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Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1984
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 574
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penelope Neri is one of the more versatile authors I’ve read from Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Neri’s first two books were set in England in the 1700s. Her third book was set in 19th-century Hawaii. Her fourth, Hearts Enchanted, takes place in Medieval England in the 13th century.

For the most part, the books have worked, some better than others. Hearts Enchanted is one of Penelope Neri’s “better than others.”

The Plot

Hearts Enchanted begins with an introduction to the hero, Brian Fitzwarren, a part-French, part-English, part Welsh Lord. He is gifted by King Edward I with land called Striguil, which is on the border between England and Wales. It is there that Brian meets the heroine, Lady Maegan Ruthven.

Brian actually doesn’t meet Maegan, he spies on her bathing and immediately becomes attracted to her, despite the fact that their people are at war with each other. This comes to a head when Maegan’s father and three brothers are captured making war against an English Lord. King Edward I summons Maegan and gives her an ultimatum. She must marry Brian or her male relatives will be killed. Naturally, Maegan agrees to the marriage, although she hopes to leave Brian eventually.

As their marriage goes on, Maegan and Brian are in lust with each other–they’re clearly sexually attracted to each other–but they don’t want to fall in love, as both have been hurt by lost loves. Maegan’s fiancee died. Brian was betrayed by the woman he previously loved, who married his stepbrother for power and wealth. Maegan and Brian also don’t trust each other because of their ethnic backgrounds and Maegan’s belief that Brian is unfaithful to her. He’s not, by the way.

The woman Maegan believes Brian is having an affair with, Lady Moina, is his cousin. She is trying to help Brian regain his rightful title and lands from his evil stepmother, stepbrother, and faithless ex-fiancee. Eventually, Brian regains his lands, title, and most importantly, the love of Maegan as they realize that they truly do love each other, and that overcomes their initial hatred and mistrust of the other person.

The Upside

Hearts Enchanted is a good book, with lots of chemistry.

The Downside

There are some formulaic parts. Namely the fact that, once again, Ms. Neri puts the heroine in peril when she has to be rescued by the hero. This is something that happens in virtually every one of Ms. Neri’s books. This is rather annoying as her female characters are pretty strong women mentally. Yet they always seem to be dumb enough to get into a perilous situation that they need their men to get them out of.

Sex

Quite a few semi-hot sex scenes, but none approach erotica.

Violence

There are a few violent moments, but none too graphic.

Bottom Line on Hearts Enchanted

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri is a nice book for those who like medieval romance. 

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

PASSIONS ENFLAMED
The moment Lord Brian Fritzwarren saw the saucy, slender wench bathing in the river he could not staunch his desire. Her fresh, sun-warmed skin beckoned for his touch. Her flawless, seductive face invited him to rain fiery kisses along her delicate curves. That she was his enemy’s daughter no longer mattered. The masterful lord resolved that somehow he would claim the irresistible beauty as his own.

WILLS ENTHRALLED
While she frolicked in the sparkling water, tawny-haired Maegan felt she was being watched… then she met the smoldering gleam in Brian’s smoke gray eyes. Her cheeks flushed with shame—but her blood pounded hotly in her veins as he boldly gazed upon her body. Shivering with fear and delight, Maegan fought what she instinctively knew: she could never let herself love her foe, but their paths would forever be entwined, their lives entangled, their HEARTS ENCHANTED.

Hearts Enchanted by Penelope Neri
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,

***

Captive Heart phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

historical romance review
Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 526
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn, a Zebra Lovegram historical romance novel.

The Plot

Captive Heart takes place at an undetermined point in history. It is here that Celiese d’Loganville is a slave to Olgerthe Torvald, the pampered daughter of Raktor Torvald, a brutal Viking warlord.

As the book begins, Aldread Valdahl, whose family hates the Torvalds, offers a truce to Raktor. Aldread’s son, Mylan, will marry Olgerethe and end the feud between the families.

Olgerethe refuses to go along with the plan; she will not marry Mylan due to his being disfigured after a fight with a bear. She convinces Celiese to marry Mylan in her place.

When Celiese meets Mylan, she discovers, despite his disfigurement, that he is a very handsome man. They soon marry and enjoy their wedding night.

The next day, however, Raktor tries to kill the couple.

Mylan believes that Celiese knew of the pending attack and grows to hate her. This leads to Mylan spending the next part of the book emotionally and mentally abusing Celiese, calling her his slave, among other derogatory statements. He does offer Celiese a lifeline, however, telling her that if she kills the bear that maimed him, he will set her free. Celiese sets out to do just that, although she doesn’t actually end the bear’s life–Mylan does–she does wound the bear, and Mylan sets her free.

Celiese goes back to Mylan’s family, but this creates further problems. One of Mylan’s younger brothers, Hagen, is in love/lust with Celiese, and later, one of Olgerethe’s brothers, Oluf, tries to rape Celiese. Mylan kills him, but with the other Torvald brothers vowing revenge–and his own father helping them–Mylan and Celiese head to France.

Upon arriving in France, Celiese discovers her mother, Marie, is alive. Their reunion doesn’t go well, however, when Marie discovers that Celiese is married to Mylan, a hated Viking. Celiese plans to get her family’s land back from the Danish invader Hrolf, now known as Robert, who obtained the land from King Charles. Celiese’s plan does not go well.

After being imprisoned by Robert, Mylan rescues her. He does so by claiming to renounce his Danish heritage, agreeing to become a Christian, and marrying Celiese again. This second marriage, however, does not solve all of the issues between them.

By the end of the book, both Celiese and Mylan realize that they do love each other and put those feelings into words that help them find their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Celiese. She endures unspeakable cruelty from virtually all the males in her life, but she remains strong. That’s a great quality to have.

The Downside

For the first third of the book, Mylan is a total bastard. He inflicts intentional emotional and mental cruelty upon Celiese. Yes, she lied to him in the beginning, but that doesn’t justify his treatment of her.

Most of the time, Celiese doesn’t think through her actions, leading her to get into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations

With the exception of Celiese’s stablehand, Andre, there isn’t a likable male in Captive Heart.

Sex

The love scenes in Captive Heart are more about the emotions of the act than the esoterics.

Violence

It is mentioned that Celiese was treated brutally by Raktor and his sons. Later, Celiese is assaulted several times. The violence described is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Captive Heart

Phoebe Conn’s take on “Beauty and the Beast” is far from classic. Captive Heart is somewhere around a 1-star book.

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
1
Cover
4
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

BOUND BY PLEASURE
Celiese, the lovely slave girl, gasped when her betrothed emerged from the shadows. She had been secretly sent in her mistress’s place to wed the much-feared Mylan. But instead of the cruel savage she had expected, he was a magnificently handsome warrior. His cool topaz gaze unnerved her. The fire in his touch sent shivers of unfamiliar desire down her spine. And the sweet madness of his burning kiss as he trapped her within an iron embrace made her forget her past, abandon all reason, and surrender herself–if only for one night–to the pleasures of passion’s fire.

BRANDED BY PASSION
Mylan stared in astonishment at the woman before him. Instead of the spoiled, pampered innocent he had expected, she was a radiant silver-blonde beauty. The hot flush of her cheeks disarmed him; the flame in the emerald depths of her eyes aroused him. Gathering her into his arms, he silenced her startled protest with a slow, wanton kiss and awakened her supple flesh with tender, searching caresses. He would teach her the secrets of passion, take her to ecstasy’s searing heights, and forever possess her Captive Heart.

Captive Heart by Phoebe Conn

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,
hearts-aflame-duillo

Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hearts Aflame is a notable Johanna Lindsey historical romance for a few reasons.

Back in June 1987, John Le Carre, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Robert Ludlum, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek were on the NY Times Weekly Bestseller list for paperbacks. Also in the top ten? Jude Deveraux’s The Raider and Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame at #3.

Spy thrillers, mysteries, science & women’s fiction were always big hits, but for many years, it was hard to see more than one romance novel numbering near the top. With her 14th book, Lindsey was on a roll, writing blockbuster romance after blockbuster romance.

Readers of this blog and fans of Lindsey might be familiar with Hearts Aflame, as it contains two hallmarks of her books. First (no longer was Robert McGinnis illustrating) was “The Queen of Romance Covers” herself, Elaine Duillo painting the artwork.

Second, this book featured romance supermodel Fabio posing for the clinch. This was one of–if not the–first romance front cover for the Italian-born hunk.

The Background

Hearts Aflame by Johanna Lindsey is the sequel to her third book, the bodice ripper Fires of Winter. In it, the beautiful Welsh Lady Brenna finds her life torn asunder when Vikings raid her home.

They kill all the men and take the women captive. Brenna is given as a prize to the Viking chief’s son, Garrick.

After a very rocky beginning, Garrick and Brenna find love together.

The heroine of Hearts Aflame, Kristen, is their daughter. She is as fierce and strong as both her parents.

The Plot

With her many Viking brothers and cousins, young Kristen has always desired an adventure as they claimed to have experienced. In search of action, she stows away on their raiding ship.

The raid is a failure when the Vikings are beaten and taken hostage by the Saxons, led by the arrogant Thane Royce.

Kristen is dressed as a male, and her kinsmen guard her true identity. But soon, the nature of her sex is discovered by Royce. Royce forces her to serve as his personal house slave. He places Kristen in chains when she refuses and finds her will is unbreakable.

From there on, the relationship between Royce and Kristen is a power play of master and slave, captor and captive, man and woman.

Kristen is not a simpering dame, as her actions prove. Although Royce is a powerful leader and tries to master her, it’s she who proves to be the real mistress.

Speaking of mistresses, Royce has one; a rare instance in a Lindsey romance where the hero beds the other woman. But no fear, her simpering nature proves no match for Kristen’s fierce one.

