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the honey is bitter

Category Romance Review: The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear

category romance
The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1967
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #6
Book Series: Stephanos #1
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 190
Format: Paperback, eBook, Hardcover
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Honey Is Bitter by Violet Winspear

MILD SPOILERS ūüėČ

The Book

Along with Anne Mather and Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear was one of the three original authors for the Harlequin Presents line when it launched in 1973. Her bestseller, The Honey is Bitter, was first published in 1967 by Mills and Boon.

The books had about 30 reprintings under Harlequin and the first in her Stephanos series.

the honey is bitter violet winspear
Mills & Boon, 1967 edition

The Plot

Part One of The Honey Is Bitter

The Honey Is Bitter features a Greek hero named Paul. I swear, these classic Presents had about 5 or 6 names for heroes! Paul, Dominic, Nick/Nico, Alex, and Andre/Andreas. Plus, the plots were nonsensical, with an intimidating male running roughshod over the heroine, as occurs here.

This book’s Paul is a Greek tycoon who blackmails Domini into marriage. How? By holding over her head that her brother embezzled funds from Paul’s company.

Why does he want a young British girl like Domini? Because Paul is Greek, and his pride demands vengeance this way! Although she is outraged by Paul’s demands, Domini acquiesces fairly easily. Nor does she turn to anyone for help.

On their wedding night, Domini runs out into the darkness and is swept into the sea. Whether that was a genuine attempt to end her life is left up to the reader. Soon, after a bit of coaxing, Domini falls into Paul’s arms and into his bed.

And that’s the end of chapter one! Quite a lot of action. With more drama to come.

the honey is bitter violet winspear
Mills & Boon 1974 Edition

Part Two of The Honey Is Bitter

Paul is much older, and one wonders what–besides the obvious–he sees in Domini.

Domini is hard to like because she’s so caustic, so‚Ķ bitter. It’s understandable, though. No woman wants to be forced into marriage with a handsome, sensual, magnetic, powerful, wealthy man who desires her above all women. (Except as an escapist fantasy, naturally. ūüėČ)

Paul whisks Domini to his Grecian villa. Despite her discontent, Domini cannot deny Paul’s allure. While she swaps verbal barbs with him during the day, they communicate on a carnal level at night.

Then the man Domini had fancied herself in love with comes back into her life, demanding she leaves Paul. Tragedy strikes. Will Domini leave Paul forever? Or is it too late and her heart already his?

the honey is bitter
The Honey Is Bitter, Violet Winspear, Harlequin, 1984 re-issue

Final Analysis of The Honey Is Bitter

For an older Presents, The Honey Is Bitter was deeply sensual even though the love scenes were behind closed doors. Paul employs forced seduction with Domini, so readers who dislike that trope are warned.

This vintage romance stars a cruel hero and prickly heroine. Paul is inscrutable yet domineering; Domini is determined yet ill-tempered. Together, they make a passionate pairing.

This was a fascinating tale that had me hooked from the first. But then I have a soft spot for dark, somewhat offensive romances, especially with solid writing. Violet Winspear provides just that.

I can see why The Honey Is Bitter was a Harlequin sensation in its day.

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

Synopsis

“Keep your love. Did I ever ask for it?”

Paul’s voice rang out. His face was a taut sculpture, chiseled out of stone-as she felt certain his heart was.

“No,” Domini threw at him, “but you’re not quite so inhuman as to enjoy for very long the companionship of a wife who hates you!”

THE HONEY IS BITTER by VIOLET WINSPEAR
tangled-tapestry-mather-full

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

BOOK REVIEW vintage
Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1969
Imprint or Line: Mills & Boon Romance #419
Published by: Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 18
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

SPOILER ALERT ‚ö†

Admission

I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in paperback in English in North America. This book was released in e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.

The Book

Thanks to Anne Mather‘s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put accurate copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but I only found out it was published in 1969 when I finished.

I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid-20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! Tangled Tapestry may offend some readers’ sensibilities. Or, if you’re twisted like me, it will make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children. She takes them on a field trip to visit one of the local major movie studios because everyone knows San Francisco is right next to Hollywood.

(Anne Mather got her geography off in this one; it would be like going to Boston and taking a trip to visit the Lincoln Memorial, wouldn’t it?)

The staff at the studio are amazed by Debra’s similar looks to the deceased movie star, Elizabeth Steel, and instantly demand she take a screen test.

Before she knows what’s going on, Debra is whisked away by L.A. writer, Dominic McGill, to meet movie producers. Her appearance to Elizabeth is too close to be just a coincidence and, eventually, the orphaned Debra learns Elizabeth Steel was her real mother. Everyone’s dying to remake one of Steel’s old films that Dominic wrote starring our innocent heroine.

Debra is feeling pushed into a life she’s not sure she wants. She only knows that Dominic makes her feel all tingly, so much that she gives bitchy looks to the nubile females who cling to him. Then there are the unspoken rumors concerning Dominic and her mother. Could Dominic–gasp–have been her mother’s toyboy lover?

Tangled Tapestry Anne mather
Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, alternate Mills and Boon

The Romance

There is little romance here. Oh sure, there are a couple of sweet kisses and a whole paragraph at the end of the book where Dominic declares his love for Debra. But Dominic’s not the kind of man who chases women, so when Debra hurts Dominic’s pride, it’s she who follows him, she who does the “big grovel.”

Personally, I don’t care much for groveling, neither from the hero nor the heroine, (unless they really did do something horrid & then groveling is only a drop in the bucket!), so it didn’t bother me, although I know some readers like that sort of comeuppance when the hero’s a bit of an alpha-hole. And yes, Dominic is overbearing, cold, inscrutable, and unyielding, but I wouldn’t have vintage heroes any other way.

I mean, he needed to be a little stoic. It’s bad enough he’s in his late 30’s, parties with teenagers, hosts surfing parties, and dances the Watusi.

(I couldn’t figure out how to post a gif so here’s a picture of a huge Watusi bull.

Yeah, I know it’s 2021. I’m still clueless. I just learned to pronounce the word, for goodness’ sake!)

The Watusi. Not to be confused with the Batusi.

Time Stands Still For No Man

Oh, about the dated aspect of this book?

  • The meals: Hamburgers and coffee. Yuck. Why did people in the ’50s and ’60s eat that way? Yes, I know sodas are just as bad to have, but at least they taste good with food. Coffee is a morning drink and for occasional desserts.
  • The alcoholic drinks: LOTS of them and half of them gin martinis.
  • The smoking: Debra swears she hardly ever smokes, but she’s a liar because she smokes like a mesquite BBQ grill. I counted 48 references to cigarettes in this book! Plus another 10 to smoke/smoking.
  • The language: YMMV about taking offense. There are about a 1/2 dozen observations using old-timey racial terminology.
  • The music: Anne Mather really dug Dave Brubeck, didn’t she? She’s referred to him in other books. I looked him up. Don’t think this is what the teenagers in 1969 were hip to, but if that floats your boat, *shrug.*
Dave Brubeck. Did all the gals in the late ’60s dance erotically to this guy’s tunes?

Since the setting is mostly California, Anne Mather wanted to make sure we knew her hero was American so the book is peppered with cheesy epithets like:

  • Baby – 18 times
  • Kid – 12 times
  • Honey – 29 times
Tangled Tapestry Anne mather

Final Analysis of Tangled Tapestry

As I said, there wasn’t much romance in Tangled Tapestry. Debra basically allowed herself to be carried away by others to do their bidding. She didn’t want to be a movie star, so why didn’t she just open her mouth and say so? Then she pined away for Dominic was pathetic! I swear Anne Mather must have had at least ten heroes with that name!

Dominic played it hot and cold with her. He was never open with Debra until the very end.

