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smoke in the wind len goldberg

Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

category romance
Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1104
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald features one of her trademark piggishly cruel heroes. In spite of his repugnant deeds against the heroine, this is one of Donald’s better books.

Your mileage may vary, as I have a weird penchant for these kinds of crazy stories–when they’re done right. Smoke in the Wind is one of them.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The reason this so-called hero didn’t detract from the story was the refreshingly capable heroine, Venetia Gamble (what a great name!), who had tons of fortitude. Alas, not enough for her to dump the porcine swine and get with a better man.

Venetia is a hot up-and-coming news reporter in New Zealand. Ryan Fraine, a famous documentary filmmaker, is in the Land of White Clouds looking to set up a new TV station. When these two high-powered professionals meet, the temperature is off the charts.

Venetia had been hurt in love before. At only 23, she has a failed marriage behind her. After getting pregnant at 17, her guardians–her aunt and uncle–forced her and her boyfriend into a shotgun wedding. The marriage ended not long after she miscarried the baby. Despite that, she and her ex-husband are on friendly terms.

Ryan is a bachelor who has pumped and dumped every Kiwi beauty from Cape Reinga to Wellington to Bluff. (Impressed with my geographical skills? It’s easy when you have the internet!) He’s a typical Robyn Donald hero, a sexist bigot sizzling with sensual intensity and irresistible to women.

Venetia is a well-adjusted human being, confident in her sexuality. Nevertheless, she’s wary of his “love ’em and leave ’em” reputation.

Ryan sizes up Venetia and thinks because she’s not a virgin: “She’s a very kinky girl/ The kind you don’t take home to mother…”

Venetia tells him she’s not into one-night stands, so Ryan translates that into: “She’s up for a steaming hot, quick fling.”

And Venetia can’t resist him. They’re at it every which way, and though Venetia is gaga for Ryan, our girl plays it cool.

The Plot

Part One

Venetia’s pretense of indifference fools Ryan. It turns out he’s a shallow guy for whom only surface-level appearances matter. Venetia’s relationship with Ryan turns dark when his true colors–fish belly white–begin to show.

He is looking for a wife, just not Venetia in that role. Our girl is perfect for bedroom fun, but she’ll never as the mother of his little Ryans and Ryanas.

You see, Mr. sex on legs has mommy issues as his mother was a businesswoman, i.e., a bad mother who had no time for babies, and his childhood left him traumatized. The dude has a deep-seated hatred towards working women, believing they make poor wives and mothers.

So he will be dumping Venetia in the near future. Very near.

Venetia is an orphan who had been raised by her traditionalist aunt and uncle and grew up with her younger cousin, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looks similar to Venetia but is the polar opposite in personality. She’s a “sweet” girl with no plans for an icky career, the kind a man like Ryan would take home to meet his family and be proud to call wife.

In actuality, Liz isn’t so sweet at all because when she comes with her family to visit Venetia and meets Ryan, she flutters her eyes at him in feigned innocence, and ball-brains Ryan falls for it. Within weeks, the two-timing scum sucker tells Venetia their “relationship” is over, and he’s marrying sweet Liz.

Venetia is left heartbroken–and pregnant. She quits her job and moves to Australia to live with her grandmother.

Venetia isn’t bitter with the hand she’s dealt. It is what it is.

“I won’t allow you to treat me as if I was an illness you can’ be vaccinated against, she said with an icy composure which hid her fear and despair.

“You won’t be able to stop me,” he said quietly, not bothering to mute the threat. “Because we both know I could take you on that kitchen table if I wanted to. And I do want to.”

Part Two

Years later, Elizabeth passes away. After a period of mourning, Venetia’s aunt and uncle let their beloved son-in-law know of his secret son with Venetia. Oh, yes, those two knew! Like their amoral dead daughter, they did everything to keep Ryan at their Liz’s side.

Ryan flies out to Australia to claim his child and reignite his relationship with Venetia.

In Australia, Venetia had been raising their son John and had a flourishing career as a novelist. When Ryan demands what’s his, she’s shaken but fights with all her iron will.

But Ryan will not be deterred. he knows their sexual bond was never severed and uses it to his benefit.

Despite his ruthless behavior, Ryan is self-aware, and his intense reactions toward Venetia stem from his inability to control his feelings for her. His marriage to Elizabeth wasn’t exactly what he wanted, even if he had thought it was. A man like Ryan thrived on passion, Elizabeth was just blech. Ryan married Liz because he saw her as a more idealized version of the sexually-secure working woman he rejected. Ryan’s strict standards for a partner stem from his unresolved mommy issues.

His desire–his love–for Venetia conflicts with all his self-imposed beliefs.

Meanwhile, Venetia’s grandmother is a supportive and wise character who adds depth to the story and provides a voice of reason amidst the chaos.

There’s a scene where Venetia bump into her ex at a dance, and they spend a pleasant time together, making me think, “Wouldn’t it have been a nice twist if she ended up with him?”

But no, Ryan is too vital a force to be ignored. One issue I had is Ryan never really expresses regret for his marriage to Liz. She was not emotionally deep, but she was genuine in her love for him, so he was content to have made her happy for a few years. (This made me want to throw an egg at Ryan, but almost 50 cents an egg right now, I wouldn’t waste valuable protein for a smeg head like him.)

Ryan’s cruelty towards the vulnerable Venetia is both riveting and gut-wrenching. Venetia is a fearless and determined woman who refuses to let Ryan break her spirit… Even as he captures her in the end. So, it’s mostly a happy ending, right?

In the end, Ryan acknowledges his feelings for Venetia, that he loves her. He fought against it because of inhibitions and childhood trauma.

“You wear your independence like a banner. I like to look at you and know that I can kiss you free of it any time I want to. It’s like owning my own small falcon that comes only to my hand, and gives up her freedom only for me.”

Final Analysis of Smoke in the Wind

Smoke in the Wind is a terrible romance but a riveting read that will leave you breathless. Ryan is par-for-the-course as far as Robyn Donald’s heroes go. (Okay, maybe one of her top 5 worst heroes. She really knew how to write a lot of dickhead male main characters.)

The dominant/submissive dynamic between Ryan and Venetia is both intense and fascinating. Venetia is strong and resilient, overcoming her traumatic past and standing up for herself. The plot is well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me engaged, even as I despised Ryan.

It’s Venetia who makes this Harlequin Presents shine. Ryan is both vicious and self-aware, reflecting the depth of his inner turmoil. Despite his porcine nature, he is a well-written, complicated, and intriguing character.

Ryan and Venetia’s sexual relationship is as extreme as the muted BD/SM powerplay in Harlequins can be, a dominant/submissive one, with Ryan exerting his control over Venetia.

Smoke in the Wind is a roller coaster ride of emotions, with a heroine who is capable and determined to overcome the challenges life throws at her. Despite Ryan’s cruel actions, Venetia refuses to be a victim and rises above the situation, proving that the heart can survive enormous pain.

Overall, Smoke in the Wind is a must-read for fans of intense, passionate romance. The multi-faceted characters, thrilling plot, and nail-biting drama make this an HPLandia stand out.

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

Synopsis:

Her response to him was frightening… Venetia Gamble had felt desire before. The result? Such a disastrous marriage that she felt she wanted never to experience desire again. And she hadn’t–until now. Ryan Fraine, famous documentary filmmaker, was in New Zealand to set up a new television station.

From the moment they met, Venetia, herself a TV reporter, knew this man could make her suffer as she never had before. So she shied away from his blazing sensuality. Yet there was something else, something in the very core of her soul that wouldn’t permit escape…. 

SMOKE IN THE WIND by ROBYN DONALD
rumor has it kalan

Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

rumor has it
Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Frank Kalan
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3040
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Rumor Has It by Celia Scott

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Celia Scott‘s Rumor Has It is a modern-day Cinderella story where the fairy godmother is not an actual person, but a false rumor that transforms a frumpy heroine into a glamorous new woman who finds her prince.

Well, a British guy, anyway. That’s close enough.

The Plot

Part One

Lucinda is a sweet and slightly overweight librarian. Really she’s a voluptuous gal with curvy thighs, big boobs, and full hips. If this book was written today, she’d be described as thicc. Lucinda is clumsy, nearsighted, and plagued by insecurity.

She lives with her father, stepmother, and model-slim stepsisters. Poor Luce is constantly berated by her family members. In their eyes, she’s a hopeless mess.

Enter Leo, a dashing Englishman who has business with her father. The family conspires to set up Leo with Lucinda’s more glamorous, slim stepsister. However, Leo’s mind is just on work.

Circumstances lead to Leo and Lucinda being forced to share a one-bed motel during a storm, a typical sitcom/rom-com situation. Except for a brief glimpse at Leo’s butt cheeks, their night is wholly innocent.

Part Two

Soon after, Leo heads back to England. Gossip travels fast in Lucinda’s small hometown when Lucinda’s family learns the two spent a night together.

Of course, it was purely platonic (Thi but the townfolks’ shocked reaction makes Lucinda let people think what they want. They all wonder what did a hunk like Leo see in a frump like Lucinda?

Lucinda is now viewed by the townspeople in a different light as she blossoms with confidence. She gets a new hairdo. Instead of losing weight, she learns to dress appropriately for her shapely figure instead of what’s dictated as “fashionable.” (Just like Clinton and Stacy on What Not to Wear recommended! Remember that show?)

Leo returns to the States. He is shocked that everyone, including Lucinda’s angry father, thinks they had an affair.

He then turns the tables on Lucinda and “blackmails” her into pretending they’re a couple. But as they spend more time together, is it really pretending?

Final Analysis of Rumor Has It

Celia Scott’s Rumor Has It was a sweet, funny, and very adorable romance. There’s humor, a delicious hero, and a heroine who learns to love herself before love finds her.

It’s an old favorite. Arguably my most-favorite Harlequin Romance.

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

Synopsis

It wasn’t a lie, exactly

The rumors about the night Lucinda spent stranded on Marshall’s Island with the dashing Englishman, Leo Grosvenor, simply got out of hand.

Denials of an affair only brought knowing smiles, and Lucinda began to enjoy having people believe someone as glamorous as Leo found her desirable. As the rumors flourished, so did Lucinda.

Besides, she reasoned, Leo was safely home in England. She certainly never expected he would return to South Port and force her to live the lie.

Rumor Has It by Celia Scott
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , ,

***

the marriage war charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

the marriage war by charlotte lamb
The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: half-star
Published: 1997
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1913
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 186
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb may not have the absolute worst cruel hero in Harlequin Presents’ history, but he certainly ranks in the top twenty…maybe forty.

Okay, maybe the top 50. The HP line has at least a thousand crappy heroes in its 50 years of existence.

The Plot

Sancha is a stressed-out housewife with a handsome, workaholic husband named Mark. While she’s not yet middle-aged, she feels and looks her age, while Mark gets better each year like a fine vintage wine.

She is a stay-at-home mother responsible for cooking, cleaning, raising the children, and keeping her husband satisfied. She works hard on the first three. Lately, though, Sancha’s been neglecting her final “responsibility,” as her husband keeps telling her.

The twin beds in their bedroom don’t help. That became a habit when their twins were young, and Sancha had to wake up for midnight nursings and nappy changes. It had been Mark’s idea since he didn’t want his sleep disturbed by her movements.

Sancha and Mark have been married for six years. Well, if you’ve heard of the seven-year-itch, you know what happens next.

Mark has a charming secretary in the office. Capable, beautiful, attentive, and young.

Sancha starts receiving letters hinting that her husband is getting down and dirty with someone during his late-night work sessions. Is Mark having an affair with his secretary? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure looks like he is when Sancha catches them out at a late-night dinner.

Sancha’s life crumbles around her. Even as it does, she decides, like any good woman from the lyrics of Country Music, to fight for her philandering man.

Romances with adultery are difficult enough to pull off. Combine that plot with a male protagonist–who, if classified by scientific terms, would be considered non-Newtonian fluid–you get a wall-banger that requires great force when tossed across the room.

It’ll be over my dead body,

So get out while you can!

‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.

LORETTA LYNN, “YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH”

Sancha gets a makeover and decides to be sexier, but now Mark thinks his wife is getting sexy for other men! Could things get any worse?

Spoiler: The Shocking Revelations

Perhaps Mark’s twisted conscience led him to do what he did. For he tells Sancha the shocking truth. He is the one behind all the letters Sancha received, not his secretary.

Apparently, Mark has a super good reason–to motivate his wife to get over herself to fight for their marriage (i.e., cater to all of Mark’s wants and needs).

In truth, he was only planning to have an affair. Nice guy, right?

Mark figured he could have his matronly wife tend to his children and home. Meanwhile, his carnal desires would be fulfilled by other women. Starting with his secretary, who was down for it.

Instead of shagging her right away, though, Mark decided first to torment his wife with anonymous letters to make her re-evaluate what was important: him!

It all works out for Mark, as Sancha gets her mojo back, and insecurity drives her to be the devoted, horny Stepford wife he knew she could be.

So Mark dumps the floozy of a secretary. In return, Sancha promises never again to get too overwhelmed by her many responsibilities. Mark will always come first. (Yeah, he seems like he’d be that type.)

“See that? How much I want you?”

“As much as you wanted her the other night?” she asked bitterly, and he shut his eyes, groaning, turning away.

“Oh, not again! Do we have to bring that up again? Forget Jacqui!”

“I can’t. Can you? Working with her every day, seeing her, being alone with her? You may not have slept with her–but you admit you almost did. Is she going to accept the end of the affair?”

Final Analysis of The Marriage War

I’ve mentioned before how Charlotte Lamb is one of my two most beloved authors in the Harlequin Presents line. I’ve given her more 5-star ratings than any other writer in that line. But she’s also written a lot of clunkers. This is one of them.

Oh, boy, did I hate this book!

Mark was a paramecium scum-sucker. Not worthy of the title of “man.” Cruel hero? More like absolute zero!

Sancha was not much better. She was a bland, reactive character and not too many rungs above her husband in the animal kingdom.

I love Charlotte Lamb’s writings, so I’ll forgive her for this hideous attempt at “romance.” Out of her 160-plus books published, there are bound to be bad ones. And sheesh, was this one ever that!

File The Marriage War under “suck-suckity-suck.”

(Note: the cover rating does not count toward the final score.)

Rating Report Card
Plot
0.5
Characters
0.5
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
0.5
Fun Factor
0.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 1.2

Synopsis

Something worth fighting for!

Sancha’s first instinct was to burn the anonymous letter. Its malicious message couldn’t be true: Do you know where your husband will be tonight? Do you know who he’ll be with?

Sancha adored Mark now as much as when they were first married, even though family life meant that they were no longer so close. She’d never dreamed that her tough, handsome husband would fall into the arms of another woman!

The battle was on – though when Sancha confronted Mark, she discovered the physical attraction between them was as strong as ever. But she wouldn’t let herself be seduced by him…. Not yet!

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
mansion for my love donald

Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

category romance
Mansion For My Love by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #567
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Mansion for My Love by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Robyn Donald, who authored romances primarily for the Harlequin Presents line, often wrote some of the most angst-filled books, with heroes so cruel, you’d swear they were the villains. Mansion for My Love is one of those books where you can’t believe what the supposed hero does to the heroine.

Mansion for My Love: A Hard Romance to Review

A 3-star rating is an odd thing. It can represent such varied levels of opinions on personal enjoyment. There are average reads which make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but likely are stories you’ll forget and/or never desire to re-explore.

Then there are those books that get you right away and seem like a guaranteed 5-star experience, but then result in disappointment somehow and fall to a barely favorable rating or vice-versa.

Some books are objectively terrible (either in plot development or editing like grammar/spelling, etc.). Yet they provide so much guilty entertainment that you can’t possibly give them a negative review, even if you’re ashamed that your friends and followers will know you enjoy such trash.

And, last, there are books like Mansion for My Love. This kind of book splits readers every which way, the kind no matter what you feel, everyone can’t stop talking about.

mansion for my love robyn donald
Mansion For My Love, Mills & Boon

The Plot

Faine is a great heroine, charming, independent, and open to love. She meets Burke Harding and is drawn to his strong magnetic presence.

He pursues her with a cold determination, and against her better judgment, she finds herself head over heels for him.

But while Burke is interested in her, he keeps himself at a distance.

So when Burke proposes, Faine says yes, but strangely love is never mentioned.

Finally, Faine and Burke get married, and that’s where the drama starts. This all hinges on a gimmick:

Girl meets guy, he pursues her like crazy, she falls in love, they have a whirlwind wedding, and on their wedding day, she overhears the hero declare his love for his sister-in-law who’s married to his sick brother.

What a betrayal. How can the hero ever be redeemed?

There’s more. Done wrong, the heroine, Faine, runs away from Burke, who tracks her down, demands a real marriage, pretty much forces his way into her bed, and makes her mad with love and lust.

Then the brother dies. And there is still lots of drama to come! That’s quite a bit of romantic angst to pack into a 188-page book.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you.”

Final Analysis of Mansion for My Love

Robyn Donald was certainly an above-average writer for the HP line. Her works evoke vivid visions of their natural settings, her heroes written in a similar brutal & obsessive vein, her heroines fighting their inner struggles to submit to cruel passion.

Mansion For My Love is genre fiction that grips you in the gut. It’s a controversial romance among its fans and detractors. It’s always a book I’ll remember, if not the tiny details, then the way it made me feel.

The heroine is great. If she were a weak pushover type, this story wouldn’t be as strong. What Burke did was so wrong, not just one deed, but another followed by another. Faine didn’t deserve to be wronged, but at the end of the day, she chose to be with Burke.

Mansion For My Love leaves me with a ton of questions.

Why did Faine love him so much? Is Burke’s transformation at the end believable? Is she second-best or first in his heart? Can he be forgiven? Does he deserve to? So many unknowns!

Despite the middling rating, an average read it is not. Mansion For My Love is not an easy book to pin down. It inspires conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. I love this romance–and I hate it.

I don’t know if I could stomach ever reading this angsty “love story” again, but it holds a place on my keeper shelf.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
4
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.3

Synopsis

“He’s not a good man to fall in love with!”

Faine had not ignored the warning, but even without his wealth, charm and good looks, Burke Harding had magnetism.

His determined pursuit and assault on her heart soon overcame her wavering resistance. She agreed to marry him, but some deep instinct of self-preservation kept her from revealing her love–and in time her decision was vindicated.

“I carefully avoided telling you that I love you,” he told her when Faine discovered she was a stand-in for the woman he really loved–but could not have.

MANSION FOR MY LOVE by ROBYN DONALD
passionate affair oakley

Category Romance Review: A Passionate Affair by Anne Mather

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

In Anne Mather’s A Passionate Affair, the heroine, Cassandra, is a widow whom the hero pursues fervently. Eventually, Cassandra realizes she desires him as much as he does her, so they engage in a…passionate affair.

For a Harlequin Presents from 1982 to pull this plot off was revolutionary. Before this book, lovemaking in this line had been restricted to married couples or “forced seductions” of initially unwilling virgins whose bodies “betrayed them.”

I had heard through the Romancelandia grapevine that Anne Weale’s  1983 release, Ecstasy, was the first HP where an unmarried heroine has a consensual, no-strings-attached fling with the hero. However, A Passionate Affair was published long before Weale’s book. So this book is technically the first to employ that revolutionary plot point. Ecstasy was the first where a virgin heroine practiced her autonomy to enter a sexual relationship.

The Characters

Cassandra’s first marriage was a disaster. Her husband, a race car driver, had enjoyed living on the edge, driving fast cars and seducing faster women. His antics were fodder for the tabloids. He’s dead now, and Cassandra has moved on in life. She does have a flourishing career and a normal sex drive. This was very refreshing to see in an old-school Harlequin Presents. Unfortunately, her unhappy marriage left deep insecurities. Cassandra’s doubts about herself prevent her from seeking relationships with men.

Enter Jay Ravek. Her life will never be after they meet.

A Passionate Affair, Anne Mather, Harlequin, 2014 reissue

The Plot

Jay and Cassandra encounter each other at a party. Their attraction is instantaneous and powerful. Jay chases after Cassandra, while she is hesitant to date him, as he has a reputation. Cassandra is all too familiar with that type of man he is. She is reluctant to give in to the attraction with a cold marriage behind her.

Despite her wariness, Jay’s charm melts through her icy demeanor. He’s handsome, funny, kind, and most of all, he wants her.

Cassandra and Jay embark on an amorous romance, throwing caution to the wind.

Their affair leads to an unexpected pregnancy. Fearing that Jay will abandon her, she flees, keeping her pregnancy a secret. It doesn’t help that her supposed best friend is whispering malicious gossip into her ears.

Cassandra runs away, yet Jay runs after her. He does much of the chasing in this romance. Her bad marriage left her with emotional issues. Even though Cassandra wants more than a short-term fling, she runs because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. Thank goodness Jay knows his own mind and is a man of integrity.

In the end, the villainy of the “friend” is revealed, and Jay expresses his love for Cassandra.

Final Analysis of A Passionate Affair

For all its radical plot, A Passionate Affair was still a typical Harlequin. The story was somewhat marred by a heroine who did not have the fortitude to follow through on her romantic wishes while listening to poisonous rumors. Rather than facing her fears head-on, she ran. And ran.

Jay, on the other hand, was a wonderful hero. He had all the characteristics that make up a great one. This was quite a deviation for Mather, whose heroes could be quite cruel and overbearing.

Despite the wishy-washy heroine, this was a solid romance. Anne Mather doesn’t usually awe me, but she rarely ever disappoints.

3.5 Stars


Synopsis:

“He’s quite famous—and notorious.”

Cassandra had been warned, and she didn’t care. After enduring a disastrous marriage, she was now ready for an affair with no strings attached.

But Jay Ravek was not like any man she’d known before. He was a totally new experience, and quickly she realized she wanted much more than a casual relationship.

If she was foolish enough to put her heart in his keeping, she might never recover. Better for her to run now than to suffer the inevitable anguish.

A Passionate Affair
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
hilltop tryst

Category Romance Review: Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels

category romance
Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Will Davies
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3071
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Hilltop Tryst by Betty Neels

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Hilltop Tryst is another sweet romance by the famous Betty Neels featuring–as always–a fair-haired doctor as a hero, although this time he’s British, not Dutch. Nor is the heroine a nurse. She’s the daughter of a local successful veterinarian and works with Dad.

The Set-Up

The title Hilltop Tryst makes it sound steamier than this book really is. It’s a very clean, closed-door Harlequin Romance, so no trysting here!

One morning, Beatrice is taking a walk with her dog, and she meets the hero, Dr. Oliver Latimer, a heart surgeon, along the way. Oliver’s a nice, stolid type. There’s a bit of trouble with another dog, and Oliver arranges to bring the pup to Beatrice’s father for a check-up.

Everything lines up making it seem as if Oliver’s interested in Beatrice. He’s kind to her, spends time with her family, and–in typical Betty Neels fashion–doesn’t make a move! When Beatrice’s father has a heart attack, they’re fortunate that Dr. Latimer is there to save the day.

Enter our other man, a more debonair and seemingly sophisticated vet. Have you known many vets? Most of them are really nice folks! But hardly dashing when compared to heart surgeons.

Sunnyvale’s Top Vet

The Plot

Anyway, this OM takes a liking to Beatrice as she to him. Oliver’s nice and all, but he’s so placid and just there. Unfortunately, Beatrice discovers that the OM has his sights set on taking over her father’s thriving business. Cozying up to Beatrice was simply part of his plan.

Ashamed, her heart in tatters, Beatrice turns to Oliver, who is there to save the day. He proposes a phony relationship with Beatrice and offers to take her on a Continental-speaking tour.

Along the way, Beatrice realizes she wasn’t really in love with Sam Losco, sleazy pet doc. She was just blinded by his flash. As Beatrice gets to know more of Oliver on their trip, she realizes it’s he whom she prefers.

There’s some bit of dull action before the two meet up again on that same hilltop. They declare their love for each other. Again, no trysting, but promises of marriage and forever are made.

hilltop tryst

Final Analysis of Hilltop Tryst

This was a charming Betty Neels romance, but not really very exciting. I was reading another Harlequin Romance at the same time as this (a Jessica Steele I’ll review later) and found that a saucy read more to my liking.

To my (not) surprise, reviews on sites rate Hilltop Tryst much higher than the other one I enjoyed. Oh, well, I like a little drama in my romances, even the sweet ones.

Hilltop Tryst, I’d mark as good, not great. Oliver gets points for being an animal lover, but not enough to change my overall sentiments.

3 Stars

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

Synopsis

A Dependable Man

When Beatrice’s world turned upside down, Oliver Latimer was on hand to pick up the pieces. There was something solid and reassuring about Oliver. Beatrice felt safe with him. But he wasn’t an easy person to get to know.

Accompanying him on a lecture tour to Europe convinced Beatrice that there was more to Dr. Latimer than she’d imagined. In fact, she came to believe he was the only man she could truly love. But Oliver kept his feelings hidden. What did he really think of her

HILLTOP TRYST by BETTY NEELS
rainy day kisses

Category Romance Review: Rainy Day Kisses by Debbie Macomber

Rainy Day Kisses, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3076

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 🙂

Four Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

I adore a love story where one partner is restrained and uptight and the other is open and free-spirited. Rainy Day Kisses, a Harlequin Romance by Debbie Macomber, depicts those elements perfectly. It’s about a woman who has no time for frills and silly moments enjoying life. She’s a no-nonsense businesswoman. Then she butts head with her neighbor, a laid-back kind of guy who loves flying kites.

The Plot

Susannah Simmons is the stereotypical career-woman with no time for romance. She has a five-year plan to rise to the top of her field. While she focuses on climbing up the corporate ladder to VP status, her family members are getting married and having babies.

She has zero patience time for neighbor Nate Townsend. The man bakes cookies, for goodness sake! Nate loves Seattle Mariners ball games. He’s all about fun and relaxing. His happy-go-lucky demeanor irritates Susannah to no end. Does the man even have a job?

Then Susannah finds herself wrangled into babysitting her niece. Have you ever seen that old Diane Keaton film “Baby Boom”? Well, that’s what this reminded me of. Susannah finds herself at wit’s end trying to deal with a crying infant. Who comes to the rescue, but her neighbor? Nate has a calming, soothing way with babies. He also has a way with adult women, as Susannah finds. For despite their difference, Susannah can’t help but be attracted to Nate.

He shows her a different side of life. If you work hard, you have to play hard, too. Susannah’s forgotten all about having some fun in her life. But is Nate’s playful nature a sign of immaturity? Or is he right and Susannah’s rigid plans mean nothing without some love and laughter added in?

Even though this is a traditional romance, I could see Nate and Susannah living a more “modern” life, where Nate stays home and takes care of the kiddos while Susannah goes off to work. I know several couples who live like this. So why can’t Nate and Susannah have love and family and career, as long as they work together to do it?

Final Analysis of Rainy Day Kisses

This was a breezy angst-free romance. Nate’s an adorkable hero. Susannah is icy, but not so much so that she’s an unlikeable heroine. You want to see these two get together and make it. Debbie Macomber writes sweet love stories, and if you’re looking for one, Rainy Day Kisses will hit the right spot.

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: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

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
viking magic

Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles

viking magic category romance
Viking Magic Rating: four-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1681
Book Series: Postcards From Europe #10
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Viking Magic by Angela Welles

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Viking Magic by Angela Welles was the entry for Denmark in Harlequin Presents‘ 1995 Postcards from Europe mini-series.

Viking Magic features an honest-to-goodness nice guy hero, and a neurotically insecure heroine (aren’t they all?) united on a quest of sorts.

The Plot

Gina Price is in Copenhagen to find her wayward teenage sister, who’s run off with a young Danish student. She has an address that might be a clue as to her sister’s whereabouts. So she knocks on the door of an apartment.

Who should open the door but a Viking god of a man dressed in nothing but boxers!

The man’s not too keen on seeing Gina, as, #1, she’s interrupted his sleep. And #2, he thinks she’s one of his conniving ex’s friends trying to steal a valuable painting from him.

Things are clarified in short order, and the man, Rune Christenson, has nothing to do with Gina’s sister. However, his missing nephew does.

And so Rune takes Gina on a tour of magical Copenhagen as they search for the missing lovebirds.

There are a couple of sensual scenes that stood out. Rune has Gina drink some aqua vitae with him, and they entwine their arms and look deep into each other’s eyes before saying, “Skoal!” and drinking. Later, Rune surprises her by seductively playing the saxophone for her on stage at a club.

Two People Hurt By Love

Gina’s been hurt by love in the past, and Rune, too, is wary of the other sex after a recent nasty affair. As the two get to know each other, their defenses break down, and they make love.

Gina is a virgin, but Rune isn’t a dominant “Now you’re mine and only mine” type, although he appreciates that he had the honor of being Gina’s first lover.

When Rune’s nephew returns, he tells them Gina’s sister summarily dumped him. So Gina decides it’s time to high-tail it out of there without much of an explanation. I did say she was irrationally insecure, right?

I forget why, but the heroine returns to Copenhagen on a business trip and is invited to one of Rune’s parties.

Of course, she doesn’t show up, but Rune tracks her down and makes his declaration of love, one that if Gina had only stuck around, she would have heard the night they made love.

Postcards From Denmark

I don’t know why the Nordic nations of Europe don’t feature more prominently in HPlandia.

Those heroes are just as exciting as the Greek, Spanish, Italian, and Arab ones.

I probably rated this book higher because of my penchant for Nordic heroes, who are rare in the Presents line.

Final Analysis of Viking Magic

Viking Magic was not an angsty Harlequin Presents at all, but I enjoyed it for what it was: a sweet love story.

Viking Magic hits some sweet spots for me, so I’ve reread it once or twice. This romance holds up well.

4 stars

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

Synopsis

Gina Price had gone to Copenhagen on a mission — to find her willful teenage sister. She hadn’t planned on the help of a gorgeous Viking — especially once he accused her of being a thief! But help her he did, because just like his ancestors, Rune Christensen had clearly set out to conquer..

VIKING MAGIC by ANGELA WELLES

dark fever

Category Romance Review: Dark Fever by Charlotte Lamb

Dark Fever, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1840

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I’ve said this before about a Charlotte Lamb book, but now I really mean it: this is the worst romance written by her that I’ve ever read! I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Harlequin Presents as much as Dark Fever. No, it wasn’t boring… It was bizarre and awful and left me with a horrible feeling!

The Plot

Dark Fever was part of a series of books based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The theme of this novel was lust, although there’s no sexual intercourse in this one. Personally, I thought this book’s theme of sin was gluttony because of all the talk of food. It was set in Spain, after all.

Bianca has just turned 40 years old. She is a widow of 3 years, still in mourning for her husband. She has two teenagers and feels down in the dumps, so she goes on a trip to Spain. At her hotel, she sees a handsome man swimming in a pool and instantly falls in lust.

The man, Gil, is much younger than Bianca. He also is deeply attracted to her, and he cares for her as well. They flirt; she teases him. But ultimately, her feelings for her dead husband create an overwhelming sense of guilt over the sexual desire she feels for another man.

Then a tragedy occurs: Bianca gets brutally beaten and almost raped. Her trauma causes her to become disgusted at the idea of sex. This is what most of the book entails: not the relationship with Gil, but Bianca’s recovery from her ordeal. Sadly, she seems to not truly recuperate.

Bianca says goodbye to Gil and goes back to England. However Gil feels far more for Bianca than she does for him, so he follows her and declares his love.

The Awful Ending

The end of this strange book is the insulting coup de grace:

…I’m not even asking you to marry me, Bianca, I’m only saying I want to get to know you better.”

She met his eyes. “You want to sleep with me—isn’t that what you’re saying?”

You know I do,” he said huskily. “I won’t lie about that—I want you, I said so, but not until you’re ready.”

And if I never am?

He grimaced. “I’ll have to live with that won’t I?

Yes,” she said her gaze defiant.

DARK FEVER

Bianca stares at herself in the mirror as she prepares for their first date, thinking that she’s too old (at only 40!) for romance and may just be in it for a short-term fling. Who knows what will happen? It’s a mystery that ends unresolved.

Final Analysis of Dark Fever

This was a romance novel? What the ever-loving hell?

I understand some modern romances don’t end with a HEA, but “happy enough for now,” but that is not what I expect when I read a Harlequin Presents! Especially one written long ago in 1995.

Dark Fever was Women’s Fiction published as a romance, and I hated it!

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show me

Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey

show me dailey category romance
Show Me by Janet Dailey
Rating: two-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #200
Book Series: Americana #25
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Show Me by Janet Dailey

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Janet Dailey‘s Harlequin Presents #200 Show Me takes place in the “Show Me” state of Missouri. The hero, Jake, spouts lines like this over and over again: “I’m from Missouri. You have to show me to believe.”

As the first American author of Harlequin Presents, Janet Dailey set her novels in all 50 states. I suppose this was to show foreign readers how diverse and exotic the USA can be.

Although her books never inspired me to jet-set across the country, I, too, have traveled around the States and found myself in various oh-so-glamorous US cities like

  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Newark, New Jersey

Talk about exotic!

The Plot

In Show Me, Jake is a bitter man who’s returned home after being away for more than half a decade.

He’s sour because he was forced to marry Tanya, the mother of his son, John. The child was a result of a drunken one-night stand Jake can’t recall.

The “hero” is a deadbeat dad, as he’s lived in Africa for 7 years and made no effort to get to know his son. Plus, he’s contemptuously open about not having been a faithful husband.

There is a Harley dramatic revelation at the end, which the heroine had to do if she expected to engage in makeup sex with her husband.

So the big twist is… Tanya isn’t really John’s mom, and Jake isn’t his dad. Their dead siblings were the real parents, and their shotgun marriage was due to a big lie/misunderstanding.

Jake didn’t have to stay away from his family for so many years if Tanya had talked to him back when the kid was born.

Final Analysis of Show Me

But what kind of story would exist if the protagonists acted like adults and engaged in conversation? It would make for a dull romance. Almost as dull as this one.

Show Me was a slow, ponderous read. I swear Janet Dailey could take a decent plot and make it as fun as reading furniture instruction manuals.

2 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

I don’t blame you for hating me at first,” Jake said. “After all, I forced you to marry me. But you do see why I had to tell you all this, don’t you? You’ve been so honest with me that I had to be the same with you.

Tanya’s heart sank. Honest! Honest! The word kept haunting her. Her supposed honesty was the one thing he admired about her.

She couldn’t possibly tell him the truth now. If she did his love for her would be shattered forever!

Show Me by Janet Dailey
asking for trouble ed tadiello

Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

category romance
Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Ed Tadiello
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1614
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

The Book

I was unfortunately underwhelmed with Asking for Trouble by Australian romance author Miranda Lee. This is unusual, as she’s a reliable favorite.

The problem with reading a much-beloved author almost 50 times is that their books begin to blend together. Plotlines get replayed. And replayed. And replayed.

The Plot

In Asking for Trouble, we see a familiar Lee storyline. We have a sexually inexperienced woman who ironically looks like sex on legs. Then there’s the hero who’s been burned in the past by a bad relationship and is unwilling to commit.

I don’t know if this is the fourth or fifth book where the couple watches the film Out of Africa on a romantic date.

After a few passionate nights of sex, the heroine Sirena gets pregnant, and that magically solves all their problems.

Of course, this is a Harlequin Presents, so it’s all par for the course. But when it’s the same story over and over, I wonder if I should take a break from reading a particular writer.

At least for a while, so that when I read a new book by them, I’d appreciate it more.

Final Analysis of Asking for Trouble

If I had read Asking For Trouble ten years ago, this would have been new and exciting to me, maybe meriting a 4-star rating.

This isn’t a bad book, but I’ve read at least a dozen better variations of the same exact story, just with different character names and descriptions. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around as previously.

Sorry, Asking For Trouble, it’s not you; it’s me.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.6

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

The real thing

Serina hasn’t seen Aaron Kingsley for eleven years, but she hasn’t forgotten him. When they meet again, it’s clear that what had begun as a schoolgirl crush has blossomed into a mature adult love. He shares the attraction, but all he’s offering her now is a temporary, going-nowhere affair.

What angers her most is that she’s tempted to agree. She’s not about to turn her back on a chance to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a man poisoned by a bad marriage hardly makes the perfect Prince Charming.

ASKING FOR TROUBLE by MIRANDA LEE

Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

category romance
Seduction by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1980
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #428
Published by: Mills & Boon, Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Seduction by Charlotte Lamb

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Charlotte Lamb‘s Seduction features a ridiculously sheltered and innocent heroine and a hero so crazy and obsessed, that they can only be found in old-school Harlequin Presents or bodice rippers, “mated-pair” paranormal romances, or perhaps self-published New-Adult books.

The Plot

Clea is an orphaned English girl living in Greece with her Greek stepfather and stepsister.

Her step-sister is a caricature of a slut, pursuing the hero with inexplicably misplaced confidence.

Worse, Clea has a creepy stepdad with unhealthy designs on her, as he wants Clea to remain untouched by any man (except himself).

Ben is an Englishman visiting Greece, and he becomes obsessed with Clea from the first instance. He will do anything to get her.

He has a female accomplice named Natalie who befriends Clea and helps Ben abduct her. I wondered what this guy had on Natalie to make her do such a thing, but we never found out.

Although just like Kramer from the show, Seinfeld has the power of the “Kavorka,” the “lure of the animal,” which attracts lust and devotion, Ben wields a strange control over women.

kavorka

Ben’s obviously off his rocker, but Clea is not all there either. He demands, but she refuses. He is forceful, but Clea is resilient, giving as good as she gets. Finally, she escapes, but not before Ben can put his mark on her soul.

She falls in love with him.

Final Analysis of Seduction

Seduction was not the first Harlequin Presents I read, but it was the one that got me addicted to the Presents line.

Charlotte Lamb didn’t write like any other ordinary Harlequin author. Her plots were wildly fantastic, forcing you to turn the page to see what insanity she included next.

Lamb was able to psychoanalyze by delving into navel-gazing. She was very aware of the nature of her works, that they were just fantasies. Nevertheless, she treated her subject matter seriously with exquisite attention to character, dialogue, and tone.

Seduction is very chauvinistic and very politically incorrect. But this is a book, an illusion, not reality.

Charlotte Lamb’s writing was at its best in this one. I love this romance, as crazy as it was.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Clea felt insulted — by both men!

Clea’s stepfather, Kerasteri, had followed Greek custom in choosing a man for her to marry. Defying him meant arousing his violent temper.

Ben Winter was the man who desired her and was determined to have her. I know what you want more than you do, he kept insisting. But he saw only the betraying signs of her body; he didn’t listen to her reasons for refusal.

Clea had little choice. But she was sure of one thing: she would not be owned or used by anyone. She was her own person!

SEDUCTION by CHARLOTTE LAMB
frozen fire

Category Romance Review: A Frozen Fire by Charlotte Lamb

A Frozen Fire, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, cover artist TBD

SPOILER ALERT

Paul was beautiful, Helen thought, gazing down at him. He would always be beautiful now.

A Frozen Fire

The Book

Frozen Fire was one of the strangest Harlequin Presents I’ve ever read. It’s not Charlotte Lamb’s worst, by any means. Actually, it’s quite well-written and if it was a two-part story I would have loved it. But as it stands, the book focuses way too much on Helen’s relationship with her emotionally abusive husband and not with the hero.

The Plot

Helen has been married to Paul for many years and he’s cheated on her repeatedly. They’ve had to move various times whenever his affairs have caused too much trouble wherever they’re living. So here they are, yet again, in a new town with a new job for Paul, and Helen is sticking around, but she’s not sleeping with her husband. Still, she’s faithful to Paul even if he isn’t because she’s the kind of person who keeps her vows even though her husband doesn’t. Plus, he’s super, super hot.

That’s it.

The man treats her like crap, but he’s SO good-looking she won’t divorce him.

Enter Paul’s boss, Mark. There is a strong attraction present, and when Mark realizes what’s going on in Helen’s marriage, he pursues her with a vengeance. Mark’s a great character: a wonderful man who’s dominant but sensitive. The problem is he’s always on the fringes. Paul, not Mark, is the main guy in this story.

It was unsettling how Helen so was committed to her terrible marriage. She was the ultimate martyr and refused to divorce her adulterous, emotionally abusive husband.

The Unsatisfying Ending

But it’s the end that’s REALLY bizarre.

Helen finally falls in love with Mark and spends Christmas with his family. At last, she realizes her marriage is over. But there’s no major declaration of love and no showdown between husband, wife, and potential lover.

What happens is this:

Helen and Mark walk home together on Boxing Day. Paul, in an angry fit, tries to run Mark over with his horse. The horse bolts and Paul is thrown and killed.

“Helen looked at Paul, her ears hearing nothing more. She put out a shaking hand to stroke back the smooth golden hair from his damp forehead. He lay so still and tranquil in the cold wintry light, all the glitter of sunlight in his hair as it gleamed. His face had smoothed out into beauty again, as it did when he slept. Paul was beautiful, Helen thought, gazing down at him. He would always be beautiful now. The slow stain which had begun to eat up that beauty had been halted forever. All that Paul could have been lay in that peaceful face. The ruin of his life was now behind him. Helen put her hands to her face and wept.” 

That’s the grand finale to Helen and Mark‘s love story? What an awful way to end a romance novel!

Final Analysis of A Frozen Fire

Nevertheless, despite its odd qualities, A Frozen Fire was not a tedious read and it did keep my interest. So for that reason, I rate it a tepid three stars. The wonderful hero and the unusual circumstances surrounding Helen’s life were intriguing. However, this romance was not handled in the most logical manner with a satisfactory conclusion that comforted the reader with a pleasing HEA.

3 Stars

spell of mountains

Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan

category romance
Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Romance #3027
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan, Harlequin Romance #3027, has the honor of being my first romance. Or at least, it was my first “adult” romance. I had read some Carolyn B. Cooney and the like, but never a love story about adults.

Back in January or February of 1990 a package of 4 books mysteriously arrived in the mail. Whoever ordered them I never learned. My mom gave them to me since I was a bookworm and read everything from the back of the cereal box at breakfast to the labels on

After I read them, my love for romance was born! I signed up for a monthly subscription to Harlequins Romances. A few months later, I moved on to Temptations, and any other series I could get my hands on.

The Plot

I remember being entranced by the “exotic” location of Christchurch, New Zealand. (This was long before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films made the land of Kiwis a hipster vacation destination.)

The heroine, Sophie, and her father owned a farmstead that was deeply in debt. Jonathon, the hero, was an egotistical, big-shot millionaire who wanted to build on their land.

Fireworks ensued.

Eventually, the two come to an arrangement that allowed Jonathon to buy up the land and build real estate on the property. He and Sophie drew ever closer, despite their differences.

As I was a romance “virgin” when I read this, I LOVED the book. It was so thrilling, in such an innocent way.

The scene at the end when Sophie admitted her love for Jonathan after he let his true feelings be revealed is when my 12-year-old self became addicted to the genre for the rest life.

Final Analysis of Spell of the Mountains

If I read Spell of the Mountains today, I admit it wouldn’t be as amazed. It’s a rather simple, by-the-numbers romance. There’s the arrogant hero, defiant heroine, a tug-and-pull relationship of “I hate you” versus “I’m attracted to you” and then a true love declaration at the end.

It was also quite chaste. The main characters did not have sex, instead sharing only passionate kisses.

But since Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan was my first romance, it will always have a special place in my heart!

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 3.9

Synopsis:

I’d sooner kiss a snake than you!”

When Sophie had angrily insulted New Zealand hotelier Jon Roberts, she’d never expected him to respond with a wager. If he managed to wangle her cherished homestead motel away from her, he’d announced, he would claim a kiss as his prize…

Sophie had no intention of losing out to arrogant Jon! Until a fateful mountain snowstorm trapped them both together — and all her best laid plans went awry…

In the wintry wonderland of the mountains, Sophie — the icy snow queen — began to melt with Jon’s charms. But chilling winds from their past still blew between them… .”

Spell of the Mountains by Rosalie Henaghan
dont ask me now emma darcy

Category Romance Review: Don’t Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

category romance
Don't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #984
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Don’t Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Emma DarcyDon’t Ask Me Now is an unusual Harlequin Presents. Prior to this book, I had seen a similar love-triangle plot done in the Temptation line, which was more sexually explicit. To see this kind of story in an HP was a bit surprising.

The Unusual Plot

What’s the big deal? Well, this romance features two heroes! And the heroine sleeps with both–although it’s not as tawdry as it sounds.

Many years ago, the heroine, Cathy, had a torrid love affair with Hero #1 Anthony Pryor-Jones of the Pryor-Joneses, part of Australia’s creme-de-la-creme. His family disapproved of her as they were a wealthy clan, while Cathy was a nobody.

Hero #1 was obsessed with her, and they had fantastic sex. But the class divide was too much. Finally, Cathy broke free from the toxic relationship and relocated to Sydney.