Some evildoers would see Kristen and Royce fall, but Royce shouldn’t worry when Kristen is on his side. She has no qualms about threatening Saxon lords and ladies and can back up her words with fighting skills.

Of course, Kristen and her fellow Vikings are to be avenged by her people, and this leads to a dramatic ending where her parents show up to save them.

Final Analysis of Hearts Aflame

Hearts Aflame is a solid Johanna Lindsey romance, perhaps not in my personal top-tier, but it still was a blast to read.

Kirsten has all the warrior skills of her mother, with her father’s stubborn temper.

Royce is sexy enough, even though Kirsten steals the show. But it’s fun to imagine him looking like Fabio since he was the first Lindsey hero painted by Elaine Duillo.

Fans of Kirsten’s older brother, Selig, will be happy to read his story in Surrender, My Love, the conclusion to Lindsey’s “Haardrad Viking Trilogy.”

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

Kristen Haardrad met the icy fury in her captor’s crystal-green gaze with defiance. She was the prisoner of Royce of Wyndhurst, but his slave she’d never be. This powerful Saxon lord had at last met his match in the Viking beauty – his equal in pride, in strength…and in the fierce, hot hunger of insatiable desire. But Kristen could not know the torment that divided his soul; how he ached to hold her soft, supple body, thirsted for the ringing joy of her laughter – yet hated her for an ancient crime that was not her own.

But her golden loveliness drives him mad with desire, her fiery eyes taunting him, compelling him to claim her. Until, in wordless surrender, they cast aside the shackles of doubt and distrust to unite forever in the searing promise of all-consuming love.

HEARTS AFLAME by JOHANNA LINDSEY

Links

PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: JUNE 7, 1987

List Fiction:

  • 1 A PERFECT SPY, by John le Carre. (Bantam, $4.95.) The tale of a British secret agent and his father, a flamboyant con man.
  • 2 BARRIER ISLAND, by John D. MacDonald. (Fawcett, $4.50.) One man’s effort to thwart a multimillion-dollar land swindle.
  • 3 * HEARTS AFLAME, by Johanna Lindsey. (Avon, $3.95.) A beautiful captive becomes the captor of a handsome thane in the age of the Vikings.
  • 4 ACT OF WILL, by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Bantam, $4.95.) Three generations of talented, ambitious women in England and New York.
  • 5 THE GOOD MOTHER, by Sue Miller. (Dell, $4.95.) A woman’s attachment to her daughter becomes a consuming passion.
  • 6 TAMING A SEA-HORSE, by Robert B. Parker. (Dell, $4.50.) Spenser tracks a young woman through the seamy byways of a pleasure empire.
  • 7 THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Del Rey/Ballantine, $4.95.) Mankind’s first encounter with life in a paradisaical world.
  • 8 THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, by Robert Ludlum. (Bantam, $4.95.) A plot to seize Hong Kong and bring China into conflict with the West.
  • 9 THE RAIDER, by Jude Deveraux. (Pocket, $3.95.) Rebels, Red Coats, and love in colonial New England.
  • 10 DREAMS OF THE RAVEN, by Carmen Carter. (Pocket, $3.50.) In this Star Trek novel, Captain Kirk faces a nightmarish enemy. 

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , ,
white lions lady

Historical Romance Review: White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)

historical romance review
White Lion's Lady by Lara Adrian, Tina St. John
Rating: five-stars
Published: 2001
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Ivy Books
Book Series: The Warrior Trilogy #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

White Lion’s Lady is book 1 in “The Warrior Trilogy” by Lara Adrian. This medieval historical romance was originally published by Adrian under her real name, tina St. John in 2001. The book was released in digital format several times in the previous decade.

The Plot

Part 1 of White Lion’s Lady

White Lion’s Lady begins in 1179 with the heroine, Isabel de Lamere, age 8, running in tears from a party after being made fun of. Isabel–or Izzy as she is known then–goes into the woods, gets lost, and is attacked by a wild boar. Griffin of Droghallow, the hero, saves her life. He kills the boar, and Izzy falls in love with him.

Fast-forward 10 years. Isabel is now 18. She had been sent to a convent after her father was tried and executed as a traitor to the Crown. Her mother was exiled to her native France.

Now King Richard of Plantagenet summons Isabel to marry Sebastian of Montborne, a man she has never met.

And she may not because–unbeknownst to her–Isabel is slated to be kidnapped by Griffin by order of his foster brother, Dominic of Droghallow. The rationale behind the abduction is that the Earl of Montborne is a hated rival of Dominic’s.

It is only when Griffin takes Isabel back to Droghollow and she sees Dominic again that Isabel realizes who Griffin is. Although she still doesn’t know why she was kidnapped.

The reason Griffin agreed to do Dominic’s dirty work is that Dominic has promised him money to go away and live his own life. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Dominic has no plans to pay Griffin. And Dominic won’t let him leave Droghollow alive.

Once Griff realizes he’s being played, he schemes to take Isabel and take her to Montborne. The plan almost works. Griff gets himself and Isabel off Dominic’s land, but Isabel brains him and tries to escape.

white lions lady lara adrian

Part 2 of White Lion’s Lady

This freedom is short-lived, as Griff soon finds her. It may be even more short-lived. Now, as Dominic is aware that Griff and Isabel are gone, he has put a price on both of their heads.

As they travel to Montborne, Griff and Isabel start to fall in love with each other, but each fights their attraction. Griff is a man without a home and doesn’t know who he truly is. Isabel is a woman betrothed to another, bound by honor. She has reasons to marry a man she’s never met, namely to save her younger sister, Maura, age 8.

Dominic has placed bounties on both their heads. His men are now aware of their traveled path and are getting closer to them.

When Isabel agrees to go with Father Aldon to Montborne instead of with Griffin, they argue. This culminates in Griffin stalking off and leaving Isabel to leave with the priest. What Isabel doesn’t know is Father Aldon has no inclination to take her to Montborne. Instead, he’s taking her to another of King Richard’s cronies, Prince John of Lackland.

Griffin discovers the plot before Isabel does. He is captured but manages to escape. As he tries to rescue Isabel from her captors, she is shot. An arrow meant for Griffin pierces her.

Isabel’s wound becomes infected, so Griffin takes her to a monastery to hopefully get some aid. The monks help Isabel recovers. However, being there brings them closer to the fact that Griffin has to let Isabel go to Montborne.

Yet that is easier said than done. Isabel and Griffin nearly consummate their relationship before finally giving in. They make love twice.

lara adrian

Part 3 of White Lion’s Lady

Now, they have more problems to deal with when Sebastian, the Earl of Montborne, arrives at the monastery to take Isabel as his bride. Isabel doesn’t know that Montborne arrived due to a message Griffin sent him.

Griffin is trying to do the right, honorable thing, even though he knows in his heart that he and Isabel will be devastated beyond belief by that action. Later, Griffin is arrested by Montborne’s guards and is taken to the earl’s castle to stand trial.

When they arrive at Montborne, Sebastian deduces that Isabel and Griffin are in love. He questions Griffin about it.

Griffin doesn’t deny it, but he is willing to leave Isabel with Montborne because of his honor. He loves her.

Then there is a shocking twist in the tale. Sebastian’s mother, Lady Joanna Montborne, finds an amulet that Griffin gave to Isabel, which sets off a chain of events. This leads to Griffin’s release from prison as all charges of a crime are dropped.

Shortly after his release, he learns of the stunning revelation. Griffin leaves Montborne and heads back to Droghollow. His goal is to confront and kill Dominic for his treachery. Griffin asks Sebastian to marry Isabel in the event that he doesn’t return.

Later, a wedding takes place. The wedding is not for Isabel and Sebastian but for Isabel and Griffin. The pair bring Maura to live with them, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Why did Sebastian give up Isabel to Griffin? Did Griffin kill Dominic?

For the answers to these questions, you’ll have to read the book.

The Upside

The romance in White Lion’s Lady is exquisite. The characters are fully developed. Their emotional depth is so deep that I felt as though I was looking at actual lives as opposed to reading a book.

The Downside

There is absolutely nothing bad to say about White Lion’s Lady.

Sex

There are two love scenes. In the first, Griffin and Isabel nearly consummate their love but stop. Then they eventually do. Both scenes are spectacular: not erotica, but lovely and beautiful.

Violence

In addition to an arrow intended for Griffin harming Isabel instead, there are other incidents of violence. Humans and animals are both killed in the book. The violence is not overly graphic.

Bottom Line on White Lion’s Lady

For anyone who loves historical or medieval romance, White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John) is an absolute keeper. I highly recommend it.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

She was promised to another
Abducted on the way to her wedding, heiress Isabel de Lamere is unaware that the scoundrel planning to use her for his own gain is the cherished champion of her childhood: Griffin, the White Lion. Yet even as she discovers his treachery, Isabel cannot deny that Griffin lingers in her dreams, awakening the passion in her steadfast heart.

He was nobody’s hero
Then a twist of fate puts a price on both their heads, embroiling them in a life-and-death chase that will force Griffin to choose between his own freedom and his fierce desire for the woman who would redeem his noble spirit. But to reclaim his lost honor, the White Lion could lose Isabel forever. . . .

White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian (aka Tina St. John)
defy not the heart

Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

For a while–except for maybe Jude Deveraux–there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s to 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.

Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar

During this time period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 10 to 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that, with a few exceptions, were all fun reads. Many rank among my most beloved romances.

For sure, they were not always the best written, rambling on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Usually, I wanted to strangle the heroines for their stubbornness and TSTL tendencies.

Even so, I loved her plots involving kidnapping and forced marriages. They featured overbearing, handsome men who would treat their heroines like crap one minute, then make passionate love to them and brush their hair as after-play.

I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!

The Plot

In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.

Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.

Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.

A marriage of convenience takes place, then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.

I’ve read others complain about how little interaction Ranulf and Reina have with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.

The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.

After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.

There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).

Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.

defy-not-the-heart-

The Wonderful Characters

Ranulf

Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.

But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.

As the illegitimate son of a noble lord Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.

Reina

Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.

She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.

Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”

Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.

“That feline rodent farted in my face!”

A Marriage of Convenience

I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.

Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.

Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.

I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed.  Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice, not set it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.

The results of his lessons are… memorable. 

My Opinion

There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.

Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.

If, like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!

Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?

And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.

Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.

There’s that female model who’s always posing alongside Fabio (Lianna Loggins, I think), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.

She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!

Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart

Along with Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!

Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and simply appreciate the ride.

Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, have a blast reading about two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey. 

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY
the kings pleasure

Historical Romance Review: The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake

historical romance review
The King's Pleasure by Shannon Drake, Heather Graham
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1996
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Book Series: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 382
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Shannon Drake‘s (aka Heather Graham) The King’s Pleasure is set amid the intense medieval backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death. It’s a solid romance in a historical age that always grips my attention.

theking'spleasurecover

Captive of The King

The story begins with a prologue. The heroine, Danielle, is hiding from her husband in an inn as he searches for her. He’s under the impression that she’s there to have a tryst with a fellow Frenchman. Her husband is a Scottish knight, Adrien MacLachlan, who’s pledged to the English King. Danielle is not there to have an assignation with another man. However, she is there against her husband and his King’s wishes.

Adrien confronts Danielle, and the two have a fiery argument that ends in them making love. They look back at the stormy past that preceded this encounter.

Thus we’re flung back nineteen years prior. King Edward III of England is laying siege to Aville in France. The castle is defended by the resident Countess Lenore and her retinue. A young page, our hero, Adrien, at age 10, discovers a weak point in the walls. This allows the English King to breach it. King Edward takes triumphant control of the castle. He also takes the Countess as his captive back to England after enjoying a few nights of passion with her.

The brief yet intense affair culminates in a pregnancy. Lenore is returned to France, along with their daughter Danielle, as Edward’s vassal. Danielle grows to be more beautiful than her mother. When her mother dies years later, she is made the King’s ward and placed under his absolute control.

Torn between two worlds, the temperamental and fiercely independent Danielle finds it difficult to adjust.

Wed By the King’s Command

As time passes, events form a path to our protagonists’ destinies. On several occasions, Danielle meets Adrien, now fully grown and made a knight. Danielle finds him arrogant and unlikeable. Dislike turns into hatred when she discovers it was he who enabled Edward to take her beloved home. Adrien thinks Danielle is shrewish and detestable.

The King plans to give Danielle’s hand in marriage to Adrien in gratitude for all of Adrien’s victories in battle. Adrien, on the other hand, would prefer Lady Joanna, the daughter of an Earl.

The onset of the Bubonic Plague will change things drastically. Both Danielle and Joanna suffer from the horrific disease, although only one of them makes it out alive.

Danielle finds herself an unwilling pawn in the game of royalty. She is forced to obey the King’s order to marry her enemy Adrien MacLachlan. Danielle hates him for political and personal reasons and vows she always will. While Danielle believes she has a duty to serve the French King, how can she do so? Especially now that she’s bound to a man under service to the English crown?

Intrigue, betrayal, passion, and romance mark the rest of the book. Danielle and Adrien are a fiery combination despite their antagonism toward each other (or, more likely, because of it). Their love-making is explosive. How can they reconcile their differences while war rages on, both literally and figuratively, within their hearts?

Final Analysis of The King’s Pleasure

As I always find when reading medieval romances I enjoy, it’s the history that draws me in. I appreciated the attention to detail and authenticity of the time period. Shannon Drake’s writing is strong. She excels in writing love scenes. The road to getting the actual love was a rocky one, however. Danielle and Adrien enjoy fighting for fighting’s sake. It seemed to act as a sexual stimulant for the two!

I also could have done without Adrien’s back story of his engagement to another woman. Fortunately, he didn’t dwell over much on the loss of his first love, as Shannon Drake/ Heather Graham has made her heroes do in the other books.

Besides being stubborn and misguided, Danielle and Adrien were well-matched, and their HEA was believable. I can imagine them spending many years within their castle walls arguing and then quickly patching matters up for wild make-up sex.

4.24 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis

From the bestselling author of Tomorrow the Glory comes a captivating new novel that sweeps from Scotland’s untamed highlands to the Tower of London and war-torn France. Here is the powerful story of two people destined to love in a divided land.

Danielle D’Aville, the ward of Edward III, was sworn to obey the King’s order to marry her enemy Adrien MacLachlan, the legendary Scot who masterminded the fall of Danielle’s beloved home, Aville. Suddenly she was the arrogant knight’s reluctant wife, pledged to a marriage neither desired. But swept off to his castle in the Scottish highlands, and into his strong embrace, Danielle was soon possessed by a raging passion for the husband she had vowed to despise.

The King’s Pleasure by Shannon Drake
the lord of hawkfell island

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

historical romance review
The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Viking Lords Series #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 403
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

WARNING: CONTENT AND MILD SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her so-called romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.

The Plot

Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him. Their Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child.

Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rorik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”

I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar.

I detested him so much that I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.

Rorik kidnaps Mirana as a hostage, not out of lust, but because he’s on the boys’ team and Mirana’s on the girls’ team, and boys are supposed to torment icky girls because boys rule and girls drool.

Rorik, The Viking Philosopher

Although externally Rorik has the appearance of a strong, 30-something Viking warrior, his demeanor is that of a gangly 10-year-old-boy who’s on the verge of adolescence. He thinks girls are gross and stupid, yet gets a weird, tingly feeling whenever a particular one is around.

So instead of reacting like a mature, well-adjusted male to that particular sow (or female) who gets him hornt up, our hero spouts insults like:

“I told you that my men really have no interest in you. You’re skinny, not at all appetizing. A man would have to be starving for a woman before he would turn his eyes to you.”

Saying mean things to Mirana alone wouldn’t merit Rurik a place at the Big Pigs’ table, though. Sure, he gets naked and bathes in front of her, taunting her in an “I-know-you-want-me-but-you-cannot-have-me-so-look-at-how-hot-I-am” sort of way. That’s cute.

He also threatens to sic his dog on her:

 “I’ll have my dog kill you. He’s vicious. He protects me and my island.”

Rorik accuses Mirana of incest (and being damn good at it): 

“Do you lust after him, your own kin? Is that why you’re still unwed? Perhaps he has already bedded you. You aren’t young, after all. Does he hold you above his other whores?”

He chains her up with heavy iron links–no cloth under the metal to protect her skin–and keeps her that way for days on end, deprives her of food, beats her, and neglects her. Later he gets more brutally physical, punching Mirana in the jaw, stepping on her throat, and whipping her!

So, to sum up: Rorik abducts Mirana, tells her she’s so ugly no man would sleep with her, except her brother, of course, threatens her with murder and rape, abuses her, tortures her, and spouts Schwarzenneggerian brilliance as:

“The man rules. It is he who protects the woman, he who provides shelter and food for her. It is his right to bed with a bear if he wishes to. It is I who am the lord here, and all obey!”

He’s a beast, all right. Well, charisma goes a long way, thank goodness.

Alas, Rorik has zero charisma to back up his nasty demeanor.

So What’s To Like?

Then, why didn’t I one-star this book if the hero is so loathsome?

For one thing, Mirana gives back as good as she can. She’s a solid character who deserves a better man. How about her evil brother? 😉

And second, it’s kind of funny if you can disassociate from it all. Rorik is so childlike in his hatred for Mirana. I’m surprised he didn’t wipe his boogers on her or play “I’m not touching you” with his finger hovering an inch from her face.

Sure the guy’s a looker, and he’s lord of an island, but with his protozoan personality, who wants him?

Sleeping with Rorik would be akin to doing it with Colleen McCullough’s “Tim,” inhabited by the spirit of “South Park”‘s Eric Cartman on D-Bal Max.

(SO WRONG)

+

(SO VERY WRONG!)

X

(AND ON STEROIDS!!)

Sisterly Love

Ultimately, what pulls this book together has nothing to do with romance. It’s all due to Mirana and a supporting cast of female characters who forge a strong network of relationships They help each other grow and thrive in a world that’s brutal and unfair.

On the one hand, we have Rorik and his dopey gang of followers with their collective IQ & EQs of (I’ll be generous) 105.

On the other hand, we have the Hawkfell Island women’s team.

The central theme is all about “The Battle of the Sexes.”

Caring for Mirana is a servant woman, Utta, married to one of Rorik’s men. A beautiful yet simple slave girl named Entti is treated as a bounce house for the Vikings to play with, and she gets no respect. The women unite to get back at the men in ways they can, like giving them inedible food and refusing sex.

After a while, the men determine that Mirana’s behind the women’s uppitiness. Rorik attempts to rein her in. He decides he will marry Mirana and control her through force of will.

Mirana, for some reason, develops feelings for the Neanderthal.

At last, Rorik and Mirana share something in common: love for Rorik. INow, there’s a match made in Valhalla!

When the men get fed up with the women’s antics, they threaten Mirana with all kinds of bodily harm. Rorik does nothing to stop it.

He spouts perplexing threats like: “I will rape you if you force me” when Mirana refuses him his marital rights.

By The Lord of Hawkfell Island’s conclusion, Rorik and Mirana are paired off… because that’s what a romance demands. Rorik remains the same unfeeling brute he was in the beginning.

Final Analysis of The Lord of Hawkfell Island

The kindest, most intimate thing Rorik says to Mirana is:

“You are very nice,” he said forcing his eyes back to her face. “You are pleasing to me.”

