Passion Flowerbegins with introductions to the heroine of the book, Catherine Mary “Jasmine” O’Neil. She is so nicknamed due to the fragrance her late mother wore, which comforted Jasmine after her mother’s death.
Jasmine lives in Jamaica with her grandfather, Franz, a physician. Later, she meets Captain Johnathon Mahn, an English ex-pat and the hero of the book. Johnathon is asked to root out arms smuggling in Jamaica, which is how he and Jasmine come to meet.
Jasmine and Franz accidentally find out about the illegal activity. Franz is killed, and Jasmine is taken captive. She is told she can gain her freedom if she spies on Johnathon.
He finds her spying on him, and they become lovers. Both later escape Jamaica and set sail for Johnathon’s plantation in Virginia.
In Virginia, Jasmine gets a job as a physician’s assistant. What she doesn’t know is that the job–and her home and many other things–are due to the largesse of Johnathon.
Jasmine also attracts many male admirers. These admirers arouse Johnathon’s jealousy, which later leads him to rape Jasmine. Jasmine and Johnathon later marry once it is known that she is pregnant.
One of the soldiers from Jamaica finds Jasmine in Virginia and kidnaps her. In the end, she is saved, and Jasmine and Johnathon then have their Happily Ever After.
The most interesting character in the book, in my view, is Bear Dog, a half-bear, half-wolf who befriends Jasmine on the ship voyage to Virginia and saves her when she is kidnapped.
When the most interesting character in the book has four legs and fur, that is a stinging indictment of the human characters. Neither Jasmine nor Johnathon are particularly deep characters, although Jasmine is more so than Johnathon.
The storylines are flat and lifeless. The “Jamaican Gun Smuggling” trope is so lame Ms. Horsman may as well not have included it.
Then there is Johnathon’s rape of Jasmine. No romance hero ever redeems himself with me if he sexually assaults a woman.
There is very little to no romance between Jasmine and Johnathon.
There are a handful of sex scenes, none of which are graphic or interesting.
In addition to Franz’s killing, there are scenes of attempted rape, rape, assault and battery, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.
Bottom Line on Passion Flower
Jennifer Horsman has enough items on the menu of Passion Flower to make a good meal. Instead, she produces a book that’s raw, like sushi.
Gorgeous Jasmine O’Neil never meant to fall in love with the insolent handsome captain. His voice was commanding, his reputation was roguish, and his manner was much too imperious. But despite all his drawbacks, the innocent beauty couldn’t resist the spell of masculine charm and tingling pleasure he cast upon her. Suddenly, she knew she was in love – and she was certain that his declarations of desire were undying promises of matrimony.
PARADISE OF ECSTACY
Captain Johnathon Mahn couldn’t deny himself the untouched woman’s beckoning curves. He tangled himself in their sweet tormenting rapture. Nothing could ever make him give up this mistress – but nothing would ever compel him to wed! He was a man of independence who took what he wanted…and he craved his fragrant Jasmine, his velvety blossom, his delicate PASSION FLOWER.
The heroine of the first four books, Alisha Williams, and her husband, Gray Eagle, the “hero,” have been officially married for four days. They have only spent two days together, however, as Gray Eagle has left Alisha to obtain supplies.
When Gray Eagle doesn’t return to her, Alisha wonders what happened.
What she doesn’t know is that Gray Eagle was shot and left for dead by her friend, Powchutu.
There are two reasons he did this:
To punish Gray Eagle for his abhorrent behavior toward Alisha
Powchutu is in love/lust with Alisha.
Alisha believes Powchutu’s lies about why Gray Eagle hasn’t returned, and they set off together.
On their trip, which culminates in St. Louis, Alisha and Powchutu will meet, or meet again, four people who will play a major role in their lives. They are:
Joe Kenny, a white trapper
Jamie O’Hara, a lodgings owne
Mary O’Hara, a mute young woman and niece to Jamie O’Hara
And, sadly, Jeffery Gordon, the evil ex-Army lieutenant who somehow survived the attack on Fort Pierre.
As time goes on, Jeffery blackmails Alisha, threatening great harm to her and Powchutu if she doesn’t marry him. Alisha hedges and Powchutu is killed by Jeffery’s henchmen.
Powchutu’s death pushes Alisha into marrying Jeffery, who makes her life hell on many levels. What neither knows is that Gray Eagle survived his shooting by Powchutu.
Gray Eagle comes to kill Jeffery, finds Alisha, and takes her back to the Oglala camp, subjecting her to more emotional, mental, physical, and sexual abuse along the way.
Despite all of this, by the end of the book, Gray Eagle and Alisha reconcile, as they discover that the bad things they thought about the other were not true. They decide to continue the ruse that Alisha is Shalee, make up with each other, and are happy.
For now, anyway…
When Janelle Taylor is at her best, she ranks with Rosanne Bittner as one of my go-to authors. Mrs. Taylor’s style is lyrical and evocative. she brings her readers and me into the lives of her characters.
I felt as though I were watching the lives of the characters instead of just reading about them. Only the best authors can make me feel like that.
While I understand Gray Eagle’s feelings about what he believes is Alisha’s betrayal of him, that doesn’t defend/excuse/justify the abuse he inflicts on her. “This kind of derails the Gray Eagle Redemption Tour” Mrs. Taylor was on in Defiant Ecstasy.
Much of the rancor between Alisha and Gray Eagle was due to a lack of trust and communication, which they haven’t had since the beginning.
Very little and not terribly exciting. Mrs. Taylor does have a few books which have some spice to them. The first three books in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series are not among them.
There is, however, a lot of violence. Assault, battery, attempted murder, murder, and rape. None of the violence is super graphic, but it’s there.
Bottom Line on Forbidden Ecstasy
The fact that Gray Eagle is still an unrepentant bastard and the “Stockholm Syndrome romance” between Gray Eagle and Alisha keeps me from giving Janelle Taylor’s Forbidden Ecstasy a five-star rating.
Rating Report Card
ALISHA was silk and satin, honey and fire. Never before did the possession of a man fill Alisha with such excitement as when she held her handsome Indian lover in her arms. That she was a white woman living in the red man’s world did not matter. They had promised each other their hearts forever – nothing could keep them apart.
GRAY EAGLE was fierce and gentle, powerful and possessive. He would never forsake his bride of two moons; he would never let her go. But when Alisha awoke to dawn’s first light her bronze-skinned warrior was gone. Her lips were tender from his fiery kisses; her body throbbed from his fierce passion – and still she longed for him. Lost between two worlds, she was desperate and alone. Betrayed by her savage lover, she hungered for their forbidden love!
It’s inevitable that with all the books published each year, a quality book will fall through the cracks. Such is the case with 1986’s Autumn’s Fury by Emma Merritt, a lovely Indian romance. It has a bit of Stockholm Syndrome to it, but not as much as some other books in the genre.
Part One of Autumn’s Fury
Catherine Graystone is an Englishwoman in the late 1500s in what is now North Carolina. She lives with her sister, Ellen, and moved to America after her parents passed away.
Catherine is beautiful, smart-she can read, write and cipher-and strong. She is skilled with bows, arrows, war clubs, etc. These days, she would be referred to as a “tomboy.”
One day while bathing, she is spied upon by Lone Wolf, the hero of the book. Lone Wolf is a war chief of the Scupperongac Indian tribe, whose land borders that of the white settlers that Catherine lives with.
They are immediately attracted to each other. However, they realize there are issues that keep them apart. One day, after one of the settlers kills an Indian maiden, who Lone Wolf was to marry, the settlers make a deal with the Scupperongacs to avoid bloodshed.
Per tribal custom, one settler would become a slave to the Scupperongacs to take the place of the dead maiden. Lone Wolf chooses Catherine as his slave, much to the dismay of her sister. Catherine, trying to avoid a further issue, goes willingly with Lone Wolf.
Part Two of Autumn’s Fury
As time goes on, Catherine becomes more involved with both Scupperongac culture and Lone Wolf and falls in love with him. She also makes friends and is an enemy of another Scupperongac warrior woman, Happy Woman.
There is one other issue separating Catherine and Lone Wolf: his promise to marry a maiden from another tribe, the Lumbroans, to unite their tribes in solidarity against other tribes.
Catherine, coming from white culture, cannot accept the idea of Lone Wolf being married to another woman. She tries to fight her feelings for him, but she loves him too much.
Eventually, the Lumbroan maiden, Little Doe, falls in love with another Scupperongac brave and releases Lone Wolf from his promise, leaving him free to marry Catherine, who is his only love.
The Upside and the Downside
While there are elements of Stockholm Syndrome in this book–at the beginning of her enslavement when Lone Wolf takes Catherine to his tribal village, Catherine objects vehemently, and there are harsh words exchanged between her and Lone Wolf–it’s not really focused on that much.
Instead, both realize early on that they are attracted to each other and love each other. Catherine earns the respect and love of everyone in the Scupperongacs, including Happy Woman, who becomes a friend and ally later on.
If one is a fan of Indian romance, then Autumn’s Fury by Emma Merritt is a good book to own. Catherine and Lone Wolf as opposed to reading a book. That is what makes this book great. Whether it’s a book, movie, or television show, the best of these genres that I enjoy the most are those that make me care about the people I’m reading about or watching.
If I don’t care about the people, then I cannot enjoy what I’m reading or watching. Ms. Merritt made me care about her characters.
A few sex scenes, which were pretty graphic for 1986, when this book was published.
There are a few scenes of violence, especially toward the end of the book, but nothing overly graphic.
Bottom Line on Autumn’s Fury
If one is a fan of Indian romance, then Autumn’s Fury by Emma Merritt is a good book to own.
Rating Report Card
SEED OF DESIRE… Headstrong and beautiful, Catherine Graystone was determined to help establish a settlement in North Carolina despite the danger – especially to her heart. For as innocent as she was, Catherine knew her destiny from the moment she met the Indian Lone Wolf. He aroused her desire with just one kiss that seared her lips and branded her soul. She knew it was wrong to love an Indian warrior, yet Catherine was sure that it would be Lone Wolf who would teach her the joys of forbidden ecstasy…and forever ignite the flames of her love…
FLOWER OF PASSION… Lone Wolf had known many women, but none had captured his heart the way Catherine had…Her auburn hair and ruby lips beckoned him to take her into his arms and her creamy white flesh and twinkling eyes invited his tender caress. Lone Wolf felt an awakening of desire – a hunger that he hadn’t experienced with any of the maidens of his own tribe. He would make Catherine his captive, his slave of love – until she would willingly surrender to the magic of Autumn’s Fury…
I’ve long had a tenuous relationship with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ romances. Shanna is the fourth of her books I’ve attempted to read, but it’s the only one I’ve completed. That’s a net positive in this bodice-ripper-lite‘s column.
Now, did I love it? Love is a strong word. I’d say, overall, it was enjoyable, if a bit long.
The Characters and Setup
Shanna Trahern is the spoiled only child of a wealthy Caribbean planter and widower, “Squire” Orlan Trahern. He’s part of the upstart merchant class and tres riche.
Fortune hunters and noblemen fallen upon hard times seek her hand, but Shanna will have none of them! Why can’t a man love her for who she is, dammit: a haughty, ill-tempered, busty, aqua-eyed blonde with a flawless complexion?
Her doting father has given his beautiful and independent daughter one year in England to choose an appropriate man to marry. Otherwise, he will arrange a marriage for her. Squire Trahern wants grandbabies, dammit! Besides, his daughter could use a husband to tame her wild ways.
Determined to be ruled by no man, Shanna colludes with her servant Pitney to arrange a quickie marriage to some black-sheep gentleman doomed to the hangman’s noose. That way, she’ll have official records she was legally wed. Then she’d return home, a widow in mourning, determined never to remarry.
The man she “chooses” is a bearded wretch convicted of killing a barmaid. Despite his thin, unkempt appearance, the hero has a charm in his hazel-gold eyes.
He’s our hero Ruark Beauchamp. Ruark gave me total Hugh Jackman vibes for some reason, so I was on board.
Shanna promises to make the man’s last days pleasant by moving him to nicer quarters and keeping his belly fed. Instead, the prisoner arrogantly demands the consummation of his marital rights because Shanna is really hot.
She concedes to this, but any dingbat with two brain cells should know she’s full of it. But alas, our hero is besotted from the get-go over Shanna. His brains are in his balls. Ruark’s sole aim in this book is either getting into Shanna’s bed or obtaining vengeance in the form of getting Shanna into his bed!
Ruark is cleaned up, and wouldn’t ya know it? With some food in his stomach, a haircut, a shave, and a wash, Ruark is really hot.
Shanna’s southern girly parts tingle. Ruark eyes Shanna’s northern girly parts making promises of a pleasurable time to come.
The ceremony is performed. Into the carriage and on their way are the newlyweds. But Ruark can’t take it anymore, his lust for her bust overwhelms him, and he takes her. For a couple of humps, he is allowed to experience paradise. Shanna is confused by the fluttering sensations she’s experiencing.
Then the coach stops, and Ruark realizes Shanna had no intention of upholding her side of the bargain. He is taken away, but not without a bitter fight, before presumably being executed.
Shanna spares Ruark not another thought (okay, maybe one or two) and returns home to her father’s island of Los Camellos.
Shanna’s other servant involved in her scheme decides to line his pockets in an even schemier scheme. He substitutes a dead man’s body for Ruark’s and takes him as a slave for Shanna’s father, of course. And wouldn’t ya know it? As Shanna sails home, Ruark is on that same ship.
Soon, to her great dismay, Shanna becomes aware of the new servant’s presence, and so does her father. Ruark never reveals he is Shanna’s legitimate husband (which would have made more sense since Ruark was so eager to get under Shanna’s petticoats).
As the new slave on the job, Ruark impresses the bossman with his engineering skills and–ahem–masterful knowledge of plantations. (It turns out Ruark’s family are wealthy colonial planters related to English nobility. What the hell was Ruark thinking, not contacting them or telling his father-in-law who he was?)
Trahern is so impressed that he gives Ruark special duties with special benefits. The day comes when the slave is dining at the table with the master and his wife—the slave’s wife, that is, not the master’s.
Apparently, Ruark is deep into some heavy roleplay because this slave thing turns him on. When Shanna sees him while riding her horse, he taunts her, and she hits him with her crop.
Instead of reacting violently, as these heroes in ‘rippers would, Ruark only smiles and vows to tame her to his will…
Funny enough, Shanna is viewed as having always gotten her way and in need of the right proper taming. She is a real itchbay, never satisfied with anything.
Everything displeased her, and even the flawlessness of her own beauty, regally gowned in rich ivory satin and costly lace, did not change her mood of discontent.
Ruark cares not. Nothing matters, not freedom, not clearing his name for a crime he didn’t commit, and not returning home. He must have his Shanna!
The give-and-take, push-and-pull between Shanna and Ruark is highly exciting until it reaches its apex. Ruark finally gets his honeymoon!
It seems that Ruark has found his Paradise on Earth. That is until a big misunderstanding sends Shanna into a jealous rage.
Shanna demands he daddy sell Ruark off to pirates… Oh, hell, that’s where this book takes a nosedive.
Let’s just “yada, yada, yada” this okay?
Yada… Nasty stinky pirates…
Yada… Ruark reveals the truth about his identity, and the true identity of other people comes to light.
Yada… And an evil villain named Gaylord gets his in the end.
Shanna realizes she loves Ruark and promises to stop being such a Seaward.
Shanna gives birth to twins, and her papa is happy as can be.
“In your madness you said you loved me,” she murmured shyly.
His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, “You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did.” Her voice was the barest of whispers.
Ruark’s gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. “Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is.”
If Shanna had ended at the 450-page mark–or 325 pages a la Johanna Lindsey–it would have been glorious, a book I’d track down every edition of. I could have easily overlooked the flaws in favor of the positive aspects.
But it keeps going and going—so many fillers. I read a thousand romances from age 12 to 15 of all lengths and could zip through a 1,000-page book per week. Today at 44, I do not have that patience. I have ADHD. I’ve said this before in a review of another book: “The paragraphs are too damn long!”
I’m no enemy of adverbs and adjectives. The world would be a dark place without modifiers. It’s that Woodiwiss didn’t believe in using one or two or three when ten or twelve would suit her better! There are innumerable adverbs, adjectives, adverbs, and dependent clauses.
Let us not forget the effusive purple prose, the poem at the beginning, and the seriousness with which she takes herself. It appeared that Woodiwiss employed every grammatical trick at her disposal.
Shanna is your typical beautiful, cossetted, foot-stamping, won’t-listen-to-reason heroine with eyes that flash in anger, the kind that was so prevalent in old-school romances. Usually, I can’t stand this type because she’s written as “too stupid to live” (which is insulting to women who lived and endured hard times in the past).
