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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
savage possession

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

category romance
Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Bob Kebic
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #366
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 190
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Category Romance Review: Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter

The Book

Margaret Pargeter’s Savage Possession begins like any ordinary Harlequin Presents series romance. The hero and heroine meet under unusual circumstances. Then the situation quickly gets heated.

The Characters and the Set-Up

In the case of Savage Possession, Melissa’s car is trapped in the snow. Along comes Ryan Trevelyan, to give her a lift.

She’s dressed in bulky winter clothes so he assumes she’s a boy. As they’re driving along in his car, he’s berating “him” for driving under such horrible circumstances. Then she takes off her cap.

Ryan thinks: “Oh no, she’s this unbelievably beautiful, green-eyed, redhead woman! How easily mistaken I was to think she was a boy [whom I was mildly attracted to] because she was wearing a hat and coat! Well, since she tricked me, I’ll force her to spend the night at my house even though there are plenty of other places in town where she can stay. That’ll teach her a lesson!”

I wondered to myself just where this book was going. It was not what I expected.

Melissa does not act like the HP caricature heroines are supposed to: swooning, selfless, kind to all, and eager to work hard to prove her worth. No, she’s a slothful freeloader with good, old-fashioned morals.

The Plot?

Home, Sweet Home

Melissa has returned home after spending years mooching off her wealthy socialite aunt. Auntie wanted to name Melissa her heir, but only if she marries the man of Auntie’s choosing. Not up for that, Melissa returns home to her family’s financially-troubled farm.

It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Melissa. Her parents are all too keen to pimp her out to their landlord as payment for past-due rents. Mom is 3 YEARS behind on the statements. The family hasn’t been evicted—yet.

Who is their patient, benevolent homeowner? Why Ryan Trevelyan, of course!

Mum and stepdad make not-so-subtle hints that Melissa should sell herself out to save the farm. Melissa is outraged and defiant. She may be a mooch, but she’s no whore!

Lazy Bones

Eventually, Melissa begs Ryan to give her mother and stepfather more time to keep the grange. She promises to work at the family store selling their farm goods.

Yet, despite her pleading, she refuses to actually do anything to help mum save her home.

Melissa doesn’t feel like going to work, you see. Instead, she spends her days with other men or relaxing. She’s utterly lazy, a committed slacker. I have never related to a heroine as much as this one! 😁

The only decent fellow in this whole story is Ryan Trevelyan, who–despite his sensible inclinations–keeps giving Melissa and her family chance after chance to make due on their past balances.

But did I mention that Melissa is:

L… A… Z… Y…

Final Analysis of Savage Possession

Ryan gets fed up with Melissa and sparks fly. Slowly a love evolves between these two very different people. Is it meant to last?

The underlying story in Margarate Pargeter’s Savage Possession doesn’t matter. The interactions between the complicated three-dimensional main characters make this a compelling read.

The writing isn’t overwrought. The sarcastic banter between the two mains is excellent.

By the end, Melissa grows as a character, realizing she needs to be a better person with drive and purpose. Ryan is to die for.

Looking forward to reading more of Pargeter’s work, as she was a Harlequin author with whose work I was unfamiliar.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3.5
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

The future held no bright prospects.

Melissa’s wealthy cousin Helen tried to pressure her into a loveless marriage, so Melissa fled back to her Cornish home.

There she found that the small market garden business leased by her mother and stepfather had declined during her six absent years. Now it was nearly bankrupt! Worse still, their landlord, the handsome, aggressive Ryan Trevelyan, was demanding the three years’ back rent—unless Melissa agreed to his despicable plan.

She found herself trapped between concern for her mother, and Ryan—a man who had set himself to run her life! 

Savage Possession by Margaret Pargeter
lynne graham the italians wife

Category Romance Review: The Italian’s Wife by Lynne Graham

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Lynne Graham’s The Italian’s Wife is unusual from her other books I’ve read in the past.

Holly Samson is the first Graham heroine I can recall who was not a virgin, and who’s borne another man’s child. The hero is typical of her heroes: dark-haired, ultra-masculine, ridiculously wealthy, smitten with the heroine, and of Greek Italian descent.

The Characters and the Set-Up

The Italian’s Wife opens with Rio–a 6′ 3″ gorgeous, super-nice-guy, and celebrity billionaire extraordinaire–walking in on his supermodel fiancée in flagrante delicto with another woman.

Not only is he enraged at the infidelity, but he’s also repulsed by his fiancée’s suggestion of a threesome. (Only in an HP!)

Poor Holly, meanwhile, is down on her luck. Her old-fashioned parents kicked out their pregnant daughter because she didn’t do the right thing (whatever that means). Her boyfriend, whom she only had sex with once and hated it (natch), wanted nothing to do with the baby or Holly. Mother and baby are all alone in this cruel world.

The Plot

The English Woman’s Hero

Holly is pushing her pram through the street of London, drowning in her sorrows. She’s homeless, jobless, and hungry. At the end of a rope, Holly decides she must hand over her son to Social Services Distraught at the enormity of her decision, Holly is lost in thought when she’s almost hit by Rio’s limo.

This occurs a mere hour after he walked in on his girlfriend having sex with someone else.

Ever the hero, Rio whisks Holly off to his luxurious penthouse. He is entranced by her loveliness and aghast that this young mother is in such dire straits.

Rio buys her designer clothes and gets a nanny for her baby. Soon after, he declares they must marry. Holly, like any princess from a fairy tale, falls in love with her princely benefactor. And Rio is besotted with his damsel-in-distress.

(This is where a rational person would consider maybe the guy is seriously rebounding after being cheated on by his once-future-wife. But don’t think about that stuff. Just go with the story.)

The Italian’s Wife

These HPs are crazy, silly fantasies. Sometimes I don’t know why I like them so much with weird tropes like this.

During a steamy love scene, Rio does all the work, giving, giving, and giving some more. Despite doing absolutely nothing but having orgasms, Rio notes that Holly’s the best sex he’s ever had because she enjoys it so much!

(Earth to Rio: maybe the fact that his former fiancée was a lesbian might have been a reason why she wasn’t that into it.)

When Holly asks what she can do to make it better he replies:

 “Just lie there. I’m in a very uncritical mood… And during the next couple of weeks, I intend to teach you everything I want you to knowbella mia.” 

I really don’t know what to say about that, other than I can accept many things in a romance novel that I’d never ever tolerate in real life!

My Opinion

Holly is your typical Lynne Graham heroine: beyond clueless and helpless. She doesn’t read The Daily Mail, so she is unaware of Rio’s stardom. (In HPlandia Greek billionaires are the equivalent of Korean Boy Bands regarding fame and fans.) As a result, Holly’s all agog at the crowd of paparazzi at their wedding.

She’s not an erudite intellectual. She doesn’t have hobbies. There is nothing of interest in Holly’s life outside of her baby and problems.

Even so, there’s something charming about The Italian’s Wife. It’s so dumb in a typical Lynne Graham way, that it veers into entertaining.

However, I dislike that Holly is so “gracious” to those who wronged her. She thinks: 

“That her parents could forgive her all the grief she had caused had been a tremendous comfort to Holly, as was her mother and father’s loving acceptance of their baby grandson.” 

Um, hello? Her parents kicked out their barely-out-of-her-teen-years daughter from their home. They didn’t give a rat’s ass about Holly and their baby grandchild. That was until Holly returned home and was married to a billionaire. Only then did they welcome her and the baby.

Uggh. I dislike that kind of martyrdom in a female main character. I like my heroines with claws.

Holly’s too sweet and nice. Then again Rio is just kind and generous as she is. So it all works out in the end.

Final Analysis of The Italian’s Wife

The Italian’s Wife was a nonsensical story, as many Lynne Graham romances are. For some reason, though, it clicked for me.

I’m a mercurial reader. If I’m in a bad mood, it negatively affects my reading. If I’m feeling mellow, then it’s all good!

I appreciated The Italian’s Wife for being an escapist fantasy about a woman-in-need swept off her feet by an amazing man.

A man who is beyond her wildest dreams and will cherish and love her forever and ever.

3.62

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4
Cover
4
Overall: 3.8

Synopsis

Will he take a stranger to be his wedded wife?

Abandoned by her boyfriend and family after the birth of her son, Holly Sansom collapses in the street. Rio Lombardi, M.D. of Lombardi Industries, comes to her rescue.

