Archives

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
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
A violation charlotte lamb

Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb

a violation charlotte lamb
A Violation by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Worldwide, Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Contemporary Romance Review: A Violation by Charlotte Lamb

Spoiler Alert ⚠

The Book

A Violation, a full-length novel by category author Charlotte Lamb, isn’t a straightforward romance. It’s somewhere more between women’s fiction and romantic fiction.

Like so many of her works, it encompasses major themes. Here she emphasizes the philosophy of love and what are the roles of being a man and a woman, especially regarding amorous relationships. Charlotte Lamb addresses a difficult and taboo subject in romance: rape.

A Romance That is Not a Romance

In general, I think Lamb was better restrained by the limitations of category romance, as at times in A Violation she veers off into navel-gazing. Nevertheless, this was a satisfactory read.

I wouldn’t rank it as exemplary as the similarly-themed Stranger in the Night, but superior to a few of Lamb’s other Mills & 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.

The Plot

A Violation

Clare is a modern woman of her era (the early 1980s) with a successful career and a live-in boyfriend with whom she’s sexually active but not madly in love. One night a stranger breaks into her home and brutally violates her.

Understandably, the violation of Clare’s body, her home, and her sanctity turns everything upside down. Her friends, family, and co-workers all know of the horrible experience she’s faced.

The rape changes everything. Her relationship with her boyfriend is destroyed.

But not her life.

Clare deals with the trauma by focusing on the healing–not on the event itself. She goes to counseling to seek solace.

Instead of wrapping herself up in her victim status, Clare uses the tragic occurrence as a springboard to learn who she is and transform into a stronger person.

How a Tragedy Affects Everyone

Clare’s experience also causes a ripple in the lives of both her mother and her best friend, Pamela, an ultra-independent, career-minded model. And so it does too for Clare’s boss, Larry, who is there for her as she recovers from her shocking experience.

The friendship between Larry and Clare starts to morph into something more intense gradually.

Meanwhile, Pamela engages in a “will-they-or-won’t they romance” with her polar opposite, a traditional-minded guy named Joe.

Also, there is Clare’s mother, who is from a more conservative generation when it comes to sex and gender issues. She has to deal with comprehending the tragedy that has transformed her daughter.

Charlotte Lamb on Feminism and Romance

One facet of A Violation that fascinated me was the ever-present topic of second-wave feminism. This book was like a time capsule into an era where women did not have all the options that some today might take for granted.

The two burgeoning relationships form parallel stories about the battle of the sexes. Clare ponders whether Pamela could ever truly be content with a man like Joe:

Clare could hardly believe now that Pamela sat around yearning to do just that, daydreaming about making Joe’s breakfast before he went off to work, wondering aloud what sort of children they would have…It was pathetic, like hearing a free bird mewing to get inside a cage.

As for herself, Clare goes on a voyage of discovery as to what’s important in her life.

While shocked at her friend’s seeming change in attitude, Clare realizes that certain traditional values appeal to her. She won’t hold out for anything less.

Larry’s dogged pursuit intrigues her, but she is hesitant to engage in anything serious with the notorious womanizer that he is.

A Discussion Worth Having

Larry: The Pill’s liberated women. Sex is no longer a dangerous pleasure. They have it on demand without fear of consequences, just like a man.

Clare: Except women aren’t men, either physically or mentally, and they tend to get emotionally involved with anyone they make love with. How is it going to get around that and your ‘Brave New World?’

Larry: I didn’t make the rules. I’m just reporting what I’ve noticed going on. When I was 20 there were two sorts of girls: those who did it, and those you have to marry if you talk them into it and they got pregnant. That no longer applies.

Clare: It strikes me that for all this talk about liberating women, it was men who got liberated, they no longer have to pay for sex–either money or marriage.

Larry: It was women who demanded equality and liberation–now they’ve got it all they do is complain.

Clare: I suppose it’s OK for women who get the exciting job–top executives and big companies, models like Pamela, actresses.

But what about all the women slaving away at boring jobs and offices and factories, who wish to God they could afford to stay home and run the house and cook the dinner?

My mother never worked, her generation didn’t unless they had no other option. When I got back from work it was me who cooked some dinner. It didn’t matter how tired I was…

Larry: That was your own fault! Don’t whine to me about letting him use you as an unpaid servant. You have a tongue in your head, you should have told him straight that it wasn’t on; if he couldn’t go fifty-fifty with you, you could hit the road and not come back.

Clare: I did. In the end, I did.

Can a Happy for Now Ending Be a True Romance?

Larry is Clare’s friend, yes. But slowly, he begins to be something else. Something much more meaningful.

Yet Clare is not a woman to be taken lightly. She now knows what she wants in life and expects no less.

“I love you,” he whispered…

“You can’t be in love with me. It isn’t possible…You only want me because I refused you. I’m sure that if I gave in yesterday and let you seduce me you wouldn’t have asked me to marry you today.”

“You could be right,” he replied equably. “You presented a challenge I have to overcome somehow…I want to kiss you until you–“

“Until I submit to you! …That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Domination and submission you dominate and I submit. I refuse to play that game. I’m not going to marry you. When I marry–if I marry–it won’t be someone powerful and domineering like you. I’ll marry someone with whom I’m equal.”

“But we are equals, first,” he argued. “Haven’t you noticed you’re almost as tall as I am and you’re strongly armed as well as strong-willed?”

His mouth curved ruefully and he touched the plaster on his forehead. “You proved in no uncertain way that you refuse to be dominated…That you’re reckless, don’t give a damn for convention and you like to have your own way as much as I like to have mine.”

Final Analysis of A Violation

At the end of A Violation, Charlotte Lamb leaves Clare and Larry’s status ambiguous. There is no definitive yes to marriage. Even so, that’s okay. Things are happy.

For, oddly enough, the frightening, life-altering experience Clare has gone through enabled her to find her true self. And in knowing herself, Clare knows what she wants in a lifetime partnership.

To be equals to a man, yet complementary; two pieces of one whole part.

A Violation is not a book I “enjoyed” experiencing. It was uncomfortable, yet also invigorating. It succeeds as a story of a woman’s self-discovery. As a romance, I’m not sure where it fits.

If you can handle the sensitive subject matter, I think it’s worth a read.

3 Stars

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

Synopsis

dark fever

Category Romance Review: Dark Fever by Charlotte Lamb

Dark Fever, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1840

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I’ve said this before about a Charlotte Lamb book, but now I really mean it: this is the worst romance written by her that I’ve ever read! I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Harlequin Presents as much as Dark Fever. No, it wasn’t boring… It was bizarre and awful and left me with a horrible feeling!

The Plot

Dark Fever was part of a series of books based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The theme of this novel was lust, although there’s no sexual intercourse in this one. Personally, I thought this book’s theme of sin was gluttony because of all the talk of food. It was set in Spain, after all.

Bianca has just turned 40 years old. She is a widow of 3 years, still in mourning for her husband. She has two teenagers and feels down in the dumps, so she goes on a trip to Spain. At her hotel, she sees a handsome man swimming in a pool and instantly falls in lust.

The man, Gil, is much younger than Bianca. He also is deeply attracted to her, and he cares for her as well. They flirt; she teases him. But ultimately, her feelings for her dead husband create an overwhelming sense of guilt over the sexual desire she feels for another man.

Then a tragedy occurs: Bianca gets brutally beaten and almost raped. Her trauma causes her to become disgusted at the idea of sex. This is what most of the book entails: not the relationship with Gil, but Bianca’s recovery from her ordeal. Sadly, she seems to not truly recuperate.

Bianca says goodbye to Gil and goes back to England. However Gil feels far more for Bianca than she does for him, so he follows her and declares his love.

The Awful Ending

The end of this strange book is the insulting coup de grace:

…I’m not even asking you to marry me, Bianca, I’m only saying I want to get to know you better.”

She met his eyes. “You want to sleep with me—isn’t that what you’re saying?”

You know I do,” he said huskily. “I won’t lie about that—I want you, I said so, but not until you’re ready.”