If that’s enough to spark your interest, and you have a perverse curiosity to observe an exaggerated caricature of a supreme male chauvinist pig in action, while a crew of much savvier women maneuvers social politics and gender roles, then by all means, take a gander at this book.

Whatever “this” is, that Catherine Coulter wrote.

On a certain level, The Lord of Hawkfell Island is fascinating. I wouldn’t call it a romance, though.

2.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
2
Cover
1.5
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

Rorik is a Viking warrior, as fierce and savage as the North Sea during the winter solstice. Mirana is a Viking woman who loves birds, is more ingenious than most men, and loyal down to her toes. Her life changes utterly one fateful day when Rorik and his men come to Clontarf, a Viking fortress on the eastern coast of Ireland, to kill her half-brother. But she is the one taken as hostage to use as a pawn against him.

Rorik is the Lord of Hawkfell, an island off the east cost of Britain. The moment he brings his captive home, it seems that everything begins to fly out his control. The women are out to teach the men a lesson with the result that food is rank, Rorik’s family is out for Mirana’s blood, a murderer is on a loose, and a huge mongrel, Kerzog, dotes not only on his master but also on his master’s captive.

Rorik and Mirana are two strong-willed people, ardent in their opinions, who will have you rooting for both of them equally.

THE LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND by CATHERINE COULTER
hearts of fire gulbronson

Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #3
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Audiobook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills

CONTENT & SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills is a great medieval romance that fell a bit short of being flawless.

This book is a more satisfying sequel to the first installment of Mills’ medieval romance series, Lady of Fire, than its second outing, Fire and Steel, was.

A Fitting Sequel to a Masterpiece Romance

Fire and Steel saw Catherine de Brione, the beloved daughter of Lady of Fire‘s Roger and Eleonor, find love with Guy of Rivaux.

Guy was the pure-hearted bastard son of the demonic Robert of Bellesme. Bellesme was the unforgettable charismatic villain of the first two books who had an obsessive but somehow noble love for Eleonor. Bellesme stole the show in those novels, so magnetic was his character.

In Hearts of Fire, the male protagonist is Richard of Rivaux, grandson of Robert Bellesme and his beloved Eleonor. Richard is a fascinating and complicated hero. He has his grandfather’s darkness but is not consumed totally by evil. He kills for his woman, yet he’s a tender lover. In another book, Richard could have been a villain. In this story, he’s the hero, and a wonderful one at that. His multi-faceted personality makes Richard almost as intriguing as his grandfather.

Forbidden Love

Gilliane de Lacey is orphaned, and her brother is dead. When Richard’s forces surround Gillaine’s home, she thinks it’s a siege and does what she can to defend her fortress home. To her shock, it is not an enemy but a friend of her brother who has arrived. An enraged Richard is prepared to butt heads with the fool who ordered the attack. Then he finds himself confronted with the beautiful Gilliane. His world is torn asunder.

Richard is from a wealthy, powerful family. Although he bristles under his father’s authority, he is duty-bound to wed a noblewoman with whom his father has arranged a marriage. Gilliane, as the mere sister to a simple knight, is part of the vassal class. Despite their obstacles, Gilliane and Richard are drawn together and cannot deny their love.

The Few Flaws

The forbidden romance between Richard and Gilliane de Lacey is stellar… When they’re together, that is.

I would have given this book 5 stars if not for the long separation when the heroine is married to some beast of a man who rapes and abuses her. It added nothing to the story. I can see that Mills was trying to parallel Lady of Fire with this plot, as in that tale, the heroine was captured and violated by the villain.

But it doesn’t work here, as Robert Bellesme was such an integral part of Lady of Fire. Meanwhile, the abusive other man is relatively unimportant to the overall picture. The long section when Gilliane was paired off with him seemed like filler for this 431-paged book.

Final Analysis of Hearts of Fire

The moments when Hearts of Fire shines are when Richard is around. He is Bellesme, with none of the baby-killing, mother-fucking, or father-killing baggage.

I loved Bellesme in Lady of Fire. Despite his thoroughly wicked behavior, he was complex and charismatic. I wished Robert could have had a bit of happiness and love.

Through his grandson Richard and Richard’s epic romance with a woman beneath his class, this achievement is fulfilled. Anita Mills is such a riveting author, I can’t wait to finish this series.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis

Gilliane de Lacey’s pride is as fiery as her hair. In the face of a command from the King of England himself, she refused to wed a lord she despises. The one man she does want, Richard of Rivaux, is honor-bound to wed another, even though his passion for her has become a burning need.
 
Defying death to rescue Gilliane from the royal wrath, Richard draws his love into the perilous swirl of conflict between England and Normandy. Against this dramatic backdrop, Gilliane and Richard know that nothing will ever stop them from risking it all for love, and giving all to desire.

Hearts of Fire by Anita Mills
An Offer of Marriage

Historical Romance Review: An Offer of Marriage by Jo Ann Ferguson Review

An Offer of Marriage, Jo Ann Ferguson, Zebra, 1999, cover artist unknown, John Desaalvo cover model

WARNING: RANT ALERT ⚠

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Goodbye Old Era, Hello New

Books like Jo Ann Ferguson’s An Offer of Marriage suffer from being published during a time of change. When Kensington’s Zebra historical romances died, they didn’t go quickly (actually, Zebras are still around, but they’re not the same as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s). Before their Heartfire and Lovegram lines ended in the late 1990s, the iconic, colorful covers became dull mockeries of the past, with no lush illustrations, just cheaply photo-shopped images of flowers or castles. In many cases, the covers were nothing more than the title and author’s name.

Zebra dumped most of their best authors (some briefly moved on to Dorchester, which had their own problems) and churned out new lines like Zebra Ballad, Splendor, and Precious Gem Historicals, all of which folded quickly. An Offer of Marriage is a romance from his era.

The Plot?

Young Brenwyn Gunnarsson’s family is slaughtered and he vows revenge. He poses as a lowly freeman to deceive the English and aid the Viking invasion. English Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh, is taken by caerl Brenwyn to wed his master, Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.

If you were irritated by that last sentence, be wary of An Offer of Marriage, because those phrases will be repeated ad infinitum. Such is the thrilling dialogue in this book:

“I am Lady Cyndra, the daughter of Ealdorman Edgar of Manor Saeburgh.”

“Ealdorman,” he gasped. “That is the highest rank in England, except for the king.”

“And I was betrothed to Thane Morcar of Manor Darburgh.”

“Morcar? Is he Edgar’s father? You said his father was dead.”

“I thought Morcar was dead.”

“Yes you said that. That Thevkil told you. Thevkil the Strong?”

“Yes.”

“How did you come to speak to that Viking chieftain?”

“I spoke with him when I was with Edgar’s father to his court…Edgar’s father’s name was Under-Chieftain Brenwyn Gunnarsson. He was a Jomsviking and captured Manor Darburgh. Part of his prize was me.”

 photo boringzzz.jpg

Brenwyn turns the tables on Thane Morcar and takes Cyndra as his own bride. They fall in love and have a child. Cyndra’s father was named Edgar, so she names her son in her father’s memory. Then Cyndra and Brenwyn are separated and…zzz…

Huh? Sorry, was I nodding off again?

Besides the writing, another terrible thing about this book is its title. An Offer of Marriage sounds way too Regency-ish. It should have been My Beloved Enemy (pg. 253) or some similar crap to go with the medieval/Viking theme. Oh well, that was the least of this book’s offenses.

Nor, Sir, I Don’t Like it

Passionless books like this are why the historical genre lost its popularity to paranormals. And paranormals seemed to have lost their popularity to New Adult/50 Shades of BDSM. Wonder what’s the next thing? Perhaps well-written, sensual yet tawdry, plot-and-action driven, non-wallpaper historicals, with amazing, painted covers will make a comeback? (I kid, I kid!)

When I read a tepid historical romance published in the 21st century, I shrug it off. The new style isn’t my thing. But when I read a sucky historical written when old-school historicals were in their death throes, it makes me sad.

I used way too many words to describe this book. Simply put, this was dull, dull, dull.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s ask others what they feel.

 photo boringchoice.jpg

Baby, what did you think?

 photo boringbaby.jpg

And kitty, how about you?

 photo boringcat.jpg

Puppy, do you agree?

 photo boringpuppy.jpg

That’s it, a full consensus! All the pics I’ve stolen off the net agree. This book was:

 photo boring.jpg

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Robert McGinnis
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 358
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

Spoiler & Major Douchebag Hero Alert ⚠

Caveat Emptor

I acknowledge that not all readers can tolerate a cruel, rapacious hero in their romance; that’s why I gave a rare warning for this book. It’s fair to compare So Speaks the Heart (which should be subtitled: Medieval Norman Psychopath Falls for French Co-Dependent and Fellow Anger Management Classmate) to another of Johanna Lindsey‘s works, A Pirate’s Love, which had a similar captor/captive trope.

However, So Speaks the Heart is–IMO–better than the latter because:

  1. This heroine is not a spineless jellyfish; she fights back and is strong in her own way.
  2. The hero is more than just a good-looking rapist who eventually falls in love with the woman he’s been tormenting.

Ok, he’s as deep as a crack in the sidewalk, and, yeah, he’s still a bully and a douche. But his background is fleshed out a lot more; therefore, we understand why he’s such an arsehole. So I can sort of forgive this hunk of a warrior for his caveman behavior. Plus, this is not a book to take seriously; it’s too whacktastic.

The heroine is spunky, although not in a too-feisty-she’s-annoying-way. She gives as good as she gets to a hero who is a thick-headed block of wood.

The Violent Hero

After his life is saved in battle, Sir Rowland de Montfort vows to repay his savior by visiting the knight’s castle and ensuring all is well with the knight’s beloved sister, Brigitte. Instead, greedy relatives trick Rowland into believing Lady Brigitte is, in fact, a trouble-causing serf.

