Category Archives: Gothic Romance

Set in the past or present, Gothic Romance mixes romance with mystery, horror, or intrigue.

my name is clary brown

Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

BOOK REVIEW gothic
My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo, Charles Geer
Published by: Berkley, Random House
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 246
Format: Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel was first published in 1976 under the title When I Say Goodbye, I’m Clary Brown. Charlotte Keppel, née Ursula Torday, also wrote romances and Gothics under the names Charity Blackstock–Lee Blackstock in the USA–and Paula Allardyce.

Unlike other Gothic romances, the cover of My Name is Clary Brown doesn’t feature a frightened heroine running from a dark manor, castle, or estate. I couldn’t obtain a copy of the original 1976 release. But all covers, including my 1978 Berkley Medallion issue with an Elaine Duillo-illustration, portray the heroine front and center, looking as strong as can be.

And so she should, for Clary is a woman of great fortitude and intelligence.

my name is clary brown geer
Random House, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

The Plot

Part One

It’s the mid-18th century in London, England. Clary “Diamond” Browne is an actress of little renown, working bit parts while performing under David Garrick. She’s honest with herself that she’ll never be a star, just a pretty face with the ability to memorize a few lines and turn on the waterworks.

Diamond is the mistress of an old man with whom she has an emotionless, strictly business relationship. In a moment of anger, she destroys it, telling her domineering “protector” precisely what she thinks of him: not much. Though she might depend upon him for her income, she deserves better. I loved the way she told him off. Alas, by doing so, Diamond seals her doom.

He counters that he’s tired of her and their arrangement is over. In retaliation for her cruel remarks, he conspires to have Diamond return to the village where she grew up as a poor outcast.

Clary had escaped her hometown in the boonies–aptly named Middleditch–in disgrace. She is part Rom, so her mixed heritage had marketed her as an outsider even though she had been born there. Her father was hanged for a minor crime. Then Clary was sent to live in a workhouse for homeless girls. If not for the generosity of a benefactress, Lady Caroline, Clary would have ended up on the streets.

clary brown UK Coronet version
UK Coronet version

Part Two

Now going by her stage name Diamond Browne, Clary returns to Middleditch to live in an elegant home much grander than the one in which she’d grown up.

The village is in worse condition than when she left. It is marked with eerieness and dread. The few friends Clary had in town have died under peculiar violent incidents. The poor-house burned down, killing some. Others passed from illnesses. And then some were murdered.

Her posh gowns, refined speech, and handsome manners fool the villagers for a while. However, as time goes on, it is evident that Diamond Browne really is old Clary Brown, the itinerant daughter of a gypsy thief. 

Diamond faces the soldier who ruined her life: Captain William Ringham. She had vowed revenge against the Capitan for convicting her starving father for stealing a rabbit. Now Diamond scoffs at his attempts at kindness. Who was he trying to fool?

Soon the dark forces seem to be directed at her and those close to her. Lady Caroline dies a gruesome death. The pastor of the old church is found crucified.

Two men offer her protection in distinct ways: Captain Ringham with his seeming concern and Lady Caroline’s widower with thinly-veiled insinuations.

Something preternatural element lurks in the woods. Who were the creatures that stalked the night? Could she be the next victim of a heinous murder? Was Ringham behind the evil occurrences in Middleditch? Of course, he must! Who else could it be…?

The conclusion sees the wicked baddies get their due comeuppance. And best of all, Clary finds genuine love with Captain Ringham, who is not the villain she had believed him to be.

Final Analysis of My Name is Clary Brown

Charlotte Keppel’s My Name is Clary Brown has a strong, creepy plot filled with enough mystery to keep one turning the pages to see what happens next. Still, the main appeal of this book is the characterization.

Diamond/ Clary was intelligent, outspoken, and refreshingly likable. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (the Georgian era). She is a great vintage romance heroine, for sure.

Captain Ringham, the hero, was a pure gentleman. He doesn’t show up much too often, as this is Clary’s story to tell. But whenever she required support, he was there for her.

As this is a 1970s Gothic, the steam factor is not relevant here, as it never goes beyond sweet yet passionate kisses. Nevertheless, the connection between the hero and heroine is palpable.

My Name is Clary Brown is a fantastic romantic read for Halloween.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

THE RIGHT TO LOVE…

Miss Diamond Brown was the toast of the London stage. She had jewels and fine satins to caress her tawny skin, everything a woman could want–except the urgent warmth of a man’s passion…

For the thousandth time, Diamond searched the mirror and found there the gypsy orphan girl who had fled to London only six years before. But had she escaped? Was she now free to love the man whose dark eyes had burned into her soul on that never forgotten night…

MY NAME IS CLARY BROWN by CHARLOTTE KEPPEL
6 paranormal and gothic romances

6 Gothic & Paranormal Romances That Will Haunt You

Halloween Romance Reading Recommendations

It’s that scary time of year again…Halloween! That means gothic and paranormal romances!

A little bit of spookiness, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot of adventure—what more could you ask for on Halloween?

We’re preparing for one of our favorite holidays by buying and reading some books to get us into that creepy spirit. We’ve got you covered with our list of the best horrific romances to read this All Hallows’ Eve. Here are six frightening gothic and paranormal romances we think you’ll appreciate, too. Most are available on Amazon Kindle, and links are provided below.

1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, 1936

Our Thoughts

This classic Gothic romance is one of the most popular novels in history and was influenced heavily by Jane Eyre. It spawned a ghost-written sequel, Mrs. De Winter, released in 1993. We’ve also seen the1940 Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine film.

A young, unnamed woman marries an older man and moves into his estate, Manderly, with him. Their relationship is rocky from the start and only worsens when she discovers that he had a previous wife named Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances. She then finds herself haunted by his late wife’s spirit.

The book explores themes of fear, insecurity, female powerlessness, and the strength of romantic love. If you haven’t read this classic yet, you’re in for a treat. Rebecca stands the test of time as one of the best Gothic novels ever written.

The Blurb

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

Ancient, beautiful Manderley, between the rose garden and the sea, is the county’s showpiece. Rebecca made it so – even a year after her death, Rebecca’s influence still rules there. How can Maxim de Winter’s shy new bride ever fill her place or escape her vital shadow?

A shadow that grows longer and darker as the brief summer fades, until, in a moment of climatic revelations, it threatens to eclipse Manderley and its inhabitants completely.

REBECCA by DAPHNE DU MAURIER

The Covers

2. Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt, 1960

Our Thoughts

A young governess moves into an old house and discovers that there is something very strange about her new home. She is drawn into a web of mystery and terror when she realizes that there are hidden secrets within its walls. All the while, she fights her attraction to her widowed employer.

This has all the twists and turns you’d expect from a Gothic novel but also has an element of suspense that keeps you on your toes. Set in 16th-century Cornwall, this tells the story of a young lady who falls in love with a mysterious man who enchants her with his dark presence.

The Blurb

Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned…But what bout its master–Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh’s new employer as romantic as his name sounded?  As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her.

TreMellyn’s young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered.  But it was the girl’s father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfimiliar sensations and turmoil–even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha’s life.

Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets–as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning.  But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love–and the freedom to find a golden promise forever…

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt

The Covers

3. The Turquoise Mask Phyllis A. Whitney, 1964

Our Thoughts

If you’re looking for something more “modern,” this book is right up your alley! The Turquoise Mask by Phyllis A. Whitney features a lonely woman who heads to New Mexico to visit her extended family in an attempt to solve the puzzle of her mother’s mysterious death.

A tragic tale of a long-dead Spanish ancestor who was murdered for having an affair holds the key to the mystery.

The heroine finds herself entangled with her cousin’s enigmatic husband, who may be more than what he seems. What does he want from her? Her life…or death?

The Blurb

Something hidden deep in her memory was the key to Amanda Austin’s past. She did not know it was also the key to her future. After her father died, she decided to learn the truth of her mother and family in New Mexico.

But from the moment she arrived at her grandfather’s home, she was met with suspicion. And hate. They were her family, but they were strangers. And one of them was a murderer….

THE TURQUOISE MASK by PHYLLIS A. WHITNEY

The Covers

4. Her Demon Lover by Janet Louise Roberts, 1973

Out Thoughts

Her Demon Lover by Janet Louise Roberts is another excellent choice for those looking for something spooky this Halloween season.

