Tag Archives: 2.5-star rating

2.5 star rating

raptures rendezvous

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

book review historical romance
Rapture's Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 483
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Cassie Edwards‘ bests.

First off, let me say that I am a Cassie Edwards fan. I love most of her books and hope one day to own all of them. Having said that, this book–a reprint of a book originally published in 1982–is not one of her best efforts.

cassie edwards 2nd
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 1999 edition

The Plot

Maria Lazzaro and her twin brother Alberto are poor Italians dreaming of a better life in America. That is where their father, Giacomo, emigrated sometime earlier. Eventually, the twins are sent for and they travel on a ship in decrepit conditions to America. Once at sea, Maria and Alberto both lose their innocence. Maria gives hers willingly to the “hero” of the book, Michael Hopper.

Alberto loses his virginity in a far less pleasant way–more on that later.

Michael lies to Maria by telling her he is a buyer for a vintner in America. In actuality, he is a successful businessman investigating the cruel treatment of immigrant miners in one of the many business ventures of an individual named Nathan Hawkins. Why Michael is doing so himself instead of hiring someone isn’t fully explained.

After the ship docks in New York at Ellis Island, Michael and Maria part. They will find each other again in the future.

Maria and Alberto arrive in America thinking their father sent for them. They don’t realize until much later that they were actually sent for by Hawkins. Hawkins needs Alberto to work like his father in Hawkins’ dangerous, unsafe coal mine. Maria, Hawkins wants as his wife.

Brother and sister arrive in the Illinois town of Hawkinsville–also owned by Nathan Hawkins–to realize their lives have not changed for the better as they had hoped. Alberto goes to work alongside his father in the coal mine. Maria pines for Michael.

Maria and Michael find each other again and they have several intimate encounters. Later, Maria is forced to marry Hawkins after he threatens to deport her father and brother.

Eventually, Hawkins gets his comeuppance, Maria and Michael marry and they live happily ever after.

rapture's rendezvous cassie edwards new
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 2011 edition

Sex

There’s a lot of sex, in Rapture’s Rendezvous though not terribly graphic. Or nice. As mentioned, Maria and Michael have several encounters. Michael also has sex with two other women–his secretary and a prostitute–while he and Maria are apart. There is some salaciousness.

Alberto is robbed and raped by a man/woman criminal duo on board the ship to America, which affects him later. Alberto also has incestuous feelings for Maria.

Maria is forced into a sex act by Hawkins after they are married.

Violence

Not much, but some. Alberto gets revenge on his rapist/robbers and hits both the man and woman.

There is also a fight scene in which Michael is assaulted and gets help from Alberto. Hawkins is eventually killed, and although he is shot, it is not graphically described.

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Rendezvous

As stated, Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Mrs. Edwards’ best books. The characters vacillate between whiny and barely likable. The “hero” isn’t really heroic, and the heroine, while being attractive physically, is less attractive because she is somewhat of a weak, whiny individual.

If one is interested in Cassie Edwards’ books, I recommend her “Savage” series. Those books are far better than wasting your time on this drivel.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
2.5
Writing
2
Chemistry
3.5
Fun Factor
2
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis

A Woman’s Love
Maria Lazzaro was as ripe and as sweet as the full, juicy grapes that grew in her homeland’s vineyards. And as she boarded an immigrant ship for America, the olive-skinned, raven-haired beauty met the only man she could ever love. That night, with feverish desire, frantic passion, and wild, sensuous rapture, she gave herself to Michael in a moment she knew would bond them for eternity.

A Man’s Lies
Though they would have to part once they reached America, handsome Michael Hopper couldn’t deny himself the enticing wench. He had to take advantage of her innocent allure. Branding her satin throat with kisses, he promised his devotion forever. Searing her silken skin with caresses, he vowed his undying love. No matter what, he had to have her. And no matter what, he would have to leave her…Rapture’s Rendezvous

Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

Bold Texas Embrace

Historical Romance Review: Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson

historical romance review
Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: The Cowboy and the Lady #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Pages: 478
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

This review is of Bold Texas Embrace, #4 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson (Zebra/Kensington December 1989).

The Characters

Heroine: Catherine Eaton, 23. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Teacher. Originally from Philadelphia.

Hero: Sam Connors, 32. Black hair, black eyes. Owner, The Spur ranch.

The Plot

As the story begins, Catherine Eaton has arrived in Crosswicks, Texas, from her home in Philadelphia to teach the town’s children. One of the children, David Connors, 15, has great drawing skills and wants to be an artist.

This interest, however, puts him at odds with his older half-brother Sam Connors, the hero of the book. Sam, who is also David’s guardian, has his own goals for David, and soon Catherine finds herself in conflict with Sam, even as she is becoming attracted to him and him to her.

Catherine and Sam become lovers, however, he is also dealing with a range\war, as well as trying to keep David from falling for a grasping, scheming young woman.

In the end, the range war doesn’t happen. David goes to Philadelphia. Catherine and Sam marry, have a child, and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Bold Texas Embrace is pretty much standard Ms. Thompson historical romance. Her characters are very much in touch with their emotions and readers can see the emotional pinball the characters deal with.

Downside

Ms. Thompson didn’t make me care enough about Catherine and Sam. Part of this is the fact that there are WAY too many similarities between Bold Texas Embrace and the previous book in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series.

To wit:

  • Both heroines–Felicity Storm in the former book, and Catherine Eaton in the latter–are from Philadelphia. However, they don’t know each other.
  • Both women are artistically inclined. Felicity is a photographer; Catherine is an artist.
  • Both fall in love with and marry Texas ranchers.

I get that any creative person will occasionally repeat themselves, but it’s nice to have a little space between repeats. The characters are not particularly well developed and the “range war” storyline is unfinished and weak.

Sex

The love scenes between Catherine and Sam aren’t particularly romantic, nor do they generate any real heat. The first sex scene between Catherine and Sam can be described as forced seduction at best, rape at worst.

Violence

Assault, battery, shootings, and killings take place. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Bold Texas Embrace

Bold Texas Embrace is my least favorite book in Victoria Thompson’s loose “The Cowboy and the Lady” series.

Location: Crosswicks, Texas.

Time: unknown.

Tropes: Artist heroine. Historical romance. Rancher hero. Texas.

2.66 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
2.5
Writing
3
Chemistry
1.5
Fun Factor
2.5
Cover
4
Overall: 2.7

Synopsis:

HOT-BLOODED RANCHER

Art teacher Catherine Eaton could hardly believe how stubborn Sam Conners was! Even though the rancher’s young stepbrother was an exceptionally talented painter, Sam forbade Catherine to instruct him, fearing that art would make a sissy out of him. Spunky and determined, the blond schoolmarm confronted the mule-headed cowboy…only to find that he was as handsome as he was hard-headed and as desirable as he was dictatorial. Before long she had nearly forgotten what she’d come for, as Sam’s brash, breathless embrace drove her mind all thought of anything save wanting him…

HOT TEMPERED SCHOOLMARM

Sam Conners was too absorbed by a range war to pay any attention to the town talk about a fancy new schoolteacher from Philadelphia. But when petite, pretty Catherine Eaton marched into his office, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. From the instant she opened her lush red mouth, Sam didn’t agree with a word she said. He kissed her to shut her up, then proceeded to take her mind off her troubles with some irresistible arguments of his own…until she was powerless to resist his BOLD TEXAS EMBRACE.

Bold Texas Embrace by Victoria Thompson
dakota flame sonya t pelton zebra

Historical Romance Review: Dakota Flame by Sonya T. Pelton

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book – Dakota Flame

This review is of Dakota Flame, a standalone novel from July 1989 by Sonya T. Pelton. (Published by Zebra/Kensington).

The Plot

Part 1: Savage Journey

Dakota Flame begins in Mankato, Minnesota, in December 1862. Thirty-eight Lakota braves are executed for their attack on a white settlement. Among them is a brave named Red Hawk.

Later, his spirit pouch ends up with Audrey Tina (Audrina) Harris, 20, the heroine of the book. Audrina has red hair, green eyes, and honey-gold skin. The reason Audrina receives the pouch: unbeknownst to her, Audrina is half-Lakota.

Soon after getting the pouch, Audrina is nearly raped by soldier Joe Powell. She is saved from this indignity by Wild Hawk, the hero of the book. Wild Hawk has black hair and bronzed skin. Wild Hawk is chief to his band of Lakota, and Red Hawk’s son.

He wants the pouch, and as time goes on, he also wants Audrina. Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and later her Aunt Katherine and Sadie Peterson, another white woman, and takes them to his village. As they travel, Audrina begins developing romantic feelings for Wild Hawk, as he does for her.

The trip is not entirely pleasant; two other Lakotas, a brave, Left Hand, and his sister, Tawena, hate all whites and have evil plans for the white women.

Part II: Precious Fire

Not everyone will make it to Wild Hawk’s village. Katherine is killed by Left Hand. Later, Audrina and Wild Hawk become lovers. While this is going on, Sadie begins having romantic feelings toward Wild Hawk’s younger cousin, Fox Dreamer.

Part III: Savage Angel

As they make their way to Wild Hawk’s home village, Audrina finds herself in a dilemma: on the one hand, she’s falling in love with Wild Hawk; on the other, she wants to live a white person’s life. Meanwhile, Left Hand and Tawena have joined up with Powell to get Audrina and Sadie. Later, LeftHand rapes Sadie, and Powell semi-abducts Audrina (she went willingly with Powell after he lied to her about her father appearing).

Part IV: Lost Embrace

Upon learning of Audrina’s departure, Wild Hawk comes to the realization that he does, in fact, love her, and sets out to find her. Powell is killed, but this doesn’t free Audrina; instead, she becomes the captive of Left Hand.

In the end, the following things occur: Left Hand, Powell, and Tawena are all killed. Wild Hawk finds and rescues Audrina, they reconcile their differences and acknowledge that they love each other. Audrina does meet her father, Frank Harris, who is also half-Indian. Audrina and Wild Hawk have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Dakota Flame is the best book I’ve read by Ms. Pelton so far (out of the 7 I’ve read. More on that later). Audrina is a fairly likable character. The love scenes are good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989.

Downside

Dakota Flame contains two tropes I really dislike, maybe to the point of hating. Those tropes are captor/captive and Simpering Sara.

Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and during the course of the book, he is cruel at times to her. Despite this, Audrina is hot for his form and is willing to forgive his behavior toward her.

Although I liked Audrina, she is at times royally stupid, an example of this is her going with Powell, even though he nearly raped her earlier because he’s white. Audrina’s thinking-or not thinking: “Hey, he’s white. Even though he nearly raped me, he can be trusted because, you know, he’s white!”

She is also a bit whiny, spending much of the book yearning for the white world yet acknowledging she’s in love with a man who can’t live there. There is no character depth or development.

The book is told from the following perspectives: Audrina. Katherine. Powell. Sadie. Tawena. Left Hand. Who’s missing from this list? Wild Hawk. Only in the last third of the book does Ms. Pelton allows Wild Hawk to speak in his own voice and express his own thoughts. The books I like best are those where both the hero and heroine get equal or near equal time to do this.

Sex

As mentioned, the love scenes are quite good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989. The scenes in Dakota Flame don’t approach erotica, but they are on par with the love scenes from Cassie Edwards’ many Native American romances.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, and killings all take place here. The rape scene is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Dakota Flame

I mentioned earlier that Dakota Flame is my favorite book authored by Ms. Pelton. Considering that she has written such “classics” as Passion’s Paradise, that’s not exactly a high bar to get over. It is also a milestone, as Dakota Flame is the first book by Ms. Pelton to get more than a 2-star rating from me, but just barely.

***

Tropes: American Upper Midwest. Captor/captive. Half -Native-American Heroine. Historical Romance. Native American Hero.

Location: Mankato, Minnesota. South Dakota.

Time Frame: Late 1862-1863.

2.52 Stars


Synopsis:

Because enchantingly lovely Audrina Harris knew that she was destined to play a major role in the tribal life of the Dakota people, it came as no surprise when Chief Wild Hawk rode into the Minnesota River Valley town and captured her, swinging her up behind him on his powerful black stallion.

Audrina felt the sharp stirring of rapture the moment her eyes met his, but the feisty, independent young beauty was determined not to be his captive. She would fulfill her destiny freely, or not at all. But the farther westward they traveled, the more she became a slave to Wild Hawk’s searing kisses and the sweet strength of his powerful bronze arms. And the more she realized how easy it would be to leave the white world behind for a lifetime of scorching love with her passionate Indian warrior.

BEGUILED INTO LOVE
Deeply saddened and angered by his father’s death at the white man’s hands, all Chief Wild Hawk wanted was to lead his tribe to peace and to obey the call of his dream vision: to capture the beautiful young girl who possessed the sacred talisman of the Dakota people. But Audrina Harris proved to be more than the paleface slave he’d bargained for. She had spirit and fire and a mind of her own–and the loveliest body he had ever seen.

When his lips first touched her luscious flesh, he knew that it was more than tribal destiny and a length of frayed rope that bound her to him. He knew he could not live without her warm breath in his ear, the fiery touch of her soft curves beneath his hands, and the raging passion that soon ignited into a fierce DAKOTA FLAME.

DAKOTA FLAME by SONYA T. PELTON
my steadfast heart

Historical Romance Review: My Steadfast Heart by Jo Goodman

Synopsis:

Colin Thorne kept a wall around his heart no one had ever breached. His two younger brothers were lost to him, perhaps forever, and now a dark mission of revenge had brought the ruthless ship captain to England.

Penniless aristocrat Mercedes Leydon was beautiful…and desperate. Colin Thorne was claiming the estate of her dissolute uncle, the Earl of Weybourne, as payment for a gambling debt. She was treated as a servant at Weybourne Park, but it was home to her and the earl’s children. Now Mercedes would use anything—lies, promises—even her own body—to stop Thorne from destroying their lives.

A man consumed by the fires of vengeance. A woman determined never to love. An unexpected passion that could damn them both...

MY STEADFAST HEART by JO GOODMAN

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book and Characters

This review is of My Steadfast Heart, book #1 of 3 in the “Thorne Brothers” series by Jo Goodman (a pseudonym used by Joanne Dobrzanski). Published by Zebra/Kensington (March 1997).

Hero: Colin Thorne, 29. Golden-blond hair, brown eyes. Captain, the Remington Mystic.

Heroine: Mercedes Leyden, 24. Dark brown hair, blue-gray eyes. Caretaker, Weybourne Park.

The Plot

The book begins in London in 1820. Colin Thorne, 8–who will grow up to become the hero of this book–watches his younger brothers Decker and Greyson get adopted while he is not. The boys became orphans after their parents were killed by highwaymen. Colin is later adopted by an American ship’s captain.

Fast forward to 1841. Colin, now 29 and captain of his own ship, the Remington Mystic, is back in London. He receives a visit from Mercedes Leyden, the book’s heroine, who is trying to stop a duel between Colin and her uncle, Wallace Leyden, Earl of Weybourne, over a bet the earl lost Colin. The duel never happens, however, as Weybourne doesn’t show.

As they spend time together, Mercedes and Colin become lovers and eventually marry. Multiple Leyden family secrets are revealed, and Mercedes and Colin discover that they have a tragic connection to each other that neither knew about.

In the end, more secrets are revealed, Mercedes is able to put her personal demons to rest, and she and Colin have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

With My Steadfast Heart, Ms. Goodman has created a fascinating concept involving a man separated from his brothers as children, who, now that they are all adults, tries to find them. There are a lot of places to go with this storyline.

