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these golden pleasures

Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

historical romance review
These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1977
Illustrator: Jim Dietz
Published by: Warner Books
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

What can I say about Valerie Sherwood‘s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512-page 20th-century historical starts out wonderfully.

Somewhere afterward, it falters, lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.

The Plot: Part One

Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.

These Golden Pleasures then heads back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds.

As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood novel, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. As a result, she has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.

Circumstances force her out of Kansas, and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes, who sails ships.

This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot…

And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers. She had a great setup and just let it fizzle.

The Plot: Part Two

After they both betray her, Roxanne marries sad, pathetic Denby. This is where the book draaagggsss. She spends about 150 pages married to him, moving from Georgia to Washington to Alaska as they run out of money and opportunities. There Roxanne has a brief affair with Case, a dark, mysterious gambler.

After Denby croaks, she has a common-law marriage with dull, boring Leighton, whom the author constantly calls a golden giant. I kept picturing him as a hulking Brock Lesnar type. That’s not sexy to me. We’re told that Leighton is a really nice guy. Regardless, he leaves Roxanne stranded in Asia and returns to his ailing wife in the States!

Later on, Roxanne has four or five other lovers because she is alone and has to support herself somehow.

That’s when Rhodes comes back for revenge, so I thought: okay, now it’s on. Not so fast! They’re quickly separated, and it’s back to Gavin in San Francisco.

Final Analysis of These Golden Pleasures

I don’t mind romances where the heroine has more than one lover, as long as the love story is well-developed or the other men in the book are exciting. While the scenes with Rhodes and Roxanne are hot, they’re all too brief.

There was very little true romance in These Golden Pleasures. The history is wonderfully detailed, as one would expect in a Valerie Sherwood novel. There is one scene in particular where Denby, a glove-maker/salesman, puts leather gloves on Roxanne which is written so beautifully. But authentic history was not enough for me in this one.

This was a rare deviation for Sherwood from her Cavalier/Georgian era books, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it as much as her other works.

Roxanne is a strong, fascinating heroine. The book is at its best whenever she’s with the brothers. It’s unfortunate that it’s not front and center in this epic saga.

3.5 Stars

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

Synopsis:

They called her That Barrington Woman. She was beautiful – and notorious. But beneath the silks and diamonds, within the supple body so many men had embraced, was the heart of a girl who yearned still for love. At fifteen she had learned her beauty was both a charm and a curse. It had sent her fleeing from Kansas, had been her downfall in Baltimore and Georgia, yet had kept her alive in the Klondike and the South Seas.

Now on this fateful night in 1906, here in San Francisco’s most glittering atmosphere, will she at last be able to reveal her secret longing? Will she be able to call love by name – and claim it?

THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by VALERIE SHERWOOD
passion's wicked torment

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne

Passion’s Wicked Torment, Melissa Hepburne, Pinnacle Books, 1980, cover art Bill Maugham

Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pinnacle BooksPassion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.

Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?

Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.

Here the heroine’s so dumb, and the action so predictable, yet somehow compelling, it’s like watching multiple gory car-wrecks in slow-mo, one after another, after another.

Kristin’s brother Chad gets kidnapped by a bunch of mafiosos. She has the brilliant idea to infiltrate a mobster’s club to find out where he is. Of course, Kristin has to get a makeover and change her persona. She’s a long-haired, virginal good girl, and that won’t do as she plans to sink her hooks into the head Capo, become his moll, and use her wiles to find her brother.

So she enters the club with her bobbed hair, slinky dress, and new fake identity & cozies up to the owner of a club, this hood, Dallas Hunter, to find who kidnapped her brother. With her gorgeous blonde looks, it’s as easy as cream pie to get into his bed. But Hunter gets angry with her when Kristin asks too many questions about his illegal biz while in bed. Newbie mistake; pillow talk is for AFTER sex, not during!

This is the Plot? For Real?

Dallas Hunter is a real Eye-talian with a dash of British panache. The next morning at breakfast:

Hunter ordered for both of them: scrambled eggs, spaghetti, sausage and buttered rolls. He also ordered kippers for himself, a smoked fish that was an English specialty.