It takes us to central Europe and a dark castle where a married woman cannot resist the allure of a man who possesses the ability to control forces of nature…and even her.

This hard-to-find book is a great example of how to write an atmospheric and enticing story that will keep you up reading all night long.

The Blurb

A lover’s tryst inspired by dark powers –

Leaving her timid husband behind in the dining room, Sophia and Count Vlhos climbed to the castle tower. Outside a violent storm was raging through the Balkan mountains. Urging Sophia to leave her husband and live with him in the castle, the count demonstrated his powers over bats, birds, and the raging storm.

Then he persuaded Sophia to try her own powers, summoning up demonic spirits to assist her. Thrilled with her new-found ability to dominate the elements, Sophia accepted the potion offered her. Soon she found herself stripped of all inhibitions, alone in the tower with a strong-willed, fiercely passionate man…

HER DEMON LOVER by JANET LOUISE ROBERTS

The Covers

5. The Bledding Sorrow by Marilyn Harris, 1976

Our Thoughts

When you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you up all night, look no further than The Bledding Sorrow by Marilyn Harris. Harris’ writing is compelling beyond belief.

This classic Gothic romance will make even the strongest stomach turn with its gruesome details. A woman accompanies her new husband to his family estate, where horror awaits.

It’s not exactly a happy ending, but it’s definitely an interesting one.

The Blurb

As the new bride of Geoffrey Bledding – and mistress of his magnificent Yorkshire estate – Ann hoped at last to fulfill her wildest dreams of happiness.

But as the walls of Bledding’s manor closed behind her, she was forced instead ro re-enact a cruel destiny ordained in centuries long dead by two who loved in its shadow.

And now- trapped in the madness of her husband’s cruelty, tortured by the inhuman cries and warnings of an ancestral nightmare – Ann dared to seek escape. She would love James, the handsome stranger, though his outstretched hand might lead her through an agonizing horror – and beyond!

THE BLEDDING SORROW by MARILYN HARRIS

The Covers

6. The Winter Bride by Carola Salisbury, 1978

Our Thoughts

We’re familiar with author Carola Salisbury through her pseudonym Janette Seymour, author of the Purity Series and other bodice rippers. Salisbury/Seymour is actually the late British comic writer John Michael Butterworth. As Salisbury wrote, he wrote some Gothic romances, and this one is a doozy!

All the standard elements are here: the rocky Cornish coast, a foreboding castle, and a hero who hides a sinister secret that could mean the heroine’s doom.

The Winter Bride is an excellent example of how to write a modern gothic piece without pandering too much to popular tropes or clichés.

The Blurb

Lovely Charity Carew had nothing but awe and reverence for the distinguished poet Martin Revesby. Boldly she wrote him of her admiration, and when he offered her a job as secretary, her delight knew no bounds. Nevertheless, a sense of foreboding shadowed her arrival at Malmaynes, the eerie castle on the grim Cornish coast. Something evil, she was sure, watched and waited. The surly caretaker, perhaps? Or the sinister deaf-mute? Something or someone aroused in her a feeling of danger.

Only her growing love for the poet held her safe as she learned the bloodstained legend of “The Beast,” a creature long dead who, it was said, refused to die. Suddenly, without warning, the dark tale of violence sprang to life anew, claiming fresh victims, and a chasm of terror stood between Charity and the promise of happiness that had been just within her grasp a short while before. A chasm she could not hope to cross — and live… 

THE WINTER BRIDE by CAROLA SALISBURY

The Covers

Your Opinion

Have you heard or read of these gothic romances? What did you think of them or the author? What are your recommendations for scary romances for Halloween?

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

the-intrusion-mccrae

Covers of the Week #75 – Gothic Romances

gothic romance covers

Theme: Gothic Romance Covers for Halloween

Gothic romance covers stick to a standard formula. A beautiful woman flees from a castle, mansion, manor, or plantation. Usually, the images are set at night, presumably in late fall or early winter, as the trees are bare of leaves and appear menacing with long, needle-like branches reaching out into the darkness.

In the hands of a talented artist, these images can appear fresh even as they adhere to the form.

It’s almost Halloween, and no genre in romance captures the essence of this frightful holiday better than Gothics do. We’re celebrating the holiday of Tricks or Treats with hauntingly gorgeous cover art.

The Covers

We wonder what evil lurks behind those windows and inside the imposing walls of those homes. Or does the danger lurk outside, luring these women to their doom?

This week from Monday, October 24, 2022, to Sunday, October 30, 2022, for this installment of our Covers of the Week, we’re displaying some eerie Gothic covers where the heroine cannot hide her terror nor escape it.

the silver devil teresa denys

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

historical romance review
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Renaissance Era Romance
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.

A Legendary Romance

Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.

The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And if you do, it will cost you quite a penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars.

I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!

There’s a good reason this book is highly prized.

The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers, he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.

Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.

the silver devil
The Silver Devil, Troubador Books, UK edition

The Set-Up

“He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.”

THE SILVER DEVIL

It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.

For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.

Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the overwhelming heat and decay of Fidena during a hot summer when the plague that runs through town.

Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.

The Villainous Hero: The Silver Devil

One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and with a snap of his fingers, she is made his.

Felicia does not want to go willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? In vain, she resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her to surrender to the devil’s demands.

Although Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.

Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.

The Story

Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.

As they travel through the hot, dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants escort Domenico and Felicia. Former mistresses accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them callously when they seek his favor.

The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and, for its time, took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro, who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.

Once Domenico’s affection dies out, only contempt remains. Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.

I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice it enough to say he does his admirers wrong. He is ruthless in his brutality.

A Difficult to Believe HEA

As a result, it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.

The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Domenico is humbled several times over while Felicia remains at his side. Felicia proves she is more than an object of desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. With her by his side, Domenica will rise to power once more.

The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.

“I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.

THE SILVER DEVIL

My Opinion

The writing in The Silver Devil is gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, and too gruesome for me to call it one.

It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.

I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.

Final Analysis of The Silver Devil

SPOILER ⚠

Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Duchy, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.

He is feared by others but not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.

In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a gloriously positive note.

Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.

For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.

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

Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online

I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to several sources where you can read the free PDF or internet version of The Silver Devil at no cost.


Synopsis

He was cold. He was cruel. A ruthless sensualist riding headlong to hell. He was the Silver Devil – Domenico, Duke of Cabria.

Felicia was the illegitimate sister of a tavern-keeper. She felt nothing but terror when they told her that she had been chosen as the Duke’s next mistress, and when they took her, decked in silks and jewels to the Silver Devil’s bed…

THE SILVER DEVIL BY TERESA DENYS
Witch

Covers of the Week #29

Theme: Gothic Covers for Halloween

Behold the Halloween season! The beauty of autumn is transforming into a period of decay. The leaves on the trees have changed color–if they remain at all–on the dark, skeletal tree branches. A damp coldness lingers in the air. What is that strange light flickering in an attic window? Who–or what–is making those slow, creaking noises that emanate from an empty room?

Whether a haunted plantation in the humid American South, an ominous-looking old house in the North East, a decrepit manor in Cornwall, or a crumbling chateau in the mountains of Europe, Gothic romances are placed in contradictorily romantic yet scary settings.

Gothic romances hold an important place in the annals of the romance genre, with dark, brooding heroes, strong-willed heroines, and eerie covers illustrated by master artists.

The Covers

For the week of Monday, October 25, 2021, culminating on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31, 2021, let’s delight–and take fright–in these creepy Gothic romance covers!

curse of kenton janet louise roberts

Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

BOOK-REVIEW-gothic
The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1972
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Gothic Romance Review: The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts

The Book

I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton by Janet Louise Roberts is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon.

My Avon 1972 first edition features the typical Gothic cover. There is the heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.

In this case, it’s Castle Kenton. It is a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.

The Plot

Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town. The darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.

curse of kenton janet louise roberts
The Curse of Kenton, Janet Louise Roberts, Pocket Books, 1978 re-issue, cover artist Robert A. Maguire

Despite her better judgment, Barbara falls for the Duke. They quickly marry, as Gilbert needs an heir before he passes on.

What follows is a great story loaded with intrigue. It’s a story filled with secrets, and a cruel hero who straddles the lines between romantic, tragically condemned to fate, and villainous.

Gilbert parties it up with friends, and they engage in drunken orgies. However, Barbara is no shrinking violet, meekly accepting her husband’s peccadilloes.