And if I never am?

He grimaced. “I’ll have to live with that won’t I?

Yes,” she said her gaze defiant.

DARK FEVER

Bianca stares at herself in the mirror as she prepares for their first date, thinking that she’s too old (at only 40!) for romance and may just be in it for a short-term fling. Who knows what will happen? It’s a mystery that ends unresolved.

Final Analysis of Dark Fever

This was a romance novel? What the ever-loving hell?

I understand some modern romances don’t end with a HEA, but “happy enough for now,” but that is not what I expect when I read a Harlequin Presents! Especially one written long ago in 1995.

Dark Fever was Women’s Fiction published as a romance, and I hated it!

SPONSORED AD

Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

category romance
Seduction by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1980
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #428
Published by: Mills & Boon, Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, that they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.

The Plot

Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister.

Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence.

Worse, Clea has a creepy stepdad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).

Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.

He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out.

Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.

kavorka

Ben’s obviously off his rocker, but Clea is not all there either. He demands, but she refuses. He is forceful, but Clea is resilient, giving as good as she gets. Finally, she escapes, but not before Ben can put his mark on her soul.

She falls in love with him.

Final Analysis of Seduction

Seduction was not the first Harlequin Presents I read, but it was the one that got me addicted to the Presents line.

Charlotte Lamb didn’t write like any other ordinary Harlequin author. Her plots were wildly fantastic, forcing you to turn the page to see what insanity she included next.

Lamb was able to psychoanalyze by delving into navel-gazing. She was very aware of the nature of her works, that they were just fantasies. Nevertheless, she treated her subject matter seriously with exquisite attention to character, dialogue, and tone.

Seduction is very chauvinistic and very politically incorrect. But this is a book, an illusion, not reality.

Charlotte Lamb’s writing was at its best in this one. I love this romance, as crazy as it was.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.9

Synopsis

Clea felt insulted — by both men!

Clea’s stepfather, Kerasteri, had followed Greek custom in choosing a man for her to marry. Defying him meant arousing his violent temper.

Ben Winter was the man who desired her and was determined to have her. I know what you want more than you do, he kept insisting. But he saw only the betraying signs of her body; he didn’t listen to her reasons for refusal.

Clea had little choice. But she was sure of one thing: she would not be owned or used by anyone. She was her own person!

SEDUCTION by CHARLOTTE LAMB
frozen fire

Category Romance Review: A Frozen Fire by Charlotte Lamb

A Frozen Fire, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, cover artist TBD

SPOILER ALERT

Paul was beautiful, Helen thought, gazing down at him. He would always be beautiful now.

A Frozen Fire

The Book

Frozen Fire was one of the strangest Harlequin Presents I’ve ever read. It’s not Charlotte Lamb’s worst, by any means. Actually, it’s quite well-written and if it was a two-part story I would have loved it. But as it stands, the book focuses way too much on Helen’s relationship with her emotionally abusive husband and not with the hero.

The Plot

Helen has been married to Paul for many years and he’s cheated on her repeatedly. They’ve had to move various times whenever his affairs have caused too much trouble wherever they’re living. So here they are, yet again, in a new town with a new job for Paul, and Helen is sticking around, but she’s not sleeping with her husband. Still, she’s faithful to Paul even if he isn’t because she’s the kind of person who keeps her vows even though her husband doesn’t. Plus, he’s super, super hot.

That’s it.

The man treats her like crap, but he’s SO good-looking she won’t divorce him.

Enter Paul’s boss, Mark. There is a strong attraction present, and when Mark realizes what’s going on in Helen’s marriage, he pursues her with a vengeance. Mark’s a great character: a wonderful man who’s dominant but sensitive. The problem is he’s always on the fringes. Paul, not Mark, is the main guy in this story.

It was unsettling how Helen so was committed to her terrible marriage. She was the ultimate martyr and refused to divorce her adulterous, emotionally abusive husband.

The Unsatisfying Ending

But it’s the end that’s REALLY bizarre.

Helen finally falls in love with Mark and spends Christmas with his family. At last, she realizes her marriage is over. But there’s no major declaration of love and no showdown between husband, wife, and potential lover.

