InTangled Web, readers were introduced to Therese de Bourrgerre and Charles Marcombe, the heroine and hero of An Intriguing Desire, as supporting characters. Here they take center stage.
As An Intriguing Desire begins, Therese shows up at Charles’ home to ask him another favor: to help her rescue one of her fellow Frenchmen from Bonaparte’s clutches. (Therese and Charles have a history together.)
Charles refuses to help her for many reasons, so Therese decides to go it alone.
That decision, however, doesn’t go the way Therese wants, as she is kidnapped by the man, Chevalier de Lebouchon, and taken to France.
Charles decides to undertake a dangerous rescue mission to free her. He does, but they spend much of the time bickering in between nearly getting and getting caught.
They come to discover an even bigger plot against British national security and thwart that plan.
In the middle of a firefight between British and French soldiers in Portugal, Therese and Charles finally realize they love each other. They later get married and have their Happily Ever After.
Therese and Charles were the two most interesting characters in Tangled Web, so I looked forward to seeing them in their own book as lead characters. It’s a Regency book. The intrigue is mildly interesting.
I’ve never found character development to be a strength of Ms. Bennett’s books, and An Intriguing Desire does nothing to change that view. I’ve yet to read a book by Ms. Bennett where I’ve truly cared about the characters.
Other than a couple of passionate kisses and some heavy petting, there is no sex.
Most of the violence takes place late in the book. A British soldier is killed in the fighting, and Charles kills de Lebouchon. The violence is not really graphic.
Bottom Line on An Intriguing Desire
In An Intriguing Desire, the intrigue is not intriguing enough, and there is no desire. Another disappointing Janice Bennett book.
Rating Report Card
Therese de Bourgerre couldn’t believe the man before her was the dashing spy she had known and loved in Paris. This was a man who had given up all hope. It was her duty to reawaken his passion without losing her heart. A delightful Regency from the author of Midnight Masque.
Nancy Gideon is an author I’m familiar with only through her identity as Dana Ransom. As Dana Ransom, Gideon has written some of my favorite historical romances.
Although I’ve read a few vampire romances, I’ve never been a sucker for them, so this Halloween I decided to bite my teeth into Gideon’s Midnight Kiss. (The puns are awful, aren’t they?)
The Characters and the Setup
Set in Regency Era England, Midnight Kiss begins with man prowling the dark London streets. This man is no man, however; he is an immortal–a vampire named Louis.
Marquis Louis Radman is desperate to find a cure for his preternatural malady. He has spent one hundred thousand nights wandering through the cities of Europe for sustenance, cursed as one of the–surprisingly many–undead who exists by drinking human blood.
Like vampires of legend, he cannot die a natural death. A stake through the heart or sunlight can destroy him. Nor can Louis tolerate the touch of a crucifix or the smell of garlic.
Driven mad by his doomed eternal state, he seeks the help of Stuart Howland, an English physician who specializes in bloodborne illnesses. Dr. Howland attempts to cure Louis of his vampiric disease by experimenting with blood transfusions.
Meanwhile, Louis is drawn to the doctor’s lovely assistant, his daughter, Arabella–the OG Bella of vampire romances.
Arabella is a clever and capable young miss who didn’t fair well in her only London Season due to her outspoken personality. Although she doesn’t fully comprehend the nature of Louis’ illness, she is drawn to the dark, mysterious man who can only be seen at night.
Louis is enchanted by Arabella and vows if he can live as a mortal, he will make her his bride.
Another man has eyes for Arabella, and his fiendish attempts to make her his will draw a horrific danger close to home.
At last, when the treatments seem to work, Louis and Arabella marry. Inexorably drawn to Louis, Arabella has no idea what evil lurks ahead. The pair have a passionate start to their relationship, believing a bright future lies on the horizon.
Recall that Louis is not the only vampire who walks the earth. He shares a turbulent connection with a several who will seek him out and try to take the life of his innocent human bride.
When the truth of her husband’s nature is unveiled, will Arabella be horrified by his monstrosity? Or will she become drawn to him even more?
The Conclusion: Spoilers ⚠
Louis cannot escape his past, as he is a being trapped in time. The vampire who created him is obsessed with him and hunts him down. Death awaits.
By the end, Louis and Bella vanquish some of his enemies, while others survive for another day.
Husband and wife leave England to flee to Vienna. Arabella is pregnant with Louis’ child, and a world of possibilities lies before them.
Arabella’s father dies before he can find a cure for Louis’ vampirism, so Louis is doomed to remain undead. Arabella remains mortal and will die of old age.
In following sequels, after Arabella’s death, Louis finds love with several other mortal women.
Thus breaking the HEA rule of romance!
For that reason, I don’t think I’ll be finishing the series. Knowing this also affects my perspective on this book, and reduces my enjoyment factor. YMMV, but I’m a stickler for for the rules.
Final Analysis of Midnight Kiss
I wish I had read Midnight Kiss when it came out in 1994. At 16 years old, that would have around the end of my vampire-craze phase. The 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula &1994’s Interview With the Vampire, along with Anne Rice’s Vampire series (up to Tales of the Body Thief–oh, Lestat, how I loved you!), the Dark Shadows TV reboot, and a life-long adoration for Christopher Lee led to my passion for blood drinkers.
Alas, I no longer hold vampires in the same romantic light I did back then. The angsty themes of eternal suffering while existing as a human-but-not-human once fascinated me. It’s all a bit too emo for me, now.
Still, I found Midnight Kiss to be engaging, if a bit overwrought. I’m not certain if Nancy Gideon was the first author to pen a full-length vampire romance. Undoubtedly, she was one of the firsts. So I commend Gideon for trying something innovative and fresh–as this was thirty years ago.
Nevertheless, I know there are better vampire romances the genre has to offer.
Midnight Kiss was the first in a long-running series. I’d rate Midnight Kiss 3.5 stars if I view it as a standalone. Since I’m not continuing the series, I’ll keep that rating.
Rating Report Card
WHITE ROSES They were a gift from her handsome new suitor. After a wretched Season in London, Arabella Howland was ripe for a real romance. But she soon discovered that the Marquis Louis Radman was no ordinary bachelor…
SCARLET SECRETS A mysterious blood malady had brought Louis to Arabella’s father. The celebrated Dr. Howland was his last hope–the only man alive who could break the spell that had tormented the nobleman for the past three centuries…
DARK DESIRES But Arabella saw only a man–a tender, irresistibly seductive stranger whose burning touch sent her own blood racing. Yet even as she donned a wedding dress and vowed to love Louis forever, the past was reaching out to claim him, calling him back to a place of eternal lust and longing–and forcing Arabella to choose between her sunlit world and the dark ecstasy of a…Midnight Kiss
Night Fire by Catherine Coulter features one of her few truly nice guy heroes. This romance was a pleasant surprise–despite its dark themes–due to the charming Burke Drummond.
This romance is the first in Coulter’s “Night Trilogy,” which is set in Regency-era England and in the final book, America.
In Night Fire, Arielle and Burke had met years prior when she was 15 and he in his twenties. Burke instantly fell in love with Arielle but couldn’t do anything about it as he was called to war against the French.
In the interim, Arielle was forced into marriage with a cruel, elderly lecher.
Burke returns to find Arielle a bitter widow, suffering post-traumatic stress from the abuse she endured. She wants nothing to do with men.
Meanwhile, Burke’s feelings for Arielle still run strong. He wants her and pursues her. When he discovers the horrors of her marriage, Burke changes to a gentler approach.
Thus unfolds a tender, emotional love story where Burke patiently woos Arielle–although he is a randy rascal. Her recovery takes time, and Burke is there to give her genuine support and understanding.
Meanwhile, a wicked villain has his eye on Arielle. Will Burke also be there to save her before it’s too late?
Read Night Fire and find out!
