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Category: Romance

Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon

Virginia Vixen
Virginia Vixen, Kay McMahon, Zebra, 1986, John Ennis cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Virgina Vixen by Kay McMahon

This review is of Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon. Published in May 1989, this book is part of a series connected to four other books by Ms. McMahon.

The Plot

The book begins in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1774. Rebecca Wilde, a reporter for the Virginia Gazette and the heroine of the book, is investigating the murder of a slave who was a childhood friend of hers. Arriving at the same time is Alec Stone, the hero of the book, who has come to Virginia from England for two purposes; to find his father’s identity and to investigate the disappearance of one of his employees.

Rebecca and Alec meet for the first time when they end up in the same bed together and they have sex. Soon after this encounter, Rebecca writes an article all but calling Alec a murderer (based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence). This leads to several angry interactions between her and others, and other forms of trouble.

Despite their tempestuous relationship, Rebecca and Alec call a truce and decide to work together.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon”

Romance Authors With Pseudonyms

romance author pseudonym

Pen Names, Noms de Plume, Aliases, and Author Pseudonyms

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

ROMEO AND JULIET, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
yellow flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Author and raconteur Mark Twain was born Samuel “Longhorn” Clemens. The legendary George Eliot was not a man but a woman named Mary Ann Evans. Even the famous J.K. Rowling shortened her given name of Joanne Kathleen to publish. The use of pen names is an aspect that exists in all fields of writing.

In the romance genre, an author might use an alias for various reasons. Perhaps their real name lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Because some romance writers produce fiction in multiple genres, different names are used. There are male novelists who want to appeal to the majority female audience. Or the authors could be married couples or duos who need catchy noms-de-plume.

Below is a brief list of writers and their pen names. Since hundreds of authors use aliases, this is a short compilation. Therefore we included only those we have reviewed, highlighted, or soon will review and/or explore in-depth. With each romance author pseudonym, we provide an example book title or link to a book review.... Read more “Romance Authors With Pseudonyms”

Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson

Rangoon
Rangoon
Rangoon, Christine Monson, Avon, 1985, Pino cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by IntrovertReader

Christine Monson was best known for her infamous, shocking bodice-ripper Stormfire, which is legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance. Her second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor, but still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.

West Meets East

It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life. Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system. She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.

With a name like Lysistrata that should give a hint about her independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience, however, I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, the face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson”

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1969, cover artist unknown

Mills & Boon Modern

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

(Admission: I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in English. It was only released on e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.)

Thanks to Anne Mather’s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put the correct copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but you only get to know that it was published in 1969 after you finish the book. I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid 20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! This book may offend some readers’ sensibilities, or, if you’re twisted like me, make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather”

Why Do I Read Romance?

black framed eyeglasses on book
black framed eyeglasses on book
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Blue Falcon’s Romance Journey

In a recent post, Jacqueline asked, “The Hero, the Heroine, or the Love Story?” querying about what people read romance novels for. I answered in the comments section, but I also felt like I wanted to elaborate a bit more. Hence, this post. 

I read romance novels for all the reasons Jacqueline stated, plus these other reasons:

I Read to Escape the World

I work in human services, working with people with extensive trauma histories and helping them find their way back to more solid ground. It’s a very emotional job and I need to find a counterbalance to that. Reading is that counterbalance.

I Read for Entertainment

Reading, for me, has always been an enjoyable pastime, and it remains one to this day. 

I Read to Learn

People who scoff at romance novels say you can’t learn anything from them. I strongly disagree. I have learned many things from romance novels; I have learned how to be a better, kinder, smarter person from reading these books. I’ve also learned what NOT to do, thanks to the many crappy heroes in the books I’ve read. Thanks, guys. 

I Read to Experience New Things

I’ve not traveled much in my life, due in part to many things, one of which is a fear of heights.... Read more “Why Do I Read Romance?”

Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis

Shadows on the Moon
Shadows on the Moon, Peggy Gaddis, Magnum, 1960, cover artist TBD

Magnum Books #4200-14

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Prolific Peggy Gaddis

Peggy Gaddis (1895 to 1966) was a big name in mid-century genre fiction. Born in the state of Georgia, she worked as a pulp magazine editor in New York in the 1920s. She must have learned what the readers wanted because she later became a popular fiction writer in various genres. Gaddis is credited with almost 300 works under a dozen names (that I know of). 

Her fortes include contemporary category romance novels; Shadows on the Moon is one example. First published as a hardcover by Arcadia House in 1960, it has been reprinted several times and on both sides of the pond. The version I read is a Magnum paperback published by Prestige Books in the mid-to-late 1970s. Like all books in the series, the copyright page doesn’t bear the date of this edition.

The title sounds gothic-like, but the novel is actually a brisk, dynamic tale of a young businesswoman (circa 1960) facing problems in her work, her family, and her love life. If you go for zesty, realistic plots full of true-to-life characters, with snappy dialog and a pace that never lags, this book might well be your cup of tea.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis”

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne

passion's wicked torment
Passion’s Wicked Torment, Melissa Hepburne, Pinnacle Books, 1980, cover art Bill Maugham

Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pinnacle BooksPassion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.

Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?

Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne”

Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)

univited wedding guest edited
Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979 (1968 original pub date), cover artist TBD

#4287 Magnum Books

(#108 Treasures of Love & #1106 Women’s Weekly Library)

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s not exactly the easiest vintage romance to find, but it’s a memorable one. Uninvited Wedding Guest began as a hardcover titled Friend of the Bride, published in 1968 by Ward, Lock, & Company, Ltd. in the UK and by Lenox Hill Press in the US. My guess is these companies aimed their products at public libraries, in the manner of Avalon Romances. This novel was reprinted as a booklet-style paperback by the British publisher IPC Magazines in its “Women’s Weekly Library” series, as number #1106, in 1974.

Friend of the Bride, Marsha Manning, Women’s Weekly Library, 1974, cover artist TBD

It next appeared in June 1979 as a mass-market paperback, Magnum Romances #4287, published by the New York company Prestige Books. It was released with a new title, the (fittingly) more dramatic one under which I’m reviewing the novel. 

In December of that year it turned up in another series, the three-books-in-one “Treasures of Love” #108, also published by Prestige Books.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)”

Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles

Viking Magic, Angela Welles, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1681

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Postcards From Denmark

Viking Magic by Angela Welles was the entry for Denmark in Harlequin Presents’ 1995 Postcards from Europe mini-series. I don’t know why the Nordic nations of Europe don’t feature more prominently in HPlandia. I find those heroes just as exciting as the Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Arab ones. Plus, I adore blonds! Viking Magic features a nice guy hero and a neurotically insecure heroine (aren’t they all?) united on a quest of sorts.

The Plot

Gina Price is in Copenhagen to find her wayward teenage sister, who’s run off with a young Danish student. She has an address that might be a clue as to her sister’s whereabouts. So she knocks on the door of an apartment. Who should open the door but a Viking god of a man dressed in nothing but boxers! The man’s not too keen on seeing Gina, as, #1 she’s interrupted his sleep. And #2 he thinks she’s one of his conniving ex’s friends trying to steal a valuable painting from him.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles”

How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title

how to find book

Can’t Remember The Name of That Book?

Just like with a song you can hum, although the words elude you, it’s frustrating when you can’t remember the name of a book. Perhaps it’s a romance novel you read many years ago, and the details remain clear and crisp in your mind. Or it could be a striking cover that caught your eye or a blurb you saw that seemed enticing, and have nothing else to go by. Either way, you’re stuck and don’t know where to start. We have several ways to help you find the name of that book you can’t recall.

question mark illustration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The human memory can be a tricky thing. If a person doesn’t eat right, get enough sleep, or stay physically active, days can blur together, and events seem the same. Alternatively, things like smells, music, and emotions can enhance memory. This is called associative memory, and it has helped me in recalling books. For me, Edith Wharton’s tragic tale of Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, stays in my mind as the book that kept me company in a lonely hospital room while my premature daughter fitfully slept in an isolette in the NICU.... Read more “How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title”

Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another Great Romance

Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.

Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.

Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control. Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.

Vivian doesn’t speak a word in the book, yet the love story unfolds and the two pawns in an evil man’s game soon form an intense bond that goes beyond words.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Speak Only Love by Deana James (aka Mona D. Sizer)”

Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor

golden torment
Janelle Taylor

Zebra’s Superstar Romance Author

Although Janelle Taylor has written books for various publishing houses, she will always hold a special place in the early years of the Zebra publishing company. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, Rosanne Bittner, and others, she helped to form the pantheon of the Kensington line’s “Leading Ladies of Love.” Authors were given liberties to write different kinds of romances. Taylor’s passionate love stories appealed to readers across the country. Where the Avon ladies could rely on taut, crisp editing, the Zebra authors had a bit less oversight, with Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington chief Walter Zacharius choosing to focus on the impressive cover art.

Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars were the artists who designed covers for her books. Walter Popp famously did the artwork for her first few books. Artists like Elaine Gignilliat, the ubiquitous Pino, and Janelle’s friend Elaine Duillo would paint many gorgeous covers for her books.

Janelle Taylor has over 50 books with 60 million copies in print. She is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.... Read more “Author Spotlight: Janelle Taylor”

Category Romance Review: Ready, Willing and Abel by Nancy Martin

Ready, Willing and Abel, Nancy Martin, Silhouette, 1990, cover artist unknown

Silhouette Desire #590

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Ready, Willing and Abel was my first foray into the Silhouette Desire line. Nancy Martin penned a ridiculous, sexy romp that made me fall in love with the series. Featuring an Indiana Jones-like hero and a button-downed heroine working in fast-paced Washington DC, this story was not based at all in reality. It was so over-the-top and silly; I adored it.

The Hero

Abel Fletcher has just come back from a recent archaeological expedition. He carries with him a sacred totem that supposedly is imbued with magical powers. Namely the power to make a person fall madly in love after touching it and gazing upon a special someone. The charm is supposed to work both ways, but Abel believes it’s all nonsense. That is until he falls madly in love at first sight with Samantha Wyatt.

He first sees Samantha at a softball game, swinging away at a pitch, her skirts and hair swirling around her. Abel stares dumbfounded at her as she runs the bases. The love-struck fool stands there as she slams into him, and they roll onto the ground, creating the scene that’s on the cover.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Ready, Willing and Abel by Nancy Martin”

Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb

A violation
A Violation, Charlotte Lamb, Worldwide (Harlequin), 1983, cover artist unknown

Spoiler Alert ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

A Romance That is Not a Romance

A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance, but somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction. Like so many of her works, the major themes are the philosophy of love and what are the defined roles of being a man and a woman, especially when it comes to amorous relationships.

In general, I think she was better restrained by the limitations of category romance as at times here she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, A Violation was a satisfactory read, not as good as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but much better than a few of Lamb’s other Mills and Boon/ Harlequins that also dealt with sexual assault (I am looking at you Dark Fever).

Rape, especially a violent rape by a stranger who debases the heroine, leaving her life in tatters, isn’t the most comfortable backstory for a romance. As stated, though, this isn’t strictly a romance novel, so if you’re looking for more than a “Happy For Now” ending, you might be disappointed.... Read more “Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb”

Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

Savage Ecstasy
Savage Ecstasy
Savage Conquest, Janelle Taylor, Zebra, 1982, Walter Popp cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review is of Savage Ecstasy (Ecstasy/Gray Eagle, #1; the series is known by two different names) by Janelle Taylor. There’s a lot to unpack here in this Zebra historical romance.

The Story

The year is 1776, and English expatriate Alisha Williams, 20, the book’s heroine (and the first four books in the series), has journeyed west to find happiness with her only surviving relative, her uncle Thad. One day, the “men” in her settlement bring a captured Oglala Lakota Indian brave into their camp; that brave is Gray Eagle, the “hero” of the book. Their treatment of him sets the stage for what follows. The whites emotionally and physically abuse Gray Eagle in the camp. Only Alisha shows Gray Eagle kindness; his response to this is to bite her hand. (This is only the beginning of what he has in store for her over the course of the series.) Despite this, Gray Eagle and Alisha develop romantic feelings for each other.

Gray Eagle, with the help of his best friend, White Arrow, escapes. Shortly thereafter, Gray Eagle, White Arrow, and a hundred of their fellow Oglala braves sack the fortress, killing most people in the camp.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor”

Historical Romance Review: Highland Heather by Ruth Langan

Highland Heather
Highland Heather, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, George Jones cover art

Harlequin Historical #65

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Highland Sisters, Part Two

Ruth Langan‘s Highland Heather is the sequel to her previous Scottish romance, Highland Barbarian. I liked this Harlequin Historical much more than its predecessor. Why? I enjoyed the conflict between the hero and the heroine and the English setting, plus introducing Queen Elizabeth I to a story always makes things interesting.

Brenna MacAlpin is the middle MacAlpin sister, whose elder sister Meredith went and married her beloved Highlander. Brenna is now the leader of their Scots clan. However, it’s not easy going for her as she has enemies, namely the English. Moreover, Brenna does not have the same fierce disposition as her elder sister. Brenna is more even-tempered, dare I say, more lady-like. Her men are blindly loyal to her, regardless, but leading is no easy task.

The Queen’s Savage

One day, the Queen’s Savage himself, Lord Morgan Grey, arrives to implement Queen Elizabeth’s plan to marry the MacAlpin off to an English lord, which she believes will lead to peace.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Highland Heather by Ruth Langan”

What’s in a Name? Favorite Romance Novel Names

wooden name tags arranged on table during wedding ceremony

In the comment section of the review of Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes by Betina Krahn that I reviewed, our colleague Mary Ann Landers asked about the name of the book’s heroine, Treasure Barrett. That query got me thinking about romance novel names: do I have favorite ones? I certainly do!

Some of My Favorite Romance Novel Names:

Bandit’s Embrace by Georgina Gentry, Zebra, 1989, artist unknown

Amethyst (nee Durango)

Book: Bandit’s Embrace by Georgina Gentry. (March 1989)

This character was named after her beautiful purple eye color. When I read this book, it got me thinking about other “precious gem” names for females, such as Diamond, Emerald, Peridot, and Sapphire.

Audrina (nee Harris)

Book: Dakota Flame by Sonya T. Pelton. (July 1989)

I loved this name when I first saw it. The name Audrina is a contraction of her first and middle names, Audrey Tina. 

Breanna (nee Kenton) Remington

Book: Dakota Dreams by Constance O’Banyon (June 1991).

Breanna is not the most unusual name, but it is one of my favorites. I also loved Breanna Kenton Remington.

The Devil’s Price, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1986, cover artist unknown

Cynara (nee Williams)

Book: The Devil’s Price by Carole Mortimer (January 1986)

This name may be my all-time favorite romance novel name.... Read more “What’s in a Name? Favorite Romance Novel Names”

Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday kind of love
Sunday Kind of Love, Lois Faye Dyer, Kismet, 1991, cover artist unknown

KISMET #70

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Meteoric Rise and Fall for Kismet?

Lois Faye Dyer, who would produce numerous Special Edition romances for Silhouette Books, was one of Kismet’s more prolific writers. Her romance Sunday Kind of Love is book #2 in a series about 4 siblings.

According to the website FictionDB the Meteor Publishing Company, from somewhere out of Pennsylvania, USA, released 168 books through its Kismet Romance line. The series ran from July 1990 to August 1993. The final book was written by Suzanne Brockman, with authors such as Cassie Miles, Christine Dorsey, Janis Reams Hudson, Sharon Sala, and Christina Dodd releasing works with them.

Dark Memories

I sort of want to revisit this book to see if my feelings about it were clouded by the experience I went through while reading it. About 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, my husband was rushed to the ER with a serious asthma attack. I recall holding our 3-year-old daughter tightly as my husband used his last bit of adrenaline to try to convince the doubtful ER workers that he could not breathe before passing out.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer”

Category Romance Review: Dillon After Dark by Leandra Logan

Dillon after dark
Dillon After Dark, Leandra Logan, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Tempation # 362

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Voice in the Dark

Dillon After Dark, Harlequin Temptation #362, is a cute, fun romance by Leandra Logan. Dillon Danvers is a laid-back California DJ who airs a talk/ music show where he discusses many topics: surfing, books, music, clubs, and lots of other fun subjects to delight in. Dr. Kristina Jordan is a psychologist and single mother with no time for relaxation. Together these two opposites could make for an exciting couple. However, Kristina needs major convincing to be part of it.

Kristina’s teenaged daughter, Julianne, is absolutely ga-ga over Dillon. His sexy voice makes her adolescent hormones run wild. She’s a frequent caller to his show, making herself seem older than her tender years while complaining about her overbearing mother. Julianne enters a poetry contest for the show and wins the grand prize: a date with Dillon! Her mother thinks this is all silly nonsense And is appalled by her daughter’s behavior. She’s merely fourteen, while Dillon is twice her age!

Against her better judgment, Kristina agrees to let Julianne meet Dillon, but on the condition that she accompany them on their date.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Dillon After Dark by Leandra Logan”

Why Romance? Why Vintage?

Ladies-Home-Journal

Mary Anne’s Story

I love to read. I love stories. And right now, my kind of story is vintage romance fiction. 

By which I mean romances published in the twentieth century. In particular certain varieties of the genre, with features that were once popular but have since gone out of style. That’s why I’m grateful for a blog like Sweet Savage Flame. Here I can get info and opinions about my favorite body of fiction. And share my own!

Why romance? Why vintage? To answer both questions, I must start with who I am as a reader.