The best part of the book, for me, is Colin. He is a good, honorable man, which can be surprising given all he has endured in his relatively young life.

Downside

Unfortunately, Ms. Goodman chose to go to a place that is overly complicated and wordy with the first book in the series. Due to that, the book’s storylines go in so many different directions. So it’s hard to tell what is going on. More importantly, why should I as a reader care about any of it? The writing style Ms. Goodman uses here feels like she was asked to write a book to a certain word count. Well, she did her very best to meet it.

Although I liked Colin a lot, I didn’t have the same level of affection for Mercedes. Although I understood some of her behavior, I didn’t find her as likable. She is also a woefully underdeveloped character, as are the supporting characters, who add nothing to the book at all.

Sex

The love scenes are good. They are not erotic nor graphic but strike a good balance between love, sex, romance, and the physical act of making love.

Violence

Assault, battery, stabbing, shooting, and killing all take place during “My Steadfast Heart.” The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on My Steadfast Heart

There are some good elements in My Steadfast Heart, but the laborious writing style Ms. Goodman uses and the overall complexity of the story brings the grade down a bit.

***

Location: London, England. Time frame: 19th Century.

Tropes: Historical Romance.Regency England Separated families. Ship’s Captain.

2.57 stars

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
texas fire

Historical Romance Review: Texas Fire by Caroline Bourne

Texas Fire, Caroline Bourne, Zebra, 1989 Melissa Duillo-Gallo art, Fabio cover model

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Heroine: Laureli Cade, 23, Auburn hair, blue eyes. Heiress to the Wildwood ranch empire.

Hero: Court McKennon, 35. Black hair. Gray eyes. Former detective at Scotland Yard, later Texas Rancher.

This review is of Texas Fire by Caroline Bourne. This book, published by Zebra/Kensington in March 1989, is the sequel to her book Texas Conquest.

The Plot

Part I

The book begins in London, 1850, and will span 17 years. A woman is raped, and while trying to escape her attacker, falls and suffers serious injuries. This will set the tone for the rest of the book.

The scene then shifts to Brazoria, Texas, where Laureli Cade, the heroine of the book, lives on a sprawling ranch. Laureli is the only member of her immediate family in Texas right now; her father, Matthew, and mother, Mariah (the hero and heroine of Texas Conquest are in Europe, and Laureli’s younger brother, Timothy, is at West Point.

As she is introduced, Laureli is trying to catch a wild stallion. She will come into contact with two Englishmen, One is Court McKennon, the hero of the book, who arrives with a woman who Laureli erroneously believes is his wife; and the other, Wynn Garrett, a man with many secrets.

Laureli and Court clash, but they are also very attracted to each other and become lovers. However, there is a major dark cloud hanging over their relationship, namely Garrett and Laureli and Cour’s disparate views of him. Lies and deception soon tear Laureli and Court apart, leading to Court leaving Texas.

Part II

After leaving Laureli and Texas, Court goes to San Francisco, then to London. We learn a bit about Court’s family, including his high-in-the-instep relatives. He then decides to return to Texas and Laureli. They marry and start a family. However, their happiness is threatened by a vengeful man who wants to do both harm.

Part III

In the end, the threat is neutralized. Laureli and Court become parents again, and they have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Laureli and Court are a well-matched couple and the love between them is written in a very genuine way.

Downside

Ms. Bourne tries very hard to write an emotional book, but doesn’t quite get there. Among the issues preventing this: Laureli and Court aren’t well-developed or particularly interesting characters; the supporting characters are in a similar vein. Ditto for the storylines.

Sex

A few love scenes between Laureli and Court, which don’t generate a lot of heat. Ms. Bourne is more focused on the emotional aspects of lovemaking and not the act itself.

Violence

Assault, attempted rape, battery, shootings, and killings all take place during Texas Fire. None of the violence is graphic.

Bottom Line

Texas Fire generates all the heat of one lit match. It’s a better book than Texas Conquest, but that’s not a particularly high bar to get over. 2.67 stars.

Locations: London, England. Brazoria, Texas. 1850-1967.

Tropes: Enemies-to-lovers. Historical romance. Texas.

the lord of hawkfell island

Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

historical romance review
The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Viking Lords Series #2
Published by: Jove
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 403
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

WARNING: CONTENT AND MILD SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her so-called romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.

The Plot

Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him. Their Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child.

Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rorik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”

I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar.

I detested him so much that I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.

Rorik kidnaps Mirana as a hostage, not out of lust, but because he’s on the boys’ team and Mirana’s on the girls’ team, and boys are supposed to torment icky girls because boys rule and girls drool.

Rorik, The Viking Philosopher

Although externally Rorik has the appearance of a strong, 30-something Viking warrior, his demeanor is that of a gangly 10-year-old-boy who’s on the verge of adolescence. He thinks girls are gross and stupid, yet gets a weird, tingly feeling whenever a particular one is around.

So instead of reacting like a mature, well-adjusted male to that particular sow (or female) who gets him hornt up, our hero spouts insults like:

“I told you that my men really have no interest in you. You’re skinny, not at all appetizing. A man would have to be starving for a woman before he would turn his eyes to you.”

Saying mean things to Mirana alone wouldn’t merit Rurik a place at the Big Pigs’ table, though. Sure, he gets naked and bathes in front of her, taunting her in an “I-know-you-want-me-but-you-cannot-have-me-so-look-at-how-hot-I-am” sort of way. That’s cute.

He also threatens to sic his dog on her:

 “I’ll have my dog kill you. He’s vicious. He protects me and my island.”

Rorik accuses Mirana of incest (and being damn good at it): 

“Do you lust after him, your own kin? Is that why you’re still unwed? Perhaps he has already bedded you. You aren’t young, after all. Does he hold you above his other whores?”

He chains her up with heavy iron links–no cloth under the metal to protect her skin–and keeps her that way for days on end, deprives her of food, beats her, and neglects her. Later he gets more brutally physical, punching Mirana in the jaw, stepping on her throat, and whipping her!

So, to sum up: Rorik abducts Mirana, tells her she’s so ugly no man would sleep with her, except her brother, of course, threatens her with murder and rape, abuses her, tortures her, and spouts Schwarzenneggerian brilliance as:

“The man rules. It is he who protects the woman, he who provides shelter and food for her. It is his right to bed with a bear if he wishes to. It is I who am the lord here, and all obey!”

He’s a beast, all right. Well, charisma goes a long way, thank goodness.

Alas, Rorik has zero charisma to back up his nasty demeanor.

So What’s To Like?

Then, why didn’t I one-star this book if the hero is so loathsome?

For one thing, Mirana gives back as good as she can. She’s a solid character who deserves a better man. How about her evil brother? 😉

And second, it’s kind of funny if you can disassociate from it all. Rorik is so childlike in his hatred for Mirana. I’m surprised he didn’t wipe his boogers on her or play “I’m not touching you” with his finger hovering an inch from her face.

Sure the guy’s a looker, and he’s lord of an island, but with his protozoan personality, who wants him?

Sleeping with Rorik would be akin to doing it with Colleen McCullough’s “Tim,” inhabited by the spirit of “South Park”‘s Eric Cartman on D-Bal Max.

(SO WRONG)

+

(SO VERY WRONG!)

X

(AND ON STEROIDS!!)

Sisterly Love

Ultimately, what pulls this book together has nothing to do with romance. It’s all due to Mirana and a supporting cast of female characters who forge a strong network of relationships They help each other grow and thrive in a world that’s brutal and unfair.

On the one hand, we have Rorik and his dopey gang of followers with their collective IQ & EQs of (I’ll be generous) 105.

On the other hand, we have the Hawkfell Island women’s team.

The central theme is all about “The Battle of the Sexes.”