Rather than listen to reason, the dude is dead set against hearing anything the filthy “peasant” has to say. Rowland is a crazy character and would be diagnosed today with Borderline Personality Disorder and maybe Narcissistic Personality Disorder as well.

He goes from spouting things like this:

“On the contrary. I know a woman can have sweet words when she wants something, and that otherwise, she is a bitch. No, I want no wife nagging at me. I would sooner rot in hell than marry.”

To being nice:

He brought his hand up and caressed her cheek with his fingers. “For you I will change…”

There was a long, surprised pause, and then she asked, “Why?”

“To see you smile more often.”

To back to being crazy, this time rapey and violent:

“Before Brigitte could find the words to plead with him, Rowland’s belt descended on her back. She gasped and cried out.”

He’s crazed and all over the place. Most sane readers would stop after one of Rowland’s brutal outbursts, but for some reason, I went on, fascinated. Rowland is a primitive Dark Ages knight who believes he has a right to treat disrespectful servants with discipline, as he is the son of a powerful lord. Rowland refuses to believe Brigitte is who she claims she is because he’d prefer to think he’s merely kidnapped and violated a serf girl rather than pissing all over his “honor” by abusing the sister of the man who saved his life.

The Beyond Feisty Heroine

Rowland is cruel to Brigitte, but she doesn’t cower or cry. She knows she is a lady and rages at the injustice of her situation. Although perhaps her reactions are not “lady-like,” she responds with righteous anger:

“I do not ever want to hurt you!” he said furiously. “You force me to it!”

“Oh, of course, milord,” she said, just as furiously. “I am the cause of all my pain. I even beat myself.” He stepped toward her menacingly, but she stood her ground. “What? Am I going to beat myself again, milord?”

“You are awfully saucy for a wench who has just been beaten.” He frowned. Her eyes grew larger.

“Norman bastard! If I were a man I would kill you!”

Rowland’s not the only one who catches Brigitte’s ire. When catty ladies call Brigitte a bitch, she gives it right back:

Brigitte laughed humorlessly. “Well, perhaps a bitch is what I am, but of the two of us, you are the whore. I have heard the gossip about you, and surely Rowland has, too.”

Hey, at least they have being jerks in common. That’s a soli6yd basis for a stable, long-lasting relationship, right?

Final Analysis of So Speaks the Heart

So Speaks the Heart is a no-holds-barred, non-PC, old-school romance. If this kind of stuff melts your twisted heart, regardless of how dickish the hero’s been:

But there was a rage in him that fought to be released, the rage of a little boy begging for love, the rage of a little boy beaten, scorned, humiliated cruelly. All of it, his rage reminded him, need not have been.

Then you might enjoy the emotional ride.

Rowland denies his actions against Brigitte were cruel or excessive. In the end, though, he realizes what a jerk he was and tries to become a changed man when he realizes he’s in love. Rowland does get a sort of comeuppance, a humbling, where he comprehends how badly the situation was FUBAR’d.

He does a decent grovel at the end, if that matters. Not that I think groveling makes up for all of Rowland’s misdeeds, but this is a romance novel, a fantasy, so reality has no bearing in this story.

“What do you want to hear from me? That I could not bear to see you go? That if you are not near me I feel as if a part of myself is gone? I am a man of war, Brigitte. I know nothing of tender words. So do not expect them from me.”

“You just said them, Rowland,” she whispered softly.

I’m twisted. Plus, I have bad taste, so I like this sort of thing. It’s understandable if this book turns you off; it certainly didn’t turn me on!

This was a dark descent into the minds of two beautiful, self-centered people who lived in a time where, perhaps, such brutal, fanciful events could occur. I kept turning the pages to the very end. I’m not sure about So Speaks the Heart as a romance, but as a character study, it’s fascinating.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Overall: 4.1

Synopsis

Born a wealthy French heiress but betrayed into bondage, Brigitte de Louroux swears she will never be any man’s slave. Rugged and powerful Rowland of Montville sees only a beautiful enchantress in peasant’s rags–a wench to serve his every need. Defenseless against his unbridled passions, Brigitte is forced to yield her innocence to the desires the warrior lord arouses in her heart. But her surrender will vanquish the handsome knight–awakening within him a love as mighty and relentless as his conquering sword

So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey
Siren Song sanjulian

Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

historical romance review
Siren Song by Roberta Gellis
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Miguel Sanjulian
Book Series: Song Trilogy #1
Published by: Jove, Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Siren Song by Roberta Gellis

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

The first book in Roberta Gellis‘s Medieval Song trilogy, Siren Song, takes us to 13th-century England.

Lady Elizabeth

Lady Elizabeth is not a beauty, but she is intelligent, capable, and now heiress to vast lands, with her brothers and father recently deceased.

Elizabeth is married to Mauger, a cruel, murderous lord who wishes for nothing more than to aggrandize himself by whatever means necessary. Mauger has the looks of an angel yet the disposition of a demon. There is no deed too vile for him, as he eagerly breaks every Commandment.

It is no mere coincidence that Elizabeth’s brothers conveniently died, leaving her, and thus Mauger, quite wealthy.

Years ago, Elizabeth had been in love with Sir William of Marlowe, and he was with her. But parental manipulations led to them being forced to wed others. Now, William is a widower with a daughter of soon-to-be marriageable age.

Mauger has eyes on Marlowe and seeks to wed his and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Aubrey, to William’s daughter, Alys. Once the two are married, Mauger has plans for William’s untimely demise.

Sir William

Sir William is a widower of many years and seeks only one thing: to be near to Elizabeth again. She is the only woman he has ever loved. William will do whatever it takes to be with her.

And so he pursues the married Elizabeth, even though it may cost him his life.

Adultery is a cardinal sin in the Church. During the Middle Ages, a woman risked more than just her soul if she committed such an act, no matter what mitigating factors surrounded it.

Thus, it does not matter that Mauger openly flouts his leman in front of his wife, having her reside in their manor acting like a second wife.

Nor does it matter that their parents tricked Elizabeth and William into believing that each had betrayed the other, wedding other people under false circumstances. Evil as Mauger may be, he is Elizabeth’s husband.

William is a wonderful hero in pursuit of his beloved. He’s no dummy, but Elizabeth is his blind spot.

While Elizabeth is dismissed as a mouse by her husband, she is actually a woman of strength and deep and abiding passions.

She and William become lovers and engage in several lusty, furtive love-making sessions, marked by Gellis’s standard earthiness.

As there is only one way Elizabeth and William can be together, the end comes to a satisfyingly violent conclusion.

Final Analysis of Siren Song 

Siren Song had the other major hallmark of Roberta Gellis’ work, a healthy heaping of history.

Yet, it was in no way bogged down by dull recitations of facts and events, like some other Gellis books like Fires of Winter.

The characters were true to their time period in both beliefs and actions. The romance was passionate and convincing.

Mauger was perhaps a bit extreme in his evil, but his wickedness is a huge plot point for Book 3 of the series, Aubrey’s story, Fire Song, which is one of my all-time most beloved romances. Unfortunately, Siren Song doesn’t quite reach those heights for me.

Nevertheless, Siren Song is an entertaining love story that I would heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys authentic history in a historical romance.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

First in the Royal Dynasty series. William of Marlowe and Elizabeth of Hurley loved each other from childhood and swore to marry no other. Their fathers had more practical and profitable intentions. William was told Elizabeth had gone to Ilmer to be married to Mauger and in his pain and rage took Mary of Bix to wife. Elizabeth, who had withstood starvation and beatings, yielded at last when a priest swore to her William had married Mary. But Mauger had taken Elizabeth for more than her moderate dowry.

Soon her brothers were both dead and Elizabeth was heir to her father’s lands. When Elizabeth’s father died, Mauger moved his family to Hurley. And when he saw the rich lands of Marlowe across the river, he decided to marry his son to William’s daughter, be rid of William, and have Marlowe too. William should have seen through Mauger’s false front, but his heart and mind were paralyzed by the horrible thought of Elizabeth in Mauger’s arms. And he nearly, so nearly, also became Mauger’s victim.

SIREN SONG by ROBERTA GELLIS
firs of winter gellis

Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis

historical romance review
Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Book Series: Tales of Jernaeve #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 487
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Told through alternating first-person perspectives, Roberta Gellis‘s medieval romance Fires of Winter starts with a bang.

The Plot

In the first chapter, we experience the hero, Bruno, of Jernaeve’s life as his castle gets invaded.

As an illegitimate child, he is overlooked and left uncared for. He and his sister must hide from the marauders.

Later, it switches to the heroine Mellusine of Ulle’s more calm point of view as a child.

I enjoyed the different perspectives, although I found Bruno’s side more interesting than Mellusine’s.

As Bruno matures, he becomes a master in the arts of war. His success earns him Melusine, a “spoil of war,” for Bruno to wed. Bruno is loyal to King Stephen, and Melusine threatens the king.

Despite their differences, Mellusine and Bruno forge a strong relationship built on sexual attraction, companionship, and trust.

Earthy Medieval Realism

I loved the authentic earthiness Gellis imbued her works with. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance where the heroine has to take a dump before. Here Melusine squats away without a care in front of the hero.

The love scenes between Bruno and Melusine had Gellis’ trademark frankness. There’s a scene where a third party in their relationship makes an appearance. 

“I do not pretend that I do not desire you, Melusine…But you need not fear I will force you either. I am the master of Monsieur Jehan de la Tete Rouge–” I tapped the redhead that had pushed its way through the foreskin so she could not mistake of what I spoke, “–not he of me.'”

That had me giggling.