“Her First Romance” by Charles Edward Chambers. September 1922 issue of “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” Curtis Publishing Company.

A Lifelong Love of Reading

I’m an American and a Baby Boomer. I was born the year Eisenhower was elected. And exposed to the cultural influences of my generation. I liked some kinds of art and entertainment, tolerated others, rejected some. I wasn’t picky at first, but the years made me pretty selective.

I’ve been in love with reading ever since I could read. In the beginning, there was Dick and Jane. Then books assigned by my teachers or given to me by my parents. Well, my mother; my dad wasn’t much of a reader.... Read more “Why Romance? Why Vintage?”

Historical Romance Review: The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale

The Forever Passion, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1979, cover artist unknown

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review is of Karen A. Bale’s 1979 Zebra romance The Forever Passion.

Taken Captive

The Forever Passion begins with an introduction to the heroine of the book, Lisa Jordan, 18. Lisa, chafing under the demands placed on her in her native Boston, has decided to head west to live with her brother, Tom. She arranges to travel by wagon train and falls in love with the train scout, Josh Wade. Then things take a turn for the worst.

The wagon train is attacked by Comanche Indians. Lisa tries to escape but is captured, beaten, and gang-raped. Later, Lisa is found by an Indian warrior named Nakon, the hero of the book. Nakon shows Lisa kindness, and later they are married.

Things get worse for Lisa when one of the Indians who raped and beat her before does it again to her. Eventually, she makes love with Nakon and has issues, but allows it to happen. This results in pregnancy. Later, when Nakon doesn’t come home from a raid, Lisa believes he’s dead and tries to commit suicide.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale”

Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain

chance winds of fortune
Chance the Winds of Fortune, Laurie McBain, Avon, 1980, Tom Hall cover art

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Chance the Winds of Fortune A Disappointing Sequel

Chance the Winds of Fortune is the sequel to Laurie McBain‘s Moonstruck Madness, a romance about a gender-bending highwayman (girl) who falls for an arrogant, scarred Duke, notorious for his dueling skills. I LOVED Moonstruck Madness… The follow-ups to that wonderful book about their daughter, Rhea Claire, Chance the Winds of Fortune & Dark Before the Rising Sun, though…uggh.

Please forgive my bluntness. They’re too long, boring, and stink. Even McBain’s tepid first outing, Devil’s Desire, was better than these.

The two sequels books combine to over 1000 pages, telling the tale of a vanilla-bland daughter of the protagonists of a much more compelling story. Perhaps if McBain had combined both novels into one 700 page epic, I would have found more enjoyment out of the romance.

If you take Chance the Wind of Fortune as a historical adventure, this read might not be so bad. Perspective matters. However, this was not marketed as Historical Fiction, but a Historical Romance, which made all the difference to me.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain”

What Series of Category Romance Do You Read?

red petaled flower

Research Into Category Romance

The history of series romances goes back roughly a century ago to 1909. Since the rise of paperback publishers, many romance lines have come and gone. Still standing is Mills & Boon and its parent company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Bantam and Dell, no longer publish category romance, nor does Signet, Zebra, or Simon and Schuster. The latter formed Silhouette Books in 1980. However, Harlequin famously purchased that line, eventually folding it into its own.

Arrows From the Dark
Arrows From the Dark, Sophie Cole, Mills & Boon, 1909 (From Harper Collins Inside the Archives, courtesy of Reading University)

On our menu above, we have pages dedicated to romance authors, cover artists, and publishing houses. The history of publishing houses and imprints can be quite byzantine, as many companies were bought out by others, only to be resold again. In researching paperback romances of the past, I’ve come upon both an abundance and paucity of information, depending upon who or what I’m investigating. I want to do more in-depth research on each line, but often when I come upon fascinating tidbits of history, it leads to another line or publisher.

This is a rather tortuous way of saying I’m stuck.... Read more “What Series of Category Romance Do You Read?”

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

frost and flame
frost and flame
The Frost and the Flame, Drusilla Campbell, Pocket Books, 1980, Harry Bennett cover Art

Spoiler Alert ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

The Book –The Frost and the Flame

Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain. For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.

The Crazy Plot and Characters

I loved the Russian setting and liked the heroine’s growth as a character, but the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!

Eighteen-year-old Katiana Donova is a convent-bred naif. While traveling across the cold depths of Russia, she and her companions are attacked. The dashing blond Prince Oleg saves her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Frost and the Flame by Drusilla Campbell”

Category Romance Review: Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann

Time enough for love
Time enough for love
Time Enough for Love, Suzanne Brockmann, Loveswept, 1997, Ed Tadiello cover art

Loveswept #858

MILD SPOILERS 😉

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Time for Something Different?