I shouldn’t have liked Shanna, the character. For some reason, I did. She was caustic, yet she had a will. She contrived, and she plotted. Shanna tried to control her destiny instead of letting others do it for her.
Author Laura Kinsale wrote in her essay “The Androgynous Reader” about Shanna:
“[A] sillier and more wrongheaded heroine than Shanna would be difficult to imagine… Feminists need not tremble for the reader–she does not identify with, admire, or internalize the characteristics of either a stupidly submissive or an irksomely independent heroine. The reader thinks about what she would have done in the heroine’s place.”
Shanna would qualify as the irksomely independent type. I typically don’t enjoy them, but when contrasting Shanna’s attitude with Ruark’s easy-going nature, it made for a sizzling combination.
So, apologies to Kinsale, but this readerdid “identify with, admire, or internalize” some of Shanna’s characteristics. I’m an outlier, as ever.
Ruark was an enigma. He was charming, handsome, and kind. Ruark was a dreamy hero, but I couldn’t grasp why he was so obsessed with Shanna. He should have been more concerned about his own hide.
First, he’s on death row, about to hang for a murder he did not commit. Then he’s sent overseas in chains to be a plantation slave.
Does he dream about getting free and plotting revenge against those who wronged him? Not really. From the moment he sees her in prison, his primary focus is having Shanna and putting his pee-pee into her wee-wee.
The Cover and More
In 1977 Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ long-awaited third novel made romance history when Avon released Shanna in trade paperback edition. It had a full-stretch green cover, illustrated by H. Tom Hall and designed by Barbara Bertoli. This was one of the first true American clinches. The entire exterior was painted, displaying the couple locked passionately together in a state of undress.
Playboy Press’ This Ravaged Heart by Barabara Riefe also came out in 1977 with a full-page color clinch. But Betty Maxey’s artwork doesn’t compare to Hall’s fabulous cover. Plus, Shanna had a map insert that you could unfold.
Avon heavily promoted this book, running commercial ads on daytime television and in national women’s magazines. It paid off. Shanna sold 3 million copies and was on the NY Times bestseller list for a year.
Shanna was optioned for a film, but negotiations fell through when Woodiwiss couldn’t agree with the producers on the vision. The romance genre might be different if this mild bodice ripper had been brought to the big screen in the 1970s or early 1980s!
Final Analysis of Shanna
I once referred to Shanna as the same book as Catherine Creel’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire romance Passion’s Chains. Creel certainly ripped off Woodiwiss as the main thrusts of the books are almost identical: secret marriage where the husband is a slave on the wife’s island plantation. The two novels deviate midway and then culminate in about the same place.
To be frank, I preferred Passion’s Chains more than I did Shanna, even though I enjoyed both. Perhaps the word count might have something to do with it. Passion’s Chains was 480 pages in a standard-size font. Shanna had teeny-tiny type-face on 666 super-thin pages.
Plotting and pacing matter. There was too much exposition and unnecessary antics in Shanna. In addition, I didn’t OMG love it enough at the beginning to forgive any sins that cropped up in the end, as I would in a fantastic epic book like Stormfire.
Ruark was the book’s high point, a charming, good-natured hero determined to have his woman. However, I did not understand his obsession with Shanna when he should have focused more on clearing his name. Shanna’s a spoiled, petulant brat, although, as I said, I didn’t mind that. I find mean, unlikeable heroines are more palatable than the shy, milk-and-water types or boring blank slates.
Was this a stellar old-school romance I’ll long to re-read? No, although maybe a passage or two might stay with me. However, I am glad I read Shanna. I can finally say I completed a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss romance and liked it!
Now on to The Flame and the Flower!
Rating Report Card
A woman with surging desires of the spirit, the flesh, and the heart…
The only child of an 18th century sugar baron, lovely Shanna Trahern is given a year to find a suitable husband in London or to be married off to a dull planter. Instead, she contrives to marry Ruark Beauchamp, condemned to die for the supposed murder of a barmaid.