Caring for Mirana is a servant woman, Utta, married to one of Rorik’s men. A beautiful yet simple slave girl named Entti is treated as a bounce house for the Vikings to play with, and she gets no respect. The women unite to get back at the men in ways they can, like giving them inedible food and refusing sex.

After a while, the men determine that Mirana’s behind the women’s uppitiness. Rorik attempts to rein her in. He decides he will marry Mirana and control her through force of will.

Mirana, for some reason, develops feelings for the Neanderthal.

At last, Rorik and Mirana share something in common: love for Rorik. INow, there’s a match made in Valhalla!

When the men get fed up with the women’s antics, they threaten Mirana with all kinds of bodily harm. Rorik does nothing to stop it.

He spouts perplexing threats like: “I will rape you if you force me” when Mirana refuses him his marital rights.

By The Lord of Hawkfell Island’s conclusion, Rorik and Mirana are paired off… because that’s what a romance demands. Rorik remains the same unfeeling brute he was in the beginning.

Final Analysis of The Lord of Hawkfell Island

The kindest, most intimate thing Rorik says to Mirana is:

“You are very nice,” he said forcing his eyes back to her face. “You are pleasing to me.”

If that’s enough to spark your interest, and you have a perverse curiosity to observe an exaggerated caricature of a supreme male chauvinist pig in action, while a crew of much savvier women maneuvers social politics and gender roles, then by all means, take a gander at this book.

Whatever “this” is, that Catherine Coulter wrote.

On a certain level, The Lord of Hawkfell Island is fascinating. I wouldn’t call it a romance, though.

2.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
3
Characters
3
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2
Fun Factor
2
Cover
1.5
Overall: 2.3

Synopsis

Rorik is a Viking warrior, as fierce and savage as the North Sea during the winter solstice. Mirana is a Viking woman who loves birds, is more ingenious than most men, and loyal down to her toes. Her life changes utterly one fateful day when Rorik and his men come to Clontarf, a Viking fortress on the eastern coast of Ireland, to kill her half-brother. But she is the one taken as hostage to use as a pawn against him.

Rorik is the Lord of Hawkfell, an island off the east cost of Britain. The moment he brings his captive home, it seems that everything begins to fly out his control. The women are out to teach the men a lesson with the result that food is rank, Rorik’s family is out for Mirana’s blood, a murderer is on a loose, and a huge mongrel, Kerzog, dotes not only on his master but also on his master’s captive.

Rorik and Mirana are two strong-willed people, ardent in their opinions, who will have you rooting for both of them equally.

THE LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND by CATHERINE COULTER
Virginia Vixen

Historical Romance Review: Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon

Virginia Vixen, Kay McMahon, Zebra, 1986, John Ennis cover art

MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Virgina Vixen by Kay McMahon

This review is of Virginia Vixen by Kay McMahon. Published in May 1989, this book is part of a series connected to four other books by Ms. McMahon.

The Plot

The book begins in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1774. Rebecca Wilde, a reporter for the Virginia Gazette and the heroine of the book, is investigating the murder of a slave who was a childhood friend of hers. Arriving at the same time is Alec Stone, the hero of the book, who has come to Virginia from England for two purposes; to find his father’s identity and to investigate the disappearance of one of his employees.

Rebecca and Alec meet for the first time when they end up in the same bed together and they have sex. Soon after this encounter, Rebecca writes an article all but calling Alec a murderer (based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence). This leads to several angry interactions between her and others, and other forms of trouble.

Despite their tempestuous relationship, Rebecca and Alec call a truce and decide to work together. They also have a few more intimate encounters before Alec makes plans to leave Williamsburg, unhappy that he didn’t find what he was looking for.

Soon after Alec’s departure, Rebecca discovers she’s pregnant with his child, and Alec finds out his father’s identity and gains a family. Upon discovering that Rebecca is pregnant with his child, Alec forces her to marry him. They then leave Williamsburg and sail to Alec’s home in Jamaica. There, they will face more problems, some personal, others potentially fatal.

In the end, Rebecca and Alec come to discover that their two investigations are connected to each other, they discover they love each other and find their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The best part of Virginia Vixen comes in the last 3rd of the book. It is here that Alec learns the identity of his father, gains a family, and realizes that he loves Rebecca, and she him. It is also where the book takes a turn toward achieving emotional depth. The mystery running through the book is fairly well-plotted.

Downside

One long-standing issue I’ve had with Ms. McMahon’s writing is her tendency to have her “heroes” rape the heroines, and that is the case here as well, although some readers might disagree with my characterization.

On a less controversial note, Virginia Vixen’ has other issues. While I sort of liked her and understood her anger at being condescended to, Rebecca is an “act first, think 100th” character, and her reckless nature finds her in many forms of trouble. I liked Alec-except for the part about his being a rapist-and understood his desire to find out about his parentage. However, Ms. McMahon never really made me care about neither Rebecca nor Alec in a way that I want to when I read a book. There is very little to no actual romance in the book, as Rebecca and Alec are apart more than they are together, and Rebecca and Alec have very little chemistry. Memo to authors: arguing and fighting is NOT chemistry.

Sex

Three love scenes between Rebecca and Alec, none of which are graphic nor generate a lot of heat.

Violence

Off-screen killings. Assault and battery, attempted murder, and a shooting. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line

Virginia Vixen is probably one of Kay McMahon’s best books. That’s not necessarily a compliment, as I haven’t liked most of her books. 2.53 stars

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

tangled-tapestry-mather-full

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

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


Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

Admission

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

The Book

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

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

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Romance

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

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

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

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

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

The Watusi. Not to be confused with the Batusi.

Time Stands Still For No Man

Oh, about the dated aspect of this book?

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Tangled Tapestry

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

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

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

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

Too bad the romance was lackluster here.

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

Synopsis

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

TANGLED TAPESTRY BY ANNE MATHER
Sunday kind of love

Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday Kind of Love, Lois Faye Dyer, Kismet, 1991, cover artist unknown

KISMET #70

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Meteoric Rise and Fall for Kismet?

Lois Faye Dyer, who would produce numerous Special Edition romances for Silhouette Books, was one of Kismet’s more prolific writers. Her romance Sunday Kind of Love is book #2 in a series about 4 siblings.

According to the website FictionDB the Meteor Publishing Company, from somewhere out of Pennsylvania, USA, released 168 books through its Kismet Romance line. The series ran from July 1990 to August 1993. The final book was written by Suzanne Brockman, with authors such as Cassie Miles, Christine Dorsey, Janis Reams Hudson, Sharon Sala, and Christina Dodd releasing works with them.

Dark Memories

I sort of want to revisit this book to see if my feelings about it were clouded by the experience I went through while reading it. About 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, my husband was rushed to the ER with a serious asthma attack. I recall holding our 3-year-old daughter tightly as my husband used his last bit of adrenaline to try to convince the doubtful ER workers that he could not breathe before passing out. He was intubated for several days afterward, and we were all worried if he would make it, then later we wondered if he’d have lasting lung damage. Fortunately, friends and family were there, as always, to give support.

My mother watched our daughter as I kept vigil at the hospital. That meant praying, pacing, and waiting. Finally, I just pulled out whatever book was in my purse and started reading. (I always kept a book in my pocketbook. Now it’s usually a Kindle e-reader stuffed into an already cluttered bag.)

If it seems coldhearted to be reading a romance while my loved one was in critical care, it wasn’t meant to be. There were old issues of McCalls and Newsweeks collecting dust on the table in the waiting room, and there was a TV set placed on the wall to help people pass the time. Sunday Kind of Love seemed like some light reading that I’d pay attention to with one eye while keeping the other looking out for a nurse or doctor.

The Plot

Unfortunately, Sunday Kind of Love tried to be too light-hearted while dealing with a fairly deep and significant issue. It’s doubtful I’d have been engrossed by any subject matter at the time, but instead of keeping my mind busy from negative thoughts, it increased them.

