The book begins in 1851 in France. The coming revolution forces Jules Dubonne, his wife Marie, their three children, sons Alexander and Dante, and daughter, Celeste, to leave France. They sail to a new home they believe will be free from war and violence, America.
They will soon discover the fallacy of that belief.
Tragedy strikes when a storm hits, throwing Dante overboard. He is taken in by a couple, Virginia and Gregory Wakefield, who desperately wants a son. Virginia has had four miscarriages. Dante, who believes his family is dead, is adopted by the Wakefields. He takes the name Dan Dubonne-Wakefield.
The rest of the Dubonne family make their way to their planned destination, Philadelphia.
At 16, Dan meets Abby Southerland and falls in love with her. Abby, however, doesn’t share his feelings.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the other Dubonnes’ lives go on, albeit with a hole in their hearts for Dante. Daughter Celeste falls in love with a young man, Wesley Rainey, whom she later marries.
Meanwhile, Alexander meets Abby at a party. They soon become lovers.
What Alexander doesn’t know is that Abby is a Confederate spy. The information she receives from him and other Northerners is used against them in the Civil War. Alexander later finds out about Abby’s activities, thus creating a major rift between them.
At one point, Alexander and Dan/Dante face each other on the battlefield, bringing home the stark point of the Civil War was “Brother against Brother.”
Cherish Me, Embrace Me concludes as the Civil War ends. Dan marries Catherine Markland, Abby’s cousin, and Alexander and Abby marry. Dan learns the truth about his past.
Finally, a figure from Alexander’s past helps the Dubonne-Southerland-Wakefield triumvirate heal the wounds. They all can look forward to a bright future and several Happily Ever Afters.
Cherish Me, Embrace Me is Mrs. Sommerfield at her best with this Civil War drama. It’s a quality Zebra romance that is very emotional. The characters find themselves dealing with changes and heartache but come out the other side stronger.
Despite the emotions displayed, I feel Mrs. Sommerfield could have gone deeper into her character’s emotions than she did.
There are several love scenes focusing on the emotional aspect of lovemaking and far less on the esoterics of the act.
Most of the violence takes place “offscreen.” There are scenes of Jules having to kill two people who try to stop the Dubonnes from leaving France.
Bottom Line on Cherish Me, Embrace Me
Cherish Me, Embrace Me by Sylve F. Sommerfield was a wonderful, highly emotional book, but there was still the potential for more.
Rating Report Card
CHERISH ME Possess me. Never let me go. These fiery words of love lingered in Abby’s heart, although she knew it was wrong to want Alexander. She’d sworn she’d never surrender to the Yankees, that she’d never let them rule her plantation or her life. But once she felt the exquisite ecstasy of his demanding lips, she damned him, despised him, yet desired him like no other man she had ever known.
EMBRACE ME Caress me. Be mine forever. If only Alexander could convince the southern vixen that passion was more important than loyalty that together their love could conquer the war! No matter how hard she tried to fight him, he could feel her whole body respond to his touch. He would tease her with searing kisses, torture her with his flesh, make her cry out in rapture and torment.
Heroine: Fair Eleanor-Christine “Ellie Crain,” 16. Black hair, golden eyes.
Hero: Cash Gillard. Dark blonde hair, brown eyes. Courier/soldier, Union Army. Rapist.
Part I: There Came an Angel from the East
The book begins on a farm in Tennessee during the Civil War. Living on the farm are members of the Crain family. There is an unnamed man called Grandpaw; his daughter, Mahala; her stepdaughter Fair Eleanor-Christine ”Ellie” Crain; and Mahala’s biological children, two daughters, Mary Magdalene and Viola; and a brother, Jeremiah “Jere.”
Mahala’s husband–-and the children’s father–-Thomas Peyton, is off fighting for the Confederacy in the war. The family is forced out of their home by Union soldiers.
Among them is Cash Gillard, the hero of the book. Cash later rapes Ellie.
Part II: In Frost!