Rio insists that Holly stay at his luxurious home, and proceeds to lavish her and her baby with all that money can buy. But Rio’s emotions are caught off guard by Holly’s natural charm and indifference to his wealth. In fact, Holly would make a perfect wife…. 

The Italian’s Wife by Lynne Graham
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
devil in silver room

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

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


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

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Set-Up

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM

Paul, the Hero

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

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Devil in a Silver Room

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

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

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

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

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

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

DEVIL IN A SILVER ROOM by VIOLET WINSPEAR
a naked flame ray olivere

Category Romance Review: A Naked Flame by Charlotte Lamb

category romance

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Sad to report, but A Naked Flame has to be the worst Charlotte Lamb book I’ve read so far.

The Plot

Christie married Logan, a man 12 years her senior when she was only 18. They lived in California and she hoped to start a career in Hollywood, but her chauvinist husband wouldn’t allow it. Logan controlled her life totally and wanted children ASAP, but Christie wanted to wait.

They argued, he raped her, and she left and filed for divorce. The rape resulted in a child.

For five years Mommy and Daddy never see each other while sharing custody of their son. Now Christie is a hot movie star with a male “friend” whom she mercilessly cock-teases. The press hounds Christie so much that she moves to England with her son–-without telling her ex-husband. This obviously angers Logan and he and Christie fight it out for custody.

Drama ensues and Christie and Logan realize their feelings for each other still run hot.

My Opinion

It’s not the plot of A Naked Flame I object to; it’s the horrific execution.

Up until page 100, the hero and heroine interact twice, except for a brief flash-back into their marriage. It’s as if Charlotte Lamb wanted to write a longer book, but found she had almost maxed out her word count. So she just summarized all the interesting parts and drew out all the boring, mundane scenes of Christie going to lunch and parties with another guy.

The actual romance portion of this book is limited to two, maybe two and a half chapters. I wouldn’t have minded if the scenes with the other man were fun, or at least we saw the heroine’s personal journey to “enlightenment” or sumthin’…but no.

Final Analysis of A Naked Flame

Christie is a Cnidarian of the lowest order. (That’s a fancy word I learned for jellyfish. See, home-schooling works for parents and kids.)

As for the other man…why isn’t he ever named something strong like Wolf or Magnus? Instead, he’s named Sheldon or Arnie or Dilbert or in this case Ziggy!

So our major conflict in Charlotte Lamb’s A Naked Flame consists of a love triangle between the Sensitive-New-Age-Guy slacker type:

ziggy

And our manly hero Logan:

logan

Enough said.

What a pointless boring book with a wishy-washy, stupid heroine who wouldn’t know her butt crack from the Grand Canyon.

Uggh.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Plot
1.5
Characters
1
Writing
1
Chemistry
1
Fun Factor
1
Cover
3
Overall: 1.4

Synopsis

This time Christie would stand up to him

Christie had been far too young and intoxicated with love when she and Logan had married. He’d wanted a family. She’d needed sometime to pursue her career.

After their painful breakup Christie had resented carrying Logan’s child. But now her son was even more vital to Christie’s happiness than her career as a famous film star had ever been. And she wouldn’t let Logan use lies and gossip to take Kit away from her.

Losing Logan’s love had almost destroyed Christie. She couldn’t bear to lose their son as well.

A NAKED FLAME by CHARLOTTE LAMB
an outrageous proposal

Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

an outrageous proosal category romance
An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1995
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1737
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: An Outrageous Proposal by Miranda Lee

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Miranda Lee’s An Outrageous Proposal is an outrageously sexy Harlequin Presents. This book was released as a Presents Plus, a special series within the regular Presents line that ran for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.

I gather that these books were written by the line’s best-selling authors. Initially, they were longer than the average Presents by about 20 pages. The covers were also colored and had individualized fonts for the authors’ names. By the time the last Presents Plus was published, the length no longer mattered, and the covers looked more or less like regular Presents.

The Characters

Laura had been happily married to Dirk Thornton. The only thing that would have made their marriage perfect was a baby. After years of vigorous efforts, however, the couple had trouble conceiving. Laura became so obsessed with her inability to have a child, leading to their marriage crumbling. After a vicious argument, Dirk left her.