Final Analysis of Night Fire
I’ve read a handful of Catherine Coulter romances and disliked more than half of them. Night Fire was one of her bests due to the wonderful hero, Burke.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the final entry in her “Night Trilogy,” Night Storm, whose arrogantly condescending hale protagonist made me rethink my penchant for blonds. But that’s a review for another day.
Night Fire is a solid read for those who like to see a heroine recover from trauma and be healed by love.
Rating Report Card
ONLY HIS BURNING LOVE COULD SAVE HER.
Trapped into a loveless marriage, Arielle Leslie knew a life of shame and degregation. Even after the death of her brutal husband, she was unable to free herself from the shackles of humiliation. Only Burke Drummond’s love could save her . . . if she let it. But as his passion blazed, his patience wore thin . . . and Arielle risked a future as terrifying as her past.
The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood takes us to Regency Era England where we meet two firm-willed yet evenly matched partners in love. One is a lady of mystery from the former colonies raised among the Native people. The other is an English nobleman turned soldier and spy, now retiring from duty.
A disclaimer: I’m not a fan of tropes with nobility involved in espionage, especially during the Napoleonic era. It’s contrived, and spies in a romance don’t do it for me. I was never much into James Bond. So I braced myself to dislike this due to Lyon’s career. However, I was enchanted by the heroine and the chemistry between the main leads.
Plus, there’s not much official espionage, mostly the hero using his sleuthing skills to uncover the enigmatic lady’s past.
The Set-Up and the Characters
Alexander Michael Phillips, The Marquess of Lyonwood, is known to his intimates as Lyon. (What a cheesy, uber-macho name for a British nobleman–oh, it is cheesy! One thing I love about my romances is that they are ripe with the stench of Eau de Fromage.)
Lyon is a spy with an injured leg and a dashing scar. Lyon even looks like a lion (of course he does!) with his tanned skin, a mane of dark gold hair, and mysterious dark amber eyes.
The Lion’s Lady has another disliked trope of mine: the male protagonist vows never to get married again after losing his wife and child in childbirth. At least he’s not wallowing in mourning; he is bitter because his wife was unfaithful. The child was not his; the babe was his brother’s. Thus, he has serious trust issues when it comes to the fairer sex.
The novel’s prologue starts in 1797 in the Black Hills of America. A Sioux tribe travels on. Among them are two Anglo females: a woman named Merry, who has married into the tribe, and her young daughter, Christina. The people call Christina a lioness for her golden hair and blue eyes, and fierce nature.
The shaman tells his people she is headed to a great destiny. Even though she is not one of their blood, they must take great care of this lioness.
After a brief look into Lyon’s tragic background, the story begins. Each chapter begins with excerpts from Christina’s mother’s diary from 1795 to 1796, detailing her life married Christina’s abusive father, Edward.
Christina’s mother escaped her turbulent marriage, although not before stealing a treasure from her husband.
Now Christina returns to her mother’s birth land and takes England by storm. The ton calls her Princess Christina, and she is ever under the watchful eye of her aunt, Countess Patricia. Stories float around as to her “true” identity. Precisely who is this mysterious Princess Christina?
Lyon is at a ball chaperoning his sister when he sets eyes upon the most beautiful woman ever: Christina. He and his friend both appreciate her loveliness and notice her haughty demeanor. They make a bet on who can win her charms first. Then, like Cinderella, this princess makes an early disappearance.
What follows is Lyon’s chase to discover more about this lady of intrigue. The hero in pursuit is smitten from the first, although he won’t admit it. Having been betrayed by love, this wounded Lyon is not seeking marriage, just a diverting affair. Using his young sister’s admiration for Christina as an excuse, he charms his way in and out of The Princess’ social life.
Christina is on a quest to uncover the secret her mother left behind. Then she finds she must marry within weeks to inherit. She decides Lyon will make the perfect husband.
Remember, the lioness is the great hunter, not the lion!
Mysteries unfold, and danger lurks as the two get closer to each other and the truth.
Christina was a darling heroine on a quest to right past wrongs. In someone else’s hands, one could have accused her of being “annoyingly spunky.” Instead, Garwood wrote her as a girl beyond her years in wisdom.
Lyon was authoritative, not overbearingly so, and equally fascinating as his mate.
“Your eyes have turned as black as a Crow’s,” she blurted out.
He didn’t even blink over her bizarre comment. “Not this time, Christina,” he said in a furious whisper. “Compliments won’t get me off balance again, my little temptress. I swear to God, if you ever again dismiss me so casually, I’m going to––”
“Oh, it wasn’t a compliment,” Christina interrupted, letting him see her irritation. “How presumptuous of you to think it was. The Crow is our enemy.”
Final Analysis of The Lion’s Lady
The Lion’s Lady is a well-crafted, humorous adventure that fans of sensual period romances should appreciate on a pure enjoyment level. Don’t look for the reinvention of the wheel. This is just a solid love story between two great leads.
One quibble I had with The Lion’s Lady. It’s full of side characters you know are getting their own stories. I hate sequel baiting. This romance was written before every book was part of a series. Still, I wasn’t a fan.
Also annoying was that Christina’s evil aunt didn’t get her full just desserts. Garwood tends to the sweet side. I don’t know if it’s in her to create a genuinely vicious ending that would satisfy my bloodthirstiness.
Despite that, there’s much to enjoy here. I dithered over, giving this Regency romance 4 stars or 4-and-a-half. Either way, you slice it, it’s one I’ll look back on fondly.
Rating Report Card
1810. She has taken London society by storm. Christina Bennett… the ravishing beauty with the mysterious past. Rumor whispers she is a princess from a far-off kingdom on the continent. But only she holds the secret –until the night Lord Alexander Michael Phillips, Marquis of Lyonwood, steals a searching, sensuous kiss. A proud, arrogant nobleman with a pirate’s passions, he tastes the wild fire smoldering beneath Christina’s cool charm and swears to possess her before he is done…
But Lyon soon discovers that his dream of conquest will not be easily satisfied. The feisty and defiant Christina has no fear of him–or of any other man. She alone is master of her heart, mistress of her fortune. And though Lyon’s hungry caresses dizzy her senses though his fierce embrace arouses her desire… she will not surrender to his love. For if she does, she must also forsake at last her precious secret–and her promised destiny!
Arguably it is her most popular book. After 30 years, it is still in print and read by many new-to-the-romance-genre readers.
Johanna Lindsey Mania
I first read Gentle Rogue eons ago, when Johanna Lindsey was the greatest writer on earth. At 12 years old, what did I know?
I recall anxiously walking to Woolworth’s daily in November 1990, freaking out for her latest release. Boy, did I annoy the clerks by repeatedly asking when it was coming in!
The day I saw the clerk stocking the shelves, I grabbed the first book from the top of the box, not caring that it had a tiny slit on the cover.
I was a bit disheartened because for a Duillo–Fabio–Lindsey outing, save for Georgina’s lovely rose-trimmed gown, to me, it was lackluster. With its drab green tones and bird-bats flying in front of a huge moon, I was less than impressed.
When I saw Lindsey’s next book, Once a Princess, I would be even more disappointed in the cover design. No more Fabio (although he’d make a comeback for a few more Lindseys). Plus, Once a Princess had a stepback with a floral font on the front. I actually preferred that weird, pointed sci-fi-looking type.
The “old” Duillo-Lindsey era (1987 to 1990) was over with Gentle Rogue.
Gentle Rogue starts hilariously. Georgina Anderson is in a grungy inn in a seedy part of London. She attempts to kill a cockroach on the wall by propelling food at it, fails, but doesn’t care so long as it’s out of sight.
As usual with a Lindsey book, things get ridiculous, so check your brain at the door. Just enjoy the ride.
Stuck in England after secretly traveling there to search for her long-lost love who’d abandoned her years before, the American Georgina and her companion, Mac, lack both funds connections. They are desperately looking for a way back home.
Mac signs them up to work their way home. Georgina disguises herself as a boy to obtain passage on The Maiden Anne.
Little does she know that the ship’s captain already knows she’s a female because: #1 He’s James Malory, so he has eyes.
And #2, he’d met her before at a tavern when she was dressed in her masculine garments. Thinking she was someone else, he picked her up, only to cop a feel of her boobies.
Hardly someone the so-called “connoisseur of women” would forget.
James has the time of his life as he slowly seduces Georgina–or George, as he lovingly calls her.
But the tables are turned on this love-’em-and-leave-’em rake as Georgina leaves him when they land in the Caribbean. One of her sea-faring brothers is there at the port and whisks her away to Connecticut.
Parts of this book run parallel to its precursor, Tender Rebel (which, for me, was so-so due to a dull-as-dishwater heroine). There is some word-for-word repetition of previous scenes (perhaps to pad the word count).
Unlike its predecessor, the heroine in Gentle Rogue is a delight. All the characters are a blast: James, Georgina, James’ droll and equally rakish brother Anthony, and best of all, Georgina’s five belligerent older brothers.
In a memorable scene, they all take turns beating James into a pulp before holding him and his crew prisoners.
Lindsey and her readers must have loved George’s brothers as I did. Three of the Anderson men feature as heroes in subsequent books of their own.
Final Analysis of Gentle Rogue
The title of the book is quite accurate. The hard-muscled ex-pirate James Malory is an unrepentant rogue, taking advantage of Georgina. He thoroughly disgraces her in front of her brothers, so they’re forced to wed.
James is a droll charmer, witty, and arrogant. The perfect hero.
My favorite Anderson brother was Warren. His book, The Magic of You, is my second favorite in the Malory-Anderson series. There, he meets his match with the much younger and very persistent Amy Malory.
Those two romances are the high points for me in the Malory-Anderson series, although Gentle Rogue is a wee better.
I enjoyed Gentle Rogue very much when I first read it.
I’ve grown to love it much more now that I picture James looking like another blond, green-eyed Englishman: a young Sean Bean!
Nothing against Fabio, he’s a legend, but he can’t be the hero of every romance from ’87 to ’95!
If you haven’t read Gentle Rogue, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s a romance classic.
Rating Report Card
Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she’ll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship’s irrepressible captain, James Mallory.
The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas features one of her most beloved characters, Derek Craven. Derek was previously seen in Then Came You, whose reserved hero, Alex Raiford, was more to my liking. This is a beautiful romance by the talented Kleypas where two people from contrasting social classes come together in love.
The Characters and the Set-Up
Sara Fielding is a novelist in Regency-era England. She’s not ravishingly beautiful, wears spectacles, and is a rather curious woman. Her novels address the fallen people in society. Sara’s out at night in a rough London neighborhood to investigate material for her next book when she comes upon an altercation. She’s able to prevent the man from being killed, although not before his attackers cut him. The man she saves is the aforementioned hero, Derek Craven.
Craven is the owner of London’s most successful gambling house, which doubles as a house of pleasure. Far from being a traditional English lord, he’s as rough as a hero can get. Derek was born illegitimate and grew up on the streets, having to build himself up alone. He’s wealthy but certainly not part of polite society, even if some of his past mistresses are. Craven is snaggletoothed, handsome in an off-beat, rugged type of way, and speaks with a Cockney accent. I picture him as Christian Bale’s character from the film “The Prestige.”
Derek wants nothing to do with the over-inquisitive Sara. Nevertheless, she did save his life, so he owes her a favor. Derek allows Sara into his dark underworld for her research. Sara will meet Derek’s factotum, Worthy, numerous ladies-of-the-evening, and other interesting people at Craven’s.
However, it’s the owner of the establishment she’s most keen about. And Derek can’t help but fight his growing tenderness for the innocent miss.
Sara walks around Craven’s with her pencil and notepad in hand, a naive, inquisitive creature. She asks questions about everything, from gambling to the lives of the women who work there to more personal questions about Derek.
Sara is involved with a simpering nabob, so it’s no shock she’s intrigued by the “bad-boy” Derek Craven.
Derek does not like Sara, or at least he wants her to know he feels that way. He pushes her away, despite his desperate attraction to her. Sara’s a hidden beauty with a huge heart, a heart Derek knows he can only break.
Because of his background, Derek thinks he’s not the man for any decent woman, especially not Sara. He wants her yet believes he’s not good enough for her.
Indeed, Sara falls for Derek and she does everything to convince him they should be together. Sara goes as far as dressing up for a masked ball at the casino/brothel, something no conventional miss would dare.
Derek has severe issues of inadequacy. He’s done much to better himself, taking language lessons and having a valet–as a proper gentleman should. But a proper gentleman is something he’ll never be. He doesn’t think he deserves Sara’s love and pushes her off to her “fiance.”
There’s also some mysterious peril afoot. Plus, a crazed, over-the-top villainess in the form of Derek’s ex-mistress, Joyce. Derek is done with Joyce, but like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” she “will not be ignored!”
Will the threat of danger be what finally brings Derek and Sara together?
Separately they had different strengths. Together they were complete.
Final Analysis of Dreaming of You
Unlike many of Kleypas’ readers, although I enjoyed this captivating love story, I don’t consider Dreaming of You one of my favorites. That’s no insult since it’s akin to attempting to rank the best British rock band of all time. There are so many greats Kleypas has created over the last twenty-five years.
Kleypas excels at making swoon-worthy heroes. Derek’s protestations of affection for Sara are cruel, but the reader is always aware of how much he desires her. She consumes Derek as no other woman before (or after).
When he does declare his adoration for the lady, be prepared to melt!
I understand why Derek Craven has made so many appearances in Kleypas’ novels. He’s the kind of man you can’t forget. A self-made man who thinks himself unworthy of love and has a heart of gold. Sara is fine; she simply not as exciting to me as her co-star.
If you haven’t read this one, consider putting it on your to-be-read list. It’s a romance that will grab your heart.
Rating Report Card
She stood at danger’s threshold—then love beckoned her in.
A prim, well-bred gentlewoman, Sara Fielding is a writer who puts pen to paper to create dreams. But now curiosity is luring her from the shelter of her country cottage into the dangerous world of Derek Craven—handsome, tough, and tenacious—and the most exciting man Sara has ever met.
Derek rose from poverty to become the wealthy lord of London’s most exclusive gambling house. And now duty demands that he allow Sara Fielding to enter his perilous realm of ever-shifting fortunes—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But there is a hidden strength and sensuality to the lady that captivates him beyond his better judgment.
And in this world, where danger lurks behind every shadow, even a proper “mouse” can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a cynical gambler can be shaken to his core by the power of passion and the promise of love.
I’ve read about half of the romances Deana James published and I must say Crimson Obsession is probably my least favorite of her works. It’s not a terrible romance, not at all. It simply pales in comparison to her other books. Due to my high expectations of James’ writing, Crimson Obsession was a bit of a disappointment, although if penned by another author, I daresay I might not have been so critical.
The Revenge Based Plot
It’s Victorian-era England and Cassandra MacDaermond is on a mission of revenge. She’s a beautiful red-haired orphan left penniless. Her father died after losing the family fortune by gambling. Cassandra blames Edward Sandron, owner of a gaming hall, for this. She’s determined to see Sandron pay for taking advantage of an elderly man. Cassandra disguises herself as an old, plump maid and gains employment in Sandron’s household.
Edward Sandron not only runs a gambling establishment, but he also is the head of a sex cult. He calls himself Baal and wears funky devil costumes. If that sounds to you like something you’d read in an Anne Stuart romance, that’s what I thought as well.
Stuart takes her work seriously, heavy on the angst, and without much humor. Her heroes are akin to caped, mustachio-twirling villains. They are forever telling the heroines how much they despise them and what wicked ruin they will bring upon the hapless females.