Upon discovering Ellie and Cash’s relationship, Mahala throws Ellie out of the Crain homestead. Ellie goes with Cash and becomes a laundress for the Union Army.
We also learn a bit about Cash’s background. He is the son of Alex Gillard, and the grandson of Caroline Fancy England Gillard and Hunter Gillard, from Deana James’ previous Zebra romance, Captive Angel.
Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.
Part III: Out Fire!
Ellie returns home, and Cash is shot and wounded as the fighting in the war intensifies. He later comes to the Crain homestead, where Ellie nurses him back to health, much to the chagrin of Mahala, who orders him to leave.
Cash does, taking Ellie with him and they live… Happily one supposes.
The best part of Angel’s Caress is the last chapter, where some of the questions raised after Captive Angel are answered. The revelations are both surprising and interesting.
Unfortunately, this information is in chapter 28, which means to get to it, one has to go through 27 other chapters. And that is where the problems lie.
The book contains many elements I didn’t understand or like, such as paranormal elements. I can accept some paranormal elements in books, but the ones in Angel’s Caress are both hard to understand and accept for me.
The characters in the book fall into two categories: not interesting or unlikeable. And some, like Ellie and Cash, fall into both.
I was uncomfortable with Ellie falling in love with a “man” who raped her. However, I also understood it. In my personal and professional experience, people who grow up in dysfunctional homes–and Ellie’s home is definitely dysfunctional–will, in all likelihood, have at least one dysfunctional relationship with a non-family member at some point in their lives.
Cash is a rapist. Nothing more needs to be said about him.
There is no character development and the storylines–such as they are–are incredibly boring.
There are two “love” scenes post-Cash’s rape of Ellie. The scenes try to generate heat but fail.
Assault, battery, rape, shooting, and killings all occur during Angel’s Caress. The violence is mildly graphic.
Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress
The book Ms. James wrote prior to this, Captive Angel, was a Rolls-Royce book. This was entirely due to that book’s heroine, Caroline Fancy England Gillard. Angel’s Caress is a Ford Edsel.
The ONLY thing keeping this book above 1 star is the first half of chapter 28.
Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.
Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist Hero. Underage heroine
Rating Report Card
Ellie looked like heaven. After seeing nothing but the blue-coated soldiers for months, sweet sixteen-year-old Ellie Crain was the sexiest sight virile Cash Gillard had ever set his battle-weary eyes on. And as a man unused to sensual deprivation, nothing could’ve kept the Yankee corporal away from the innocent farm girl’s ivory skin and youthful curves. Planning to love and leave the wench, he suppressed his tender feelings for her. But as he satisfied his desire, their fates were bound ever tighter with each kiss, each whisper, each caress.
Raised on a southern Tennessee farm, clever Ellie Crain was no stranger to the facts of life and she recognized the gleam in the Union officer’s eyes as pure animal lust. The untouched beauty steeled herself against the Northerner’s invasion and was shocked to feel his touch gentle, his embrace arousing. The inexperienced girl blossomed into a passionate woman who would fight to keep her first man. Cash had taken her against her will now she’d make him pay for making her respond with a lover’s heart and an Angel’s Caress.
Rebel Vixencommences by diving right into the story.
As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, 21-year-old Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean, bringing food and medical supplies to her southern brethren, when she spots a body floating in the water. She urges the sailors to bring him aboard.
However, when they see the man’s Union buckle on his uniform, everyone but Savannah wants to throw the enemy back into the sea. Savannah is defiant and swears to help save the Yankee sailor, despite what anyone says, including her Uncle, who’s in charge.
Savannah takes the officer on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps him recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. She is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, in turn, falls madly for the woman who saved his life.
Upon a tropical beach, Savannah and Skyler exchange their words of love, promising to be together forever.
The Beginning: Betrayal
As they begin to make love, an explosion shatters the silence. In horror, Savannah realizes that the Union army has taken her Uncle’s ship. Skyler tells her that the ship was loaded with weapons and ammunition, not medicine and supplies, and as a Union soldier, he had a responsibility to report it.