Trace McFadden is the oldest brother of the large McFadden clan. He likes his women fast, just like his cars. It’s those interests that get him in trouble, as he finds himself driving down a street when he slams on the brakes to see a beautiful woman on the asphalt. Trace rushes the woman to the hospital, concerned for the worst. Fortunately, her injuries aren’t major, and the next day, he vows to make amends. He visits her almost every day and promises to care for her until she’s fully recovered.

Lily Townsend moved to a quiet town in Iowa to get away from her past, that is, her abusive ex. A relationship with a love them-and-leave-them type is hardly on her agenda. It’s obvious Trace is interested in her. He introduces her to his family, a large and loving clan. He’s always there for her, making plans, bringing her surprises. Despite her druthers, Lily finds herself falling for Trace, but is he earnest about her?

This was a sweet romance that kind of glossed over the darker thematic and plot elements. Lily’s stalker of an ex is dealt with in a quick, perfunctory manner. Basically, Trace and his brothers threaten him, and that’s enough to keep the dirtbag away from Lily.

Final Analysis of Sunday Kind of Love

I’ve read books during stressful periods, and sometimes the stories made those times pass easier. This wasn’t one of those occasions. Was this a case of “it’s-not-you-book, it’s-me?” Perhaps. I read two other books in the McFadden family series, and while I was disinterested in brother Josh’s story, I enjoyed Cole’s story of a second-chance-at-love. Sunday Kind of Love has bad memories attached to it, so it’s fair to say my judgment may be clouded. I just wasn’t gaga over this romance.

Whisper to the Stars

Category Romance Review: Whisper to the Stars by Hettie Grimstead

Whisper to the Stars, Hettie Grimstead, Harlequin, “Jh” cover artist

Harlequin Romance #1403

Spoiler-Free Review 🙂

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Star of a Lower Magnitude

Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.

Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.

It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.

For me, at least it was a good try.

To Love in Vain

Tessa Chievers is a young English woman living on the (fictitious) Italian Island of Raltia near the Bay of Naples. With her is her widower father, a reclusive painter of undoubted talent but questionable sanity. Tessa loves her home turf and its people but also longs to see London and experience life in the fast lane.

Then Colin Kenward turns up. At first he seems like a typical tourist, snapping photos of the island in general and Tessa in particular. She falls in love with him quickly. He doesn’t reciprocate.

But once he returns home to London, those pictures he took result in the first of many surprises in the storyline. Which I won’t reveal; I’m no fan of spoilers. 

Suffice it to say the upshot is a glamorous new life for Tessa. Though it doesn’t include Colin feeling for her what she feels for him. Instead it leads to the story going off in a most unfortunate direction.

It’s pretty easy to tell early on that Colin is the hero. So the reader would naturally expect the plot to focus on Tessa and him.

Instead, much of it, too much, deals with her rebound relationship with someone else. During the second half of the novel, the hero rarely appears. Why is the author spending so much time and wordage on a relationship that we readers know won’t end in an HEA? And is so dull, so artificial, so unromantic compared to the heroine’s earlier passion for the hero?

But Wait, There’s More

There are several secondary characters; many come to life and make the narrative more interesting. My favorites include a smart-alec gossip columnist for a Fleet Street tabloid. And a cute little poodle named Snowball. Yeah, I go for pets in rom-fic! 

But there’s also an absurd other-woman, a stuck-up beauty/spoiled rich girl/femme fatale. The author handles her very clumsily. 

In the first half of the novel, the plot moves along at a nice brisk pace. But eventually, it bogs down. Though the early events and situations seem natural and believable, even the surprises, by the latter chapters, contrivances take over. The story seems to keep going on life support if you know what I mean.

So, in conclusion, I’d say Whisper to the Stars has its moments. But not enough to make it a satisfying read.

It’s available on the major bookseller websites.

Or you can read WHISPER TO THE STARS online for FREE at the Internet Archive

cherish tomorrow

Category Romance Review: Trust in Tomorrow (aka Cherish Tomorrow) by Carole Mortimer

Cherish Tomorrow, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1985, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Presents # 804

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

What can I say about Carole Mortimer’s Trust in Tomorrow (published as Cherish Tomorrow in the US & Canada)? Sadly, that I wasn’t really feeling this one. The romance aspect of the book was fine, kind of adorable, actually, with a very young heroine, Chelsea, in pursuit of the much older hero, Lucas. She knows she wants her man and is willing to fight for him. I really wish Chelsea and Lucas could have had a better plot to go along with their romance. The romance was fine, but it was the story that had me going, huh?

The Plot

Chelsea’s mother has just suddenly died, and since her father is a famous tv celebrity, he dispatches her from California to England to get away from the press. He sends her to stay with Lucas, an old family friend Chelsea hasn’t known since she was 12 and he was 27 when she had a HUGE crush on him. Creepy, but whatever. Since they haven’t seen each other in years, neither recognizes the other. So this leads to a bit of a misunderstanding that’s quickly cleared up.

He thinks she’s a hooker on the prowl; she thinks he’s an uptight prig.

Chelsea upturns Lucas’s staid life, from his disapproving housekeeper, to his very disapproving mistress. But the sparks fly between the two, and Chelsea quickly realizes she’s in love and will do what she has to to make Lucas believe her love is true.

That was the good part of the book.

The Bad Parts

 Within a matter of days, Chelsea finds her mother dead from suicide, finds out her father has secretly married their close family friend, mere months after her parent’s divorce, and it was due to this marriage that her mother committed suicide. But Chelsea’s not upset. She’s delighted for her Dad and friend, and is madly in love with Lucas, so what’s there to worry about? Mom would’ve kicked the bucket one way or another anyway. So, everybody gets to have a happy ending, right?

Or maybe it’s just me. I know if all this happened to me in one week:

1)My parents had recently divorced

2)I found my mom dead from a suicide that I blamed myself for not being there to stop

3)Was sent out of my country to stay with someone who I hadn’t seen since I was a child

4)Was tricked into spilling my life story to someone who seemed like a kind stranger, only to find that said stranger was a reporter and that my life was splashed all over the front pages

5)Found out my dad’s hasty and secret new marriage to my mom’s friend was the cause for the suicide attempt

6)And that my mom had been suicidal for years while my parents had a loveless marriage

I’d have at least some turbulent emotions to deal with and wouldn’t be as happy-go-lucky.

Final Analysis of Trust in Tomorrow

I know Mortimer was trying to show how mature and resilient Chelsea was, despite being only 19. Although I doubt people 20 years older would have such an easy time adjusting after such a series of tragic events in so brief a time.

But maybe it’s me, and I’m just a judgemental, emotional curmudgeon. Whether the book is called Cherish Tomorrow or Trust in Tomorrow, it makes no difference; both the hero and heroine deserved to be in a better one because this was not one of Mortimer’s bests. For a better Harlequin with a similar free-spirited heroine in love with an older man, I’d recommend Darkness into Light instead.

Lightning that lingers

Category Romance Review: Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis (aka Laura London) has received acclaim from many readers. By no means was this a terrible piece of fiction, but I found it didn’t mesh with my personal tastes. This book laid the schmaltz on thicker than, well, schmaltz.

There must be something the matter with me. The Curtises are beloved in the romance genre. The consensus seems to be that they are one of the greatest things in romance since Jane Austen. As far as their composition skills go, they’re very sensitive and attentive to detail. The Curtises certainly don’t lack talent.

There was just something too treacly about this one for me. I coined the term “cutsie-woostsie sugar” shock after reading Lightning that Lingers. I’m a bitter GenXer, so perhaps my sarcastic takes have made me too apathetic to enjoy a cavity-inducing love story like this.