Certain her concocted story of a romantic elopement and marriage, followed by Ruark’s accidental death, will satisfy her father, Shanna embarks for home — the lush, intrigue-filled Carribean island of Los Camellos. But unknown to Shanna, her husband has escaped the gallows and under another name is among the bondsmen purchased by her father’s agent. Once home, Shanna is tormented by Ruark’s playful taunts — and his threat to collect “The night of love” she had promised him in prison. But when she is carried off by pirates; Ruark risks his life to save her. Now Shanna must deal with the searing passion the proud, virile Ruark has aroused…
A man burning to possess her in vengeance and in ecstasy…
Kiss of the Night Wind opens with the heroine of the book, Carrie Sue Stover, trying to outrun her past Carrie Sue’s brother, Darby, is the leader of an outlaw gang, which she also ran with.
Tired of looking over her shoulder and worrying about being arrested, jailed, or worse, Carrie Sue decides to take on the persona of Carolyn Sarah Starns, a schoolteacher on her way to Tucson, Arizona.
The real Carolyn was killed in an accident caused by the Stover gang attacking the stagecoach she was on.
As Carrie Sue makes her way to Arizona, the stagecoach she’s on is attacked. Saving her is T.J. Rogue, the hero of the book, who is also going to Arizona. His reasons, however, are different than Carrie Sue’s.
Carrie Sue arrives in Tucson and soon finds herself having to fend off Martin Ferris, a wealthy, lecherous businessman who believes the new schoolmarm owes him more than gratitude. Before she can begin teaching, however, Carrie Sue’s past catches up with her, and she and T.J. are on the run. They also become lovers.
As the book goes along, we learn a great deal about both Carrie Sue and T.J.’s pasts, both of which are filled with tragedy. We also learn that they have a common enemy, evil rancher Quade Harding.
T.J. and Carrie Sue leave Arizona after wanted posters of her emerge. They are pursued by Ferris, who is later killed by T.J. As they make their way to Texas, Carrie Sue becomes suspicious of T.J.; especially since he asks lots of questions about Darby.
Carrie Sue reunites with Darby and discovers that a copycat gang, led by the villain she and Darby are trying to defeat, is committing crimes claiming to be the Stover gang. That gang is led by the man the Stover siblings have been trying to defeat for years.
Carries Sue tries to get Darby to go straight. The efforts fail, and when Darby and most of his gang are captured, Carrie Sue is shot and seriously wounded. After Carrie Sue’s wounding, T.J. fakes her death and plans to take her to Montana and marry her to start a new life.
In the end, the plans change. Carrie Sue and T.J. marry, decide to go to Colorado instead-the reasons are germane to the plot, so I won’t reveal them- and have their Happily Ever After.
Mrs. Taylor has written a book with a strong hero and heroine in T.J. and Carrie Sue, both of whom are well-developed characters. Mrs. Taylor is also a great atmospheric writer; she puts me into her situations with her characters, as opposed to making me feel that I’m simply reading about them.
While Mrs. Taylor is a great situational writer, at times during this book, I felt like she was writing to a word count, as the descriptions went on and on and on.
The bigger issue for me was the fact that there are A LOT of similarities between Kiss of the Night Wind and the book that preceded it, Passions Wild and Free. To wit:
The heroines both have unisex names; in Passions Wild and Free, the heroine’s name was Randee; in Kiss of the NightWind, it’s Carrie Sue.
The heroines believe the heroes–Marshall Logan Jr. in Passions Wild and Free, T.J. Rogue in Kiss of the Night Wind–are simply gunslingers. They’re not. Their childhood backgrounds are slightly different, but their adult lives are very similar to each other.
Both Randee and Carrie Sue were chased from their lives by rich, licentious males who want to possess them, only to find more trouble upon running. Both want revenge against their tormentors, but neither directly gets their revenge.
It is not realistic to expect any artistically inclined person not to ever repeat themselves. Doing it in the very next work you do, however, is not a good look.
I also wasn’t in love with Carrie Sue’s claim that she and Darby were “forced” to become criminals. This is completely a lie. Yes, a lot of bad things happened to the Stover siblings, but they were NOT “forced” into criminal behavior. They CHOSE to become lawbreakers. Claiming noble reasons does not absolve someone from criminal responsibility.
Multiple love scenes between Carrie Sue and T.J. Like all of Mrs. Taylor’s books, the love scenes are more about the feelings engendered during the act rather than the esoterics of the act.
Some “on-screen” shootings, but most of the violence takes place “off-screen”. “Kiss of the Night Wind” is not a violent book.
Kiss of the Night Wind is a good book but has too many issues to be great.