What happens is this:

Helen and Mark walk home together on Boxing Day. Paul, in an angry fit, tries to run Mark over with his horse. The horse bolts and Paul is thrown and killed.

“Helen looked at Paul, her ears hearing nothing more. She put out a shaking hand to stroke back the smooth golden hair from his damp forehead. He lay so still and tranquil in the cold wintry light, all the glitter of sunlight in his hair as it gleamed. His face had smoothed out into beauty again, as it did when he slept. Paul was beautiful, Helen thought, gazing down at him. He would always be beautiful now. The slow stain which had begun to eat up that beauty had been halted forever. All that Paul could have been lay in that peaceful face. The ruin of his life was now behind him. Helen put her hands to her face and wept.” 

That’s the grand finale to Helen and Mark‘s love story? What an awful way to end a romance novel!

Final Analysis of A Frozen Fire

Nevertheless, despite its odd qualities, A Frozen Fire was not a tedious read and it did keep my interest. So for that reason, I rate it a tepid three stars. The wonderful hero and the unusual circumstances surrounding Helen’s life were intriguing. However, this romance was not handled in the most logical manner with a satisfactory conclusion that comforted the reader with a pleasing HEA.

3 Stars

Crescendo

Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb

Crescendo, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, Will, Davies cover art

Harlequin Presents #451

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

“Hello Red Riding Hood. I’m the Wolf.”

CRESCENDO

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Mysterious Beginning

Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb starts like a hazy dream. A beautiful girl stands at the cliffs, and a strange man, thinking she’s about to jump, runs to save her. She isn’t; she’s just admiring the savage beauty of her coastal home. There is an instant connection between the girl, Marina, and Gideon, the stranger, who is much older. Marina lives alone with her grandfather, plays the piano beautifully, and at night shares her thoughts with her best friends, two dolls. There are secrets hidden in this tale that slowly unravel to reveal a different story altogether.

The Plot

Crescendo deals with an issue that has always puzzled me. Why are so many heroes in romances absolute horndog sluts? It’s not simply about being good in bed. A man doesn’t need to sleep with legions of women to know how to do this! He only needs to know a few, or just one, very well. There is a perceived allure of getting–and keeping—the one man that no other woman could keep.

There’s just something bizarre to me about how this situation is usually dealt with in books. The hero’s lovers can number in the hundreds or more, and he doesn’t really care for these women. He just uses them sexually until he meets the heroine (often virginal or inexperienced). Then she changes his man-ho ways forevermore. Usually, the heroine appreciates her man’s experience as it brings great sexual pleasure in bed. Likewise, the hero appreciates the woman’s inexperience, as this pleases him emotionally.

There’s something that rings so false about this. I am a great believer in the special ying-yang, complementary nature of male and female relationships, but I prefer the pair to be “equally yoked,” so to speak. I’d like to see more virgin heroes paired with virgin heroines. Conversely, I’d like to see mature, sexually experienced men with women of similar familiarity. (That doesn’t mean I want them to be walking STDs, though.)

So here in Crescendo is naïve, innocent Marina and Gideon, a cad with women, loving and leaving them without caring for their feelings. There is a great depth to Marina’s character and she is far more insightful than Gideon, who is many years older than she.

Marina learns from her painful past and demands accountability when wronged. I don’t particularly appreciate having heroes grovel endlessly for their hurtful deeds, but major penance is required here. Unfortunately, Gideon was so cold-hearted in his pursuit of Marina that he didn’t take anyone’s feelings into account, not Marina’s and certainly not his disposable mistresses’.

The Philosophy of Love

When Charlotte Lamb was bad, she was awful, but when she was good, there was absolutely no one better. Her best works were not shallow and often posed philosophical queries, questioning the nature of love and desire. So how does a man like Gideon come into being? In Gideon‘s case, he’s not evil. Instead, his mother spoiled her boy rotten while micro-managing every aspect of his personal life, thus creating this hateful, self-centered male creature.