He vows his love for Savannah as she sees that every man on board, including her uncle, is now a prisoner of war. Savannah lashes out at Skyler, reinjuring his arm, and flees in terror, declaring her eternal hatred.
Yes, it’s a cheesy-looking Zebra Heartfire with a bosomy-clinch cover and cornball title. It must be read to be fully appreciated.
The scope is grand, spanning years across the American North and South, with war, death, love, and birth. This “bodice-ripper lite” was so well written and emotional that it made me cry tears of sadness and joy.
Seriously, Rebel Vixen is one of the best books I’ve read.
Not surprising, as Dana Ransom’s Zebras are almost all among my favorites, along with the great Deana James and, to a lesser extent, Penelope Neri.
The Plot: The American Civil War
Savannah is the oldest daughter of three children. Her father was a casualty of war, her brother is off fighting, and now with her uncle imprisoned, she finds herself burdened as the head of the family with an enormity of responsibilities on her shoulders.
Unconventionally beautiful, she has no time for gaiety as the war rages on, destroying everything she ever knew. Saving Skyler was instinctive, as she deeply values human life. She has the weight of the world upon her, and despite her recalcitrance, Skyler is her one bright spot in the darkness.
A Man Without Purpose
Skyler Reade has no real purpose in life, bouncing aimlessly along from adventure to adventure. As the middle son of an upper-crust Philadelphia family, he’s sort of flitting along in life when the war starts.
His father is a respected doctor, his older brother is settled down with a family and fighting for the Union, and even Skyler’s wayward younger brother seems to be following in the family’s footsteps of pursuing a medical degree.
Skyler has a “girlfriend” at home, not someone he feels serious about–although she absolutely does about him–who encourages him to pursue politics. To be a politician, he’ll have to have some military experience. But Skyler was not keen on fighting a war he cared nothing about. So he entered the Navy because he thought he’d see little battle action at sea.
A Genuinely Nice Guy
Although Skyler is a drifter suffering from the middle-child syndrome, he seeks to be virtuous. The main characteristic I adore about Skyler is that he is nice. I mean genuinely nice: a decent, caring, empathetic human being.
Yes, he is a bit domineering at times, but if 19th-century women weren’t 3rd wave feminists, you damn sure can’t expect the men to have been. He is relentless in pursuing Savannah, vowing to make her love him again. Most times, he’s generous and kind. Even so, other times, he can be demanding.
However, spoiler warning here: there is one bodice ripper-type scene.
A “forced seduction” occurs after Savannah taunts Skyler and tells him of her many lovers–a lie–for which he is instantly regretful and never repeats.
Skyler is kind to Savannah despite her shrewishness. He pursues Savannah across the North and South, confident that nothing could ever shatter their love.
Then again, maybe there is.
A Sensitive Subject Matter
As this Rebel Vixen is set during the US Civil War, slavery is a large part of the plot. I can understand that the sensitivity on this topic repels a lot of modern romance readers from this era. However, there’s no sugar-coating it. Savannah’s family owns plantations, and as such, they own slaves.
As far as Savannah’s views on slavery, like the war, it’s complicated. Ever since she was a child, Savannah’s father has allowed one slave to be freed at her request on her birthday. Although Savannah herself questions the righteousness of slavery, she will not betray her family, her state, and “The Cause.”
On the other hand, Skyler is aghast at the practice. He finds purpose in life through two motivations: to reobtain Savannah’s love and trust and fight for his nation until slavery is eliminated.
I adore the conclusion of this book as it’s reminiscent of the end of John Jakes’s mini-series North and South Part I and the scene with Lesley Anne Downs and Patrick Swayze. It always makes me chuckle. What the hell, that series was so good, so it’s ok with me that Ransom borrowed a bit from that ending.
“Why me? Why would you want me?” she asked in bewildered frustration.
“You–you make everything else so unimportant… I’ve never had much direction in my life, nothing I wanted to devote myself to until you held my hand and sat with me when I prayed I would die. Just wanting to hear your voice made me fight to get through the hell of each day. I loved you before I even saw your face.”