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 retitledJust 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.
Sea Fires, a Zebra Lovegram written by Christine Dorsey, is an exciting pirate romance set in the late 17th century and takes place on the high seas and in the American colonies.
The Characters and the Setup
The heroine is a bookish and feisty Englishwoman, Miranda Chadwick. Her only interests are her microscope–which had specially ground lenses designed by the Leuwenhoek himself–and examining the animalcules of various flora and fauna.
(If I ever have to hear that irritating word “animalcule again,” I swear I will go screaming around like a raging madwoman.)
Our dashing hero is Captain Gentleman Jack Blackstone, who has to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the evil Spanish.
(Sigh, I’ve seen that plot before, many times over. Oh, well. Que sera sera.)
Sea Fires begins with tragedy striking the Blackstone family when Spaniards attack their Port Royal, Carolina settlement, and the parents are killed. As he is beaten and about to be knocked unconscious, Jack sees his younger sister taken prisoner. For 15 years, he yearns for vengeance for his loss.
Fast forward to 1699 in England, as Miranda prepares for a trip across the Atlantic to be with her father. She hasn’t seen him in years as her deceased mother’s family did not approve of him.
Miranda’s father has some shady dealings with Jack; the two are both smugglers. Now he’s under investigation by the Crown, so he convinces Jack to kidnap Miranda for several weeks until the magistrate leaves town. Miranda is such a do-gooder that she wouldn’t think twice about ratting them out and exposing her father’s—and Jack’s–pirate enterprise.
Jack is on the gray side of the law, certainly no villain. Jack is a pirate. However, he was forced into the lifestyle to seek revenge. His soul was destroyed, and he could never hope for a genuinely happy life.
Jack never wanted to be a pirate. He says this over and over so often that…
Gar! I had visions of Jerry Seinfeld in a ruffled white shirt whining repeatedly, “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!”
Miranda battles wits with Jack as they fight their attraction. The sexual tension is high between the two, but it takes a while to heat up.
Meanwhile, Miranda spends much of her time on the ship getting to know the individual men who make up the crew.
These are tough, grizzled sailors with names like Scar, King, and Phin. No, these aren’t criminal buccaneers, just solid, salt-of-the-earth guys who got into a bad situation. They appreciate having an elegant lady on board. Miranda educates them on biology, and they are charmed by her beauty and brains.
Jack keeps himself at a distance, not wanting to fall for the lovely girl when he must focus on… revenge!
Miranda and Jack eventually give in to their desires, but many perilous adventures await them before they can have a HEA.
Final Analysis of Sea Fires
I’ve read Christine Dorsey’s Sea Fires twice; the first time liked it very much. I enjoyed it even more recently this second time, as it was just the right book at the right moment. Last month was a bit crazy, and Sea Fires was a pleasant diversion from it all.
Despite the well-worn setup, this romance is sweetly entertaining. The love scenes were erotic, and a tart sense of humor shone throughout the book. It was funny but a little too cutesy for me to consider it a perfect read.
Sea Fires is the first in a series of a generation of sea-faring Blackstones. I might give those a try. As far as Zebra’s romances go, Christine Dorsey appears to have been one of the more talented authors in their writer’s stable.
Rating Report Card
Spirited, impetuous Miranda Chadwick arrived in the untamed New World prepared for any peril. So when the notorious pirate Jack Blackstone kidnapped her, she was certain she could somehow make the insufferable golden-haired rogue surrender to justice. But Miranda soon found that she was the one surrendering — to the shameless desires that the scoundrel’s bronzed, lean body and demanding caresses ignited … and her own reckless hunger for more!
Jack Blackstone regarded the furious Miranda Chadwick with a triumphant grin. He would hold this feisty wench just long enough to fulfill his secret plans, then he’d toss her back and return to the sea. But he’d reckoned without the temptation that made him fall under the spell of her deep blue eyes, hunger again and again for her meltingly soft, slender body, and yield to an all-consuming passion from which he could never escape!
Divided Heart by Angelica Aimes is typical of the many schlocky bodice rippers that glutted the market in the ’70s and early ’80s.
The heroine goes through so many horrific tragedies–attempted rape, starvation, war, death of loved ones, betrayal, disease, imprisonment, beatings, and whippings–that would make the average woman look like a “faces-of-meth” poster.