The Hero

The hero, Philip, is from a once proud and wealthy family. Now he’s all alone and broke. He lives in his massive, run-down mansion he wants to renovate. Since he’s the most handsome man in the world, he turns to stripping to rake in the big singles dollar bills.

Before you think he’s just doing it for the money, let me tell you, why yes, he is doing it just for the money.

Philip’s not materialistic, as his true love is biology and animals. He’s hoping to go into that field to help conserve nature. First, he has to make his home a showpiece again. Then he’ll use the money from the manor to save wildlife.

His house, by the way, is full of critters, including an owl. I thought that was odd. Dude, if you’re trying to renovate your old mansion into something nicer, maybe you should not have animals in there crapping all over the place.

This is my hang-up, I know, I couldn’t take Philip seriously. If he had been an outright gigolo, dating women for cash, I would have found that a more interesting tale. The conflict of a nice guy doing “bad things” for a good reason would make for a complex plot.

I’m just not into the Chippendale vibe. I never went gaga for the Magic Mike movies. This is just my bias, but I’m not into a hero who waxes his butt, puts on a g-string, and grinds his pelvis for cash in front of a group of screaming, feral females. Not that I need an “alpha male” in my love stories, but whatever Philip was, I wasn’t into it.

I kept thinking about that old Saturday Night skit with the late Patrick Swayze and the late Chris Farley, imaging Philip like this:

Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze Stripping

The Plot

Anyway, about this silly story, Lightning That Lingers. The heroine, Jennifer, is a very young children’s librarian who is incredibly shy.

As a gag, her friends take her to a totally nude (!) strip club, appropriately named The Cougar Club. As she watches the stage, her eyes meet with Philip’s, and practically faints away with the vapors.

Philip sees this and whisks her off to his magical home with said resident owl and bird crap splattered all over the place. Jennifer is awed in wonder at his beautiful face and his–er–beautiful home.

Philip and Jennifer embark on a romance that is supposed to be very moving. However, it was just rainbow and unicorn farts for me. He adores Jennifer’s naivete and innocence, and Jennifer likes…Philip’s everything.

white and pink unicorn plush toy lightning that lingers

Final Analysis of Lightning That Lingers

Can Philip give up stripping, perhaps develop some valuable skillset (like washing poop-stained walls), and find a nine-to-five job? Can he give up on his dream job of becoming the new Noah (you, know, from the Bible)? Will he give up the glamour of stripping in front of horny women who stuff bills down his crotch to settle down with his lovely librarian? Will Jennifer open her mind to new sensual experiences? Will I ever read a Tom and Sharon Curtis book that doesn’t turn me into a snarky b-word?

Tom and Sharon Curtis can wield a way with words, so Lightning That Lingers is not a 1-star read by any means. However, the plot and the characters were gag-inducing. I do enjoy a sappy love story now and then; this was not one of them.

Perhaps if you’re a less jaded reader than I, you’ll find this Bantam Lovewept romance a bit more to your liking.

But for me, I’d prefer to eat a couple of bags of Tropical-flavored Skittles if I have a hankering for something this sweet.

2.74 Stars


Synopsis:

Philip Brooks is a man with a passion for biology, wildlife, and restoring his old family home—all of which add up to a pile of bills that require attention. Moonlighting as the Cougar Club’s hottest dancer is a job, nothing more, nothing less—until lovely Jennifer Hamilton nearly faints during one of his shows. Her sweet innocence tugs at his heart and makes him painfully aware of his longing for the kind of love a woman as perfect and real as Jennifer can offer.

Watching her most secret fantasy come to life on the dance floor is almost more than Jennifer can bear. Now, the sexiest man she’s ever met is near enough to hold. For a shy, bookish lady with little experience in the romance department, life feels as if it’s spinning out of control—and not in the direction, or with the kind of man, she ever imagined. Can she believe in the passion Philip ignites and take a chance on a dance that could last a lifetime?

Lightning That Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis
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
the coach to hell

Historical Romance Review: The Coach to Hell by Rachel Cosgrove Payes

Synopsis:

DESPERATION AND DESIRE
Rescued from poverty to live in an opulent mansion filled with servants…loved by two adventurous and passionate men…Georgina’s new life was wantonly wonderful. But she was caught between her arrogant benefactor and his rakehell coachman brother — and their fierce obsession threatened to shatter everything. Each man claimed to be the rightful heir to a noble title. Each man thought Georgina knew the secret location of the missing proof. And though each man already possessed Georgina’s body — each demanded more…

COACH TO HELL by RACHEL COSGROVE PAYES

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.

The Plot

The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it.

Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.

She heads to a far-away town to seek out a distant cousin in hopes that he will care for her, a relative in need. On the coach ride to her new environs, Georgina meets a dashing red-haired coachman whom she falls for. However, well-meaning fellow passengers warn her that he’s the love-them-and-leave-them type, with different women in every village. Georgie ignores their advice and engages in a secret love affair.

The hero, Charles Collins, supposedly has lots of sex appeal (didn’t see it) but no fortune, as he is the bastard son of a nobleman. He believes he is legitimate, however. Charles is working as a coachman to save money to hire a barrister. He tells Georgina that the relative she’s going to live with is his younger half-brother, Francis, his father’s legal heir.

He’s convinced there must be some shenanigans afoot. Charles, not his brother, is the true inheritor of the manor and title.

Charles and Georgie get down with each other, and he sweet talks her into promising to search for any information that will prove his claim. Georgie vows to do her best.

Her best is… Well, you’ll see.

So the Lord of a half-brother is also a charismatic hunk (I saw it here) and lives openly with his mistress, who’s naturally contemptuous of Georgina. If Georgie would say the word, he’d gladly throw his courtesan aside to have Georgina instead. But Georgie has her dashing coachman and wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to her beloved.

No, I’m just joking. Remember, this is a 1970s Playboy Press bodice ripper!

One Hell of a Crazy Scene

Back in her hometown, when some creepy old dude wanted her for his mistress, Georgie’s upstanding morals wouldn’t allow for such dishonor. Now, things are different. Yes, she’s in love with a young, handsome dude, but she’s living with his equally hot and much richer brother…

Morals? Pffft. That’s for poor people who don’t live in fancy manors.

The best part of Coach to Hell is when Georgina has Charles in her room for a late-night tryst. Then his brother enters her chambers with the same intention, forcing Charles to hide in her wardrobe. Georgina can’t shoo Francis away by being smart enough to say she’s on her period, so while Charles conceals himself in the closet like some teenage boy hiding from an angry father, Georgie bangs Francis in her bed. And Francis is so good at it that Georgina forgets everything and moans away in ecstasy, giving our sad-sack hero something extra-special to listen to.

This book is a bodice-ripper, and Charles is our supposed “Alpha” male hero. So does he burst out into the room and kill them both in a blind rage? Nope. Charles stays there, sitting and sulking, while his hated enemy joyously screws the woman he loves, bringing her to orgasmic heights.

This scene was so WTF and made me wish that The Coach to Hell had fully embraced its campy nature and included more juicy bits like this!

After that, I admit I lost all respect for the hero. I certainly didn’t expect him to go all wifebeater on Georgina, but he at least could have punched the lights out of Francis. Unfortunately, I can’t root for a cucked hero, so I just read to get to the end of the story.


  photo cuckold horns.png 

Moving on, then.

Final Analysis of The Coach to Hell

Remember Georgina’s special kind of ESP? Well, it served the plot’s purpose. She’s able to find evidence that proves Charles’ legitimacy.

You didn’t actually think Charles wasn’t the real Lord, did you? Oh no, I gave away the ending! Look, if you’re reading these cheesy romances, you know they’re supposed to end “Happily Ever After,” no matter how discombobulated the path to “Ever After” is.

I do wish I had enjoyed this book more, but Georgina was just too stupid for words. I lost any admiration I’d had for Charles after he was ignominiously crowned with a set of horns. Instead, I rooted for his brother from another mother to get the girl.

In the end, this Rachel Cosgrove-Payes Gothic ‘ripper, The Coach to Hell, was a so-so read for me, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

2 1/2 Stars

change of life arnold

Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

judith arnold category romance

Change of Life by Judith Arnold
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 252
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Change of Life, a Harlequin American Romance by Judith Arnold, seems less a romance and more a story of a woman’s mid-life crisis and journey to self-discovery.

The Plot

Lila, The Harried Housewife

Lila Chapin is a long-time married woman with several rambunctious young boys. While Daddy is the fun parent, she’s a stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, disciplines, and is attentive to everyone’s wants and needs.

On her 40th birthday, when her husband, Ken, and their kids forget all about it, she decides it’s time for a change in her life. She packs up her things, takes her keys, withdraws some money from their bank account, and leaves.

Lila settles into a hotel and figures it’s time to take care of her wants and needs. She informs her bewildered husband that she’s taking one month off from being a wife and mother. Lila feels she’s been taken for granted, and without her around, her family will realize how much they rely on her for everything.

Ken, of course, isn’t amused. He insists Lila come home, but she’s not budging.

A night or two of relaxation at a hotel is fun. However, Lila wants more than just to lay around and be pampered. She’s not fulfilled.

Lila volunteers at a homeless shelter, feeding the poor. She gets to know them on a more individual level and wants to help out as much as she can. Then she starts classes for the indigent to try to enhance their educational skills to gain greater opportunities.

Ken, The Well-Meaning Dad

In the meantime, Ken is doing his best to convince her to come home. Husband and wife meet up for conversations which form into dates.

However, that’s not the only guy Lila is dating! Lila meets a younger man whom she flirts with. She even goes out with him once on a late-night date.

It doesn’t lead to adultery. I wouldn’t like it if a married hero did this to his wife, so it’s not right for Lila to do this to Ken.

Ken’s not a bad guy. He loves his wife, works hard to provide for his family financially, and is a loving father.

That’s not enough for Lila, who wants a man who will support her hopes and dreams. A man who will not be so forgetful about special events like a 40th birthday party. That was rather thoughtless on Ken’s part, though, so he’s definitely not without flaws.

In the end, Lila and Ken come to a compromise, where he will spend time doing more housework and appreciate her. Meanwhile, Lila gets some “me time” working to help the poor.

Final Analysis of Change of Life

Change of Life by Judith Duncan proves one thing: women, as well as men, can be self-centered when they experience mid-life crises.

Being a full-time mother is a meaningful existence; I certainly felt that way when I was doing it. Although I can understand that not all women share the same opinion and need “more.”

It’s wonderful Lila is being fulfilled, but couldn’t she have just talked with Ken?

I’m a woman, and sometimes we feel that it takes a big dramatic show to make us heard.

Leaving your kids with your husband for a weekend to relax is one thing, even a week’s vacation. Abandoning them with no word is just as thoughtless as forgetting a birthday. And going on a date with another man while married? Bad form.

It’s always a good thing to reevaluate your beliefs and situation in life, but it’s important to communicate with your life partner if you’re unsatisfied with how things are. In real life, walking out on your family could lead to divorce.

Lila was lucky that her plan worked. As Change of Life is a romance, it couldn’t have ended any other way.

2.5 Stars

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

Synopsis

On Lila Chapin’s birthday, something snapped. She packed her bags, wrote a note and left-just like that.

Unbeknownst to her family, Lila was giving herself the present she wanted most: a month’s vacation. She was going to pamper her body, feast her eyes and soothe her soul while Ken and the boys realized just how much they took her for granted.

But Lila hadn’t bargained on Ken’s reaction to her domestic rebellion—and on a side of him that she hadn’t known existed.

Nor had she bargained on the sweetness and wonder of a post-summer romance.

Change of Life by Judith Arnold

Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo
Published by: Onyx
Genres: Historical Romance, Erotic Romance, Medieval Romance
Pages: 438
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Enchantress Mine by Bertrice Small

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?”

But, I don’t know…

I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.

A Too-Perfect Heroine

Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.

Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!

Every man that wasn’t either her relative or 100% gay desired her and had to have her–stop me if you’ve heard this before! She was just the typical most beautiful-woman-on-earth, the kind of heroine that Bertrice Small adored to write about.

And she was such a Mary Sue! I had no patience nor any love for her.

Still, poor Mairin!

The Heroes: Bachelors #1,#2, & #3

Despite the variety of men, her romantic life is the worst.

Her first love, Basil, a nobleman of Constantinople, is poisoned to death by his male ex-lover, a jealous actor.

Another admirer of hers is ironically named Eric Longsword. He no penis and can only pee by using a hollow reed!

Somehow, he still can bring Mairin to orgasmic heights.

The other guy, her true love, Josselin, suffers from the worst malady of all as he’s plain boring!

He comes into the picture late in the book, as often does in a Bertrice Small romance. If Joss had more character development than merely lusting after Mairin, there might have been a chance to like him.

Of her three love interests, the main hero the least memorable.

enchantress mine back
Enchantress Mine, Bertrice Small, Onyx, 1987, Elaine Duillo cover art
(That’s Fabio on the back cover as Eric Longsword, LOL)

Final Analysis of Enchantress Mine

Yes, some aspects of Enchantress Mine sound crazy as heck. You would think a book like that would be more exciting. And it almost is, at times.

However Mairin is so perfect and so tedious. I didn’t care what happened to her.

Bertrice Small can do better! And she has. I prefer her Tudor and Stuart-era novels such as Skye O’Malley, All the Sweet Tomorrows, or Wild Jasmine instead.

2.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
1
Writing
2.5
Chemistry
2.5
Fun Factor
3
Cover
4.5
Overall: 2.6

Synopsis

From the golden pleasure domes of Constantinople to the barbaric pomp of Malcolm of Scotland’s court, this is the magical tale of ravishingly beautiful Mairin of Aelfleah, called “Enchantress” by the three men who loved her: Basil, Prince of Byzantium, who taught her passion’s tender secrets; Josselin de Combourg, gallant knight of William the Conqueror…and Eric Longsword, the Viking whose tragic love for Mairin would never be fulfilled. And in their wild world gone mad with savage war, only love could triumph over all!

ENCHANTRESS MINE by BERTRICE SMALL
having faith

Category Romance Review: Having Faith by Barbara Delinsky

Having Faith, Barabra Delinsky, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin Temptation #297

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I don’t know the qualifications for getting the Harlequin Temptation Award of Excellence, but I wasn’t impressed with Barbara Delinsky’s Having Faith. I think the award was merely a way for editors to play favorites with authors without having to pay them more. That’s just me being cynical.

The Plot

Faith and Sawyer are divorce lawyers on opposite sides of the same nasty case. (Oh my, freaking divorce lawyers in a romance novel!) They’ve been good friends for many years. Both went through rough divorces, and they have a very amicable platonic relationship. For over 15 years, they’ve been friends with no sexual attraction. Then one night, they get rip-roaring drunk and have “oopsie” sex.

The pair reveal a lot more to each other than they ever have before—not only that they’re compatible in the bedroom but also that they’re both jerks. The two of them make fun of their exes: Sawyer complaining how his ex-wife’s boobs sagged, Faith, talking about how her husband was a dud in the sack. They drink some more and have more sex, then wake up with massive hangovers, in shock at what they’ve done.

After their night together, Sawyer decides it’s time to take it to the next level and be together. Faith, on the other hand, has intimacy issues. While she loves being friends with Sawyer, she’s not sure they’re compatible as a couple. And besides, there’s the drama of them representing opposing clients.

My Opinion

I didn’t buy the book’s initial premise as these aren’t kids. Sawyer says he’s a Vietnam vet, and since Delinsky wrote this in 1989-1990, the youngest he can be is in his late 30s. Or more likely early 40s. Faith is in her mid-thirties, at least. Maybe it’s just me, as the older I get, the less sexy it seems to be sloppy, black-out drunk. (I’m certainly no saint, but I haven’t done that in a couple of dogs’ ages). Your eyes get red, you slur your words, your face contorts all weird, and your body gets all wobbly. It’s not a seductive state to be in. Tipsy maybe, but three-sheets-to the wind, no.

It stretches the imagination that these two good-looking, successful people shared no prior sexual connection. They “platonically” flirted like fools with each other. They were BFFs who shared very intimate secrets. Then, “out-of-the-blue” one night of heavy drinking was enough to make them forget their boundaries. I get the whole friends-to-lovers trope, although it’s not one of my favorites. It’s hard to accept when the pair have been friends for almost two decades.

Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of love stories in the real world where people have been lifelong friends and suddenly fall in love, and that’s wonderful. But that story doesn’t make for a romance that I would gladly plunk down cash to buy unless there’s a funny twist on it, as in Lass Small’s Four Dollars and Fifty-One Cents.

Final Analysis of Having Faith

Eh, I always thought the friends-to-lovers film When Harry Met Sally was overrated. It’s not a trope I seek out. I like romances where love springs up unexpectedly. Personally, my best-liked romantic-comedy is Don’t Tell Her It’s Me, aka The Boyfriend School. Shelley Long plays a romance novelist who acts as a matchmaker for her nice but loser of a brother, Steve Guttenberg, with a reporter performed by the wonderful Jami Gertz.

As for this book, I thought it was undeserving of any particular acclaim, especially considering that Harlequin released it in May of 1990. Two other great Temptation novels were released that month: #299 Changing the Rules by Gina Wilkins and #300 Glenda Sanders’ Island Nights. In contrast, Having Faith was not anywhere as enjoyable. It’s not a terrible read, just nothing special.

Category Romance Review: One Husband Too Many by Jacqueline Diamond

American Romance #642
From the back of the book:

Wrong man…wrong time! An amulet sends Jana back six years… into deadly danger! Impulsively, she wishes for a second chance, before she met the rogue she impulsively married. To her shock, it works— and lands her in the arms of the same man, who’s using another name and involved in a scheme that might get them both killed.. Although she knows him intimately, he has no idea who she is. They have to learn about each other—fast—while staying alive. If they can!

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The cover for One Husband Too Many looks a bit off, with the heroine posed as a seemingly shell-shocked bride marrying two Martina Navratilovas. Definitely a unique choice for a Harlequin cover.

As for the story? Well this book was written as if it were one of those rom-coms you’d watch on a Sunday afternoon while folding laundry.

One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996
One Husband Too Many, Jacqueline Diamond , Harlequin, 1996, cover artist TBD

The Plot

Jana Edwards is fed up with her marriage to Drake, who is never around and always looking for the next big score. She asks for a divorce from the love of her life but appears to take it in stride. Not even a tear is shed over her broken marriage. Doesn’t the author know that divorce is one of the most stressful things that can happen to a person right up there with the death of a loved one, loss of employment, and moving? Moving! (I know I cried when I moved last time. All that packing and unpacking is traumatic.)

Well, no time for sentimentality here in this tale of a woman propelled back in time thanks to a magical necklace so that she can get a second chance and meet the true love of her life. Who turns out to be…the man she married in the first place.

This book seems to have been with Hollywood in mind. From the evil British villain named Sydney Q. Reddin to the caricature of a Southern yokel in denim coveralls and a straw hat to the hero riding in on a horse so he can rescue the heroine from a blazing fire, this book is filled with movie cliches. It’s a silly mess.

Final Analysis of One Husband Too Many

Still, it’s not without its sweetness, and I am a big softy at heart, especially when it comes to second chance romances. Throw in a cute baby, and I’ll smile. One Husband Too Many is a diverting way to pass the time. I’ll give it that.

Buy at Sweet Savage Flame Used Book Store:

storm maiden gilgannon

Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

historical romance review
Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1997
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Published by: Pinnacle
Genres: Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Pages: 383
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Mary Gillgannon’s Storm Maiden was a novel I was excited to pick up. The blurb told of an intriguing Viking historical romance with plenty of conflicts.

The Plot

Fiona, an Irish lord’s daughter, is dreading marriage to a man she hates. In her father’s dungeon is Dag Thorsson, an injured Viking captive. Fiona sneaks in to see him, cares for his wounds, and tries to seduce him so she’ll be ruined for marriage. But Dag is too wounded and delirious and can’t or won’t do the job.

Soon after, Vikings led by Dag’s brother, the chieftain of his people, come to Dag’s rescue. Despite his hindering injury to his sword arm, Dag takes Fiona as his captive.

This seemed to be a primal captor-captive relationship. Too often in Viking historical romance books, the hero speaks the heroine’s language because her people captured him as a youth! Here, they cannot understand one another but can communicate in other ways…

Fiona has to adjust to life as a slave. She cannot communicate with any of the Norse folk except for Dag’s brother, who hates her and all the Irish.

The book starts out well enough, and the early love scenes are erotically charged. Dag and Fiona quickly get along and fall in love.

The main conflict is that Fiona is not well-liked by Dag’s older brother and his people. Her helpful but intrusive ways are looked upon with scorn by most of the men. Fiona helps women with birth control and delivers babies. She gives one female advice on how to please her master sexually.

Fiona’s behavior brings negative attention to her, and she is thought to be a witch.

Fiona’s a full-fleshed character and one to be admired. This was the strongest part of the book, and I appreciated her struggles to become accepted in her new society. She just needed a more challenging hero. After an amazing beginning, things began to fizzle, and the romance wasn’t thrilling.

My Opinion

Their romance is cemented early on, and they only face obstacles from outside forces, as Dag is torn between respecting his brother–his leader–and his love for Fiona. When there is so little inner conflict between the two leads, things get a little bland.

There are villains aplenty in Storm Maiden. Fiona is often in danger, but Dag is never there to save the day. This is the most annoying aspect in the novel as Dag’s sword arm is severely injured throughout the story, so he never gets to show off his warrior prowess, which is so essential in a good Viking hero. It’s Fiona who is more of a fighter. And she had many enemies who would make her life miserable.

Dag’s a nice guy. Too nice. As in boring. Hey, I like nice guys as heroes. They make me melt more them some sadistic jerk that treats the heroine like crap.

I know the early Norse were democratic men and allowed women to divorce their husbands and own their own property, but you expect a little bit of tough-guy persona when you read a Viking romance. I enjoyed some sweet aspects of Dag’s personality, such as his love for his doggy companion.

But when Dag started becoming a mouthpiece for 20th-century beliefs, like concern for women’s rights and access to birth control, it just rang a bit anachronistic, pulling me out of the story.

Final Analysis of Storm Maiden

Storm Maiden by Mary Gilgannon was not a bad book, but not a great one either.

I don’t read historical romances because I want to see modern-minded characters cloaked in historical trappings. If I feel the need for a more modern-minded hero, then I’ll read contemporary romances.

I can count on one hand the number of hard-core Viking warrior heroes I’ve come across. It’s a shame that true, kick-ass Vikings are so rare in historical romance as protagonists. Villains, sure. Heroes? Pfft.

2.75 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
2.5
Characters
3.5
Writing
3.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
2
Cover
3
Overall: 2.9

Synopsis

Fiona of Dunsheana, the beautiful daughter of an Irish chieftain, rebelled at the idea of wedding a man she despised. And, trapped in her father’s dark, oppressive dungeon, she found a way to avoid her fate. She would allow a captured Viking to ravish her and render her unmarriageable. But the rugged golden-haired warrior refused to take her body. Instead, he captured her soul.

STORM MAIDEN by MARY GILGANNON