He says to Marina:

“[Women] stifle you, smother you, and cling round like ivy. I decided when I grew up that women had their uses but had to be firmly kept in their place. I learnt to use them, and then kick them out of my life… Yes, it isn’t pretty. I could lie to you and hide all of that, but I don’t want any more secrets between us, Marina. I want you to know what I am, what I’ve been.”

So how can a man date a woman, leave her, then date her again, make her fall in love with him, seduce her, impregnate her, marry her, and then betray her, all the time never giving any love in return all while siphoning every ounce of feeling from her and then be easily forgiven?

In Crescendo, he isn’t.

No human being has a right to put his own desires in front of the happiness of anyone else. Gideon’s brilliance did not give him that right.

No Love Without Change and Forgiveness

And here Marina observes:

For all his brilliance as a musician, Gideon had been stunted in his emotional growth in childhood; unable to coordinate the demands of body and heart, like an autistic child which never makes the right connections and is isolated from those around him by his own self-absorbed internal life.

Crescendo is the antithesis to all the romances where the hero is a jerk to the heroine, then on the last few pages, he makes a declaration of love, and they embrace and walk happily off into their ever-after. Not here. Marina makes Gideon hurt as she wrenches his heart out of him; she’s ruthless in her cruelty to him.

“You don’t love me—you never have. You wouldn’t know how to love. Frustrated desire was all you ever felt for me, and it’s all you feel now… And I don’t love you. If anything I despise you!”

It had given her a tortured pleasure to say that to him, to be aware that she had finally hurt him as deeply as he had ever hurt her.

Final Analysis of Crescendo

Lamb’s language here is so beautiful, so haunting, and so thoughtful. The conclusion is believable and fitting. I love Marina. Some readers may judge her as too harsh, but she’s so young compared to Gideon that she has to have a strong sense of herself before they can be together. Gideon has to understand who and what he is and that he can’t remain that way if he wants a monogamous, life-long relationship with a woman he loves. The fairytale must yield to reality.

They had each taken a silent, bitter journey into themselves, but they had returned, like characters in a fairy story, with miraculous discoveries.

Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

category romance
Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #253
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback, ARC
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Call Back Yesterday by Charlotte Lamb

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Call Back Yesterday is the first Harlequin Presents written by Charlotte Lamb.

There are two HP writers I absolutely adore: Miranda Lee and Charlotte Lamb. Lamb wrote mostly in the ’70s and ’80s. Lee was a modern woman of the ’90s and 2000s. Both authors had the ability to portray great heroines from vastly different lifestyles.

From poor, innocent virgins to victims who rise above tragedy to mature, sexually experienced sophisticates, they were wonderful to read about.

The Plot

In Call Back Yesterday, Oriel Mellstock belongs to the latter group. Oriel and Devil Haggard were cousins who grew up together and grew to love each other. (If that gives you an ick-factor, they’re only second cousins).

Cruel fate separates them.

Oriel leaves and marries a man 30 years older. She actually has a normal marriage, sleeps with him (albeit without much passion), and has a child. Her multi-millionaire husband dies, and she returns to her hometown to get a little revenge.

As Call Back Yesterday was Charlotte Lamb’s first HP, it’s a bit milder than her later works. There is no consummation in this book, but she throws a bunch of HP tropes at you:

  • The much-beloved manor the heroine fights to own
  • A darkly brooding, bastard hero who rides on a black stallion
  • The manipulative wife who separates the lovers; a vicious other-woman
  • Multiple men who vie for the heroine’s affections
  • Even a couple of cute kids.

One thing I love about older Harlequins is the quick-moving plots, and this one is no different.

My favorite scene is where Oriel and Devil come face to face at last, and she whips him on the face with her riding crop, then he grabs her crop, takes her over the knee, and whips her backside.

Then he forces a kiss on her, and Oriel is like, well, I deserved the beating, but the kiss was just too much! WTF!

Final Analysis of Call Back Yesterday

The ending of Call Back Yesterday was a bit unsatisfactory. I wanted more of a dramatic reveal at the climax to make this one perfect.

Still, this was a fine outing for Charlotte Lamb.

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