trace isn’t an absolute caveman, and the two start to bond over their pasts. Although Trace does have that virile body hair and facial hair, which has an allure of its own. I’ve only read a few Elizabeth Lowell romances, but she seems to have a type.

The two leads form a bond that turns from merely carnal into spiritual, and that’s when you believe that this isn’t just another love story but one that’s worth telling.

In the end, there are some twists revealed about her father, which aren’t so shocking, and don’t prevent our mains from getting together.

Final Analysis of Dark Fire

The lovemaking in Dark Fire was deep and purple and reached religious heights. At first, it irritated me, but then I realized that if Elizabeth Lowell was going to write a romance, it might be a romance that is one for the ages, not just a humdrum story of two strangers passing in the night.

This book was over the top with its overwrought mess, it should rate it a 3-star read, but I had to give it 4 stars for the ‘stache alone.

4.00

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

Synopsis

INTO THE WOODS

Cynthia’s father had insisted she hire a survival specialist for her Ecuadorian trip, and she’d reluctantly complied, only to find Trace Rawlings was everything she disliked in a man: ruthless, domineering, egotistical. Yet traveling through the treacherous South American rain forest, she found he was all the man she needed ….

Trace was no tour guide, particularly not for some pampered rich kid. But he could name his price, and he rarely said no to an opportunity. When Cynthia Ryan appeared on his doorstep, he knew he’d made the right decision. She was the exception to all his rules–especially the one about never falling in love.

DARK FIRE by ELIZABETH LOWELL

Romance Firsts: The First Kissing Couple on a Cover

lucifer's angel Violet Winspear kiss

The “First” Couple to Kiss on a Romance Cover

Violet Winspear’s Lucifer’s Angel

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

The book summary:

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

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

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

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

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

The Four Virgins Versions of Lucifer’s Angel

Harlequin Romance #593 (1961)

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

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

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

Lucifer's Angel first kissing couple on romance cover

Mills & Boon #857 (1973)

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

lucifer's angel mills boon

Mills & Boon Classic Re-Issue (1980)

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

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

Lucifer's Angel first kissing couple on romance cover

Harlequin Seasons Greetings (Bah, Humbug!)

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

Lucifer's Angel violet winspear

No First Kiss For Me From This Winspear!

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

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

The covers are half the fun of these books!

an outrageous proposal

Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

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


Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

The Characters

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

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

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

The Plot

A Separated Couple

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

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

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

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

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

The Reunited Lovers

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

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

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

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

A miracle baby would solve all their problems.

Final Analysis of An Outrageous Proposal

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

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

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

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

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

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

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

AN OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL by MIRANDA LEE
flora kidd beloved deceiver

Category Romance Review: Beloved Deceiver by Flora Kidd

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Beloved Deceiver

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

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

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

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

3.45 Stars


Synopsis:

She was a magazine writer, he was a famous novelist

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

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

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

BELOVED DECEIVER by FLORA KIDD
could it be magic

Category Romance Review: Could It Be Magic by Gina Wilkins

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


Category Romance Review: Could It Be Magic by Gina Wilkins

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

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

The Characters

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

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

The Setup

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

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

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

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

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

It figures. A playboy has moved next door!

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Could It Be Magic

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

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

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

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

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

COULD IT BE MAGIC by GINA WILKINS

wish on the moon

Category Romance Review: Wish on the Moon by Sally Wentworth

MILD SPOILERS😉

The Book

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Opinion

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Wish on the Moon

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

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

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

4 Stars


Synopsis:

She felt betrayed by fate…

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

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

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

WISH ON THE MOON by SALLY WENTWORTH