Six months have passed, and it seems Dirk has spent no time grieving over the end of his marriage. The high-powered attorney is seen around Sydney’s flashy events with even more striking brunettes dangling on his arm.

When the book begins, Laura sees Dirk at the Opera House with one of those sexy ladies. Laura can’t help but feel jealous. She has never stopped loving her husband. It had been almost impossible to bear seeing Dirk flaunting his many women, and without the support of her former in-laws, Dirks’ brother, and his wife, she’d be lost.

The Plot

A Separated Couple

Laura realizes she wants her husband back and asks for reconciliation. Dirk is cruel and throws her offer back in her face. Did she really think he’d take her back so easily? If she wants him, she has a long line to wait behind.

Laura won’t be deterred. Then Dirk reveals to her that he’s sterile. There will never be any children for them. To his way of thinking, what’s the point of marriage if there can’t be children? Dirk proposes instead of reconciling, they engage in a no-strings affair.

Laura and Dirk do just that; this is where Miranda Lee shines. She excels at writing hot steamy scenes without delving into raunchiness.

Laura realizes that without Dirk, children don’t matter. She can live without offspring, but she can’t live without her husband!

So, holy moly, it’s a shock to the system when Laura finds out she’s pregnant!

The Reunited Lovers

Hold on to your horses because here is the revelation: Dirk was never sterile.

Moreover, all those women he’d paraded around town were part of a ruse to make Laura jealous to fight for her man. Dirk had read somewhere–perhaps on a paper placemat at a greasy spoon sometime in the wee hours of the night after a bender–that women have difficulty conceiving if they’re too obsessed with it.

Laura’s constant focus on having a baby was the very thing that prevented her from getting pregnant!

By removing that concept from the equation, Dirk knew Laura’s anxiety would subside, enabling them to engage in lots of steamy sex, and then… viola!

A miracle baby would solve all their problems.

Final Analysis of An Outrageous Proposal

Laura and Dirk, and the child will make a happy family. And Dirk no doubt will come up with another outlandish ruse in the future to keep his marriage satisfactorily kinky.

I absolutely cherished this oddball romance. It indeed had an outrageous proposal for a wild plot. I marvel at the craziness of Harlequin Presents’ stories. The best writers could sell the wackiness, making these little books such entertaining and addictive reads. Miranda Lee’s sensuous writing shines here in An Outrageous Proposal. By this time in her career, she had hit her stride.

1995 would be a prolific and productive time for the writer, as this was also the year she released her Hearts of Fire miniseries.

An Outrageous Proposal won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents Plus in 1995.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.7

Synopsis:

Laura wasn’t surprised when she saw Dirk Thornton with a glamorous brunette: her estranged husband’s reputation as a womanizer was well-known to her. But she was shocked by her feelings for Dirk–they weren’t dead at all and, what was more, he knew it!

Soon Dirk, a top Sydney criminal lawyer, was pursuing her relentlessly, but Laura couldn’t forget that she’d been unable to conceive his child–which meant that there could be no future for them. Why then was she still tempted to accept Dirk’s simply outrageous proposal?

AN OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL by MIRANDA LEE
moon witch sinclair

Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

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


Category Romance Review: Moon Witch by Anne Mather

SPOILER WARNING ⚠

The Book

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

Yeah, this sounds like a wholesome romance! /sarcasm

Personal Anecdote Before Reading Moon Witch

That 70’s Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anne mather romance

The Set-Up

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

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

 photo sexy doll pinafore.jpg

The Crazy Plot Continues

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

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

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

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

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

As I said, wholesome, right?

The Thrilling Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moon witch sinclair

My Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-Time Favorite Best Seller

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

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

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

 photo moonwitch ninth.jpg
Many Reprints

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

moon with alt

Final Analysis of Moon Witch

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

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

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

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

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

Gods above, forgive me, but I do.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

Jarrod guarded Sara even against himself.

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

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

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

MOON WITCH by ANNE MATHER

Borrow Moonwitch for free at Library Thing

lovers touch

Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

category romance
Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1216
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Lovers Touch by Penny Jordan

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Penny Jordan is a Harlequin Presents writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lovers Touch is kind of blah.

The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.

Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.

The Characters

Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?

Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations for wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.

Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.

The Plot

An Arranged Marriage of Convenience

In Lovers Touch, Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness.