Years have passed, and Cathy’s made a new life for herself. She’s got a great friend and business partner, Tom. Tom, Hero #2, has always wanted Cathy. Unfortunately, he’s been friend-zoned for some time.

Just when he thinks he’s breaking through her icy reserve, they bump into Anthony at a ball.

Cathy sees him, and her feelings come rushing back. Anthony wants her again, too.

Tom isn’t going to stand by and let it happen. He demands Cathy see him as he really is: a man, a desirable one, who genuinely cares for her.

Moreover, Tom’s not willing to play second fiddle to her ardent feelings for Anthony. Even if Tom knew Cathy loved him, he’s unwilling to be next-best in bed. Tom is rightfully jealous of the passionate relationship she shared with Anthony.

Don’t ask me now, Tom,” Cathy says to him, as she can’t decide what her heart wants. But she must.

Who Gets the Girl in This Love Triangle?

I’m happy to say that it’s the nice guy who wins out in the end. Hero #1 turns out to be no hero at all.

Tom and Cathy get invited to a weekend party at the Pryor-Jones estate. As Anthony sees that Tom and Cathy are drawing closer and Cathy won’t give in to him, he tries to make Cathy jealous. How? By having sex with a young girl in a car in the driveway (what a stud!). Then when he sees Cathy fleeing his family’s party, he cruelly and abruptly abandons the crying, confused girl.

Cathy easily realizes it’s Tom she wants, needs, and–most importantly–desires.

The pair share a memorable scene where they make love and break the bed. This occurs at the party at Pryor-Jones estate, so everyone will see the results of Tom and Cathy’s wildly erotic night.

Final Analysis of Don’t Ask Me Now

Don’t Ask Me Now is a wonderfully unique Harlequin Presents. It was written to keep you guessing who’s the right man in this love triangle, then made you root for that right man to get the girl. I don’t even want to imagine how this kind of plot would be addressed in a modern HP/ Mills and Boon. If it has, I don’t want to know!

Emma Darcy executed this plot with perfection. Although I’ve enjoyed many of her books, like Fantasy, this one is special. It’s one of my most beloved Harlequin Presents; if not a top 10 pick, then top 20 for sure.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Only one man was offering the forever kind of love

Four years ago, Cathy Lawrence’s hopes of marrying Anthony Pryor-Jones had been humiliatingly crushed. The country girl from Armidale had been deemed no match for Anthony, whose family sat atop the social register in New South Wales–_ perhaps all Australia.

Since then she’d built a comfortable life for herself in Sydney, and had a steady relationship with Thomas Crawford–her business partner.

But when she bumped into Anthony at the charity ball, one brief look into those green eyes threw her emotions into churning conflict. He wanted her again. And Cathy wasn’t sure she had the willpower to resist the only man she thought she had ever loved. 

DON’T ASK ME NOW by EMMA DARCY
The Lion Rock Sally Wentworth

Category Romance Review: The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth

category romance
The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Ralph Amatrudi
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #662
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 191
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth

The Book

The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth has an exotic setting, but plot-wise is your typical Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon romance.

The Plot

Cordelia, a young British woman, visits her birthplace of Sri Lanka with her emotionally distant father. Her father has a heart attack, and Marcus Stone, an older, sophisticated gentleman, comes to her rescue.

They both experience a deep, instant attraction, but Marcus is cold and pushes her away for some mysterious reason. There’s a nasty other-woman who makes trouble and a younger guy who’s mad about the heroine. Cordelia dates him and makes him think she likes him even though she’s in love with Marcus.

Drama ensues. Some mild nookie. Happy ending.

the lion rock sally wentowrth

The Weird Stuff

This was a perfectly adequate book, not exciting, but worth a couple of hours of reading.

One thing I found funny was that Marcus kept pushing Cordelia away because he thought she was only wowed by his celebrity status. His claim to fame? He’s a writer of popular non-fiction books about history and global politics, not unlike Francis Fukuyama or Thomas Friedman. Fine, worldly men, true enough, but I hardly consider them glamorous sex symbols who seduce legions of 20-year-olds out of their panties.

Come Back to Me Sally Wentworth
Thomas Friedman, our hero?

(Or am I wrong, ladies?)

The other thing that stands out from this book is the–how do I put this?– less-than-gallant attitude depicted toward the Sri Lankan setting. I try to imagine how the brainstorming for this book went on:

Editors: Hullo, Sally, how was your holiday in Sri Lanka?

SW: I hated it. This place sucks; it’s too hot, the food is too spicy, the people are lazy, there are no hospitals, the native dances stink, the local guys are creepy. Ceylon, pardon, Sri Lanka, is lost without Europeans to guide it. But at least there are some nice Buddhist statues to take pictures of.

Editors: Great. Now you know our readers love those exotic settings, so we want you to set your new book there. Make it as authentic sounding as you can.

SW: Oh, I‘ll make it authentic all right. (Grumble!)

Yikes!

Final Analysis of The Lion Rock

The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth was a ho-hum, kind of meh romance but a pleasant enough way to pass the time on a train ride. Despite the book’s odd points, I’ll give it a tepid thumbs up.

3 Stars

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

SYNOPSIS:

She was more than willing to surrender to love

Never before had Cordelia experienced such desire as she felt for Marcus Stone. And one sultry night in the exotic gardens of his Sri Lankan home, he revealed his own fierce passion for her.

Then suddenly he became remote and strangely reluctant to accept what she wanted to give. “Aren’t you willing to take a risk if you want something badly enough?” Cordelia had asked him.

Marcus had shown he was a risk-taker in other ways. But now he was clearly showing Cordelia that he didn’t want her.

THE LION ROCK by SALLY WENTWORTH
Crescendo

Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb

Crescendo, Charlotte Lamb, Harlequin, 1980, Will, Davies cover art

Harlequin Presents #451

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

“Hello Red Riding Hood. I’m the Wolf.”

CRESCENDO

5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Mysterious Beginning

Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb starts like a hazy dream. A beautiful girl stands at the cliffs, and a strange man, thinking she’s about to jump, runs to save her. She isn’t; she’s just admiring the savage beauty of her coastal home. There is an instant connection between the girl, Marina, and Gideon, the stranger, who is much older. Marina lives alone with her grandfather, plays the piano beautifully, and at night shares her thoughts with her best friends, two dolls. There are secrets hidden in this tale that slowly unravel to reveal a different story altogether.

The Plot

Crescendo deals with an issue that has always puzzled me. Why are so many heroes in romances absolute horndog sluts? It’s not simply about being good in bed. A man doesn’t need to sleep with legions of women to know how to do this! He only needs to know a few, or just one, very well. There is a perceived allure of getting–and keeping—the one man that no other woman could keep.

There’s just something bizarre to me about how this situation is usually dealt with in books. The hero’s lovers can number in the hundreds or more, and he doesn’t really care for these women. He just uses them sexually until he meets the heroine (often virginal or inexperienced). Then she changes his man-ho ways forevermore. Usually, the heroine appreciates her man’s experience as it brings great sexual pleasure in bed. Likewise, the hero appreciates the woman’s inexperience, as this pleases him emotionally.

There’s something that rings so false about this. I am a great believer in the special ying-yang, complementary nature of male and female relationships, but I prefer the pair to be “equally yoked,” so to speak. I’d like to see more virgin heroes paired with virgin heroines. Conversely, I’d like to see mature, sexually experienced men with women of similar familiarity. (That doesn’t mean I want them to be walking STDs, though.)

So here in Crescendo is naïve, innocent Marina and Gideon, a cad with women, loving and leaving them without caring for their feelings. There is a great depth to Marina’s character and she is far more insightful than Gideon, who is many years older than she.