Bantam’s Loveswept category romances might not have been as big-selling as Harlequins or Silhouettes. Still, their output of almost 1,000 books over 16 years gave rise to many popular and successful authors like Iris Johansen, Sandra Brown, Janet Evanovich, and Suzanne Brockmann. The line gave writers more freedom to stray from traditional series restrictions. 1997’s Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann is a different kind of love story for that era, as it entails time travel plus a love triangle. Between one woman and two versions of the same man!

Maggie Winthrop finds a naked man on her property screaming about the apocalypse. He swears he’s from the future. Like any sane woman, her first instinct is to call the police (but first, maybe a peek won’t hurt. The guy’s body is incredible!)

Does she know this man? The weirdo acts as if they’re good friends. He says he’s Chuck Della Croce. Maggie knows Charles Della Croce, doesn’t she? But this man is not Charles, even though he is.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Time Enough For Love by Suzanne Brockmann”

Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White

Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills, Tiffany White, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #318

3 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Story

At the beginning of Tiffany White’s category romance Cheap Thrills, the hero Crew Harper is working this side gig as a window-washer when he becomes an accidental peeping Tom. Transfixed, can only stare as sees a woman enter an office. She undresses, and he’s shocked at what’s revealed: yes, her gorgeous body, but with a delightful secret butterfly tattoo on her pert, peachy derriere. That’s right, I do read “The Daily Mail” on occasion!

After the woman changes her clothes and leaves, Crew sees a man come into her office and rifle through her desk. How outrageous! How dare this man invade a woman’s privacy?

I think it’s kind of funny how rapidly times have moved. Alexa, the heroine, has a small butterfly tattoo on her butt, and the hero acts as if it’s the naughtiest little secret a woman can keep. It’s amazing how quickly social norms change, as this was written in 1990.

Anyhow, Crew makes his way into Alexa’s life, to help her out, of course. He has to let her know that there’s a weirdo on the prowl for her.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Cheap Thrills by Tiffany White”

My Romance Novel Journey

first love, wild love

Recently, Jacqueline asked why people read romance novels. I’ll answer that question in another post, but I wanted to use this one to explain how I became a romance novel aficionado.

How it All Began

My romance novel journey began in 1980. My late mother had a small collection of books and I picked one up and started reading it. (I don’t recall the name or author of the book, but it was a Harlequin Romance about two figure skaters whose previous partners dumped them. The hero and heroine then teamed up, and fell in love. Little did I know what that first book started.

To Begin Again, Jan MacLean, Harlequin, 1980, Fred Oakley cover art

Expanding the Circle

As the 1980s went on, my reading choices expanded, from Harlequin Romance to Harlequin Presents, Superromance and Temptation, as well as Richard Gallen contemporary romances and Zebra/Kensington historical romances.

First Changes

As the ’90s came and went, I turned away from historical romances and went all-in on Harlequin and its sister imprint, Silhouette books. (The clerks at B. Dalton, a sadly defunct bookstore chain, began to know me by name as every month, I would go in and purchase two baskets full of books).... Read more “My Romance Novel Journey”

Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream sabin
Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Blue Falcon gives Karen A. Bale’s Desperado Dream a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating. Introvert Reader, on the other hand, explains her negative perspective of the historical romance in her review.

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This review is of Desperado Dream, the sequel to The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale.

The Story:

It is 11 years in publishing time, but only 1 year in book time as the relationship between Lisa Jordan Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, continues. The couple and their daughter, Raya, live on a ranch in Monterey, California. The relationship between Lisa and Eric was tumultuous in The Forever Passion, and nothing changes in this book. After Eric and Lisa’s brother, Tom, go to San Francisco on a legal matter, they become involved in rescuing a woman, Teresa Torres, who falls for Eric, and he becomes attracted to her too. Meanwhile, back at the Del Mar ranch, Lisa has been kidnapped by a bandido named Cruz Estacan, who has orders to kill her, Eric, and Eric’s grandfather as a means of retaking the land Cruz and his cohorts believe belongs to them.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”

Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream sabin
Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review: Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Here, Introvert Reader explains her negative perspective of Karen A. Bale’s historical romance, Desperado Dream. Blue Falcon, on the other hand, gave it a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating.

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

False Advertising

The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.... Read more “Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale”