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black historical romance

Hidden Gems & Crown Jewels: The Rise of Black Historical Romances in the 1990s

The rise of Black romance novels–especially historicals– in the 1990s provided a platform for diverse representation in a genre that had long ignored this socio-demographic. 

black historical romance

The Advent of Black Romance Novels

Since the romance revolution of the early 1970s, these books have depicted heroes and heroines from varied nations and of almost every race, with a notable exception. The paucity of Black and/or African American protagonists motivated readers to create stories of their own, with characters of their own heritage.

One of the most significant developments in African American literature during the 1990s was the emergence of historical romance novels with Black protagonists and settings. The stories offered a much-needed look into the past.

These books highlighted the challenges people of African heritage faced and the accomplishments they achieved in American and Global history.

As the decade wore on, more and more writers began to include Black characters in their stories, creating stories that talked about issues relevant to these characters’ lives, experiences, and identities.

black couple in love

Some Early Black Romantic-Fiction Authors

The first romances with African-American protagonists date back to the 19th century. Jessie Redmon Fauset was an African American editor, poet, and novelist in the first half of the 20th century. A prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance, her book There is Confusion is considered one of the first Black romantic novels.

Frank Yerby wrote swashbuckling historical epics and Southern plantation romances about primarily White characters. But it was the 1968 novel, The Dahomean, a tragic tale of an African ruler betrayed and taken into slavery, that was his most personal and arguably best work. It was followed up with a sequel in 1979.

Black romances The Dahomean

Towards the End of the Century

The last decade of the twentieth century was a time of great change and progress for African American fiction. Terry MacMillan debuted her first book in 1989 and would have a long and successful career. She had two blockbusters, 1992’s Waiting to Exhale and 1996’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back, both made into hit films.

Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl was a Young Adult sensation, spawning two sequels.

These books portrayed relationships featuring African American characters written by Black authors and allowed readers to explore different perspectives on love and relationships.

Many writers whose careers started during this era have had a lasting impact on the genre.

waiting to exhale

A Look Back at the Black Historical Romance Boom of the 1990s 

The historical romance novel has seen constant transformations in the stories it tells. The 1990s would introduce stories set in the past that told love stories from the point of view the industry had largely ignored. 

The first mainstream category romance with African American protagonists was Dell Candlelight’s Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles in 1980. Historical romances with Black main characters wouldn’t see mainstream release until over a decade later.

In 1989 Anita R. Bunkley self-published her first novel, a historical romance titled Emily, The Yellow Rose of Texas. The book is based on the legendary Emily D. West, the mulatto woman who was a Texian spy

Mildred E. Riley, a psychiatric nurse from New England, began writing after she retired from a 40-year career. In 1990, she published her first historical romance, Yamilla, which featured an African heroine in the American South. In 1992, she followed that up with the romance between a Native American heroine and a Black hero in Akayna, Sachem’s Daughter

black romance

Riley is known for her ability to create powerful, compelling love stories steeped in history. She would go on to write more historical romances with Arabesque several years later.

1994: Arabesque Romances Are Born

In 1994, Pinnacle Books–an imprint of Kensington Publishing–launched Arabesque romances. This was the first line of romance novels to focus on Black couples. Arabesque released both contemporary and historical books that explored African-American life and culture. 

black romance books

The credited mastermind behind Arabesque was Monica Harris, an editor at Kensington who worked under legendary founder Walter Zacarius. 

In July of ’94, Arabesque launched their first two romances, both full-length contemporaries: Sandra Kitt’s Serenade and then Francis Ray’s Forever Yours

It wasn’t until several months later, in February of 1995, that Arabesque released their first historical romance, Journey’s End, by Mildred E. Riley.

black historical romances

The line greatly impacted the publishing industry, inspiring other publishers to sign African-American authors and release similarly styled works. 

When Kensington shut down Pinnacle in 2000, they sold Arabesque off to BET-TV under Robert Johnson. Kensington would still publish the books, but BET controlled distribution, marketing, and promotion. Many Arabesque novels were adapted for television movies that would air on BET-TV.

Under their management, BET added the Sepia line for mainstream commercial fiction and New Spirit for inspirational books and nonfiction. 

In 2005 Harlequin Enterprises purchased all BET-TV Books titles and continues to publish many of them today.

Beverly Jenkins, “The Queen of the Black Historical Romance”

Today, Beverly Jenkins is a legendary name in the romance genre. In 1994 Avon Books signed her on for a contract. Her first novel, Night Song, came out in July–the same month Arabesque launched–to much critical acclaim. It was also the first actual Black clinch cover.

beverly jenkins

After several more successful novels, such as Topaz and Indigo, Jenkins became the first African American romance author to make bestseller lists in the late 1990s. From there, more women like Jenkins followed in her footsteps with their own historical romances, spawning an entire subgenre.

Beverly Jenkins writes of people from varying professions: sailors and soldiers, ranchers, doctors, abolitionists, and teachers. Jenkins’ books are known for their richly drawn characters and historical accuracy, and she has been praised for her representation of diverse characters and cultures.

“I stick to the actual history and include a bibliography at the end of each book for readers who may want to delve deeper into the subject matter. I always set my stories where Black people actually walked, worked, and lived.”


Twenty-nine years later, Beverly Jenkins is still writing romances. She has written over 50 books, including historical and contemporaries, plus young adult and inspirational books.

Out of the rising tide of romance novels written by Black writers, 1994 is known as the year when Black romance novels were born.

indigo beverly jenkins

The Pioneers of Black Historical Romance: How They Paved the Way

Other authors were writing historical romances in the 1990s that featured Black protagonists.

Shirley Hailstock wrote historical romances for Arabesque. Clara’s Promise, Hailstock’s first historical romance, won the Utah Romance Writers’ bestseller of the West Award. Her other novels made the bestseller lists and garnered awards, including the Romantic Times Award for Best Multicultural Romance.

Hailstock holds a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times Magazine, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York City Chapter of RWA, and an Emma Merritt Service Award from RWA. Her novel, Legacy, is listed as one of the 100 Greatest Romance Novels of the 20th Century.

Roberta Gayle is another famous author of African American historical romance novels. Her books for the Arabesque line included Sunshine and Shadows and Moonrise. Some other notable works include The Last Round-Up and Truly Yours. Gayle has a strong ability to bring history to life and create engaging, well-drawn characters.

Patricia Vaughn wrote for Pocket Books two wonderful romances featuring Black couples, 1996’s Murmur of Rain and 1998 Shadows on the Bayou. Her books featured captivating and well-rounded stories with deep, meaningful themes driven by tales of love, resilience, and strength.

Authors like Riley, Jenkins, Hailstock and the rest gave readers insight into a side of history that is not often discussed: the romances of people of African descent. These books have since set the tone for other writers to explore these topics from their unique perspectives by showing the beauty of multiculturalism. 

shadows on the bayou dominick finelle

Celebrating Black Historical Romance Today

As for contemporary African American historical romance writers, there are more today than were in the 1990s! Many of these authors are often on the bestseller lists and have garnered awards and acclaim.

Here are some names and books you may be interested in.

  • Vanessa Riley‘s multicultural Regency series, The Rogues and Remarkable Women trilogy features the novel’s Black heroines in a Regency setting. Her books include A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby; An Earl, the Girl, and the Toddler; and A Duke, the Spy, an Artist, and a Lie.
  • Alyssa Cole‘s diverse books include the historical romances An Extraordinary Union and An Unconditional Freedom.
  • Kianna Alexander‘s The Roses of Ridgeway historical series features African American heroines in the American West. These women find love with diverse heroes in Kissing the Captain, The Preacher’s Paramour, and Loving the Lawman.
  • Piper Huguley writes Inspirational Historial romances such as The Preacher’s PromiseA Virtuous Ruby, and Sweet Tea.
black romance

These are just a few talented African American historical romance writers working today. If you’re interested in this genre, there is an abundance of great books for you to enjoy!

Final Thoughts on Black Representation in Historical Romances

Throughout the twentieth century, there would be books telling love stories about Black characters. But it was in the 1990s that this Black romance really took off. The rise of these novels helped create a more inclusive landscape for romance.

As a predominantly African-American genre, depicting Black characters as protagonists and heroines in historical romance novels posed a unique challenge. Writers emphasized the details and personalities of their characters while also working to address the prejudices they faced in the past.

However, a remarkable aspect of these stories is how they helped normalize Black characters outside traumas related to slavery and oppression. Black historical romances offered an opportunity to celebrate the totality of the African-American experience in the past and love.

Your Opinion

Are you familiar with these authors and their works? If so, what are you are your favorite romances featuring Black protagonists? Who are your favorite Black romance authors?

Beverly Jenkins is undoubtedly up there for me, and I also love Patricia Vaughn’s books.

As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!

Comanche Love Song

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

book review historical romance
Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black
Rating: half-star
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Don Case
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black

The Book

This review is of Comanche Love Song a standalone Zebra Heartfire from June 1989 by Cheryl Black.

The Plot

Part 1 of Comanche Love Song

The book begins in Stonewall County, Texas, in 1855. A family is doing chores around their farm. Only one member of the family, a then-two-year-old girl, will be alive by the end of the day.

Fast forward 17 years. U.S. Army Major Walker Grayson meets up with a group of soldiers, who have a captive with them named Silver Dawn. She is the heroine of the book and is the girl–now an adult–mentioned earlier.

Silver Dawn has been raised by the Comanche since they took her from her family at age 2. She tries various times to escape Army custody but is always brought back.

Meanwhile, she and Walker are becoming attracted to each other, later becoming lovers–and married in Comanche tradition.

Soon after their first intimate encounter, Walker takes Silver Dawn to Fort Nacogdoches, Texas, where things don’t go well for her.

Part 2 of Comanche Love Song

The scene then shifts to Louisiana, where we meet Walker’s family. There is the father Samuel, stepmother Kathren, sister Amanda, brother Seth, and Camelia Rhinehart, Walker’s fiance.

Silver becomes aware of the Grayson family drama and starts a little of her own.

In the end, the Grayson family loses several members but gains others when Silver Dawn and Walker add to the family, and they have their Happily Ever After.


I made a vow to finish every book I purchased with my own money. That vow remains intact.


Where to begin? Comanche Love Song is a hot mess. First, Walker captures Silver Dawn, then has sex with her despite having a fiance back in Louisiana!

When Walker takes Silver to Louisiana, the book changes to a 1980’s soap opera with mostly unlikeable characters and storylines that are convoluted and beyond stupid.

There is no character development at all.

There is no romance between Silver Dawn and Walker. Basically, the only time they’re together is when they are having sex. They’re apart from each other for about 75% of the book. And most of that is due to Walker locking her up. Yes, a great way to show you love someone is to imprison them.


The love scenes between Silver Dawn and Walker are fairly mild, don’t generate any heat, and are not erotic.


Assault, battery, shooting, and killing all take place during Comanche Love Song. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Comanche Love Song

Comanche Love Song by Cheryl Black has now passed Eugenia’s Embrace by Cassie Edwards as the worst book I’ve ever read.

At least Eugenia’s Embrace had sex scenes going for it. Ms. Black’s book has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’d give this zero stars if I could.

.5 Star

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.2



Though her skin was milky white, lovely Silver Dawn never thought she was anything less than all Comanche. And when she first set eyes on the despicable Major Walker Grayson, the savage beauty could only hate the man who was out to kill her red-skinned grandfather. Yet somehow his green eyes made her pulse hammer with excitement, his rock hard frame made her yearn for his loving touch. And even as her mind vowed to stab the treacherous paleface, her body swore her total surrender!


If the ambitious Major Grayson could kill the infamous Horse Back, he’d be assured of an important position back East. Then he captured the Indian chief’s “daughter”, the wild, spirited Silver Dawn, and Walker calculated he’d earn more prestige by returning the white squaw to civilization. But as the hot-blooded officer struggled to tame her, primal lust made him forget his career. Now all that mattered was dominating her each day, fulfilling her each night, and forever falling under the spell of her… COMANCHE LOVE SONG

passions paradise

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton

historical romance review
Passion's Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1981
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Bodice Ripper, Historical Romance
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton


The Book

Passion’s Paradise by Sonya T. Pelton is a wonderfully terrible book published by Zebra in its early years. The cover warns you; it’s dark and dreary, done in deep blues and white, with the wrong hair color for the hero and a ship about to sink in the ocean that shouts: “Disaster looms ahead!”

I got this book in one of those e-bay lots, it was a freebie that the seller was perhaps too embarrassed to mention and only too glad to get rid of, with no back cover (no worries, I printed out the book blurb and taped it to the back) and garnished with red stamps from Arlene’s Book House & Paperback Exchange in Sweetwater, Texas. Now it lay in my Yankee hands, ready to thrill me with its awfulness.

Lying together upon the crest, their two profiles met, silhouetted as one against the clouds’ pink lattice. Here the sun shone softly, and the thrushes and cardinals and mockingbirds cooed love songs sang of twilight nigh, and the nascent magnolia flowers bloomed fragrantly…


The Plot of Passion’s Paradise

Captain Ty, or Tyrone, the supposed hero of Passion’s Paradise is a pirate, a slaver, a whoremonger, a politician–but I repeat myself.

Tyrone captures the ship that bears Angel Sherwood and her family from England to America. His Pa told him there was a special package on board and Ty was to take it. Ty and Pa had an agreement that Ty would marry when Pa found a woman worthy of his son and–who the hell cares, is the plot important? Not to the author, so you shouldn’t care either! Random events occur in the book, story-lines are dropped and nothing makes sense.

There is a mysterious murder… Is Ty the killer? Who knows? Who cares?

There is another murder. Is Ty the killer? Well, this time yes, but again, who cares?

Angel runs away from Tyrone about four times in a row but keeps getting caught. The final time she flees, she leaves her severely mentally-unbalanced mother behind and promises to retrieve her. Of course, the only person Angel can trust to care for Mama is Tyrone’s evil ex-mistress. Mama goes missing. A year passes by, and Angel is concerned, but she’s had so much on her mind that she hasn’t had time to search.

You see Ty’s penis keeps taunting her in those tight pants he wears and a girl can’t think straight with that anteater staring at her.

Stupid Big Misunderstandings & Clichés Abound

This book is filled with stupid “big misunderstandings” and really random, unnecessary secrets. For 200 pages the big mystery of the book is Angel’s first name. There’s no reason for her to hide it. I think it’s just so the author could have Tyrone call the heroine “My mysterious Angel” without him knowing that was really her name. Lame.

Ty’s last name is a secret. Who is Ty’s father? Is Tyrone married? What is the secret of Cresthaven plantation? Where did Angel’s hymen go if she really was a virgin? (It blew up in the fire. Really, it did.)

Don’t expect any PC, this book is raw. A Chinese prostitute does her best at a Mickey Rooney Breakfast at Tiffany’s impression. Ty has slaves and whips them bloody. He takes what he wants from Angel (her love pudding) and doesn’t ask permission.

But oh, he’s a misunderstood devil. There’s depth to Capt. Ty, and a heart that yearns for love. You see he had a rough childhood because his mother was a slut, or something like that.

Final Analysis of Passion’s Paradise

Passion’s Paradise is a cliché-ridden calamity. Even so, it was oddly entertaining, like a terrible movie you watch just to shout inanities at the screen. Plus, I can’t hate a book with such craptastic dialogue as:

Ellen (a prostitute): “You know I used to enjoy all kinds of men before Captain Ty came along. That tawny-haired devil made me forget them all, with his lean body and bulging crotch! Shees! I’ve bedded down with more men than you could ever hope to meet in your lifetime.”

Angel: “But not with Captain Ty?”

Ellen: “Bitch. Take your clothes off!”

Apparently, this book was a multi-million seller putting Zebra on the map. And it didn’t even have a pretty cover!

What a mess. 3 itty-bitty stars for being so gloriously, wonderfully entertaining.

3 Stars


As the beautiful, fair-haired Angel Sherwood sailed from England to Louisiana, she sensed that her destiny flowed with the rough waves of the ocean. Frightened by the harsh sea, Angel prayed that perhaps, just perhaps, she would find happiness and romance in her new home.

But Angel’s fate changed course when she was kidnapped by the cruel, yet captivating pirate, Captain Ty. And even though her future was suddenly in the balance, Angel was strangely warmed by his manly touch. Her strong captor stirred in her a delcious pleasure, a burning fire that made her whole body tingle with precious thrills.

Captain Ty’s black heart was softened, too by her golden presence; she was an untouched treasure, full of charm, wit and innocense — a jewel that he feverishly desired. But rather than taint his savage and foreboding name, he kept his feelings hidden. First he had to be sure that her heart belonged to him–and then he would send her to PASSION’S PARADISE! 

angel's caress deana james franco

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James

book review historical romance
Angel's Caress by Deana James
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Franco Accornero
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Hunter-Gillard Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Civil War Romance, Romance with Rape Element, Forced Seduction
Pages: 447
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Angel’s Caress by Deana James


The Book and the Characters

This review is of Angel’s Caress, book #4 in the “Texas/ Hunter-Gillard” series by Deana James. (Zebra/KensingtonJuly 1989).

Heroine: Fair Eleanor-Christine “Ellie Crain,” 16. Black hair, golden eyes.

Hero: Cash Gillard. Dark blonde hair, brown eyes. Courier/soldier, Union Army. Rapist.

The Plot

Part I: There Came an Angel from the East

The book begins on a farm in Tennessee during the Civil War. Living on the farm are members of the Crain family. There is an unnamed man called Grandpaw; his daughter, Mahala; her stepdaughter Fair Eleanor-Christine ”Ellie” Crain; and Mahala’s biological children, two daughters, Mary Magdalene and Viola; and a brother, Jeremiah “Jere.”

Mahala’s husband–-and the children’s father–-Thomas Peyton, is off fighting for the Confederacy in the war. The family is forced out of their home by Union soldiers.

Among them is Cash Gillard, the hero of the book. Cash later rapes Ellie.

Part II: In Frost!

Upon discovering Ellie and Cash’s relationship, Mahala throws Ellie out of the Crain homestead. Ellie goes with Cash and becomes a laundress for the Union Army.

We also learn a bit about Cash’s background. He is the son of Alex Gillard, and the grandson of Caroline Fancy England Gillard and Hunter Gillard, from Deana James’ previous Zebra romance, Captive Angel.

Alex later appears, separately visiting both Cash and Ellie.

Part III: Out Fire!

Ellie returns home, and Cash is shot and wounded as the fighting in the war intensifies. He later comes to the Crain homestead, where Ellie nurses him back to health, much to the chagrin of Mahala, who orders him to leave.

Cash does, taking Ellie with him and they live… Happily one supposes.


The best part of Angel’s Caress is the last chapter, where some of the questions raised after Captive Angel are answered. The revelations are both surprising and interesting.


Unfortunately, this information is in chapter 28, which means to get to it, one has to go through 27 other chapters. And that is where the problems lie.

The book contains many elements I didn’t understand or like, such as paranormal elements. I can accept some paranormal elements in books, but the ones in Angel’s Caress are both hard to understand and accept for me.

The characters in the book fall into two categories: not interesting or unlikeable. And some, like Ellie and Cash, fall into both.

I was uncomfortable with Ellie falling in love with a “man” who raped her. However, I also understood it. In my personal and professional experience, people who grow up in dysfunctional homes–and Ellie’s home is definitely dysfunctional–will, in all likelihood, have at least one dysfunctional relationship with a non-family member at some point in their lives.

Cash is a rapist. Nothing more needs to be said about him.

There is no character development and the storylines–such as they are–are incredibly boring.


There are two “love” scenes post-Cash’s rape of Ellie. The scenes try to generate heat but fail.


Assault, battery, rape, shooting, and killings all occur during Angel’s Caress. The violence is mildly graphic.

Bottom Line on Angel’s Caress

The book Ms. James wrote prior to this, Captive Angel, was a Rolls-Royce book. This was entirely due to that book’s heroine, Caroline Fancy England Gillard. Angel’s Caress is a Ford Edsel.

The ONLY thing keeping this book above 1 star is the first half of chapter 28.


Settings: Tennessee, circa 1862.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist Hero. Underage heroine

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.5


Ellie looked like heaven. After seeing nothing but the blue-coated soldiers for months, sweet sixteen-year-old Ellie Crain was the sexiest sight virile Cash Gillard had ever set his battle-weary eyes on. And as a man unused to sensual deprivation, nothing could’ve kept the Yankee corporal away from the innocent farm girl’s ivory skin and youthful curves. Planning to love and leave the wench, he suppressed his tender feelings for her. But as he satisfied his desire, their fates were bound ever tighter with each kiss, each whisper, each caress.

Raised on a southern Tennessee farm, clever Ellie Crain was no stranger to the facts of life and she recognized the gleam in the Union officer’s eyes as pure animal lust. The untouched beauty steeled herself against the Northerner’s invasion and was shocked to feel his touch gentle, his embrace arousing. The inexperienced girl blossomed into a passionate woman who would fight to keep her first man. Cash had taken her against her will now she’d make him pay for making her respond with a lover’s heart and an Angel’s Caress.


Historical Romance Review: Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook


The Book

When a book begins with a typo, that’s not a good sign as Ecstasy’s Fire by Rosalyn Alsobrook does. On the back blurb, the heroine is identified as Victoria Connors. In the book, she’s named VIRGINIA Connors. Not a good beginning.

The Characters and Setup

Ecstasy’s Fire begins with VIRGINIA–not Victoria–Connors, applying for and getting a job as a private tutor for Daniel Pearson’s, daughter. Mary is recuperating from an accident and is homebound. This decision by Virginia is not a random one. Virginia has applied for this position in hopes of finding dirt on Daniel’s uncle, Caleb Pearson.

Virginia strongly believes cheated her grandparents out of their home. This belief has mostly been fed to Virginia by her late grandmother, Essie Henderson Elder. Virginia applied for this job as a way to force Daniel to give up Valley Oaks–by any means necessary. This is the Pearson estate which she believes belongs to her family.

The Plot of Ecstasy’s Fire

Part One

As the book plods on, Virginia and Mary bond with each other. Meanwhile, Virginia has two men chasing her. One man is William Haught, brother to Amanda Haught, Daniel’s “girlfriend”, who hates Mary, and vice versa. The other man is her old friend Mark Langford. He hopes for more than friendship between himself and Virginia. However, there is one man who Virginia wants to be caught by. That is–much to her horror–Daniel.

Several things happen quickly in succession. Daniel and Virginia have their first kiss–and their second and their third. This causes Virginia to start to feel something other than the hatred she started out feeling for Daniel.

Part Two

She also learns a little more about the accident that severely injured Mary. The same accident killed Mary’s mother, but there’s more to this story. (More on that later.) Virginia also gains access to Daniel’s library, hoping to find information to discredit Caleb.Iin this regard, she fails. She finds only vituperative letters written by her grandmother to Caleb, but no other evidence.

The day after attending a party at the Haught estate–during which William Haught tries to rape Virginia but is stopped by Daniel and his fist. Virginia gets very drunk, and Daniel proposes marriage to to her. This is not inspired by love. Daniel candidly tells Virginia that he is incapable of loving any woman anymore. This has to do with his late wife. Their marriage will be mostly for Mary’s benefit, although it will not be a platonic one. Daniel does want other children and expects Virginia to bear them for him. So she agrees.

Part Three

On the morning of their wedding, Virginia wants to tell Daniel that she can’t go through with the marriage, but seeing Mary so happy about it, Virginia agrees to go ahead with the ceremony. At the ceremony, almost everyone is happy except Amanda Haught, who wanted Daniel to marry her; Mark Langford, who has unrequited feelings of love for Virginia, and Virginia herself, who dreads the wedding night.

When Daniel doesn’t try to assert his “husbandly rights” for several days after their marriage, Virginia doesn’t know what to think. Also on their honeymoon, Virginia falls down an abandoned well and has to be rescued from that and the snake that resides in it by Daniel.

After being rescued, Daniel and Virginia make love. It is then that she tells him that she loves him. The response she gets isn’t what she expects. Daniel tells Virginia that he will never love her, because he doesn’t want to give her a chance to hurt him the way his first wife, and Mary’s mother, Josie Kilburn, did to him. This saddens Virginia, but it also makes her fearful of what he’ll do if/when he finds out why she came to see him in the first place and if/when he discovers why she married him, a primary reason of which was to get Valley Oaks, the home she believes Caleb Pearson cheated her grandparents out of.

Part Four

That fear becomes a reality soon after their return from their honeymoon. Daniel meets up with Mark Langford, and after a few drinks, Langford tells Daniel the truth about who Virginia really is, who she’s related to, and why she came back to East Texas. Naturally, Daniel is virulently angry over being played again–there are similarities in what Virginia did to what Josie, Daniel’s first wife, did to him–and they have a nasty argument.

Virginia tries to explain, but Daniel isn’t in a listening mood. He later shoves her so hard she hits her head against the foot of their bed in their bedroom. It’s not intentional, but it is done nonetheless. Later that night, William Haught shows up claiming that Daniel is with Amanda and so William has come to offer his “comfort” to Virginia, which she refuses.

Later, Virginia decides to visit Mattie Williams, Caleb Pearson’s former housekeeper, to try to get some dirt on what Caleb allegedly did to her grandparents. The truth, however, is far different than what she has been brought up to believe. The truth: Joseph Elder was a compulsive gambler who lost a lot of his money.

After being threatened with violence, Elder sold Caleb Valley Oaks. Caleb only bought the estate with the intent of selling it back to Elder when he got his affairs in order, which never happened. In exchange for buying Valley Oaks, Elder made Caleb promise never to tell anyone the reasons why the transaction took place.

Part Five

Caleb also provided the family with food and other necessities when needed, which Elder claimed he got from working odd jobs. Elder also led everyone, especially Essie Elder, to believe that Caleb cheated him out of Valley Oaks, which is decidedly not the truth. Virginia doesn’t want to believe Mattie’s story but eventually has to face the truth of the matter.

Virginia hopes to be able to talk to Daniel and apologize and try to make amends with him. Daniel, however, has no interest in doing so, informing her by letter that he wants her out of Valley Oaks and never wants to see her nor will he let Mary see her again. Virginia refuses to leave until she sees Daniel and speaks to him and tries to explain her behavior, and she’s less inclined to leave once she discovers she’s pregnant with his baby.

We also learn the truth about what happened with Daniel’s first wife, Josie Kilburn. Josie only married Daniel to get back at one of her many lovers who left her for another man. After Mary was born, Josie decided she didn’t like being married and left Daniel for one of those former lovers. When Caleb died, Josie demanded large sums of money from Daniel, kidnapping Mary as part of her plan to get the money. While Josie held Mary captive, they were in a carriage accident which killed Josie instantly and severely injured Mary.

Conclusion of Ecstasy’s Fire

The book then ends somewhat lamely. Virginia refuses to leave Valley Oaks, and later, Daniel has an accident and develops amnesia. Virginia then takes care of him and conveniently takes advantage of the fact that he doesn’t remember what he was so enraged with her about.

The book ends with Amanda showing up and jarring Daniel’s memory again. Afterward, Daniel apologizes to Virginia for being mean to HER, then she apologizes for lying to him, tells him about the baby she’s carrying and they have their happily ever after. Kind of a lame ending.


Ecstasy’s Fire is really the first book I’ve read by Mrs. Alsobrook where there is even an effort to get into any emotional depth.


…But that is somewhat ruined by the fact that to get there, Mrs. Alsobrook had to base it on lies, foolish pride, and ego. Virginia is a cross character. sometimes I like her, but I hated what she started as. Daniel becomes less likable when he shoves Virginia and she hits her head.


Mrs. Alsobrook’s love scenes are reminiscent of old Harlequin Romance novels from the ’70s; they’re almost as cold as the location where I live: the Northeast. And, as always, Mrs. Alsobrook uses the EXACT same phrase in a love scene in all of her books.


William Haught tries to rape Virginia and is stopped by Daniel. Later, Daniel threatens to strangle Virginia before he shoves her into the bed. That’s the extent of the violence.

Bottom Line on Ecstasy’s Fire

Ecstasy’s Fire was another slow, laconic, book by Rosalyn Alsobrook that fails to fulfill any potential it had. It’s becoming a broken record, isn’t it?

3.5 Stars


Victoria Connors had returned to Valley Oaks for only one reason — to get back her land. And if it meant working for the incredibly handsome new owner to reclaim it, then she would. But she would not allow the dark-haired devil to work his magic on her. His deep blue eyes would not trap her in their depths, nor would his strong, muscular body lure her to his bed. And even though his kisses had made her fall deeper under his spell, she would not let him conquer her….

Daniel Pearson had been fooled once by love and vowed never to give any woman the power to betray him again. Yet the beautiful, brown-eyed angel with her sweet, honeyed lips and her soft, pliant body made him hungry with desire. Despite her resistance, Daniel wanted her more than he had ever wanted any woman. He was determined to take the unwilling beauty to the heights of passion, to show her the joys of being a woman, and to make her soul burn with Ecstasy’s Fire.

Rebel Vixen

Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom

historical romance review
Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1987
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Zebra Heartfire
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Civil War Romance
Pages: 445
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom


Love & Betrayal

The Beginning: Love

Rebel Vixen commences by diving right into the story.

As the Civil War rages throughout the United States, 21-year-old Savannah Russell is on a ship in the Caribbean, bringing food and medical supplies to her southern brethren, when she spots a body floating in the water. She urges the sailors to bring him aboard.

However, when they see the man’s Union buckle on his uniform, everyone but Savannah wants to throw the enemy back into the sea. Savannah is defiant and swears to help save the Yankee sailor, despite what anyone says, including her Uncle, who’s in charge.

Savannah takes the officer on land and brings him to an inn. With a doctor’s aid, she helps him recover, saving his injured arm from amputation. She is instantly attracted to the blond-haired Lt. Commander named Skyler Reade. He, in turn, falls madly for the woman who saved his life.

Upon a tropical beach, Savannah and Skyler exchange their words of love, promising to be together forever.

The Beginning: Betrayal

As they begin to make love, an explosion shatters the silence. In horror, Savannah realizes that the Union army has taken her Uncle’s ship. Skyler tells her that the ship was loaded with weapons and ammunition, not medicine and supplies, and as a Union soldier, he had a responsibility to report it.

He vows his love for Savannah as she sees that every man on board, including her uncle, is now a prisoner of war. Savannah lashes out at Skyler, reinjuring his arm, and flees in terror, declaring her eternal hatred.

The Book: Rebel Vixen

Thus begins one of my all-time favorite romance novels, Rebel Vixen by Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon).

Yes, it’s a cheesy-looking Zebra Heartfire with a bosomy-clinch cover and cornball title. It must be read to be fully appreciated.

The scope is grand, spanning years across the American North and South, with war, death, love, and birth. This “bodice-ripper lite” was so well written and emotional that it made me cry tears of sadness and joy.

Seriously, Rebel Vixen is one of the best books I’ve read.

Not surprising, as Dana Ransom’s Zebras are almost all among my favorites, along with the great Deana James and, to a lesser extent, Penelope Neri.

The Plot: The American Civil War


Savannah is the oldest daughter of three children. Her father was a casualty of war, her brother is off fighting, and now with her uncle imprisoned, she finds herself burdened as the head of the family with an enormity of responsibilities on her shoulders.

Unconventionally beautiful, she has no time for gaiety as the war rages on, destroying everything she ever knew. Saving Skyler was instinctive, as she deeply values human life. She has the weight of the world upon her, and despite her recalcitrance, Skyler is her one bright spot in the darkness.


A Man Without Purpose

Skyler Reade has no real purpose in life, bouncing aimlessly along from adventure to adventure. As the middle son of an upper-crust Philadelphia family, he’s sort of flitting along in life when the war starts.

His father is a respected doctor, his older brother is settled down with a family and fighting for the Union, and even Skyler’s wayward younger brother seems to be following in the family’s footsteps of pursuing a medical degree.

Skyler has a “girlfriend” at home, not someone he feels serious about–although she absolutely does about him–who encourages him to pursue politics. To be a politician, he’ll have to have some military experience. But Skyler was not keen on fighting a war he cared nothing about. So he entered the Navy because he thought he’d see little battle action at sea.

A Genuinely Nice Guy

Although Skyler is a drifter suffering from the middle-child syndrome, he seeks to be virtuous. The main characteristic I adore about Skyler is that he is nice. I mean genuinely nice: a decent, caring, empathetic human being.

Yes, he is a bit domineering at times, but if 19th-century women weren’t 3rd wave feminists, you damn sure can’t expect the men to have been. He is relentless in pursuing Savannah, vowing to make her love him again. Most times, he’s generous and kind. Even so, other times, he can be demanding.

However, spoiler warning here: there is one bodice ripper-type scene.

A “forced seduction” occurs after Savannah taunts Skyler and tells him of her many lovers–a lie–for which he is instantly regretful and never repeats.

Skyler is kind to Savannah despite her shrewishness. He pursues Savannah across the North and South, confident that nothing could ever shatter their love.

Then again, maybe there is.

A Sensitive Subject Matter

As this Rebel Vixen is set during the US Civil War, slavery is a large part of the plot. I can understand that the sensitivity on this topic repels a lot of modern romance readers from this era. However, there’s no sugar-coating it. Savannah’s family owns plantations, and as such, they own slaves.

As far as Savannah’s views on slavery, like the war, it’s complicated. Ever since she was a child, Savannah’s father has allowed one slave to be freed at her request on her birthday. Although Savannah herself questions the righteousness of slavery, she will not betray her family, her state, and “The Cause.”

On the other hand, Skyler is aghast at the practice. He finds purpose in life through two motivations: to reobtain Savannah’s love and trust and fight for his nation until slavery is eliminated.

I adore the conclusion of this book as it’s reminiscent of the end of John Jakes’s mini-series North and South Part I and the scene with Lesley Anne Downs and Patrick Swayze. It always makes me chuckle. What the hell, that series was so good, so it’s ok with me that Ransom borrowed a bit from that ending.

“Why me? Why would you want me?” she asked in bewildered frustration.

“You–you make everything else so unimportant… I’ve never had much direction in my life, nothing I wanted to devote myself to until you held my hand and sat with me when I prayed I would die. Just wanting to hear your voice made me fight to get through the hell of each day. I loved you before I even saw your face.”

Final Analysis of Rebel Vixen

Rebel Vixen is a book I go back to and enjoy every few years. For me, it’s an old friend with reliable characters who go through tragic circumstances but come out of it united and secure in their love for each other.

I truly hope author Dana Ransom (aka Nancy Gideon) regains her rights to this book from Kensington and is able to republish it in digital format. It would be a shame for this romance to remain a hidden gem for only lovers of old paperbacks to discover.

If you’re in the mood for an old-school romance that skirts with being un-PC but doesn’t have an over-the-top-Alpha hero you’d want to hit in the head with a frying pan, I can’t recommend a better read than Rebel Vixen.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.9


When Savannah Russell spotted the lone survivor drifting among the shipwreck’s debris, nothing could have stopped her from rescuing him. Not even that she was sailing on a Confederate blockade runner while he wore the uniform of the Union Navy. As a spirited Southerner, she hated to help the enemy, but as a woman she could not let him die. So she nursed him herself, rejoicing as pain left his startling gray eyes and strength returned to his lean, muscular body. And before she had time to guard against the unwanted desire his gentle touch aroused in her, she had given her enemy more than her compassion …. she had given him her heart.

Skyler Reade felt more than gratitude for the raven-haired rebel who’d saved his life. Her courage had earned his boundless admiration; her beauty had sparked his limitless desire. She’d risked everything to help him and he knew that staying with her would only endanger them both. Still, he had to taste the beckoning sweetness of her lips, had to caress the ivory smoothness of her skin before he could leave her. Someday he would return to build a future with his seductive Savannah, but for tonight he could only give her the warmth of his embrace and the promise that she would always be his treasured, tantalizing REBEL VIXEN.

yankee mistress

Historical Romance Review: Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow


Black-Hearted Captain

When lovely abolitionist Selene Sprague overheard secret Confederate strategy, the spiriited miss knew right then and there her duty was to inform the Union army. But as she galloped off into the inky night, cunning Rebel officer Wade Kinsolving reined in her horse and managed to lock Selene in his arms until she revealed her scheme. Refusing to admit to the pleasure of his embrace, the patriotic wench swore she’d undermine the traitor’s plans—even if it meant pretending ecstasy with each kiss they shared.

Busybody Beauty

Captain Wade Kinsolving figured the gorgeous eavesdropper was up to no good, but since the sumptuous spy was so enticing, he’d punish her his own way. His bedroll would be her prison, his company would be her penance, and his caresses would be her torture. The arrogant Southerner gloried in ruining each of the willful girl’s tricks and, craving the challenge of changing the hatred in her eyes to rapture, decided he’d make her his forever, as his own foxy, sassy Yankee mistress.



The Book

This review is of Yankee Mistress a standalone from May 1989 by Ashley Snow, published by Zebra/Kensington as a Zebra Heartfire.

The Plot

Yankee Mistress by Ashley Snow begins at an unspecified time during the Civil War. Selene Sprague, the heroine, is working in a tavern in Manassas, Virginia for her uncle, John Carpenter–both of her parents have passed. She overhears information about the Confederate war plans which will be helpful to the Union Army. Selene tries to get the plans to the Union forces but is stopped by Confederate Captain Wade Kinsolving, the hero of the book.

Wade later rapes Selene, who tries again to escape but is caught again by Wade.

After catching her again, Wade kidnaps Selene and takes her first to Norfolk, Virginia, and later to Barbados. (This is all to save his mission). He also marries Selene in a shipboard ceremony.

Selene and Wade are happy as a couple in Barbados. For a while, anyway. Their happiness ends when Simon Lazar, a contemporary of Selene’s from Virginia, arrives. Later, Lazar and Selene head to London. Wade soon arrives in London, and he and Selene reunite and have sex. He also achieves part of his mission, or so he thinks. Selene leaves London after being brutally assaulted by Lazar and killing him.

Selene returns to Virginia to search for Wade. Their first reunion doesn’t go well, but eventually, they reconcile.

In the end, Wade kills Lazar, who miraculously survived his attempted killing by Selene, and she and Wade have their Happily Ever After.


There is one good sex scene in the book. Beyond that…


Wade is a 2x rapist, an emotional, mental, and physical abuser. He is, to put it simply, a human piece of fecal matter.

While I can give Selene some credit for her strength in nursing the wounded and dead during the Civil War, and I can allow that she has little control over what happens to her due to the fact that she has no money, I can criticize her for her decision to fall in love with an individual who abuses her and treats her poorly throughout the book, which I found extraordinarily stupid. There is zero character development and no romance at all between Selene and Wade. None of the characters in the book are remotely likable.


As mentioned, there is one good sex scene. There are others, but they don’t approach a decent level.


As mentioned, Wade rapes Selene twice. She is also raped a third time by a peer of the realm. There are other scenes of assault, battery, wounded soldiers, and killings. The violence other than the rapes is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Yankee Mistress

I never thought I would read a book worse than Cassie Edwards’ dreadful, Eugenia’s Embrace. With Yankee Mistress, Ashley Snow has proven me sadly wrong.

0 stars.

Tropes: Civil War. Historical Romance. Rapist “Hero”.

0.5 Stars

captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

historical romance review
Captive Angel by Deana James
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1988
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical
Book Series: Gillard-Macpherson #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 511
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James


The Book

The cover of Deana JamesCaptive Angel includes a quote from Johanna Lindsey that states this book is: “Delightfully different, emotionally involving, and impossible to put down.”

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

How do I evaluate this amazing journey through a super-resilient woman’s incredible 19th-century life?

I must tell it all, so this review is pure spoilers.

By all rights, Deana James’ Captive Angel is the kind of romance I should toss into a blazing fire while gleefully cheering: “Burn, book, burn! Bad, bad book!”

Perhaps it helped that I knew exactly what I was getting into before I started. Plus, having previously a few of James’ books, I knew Captive Angel couldn’t be that horrible. James was one of the finest authors to have come out of Kensington’s Zebra imprint.

The Set-Up and the Characters

Captive Angel surpassed my expectations. It stars one of the greatest romance heroines ever, paired with one of the most piggish, most oblivious, POS heroes I’ve ever come across in an old-school historical (other than Regan Van Der Rhys from Fern Michaels‘ Captive Series.

Hunter Gillard’s not a crazed protagonist like Sean Culhane (Stormfire) or Duke Domenico (The Silver Devil) because he’s not super-obsessed over his woman (until the middle-end). He’s just a selfish prick. It’s all about him.

On one hand, we have a Caroline, who’s in my “Greatest Heroine” hall of fame, while the hero is relegated to the “Jerky Pig” hall of shame. That list is reserved for only the most porcine of Romancelandia’s leading men.

Caroline, or Fancy as she prefers, has a fantastic character arc. She starts down in the dumps: “Woe is me, I’m depressed, mourning for my dead child. I’m fat, and my husband doesn’t love me anymore. Sure, he’ll bang me something fierce, but it’s not only me who’s getting his love!”

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

Caroline and Hunter Gillard have been married for ten years. Their baby daughter died some years earlier. They still have a young son, but Caroline’s fallen into a deep depression, as she cannot have any more children.

Naturally, she’s let herself go. Caroline has gained a few (or more) pounds. Even so, her lusty husband doesn’t mind giving her a good porking. Hunter does hate her crying, how she wallows in self-pity, and oh, her refusal to worship him and treat him like the king he is.

So Hunter has other things on his mind. He’s a seaman by nature and despises being tied to his wife’s plantation, “England’s Fancy” with the responsibilities it entails. He loathes how mopey Fancy is. Often he leaves for long instances.

Caroline’s no longer the same beautiful woman who caught Hunter’s eye at a ball. She’s dumpy and fat now, even if that doesn’t stop Hunter from plowing her furrows every so often.

Life for Fancy isn’t great and it’s about to get worse.

Her plantation is not producing as it should, despite her husband providing fertilizer, as he’s nothing but excrement.

For a horrible truth comes to light. Hunter has many lovers, including one young miss he’s especially keen on. Worse yet, the mistress is pregnant!

Hunter resolves he’s had enough of Fancy. He decides to sail to Europe with his no-longer-a-virgin of a paramour. Even crueler, he takes his and Fancy’s son, Alex, with them.

As for Caroline? Well, kiddo, it’s been fun, but see ya!

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

One final blow is to come. Hunter leaves Fancy penniless, their bank accounts wiped empty. All that Fancy has is her run-down plantation.

If not for Holy Dulcibella, the servant who raised her from infancy, Caroline would be alone in the world.

There is also her plantation’s overseer, to help. Fancy should have had a fling with him. But she had no mind for men, just for “England’s Fancy.” With her overseer & Dulcibella, Caroline engages in back-breaking labor to keep her plantation up and running.

At long last, when it seems Caroline’s hard work will bring a good harvest, a terrible storm comes. It wipes out the crops, utterly ruining her.

Caroline can fall no lower. Does give up? No! She is determined to make her way, somehow.

For the first time in Caroline’s life, she has nothing. Like Janis Joplin sang (or was it Kris Kristofferson?) “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Fancy is free.

The frightened, pampered child-woman who had been deserted by her husband ten months ago was gone forever. In her place stood a self-confident, independet creature who would not hesitate to dare the devil.

A Light in The Darkness

Certain revelations come to light. Holy Dulcibella is not a slave but a free servant. She discloses to Fancy that she was Fancy’s grandfather’s lover and secret wife.

He was a ship captain who sailed the seas like Hunter. Dulcibella was a princess of Madagascar. They fell in love even though he had a wife and family in America. Dulcibella willingly gave up her royal life to live with her man as a second-best.

This shocks Fancy to her core.

It was refreshing that Deana James wrote Captive Angel with a sense of historical authenticity. It sounds odd, but I appreciated that Fancy Caroline was uncomfortable knowing this truth. Her prejudices made her real, not some manufactured idea of perfection.

Even though Holy Dulcibella was the only person who had Caroline’s back from day #1, who’d stuck with her through the worst, Caroline still saw Dulcibella as an “other.” Dulcieblla was “inferior” because of her race and station. Caroline was a real person of her time, filled with preconceptions.

Over time Caroline does get over it. Through their shared travails she sees Dulcibella not as a slave or servant but as family, calling her “grandmother.”

It takes time to unfold. Their relationship is one of genuine, selfless love. The most honest connection Caroline has with a person is not with her wayward husband, but with this great friend.

The Creep “Hero” Returns

Dulibella tells her about her grandfather’s secret treasure hidden off the coast of Africa. Caroline determines to find it.

She obtains a ship, captain, and crew who will sail with her across the world in search of the gold.

Ultimately, Hunter hears that Caroline is risking her life for a foolish idea of an impossible treasure. Without a care for her, he abandons his pregnant mistress to save his wife.

But Caroline doesn’t need saving! In fact, Hunter’s the one who gets captured, and she must rescue him. In the end, she lets Hunter think he saves her, to please his ego. She understands her husband’s nature now.

Hunter has never seen Caroline like this before, so confident in herself. It excites him to see this new woman of adventure. With the other woman long out of his mind, he attempts to seduce his wife.

As Caroline never stopped desiring Hunter, she engages with him eagerly. The makeup sex is steamier than ever before. The two reunite, promising to love one another forever.

The Thrilling Conclusion

And as for the treasure? Why it was lost in the seas, never to be found!

Hunter’s cast-off mistress gives birth. She goes away and leaves her baby with Hunter, to be raised by him and Caroline.

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

Be happy that the heroine is happy. She loves her husband. When the book ends Hunter promises to be on his best behavior. He still will go out to sea once every so often while Caroline raises her son and her husband’s lovechild as their own.

She will remain home and tend to their plantation. Hunter will be a good boy from here on out. He enjoys plowing Fancy’s fields now a lot more now than he ever did before.

However, Fancy’s no dummy. Once that trust is lost, it can never wholly be regained, no matter how much love exists. Fancy is determined her love will last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

Namely, that the treasure wasn’t a legend and it wasn’t lost. Caroline sneakily hid it from Hunter. Maybe she’ll let him know about it. Maybe not.

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

Why did I love Captive Angel? It is not really a romance, or more correctly, it’s more than just romance. It’s women’s fiction, an action-adventure saga, historical fiction, and a character study, too.

You may read it and hate it and I wouldn’t blame anyone for that. This is a romance novel, so one expects certain rules in romance. Here, Deana James broke the rules. Despite me being a stickler for them, James turned the tables to create a story I loved. I was drawn to it like a cat to a crinkly toy ball covered in catnip.

Deana James’ Captive Angel was an emotional, turbulent read with a heroine whose identity was forged in fire.

Maybe her love story is not an all-time great. But her life story was.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


Abandoned, penniless, and suddenly responsible for the biggest tobacco plantation in Colleton County, distraught Caroline Gillard had no time to dissolve into tears. The previously pampered, indulged mistress of the South Carolina estate had to learn fast how to manage her workers, her money — and her broken heart. By day the willowy redhead labored to exhaustion beside her slaves … but each night left her restless with longing for her wayward mate. Soon, though, her misery gave way to anger, and the determined woman knew that somehow she’d make him regret his betrayal until he begged her to take him back!

Handsome Hunter Gillard had been born to ride the everchanging sea, not to harvest and plant year in and year out. Tired of his commitments, the virile, hot-tempered captain meant to call his destiny his own like he had before he’d met his tantalizing Caroline. When his adventure was over, maybe he’d return to his patient, understanding wife. But when he learned she’d left him for parts unknown, the furious philanderer promised he’d track her down to teach her how to be Hunter’s loyal partner, his unquestioning concubine, his forgiving… Captive Angel.


Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins Through the Storm
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: LeVeq Family #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Civil War Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins


The Book

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins is a romance about a former slave finding love during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era with a man from a proud and established Louisiana family of Haitian descent.

I’ve only read one Beverly Jenkins romance, her first outing, Night Song, almost thirty years ago. I liked it but never picked up another book by this author and wanted to remedy that.

Through the Storm has gained high marks and positive reviews. For my part, I found it engaging, although I couldn’t help but think it needed tightening up in some areas.

The Set Up

Sable Fontaine is a slave of mixed European and African ancestry. At the beginning of Through the Storm, she is 29 years old when an elderly aunt reveals her bloodline secret. Sable is told that she is the descendent of African queens and two generations of slave owners.

Her current owner–and father–plans to sell her to a depraved man, known to be extremely brutal with slaves. Her aunt will not allow this.

The Plot

Through the Storm begins as Sable’s master is doomed to a fiery death as his home burns with him inside. Knowing she has to forge a place for herself, she flees to find sanctuary. On her travels, she meets Harriet Tubman, who tells Sable she has been waiting for her. Tubman guides Sable to a contraband camp, a haven for refugee slaves.

Sable meets Union soldier Raimond LeVeq, who wastes no time letting Sable know of his attraction to her. He’s supposed to be suave and debonair, but sometimes he came off as trying too hard. Sable rebuffs his advancements, quickly figuring out his number.

She works at the camp, does errands and chores, helping the men with letters and other duties. Nevertheless, Raimond is a charmer, and Sable finds herself falling under his allure in time.

However, the evil man who purchased Sable looms on the horizon, forcing Sable to flee yet again, this time further North. Raimond is left with no word why. What could have been love turns into mistrust and contempt.

Sable finds herself face to face with Raimond later on, this time under different circumstances. He needs to find a wife. Raimond’s mother is convinced that Sable is the woman for him. So he reluctantly finds himself committed to the woman who almost broke his heart.

Sable and Raimond reconnect, learning to trust and care for one another again. Still, they have their struggles. Raimond comes on hard, but Sable is no pushover. Raimond has a mistress, although he quickly casts her aside. And danger still looms on the horizon, with the crazed villain determined to have Sable.

Final Analysis of Through the Storm

Beverly Jenkin’s Through the Storm is a slightly uneven romance filled with multiple tropes and a hefty dose of history. I really wanted to love this but found myself skimming through some parts.

Through the Storm certainly does not merit an unfavorable rating, as I enjoyed many elements, but some of the negatives overshadowed them. The pacing is a bit off, as many events occur in one section, then nothing happens in others. Also, I could have done without some of the info-dumping “As you know Bob” dialogue.

Sable is a fantastic heroine, filled with grit and competence. Raimond is an “Alpha,” and he comes on quite intense at times. Raimond is nowhere as smooth as he thinks he is. However, I’m pleased to note that the love scenes are well-done and erotic in a very 1990s fashion.

The villain is a rather hateful beast, and I relished his comeuppance.

I appreciated that Through the Storm was no wallpaper romance. It was a genuine historical–or at least, one where historical events mattered.

All in all, I’m glad I read this one, but I think there are other romances by Jenkins that will be more suited to my tastes.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.3


Sable, a slave on the run to escape the cruel man she’s been sold to is forced to betray the charming Union officer Raimond LeVeq, who had romanced her and championed her.

Brought together again by fate and an arranged marriage, she must try and win the trust of LeVeq–the man she truly loves.

Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
shamles ecstasy

Historical Romance Review: Shameless Ecstasy by Thea Devine

Shameless Ecstasy, Thea Devine, Zebra, 1989, Cover Artist TBD


1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This review is of Shameless Ecstasy, a standalone from May 1989 by Thea Devine.

The Plot

The book takes place on Swany Island, Georgia. One of the residents there is Sarianna Broydon, the heroine of the book. Sarianna lives with her father, Rex, her stepmother Vesta, and Vesta’s daughter, Jeralee. The relationship between Rex and Sarianna is not a good one for many reasons. Stepping into this family drama is Cade Rensell, the hero of the book. Cade was born in Georgia, left, and has now returned, with some scores to settle.

As part of Cade’s revenge plan, he and Sarianna become lovers, who are caught by Vesta and Rex in a compromising position. Despite Rex’s objections, he agrees to let Sarianna and Cade marry.

Sarianna and Cade marry, despite Jeralee’s attempts to impede the process. Sarianna and Cade relocate to Savannah and begin their married life together. They are happy on one level, but there are many difficulties beneath the surface, and two above it: Vesta and Jeralee,

Soon, after Sarianna suffers a miscarriage and other issues, she and Cade separate. She goes to Charleston, South Carolina, to live with her late mother’s cousin. Cade follows her and tries to win her back. He’s not the only one following Sarianna to South Carolina; Vesta and Jeralee do as well, who come to visit and try to create problems for Sarianna. This time, they don’t succeed.

In the end, Vesta tries to kill Sarianna but is stopped by Cade. He and Sarianna reconcile and have their Happily Ever After.


The best part of this Southern Antebellum re-telling of Cinderella is Sarianna, who is subjected to various forms of emotional and mental cruelty throughout her life. The fact that she is still capable of being a loving person is a testament to her. The sex scenes are also very good for a late 1980’s mainstream romance novel.


Everything else!

To be more specific, the majority of the characters in Shameless Ecstasy are thoroughly unlikeable. The cruelty that Rex, Vesta, and Jeralee exert toward Sarianna also contains sleazy elements. Although Ms. Devine tries to sell the book as a love story, there is no real love between Cade and Sarianna. He wants her for revenge against Rex, he lusts after her, and even though he verbalizes the words “I love you” to Sarianna, Cade’s actions tell a completely different story.


As mentioned, the love scenes are pretty good. They’re mildly descriptive and fairly erotic.


Vesta tries to kill Sarianna by stabbing her. She wounds Sarianna, but the injuries are not life-threatening.

Bottom Line

The only ecstasy I felt after reading Shameless Ecstasy was the fact that it was finally over. 1.27 stars

Reviewed by Blue Falcon