Thankfully, James doesn’t take this silliness anywhere as seriously as Stuart would. Edward Sandron runs his club with a sense of the ridiculous. He’s just running this gig as a side hustle to make money. Gambling and debauched orgies aren’t really his thing. He also writes salacious pornographic works to rake in the pounds. What Edward really wants to be is a respectable writer in the style of Charles Dickens.
Crimson Obsession shares another similarity with Anne Stuart’s books, as this contains a secondary romance, as Stuart’s works often do. A prostitute named Sally has her eyes on Sandron. However, Sandron’s editor, a porn peddler named Nash, has eyes on Sally. Their tug-and-pull love story is quite entertaining and unique.
Then there’s a hypocritical, morally-priggish OTT villain who makes for more ludicrous antics.
Cassandra is a seemingly plucky heroine, at first. She has a plan, but it doesn’t actually amount to much. And, of course, Edward eventually discovers his housemaid is not who she appeared to be. Once he discovers her true identity, Edward’s intent on proving he’s not the culprit Cassandra thinks he is. And besides, she’s attracted to him, and he’s attracted to her.
Final Analysis of Crimson Obsession
Cassandra and Edward’s romance was fine, but I thought the parallel romance between Nash and Sally was hot. They were a far more exciting couple than the central pair.
I prefer James’s medievals and American-set romances to her Victorian and Regencies, as they’re more grand-scale and action-packed. Overall, this is better than the average romance, but not one of James’ best books.
Speak Only Love is yet another Deana James treat. This Zebra romance takes us to Regency Era England and the story of tumultuous love between two uniquely original characters.
The Characters and Plot
Vivian Marleigh is a mute heiress who cannot speak ever since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. She is forced into marriage with a young, hard-drinking viscount, Piers Larne. The marriage was arranged by the viscounts’ wicked father, the Earl.
Piers is not happy about this union, but what can he do? He feels powerless in his life, with no agency. His daddy pulls the strings, and like a puppet, Piers must dance to his control.
Piers is a dissolute mess, spending most of his time drinking and recovering from gunshot wounds or the many injuries he receives. For besides being the wastrel son of a nobleman, our hero is also a smuggler.
Vivian doesn’t speak a word in the book, yet the love story unfolds and the two pawns in an evil man’s game soon form an intense bond that goes beyond words.
The heroines in James’ book always have a delicate sense of strength, a fortitude that makes them mightier than the hero in many ways. Vivian is no different, her persona grows into one with a powerful voice, even though she cannot physically speak.
Another Great Romance by Deana James
Though at first both parties in Speak Only Love are wary of each other, neither of them wanting to be part of this unlikely union, slowly they begin to understand one another. Without words, together Piers and Vivian form an unexpected bond.
They face many harrowing experiences, as Piers’ smuggling activities catch up with him. Vivian, who doesn’t have a physical voice, is an amazing, resilient character. With her abiding strength, Piers can face whatever challenges lie ahead.
Final Analysis of Speak Only Love
Speak Only Love might not be Deana James’ best novel I’ve read so far, but it certainly was a compelling read. I do prefer Deana James’ western and medieval romances to her Regency & Victorian Era novels. Even so, she has yet to disappoint me in any of her books.
I really appreciated the way James wrote her heroines. They go through hell and back but always retain their dignity. Good stuff.
Then Came You written by Lisa Kleypas is easily one of my favorite romances. It has all the key elements to make this one I would adore. There’s a strong-willed (but charmingly so) heroine, a hero in my all-time hall-of-fame, steamy love scenes, and a magnificent love story.
Not to mention a captivating side character who earned his own book and would show up in about a dozen Kleypas novels.
A Heroine to Remember
The heroine of Then Came You was, at the time of the book’s initial release, a unique female protagonist. Today, Romancelandia is replete with hoydenish, unmarried non-virgins who thumb their noses at conventional rules. Back in 1993, the wild Lily Lawson was most unusual for a historical romance heroine.
The novel begins with Lily aboard a fancy sea vessel for a daytime event that bores her senseless. She allows her hat to fly off into the waters of the Thames in an attempt to prod her male admirers into fetching it for her. The reserved Lord Alex Raiford looks on, disgusted by her antics.
Lily is on the fringes of polite society as she is estranged from her family for her shocking behavior. Many years ago, she was involved in a love affair with an Italian gentleman who turned out to be a cad.
Now, she takes pleasure in shocking the ton. Upon hearing that her dear sister has been forced into a betrothal to the stuffed-shirt Lord Raiford and cannot marry the man she loves, “Lawless” Lily Lawson–as she is called–is determined to save the day.
She will use all her will and wiles to stop Raiford from marrying her sister.
A Hero to Die For
When Lily does succeed, Alex vows revenge and in scene after memorable scene, his vengeance turns to passion. (I admit to fanning myself to Alex’s reaction when Lily is painted with a serpent on her flesh!) Then passion yields to love when he realizes that Lily’s outward behavior is just a cover for the dark secrets that torment her.
Lord Raiford is a responsible man. He has a little brother to care for and estates to run. He was looking for a responsible bride to round out his life.
Alex’s first fiancee died in a horseback riding accident, so Alex is hesitant to get close to anyone, especially a woman of such a free spirit. If you know me and my reviews, you know where I stand on that trope, but here it’s no ghost who’s part of the conflict.
Lily has gained even more notoriety as the only female allowed to gamble in a gaming hell belonging to Derek Craven. Lily even shares a bit of chemistry with the sexy, snaggle-toothed proprietor.
Many Kleypas fans prefer Derek, the hero of this book’s sequel, Dreaming of You, as their favorite Kleypas MC. (Or Sebastian from The Devil in Winter which I haven’t read yet.) As for me, I think Alex Raiford was the better man. He’s strong, kind, intense, and deeply loyal.
Although, the scene where Alex confronts Craven about being Lily’s lover does make Derek look amazing!
There are more obstacles preventing Lily and Alex from being together besides being polar opposites who butt heads.
But Alex’s surprising love will make Lily’s impossible dreams come true. I can’t help but gush over a hero like Alex. He’s principled, a little uptight, beautiful, and great with kids!
Final Analysis for Then Came You
What to say about Then Came You? Lisa Kleypas proved herself to me as one of the best writers in the modern era of romance.
There’s so much to appreciate here: an assertive, unconventional heroine, a virtuous hero I adore, and a wonderfully plotted affair. This is one of my all-time favorites!
The Treacherous Heart by Angela Alexie is a tale of a Gaelic, black-haired, fiery-spirited lass forced by circumstances to become a thief to provide for her family, only to be thwarted by an arrogant, scar-faced, golden-haired Duke…
Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. If you remove all the intelligent writing, the interesting side characters, and the sexual chemistry between the leads from McBain’s book, we have this dull, meandering read.
Except for Jennifer Blake, I’ve come to find that Fawcett-published romances were rarely ever excellent, and this dud is another to put in the slush pile.
The Treacherous Heart begins one day in Lancashire, England. Some drunken soldiers looking for excitement come upon the house of the Avory family. They ransack the home, kill the dog, the Irish-born widow Lady Delilah, and her young son before raping the teenage daughter.
The eldest sister and heroine, Raven, was not in residence while this occurred. She arrived only in time to witness the aftermath of her home’s destruction. So Raven flees with her sister Crystal to London to find comfort with relatives.
While her relations are suitably affluent, Raven and Christie find their financial circumstances are tenuous at best. A greedy land manager’s mishandling of their estate has left them destitute.
Raven enters Society, going to balls while escorted by her adoring cousin Wesley, who is gaga over her. At a masquerade, she meets the Duke of Dorchester, Eric Draquewall, our hero, who is predictably cold and arrogant. The duke glares at Raven and then insults her, but to his shock, her response is to laugh in his face, causing the duke to vow that he’ll teach the haughty chit a lesson!
Responsible for her convalescing younger sister and reliant upon the charity of relatives, Raven decides she’s too good to marry a wealthy chinless wonder. Within mere pages (by page 35), she decides to be a thief. She steals jewels and precious items from the gentry who welcomed her into their homes.
Soon, tales of the audacious jewel thief make the rounds. The burglar is given the moniker “The Black Cat.” (Get it? The heroine is named Raven and has black hair and green eyes, just like a black cat! Just like a cat burglar. And nobody even knew. Does that blow your mind, or what?)
Jealous of Raven’s close relationship with her male cousin, the handsome Duke of Dorchester hires an investigator to find out if they’re secret lovers.
By page 60, he finds information that proves Raven is behind the jewel-napping antics. Dorchester could reveal her secret.
However, as Eric is attracted to Raven–what do you think that glaring and insulting was all about? That’s how these old-school romance heroes showed how much they liked a girl–he decides to blackmail her into being his mistress.
Or his wife.
Or mistress. Eric’s not really sure. All he knows is whatever Raven’s got under her velvety skirts, he wants in on that.
Raven finds that she responds to Eric’s caresses, despite her initial distaste towards any physical touch.
Raven was so disturbed by the brutality perpetrated upon her sister that she vowed no man would ever touch her.
Ironically, Crystal, the one who was violated, had an easy time finding healing through romantic and physical love. Okay, people react differently to trauma. Perhaps in the hands of a nuanced author, Raven’s survivor’s-guilt aversion to sex would have been a compelling part of her character. Alas, it isn’t. It’s just a plot contrivance to keep the hero and heroine from getting together. Circumstances occur mechanically here, without any flavor.
It Keeps Going and Going and Going…
And so Eric and Raven engage in a cat-and-mouse-will-they-or-won’t-they game for a few more pages.
Eric befriends Raven’s sister, showing he’s a nice guy. Eric’s mother thinks Raven would make the perfect wife for Eric. Raven resists the thought of marriage to this wealthy, handsome, friendly, attractive Duke because… Reasons?
When cousin Wesley finds out that Eric has been less than honorable with Raven, he challenges the Duke to a duel. Wesley is wounded in the swordfight, Eric gets scarred, and later Raven’s sister gets married. Then Eric sweeps Raven off to his estate, declaring his love for her before they finally get it on.
But Raven can’t be with Eric, because remember reasons!
So she flees to America to mooch off other family members, and The Treacherous Heart is only halfway through, and… OMG, make it stop!
Eric follows Raven to America, blah, blah, blah, a possible other woman makes an appearance, blah, blah, blah, Eric and Raven reunite, blah, blah, blah, villain seeks revenge, blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
Final Analysis of The Treacherous Heart
Events happened in Angela Alexie’s The Treacherous Heart. Characters engaged in dialogue, and time passed on, yet it was so dull.
All the pieces were in place, but the story was lifeless, like a dead frog connected to a car battery by jumper cables. Turn the ignition all you want; there’s just no spark here, no animation.
When boring writing is combined with a drawn-out, pale imitation of a superior work, it makes for a 1 star read. In this case, as I do appreciate the Elaine Gignilliat cover, I’ll give this sucker approximately one-and-a-half stars.
Rating Report Card
The lady was a thief, the gentleman was a rogue. Their stormy romance defied propriety with a daring covenant of love. Dire circumstances had left the beautiful young Lady Raven Avory bereft of family and funds. A desperate situation demanded a desperate remedy, and so she began stealing small jewels from the wealthy who had welcomed her as a guest.
She had not counted on being caught at her game, especially not by the handsome Duke of Dorchester. Suddenly she found herself forced into his debt, into his arms, into a star-crossed affair that would sweep her into a whirlwind of tangled hearts and the most brazen ecstasies of love.
I’m not a fan of the execution of Claiming the Courtesan. I did think, though, what Anna Campbell tried to accomplish in her first book was refreshing.
She wrote a style romance I call a neo-bodice ripper. These books attempt to capture the violent sexual power dynamics of older romances yet are distinctly modern in presentation.
Something Old is New Again
I appreciated what Campbell wanted to create in the anti-hero Kylemore. A handsome, spoiled Duke, he was obsessed with hunting down his mistress Soraya who abandoned him. He was a loathsome, detestable being who cared only for his mad desires.
Initially, his intensity drew my attention. Soon, though, I found him to be a bratty, uncharismatic psycho-stalker.
I seem to be alone in this regard as I yearn for the days of stoic, inscrutable heroes. Those men whose love was shown through their actions. When they did speak, the words meant so much.
I prefer to be in the hero’s head as little as possible. Here, we’re given every angsty thought, every hateful sentiment, or lustful urge.
Soraya/Verity, with her dual personality, was an interesting albeit flawed character. She had to sell her body to help her family survive but wanted freedom.
It seemed as if Campbell intended this book to be a romantic feminist oeuvre, just like any good bodice ripper is. Because, despite their violent and rapey reputation, bodice rippers are decidedly pro-female.
Alas, Claiming the Courtesan failed to achieve what the great rippers of the ’70s & ’80s did: enlighten and titillate. This was too emo, with no thrills. The endless introspection and bad sex scenes became tedious.
The Plot & What Could Have Been
A problem with some modern romances is that authors dismiss what made many older ones great. The reader got to see the plot progress. Claiming the Courtesan lacked tension. The drama doesn’t unfold before our eyes, as the story begins in medias res with Kylemore searching for his missing mistress.
How more engaging if the book began with Kylemore meeting Verity? She would still be a courtesan whom many men desire. Over time, Kylemore seduces her away from her protector. All the while, Verity would be conflicted. Determined to leave her imposed career, she struggles with her feelings for Kylemore.
We’d see into more Verity & Kylemore’s relationship, perhaps a snarky side character or two, and more about Kylemore’s evil mother.
Then–just as the book actually began–Verity would flee from Kylemore, who would track her down and kidnap her. At that point, we’d see how their unusual bond progresses.
Finally, the epilogue would show how they deal with their scandalous relationship in polite society. Perhaps they’d decide to say to hell with the stifling ton and go to the colonies.
Instead, we hear them vow promises for a vague future.
A sex scene or two could have been cut, along with dozens of pages of inner monologue. But there’s your action; that’s a story.
Instead, there are chapters with dumps of internal dialogue.
The plot of Claiming the Courtesan consists of drawn-out events. After Verity is kidnapped (this portion alone takes up a considerable part of the novel), there are two-and-a-half-long chapters where she escapes from her carriage, is chased down in the dark by Kylemore, and is finally caught and brought to the carriage. It felt like watching a hamster run in a wheel, moving but going nowhere.
Introduced later on to add more drama are Verity’s concerned brother and Kylemore’s wicked mother. The characters feel clumsily tacked on.
The final resolution is unsatisfactory. There is a hint of a happy ending; an epilogue was necessary to cement it.
“Verity, you have a choice,” he said gently. “We eat, we talk, we pass the evening with an attempt at civility. Or we fuck. It’s up to you.”
My Opinion: The Decline of Historical Romance
My frustration with so many romances of the last two decades is that they’ve lost the art of storytelling in favor of emotional overload. Nothing happens, but every minor issue is so dramatically addressed. It’s so overwrought.
Why has historical romance degraded to wallpaper irrelevance? Is this what audiences really want? Characters dressed in old-time garments, sipping tea? Books that superficially touch upon manners, but have tons of explicit sex scenes? Heroes asking for consent at every turn and page after page of emotional hand-wringing?
I guess it is, and I’m just not part of the cool kid’s club. Give me food and clothes porn, un-politically correct mindsets, heroes who dare to do wrong, heroines who’ll slap them right back, and salacious purple prose any day.