He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.

A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!

Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery.

Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences.

But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.

Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money.

The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.

Big Misunderstandings

More misunderstandings ensue in Lovers Touch.

Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under.

He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.

That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.

Final Analysis of Lovers Touch

For me, Lover’s Touch failed to achieve the excellence it advertised.

Penny Jordan‘s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots.

If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.

In Lovers Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.

This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.

Lovers Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten.

2.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2
Writing
3
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
3.5
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis:

Lady Eleanor de Tressail was simply mortified.

Bad enough that before his death, her old-fashioned grandfather had ensured that their impoverished estate wouldn’t have to be sold–by arranging her marriage. But to Joss Wycliffe of all people–the self-made millionaire who despised her!

Mistaking Nell’s shyness for aristocratic disdain, Joss contemptuously told her that he was marrying her only for her social status. He never suspected that icily untouchable Nell loved him desperately.

Her wounded pride kept her from revealing her true feelings. Particularly when Joss’s jealous secretary did her best to widen the rift between them…

LOVERS TOUCH by PENNY JORDAN
marriage on the rebound

Category Romance Review: Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid

category romance
Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1973
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Category Romance Review: Marriage on the Rebound by Michelle Reid

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Michelle Reid’s Marriage on The Rebound is about keeping it all in the family. Shaan Saketa is unique for a Harlequin Presents circa 1998 heroine, as she’s of mixed ethnic heritage: English and Lebanese. Otherwise, she’s like most other female main characters found in the land of these category romances. Shaan is young (not yet 23), a virgin, and an orphan.

And it’s her wedding day. Unfortunately for Shaan, she’s about to be dumped at the altar.

The Plot

Shaan is in her wedding dress when her fiancé’s brother and former boss, Rafe Danvers, comes to her with a “Dear John” letter. Her husband-to-be, Piers, says he can’t marry her because he’s in love with another woman.

Shaan is dejected, and her family is certain that there’s more than meets the eyes to this abrupt breakup. Rafe, ever the responsible fellow, is determined to help Shaan save face. He steps in and urges her to marry him. In shock, Shaan goes through the motions.

Rafe gives Shaan no time to think as she whisks her off to Hong Kong. As a way to help Shaan get over her turmoil, Rafe puts her secretarial skills to work, makes her go on shopping sprees, and socialize with his friends.

Why is Rafe so concerned about Shaan’s emotional state? Although Shaan remains unaware, it’s no secret to the reader: he’s suffering from a huge case of unrequited love.

It turns out Rafe fell for Shaan at first sight when they had a meet-cute after she bumped into him, causing a big paper-spill. Unfortunately, Rafe could not act on his feelings, as he had to deal with business matters. His younger brother, who was always jealous of Rafe, moved in to romance her. When Rafe returned, Shaan and Piers were a devoted couple.

But Shaan has no idea about Rafe’s adoration for her. She’s under the misapprehension that Rafe didn’t think a mixed-race girl of lower-class status was good enough for his brother. Sparks fly, but at the same time, Shaan can’t help but appreciate Rafe’s strong, capable demeanor. And once she takes notice of his good looks, things take a turn for the sensual.

Over time, Shaan finds herself falling for Rafe, but can she trust him? And what about Piers? Are her feelings for him gone forever?

Marriage on the Rebound,
Marriage on the Rebound, Michelle Reid, Harlequin, 2019 reissue

Final Analysis of Marriage On the Rebound

Michelle Reid, along with Lynne Graham and Miranda Lee, was one of the better authors to come out from the Harlequin Presents line in the early 1990s. Marriage on the Rebound is an example of her fine writing skills. Reid excels at creating vividly erotic scenes.

I enjoy the torn-between-two-brothers trope for some reason, even though I can’t say the same when it’s two sisters and one man. Rafe is a wonderful hero, stoic yet vulnerable. I found the plot to be well-executed.

Although I wasn’t sure Shaan was as in love with Rafe as he was with her. She is clearly on the rebound, as the book’s title says. Certainly, there’s an attraction there. Is she truly in love? It’s up to the reader to determine, but one thing’s for certain, Rafe and Shaan are hot for each other.

I’d rate Michelle Reid’s Marriage on the Rebound a solid 4, as it does make for a satisfying read.

4 Stars

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

Synopsis:

Jilted at the altar!

Shaan Saketa has heard the words before but never thought they would apply to her. Humiliated and alone, she stands facing a thousand guests when her boss, ruthless tycoon Rafe Danvers, makes a shocking proposal. Suddenly she finds herself married to the wrong man and whisked away on a honeymoon!

Rafe has always suspected that there was more to his mousy secretary than meets the eye, and he’s right. But as he indulges in exquisite nights little does he know that Shaan is wondering just how ruthless he really is and just how far he went to have her in his bed! 

MARRIAGE ON THE REBOUND by MICHELLE REID
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
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

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
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
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
tiger, tiger

Category Romance Review: Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald

Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald flirts with a taboo that’s yet to be crossed in romance. V. C. Andrews might have had some influence on this book.

category romance
Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Robert A. Maguire
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1931
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback, eBook, Hardcover
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald flirts with a taboo that’s yet to be crossed in romance. V. C. Andrews might have had some influence on this book.

In the movie Joe Dirt, a loveable, mullet-haired redneck travels across America searching for his long-lost family. In one scene, he finds a beautiful woman who could possibly be his sister.

Realizing his potentially incestuous attraction to the woman, Joe flees in panic. But, not wanting to be thought of as a weirdo, he returns to explain his problem… After they fall into bed.

Oh hell, the movie tells it funnier than I could:

When reading Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald, I was reminded of this scene repeatedly.

The Plot

Lecia Spring first sees Keane Paget at an opera in the park, where a friend points out how alike the two are, so much so that they could be twins.

Indeed, while Lecia’s eyes are green and Keane’s blue, they both have honey hair–only his is like dark manuka honey (how authentically Kiwi)–the same cleft chin, strong cheekbones, long straight nose, and tall, confident demeanor.

Looking that much alike, they are instantly drawn to each other, and curious if a common ancestor is a reason for the resemblance, they begin a cordial, yet hesitant, flirtation.

Throughout the book, many, many people comment on their striking resemblance, thinking of them not mere brother and sister–but womb-mates. Lecia and Keane’s relationship is bizarre, but the protagonists let the reader know they, too, are aware of its forbidden kinky nature.

Lecia thinks on page 31:

Was part of this unsettling, goaded attraction, a prohibited thrill at their close resemblance, the way her features were manifested in his more chiseled, hard-edged face?

And then there’s this on page 132:

His feelings were as suspect as hers. The ugly word ‘narcissism’ covered that sort of attraction–making her recall the sad legend of the Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection and died because he couldn’t see anyone else more worthy of his love… Or was it the pull between them nothing more than an instinctive recognition of blood ties, a recognition she was mistaking for desire?

The thought of finding the male version of myself whom I may be related to as attractive…

Just no… Gross!

Yuck!

But in a book, I can read the characters’ stories without queasiness. Ah, twisted romance. I love Harlequin Presents.

“I rather wish you were my sister.”

Final Analysis of Tiger, Tiger

I enjoyed the Tiger, Tiger, but the middle lags a bit as Lecia and Keane avoid each other. Although we get insight into why Lecia is interested and we know Keane’s past, we can only assume that because he thinks he is SO great, only a woman exactly like him can be his mate.

I think I read the sequel to this book, the one about their children, who get locked up in an attic by their evil grandmother who secretly poisons the kids with arsenic while they decorate their room with paper flowers.

Oh, of course, Lecia and Keane aren’t brother and sister! There is a logical reason why the two look so much alike! Although I feel like Joe Dirt, those two will engage in a lot of bedroom role-playing. 😂

Rating Report Card
Plot
3.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
3.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 3.6

Synopsis

Not only opposites attract!

When Lecia first spotted Keane Paget, his presence burned like a shining beacon. He was handsome, certainly, and profoundly male, but the face that stared hack at her was otherwise her own!

Lecia was stunned…hypnotized…and it wasn’t just his likeness–an unsettling, wild attraction immediately coursed between them. They say that the greater the resemblance, the happier the relationship. But Lecia’s passions had only ever led to heartbreak–and guilt!

No, Keane Paget was dangerous. Not only did he have her face, he seemed to see inside her soul! They were too alike for comfort. Resist, resist…

Tiger, Tiger by Robyn Donald