Final Analysis of Rebel Vixen
Rebel Vixen is a book I go back to and enjoy every few years. For me, it’s an old friend with reliable characters who go through tragic circumstances but come out of it united and secure in their love for each other.
I truly hope author Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon) regains her rights to this book from Kensington and is able to republish it in digital format. It would be a shame for this romance to remain a hidden gem for only lovers of old paperbacks to discover.
If you’re in the mood for an old-school romance that skirts with being un-PC but doesn’t have an over-the-top-Alpha hero you’d want to hit in the head with a frying pan, I can’t recommend a better read than Rebel Vixen.
Rating Report Card
TENDER INNOCENCE When Savannah Russell spotted the lone survivor drifting among the shipwreck’s debris, nothing could have stopped her from rescuing him. Not even that she was sailing on a Confederate blockade runner while he wore the uniform of the Union Navy. As a spirited Southerner, she hated to help the enemy, but as a woman she could not let him die. So she nursed him herself, rejoicing as pain left his startling gray eyes and strength returned to his lean, muscular body. And before she had time to guard against the unwanted desire his gentle touch aroused in her, she had given her enemy more than her compassion …. she had given him her heart.
WANTON PASSION Skyler Reade felt more than gratitude for the raven-haired rebel who’d saved his life. Her courage had earned his boundless admiration; her beauty had sparked his limitless desire. She’d risked everything to help him and he knew that staying with her would only endanger them both. Still, he had to taste the beckoning sweetness of her lips, had to caress the ivory smoothness of her skin before he could leave her. Someday he would return to build a future with his seductive Savannah, but for tonight he could only give her the warmth of his embrace and the promise that she would always be his treasured, tantalizing REBEL VIXEN.
The best thing about this circa 1978 quasi-bodice ripper is the Newport cigarettes ad in the middle of it:
Charlotte takes place during the American Civil War in New York City beginning in 1863 or 1864 (both dates are given). For a historical book, it’s historical, but for a romance, the romance is lacking.
This book is only 239 pages long, but the hero doesn’t make an entrance until page 144. And he is missing-in-action for most of it. The back blurb tells you the entire plot of this dreck.
The first 100 pages or so mainly focus on the heroine’s brother, Richard. He is a debauched reprobate who parties for days on alcohol and opium binges.
What else? Oh, he sleeps with a married actress and has a threesome with a teenage bargirl and her 33-year-old mother. Then he participates in the Draft Riots by beating up cops and burning down an orphanage for young Black children. Finally, he deflowers the new virgin maid. He’s an asshole but at least he did something.
The only reason I kept reading this dull book was to relish Richard’s eventual comeuppance. Which he got, but it wasn’t horrible enough.
As for romance? I wasn’t kidding when I said there was none.
Final Analysis of Charlotte
Forget about this one. I already have.
(PS) I searched the web and so far, I only see one copy of Charlotte by Amanda Hart Douglass for sale for $49.95. Whoever is selling it should pay YOU $49.95 to get it off their hands. Yes, it’s that bad of a book!
Lovely young Charlotte Bourne was the apple of her father’s eyes and a belle of New York society. The onset of the War Between the States introduced her to young Liam Brady, whom her dissolute brother Richard had hired to serve as his substitute in the Union Army. Liam and Charlotte fall deeply in love, but before they could marry, Charlotte had to come to terms with her turbulent feelings for the two other men in her life. The raging Civil War echoed the conflict in Charlotte’s heart…
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.
I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.
Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.
The Set Up
Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.
Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.
Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.
Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.
She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.
However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.
Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.
Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.
Final Analysis of Through the Storm
Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.
Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.
Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.
The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.
I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.
All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.
Rating Report Card
Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.
Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.
Kathleen’s Surrender by Nancy Henderson Ryan–known better these days as Nan Ryan–is without question one of the best, most emotional romance novels I’ve ever read.
This review is based on the Zebra print version of the book published back in 1983.