Final Analysis of Claiming the Courtesan
This book could have sparked a retro genre of 21st-century bodice rippers, rather than just being a gimmick of a plot that led to a bit of controversy. If I want to read a romance with power struggles and dominance issues between the hero and heroine, they rarely exist in historical romances anymore. Those books have been diluted to blandness. Historicals are all so cookie-cutter. I’d have to contemporary-set BDSM romances, New Adult erotica, or paranormal fantasy to look for my spice. However, I’m just not interested in those genres.
This was such a shame. Claiming the Courtesan could have been something special, but it was bogged down in psychological analysis and not enough substance.
A wise rapper, Redman, once said, “If you gotta be a monkey, be a gorilla.” If you’re going to pen a bodice ripper, go balls-to-wall crazy with it. Have no shame about it. Be proud to be outrageous. Otherwise, stick to what everyone else writes because, apparently, it does sell.
Stranger in My Arms was the first Lisa Kleypas romance I read, and found it to be quite enchanting. Although I was already familiar with this kind of plot, the book came off very fresh, if a bit improbable.
If you’ve seen the Richard Gere and Jodie Foster movie, Sommersby, you’ll know the basic story. Instead of Reconstruction Era American South, this romantic tale takes place in Regency England.
Lady Lara, Countess of Hawksworth, is happy to be a widow. Lara had a horrible marriage to a man who was a monster to her. Her husband Hunter was cold, dispassionate, and unfaithful.
Hunter was pronounced dead, having been presumed drowned at sea, the body never recovered. Now Lara is a widow, free to live as she desires.
Then the worst imaginable occurs when Hunter mysteriously reappears.
Although he looks exactly like her dead husband, this man doesn’t always act like it. He doesn’t seem to know or remember certain things, which could be due to an injury from his accident at sea.
More likely, as Lara suspects, he’s an imposter. How else to explain the desire she feels for this man? He’s sweet and caring to her and makes her feel things he never had in the past. Lara doesn’t believe he’s her dead husband. He can’t be.
Even Hunter’s former mistress doesn’t believe it’s him.
But how to explain how this man seems to know so much about Hunter and Lara? Who is he, really?
This new Hunter is so wonderful. He makes erotic, passionate love to Lara. Slowly she falls in love with the man she once hated.
As noted, we’ve seen this story before, and it’s very similar to the film.
Yes, this Hunter is an imposter. He knows all about Hunter because they met each other, and Hunter shared much information about his personal life with him. No, the truth is not revealed to society. Lara loves this man, whoever he is.
Final Analysis of Stranger In My Arms
I adored reading Stranger in My Arms.
I recall being so delighted by the fine quality of Kleypas’ writing that I was convinced I had finally found a new favorite author. It had been a long time since I had been so excited to read a romance novel. (This was in the late 1990s when I was beginning the second romance-reading phase in my life)
Stranger in My Arms was a fantastical story in the truest sense of the word. It demands a considerable suspension of disbelief because most people do not have secret identical copies of themselves walking around.
The writing was empathetic and moving. This wasn’t Kleypas’ best work, which says a lot about how good she is.
Stranger in My Arms is a romance that stayed with me, with lingering feelings of joy.
Rating Report Card
“Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead…”
With those words, Lara’s life turned upside down. Hunter, Earl of Hawksworth, had been lost at sea. Or so she’d been told. Their unhappy marriage—with its cold caresses and passionless kisses—was over. But now a powerful, virile man stood before her, telling secrets only a husband could know, and vowing she would once again be his wife in every way.
While Lara couldn’t deny that this man with the smoldering dark eyes resembled Hunter, he was attentive and loving in ways he never was before. Soon she desperately wanted to believe, with every beat of her heart, that this stranger was truly her husband. But had this rake reformed—or was Lara being seduced by a cunning stranger
By the time Johanna Lindsey‘s The Magic of Youwas published by Avon in June 1993, I was a rising Junior in high school.
From 7th to 9th grade, I had been obsessed with romance novels, reading everything from Lady Chatterley’s Lover to category romances to thick, door-stopper historical epics.
So at that time, I was not as fanatical about reading for fun due to a full course load at school, with no lunch period and little time for extra-extracurricular activities.
On the day I came upon that blue Elaine Duillo and Fabio step-back paperback at a Waldenbooks in the local mall, I squealed in delight. It was a sequel to one of my favorite Lindsey books Gentle Rogue.
I excitedly plunked down $5.99 plus tax (oh my, how expensive books had gotten; only 3 years earlier, a mass-market paperback could go as low as $4) and hurried home to read it.
To this day, The Magic of You remains the only book I have ever read and finished TWICE in one day.
The Heroine in Pursuit
The heroine-in-pursuit plot seems like such an unusual trope in historicals. If it isn’t, it’s at least rare in the romance novels I read.
More often, it’s the hero pursuing the heroine, if not out of love, because he wants her body.
Here, Amy wants it all from Warren: his body, his love, and his laughter.
A free-spirited, confident heroine in pursuit of an uptight, stuffed-shirt hero who tries his best to resist her is my absolute favorite trope. I don’t think I’ve seen it done better in any book than this one.
Lady Amy Malory is female, but that doesn’t mean she’s distinct from her libidinous Malory uncles. And she’s much more so than flirtatious cousin Regina.
Amy might be a 17-year-old virgin, but she knows what she wants. That would be Warren Anderson, the brother of her uncle’s James wife. The dour American is much older at age than her at (I think) 36.
Yes, there’s a considerable age gap between the two, but it doesn’t make any difference in The Magic of You.
Amy is strong-willed, determined, witty, and utterly charming.
Warren is the complete opposite: a stick-in-the-mud type who was deeply hurt in the past by the woman he loved. Now the only woman he has any feelings of consideration for is his sister, Georgina, and his newborn niece, Jacqueline.
“I want you, Warren Anderson.”
The Magic of You
The Hero in Flight
Warren hates the Malory family. In particular, his brother-in-law, James.
When James Malory compromised his sister, Georgina, it took all five burly Anderson brothers to take turns beating James into a pulp to force him to marry her. James has never forgotten that.
Nor have the Andersons forgotten that James was a pirate who plundered some Anderson family ships. Not to mention that he’s a blasted Englishman, while the Anderson are American.
The blood feud runs strong between the two families, despite George and James’s marriage.
So it’s no surprise that Amy’s uncles are vehemently opposed to any union between Warren and Amy. But Amy doesn’t care. She will use all her feminine wiles, all her charm, all the magic of her love to transform bitter Warren into a happy man.
And because she’s a Malory, Warren has met his match.
Final Analysis of The Magic of You
The Magic of You is an imperfect book, I know. It’s not one of Johanna Lindsey’s most well-written historical romance novels.
Doesn’t matter. I loved this one. Loved, loved, loved it.
Rating Report Card
As wild and reckless as the most incorrigible of her male cousins, Amy Malory has reached a marriageable age and has set her sights on a most inappropriate mate: the straight-laced American ship captain who once nearly had her Uncle James hung hanged for piracy.
Warren Anderson is shocked by the brazen advances of his despised enemy’s beautiful niece. Though determined to resist her, he burns for the enchanting British minx. And an impassioned heart implores him to surrender to a love that could stoke the smoldering fires of a family feud into a dangerous, all consuming blaze
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is her fourth and–in my opinion–her best book. This is peak bodice ripper fun; it’s salacious, entertaining, and attempts (and succeeds) at profundity.
I’ll probably rewrite a more in-depth analysis of this historical romance at another time. For now, here are my reading notes assembled into a semblance of a review.
His lips touched the back of her neck and moved along her stubborn shoulder. One hand stroked her breasts, and the other moved unerringly between her thighs; he found the most sensitive part of her and moved against her and in her until her half-formed protests turned into soft, stifled moans.
WICKED LOVING LIES
Readers, do these plot points sound fun to you?
Traveling to almost every continent in the world
Affairs with noblemen, warriors, and even Napoleon!
Being a criminal on the run
Highwaymen, high seas action, and harems
Getting branded with your husband’s initials after he bangs you in front of your new lover… And then said lover gets so aroused, he bangs you afterward!
If you have a high threshold for triggering issues like:
A mother having her only child taken away from her
Plus, enjoy a hefty dose of second-wave feminism from a heroine who goes to hell and back several times over…
If any of this sounds like your idea of a thrilling read–because it certainly is–then Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers might be a book you’d want to pick up.
As far as I’m concerned, this is Rosemary Rogers at her prime.
Some parts of Wicked Loving Lies were scorching hot, like Chapter 17. Other parts were heartbreaking. Many parts were shocking.
There’s only one thing this book NEVER is: boring!
That’s what I loved about these the best of these older romances, there was always so much stuff going on you never had time to overanalyze and nitpick, you just kept moving.
Rosemary Rogers knew how to write a page-turner.
The Proto-Feminist Heroine
“Oh damn men and their superior ways. From now on I’ll stand on my own two feet and fight for what I want–anyway I have to, with my body and my wits… Why not? It’s a man’s world, what other choice do you leave a woman who possesses a mind?“
WICKED LOVING LIES
Those words are from Marisa, the heroine of this amazing, action-packed bodice ripper by the Original Great, the legendary Rosemary Rogers.
Marisa is a heroine you want to smack or shake or hug or give a big old high five.
She’s amazing as she never gave up, even though life kept coming at her with no remorse. Except for when she thought her beloved Dominic was dead.
And even then, Marisa was not going out without taking someone else with her.
Final Analysis of Wicked Loving Lies
Wicked Loving Lies by Rosemary Rogers is an excellent experience for bodice ripper enthusiasts but not for the faint of heart.
This book will shock you. I loved it!
Rating Report Card
Born of scandal and denied his birthright, Dominic Challenger took to the sea, charting his own future. A true rogue, Dominic answers to no one, trusting only himself. Until Marisa.
Born of wealth and privilege, Marisa is a prisoner to her father’s expectations. When the sanctuary she has found behind the walls of a convent is threatened by the news that her father has arranged for her to marry, Marisa flees…right into the arms of a pirate.
From the safety of a sheltered convent to a sultan’s harem, from the opulence of Napoleon’s court to the wilds of the new frontier, Marisa and Dominic brave all that they encounter in this thrilling age: intrigue, captivity and danger. And above all, an enduring passion that ignites into an infinite love.
A novel of stolen embraces beneath blazing skies of war, of desire that sweeps across turbulent seas from England to Algiers, of a beautiful woman enslaved by lawless pirate corsairs…a woman bound by no law but endless love.
PURITY’S ECSTASY by JANETTE SEYMOUR
Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.
Like many other late 1970s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, John Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is fun. It’s a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.
In the previous book Purity’s Passion, Purity survived the French Revolution, and then she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she overcame numerous obstacles before getting her man (namely other men).
The same is–more or less–the case with this sequel.
Here Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive, and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.
Alas, Purity has to search for employment after her cruel in-laws kick her out to the street. In her own words, her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth,” so what’s a girl to do? Put those assets to work!
And… oh… my… God…
Not even halfway through this romp, there were more trashy elements here than the previous five ‘rippers I’d read combined. There was lots of kidnapping, lots of rape-and/or-forced seduction, a female pirate, regular pirates, eunuchs, male virgins, lesbian orgies, multi-racial gang-bangs, whippings, bigamy, and amnesia…
Yet, it was so tastefully done—nary a peep of manhoods, members, or dewy petals here. There were plenty of water-based euphemisms to disguise the naughtiness. Still, it had plenty of titillation.
Purity is thrown into the ravishing clutches of the evil pirate/slave-trader called El Diablo, The Devil. He hides a shocking true identity. For he is the same minister she knew back home in England. Her local friend, Reverend Mauleverer, is the evil pirate/slave-trader, El Diablo.
Debauched by an older boy at Eton, ordained as a man of the cloth at Oxford, the mild-seeming minister reveals to Purity that it was he who kidnapped her husband. He who led the Corsair fleet in the Mediterranean. It was he who took Purity into slavery. And he who ravished her.
And Purity had no clue who he was? This girl is seriously lacking in IQ and EQ.
But as bad as it gets, no naughty escapades and no thrilling, charismatic villains will ever prevent Purity from being with her dull, bland, zero-personality-having soulmate!
Final Analysis on Purity’s Ecstasy
Purity’s Ecstasy was, for the most part, an entertaining romp. Although a romance, it was not!
I don’t know if I will read book #3 (Purity’s Shame) in the series. I assume more of the same will occur. Namely, that Purity and her beloved are separated by mysterious forces. She will have to use her gold-plated “poon” as currency to get back to zero-personality-having, dull-gray Mark.
Anne Carsley’s This Triumphant Fire is an okay bodice ripper with a more interesting villain than the hero.
A Great Villain and a Missing-in-Action Hero
The heroine, Carlotta, is a beautiful French girl who fled her home country after the Revolution. She is living off the charity of her English guardians.
Simon, the hero, is a rakish fellow who is having a romance with one of the daughters in the family. He also has a secret life as a highwayman. Carlotta cannot help but be attracted to the handsome blond man.
After a brutal rape attempt by one of the family’s sons, Carlotta kills her attacker and flees into the night.
Carlotta and Simon meet again. He sees her distress and comforts her. Simon takes her to his cabin in the woods.
They make passionate love and spend an idyllic time together before the “hero” abandons her. Carlotta catches him cheating on her with another woman.
She confronts him, and in the typical jerky-hero style, he is unrepentant.
The lovers are separated, and Carlotta finds her way on a ship to the American south. There she enters in a marriage of convenience with a suave, attractive, older man named Austin.
Her husband is virile in the bedroom, bringing her to the brink of passion. But only needs Carlotta for her womb, as he prefers hot voodoo lovemaking sessions with his male lover.
Carlotta is eventually taken to the harsh jungles of Haiti, where voodoo magic plays a prominent role. Then, who should show up out of the blue but Simon, her long, lost, er–love. He saves her, and the pair flee together, vowing eternal love.
Final Analysis of This Triumphant Fire
While Anne Carsely’s prose was very poignant and romantic, I remember enjoying This Triumphant Fire for everything except the love story.
The villain was magnetic, and the fast, action-packed pacing, combined with the author’s style of writing, were strong points. However, the lackluster romance failed to make this one a favorite.
One pet peeve/ minor factoid: the cover portrays the heroine with the wrong hair color. She’s got reddish hair, not black. Carsley also had the same issue with her lovely cover of This Ravished Rose.
HER PAST DESTROYED, HER DESTINY WAS A HIGHWAYMAN’S LOVE
The family and home she’d lost as a girl in the French Revolution were now only shadows in Carlotta’s haunted dreams. And when murder forced her from the English manor where she’d been reduced to servitude, she was penniless and alone in the world.
Dressed as a boy, Carlotta sought safety with Simon, a roguish highwayman–who quickly saw the exquisite beauty beneath her disguise and possessed her with a passion that left her consumed by desire.
THIS TRIUMPHANT FIRE
But Carlotta’s beauty caught the eye of a vicious aristocrat who took what he wanted. What he wanted was Carlotta–to bear him a son and heir. Her happiness, her life, meant nothing to him.
Carried off to a Caribbean Island throbbing with slave rebellion, then to New Orleans stirring with French intrigue–Carlotta endured her degrading captivity, hoping against hope that her highwayman wouldn’t forget her… That if her heart was her fate, Simon was her destiny.
Purity She was Purity, a maddeningly beautiful woman who wanted to save herself for the one man she had always loved-the man who rescued her from the horror of the French Revolution, who found her a place in England’s highest aristocracy and who refused, because of a painful secret in his past, to open his heart to her longings.
Passion And she was Passion, a woman who drove men wild with desire, who submitted to cruel tormentors, a blackmailer’s demands, a hypnotist’s powers and an innocent young man about to die. But she, while giving her body, steadfastly refused to give her heart.
Ecstasy Scorched by burning dreams!
PURITY’S PASSION by JANETTE SEYMOUR
MILD SPOILERS 😉
She would come to him a complete woman…
The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) by Janette Seymour begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between, we witness the epic tale of Purity. She is a woman so beautiful that many men desire her; they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her…
In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.
Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love. Later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.
Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward.
Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and then finally marries her. Her relationship with Mark is one of the weaker parts of the book, but since there are two sequels their romance will undoubtedly develop further.
(Edited: How wrong I was! There’s no character development to be found anywhere!)
Purity has many men before being with her true love, and each experience shapes her uniquely. There is a touching one-night romance Purity shares with a soldier doomed to die at sea and a sweet love affair with a wounded Gypsy boxer.
And many more.
If the hero was more interesting, this might have detracted from the story, but since he wasn’t, I just enjoyed the ride and didn’t worry about the romance. As Purity says to herself: “She would come to Mark a complete woman.”
Other high points include a tawdry girl-school game with a dumb stud, a dominatrix-villainess who wears transparent gowns, and an aging duchess who makes constant fart references.
Final Analysis of Purity’s Passion
The story’s pacing is a bit uneven–because most of the juicy parts are packed into the first third. But the author is skilled enough to make most of it enjoyable. Even if the ending is a bit flat.
Purity’s Passion is a romance only because at the end of the book the female protagonist is united with the man she loves. Otherwise, it’s a soapy, door-stopper historical epic, typical of the ’70s and ’80s.
Readers, mostly women, from all walks of life used to openly enjoy these pulpy paperbacks with kaleidoscopic covers. They were taken to fantastical worlds where the heroines’ beauty got men so carried away with mad lust that they’d have her… at any cost (dun, dun, dun!)!
Now, not unlike tobacco cigarettes (which I never smoked), bodice rippers are banished to the darkest corners, reviled in public for the unwholesome filth they contain. Like a smoker relegated to puffing away in a cold alley, bodice ripper readers are banished to Romancelandia Siberia.
And that’s really a shame–because these books are a lot of fun!
The prose is evocative and compelling, but not purple. We agonize over Catherine’s enslavement; we feel the angry passion between the lovers; we grieve Catherine’s loss and suffer from Sean’s torture.
How much misery can two people take?
There is an intense love/hate dynamic between the main characters that is the stuff of legends.
I wish writers of historical romances today wrote like this. Not necessarily the same plot lines, but with action and intensity that doesn’t delve into vulgarity.
To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of things in the book. Regardless, Stormfire is enthralling. Even those who hate this book can’t say it’s boring.
Sean Culhane kidnaps Catherine, the daughter of a British lord, seeking vengeance for wrongs committed against his people.
He keeps Catherine captive in his estate in Ireland, where he doesn’t hesitate to rape her before sending Catherine’s bloodied undergarments to her father.
While Catherine is an innocent pawn, she is not weak. She’s a fighter who will meet Sean’s cruelties with a will of iron.
You will not believe what these two go through, what they do to each other, or what they do to others. It’s incredible, but as I said, it’s Monson’s compelling skill at writing that makes this book so special.
His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance.
Then again, maybe I’m a sicko because I like the plot. Yes, it’s epic and melodramatic. There’s everything but the kitchen sink. That includes: kidnapping, rape, starvation, forced slavery, multiple marriages, miscarriage, insanity, beatings, brothers fighting for the same woman, incest, castration, forcible sodomy, murder…
So much happens here!
Perhaps it’s a bit too much in the last quarter, as Sean and Catherine needed some moments together introspecting rather than acting.
Final Analysis of Stormfire
There are many detractors of Christine Monson’s controversial bodice ripper. In its defense, I say this: Stormfire isn’t supposed to be a sweet romance. It’s an old-school historical romance novel, a bodice ripper, and I use the term with great affection.
It’s a fantasy.
A dark one, definitely. Then again, so too are the vampire, werewolf, bestiality, BDSM, step-dad/ stepbrother kink, and ménage fantasies of today. Books like Stormfire present a different kind of fantasy, where the most tremendous hate can transform into love.
Would this relationship work in real life? Probably not. That’s why it’s make-believe.
Stormfire is entertaining, emotional, and unforgettable. It falters a bit towards the end, so it’s not perfect.
This is not the best romance novel ever written, but for me, it’s up there.
Rating Report Card
Abducted on her way to boarding school, a terrified Catherine Enderly was brought from England to the coast of Ireland, the prisoner of the angry and powerful young Sean Culhane—a man sworn to vengeance against her family.
Frightened but defiant, the young countess met her captor with a strength that belied her fragile loveliness. But even as Sean vowed to have his revenge on Catherine, with each encounter he became more attracted to her. Her fiery innocence was a seduction that lured the passions of long smoldering hostility into a blazing inferno of desire.
Locked in a love-hate duel, he did not suspect that the captivating beauty who fought him with such tenacity was struggling desperately against her own awakened desires, and that his touch had become the burning reminder that the fierce hatred she felt for him had become an all-consuming love.
For me, Devil’s Desire was an ok Regency romance written by Laurie McBain. It’s alright, but nothing special. From the writing, you can tell it’s a “first book.”
The back blurb claims Devil’s Desire “Plumbs the depths of raw human emotion — lust, jealousy, and hate…“
How I wish.
The bland heroine Elysia, is fleeing from bland, evil enemies. Lots of clichés abound, including:
The rakish hero, Lord Alex Trevegne (who’s really not that much of a rake)
An evil ex-mistress
A Cinderella heroine, Lady Elysia Demarice, with emerald-green eyes and red-gold hair, who’s the most beautiful lady in all of England, and pure as the driven snow. (Clichés in a review are appropriate for a book riddled with them!)
The heroine’s evil, greedy relatives
Lady Elysia has escaped from the clutches of said greedy relatives who would steal her fortune. Worse, they would marry her off to someone she wants nothing to do with.
For she is a woman of spirit and will not be controlled!
On the run, she meets the handsome Lord Trevegne, who falls in lust with her dazzling beauty. It’s the Devil and the deep blue sea for Elysia.
Marriage to Lord Trevigne would offer protection, but it will come at a price for Elysia’s independence.
“I would not regret putting a hole in your arrogant chest, only it would be deflected when it hit that piece of rock you call a heart.
I don’t know how Laurie McBain ever got categorized as a bodice-ripper author because she’s not. As she was one of the original Avon ladies from the 1970s, that label stuck to her.
Yes, some of her books were epic in scope, spanning years and/or continents, although not here in Devil’s Desire). However, in her books, there was never forced seduction by the hero, her heroines were virginal and didn’t bed-hop, and bodices were rarely–if ever–ripped.
Regardless, she deserves recognition as one of the first “old-school” romance pioneers, as her books influenced many authors and thrilled millions of readers.
Legend has it McBain co-wrote her novels with her father. It sounds kind of weird to be writing romance novels with your dad, but hey, that’s just me. After he passed away, she stopped publishing books.
Final Analysis of Devil’s Desire
Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain was not a memorable read. Not bad, but so-so.
I much preferred her second novel, Moonstruck Madness, which is more well-known. It was more action-packed, with a heroine who’s quite colorful and courageous and a truly rakish hero.
Rating Report Card
“[A] rousing, unforgettable saga that sweeps across the valleys and peaks of human destiny, the stormy alliance of beautiful young and plumbs the depths of raw human emotion — lust, jealousy, and hate… Out of the turbulence of their clashing wills comes one of the greatest love stories ever written, as their twin passions mingle at last, in a rippling tide of liquid fire!”