Even so, this book wasn’t awful, because there was something charming about how dated it was. Anne Mather’s books are rarely timeless; you can almost always tell what decade they were written by the clothes. T

This sweet vintage romance (no sex, just mild kissing) was even more old-fashioned than Mather’s usual stuff. The characters were partying to old jams and shaking to the latest dances. (Aside: that’s one reason why I avoid modern contemporaries. I have zero interest in reading about a hero/heroine who grinds or twerks.) But their morals were somewhere in the 1950s. Quaint and old-fashioned. Although I can appreciate that when reading vintage romance.

Too bad the romance was lackluster here.

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

Synopsis

Debra Warren had believed during all her life that she was orphaned, until she went to San Francisco to work. She found she was the daughter of the famous actress Elizabeth Steel. There she knew Dominic McGill.

TANGLED TAPESTRY BY ANNE MATHER
palace-of-the-peacock-violet-winspear-jh

Vintage Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear

BOOK REVIEW vintage
Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1969
Illustrator: J h
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #1318
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance, Vintage Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Vintage Romance Review: Palace of the Peacocks by Violet Winspear

The Book

Palace of the Peacocks may be a bit of an ultra-vintage oldie, as it was published in 1969, not post-1972. However, I’m running short on reviews for this weekend. Plus, this book is a Violet Winspear Harlequin Romance–an author whose works I enjoy.

This one was a nice read, sweet but filled with enough drama to add some zing.

palace of the peacocks

The Plot

In Winspear’s Palace of the Peacocks, the heroine Temple Lane is typical of many of her vintage romance sisters. She is orphaned, diligent, faithful, and unworldly.

She flies to Indonesia to meet up with her long-time fianc√©, but her life falls into shambles after discovering his affair with a local girl. Without any funds to get back home, she’s desperate to find employment. Temple disguises herself as a boy to gain passage on a ship. She’s bunked with a stoic, one-eyed Dutchman named Ryk van Helden. (Winspear had a thing for maiming heroes, didn’t she? Blinding them, cutting off their limbs, etc.)

Eventually, Temple’s true identity is revealed. When Ryk hears of her plight, he offers Temple employment, transcribing old journals in his beautiful, enchanting jungle palace.

Ryk also provides Temple with room, board, and a female servant. The maid makes no bones about her resentment of Temple, as she has designs on Ryk herself.

As the weeks pass, Temple slowly falls under the combined spell of the romantic tale she’s working on and her seductive surroundings.

Not to mention, there is her cold yet dangerously attractive employer. Ryk treats Temple dismissively, acting superior to her in every way. Temple, though is no meek girl and meets his seeming disdain head-on with lots of spirit.

Final Analysis of Palace of the Peacocks

I really enjoyed Palace of the Peacocks, despite it containing my big romance pet peeve of the hero-in-mourning-for-his-dead-lover. Fortunately, Winspear doesn’t ever go into Ryk’s head; he’s written enigmatically until the very end.

That’s what I like: a man of mystery, albeit one the reader knows, deep down, he’s falling hard for his heroine‚ÄĒnone of this psycho-analyzing the hero’s thoughts every two pages.

And, of course, there’s the extraordinary long-awaited declaration of love in the end!

Palace of the Peacocks is a satisfying romance with a jealous other woman, a charming locale, a heroine who gives as good as she gets, and a seemingly-aloof hero who falls madly for her.

3.75 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
4
Overall: 3.7

Synopsis

Temple Lane had gone out to the Java Seas to marry her fiance, but all her plans fell through when she found someone else had taken her place. In her desperate endeavours to get away from the situation, she met the Dutchman Ryk van Helden -and promptly found she had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire! It was difficult enough being the only white girl for miles around – but the greater problem was how to cope with what she soon recognised as the devastating attraction of her new employer. True, he seemed to look on her as just another of the waifs and strays he was so fond of collecting – and Temple knew he had never forgotten the girl he had once loved, and lost -but nevertheless, he was a man of magnetic appeal, and even if he could remain impervious to the situation, could Temple?

PALACE OF THE PEACOCKS by VIOLET WINSPEAR