Marina learns from her painful past and demands accountability when wronged. I don’t particularly appreciate having heroes grovel endlessly for their hurtful deeds, but major penance is required here. Unfortunately, Gideon was so cold-hearted in his pursuit of Marina that he didn’t take anyone’s feelings into account, not Marina’s and certainly not his disposable mistresses’.

The Philosophy of Love

When Charlotte Lamb was bad, she was awful, but when she was good, there was absolutely no one better. Her best works were not shallow and often posed philosophical queries, questioning the nature of love and desire. So how does a man like Gideon come into being? In Gideon‘s case, he’s not evil. Instead, his mother spoiled her boy rotten while micro-managing every aspect of his personal life, thus creating this hateful, self-centered male creature.

He says to Marina:

“[Women] stifle you, smother you, and cling round like ivy. I decided when I grew up that women had their uses but had to be firmly kept in their place. I learnt to use them, and then kick them out of my life… Yes, it isn’t pretty. I could lie to you and hide all of that, but I don’t want any more secrets between us, Marina. I want you to know what I am, what I’ve been.”

So how can a man date a woman, leave her, then date her again, make her fall in love with him, seduce her, impregnate her, marry her, and then betray her, all the time never giving any love in return all while siphoning every ounce of feeling from her and then be easily forgiven?

In Crescendo, he isn’t.

No human being has a right to put his own desires in front of the happiness of anyone else. Gideon’s brilliance did not give him that right.

No Love Without Change and Forgiveness

And here Marina observes:

For all his brilliance as a musician, Gideon had been stunted in his emotional growth in childhood; unable to coordinate the demands of body and heart, like an autistic child which never makes the right connections and is isolated from those around him by his own self-absorbed internal life.

Crescendo is the antithesis to all the romances where the hero is a jerk to the heroine, then on the last few pages, he makes a declaration of love, and they embrace and walk happily off into their ever-after. Not here. Marina makes Gideon hurt as she wrenches his heart out of him; she’s ruthless in her cruelty to him.

“You don’t love me—you never have. You wouldn’t know how to love. Frustrated desire was all you ever felt for me, and it’s all you feel now… And I don’t love you. If anything I despise you!”

It had given her a tortured pleasure to say that to him, to be aware that she had finally hurt him as deeply as he had ever hurt her.

Final Analysis of Crescendo

Lamb’s language here is so beautiful, so haunting, and so thoughtful. The conclusion is believable and fitting. I love Marina. Some readers may judge her as too harsh, but she’s so young compared to Gideon that she has to have a strong sense of herself before they can be together. Gideon has to understand who and what he is and that he can’t remain that way if he wants a monogamous, life-long relationship with a woman he loves. The fairytale must yield to reality.

They had each taken a silent, bitter journey into themselves, but they had returned, like characters in a fairy story, with miraculous discoveries.

love unspoken

Category Romance Review: Love Unspoken by Carole Mortimer

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Carole Mortimer’s Love Unspoken is one of those infamously controversial Harlequin Presents where readers can’t stop talking about it, even if it’s not necessarily well-loved.

It must be the change of seasons. Something in the air, because I can’t explain it, I really liked this one—almost loved it, actually, until the end.

The Set Up

Love Unspoken begins with the heroine, Julie, a jet-setting journalist, having just been released by terrorists. They had held her and her fellow flight-mates hostage.

She’s a little bruised and reeling when her boyfriend, Steve, shows up with concern. Julie and Steve have been dating for six months—by her own admission, some of the happiest she’s ever spent—but Julie, a mature gal in her mid-twenties, just can’t make the jump from heavy petting to sex.

She likes keeping Steve on a firm leash while he pants for more from her, but she’s not giving him any biscuits!

Steve knows Julie was involved with the Zack Reedman in the past. In fact, she had a year-long affair with him, so could it be old feelings for him that hold her back?

“You’ve forgotten how to be a woman!”

The Plot

Julie adamantly denies having any attachment to Zack, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was no mere affair; Julie had been married to Zack for a year, a turbulent, passionate year before they separated.

She’s still married to Zack despite not having seen him in three years.

Time is not on Julie’s side because her best friend is married to Zack’s brother and invites her to spend some time convalescing at their home in the country.

Just coincidentally, it also happens to be the anniversary of Julie and Zack’s marriage, when who should show up unexpectedly, but Zack!

Zack has been keeping himself quite busy with plenty of women and now seems to be on the verge of engagement with another woman.

Divorce is now on the agenda, yet Zack can’t keep his hands off his ex. Julie, disgusted, pushes him away, restating her hatred of him.

Zack’s brother demands to know just what happened to break up the couple. Zack was incredibly jealous and possessive and never appreciated Julie’s career, which kept her out of the country more often than at home.

He would always accuse her of having affairs with her coworkers.

On the night they split up for good, Julie got a call to fly out for a job. This is when Julie drops the bombshell. In a fit of rage, Zack beat and raped her, ending their once-loving relationship.

Zack and Julie act ridiculously as he pursues her, and she flees from him while they both string along with their significant others.

Their crazy lust–er, love, for each other won’t be denied. They have a one-night stand together while said significant others are under the same roof with them—Julie’s guy is even the room adjoining hers!

The Insanity Continues

Of course, this being the land of drama, that one night results in pregnancy. Julie does her best to hide the pregnancy from Zack, but he finds out anyway. Then he finds out that after she left him, she suffered a miscarriage.

We’re well near the end of the book, but Zack hasn’t changed one bit and stopped being a jealous lout because he falsely accuses Julie of hiding that secret because he wasn’t the baby’s father. What an a-hole, right?

Julie and Zack reunite platonically for the baby’s sake, she quits her job, and they settle in the country.

Finally, after giving birth to their child, Zack discovers one more truth: it was due to his violent rape of Julie that she miscarried their first child.

Zack leaves his wife at the hospital, locks himself up in his study, drinking his miseries away, wallowing in self-pity.

So Julie does the only thing she can, releases herself from the hospital early to run to Zack’s side.

She reveals the last truth to him: her father was a serial adulterer, driving her mother to an early death. That was why Julie always kept herself at a distance from Zack because she never wanted to love as deeply as her mother did.

Zack cries, she cries, and the two vow to spend their marriage together as one passionate affair.

Final Analysis of Love Unspoken

Now, why the hell did I like a book like this?

I can’t explain. The emotional ups and down in Love Unspoken were thrilling, with almost every chapter ending in a shocking cliffhanger where more information is revealed.

I can understand why the plot would turn many readers off, and to be honest, when I had heard what the book was about, I wasn’t crazy about reading it. But something about it just worked for me.

As I said, it must be something perverse in the air that made me enjoy this.

There is no actual resolution to their problems. There’s no marriage counseling. No private counseling.

No helpful aid from friends and family. Zack’s still jealous still uses alcohol as a crutch, still potentially violent.

And Julie is… Well, Julie’s clearly not all there, either, because she’s willing to overlook all those dangerous flaws because of true love.

What a horrible hero. What a horrible heroine. She’s a codependent user, and he’s a drunk abuser.

They deserved each other and will no doubt have a very long, very rocky marriage where they make everyone miserable, including themselves, but will only be more miserable apart from one another.

What a crazy mess. And I liked it.

4.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

“You’ve forgotten how to be a woman!”

Zach Reedman’s bitter accusation had been the death knell of his marriage to Julie. And even after three long years Julie still winced when she remembered his parting words

She’d been a budding journalist, he her publisher when they met. A love too strong and passionate to resist had led them quickly to the altar, but even after her vows Julie’s career had come before her husband.

Older and wiser, she met Zach again, And as the wounds time had never fully healed were reopened, so once more was her heart…. 

LOVE UNSPOKEN by CAROLE MORTIMER