Kristen sort of becomes Hunter’s gal, but she’s looking for bigger fish because she needs to get to the ultimate leader to find out what happened to her brother. Ironman is the top cat, and if anyone knows where bro-bro is, it would be he. So despite her burgeoning feelings for Hunter, she pursues Ironman, and that plan falls apart in spectacular fashion.

For you see, our hero Hunter is really a Fed, working undercover to infiltrate the mob. He, like Kristin, wants to find her brother, who is being held prisoner for reasons I forget but don’t really matter as this plot is (I’m not sorry to use this word) retarted (the misspelling is intentional).

Ironman finds out Kristin is not who she says she is, so he does some pretty nasty things to her. He has her drugged, up, chained to a bed, and forced into a vile porno with a sadistic creep. Things go from worse to worst for our heroine with a plan that’s not a plan.

First Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Second Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Third Plan: Kristen gets kidnapped, Hunter has to save her.

Oh, did I repeat myself? Well, that’s what this story does, too.

North to Alaska

Through various convoluted contrivances, Kristin finds herself in Alaska, where she meets a great bear of a man, McShane, a former Canadian Mountie. She and McShane enter a partnership to start a gambling house. They also get involved in a love affair with each other. McShane was the most decent character in this alleged romance novel and should have been the hero. This was the third Hepburne book I’ve read, so going by pattern, it seems s/he was setting McShane up to be the hero for a next book that never materialized (Hunter, this book’s male protagonist, and had been the “other” guy in a previous novel).

Really, in this brief portion of the book, Hepburne shows s/he’s capable of writing decent characters and a somewhat believable romance. 

This was incredible. [Kristin] was surprising herself as well as McShane. Not only by her professions of caring for him deeply, but also by her strength and refusal to submit quietly. She felt more like a real woman now than she ever had before, a strong-willed woman who knew what she wanted and went after it.

Ah, if only. Kristen should have stayed in Alaska. But remember, she has to find her brother, Mr. MacGuffin. So she returns to the mobsters’ world, and she and McShane buy a ship to use for illegal gambling and drinking off the coast of Long Island.

Alas, those plans fall apart, as the mob doesn’t like competition, and Hunter again comes to the rescue. More plot shit is flung at the proverbial walls.

Kristin sells her share of the casino ship to McShane and flees to Europe to party her sorrows away.

A Gary Stu Supporting Character?

An unusual aspect of this book is that the author Melissa Hepburne, whose real name is Craig Broude, literally self-inserts himself into the story to have a gang-bang sex scene with the heroine. It’s tongue-in-cheek but also rather sad, as Kristin drinks, parties, and sleeps with various men in an attempt to forget all the hurts committed upon her body and spirit.

When Kristin finds out that Hunter is looking for her, she asks Broude, or Brady, as he’s called in the story, to make him scarce: 

Would Brady succeed in throwing him off her trail? Probably, she thought. Her American friend was a very smart man and could be extremely cunning and crafty when he put his mind to it. The reward she promised him would certainly motivate him to do his devious best, that she was sure of.

Eventually, Kristin finds her way back to the States, sober and resolved. Dallas Hunter is there for her, and the two rekindle their romance (What romance, you might ask? Don’t. Just roll with it.).

But uh-uh-uh, there are still evil goons after them. Fortunately, the true hero of this book, McShane, who truly loves that silly do-do bird, shows up in his boat and saves the day, allowing for Hunter and Kristin to live their lives happily ever after.

Oh, and as for the missing Chad, the brother Kristin was searching for, and the whole reason she was embroiled in this ridiculous mess? Ignominously killed off partway through the book and long-forgotten by the end.

Final Analysis of Passion’s Wicked Torment

Melissa Hepburne only published four romances, but they were successful enough to put some serious cash into Craig Broude’s pockets. Good for him, I say. For despite being lackluster love stories, they were some seriously whacktastic reads I was glad to experience. Passion’s Wicked Torment, his final bodice ripper, wasn’t as fun or shocking as Passion’s Proud Captive, his first, so that it might have been a case of diminishing returns. Still, for the not-easily offended reader, these books made for wild rides.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader