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devil in silver room

Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

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Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1973
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #5
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Devil in a Silver Room by Violet Winspear

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Violet Winspear certainly had sympathy for the Devil. Several of her book titles contain the words Demon, Lucifer, Satan, or Devil–including Harlequin Presents #5, Devil in a Silver Room.

It also features another male main character named Paul, like the hero from The Honey Is Bitter. This Paul is French, not Greek. And also, like The Honey Is Bitter, Devil In a Silver Room was reprinted many times over, proving that Winspear was a powerhouse writer for series romance.

There’s a good reason this Harlequin had so many reprints: it’s an enthralling, hypnotic love story that pulls you in from the moment the hero enters the story. And what a hero he is!

devil in a silver room violet winspear
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1973, cover artist unknown

The Set-Up

Five years before the Devil In a Silver Room opens, a teenaged Margo Jones had fallen for the wealthy, handsome, and carefree Michel Cassalis. Michel had only toyed with Margo’s heart; she was a brief fling to discard. Margo was an English au pair with no family, and Michel wen ton to marry a French lady from his own social class.

Now Michel is dead, having left behind a young son. His traumatized, grieving widow is confined to a wheelchair.

Because Margo still loves Michel, she cannot bear the thought of his child being alone. When she hears he requires an English nanny, she offers the Cassalis family her services. First, Margo meets Michel’s haughty mother, Madame Cassalis. Then Margo heads to the Cassilis family home, ominously named Satancourt.

As prickly as Madame is, she is nothing compared to Michel’s older brother, Paul. Upon Margo’s arrival in France, she meets the domineering Paul Cassalis. Sparks fly. Soon Michel will be a faint memory.

The Plot

Paul is like night to Michel’s day. Margo wonders how two men so different could have been brothers. Paul’s dark looks and menacing nature paradoxically intimidate and intrigues her.

Margo forms a strong bond with Desi, Michels son. In due time he becomes attached to the loving nanny.

But not all is well at Satancourt. People whisper rumors about Paul causing a girl’s death years ago. They say her ghost haunts the castle. Perhaps there are more deaths for which Paul is responsible?

And just what is Paul’s position at Satancourt? All the workers and residents treat Paul as their lord. But despite being the oldest male Cassalis, it is his young nephew who will rule the chateau one day.

devil in silver room
Devil In a Silver Room, Violet Winspear, Mills and Boon, 1980 reprint, cover artist unknown

“I work the terraces, Miss Jones. I bring forth the champagne and the wine. I ensure that the chateau remains a perfect example of French architecture. I pay the wages of the workers. I give the orders and flourish the phantom whip, but I am only the caretaker of Satancourt and its cellar.”

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

Although Paul is a steward, he resonates with an aura of authority and power. He is a man who commands respect, no matter how low his station is. He reminded me of Felipe Tristan, the sigma-male hero from Teresa Denys‘ other masterpiece, The Flesh and the Devil. Although Paul is more of a leader than a lone-wolf type.

Margo is drawn to Paul’s demonic allure, even as she fights her desire. Her infatuation with Michel is supplanted with a more tremendous passion for his brother.

In the end, Paul reveals to Margo that his servile role at Satancourt is because he is not a true Cassalis. His mother was pregnant with another man’s child when she got married. So Monsieur Cassalis excluded Paul from his will. But still, Paul’s heart belongs to Satancourt.

Ultimately, he remains a humble vintner. Paul does not get the castle, but he does get the girl.

Suddenly all the loneliness was gone and she could surrender herself, her life, all her future, into the keeping of this man…not quite an angel, but not altogether a devil.

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

The Devil in a Silver Room is one of the best examples of a 1970s Harlequin romance novel that is erotic despite the lack of sex. There are plenty of passionate kisses–but no consummation.

The tone is deeply Gothic: from the chateau’s name to the dark, brooding hero to the heroine who flees from him even as she longs to submit to his deadly embrace.

It’s old-school in style and absolutely representative of its time.

Paul is autocratic and proud; Margo is dignified and strong-willed. She is a perfect match for him.

Devil in a Silver Room may be my favorite Violet Winspear yet.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Margo Jones had loved Michel Cassalis, but her love had brought her only pain. Michel had married someone else.

Now, five years later. Michel was dead. And Margo was at the Cassalis’s remote French Chateau, Satancourt, to look after Michel’s small son. She wanted nothing to do with men, especially with Michel’s ruthless brother, Paul Cassalis.

But what if Paul wanted her? As master of Satancourt, would he exercise le droit de seigneur – the right of the master to take whatever he desired!

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
moon witch sinclair

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

anne mather category romance
Moon Witch by Anne Mather
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1970
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #38
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

SPOILER WARNING ⚠

The Book

Anne Mather‘s Moon Witch is an early Harlequin Presents that features a far-too-young heroine paired with a much older wealthy man who’s assigned to be her guardian after she is left orphaned.

Yeah, this sounds like a wholesome romance! /sarcasm

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

That 70’s Show

Around the time I read this, my (at the time) 18-year-old daughter was about to graduate from high school. I was then catching up with “That 70’s Show.” Although I refuse to watch the final season of the show, the first 5-6 seasons were entertaining. I loved the retro 1970s shtick. A group of teens hang out, fall in love, and act stupidly.

Since watching “That 70’s Show,” I’ve realized something about myself as a parent. I am Red Forman. He was right! 17 to 18-year-olds are dumb-asses.

What the heck does any of this babble have to do with Anne Mather’s Moon Witch? Well, “That 70’s Show” depicted Mid-Western American teens doing what dumb-ass teens do: obsess over sex, TV, drugs, candy, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

What Does That Have to With the Price of Tea in England?

Neither being a teen in the ’70s nor being British, I can’t attest if that depiction is also accurate for average UK teens of that era. Still, I’m going out on a limb and ass-u-me that in rural 1970s England, dumb-ass 17-year-old kids were aware of their own existence

The barely post-adolescent heroine of Moon Witch is more than a dumb-ass, specifically because she has zero clue about life. And even less about love.

For full disclosure, I met my husband-to-be when I was 18. He was 22, and we were both dumb-asses. Somehow we’ve made it together for almost 25 years. So some dumb-ass kids can make the right decision when it comes to love.

anne mather romance

The Set-Up

Little Sara’s grandfather has just died. She’s a 17-year-old orphan who only finished her freaking O levels at school. Now she has no one. A cranky neighbor with 7 kids temporarily cares for her, but fortune is on its way to save our heroine from ending up on social services.

In his will, Sara’s grandfather left her guardianship to his former boss and CEO of Kyle Industries, Jarrod Kyle.

However, he didn’t specify exactly which Jarrod Kyle. So in a bizarre twist, Sara is made the ward of Jarrod Kyle Sr.’s son, Jarrod Kyle Jr., the new CEO.

Instead of being an old grandfatherly sort, this Jarrod is more of a fatherly sort as he’s only twice Sara’s age. He’s a silver-blond-haired, tanned, cheroot-smoking, sex-god who drives a Mercedes one day, a Ferrari the next, then a Rolls Royce on Sunday. Junior flies planes and sails his yacht. He has multiple girlfriends (who practically come to a catfight over him near the book’s denouement). Plus, he’s got an overbearing mommy who wants to run Jarrod’s love life. Good thing he ain’t listening to her.

The Plot

So that’s the setup. A sheltered, beautiful teen is made the legal ward of a 34/35-year-old playboy guardian.

Fortunately, Jarrod’s father, JK (as in Just Kidding about this nonsensical plot!), steps in and takes responsibility for Sara. Meanwhile, Jarrod galivants around the world, both for business and pleasure trips.

Moonwitch is not a love story of a middle-aged man paired up with a 20-year-old college student–who in the US might be too young to buy alcohol legally, but at least would be armed with some basic skills: how to drive a car, how to read a bank statement, how to type, or do some filing.

Sara is 17, and her only skill is how to ride a horse or a pony. Her favorite subjects in school are Art and English. She’s never had any feelings for a man before, no stolen kisses with boys, no harmless dates to the soda shop. She’s just a pink-cheeked little girl who looks nothing like the sophisticated auburn-haired beauty on the original cover.

The first time our hero lays eyes on the heroine, the chick is decked out in a sexy pinafore.

 photo sexy doll pinafore.jpg

The Crazy Plot Continues

There’s lots of hinting at the attraction between our leads. It comes full force when the kid, er heroine, starts dancing to some of her favorite tunes—hits from Sammy Davis, Dave Brubeck, & Dean Martin.

Mather could have gone with Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Rolling Stones, Elvis, or even freakin’ Tom Jones. Instead, she chose older adults’ music. Harlequin Presents were always anachronistic. No matter what decade they were written in, they were at least 15 years out of style.

(Side note: that’s a reason why I’m not too fond of the recent batch of Harlequin Presents. They abandoned the weird, old-timey fantasy setting in favor of some chick-lit/50 shades/new adult sex fusion. That is perfectly fine for just about every other contemporary romance, but not HPs! Harrumph to that, I say!)

So, anyhow, Sara’s alone, shaking her butt, dancing to the “latest” sexy beats. Then she turns around, and there he is: Jarrod, lusting after her.

Turning the volume up she allowed her own inhibitions to melt away, closing her eyes, and dancing with the same abandon she had seen teenagers on television adopt…Sara halted abruptly, conscious of the informality of her attire, the bare feet, and the damp untidy tangle of her hair. She switched off the radiogram, and for a moment the silence seemed as deafening as the music had been. He did not speak but continued to look at her, his eyes slowly following the length of her body and back to her face again resting for a heart shaking moment on her mouth…

As I said, wholesome, right?

The Thrilling Conclusion

Jarrod gives Sara a car. She starts driving lessons and gets to experience one measly party where all the boys her age are hot for her. Unfortunately, she gets pneumonia immediately afterward.

Thus Sara is out of commission, lying around doing nothing for the rest of the book until Jarrod decides to take her with him on a glamorous trip.

First to NYC for some wining and dining in the finest Manhattan restaurants, shopping trips, and carriage rides through Central Park.

Then it’s off to Jamaica to meet his disapproving mother.

Mather introduces another man into the story near the end: a rich, sexy friend of the hero who’s the same age as Jarrod. Sara rejects him, which confirms she truly knows her heart. Jarrod’s her only love, like 4-eva!

The pair share their first kiss a few pages from the end. Jarrod reminds Sara there is more to male-female sexual relations than just kissing.

To which Sara’s eyes open wide with awe and surprise. She must have been absent from school the day they taught Sex-Ed.

moon witch sinclair

My Opinion

I’ve read tons of historicals with 16, 17, and 18-year-old girls paired off with heroes in their mid-30s through early 40s. And I rarely ever am bothered by that. Historicals play by different rules.

Yet, in a contemporary romance, this is a fine line to walk. The plot should be approached with an understanding of the difficulty such a relationship faces. In Moon Witch, the older man/younger woman thing is… creepy. Even the hero knows it, so he spends half the book avoiding the heroine.

Admittedly, Anne Mather’s Moon Witch is not a “modern” contemporary. Plus, this is a Mills and Boon/ Harlequin Presents we’re talking about. This is as far away from real romance as Star Wars is to space travel and history, so eventually got on board. Despite my admitted prejudices, I ended up liking this book, even though it takes a while to get going.

Hey, if Courtney Stodden’s marriage is still going strong, [ETA: No, it’s not! They divorced in 2020.] then the readers of Moon Witch can hope that Sara and Jarrod will be happy together for many long years.

That is until Jarrod gets cancer 15-20 years later from all the smoking and tanning he does and leaves Sara a wealthy widow before she hits 40.

Anne Mather did not write Moon Witch in a psychologically intense way Charlotte Lamb would handle the older man-younger woman trope, as she did in the wonderful Temptation and Crescendo. But Anne Mather is no armchair psychologist.

Nevertheless, she did write some oddly entertaining books. She utilized plots involving large age differences, cheating (married or engaged), and evil mothers-in-law who try to break up the protagonists. Mather wrote many controversial romances. Moon Witch was one of them.

All-Time Favorite Best Seller

Moon Witch wasn’t just a hit with readers. For Harlequin, it was an “All-Time Favorite Best Seller.” 

moonwitch
9th printing
 photo Monnwithc back.jpg
All-Time Best Seller

My copy is the 9th printing since the original 1970 hardcover release. Who knows how many times it’s been reprinted or rereleased since 1982? 

 photo moonwitch ninth.jpg
Many Reprints

And of course, Moon Witch is now on Kindle for a new generation to enjoy!

moon with alt

Final Analysis of Moon Witch

Moon Witch reminded me of another book by Anne Mather, Stormspell. That was a full-length novel, with a similar older-man younger woman scenario, although without the guardianship-ward/ temporary daddy “ick” factor.

In that romance, the hero was a cheating sleaze who “initiated the heroine into womanhood” before leaving her to back to his fiancée. Still, the readers got to see inside the hero’s mind to understand him better. Except for his sexual attraction to Sara, Jarrod is inscrutable.

Also, in Stormspell, the heroine spread her wings a bit before she and the hero settled down. Sara got to live independently for a week before getting engaged.

Even so, I can see why Moon Witch appealed to the romance-loving masses.

Moon Witch, you are an awful book, straddling a fine line between romantic and pervy. I hate myself for liking you.

Gods above, forgive me, but I do.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis:

Jarrod guarded Sara even against himself.

Sara Robins had never even heard of Jarrod Kyle until he became her guardian. He was far removed from anyone Sara, at seventeen, had known in the small, quiet world she’d lived in until her grandfather’s death

Jarrod Kyle was just twice her age, handsome, rich, successful and surrounded by sophisticated women. Perhaps it was inevitable that Sara would fall in love with him.

But was it love or only a teenage crush? Whichever, Sara couldn’t imagine Jarrod’s returning her feelings!

MOON WITCH by ANNE MATHER

Borrow Moonwitch for free at Library Thing

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 😉

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… 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. 😉)

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
temporary wife

Category Romance Review: Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh

category romance
Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1974
Illustrator: Don Sinclair
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #109
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Roberta Leigh’s Temporary Wife features a great heroine for a great book.

The Plot

Luke Adams has everything: good looks, a plum job at an investment firm, and his boss/best friend’s wife as his mistress. Unfortunately, his boss’s nephew has caught wind of the affair and threatens to out the pair.

Luke’s mistress, Gina, wants to have her cake and eat it. Sure she’s married to an old man, but he’s rich! In the meantime, she’s got Luke as her lover. Luke desperately wants to be open about the affair, but she keeps claiming her husband’s health is too weak to stand such a shock.

So Gina comes up with the brilliant idea of arranging a marriage of inconvenience for her Luke–who truly does love her–with an old friend from school: plain, mousy Emily Lamb.

temporary wife roberta leigh

Emily is a magnificent heroine. One of the best I’ve read in a Harlequin Presents, no matter what decade. She’s confident in who she is and accepting of the world as it is.

She knows her marriage is one of convenience and understands why.

Gina dismisses Emily as her “pet lamb”, but Luke is not dismissive. Within time, Luke gets to to see that there are many facets to Emily, and all of them strong and beautiful as any precious gem.

Emily [Lamb] might be a lamb by name, but she was certainly not one by nature. A wolf cub was nearer the mark.

TEMPORARY WIFE

Final Analysis of Temporary Wife

Temporary Wife by Roberta Leigh was an unexpectedly fantastic read.

Watching how Luke fell in love with Emily was a wonderful experience to see. Normally, in contemporary romances, I can’t stand adulterous heroes. But here, I understood Luke was genuinely in love with the wrong woman.

Fortunately, Emily comes along to show him who the right woman is. With her, love isn’t a sordid thrill just to get one’s kicks, it’s a meaningful relationship of shared joys and experiences with a partner who doesn’t deify him, but accepts him, flaws and all.

Very deep themes for a genre that receives much ill-deserved derision.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

Emily Lamb thought Luke Adams was attractive and powerful enough to arrange his own marriage–but when her friend Gina Harrick asked her to marry him for business reasons, Emily had her own reasons for agreeing.

It was, of course, to be a temporary marriage of convenience; only Emily hadn’t counted on falling in love with Luke. Nor had she suspected that the secret behind the business reasons was the fact that Luke was in love with Gina, his boss’s wife . . .

TEMPORARY WIFE by ROBERTA LEIGH