What makes The Curse of Kenton so very good is Barbara’s strong, resilient character. She won’t put up with her husband’s licentious debaucheries nor placidly accept his belief that his disease is incurable.

The Kenton bad temper is not going to kill my husband! I have resolved on that!

Barbara vows the curse will not destroy their lives.

Things are not always what they seem here. Horrific, hidden mysteries are slowly revealed in a shocking denouement.

Final Analysis of The Curse of Kenton

The great heroine with a backbone really made The Curse of Kenton stand out. I’m looking forward to reading more by Janet Louise Roberts.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis:

Wicked Wave of Death!
Young, ripe, and penniless, Barbara Ashe was swept by powerful emotions into a marriage with the rich, wildly romantic Duke of Kenton. But soon she was shocked by his evil society friends, mortified by his bursting hot-tempered fits, and plagued by the fear that his worsening heart condition was more than simply the gypsy curse on the men of Kenton.
Taunted by her suspicions through chilling, dark nights, she began to trust no one. Someone in that ominous castle was planning murder – and each moment marched Barbara closer to the awful truth!

THE CURSE OF KENTON by JANET LOUISE ROBERTS
the jacaranda tree outside

Historical Romance Review: The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne

Step-back cover exterior & interior The Jacaranda Tree, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1995, Elaine Duillo cover artist

From the back of the book:

A sense of foreboding had gripped Arabella Darracott when she left England to join her guardian in Australia. Years before, a gypsy fortune-teller had told her of a purple blossomed tree, a far-off shore, and a devil of a man who awaited her there. Now, as she neared her destination, shipwreck and fate threw her into the arms of a rescuer, “Demon” Lucien Sinclair, the notorious ex-convict who had become rich in the gold fields of New South Wales. Lucien – wild and wickedly handsome – was the fallen archangel of her dreams. But the crime in his past was linked to a dangerous secret. And the passion awakened under the Jacaranda tree could cost Arabella her future, even her life…or give her Lucien forever to cherish, forever to love.

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Jacaranda Tree was the last historical romance Rebecca Brandewyne published with Warner Books. After that, she wrote a few contemporaries, some paranormals, and a few gothic mysteries for Harlequin, before disappearing from the writing field entirely.

The plot is centered around an Englishwoman, Arabella Darracott, who is seeking employment in Australia. There, she finds love with a mysterious former convict named Lucien after they are shipwrecked together. Not just a love story, The Jacaranda Tree also a murder mystery written in Brandewyne’s gothic style.

Since I wrote this comment in my reading notes for The Jacaranda Tree: “This is RB’S Frankenstein, with plot points and verbatim scenes gutted from her previous books and stitched together into this one,” I’d figure I’d make a Frankensteinian review from my notes.

1) When I started The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne, I figured I’d play a drinking game. Rebecca Brandewyne always repeated the same terms or clichés over and over in every book. This was is extremely repetitive. Grab your choice of poison and take a sip (or a guzzle) whenever you come upon of these words or phrases:

retroussé nose
-halcyon days
-gothic
-labyrinthine
-perditious
-mat/pelt of hair on his chest
-coppery taste of blood on lips
-Gypsy/ Gypsy curse
-sloe eyes
-sweeping moors
-bastard
-twilight dim
-of her own volition
-aquiline nose
-smoking a cheroot

I was on page 88 when I finished my second glass of sherry. (I have to justify it somehow and this is better than just ‘cuz I’m bored!)

2) If Jennifer Wilde is the king of the run-on-sentence, then Brandewyne is the queen of the subordinate clause!

3) Lots of info-dumping history/ecology lessons here… I know the author graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a Mensa member, but is this really necessary?

4) Arabella and Lucien make love. Then Arabella sees Lucien’s “Murderer’s Brand”… And now Lucien is now Michael Myers while Arabella does her best Jamie Lee Curtis imitation.

5) It was painfully obvious who the villain was and there tons of clichés throughout (the serial killer who put coins on the eyes of his victims, for example). Even so, it wasn’t bad. The love scenes were beyond purple prose, they were ultra-violet, yet I liked that. If this had been the first Brandewyne I’d read, I would have enjoyed it more.

6) Well, the bad point about this was that this was the worst Rebecca Brandewyne book I’ve ever read. The good thing is that this was still an ok novel, although not near her best. The Jacaranda Tree was my least favorite of Rebecca Brandewyne’s historicals, mainly because it was almost a verbatim regurgitation of conversations, plot points, and love scenes from other books (mostly from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor and Desperado). 

Across a Starlit Sea duillo gallo

Historical Romance Review: Across a Starlit Sea by Rebecca Brandewyne

BOOK-REVIEW-gothic
Across a Starlit Sea by Rebecca Brandewyne
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Melissa Duillo-Gallo
Book Series: Highclyffe Hall #2
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 365
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks

Historical Romance Review: Across a Starlit Sea by Rebecca Brandewyne

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Across a Starlit Sea was a tempestuous romance written by Rebecca Brandewyne.

This was a sequel to one of my most beloved love stories, Upon a Moon-Dark Moor.

Also notable is this was one of the rare Brandewyne novels with Warner Books that was not illustrated by Elaine Duillo. Instead, her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo painted the cover.

Across A Starlit Sea, Rebecca Brandewyne, Dorchester, 2002 Reissue, cover artist TBD

The Plot

The Cornish coast setting of Across a Starlit Sea was appropriate for dark, gothic feel to this historical romance. I enjoyed the first-person narrative in both installments of this series.

The heroines told their life stories on detail: their youths, their first loves, true loves, their married lives with children, and finally into old age. Expect to see Brandewyne’s standard purple-prose writing and in-depth descriptions of history.

Laura was betrothed at birth to Jarrett, the eldest son of Maggie & Draco, the protagonists from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor. The trouble is that she’s been in love with his younger brother, Nicholas, since childhood..

The brothers battle for Laura’s love, but it’s soon evident that Jarrett is the hero who is worthy of her affection.

The way Jarrett won Laura over was so beautifully portrayed. He was an enigmatic, reserved man, but so full of confidence, charisma, and compassion. How could she possibly resist him in the end?

The children of the secondary characters from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor are quite relevant in this book, including Lizzie and Thorne, cousins to Laura, Jarrett, and Nicky.

Lizzie and Thorne have been raised as heirs to Chandler Hall and look down upon their lesser relations, even as Lizzie lusts after Nicky.

Even her brother Thorne had the hots for Nicholas. He hated Laura because Nicholas wanted her so much–and not him!

Nicholas was quite a scoundrel because he had an affair with Thorne’s wife and various other women. This would wreak consequences for the entire Chandler family.

There were so many tragedies in this story (and its prequel). The sacrifices Laura makes to preserve her family are noble, and the ending, while a happy one, is bittersweet.

For the heart is not a candle that, once lit, can be extinguished at will, but a fragile, foolish thing, all too easily wounded, all too slow to heal.

ACROSS A STARLIT SEA

Final Analysis of Across a Starlit Sea

Across a Starlit Sea was to be the second book in Rebecca Brandewyne’s Highclyffe Hall Trilogy about the Chandler family. Brandewyne intended to write a third book about Laura’s son, Rhodes, but never did.

I’ve been waiting for over 30 years for it to come out, and I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. ☹

Across a Starlit Sea is a wonderful book, at times quite the tearjerker. More heart-wrenching is its prequel, Upon A Moon-Dark Moor, which was one of my favorite Brandewyne novels.

I’ll have to use my imagination about the outcome of the series, but I know that no matter what ominous circumstances face the family, love will win out in the end.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

She was caught in a whirlwind of passion…Between two men, two brothers, and two fates

As the wind tossed her tangled locks, Laura Prescott looked out into a future as bleak as the savage moors. The only daughter of a sea captain, Laura was betrothed to the master of Stormswept Heights. But it wasn’t Jarrett Chandler who came to her in dreams; it was his impetuous younger brother Nicholas.

Now, standing on the jagged Cornish cliffs, Laura let her tears fall, for she could not foresee a time when she would tremble beneath her husband’s hungry kisses. Nor could she know that a spoiled maiden and a scoundrel schemed for her ruin. All she could do was rush blindly into desire’s mad embrace, toward a destiny decreed by irresistible love… 

ACROSS A STARLIT SEA by REBECCA BRANDEWYNE