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once more with feeling nora roberts

Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

once more with feeling
Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Intimate Moments #2
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 250
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Once More With Feeling by Nora Roberts

The Book

Once More With Feeling is the second outing from the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. Nora Roberts‘ category romance tells the love story between two musicians, one a rising star and the other an established musician, who previously knew each other.

Now they must try to make beautiful music together again–literally. Only later does the situation take a turn for the metaphorical.

The Plot

Five years prior to the opening of Once More With Feeling, a teenaged, black-haired Raven Williams was a fledgling artist. (Just once, I’d like to read a book where a blonde or redhead has that name. Or a brunette or a blonde named Flame to subvert expectations.) Raven and a seasoned Irish-British musician named Brandon Carstairs garnered great success together before her star went on the ascendency.

Their working relationship had made it to the front pages of the gossip columns. Was there more to the two beautiful musicians than music? There was, but alas, it came to an abrupt end. Raven had kept herself at a distance from Brandon, and he was unwilling to put up with her reticence.

Heartbroken, Raven immersed herself in music, putting her career above love. Now Brandon has a gig to score a potential blockbuster musical film—and he wants Raven to co-write it with him.

I enjoyed watching Raven and Brandon’s new relationship unfold. Now in her mid-twenties, Raven was still a young woman but more sure of herself, although just as close-guarded. Brandon is a sexy character with longish back hair, blue-green eyes, and Irish-British charm (it seems Roberts has a type). However, he runs roughshod over Raven, vowing to break through her inner resolve.

Before these two can have their happy ending, there are big misunderstandings–because the characters refuse to say what they have to!–and the heroine has to rush to her dying mother’s bedside in a dramatic scene.

Back cover of Once More With Feeling, Nora Roberts, Silhouette, 1983, George H. Jones cover art.

Final Analysis of Once More With Feeling

Five years before the start of Once More with Feeling Brandon broke Raven’s heart when he left her. Now Brandon is back and asks her to co-write the music for an upcoming, much-anticipated movie. Can these two learn to trust and love again? 

Written in the early 1980s, this book feels like part of that era, especially with how cruel Brandon can be to Raven. Other readers may be more discriminating and have difficulty digesting the caveman antics of the “hero,” but not me.

One of my favorite moments in the book is near the conclusion when our couple finally reveals their feelings for one another, and they have this exchange:

“You can’t own me Brandon.”

A quick flash of fury shot into his eyes. “Damn it, I don’t want to own you, but I want you to belong to me. Don’t you know there’s a difference?”

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS

Once More With Feeling was a solid romance, although Nora Roberts is capable of much better. This was only Robert’s 13th book, which sounds like a big deal. Considering that she’s written hundreds, it’s obviously created in the formative years of her career. Roberts’ writing has gotten sharper with age.

I had a fun time with Once More With Feeling, even if it was flawed in some respects. The heroine was a tad weak-willed, and the hero was too bossy.

This could have been lackluster in the hands of a less skillful author. One never knows how the wind will blow with a new series or writer.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with Raven and Brandon’s love story. Roberts always had the instinct to be a superb writer. She simply needed time to perfect her craft.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
5
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis:

THEIR SONGS AND THEIR PASSION WOULD ELECTRIFY A WAITING WORLD.

RAVEN WILLIAMS was a singer who had an overwhelming need to love and be loved, and whose voice had catapulted her to fame.

BRANDON CARSTAIRS was a musician in whom the charming Irish dreamer warred with a practical British reserve.

The music they made together was exciting, disturbing, erotic. Soon it would reach a dangerous crescendo.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING by NORA ROBERTS
stranger in my arms george jones

Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

historical romance review
Stranger In My Arms by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #90
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #1
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

There are older romances I enjoy out of pure nostalgia. I know they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, I like them. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings is one of the rare flawless gems that gets better with every reread.

This romance set in France first caught my attention over thirty years ago. I love it as much today as I did back then.

Stranger In My Arms even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now defunct Romantic Times Magazine.

Stranger in My Arms: My Favorite Historical Romance

A Harlequin Historical published in 1991, this book is 300 pages of tiny type-face, and there’s no room for it to lag.

Every character, no matter how minor–be he an innkeeper doting on guests; an avaricious villain intent upon deception; a mute orphaned boy; a mercury-addicted nobleman mourning the deaths and losses caused by the French Revolution; or a jealous camp-follower–every individual in this novel is imbued with vivid sense of realism and depth.

Stranger in My Arms is sublime perfection, from its whimsical opening:

If Charmiane de Viollet remembered the Reign of Terror at all, it was as a vision of Aunt Sophie running about shrieking, her fleshy bosoms popping from her bodice as she snatched wildly at the canary that had escaped its cage.

The rest of the story had been recited to Charmiane so often that it had assumed its own reality: the desperate flight from their townhouse in Paris—the carriage loaded with silver and luggage and oddments of furniture—the mad race for the Swiss border, the mobs and the looted carriage, Papa’s final fatal stroke. Very dramatic, very graphic, especially as Uncle Eugene told it, but strangely unengaging.

For Charmiane, the single emotion connected with that event would always be levity—the remembrance of those pink mounds bouncing absurdly against Sophie’s stays in delicious counterpoint to her squeaks and wails.

The Characters

Charmiane de Viollet is a 22-year-old widow from Switzerland who is returning to Paris with her exiled relatives. She never witnessed the horrors of the French Terror. Although her late husband was an abusive beast, she still displays the optimism of youth.

Her loyalty becomes torn between her devotion to her Ancien Regime family and her love for a parvenu upstart.

At times, she is an imperfect heroine, too trusting and too impetuous, but also generous, refined, and filled with joy.

Adam-Francois Bouchard, Baron Moncalvo, a Colonel–then eventually–a General) in Napoleon’s Grand Army, is the kind of hero I adore He’s blond, masculine, and handsome (but not pretty), a soldier, gruff, awkward with women, a bad dancer, loyal to his country, and a man of unrelenting honor.

I don’t usually like soft heroes and can tolerate “jerkiness” to a fairly extreme degree. However, it is the imperfect, all-too-human heroes who captivate me the most.

Then there is Adam’s twin brother, Noel-Victor, a mere corporal in the cavalry and a charming rake. But, while his looks match his twin’s, they are two different souls: one is filled with light and laughter, the other with darkness and dread.

The Plot

The first three chapters deal with Adam’s and Noel’s first meeting with Charmiane. The magical enchantment that follows at a ball attended by Napoleon himself is the stuff of dreams.

Charmiane’s eyes shine in devotion to her dashing hero, and they dance the hours away and later bask in the romantic afterglow of that one perfect night…

If you don’t fall in love with Charmiane and Adam within these first chapters, then this may not be the book for you. As I am a sentimental sap, I weep every single time I read this book.

Adam and Charmiane’s love story unfolds against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France. They struggle to be together as family, politics, war, and personal vendettas take over their lives.

All the Tropes I Adore in Romance

Stranger In My Arms is an exquisite treasure of a novel is filled with sensitive writing, passion, sadness, and love. And so much more.

The love letters: While Adam is off fighting, he writes to his cherished Charmiane, referring to her as his “Dear Helen.” In these correspondences, the yearning he feels for their long-distant love is palpable, as well as his disillusionment and horror in what seems a meaningless war.

There is the brother vs. brother trope, fighting each other for a woman’s love. I admit to a bit of hypocrisy in my reading. I hate love triangles involving the hero and two women, especially when siblings are involved. But the heroine who is torn between two brothers trope, when done well, then that’s one I can appreciate.

And if it’s between twin brothers, even more so. Here, this plot point is executed perfectly, for what we see is not always true.

There are even bodice ripper elements, so be warned if you’re not expecting that in a Harlequin Historical.

The Love Story

Adam is a leader of men, stoic and brave…

Yet, he is so filled with pain that even he is brought to tears. This man has reason to cry. Adam has no mommy issues, nor a woman who hurt him in the past.

There is no other woman, period. Only Charmiane.

What torments him is the awfulness of war: the meaningless deaths of his compatriots; the frozen and rotting flesh of his fellow soldiers’ corpses in the Russian snow; the depths of depravity; and the loss of his humanity that overwhelms him. He weeps for the loss of his soul.

Only Charmiane can bring it back to him.

My Opinion

As said, unlike many of my nostalgia loves, this book gets better with each reading. Every time I find something new to appreciate.

Most of my favorite historical romances are not set in the all-too-common Georgian-Regency-Victorian era of England. Rather they take place in during the Medieval Era or Renaissance. Or they are set in other times in nations like Spain, France, Russia, or the United States.

I enjoy Civil War romances in the American South and Napoleonic Era romances based in France with French protagonists. Those stories are so rare, and when they’re good, they’re excellent.

I suppose my tastes are an anomaly in this genre, and that’s why I read mostly older works.

Louisa Rawlings’ Stranger in My Arms is, for me, the culmination of a romance novel. I have never read one that I enjoyed more on a deep, emotional level.

Both the hero and heroine change and grow as they suffer and cope with loss. Adam and Charmiane learn to adapt to the new world around them and, in doing so, learn to love each other anew.

This isn’t an easy love; it’s a larger-than-life love set in the epic time of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who could lead his men to the ends of the earth, despite his hubris and tragic downfall.

Final Analysis of Stranger in My Arms

Louisa Rawlings wrote a few books, and each one that I have read so far is wonderful. Stolen Spring is another of her fantastic books that I’ve reviewed. Ms. Rawlings, aka Ena Halliday, aka Sylvia Halliday, please write more! Your talents should be more widely known and revered!

There is a sequel to Stranger in My Arms, Wicked Stranger. While not as thrilling and emotional, it still features a great hero, the flip side to Adam’s melancholy and reserve.

Although Stranger in My Arms is a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.

I adore Adam and Charmiane’s beautiful affirmation of love:

He lifted his head and at last grinned down at her. “Now,” he said, “who am I?”

“She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out.

“Oh, my dearest,” she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. “You’re Love.”

Stranger in My Arms is breathtaking.

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

Synopsis:

A SPLENDID PASSION …

He was every girl’s romantic dream: the handsome, brooding hero that Charmiane de Viollet had longed for, the man who would sweep her away from the endless tedium of life among the impoverished aristocrats who had lost their fortunes in the shadow of the guillotine. He was Adam Bouchard, Baron Montcalvo, a colonel in the cavalry, a favorite of Emperor Napoleon’s. In one reckless night of passion, Charmiane gave herself to him, body and soul.

But morning’s harsh light can dull even the brightest dream. When the night was over, would Charmiane wake to find …

a stranger in MY arms by LOUISA RAWLINGS
highland fire ireland

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, George Jones cover art

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals.

Highland Sisters

The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but in the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love? And with Megan gone from her home, who’s there to act as leader of the MacAlpin clan?

Final Analysis of Highland Fire

Megan is a real tough cookie and a great heroine. Kieran is a match for her toughness. While the action-packed romance entertained me, perhaps there was a bit too much focus on the action. Not that I don’t enjoy a bit of gratuitous violence, but not at the cost of the love story.

Still, Highland Fire was an engaging read, although my favorite of the three sisters’ stories is Highland Heather. There were other books in the series, but lamentably, this is where I stopped. However, these romances were so pleasing that I might just finish the series one day.

3 1/2 Stars

Wicked Stranger rawlings

Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

stranger in my arms louisa rawlings
Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1992
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #157
Book Series: Moncalvo Brothers #2
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings

The Book

Wicked Stranger by Louisa Rawlings is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books, Stranger in My Arms.

As I’ve often said before, Rawlings (aka Sylvia Halliday) wrote exquisite romances. She also penned the sensational Stolen Spring, which took place during the era of Louis XIV.

The Hero and the Heroine

Noel, the hero of Wicked Stranger, is the devil-may-care twin brother of Adam from Stranger in My Arms is as different from Adam in temperament as they are as similar in looks.

Noel is a flirt, a charmer who always sees the positive in life and prefers to live without responsibilities. Adam is broody, quiet, gruff, duty-bound, awkward with women, and suffers from the horrors of the Napoleonic wars as he was a general, while Noel was a mere corporal.

Noel Bouchard is in New York after living in France. He’s looking to make his way in life and meets the elite Babcock family.

The Babcocks have several daughters, one being the lovely yet prickly Elizabeth, to whom Noel is strangely drawn.

The heroine of Wicked Stranger, Elizabeth, is often shrill, mean, insecure, and ill-tempered. At first, I thought she didn’t deserve such a great man. She’s part of a well-to-do New York family and was hurt by love in the past, by fortune seekers who wanted her money and not her.

So now she hates all men, especially men looking to advance their income through marriage.

The Plot

Perhaps it’s because Noel sees the hurting soul beneath her tough exterior and just wants to make her happy. For some reason, Noel falls for Elizabeth, and hard! He pursues her relentlessly.

Lucky, lucky woman. *Sigh!*

There are some twists and turns in this book. For example, Noel briefly pretends to be his brother, Adam (just like Adam had pretended to be Noel in the prior book).

Marriage comes quicker than you’d expect for these two, but there are many tribulations they face. There are deaths and a duel, reconciliations, and the love story ends on a passionate, loving note.

Final Analysis of Wicked Stranger

While Louisa Rawlings’ Wicked Stranger is nowhere near as perfect as its predecessor, this is still a delightful read. The wonderful, charismatic hero, Noel, makes this romance shine.

I adore Rawlings’ heroes; they’re so diverse and compelling. Noel was the star of this book, as he was such a magnetic character. Elizabeth was a very lucky woman to find him.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis

HEART’S GAMBLE

Elizabeth Babcock had always been “just plain Bessie,” overshadowed by her socialite sisters. Few suitors looked beyond her razor-sharp repartee — and temper to match — before leaving for less challenging opportunities. Until, that is, that night in Paris when she crossed rapier wits with Noel Bouchard …

A gambler, a soldier, a man of the world, Noel Bouchard prayed never to be saddled with a dull domestic life. Marriage, if entered into at all, should be an adventure — tempestuous and lusty. He needed a woman with verve and spirit. With passion and wit. A woman like Elizabeth Babcock …

WICKED STRANGER by LOUISA RAWLINGS
terms of surrender jones

Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton

historical romance review
Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: George H. Jones
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #46
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Napoleonic Era Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender was my first Harlequin Historical. This book got me hooked on the series for a long time!

It’s a wonderful gem. Don’t believe me? Just read the seal of approval by historical fiction/romance legend Roberta Gellis on the cover.

The Plot

Terms of Surrender takes place during the post-French Revolution/Napoleonic Era, one of my favorite time periods.

A beautiful Frenchwoman, Julie, is married to an impotent, elderly man who desperately wants an heir.

The husband hires an Englishman to seduce her and impregnate her. Sebastian Ramlin does just that, but not before falling in love.

He pursues a love he knows is impossible. However, he just can’t stay away from Julie!

Although in the end, he must leave her. There is a long separation of twenty years.

The lovers will reunite, but the stakes have changed. Can they make it work?

Towards the latter part of Terms of Surrender, something happens, which shocked me because it was so unusual in the tame romances I read. It was a very unexpected moment in a Harlequin, historical or otherwise.

Napoleon plays a big part in the book, too, so that’s a major plus for me. There’s a twist involving him at the end. I bet you won’t expect what it is!

Final Analysis of Terms of Surrender

If you can get your hands on Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender, do it.

It’s an emotional roller-coaster and quite a little treasure!

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

Lover…or Deceiver?
Julie Farroux had escaped the guillotine by marrying a withered old man who desired her only for her inheritance. Their loveless union had left her believing her heart was as shriveled as his, until she found the warmth of desire in the arms of a handsome stranger. In the glittering city that was Napoleon’s Paris, deception and greed were a way of life.

Sebastian Ramlin had made a devil’s bargain with Julie’s husband … to seduce Julie — and give her husband an heir. But he never planned to fall in love with her. Could he find the courage to reveal his treachery … and risk losing the woman he loved? 

Terms of Surrender by Mollie Ashton