As the book opens, we meet the Beauregard family of Natchez-on-the-Hill, Mississippi. Patriarch Louis Antoine, Matriarch Abigail Howard Beauregard, and the heroine of the book, their only child, daughter Kathleen Diana Beauregard.
At the start, Kathleen is a starry-eyed 15-year-old who loves her Southern Belle life. She soon meets a handsome, wealthy man named Dawson Blakely and falls quickly and fully in love with him. They fall in love and want to get married.
However, Louis is vehemently against their relationship, although he and Abigail are nice to Dawson. Louis’ objection: Dawson’s ancestry isn’t as blue-blooded as the Beauregards’ is; Dawson’s ancestors are rather notorious people.
Louis tells Dawson they can’t marry, and Dawson loves Kathleen enough to let her go without telling her that her father is the one who’s trying to keep them apart. They do have an intimate encounter before they part, which results in Kathleen’s pregnancy.
To avoid losing face, Kathleen marries a doctor named Hunter Alexander to give their child–a son named Scott–a father.
Dawson, meanwhile, goes to Europe to drown his sorrows over losing Kathleen in drink and women.
As time goes on–the book encompasses 10 years–Kathleen realizes she’s not in love with Hunter and freezes him out–emotionally and sexually. Dawson eventually returns to America while Kathleen realizes that she and Dawson still love each other. They become involved again.
Hunter sees them kissing and decides, when the Civil War begins, to join the Confederate Army, ostensibly to die in combat to avoid living with a broken heart, knowing that Kathleen will never love him the way she loves Dawson. Dawson also does his part for the Confederacy, acting as a blockade runner on one of his many ships.
As the war goes on, Kathleen later realizes she does love Hunter and goes to the frontlines of the war in Vicksburg to be with him-they make love. On the way back to Natchez, Kathleen and her servant are set upon by Union soldiers, one of whom tries to rape her. That is prevented by Dawson, who is shot and seriously wounded in the process.
Then Kathleen decides she wants to be with Dawson again. She finds out later that Hunter is listed as a casualty of the war and decides to go ahead and marry Dawson.
Things don’t end there, but I won’t reveal all of what happens.
While you might think that Kathleen is a flighty and self-centered five-letter-word-for-female-dog flipping back and forth between her husband and her lover, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Ms. Ryan does a tremendous job exploring and describing the emotions Kathleen, Hunter, and Dawson are going through. None of the three are villains, nor are they trying to deliberately hurt each other. They’re just three people caught in a love triangle that none of them want, but they also can’t get out of easily.
I felt each of their joys and sorrows, and it is an emotional rollercoaster that touched every one of my emotions.
There are some sex scenes, and although they are multiple pages long, they are not overly graphic.
Since the latter half of the book takes place in the Civil War, there is some violence. Most of it is not graphically described, except for the scene in which Dawson shoots and kills Kathleen’s attempted rapist. That is graphically described.
Final Analysis of Kathleen’s Surrender
One of the most important things that a book–or tv show or movie–has to do to get and keep my attention is to make me care about the people I’m watching/reading about. Ms. Ryan does exactly that. She made me care about Kathleen, Hunter, and Dawson, and it was incredible to read this book.
Kathleen’s Surrender by Nan Ryan is one of my favorite novels ever.
BTW, on Amazon, where I first posted this review, Ms. Ryan wrote to me to tell me that she appreciated my review!
Rating Report Card
PROMISE OF LOVE “I know that you will fall madly, helplessly in love with me,” dashing Dawson Blakely murmured in Kathleen’s delicate ear. Though she knew it was wrong to encourage the gambler’s attentions, the curvaceous beauty couldn’t keep her heart from racing nor stop the blush that spread from her velvety cheeks to her full, heaving bosom.
DREAM OF DESIRE The innocent young woman tried not to feel the virile man’s hard body next to her soft skin; she knew she ought to slap away the strong hands encircling her tiny waist. But she had always wondered what it was like to fall in love. Without a second thought, she yielded to the magic of passion’s splendor and swooned to the ecstasy of KATHLEEN’S SURRENDER