Historical Fiction, Not Romance

At 60% through the book, the romance is firmly cemented. Alas, here, the adventures become strictly political. At a certain point, Fires of Winter ceased to be historical romantic fiction and became purely historical.

Bruno spends much of his time away fighting for his king, while Mellusine tends to courtly and domestic affairs.

Lady Mellusine and Queen Matilda rally an army to rescue their husbands. They succeed, displaying that if need be, powerful medieval women were up to the task of warfare just as their men were.

The tale concludes happily with Mellusine and Bruno making babies and farming their lands.

Final Analysis of Fires of Winter

Fires of Winter is heavy on detailed history. Gellis is a master storyteller, at least when she remembers to tell the story instead of reciting history.

However, I felt a tad underwhelmed, despite the fine quality of the writing. A great start fizzled out to a merely satisfactory read.

I would have preferred more lines like:

“I had a long row to hoe before I could plunge my spade into Mellusine’s earth and plant a seed there.”

…Than the endless parade of dates of conquests and battles.

I’ve enjoyed several of Roberta Gellis’s works, knowing that she is heavy on history and it was never a negative aspect. There was a wonderful romance during the first half of Fires of Winter. Gellis forgot about the love story on the back end.

I would recommend this piece of historical fiction for lovers of medieval romances that emphasize the medieval aspect, not necessarily the romance.

3.24 Stars

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

Synopsis

A sparkling prize, the beautiful Mellusine of Ulle is awarded to the bastard-born Bruno of Jernaeve as a spoil of war. Bruno vows to tame the rebellious spirit of the captive beauty, but ultimately surrenders to her charms. Born of different worlds, joined in the flames of passion and intrigue, they find new strength in each other’s arms…and a burning love that defies all eternity.”

Fires of Winter by Roberta Gellis
lady of fire anita mills

Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

historical romance review
Lady of Fire by Anita Mills
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Gregg Gulbronson
Book Series: Medieval Fire Series #1
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Lady of Fire by Anita Mills

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Anita MillsLady of Fire is one of my most beloved historical romance novels. This gripping medical epic took me places I never knew I could go.

I admit it has some flaws, especially toward the end. Even so, I adore it.

The Plot

Lady of Fire takes place in Normandy, not long after William the Bastard has conquered England. Eleonor of Nantes is a renowned beauty, hungered by many, and bartered as a political pawn. William’s son Henry desires her as his wife, but it’s the man she believes to be her half-brother, Roger Fitz Hugh, for whom she’s destined.

Roger knows Eleonor is not his sister and has always loved her. Eleonor doesn’t know, yet she desires Roger. This fact may be off-putting to some. But, knowing from the outset that they’re not siblings, it was easy for me to overlook this semi-incest.

Eleonor is sent off to a nunnery as part of her mother’s dying wish. But rather than take her vows, she finds herself betrothed to a man she despises. Roger will do what he must to make sure the marriage doesn’t take place. It’s a race against time to see who gets to her first.

For complete disclosure, let it be known that I love blond heroes like Roger. I married one in real life and adore them in fiction. Roger is one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving male protagonists I’ve ever read. His devotion to Eleonor is undeniable, and he and Eleonor are meant to be.

However… He is not the main reason that I’m crazy about this book.

“I Roger…do swear on this sacred relic that I will be Eleonore of Nantes’ man, to champion her causes and give her her justice, yea, even to the end of my life.”

The Charismatic, Wicked Villain

The villain Robert Talvas, Count of Bellesme, with his black hair, green eyes, and evil, evil disposition, positively steals the show in Lady of Fire. He is so hot that every scene with him singes the pages of this book.

Robert is absolutely malevolent and beyond redemption. He coolly lies to priests and nuns, sleeps with his mother, rapes without remorse, and murders innocents.

In the sequel Fire and Steel, Robert is so evil he tears a baby out of his own mother’s womb, killing both!

Utterly irredeemable, Robert is the devil incarnate and is based on a medieval legend.

There is more to Robert, though, whose obsession with the lady Eleonor drives the plot. His unwavering love and reverence for her are spell-binding and captivating. In a bodice ripper written ten years earlier, Robert might have even been the hero.

Disturbingly, despite the fact that he kidnaps and ravishes Eleonor, I found myself hoping, “I know you love Roger, but Eleonor, just once submit to Robert!”

That’s really sick, but that’s what Bellesme’s character made me feel. He was like a hypnotic vampire or incubus, a Lucifer fallen. However, Eleonor never gives in, and I think that is one reason why the dark Lord Robert adores Eleonor so much. She has purity and goodness.

I am so glad Anita Mills never redeemed him nor gave him a sequel to find love with another woman. In his heart, Robert was eternally faithful to Eleonore.

Robert does find a sort of salvation in the sequel, Fire and Steel, which is entertaining, if not as enjoyable, read. The third book in the series, Hearts of Fire, the story of Eleonor and Robert’s grandson, is an even better follow-up.

Final Analysis of Lady of Fire

Lady of Fire is one of my most-loved romances in a sub-genre–medievals–that consist of many of my favorites. It skirts the rules of romance while being faithful to them. For a writer to allow the villain to overshadow the protagonists may be a source of frustration to some readers. Anita Mills does it so skillfully that I fell for it from the opening chapters.

Alas, to Robert’s great unfortunate downfall, Eleonor and Roger are destined for each other, and that’s the way it should be.

Lady of Fire is not only a fantastic medieval romance or even just a fantastic romance. It’s a phenomenal book all around.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

In 11th century Normany, a passionate story of romance, chivalry, and forbidden love. Beautiful Eleanor of Nantes is pursued by many great noblemen, including the evil Robert of Belesme and charming Prince Henry, son of William the Conqueror. But it is the dashing Roger FitzGilbert, born a bastard with no title to his name, who sweeps her off her feet. Their love may be forbidden, but their passion is undeniable…

LADY OF FIRE by ANITA MILLS
highland velvet 2

Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

historical romance review
Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Harry Bennett
Book Series: Montgomery Velvet #2; Montgomery/Taggert Family Saga #3
Published by: Pocket Books
Genres: Highland Romance, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Jude Deveraux‘s Highland Velvet, the second entry in her Velvet series about four Montgomery brothers set in the early 16th century, is one of my favorite romances.

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux, Arrow, 1984

The Plot

Forced into marriage to the English nobleman Stephen Montgomery, Scotswoman Brenna Mac Arran, the leader of her clan, vows to make his life miserable.

Deveraux’s heroes in the Velvet Series had their bad moments, particularly Gavin, and to a lesser extent, Miles and Raine. In Highland Velvet, Stephen Montgomery was made from the stuff of girlish dreams.

“You’ll regret that! Someday you’ll know that one drop of my blood is more precious than any angry feelings you carry!”

Stephen was kind and loving to his sister-in-law, Judith, always taking her side whenever Gavin preferred his evil mistress. He stayed by her bedside during her painful miscarriage and supported her throughout.

When Stephen saw Bronwyn for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her. He worked his butt off to get the approval of the men in Bronwyn’s clan and had to fight that creepy Roger Chatworth for her hand in marriage, even though they were already betrothed.

Heck, he even changed his last name so that her Mac Arran family name wouldn’t die out. And he was no wussy male, but a deadly soldier willing to work hard and rethink his value system when faced with contradictions.

If anything, Bronwyn was the “bad” one: she stabbed him on their wedding night; she was the one who betrayed Stephen again and again. He deserved a much better heroine.

“Together,” he whispered. “For once, let’s do something together.”

Final Analysis of Highland Velvet

After over thirty-plus years, Jude Deveraux’s Highland Velvet‘s Stephen Montgomery remains one of my most beloved heroes in romance. He was a real nice guy, the kind of man any woman would be happy to have in real life.

I wonder why the terms nice guy and beta male get conflated so often. A man can still be an “alpha,” a leader to his people, but that doesn’t mean he has to be an over-bearing, woman-hating douchebag.

Bronwyn was awful, but her woe-is-me attitude wasn’t enough to overshadow Stephen, who was such a great character that he made this book. Other pluses were the wicked antics of Roger Chatworth and the doomed love story of his brother Brian with the Montgomery’s sole sister.

I really loved this one. Highland Velvet is a keeper. Of only I had the British Arrow edition of this book!

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Bronwyn MacArran was a proud Scot. Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English.

He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished. But still she would abhor him.

She owned a temper hot enough to forge the armors of battle or inflame a valiant soldier’s passion. Yet still she would resist him.

She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him.

But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood — their destiny was made… and this mighty warrior pledged himself to his woman’s pride, her honor and her name — and made of their love a torch to burn through the ages

HIGHLAND VELVET by JUDE DEVERAUX

Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Erotic Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 438
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?”

But, I don’t know…

I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.

A Too-Perfect Heroine

Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.

Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!

Every man that wasn’t either her relative or 100% gay desired her and had to have her–stop me if you’ve heard this before! She was just the typical most beautiful-woman-on-earth, the kind of heroine that Bertrice Small adored to write about.

And she was such a Mary Sue! I had no patience nor any love for her.

Still, poor Mairin!

The Heroes: Bachelors #1,#2, & #3

Despite the variety of men, her romantic life is the worst.

Her first love, Basil, a nobleman of Constantinople, is poisoned to death by his male ex-lover, a jealous actor.

Another admirer of hers is ironically named Eric Longsword. He no penis and can only pee by using a hollow reed!

Somehow, he still can bring Mairin to orgasmic heights.

The other guy, her true love, Josselin, suffers from the worst malady of all as he’s plain boring!

He comes into the picture late in the book, as often does in a Bertrice Small romance. If Joss had more character development than merely lusting after Mairin, there might have been a chance to like him.