However, no matter how battered and bruised, emaciated, lice-infested her hair, and filthy and unwashed she is, there’s always a man who desires her, for she is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is Augusta Raleigh with emerald eyes and raven curls.
Augusta seals her fate on July 4, 1774, when she meets Captain David Glenville of the British army.
The story starts promisingly, as it’s lust at first sight for the Redcoat officer and the Patriot girl.
Then a harsh reality hits: the writing is terrible! Phrases are redundantly repeated, followed by contradictory thoughts in the same sentence. Sometimes conversations are summarized, other times, there’s nothing but dialogue, and you can’t tell what’s going on as scenes blend into one another.
The plot, as convoluted as it is, is interesting.
David is an unapologetic man-slut horndog. He courts Augusta but intends to love her and leave her. His first time with Augusta goes something like this:
David: Hey, baby… I just saved you from being raped. How’s about a little thank you? Augusta: Okey-dokey. David: How’s about I rape you? Augusta: Okey-dokey. Wait… What?
Later Augusta visits him at headquarters and finds him entertaining a woman in bed. Naturally, Augusta leaves in anger. Then a few paragraphs down, he’s seducing her!
David’s a wonderful cad. So it’s unfortunate the couple is separated for a significant portion of this short 346-paged novel–as often occurs in these books.
A Gender Bender of a Bodice Ripper
After a life-changing heartbreak, Augusta is off to war. She disguises herself as a boy, wraps those boobs up tightly, and spends a year (years?) marching and camping with lots of men.
Hmm. What could possibly go wrong with that?
She fights bravely at the Battle of Long Island, killing all Redcoats in her sights, and she saves her best friend, Tad. Young and gay, Tad–like so many men–falls in love with her.
Dressed as a boy, Augusta’s powers of seduction are irresistible. All men are attracted to her: gay, straight, and bisexual. This book was definitely a gender-bending read, and at times Augusta flirts heavily with transgenderism, thinking:
“What will I be? What will I do? I will have destroyed myself as a woman. The gentleness and softness that men find so appealing will be gone. Yet I can never be a man. I will be neither fish nor fowl…”
Part Deborah Samson, part Scarlett O’Hara, part Mata Hari, and part Helen Reddy, Augusta, spends years searching for revenge and love. She experiences the “cruel sexual humiliation of lustful men” (at least, that is what the cover says) before she gets her happy ending.
Final Analysis of Divided Heart
Divided Heart‘s bodice ripper highlights include attempted rape, forced seduction, heroine-dressing-as-a-boy, whippings galore, adult-man-on-teen-female-sex, adult-man-on-teen-male-sex, sex with men besides the hero, oral sex, anal sex…
Yup. Divided Heart is tawdry.
Is it any good? Well, it wasn’t horrible. It had its moments.
Divided Heart waffles between being a tasteless, balls-to-wall bodice ripper and a dry historical lesson of the early battles in the American Revolution.
Angelica Aimes wasn’t skilled enough to pull off the history part. She should have stuck to what she was good at, the trashy side. Apparently, after writing bodice rippers, Aimes wrote several novelizations of The Young The Restless, which about sums it up.
I’m not knocking soaps. As a youngun, I watched them all, Y&R included. I remember plots from 40 years ago, like Lauren being buried alive by that crazy wacko and then losing her and Paul’s baby (I am old.)
Divided Heart, at times, feels rushed, more like a summary of scenes than an actual narrative tale. Significant events are glossed over. Scenes transition oddly. It’s just a mess.
I can overlook lousy writing if the plot is to my liking. In this case, sort of.
Despite being horribly written, Divided Heart is not without a sleazy bit of charm. It entertained.
Rating Report Card
MY ENEMY, MY LOVE In 1774, Augusta Raleigh is a southern belle with her father’s fiery temper and her mother’s dark beauty, and she’s easy prey to the charms of a handsome British officer. But when war is declared, headstrong Augusta is hopelessly divided between her broud Virginian family and the dashing Redcoat captain…
Torn from her lover’s side, Augusta will be condemned as a traitor, despised by the Colonists and distrusted by the British. She will know the cruel sexual humiliations of lustful men, and she will flee the ravaged battlefields of home for the sophisticated salons of Paris. But her wild, warring heart will not know peace until she is reunited with the one man who is both her country’s enemy and her greatest love.