Illustrator: Sharon Spiak
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Colonial Era Romance, Historical Romance
Buy on: AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Passion’s Treasure by Betina Krahn, a standalone Zebra Heartfire romance from March 1989. More recently, the novel was republished and retitled Just Say Yes.
Passion’s Treasure begins in the town of Culpepper, Maryland Colony, 1748. We meet Treasure Barrett, one of 10 children born to Aniss and Buck Barrett. Treasure is an intelligent, precocious child. The townspeople are encouraged to allow those qualities free rein. As the book begins, Treasure, age 9, learns about “sport.”
Fast forward nearly 9 years.
A sad pall has come over Culpepper. The town’s most prominent citizen, Squire Darcy Renville, has passed away. His estranged son, Sterling Renville, the book’s hero arrives from England and demands that the villagers–who are all in hock to Squire Darcy in one way or another–pay back their debts. Otherwise, he will seize their property and make them all homeless. He will then return to his home in England.
The town turns to Treasure, the town thinker, now nearly 18, for help.
Treasure comes up with a plan to get under Sterling’s skin and make his time in Culpepper miserable. The plan succeeds quite well. There is an unplanned side effect: he becomes interested in her, and she in him.
Shocked and dismayed to discover their “thinker” is a woman like any other, the townspeople scheme to get Treasure and Sterling married.
The marriage takes place, and the wedding night is great. But the next morning isn’t, as Sterling discovers he’s been tricked into the marriage. (He erroneously blames Treasure).
He wants an annulment, but since their marriage was consummated, that won’t happen. Sterling then takes Treasure away from Culpepper, taking her to England with him.
On the trip and during their time in England, Treasure and Sterling’s relationship takes on its primary form. When they are making love, they are connected; when they’re not, there is a canyon between them, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
When they arrive in England, Treasure and Sterling’s marriage continues down its rocky road. However, their relationship improves once Sterling realizes she loves him and he loves her. He starts working on accepting her for who she is.
There is also a “B” storyline involving members of Sterling’s family, his best friend, and a business deal he is involved in which reaches the highest levels of the British government.
In the end of Passion’s Treasure, Treasure and Sterling return to the colonies, have five children in the next 1tenyears, and enjoy their Happily Ever After.
The ache driving through her was terrible. Now she knew the awful truth of it. She could love these books with all the learning and wisdom they represented with everything that was in her, but they would never love her back. She needed to be held just now, and only a pair of human arms that moved at the impulse of a human heart could provide that. There were some needs that knowledge, however grand, however necessary, could never fill.
In my reading experience–which encompasses many years and thousands of books–it is very rare to see a romance novel where the heroine’s beauty is somewhat de-emphasized. Although Treasure certainly checks off the romance novel heroine boxes for beauty, it’s her capabilities that are emphasized. Treasure’s skills and knowledge as a thinker are the primary focus of the book’s first half. She is a smart, delightful character who is well-written.
I didn’t like Sterling overall, but it’s more complicated than it sounds.
During the first two-thirds of the book, Sterling is an obnoxious bastard. He is arrogant, condescending, egotistical, and elitist. He views the citizens of Culpepper as “colonial bumpkins.” Sterling calls Treasure “that colonial chit” and is shocked–shocked, I tell you!–to discover that she won’t just willingly lie down and spread her legs for him. Doesn’t she know who he is?!
In the last third of Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes), Ms. Krahn informs readers why Sterling acts the way he does. Without giving too much away, it has to do with his relationship with his father, the pressures of his life, and his personal value system.
Knowing these things, however, does not excuse or justify his bad behavior. When Sterling realizes he loves Treasure, and she loves him, he makes efforts to change his actions. These efforts are somewhat successful.
Multiple love scenes in the book, but none reach any particular level of heat or romanticism.
A person Treasure believes to be a friend tries to rape her; Sterling prevents the attack from taking place. Sterling is also involved in two fistfights. The violence is not graphic.
Bottom Line on Passion’s Treasure/ Just Say Yes
I vacillated a bit on how to rate Betina Krahns’ Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes).
Does one-third of good behavior override two-thirds of bad behavior? That is an individual decision for those who read this book.
For me, it doesn’t completely. Sometimes, I felt this was a 2-star book, other times a 4-star read.
In the end, if using a 1-10 scale, I would give Passion’s Treasure a 6, and using a 1 to 5-star scale, a solid three stars.
|Rating Report Card|
Violet-eyed Treasure Barrett had a passion for learning. Everyone in the village of Culpepper knew the best way to solve a problem was to ask Treasure-she was a thinker. So when the late squire’s son demanded that the impoverished villagers pay back their longstanding loans, it fell to Treasure to deal with him. But the arrogant, handsome Sterling Renville was not a man to be reasoned with…or ignored. Even as he infuriated her with insulting insinuations, he confused her with calculating caresses. And Treasure soon realized that her thirst for knowledge had not prepared her for the hungers of desire!
Sterling Renville had come to the backwoods village to claim his inheritance and claim it he would. No colonial chit was going to convince him to return to Philadelphia with nothing but debts to show for his efforts. If the beautiful Miss Barrett wanted a battle, he’d be happy to oblige. But while she would fight with logic, he had more enjoyable weapons in mind. He’d disarm her with heated kisses, overwhelm her with astounding sensations, and win her surrender with a blaze of ecstasy that would brand her forever as Passion’s Treasure.Passion’s Treasure (aka Just Say Yes) by Betina Krahn
Blue Falcon: Though I can define a Mary Sue, I’m in no position say whether the heroine of “Passion’s Treasure” actually is one. Here I’ll defer to your judgement. I haven’t read the book. You have!
Hi, Mary Anne.
Thank you for replying so quickly. After reading the wikipedia post you linked, I can certainly understand why someone would view a character like Treasure as a Mary Sue type of person. I don’t know if I agree with that assessment-or maybe I don’t want to, I’m being honest-because I liked Treasure as an intelligent, capable woman. Beauty, intelligence and capability are things I truly appreciate in romance novel heroines and I don’t find all three in a heroine that often. Thank you for expanding my knowledge base and making me think.
HI, Mary Anne.
Thank you for the compliment. I do want to say, however, that you are not putting your foot in your mouth. You have a great deal of insight, knowledge and wisdom in the field of vintage romance and I appreciate your sharing that knowledge with me and other lovers of the same books.
Now on to your points:
It was a bit strange that the townspeople of Culpepper, Maryland would trust a 17-18 year old girl with pretty much taking care of the townspeople in various ways. In part, they saw that Treasure was curious and gifted, and they were basically told to encourage these traits in her. The other townspeople had different forms of intelligence; Treasure’s was on a higher level. I don’t know what a Mary Sue is, but I would certainly like to know.
I’m not sure why Ms. Krahn chose the name “Treasure” for her heroine here. She did have nine siblings, one of whom was named Pen-short for Penance. I believe her siblings’ names were all biblical in nature.
I really hate the reprinted title “Just Say Yes”. To me, it basically reduces the book to being a typical romance novel, which is disrespectful to Treasure. I loved the fact that even though Treasure was a beautiful woman, Ms. Krahn’s writing focused on her intelligence, something I rarely see in romance novels. Changing the title to “Just Say Yes”, in my view, reduces Treasure to an airheaded romance novel heroine, which she most definitely was not.
Thanks again, Blue Falcon. A Mary Sue is a female protag who can accomplish anything. She’s free of faults or weaknesses. She’s admired and praised by the good characters. The bad ones—well, if they want to survive, eventually she wins over them too. She’s always right. She literally can do no wrong!
As you might guess, a Mary Sue is a stand-in for the author. The star of her private power fantasy made public. It’s all very narcissistic. Bleech.
I don’t know if the author of this novel was thinking along these lines. But I trust you can see why I’m suspicious. And why I don’t care for protags like this.
For more, much more, on Mary Sues:
Thanks, Blue Falcon. Fun review!
I want to get my response in early, but I dunno what to say. I haven’t read “Passion’s Treasure”. My reactions might not be relevant to the target readership. And the author is one of my Facebook friends.
But at the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, and by now I’m accustomed to the flavor of my own lowest extremities, allow me to make these points.
I find it a bit odd that the townspeople of a backwoods settlement in colonial America would consider a seventeen-year-old girl the brains of the outfit. She’s so smart and gifted that they’d look to her for wisdom and guidance. It’s just as odd as a community doing so in twenty-first century America. Or anywhere, anytime. Do I smell a Mary Sue?
My interests include nomenclature. It helps me and presumably some other readers buy into a historical setting if the author gives the characters names that sound real in terms of their time, place, and social/cultural milieu.
Which makes me wonder why the heroine was tagged with “Treasure”. Who knows, maybe there’s a documented case of a woman with that name in colonial America. But still . . . .
Likewise, I wonder about the revised title of this novel. I realize authors in traditional publishing have little if any control over titles. But in this case, someone did. Probably the marketing department at Kensington Publishing. “Hmmmmm . . . Why don’t we give the reprint of this romance a new title? Something that’ll make the readers think of Nancy Reagan’s campaign against illegal drugs. What could be more romantic than that?”
Keep up the good work!