Of her three love interests, the main hero the least memorable.

enchantress mine back
Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Onyx, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art
(That’s Fabio on the back cover as Eric Longsword, LOL)

Final Analysis of Enchantress Mine

Yes, some aspects of Enchantress Mine sound crazy as heck. You would think a book like that would be more exciting. And it almost is, at times.

However Mairin is so perfect and so tedious. I didn’t care what happened to her.

Bertrice Small can do better! And she has. I prefer her Tudor and Stuart-era novels such as Skye O’Malley, All the Sweet Tomorrows, or Wild Jasmine instead.

2.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
1
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4.5
Overall: 2.6

Synopsis

From the golden pleasure domes of Constantinople to the barbaric pomp of Malcolm of Scotland’s court, this is the magical tale of ravishingly beautiful Mairin of Aelfleah, called “Enchantress” by the three men who loved her: Basil, Prince of Byzantium, who taught her passion’s tender secrets; Josselin de Combourg, gallant knight of William the Conqueror…and Eric Longsword, the Viking whose tragic love for Mairin would never be fulfilled. And in their wild world gone mad with savage war, only love could triumph over all!

ENCHANTRESS MINE by BERTRICE SMALL
storm maiden gilgannon

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

historical romance review
Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Published by: Pinnacle
Genres: Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 383
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts.

The Plot

Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.

Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.

This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…

Fiona has to adjust to life as a slave. She cannot communicate with any of the Norse folk except for Dag’s brother, who hates her and all the Irish.

The book starts out well enough, and the early love scenes are erotically charged. Dag and Fiona quickly get along and fall in love.

The main conflict is that Fiona is not well-liked by Dag’s older brother and his people. Her helpful but intrusive ways are looked upon with scorn by most of the men. Fiona helps women with birth control and delivers babies. She gives one female advice on how to please her master sexually.

Fiona’s behavior brings negative attention to her, and she is thought to be a witch.

Fiona’s a full-fleshed character and one to be admired. This was the strongest part of the book, and I appreciated her struggles to become accepted in her new society. She just needed a more challenging hero. After an amazing beginning, things began to fizzle, and the romance wasn’t thrilling.

My Opinion

Their romance is cemented early on, and they only face obstacles from outside forces, as Dag is torn between respecting his brother–his leader–and his love for Fiona. When there is so little inner conflict between the two leads, things get a little bland.

There are villains aplenty in Storm Maiden. Fiona is often in danger, but Dag is never there to save the day. This is the most annoying aspect in the novel as Dag’s sword arm is severely injured throughout the story, so he never gets to show off his warrior prowess, which is so essential in a good Viking hero. It’s Fiona who is more of a fighter. And she had many enemies who would make her life miserable.

Dag’s a nice guy. Too nice. As in boring. Hey, I like nice guys as heroes. They make me melt more them some sadistic jerk that treats the heroine like crap.

I know the early Norse were democratic men and allowed women to divorce their husbands and own their own property, but you expect a little bit of tough-guy persona when you read a Viking romance. I enjoyed some sweet aspects of Dag’s personality, such as his love for his doggy companion.

But when Dag started becoming a mouthpiece for 20th-century beliefs, like concern for women’s rights and access to birth control, it just rang a bit anachronistic, pulling me out of the story.

Final Analysis of Storm Maiden

Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon was not a bad book, but not a great one either.

I don’t read historical romances because I want to see modern-minded characters cloaked in historical trappings. If I feel the need for a more modern-minded hero, then I’ll read contemporary romances.

I can count on one hand the number of hard-core Viking warrior heroes I’ve come across. It’s a shame that true, kick-ass Vikings are so rare in historical romance as protagonists. Villains, sure. Heroes? Pfft.

2.75 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis

Fiona of Dunsheana, the beautiful daughter of an Irish chieftain, rebelled at the idea of wedding a man she despised. And, trapped in her father’s dark, oppressive dungeon, she found a way to avoid her fate. She would allow a captured Viking to ravish her and render her unmarriageable. But the rugged golden-haired warrior refused to take her body. Instead, he captured her soul.

STORM MAIDEN by MARY GILGANNON
tara's song ziel

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

historical romance review
Tara's Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: George Ziel
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Harem Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is another mediocre Viking romance that disappoints.

Written in the late 1970s at the height of the down-and-dirty bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to be rapacious and fun. Alas, I found it rather ho-hum.

The Plot

Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde Irish beauty Tara enters a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is not a mere novice. She is a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows.

For some mysterious reason, some of her sister nuns provide Tara with Nordic runes and teach her how to cast them to foresee the future. Obviously, the elder sisters had the prescience to know a horde of ravenous Vikings would overtake their convent. So the runic readings would come in handy for Tara’s protection later.

Tara’s new life begins when Rorik captures her. He, of the long, curly, reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but with no beard. Just like the Viking mascot on a Minnesota footballer’s helmet.

I imagined Rorik as a young metal god, like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles.

Sadly, even though Rorik is a marauder, he’s BORING. Like so many Viking books I’ve read, the hero is set up as a bad-ass warrior who kills and slays hundreds, but we don’t get to experience it!

We rarely see Rorik do anything exciting as the story is told in a constrictive first-person perspective.

Tara In the North

The POV is a hindrance here. Tara tells rather than shows what’s going on. There’s a lot of info-dumping and information overload.

Some of it is wildly inaccurate, like people eating potatoes in Norway in the late 900s. That reminded me of the “chocolate”-colored eyes that the wicked “other woman” from Johanna Lindsey‘s Hearts Aflame had.

Chocolate, potatoes, corn, tomatoes… None of those things are European in origin.

Research, people. It’s an essential thing!

The Vikings were portrayed as dirty and unkempt, men who never bathed, had ungroomed beards, and wore clichéd two-horned helmets into battle.

Anyway, Rorik doesn’t force himself on Tara as a pillaging Viking would. He romantically seduces her into his bed.

Meh. Give me a Viking who’s a pillager first, then learns to be romantic and civilized later on (to a certain extent).

Where’s the fun in the fantasy if the hunky Viking doesn’t take me, I mean, the heroine, over his shoulder and have his forcefully erotic way with her? Why does a Viking pirate have to charm her into his bed?

That’s for Regency rakes, not brutish Vikings.

This Viking Romance Has a Twist

At least there is a naughty twist to follow. Rorik is a polygamist, as he brings Tara home to his harem of wives.

That’s right, Rorik has not one but two wives. Tara is wifey number three.

As a pious Christian, she resents this. So she prays for the day that Rorik will cast off his other wives and divorce them as God intended. He should be with only her because that would be the honorable thing. 

For her. 

When Tara doesn’t give in to Rorik’s lust, he goes to the other wives to satisfy him. But it’s Tara he loves, not those losers!

Eventually, one of Rorik’s wives plots against them. Rorik and Tara are kidnapped and separately sold into slavery in the east.

Tara In the East

When the hero is bland in a bodice ripper, and the main characters are parted for a long time, I don’t mind. So as long as the heroine experiences some fun (read: sexy) experiences.

Regrettably, Tara’s adventures without Rorik are as entertaining as her adventures with him.

With some of the lesser-known bodice ripper authors, you were bound to get some amusing exploits. Not in this book!

Here Tara’s escapades consist of getting the flu during the worst winter ever. Or getting her first taste of eating oranges.

There was Tara in Norway shopping. Now here’s Tara in Constantinople shopping!

The most interesting character in the book is Olav, an older Viking who is also enslaved as well as castrated. He is Tara’s faithful companion.

Olav could have been a complex character. Lamentably, Ferry takes his personality, heart, and emotions away with his balls.

His devotion to Tara is that of a slavish, dog-like protector, not that of a man who can ever physically or emotionally love. It would have been intriguing to see a eunuch engage in sexy antics–just for the WTF factor (like in Bertrice Small’s Enchantress Mine).

But no, nothing special happens in Tara’s Song.

This Harem Romance Has a Twist

Actually, that’s not 100% true, as there is one mildly engaging scenario after Tara gets kidnapped.

She then gets seduced by a handsome and arrogant, overbearing Muslim slaver. Although she enjoys his lovemaking, Tara finds him so arrogant. How dare he lust after her gorgeous body!

Then, mere days later, Tara is dismayed to see a sexy, young male slave dance his way into her lover’s bed.

Guess Tara’s not as hot as she thinks!

Again, a faintly similar situation was portrayed in Enchantress Mine. However, that situation was more shocking and actually entertaining.

And I wasn’t all that crazy about Enchantress Mine because I hated the too-perfect heroine. So to me, Tara’s Song is the lesser book.

Final Analysis of Tara’s Song

O, ancient gods of the Norse! At times Tara’s Song was as dry as the turkey from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

 photo griswold_turkey.jpg

However

It does get good during the last few pages when Rorik once and for all displays his brutal warrior skills instead of the reader just being told about it. He viciously makes mincemeat out of his enemies. He slaughters them all, demonstrating his awesome Nordic might.

Too bad; too late. Where was that Rorik 400 pages ago?

I’d put this book in the to-sell pile, but I adore the George Ziel cover art too much.

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
1.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
5
Overall: 2.4

Synopsis:

Hers is the song of all women. It cries to be heard as she sings of her love for one man. Listen! Tara’s Song.

He Was The Strongest Man of His Time–Until She Became His Weakness…

Beautiful, devout young Tara, a novice in a country abbey, finds her cloistered life suddenly destroyed when Viking invaders burn the convent and take her prisoner. Wedded against her will to the pagan chieftain Rorik, Tara slowly overcomes her fear as Rorik introduces her to the joy of passionate love.

Then a vicious abduction separates the lovers–and their search to be reunited takes them from the dramatic northern fjords to the shores of the Black Sea from Arabian domed palaces and the slave marts of Constantinople to an isolated Greek island. For the love of Tara and Rorik must survive the ravages of war, the cruel twists of treachery, and the challenge of a vast continent…

TARA’S SONG by BARBARA FERRY JOHNSON
viking rose pino

Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

historical romance review
Viking Rose by Ashland Price
Rating: half-star
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Viking Rose by Ashland Price

The Book

Ashland Price‘s Viking Rose has to be the worst Viking romance I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s one of the worst romances I’ve ever read.

I’m sorry to be blunt and mean, but I did not enjoy this boring, meandering tale of a Viking and his “captive” traveling through Ireland together.

The Plot

Storr is a Viking who lands in Eire, He kidnaps Alanna for some reason. He doesn’t want her body, as Storr is nothing but a big crybaby.

I HATE books where the hero is in eternal mourning for his dead wife. That is my #1 pet peeve in romances.

It’s one thing to have had a love that died, but when 95% of the book is about how the hero can’t get over her, there’s really not much room for romance with the heroine.

Quite frankly, I prefer the other woman to be alive. It’s one thing to have a flesh-and-blood woman to compete with, but how can the heroine ever win out to a perfect ghost?

Final Analysis of Viking Rose

Not to mention, Viking Rose was boring as hell. Did anything happen, except for Alanna and Storr traveling together endlessly, while Storr hates Alanna and cries (over and over–oh, those pillows!!) about his wife?

If it did, I blocked it out.

It’s also weird how at the beginning of the book, the heroine has black hair, but by the end, it’s red.

Eh, that’s a superficial gripe, but probably the most fascinating aspect of this mind-numbing read.

(POINTS FOR COVER ART DO NOT COUNT)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
0
Fun Factor
0
Cover
4
Overall: 1.1

Synopsis

SHE WAS A SPIRITED IRISH MAIDEN

When Alanna sighted a blond giant of a man bathing in a nearby stream, the Irish maiden guessed he was one of those dangerous raiders she’d heard tales of. Though she should have fled, Alanna could not draw her eyes away from his bronzed muscles, long sun-gold hair, and piercing blue eyes. Before she knew it, the Norseman had captured her…. Outraged, Alanna planned her escape; yet when his rock-hard arms enveloped her and his demanding kisses set her pulse on fire, she marveled that a man from a frozen land could evoke such a rapturous heat in her own blood…

HE WAS A FEARLESS VIKING RAIDER

Intent on scouting the alien country for his Viking raiding party, Storr had no time for a furious Erse maiden! Yet, he could not let her sound an alert, so he took her captive. And what a choice beauty he’d gotten! Her lush curves, cocoa-colored eyes, and dark auburn-streaked hair made her a prize beyond compare, But it was the brave but gentle spirit in this fair rose of Erin that finally made the fierce warrior wish to brand her as his alone. He would calm her with his soft caresses, thrill her with his fiery kisses, then bring her to rapturous heights with a masterful Viking passion she would crave again and again!

Viking Rose by Ashland Price

READ Viking Rose by Ashland Price FOR FREE AT OPEN LIBRARY

the innocent

Historical Romance Review: The Innocent by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
The Innocent by Bertrice Small
Rating: one-star
Published: 1999
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Ivy Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance, Erotic Romance
Pages: 416
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Innocent by Bertrice Small

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

It was a bad sign that Bertrice Small’The Innocent features one of her least interesting romance covers ever. The lone positive was that Elaine Duillo created this. It was one of her final covers and illustrated for her dear friend Bertrice.

The Innocent, The Evil, and The Boring

Taking a break from Small’s usual romps where the heroine is captured by some salacious sultan/whoremaster/caliph and enslaved into his harem is The Innocent.

The Innocent is an unengaging medieval-era set historical. I usually adore medievals, but this one bored me to tears.

The heroine is a former nun named Eleonore, who goes by the ridiculous nickname Elf. Elf is a paragon of virtue, saintliness, and sweetness. She is totally dull.

Elf must leave God behind to marry Ranulf, an equally boring character.

He then patiently introduces Elf to the arts of love.

There’s an evil villain–a hired killer sent to dispatch Elf–who falls in love with Elf for her purity and goodness. All I could wonder was, WHY? She, like most of Small’s heroines, is perfection beyond belief.

One Fun Character: The Villainess

Ok, I lied when I said the cover artist was the only exciting aspect of The Innocent. The villainess, Isleen, is such a caricature of slutty evilness. It’s hysterical.

She despises Elf, as Isleen is her total opposite: a cruel, bitchy who-ore. She will stop at nothing to have Elf killed.

There’s a funny scene (funny to me, anyway) where Isleen gets gang-banged by the villain and a couple of other guys. They all go at it, and she suddenly stops after a few rounds.

Isleen cries out: “No, wait! We have to practice safe medieval sex, so I don’t get preggers!” Then she proceeds to douche the “specimens” out of her vagina with an entire bottle of red wine.

the innocent

Final Analysis of The Innocent

I read a ton of Bertrice small books circa 1999 to 2002. At the time, I found myself addicted to them.

But being addicted to something and loving it aren’t the same thing.

I picked this book up, believing I would appreciate a change of pace from Small’s usual sexcapades. Usually, the heroine (and hero) cavort with every staff and orifice in plain sight.

Here Elf is a virgin and sleeps only Ranulf. That’s boring for a bodice-ripper, although I wouldn’t classify this as a ‘ripper. It’s just vanilla erotic romance.

Other than a couple of scenes and a pair of quasi-intriguing villains–the male evildoer would have made a better hero, plus, he surprisingly redeems himself–, The Innocent was a real snoozer.

Recommended only for hardcore Bertrice Small fans and those who want to read some naughty sex scenes.

1 Star (Not rounding up)

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
1
Cover
2.5
Overall: 1.5

Synopsis

Eleanore of Ashlin had promised her life to God—until fate intervened. With her brother’s untimely death, Eleanore becomes the heiress of an estate vital to England’s defenses. Now she is ordered by royal command to wed one of the king’s knights rather than take her final vows. With resistant heart, but ever obedient to King Stephen’s will, she complies.

Ranulf de Glandeville is all too aware that his innocent bride wants no man; yet his patience, gentle hand, and growing love for his spirited young wife soon awaken Eleanore to passions she never knew. But their love will soon be threatened by a depraved woman who will put Eleanore’s life in jeopardy—and the young bride’s love to its greatest test. . . .

THE INNOCENT by BERTRICE SMALL
Tender Warrior

Historical Book Review: Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels

historical romance review
Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 387
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Book Review: Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Tender Warrior by Fern Michaels was a surprisingly sensitive romance written during the author’s bodice ripper era.

Mark this down as one of those books where the hero first catches sight of the heroine bathing.

The Plot

Ruy and Mirjana are from two different cultures: she is a princess from Al-Andalus, while Ruy is a knight for the kingdom of Castile y Leon.

She will become his captive, but will he become the captive of her heartDespitete their significant disparities, the pair quickly bond and engage in a forbidden romance.

No matter the obstacles that fall in their way, the betrayals, lies, and tragedies, they still love each other. Ruy and Mirjana’s relationship is intense & steadfast.

For that reason, let me get this right out of the way: the ending is not a conventional one. Even so, I was satisfied with the conclusion because there is no denying Ruy and Mirjana love each other desperately and will do their best to succeed.

SPOILER WARNING

Besides, Ruy was married to Jimena, a ward of the King of Castile, so this is historically accurate. Despite the unorthodox-yet-still-happily-ever-after ending, there is no denying Ruy de Bivar’s and Mirjana’s deep and abiding affection for each other. You know they will make it through together until their deaths.

My Opinion

Historical accuracy is not a word that can be applied to this book (or pretty much any Fern Michaels’ historicals, for that matter!).

Although this is a fictional romance novel, it is written about the greatest Spanish warrior of all time, El Cid, and never does the reader witness any of Cid’s heroic valor. Where’s the action, the battles, the killings?

We only know that Ruy is the El Cid of history because the book tells us so. He’s a very likable hero, but that could have been anybody else in history. He’s very tender but not much of a warrior.

It’s surprising that Fern Michaels, who created one of the worst, most piggish heroes ever in Regan van der Rhys from the Captive series, could imagine such a noble hero as her fictional Ruy Diaz de Bivar.

Also, the fact that Ruy’s mistress was an Arab princess was not something to be taken lightly by his peers. There should have been some more conflict between them. Or perhaps not. Mirjana and Ruy faced enough hardship as it was: loss of family, abandonment, deaths, and the wrath of manipulative rulers.

Final Analysis of Tender Warrior

I would have loved to give Tender Warrior 5 stars because it’s a truly romantically sweet bodice ripper, and you never doubt the sincerity of the protagonists’ love.

Michaels dropped the ballon because she failed to make El Cid a warrior. Ruy is a great, loving hero to the heartbroken Mirjana, but that could have been anybody else in history, too.

What a wasted opportunity! All he had to do was kick a few guys’ bums, slay some enemies, and rally his troops to victory. That would have reinforced his tough-guy image. That would have been a story worthy of El Cid.

Nevertheless, it was a fine tale of ordinary Ruy Diaz de Bivar and his beloved Mirjale. Kudos to Fern Michaels for this harrowing romance, filled with scheming enemies, sad tragedy, and passion galore.

4 stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
4
Cover
3
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

Mirjana — reckless yet innocent, a princess of the Ottoman Empire, desperately begs El Cid to rescue her from the caravan taking her to a loveless marriage…

El Cid — fierce and ruthless, legend and power, betrays Mirjana, taking her captive to hold her for ransom. But even this most renowned warrior cannot defend himself against her brilliance, her beauty, her bewitching charms…

Explosive passion blazes between them, a fire that sears them both. Neither is prepared for the cruel attempts to tear them apart… neither can deny the raging desire that keeps them burning for that exquisite tenderness to be found only in each other’s arms…

TENDER WARRIOR by FERN MICHAELS