Tag Archives: amnesia

Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of first four books Janelle Taylor’s in the “Ecstasy/Gray Eagle” series so far.

book review historical romance
Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle Series #4
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Colonial Era Romance
Pages: 496
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Brazen Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor


The Book

This review is of Brazen Ecstasy, book #4 in the Ecstasy/Gray Eagle Series by Kensington/ Zebra author Janelle Taylor.

The Plot

Alisha and Gray Eagle Separated Yet Again!

When Brazen Ecstasy begins, it has been five years since Alisha Williams and Oglala Lakota warrior Gray Eagle first met. Despite numerous hardships–many self-inflicted–they have welcomed a son, Bright Arrow. They are very much in love and happy.

Which–of course–means something will soon shatter their happiness. Two things, in fact.

The first incident is when American soldiers kidnap Bright Arrow in an effort to bring Gray Eagle to heel. This effort fails somewhat as Gray Eagle rescues his son. However, there is tragic news. During the rescue, Alisha was hit on the head, fell into a raging river, and got swept away.

Gray Eagle’s tribe believes she’s dead!

Fortunately–or not–Alisha is rescued by Brave Bear, her former Blackfoot suitor. But Alisha has suffered amnesia from the head injury. She doesn’t remember the last five years of her life.

brazen ecstasy

The Other Woman Makes Trouble

That creates many issues between her and Gray Eagle when he finally decides to search for her and brings her back to the Oglala camp.

Because while Alisha was with Brave Bear’s people, Leah Winston, a white slave with a strong resemblance to Alisha, set her eyes on Gray Eagle.

She does her best to take advantage of Alisha’s absence by ingratiating herself with Bright Arrow.

Then Leah attempts to seduce Gray Eagle– and almost succeeds. But despite the blatant evidence of physical attraction to her–if you know what I mean, and I think you do!–our hero ultimately rebuffs her advances.

For such acts of other-woman villainy, Leah is fated to die later on when trying to kill Alisha/Shalee.

Alisha’s amnesia–plus Leah’s taunts about her (non-existent) affair with Gray Eagle–exacerbates the rift between the two protagonists, who briefly separate–again.

Ah, but love wins out, and in time, the couple reconciles.

A secret is revealed. Gray Eagle and his warriors take their revenge upon the White soldiers for the previous attack. And for a while, happiness comes to Alisha and Gray Eagle.

The Upside

Mrs. Taylor is at her evocative, flowery, lyrical best in Brazen Ecstasy.

The characters are developed, and the emotional level is turned up to 11.

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The arguments that Alisha and Gray Eagle had with each other could have easily happened today, as in 1782–when the book is set. Or in 1983 when the Brazen Ecstasy was first published.


No matter how evil Leah was, that does not excuse Running Wolf, Gray Eagle’s father, for raping her.

During the quarrels Alisha and Gray Eagle have regarding Leah, his behavior comes across as very childish. Gray Eagle lacks any sympathy and understanding for Alisha’s trauma from her kidnapping.


very warm heat level

The love scenes in Brazen Ecstasy are a bit more graphic than in the previous books in the series. It’s still not erotica, but there’s a little more pepper in the soup here.


In addition to the aforementioned rape of Leah and the assault on Alisha, there are other scenes of assault, shootings, and other forms of violence. The violence is not as graphic as in the first book in the series, Savage Ecstasy.

Bottom Line on Brazen Ecstasy

Brazen Ecstasy is the best of Janelle Taylor’s first four books in the “Ecstasy/ Gray Eagle” series so far. (#1 Savage Ecstasy, #2 Defiant Ecstasy, and #3 Forbidden Ecstasy.)

It is not flawless, but it is very, very good.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.7


For four years, green-eyed Alisha Williams had been Princess Shalee, the cherished wife of the Oglala Chief Gray Eagle. Still their love was stronger than the surging white water of a snow-swollen stream and even more powerful then the fiery crimson sun that commanded the earth. But fate envied their perfect love and swept the stunning Alisha down a raging river and out of Gray Eagle’s life…

There was no way Gray Eagle could know that his love was alive when his empty teepee proved she was gone. But the daily torment of his lonely heart and the nightly agony of unfulfilled passion insisted that somehow she had survived destiny’s decree. He had rescued Alisha many times before — somehow he would find her once more. No river was too wide and no journey was too long to find his beloved, to share again their BRAZEN ECSTASY…

BRAZEN Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
wild island sands

Historical Romance Review: Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton

historical romance review
Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton
Rating: one-star
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 526
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton


The Book

This review is of Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton, a Zebra historical romance.

The Plot

Wild Island Sands opens with an explanation of Greek mythology, as the heroine’s name is Pandora–Pandora St. Ives to use her full nomenclature. Pandora lives in Hawaii with her aunt and uncle. Her parents passed away earlier.

Pandora will do anything to prevent being pushed into a loveless marriage. As a result, she flees to San Francisco, to live with her cousin, Cara Kalee. In California Pandora gets into an accident. Luckily, the houseman for Rogan Thorn saves her in time.

Rogan, a shipping magnate, owns his family’s company, Thorn Navigation. Rogan and Pandora are immediately attracted to each other. But as in most romance novels, there are barriers to their happiness.

Those barriers are:

  • Pandora’s amnesia from her accident
  • Cara, one of Rogan’s former mistresses
  • Rogan’s other paramours
  • Walter Riddock, Rogan’s professional and personal arch-rival
  • And perhaps most importantly, Rogan’s health issue

Rogan kidnaps Pandora to prevent her from marrying Riddock and forces her to marry him.

Later, Pandora moves back to Hawaii. Rogan follows her. They ignore each other, argue, and have sex.

This same pattern follows them back to San Francisco, where Pandora gives birth to their daughter, and she and Rogan have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

Well… I finished the book!

Beyond that…

The Downside

Like many of Ms. Pelton’s books, Wild Island Sands is a hot mess of tens of thousands of words–over 526 pages–yet saying absolutely nothing.

I felt no connection to either Pandora or Rogan, nor do they have any chemistry with each other. Ms. Pelton tries to manipulate her readers’ emotions with a storyline about how Rogan’s life is affected by his parents’ neglect but goes nowhere with this.

There is a mystery that is so poorly written that it doesn’t matter at all when it’s solved.

Characters are introduced, then abandoned, or brought in and written about but never go anywhere.


There are a few scenes, which like the rest of the book, are barely noticeable.


It is implied that Pandora killed a man. This is not true, but she has horrific flashbacks about the murder.

Bottom Line on Wild Island Sands

Sonya T. Pelton has written only one book that I liked: Dakota Flame.

Beyond that, everything I’ve read by her has been total dreck like Wild Island Sands. They’ve always been destined straight for the garbage bin after I’ve wasted days of my life reading them.

1 Star

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.6


CATEGORIES:, , , , , , ,


The sultry breezes tossed the island palms and caressed the aqua waves. And as beautiful, copper-haired Pandora walked the endless beach all she could think about was the handsome, arrogant sea captain, Rogan Thorn. His kiss was the first taste of desire she had ever known. Now she wanted Rogan with a feverish longing that scaled her heart and flames between her long silken limbs. But he was a wealthy, womanizing shipping tycoon, whose only love was the sea…

Hawaii was a paradise of romance and love–but Rogan believed in neither. He was tired of conniving, clinging women who were only after his money. Then he met Pandora, the ravishing Hawaiian goddess whose eyes sparkled like sapphires, whose lips tasted like sweet cherries, whose body was made for pleasure. He thought that if he bedded her, he’d get her out of his mind–but once he took her innocence he was branded by the joys of rapture on the WILD ISLAND SANDS.

Wild Island Sands by Sonya T. Pelton
Skye O'Malley bertrice small

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

historical romance review
Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1980
Illustrator: Glenn Madison
Book Series: The O'Malley Saga #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: Erotic Romance, Harem Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Tudor Era Romance
Pages: 480
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Skye O’Malley by Bertrice Small

Spoiler Alert ⚠

Skye O’Malley: The Most Perfect Heroine Ever?

Oh, never, ever was there a lass as lovely as Bertrice Small‘s Skye O’Malley.

With raven locks, eyes as blue-green as the Kerry sea, tiny waist, impossibly long legs for such a wee girl, pert boobies, and a fantastical elastic vagina that bounces back to its teen glory no matter how many kids she births (she must’ve done her Kegels), Skye is the most beautiful, most desirable, most enchanting, the “bestest ever!”

The Plot

Any man who looks upon her nubile beauty will be inflicted with priapism.

The sole cure is a ticket of the old in and out of Skye’s mossy cavern of passion. Her weeping honey-oven. Her juicy love-grotto, as it were. Yup, only the cringiest, the purplest of euphemisms are here.

The vintage “Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Small takes us across the seas and nations to experience the highs and lows–but mostly orgasmic highs–of Skye’s life.

Women, be they the female pirate Grace O’Malley or the Queen of England herself, Queen Bee, are intimidated by her beauty and her fiery, passionate nature!

And men… Well, they all want to delve their pulsing lances into her moist, dewy petaled sheath.

But though Skye had learned the womanly arts she had not become a biddable female. Not Skye O’Malley!

Hero #1

Not one hero will do for our eponymous goddess of a heroine, Skye O’Malley. She’s too hot and needs a lot of thick hose to put out her fires!

The daughter of an Irish laird/pirate named Dubhdara, Skye is secretly in love with Niall, a powerful lord’s son. Alas, she is too saucy a wench and will never do for Niall. So the powers that be connive to wed Skye to their son, dumb Dom.

Then our hero does something that shocks everyone. On Skye’s wedding night, Niall stuns the revelers when he interrupts the festivities, points his finger at Skye, and says, “I claim droit de seigneur of this woman!” Which is so goofy, and like the film “Braveheart,” ahistorical, but just go with it.

Afterward, Skye is left to live with Dom, who’s got a giant wang, but only teases Skye with it, as he never lasts long. Besides, it’s incestuous hook-ups with his sister, Claire, he prefers.

Occasionally, Dom brings Skye into their little dalliances, although Skye is unwilling. She bares Dom’s 2 sons before he’s paralyzed and then eventually dies.

Niall, in the meantime, was married off to frigid, crazed Darragh, whom he eventually casts aside. She enters a nunnery, and now he and Skye are free to marry.

Hero #2

Uh-uh-uh, not so fast.

Our independent Skye demands to expand her father’s shipping business, and wouldn’t you know it, she gets shipwrecked and loses her memory.

Skye ends up in Algiers to have yet another true love affair, this time with the Grand Whoremaster of Algiers, Khaled-El-Bey. In Bertrice Small’s corner of Romancelandia, Irish-Welsh-Scottish-English women from the Middle Ages to post-Enlightenment were drawn to harems like sharp nails to magnets (ouch, bad metaphor).

Skye becomes one of his earthly houris, but strictly for his personal use, and not only that but his top bitch, her poon so fine, even the biggest pimp in all of pimpdom has to put a ring on it.

Niall is this time married off to a Spanish girl. The sweet, innocent virgin Niall seduces and then marries turns out to be the opposite of wife #1. She’s an insatiable nympho who becomes a clandestine whore because even with Niall giving it to her three times a night, it’s not enough.

Yada, yada, yada, Skye O’Malley gives Khaled El-Bey a daughter, but he croaks due to harem machinations and jealousy.

Skye, who’s so awesome she can always depend on the kindness of strangers to help her out, leaves for England, even though she still has amnesia.

Hero #3

There she is pursued by yet another true love, Geoffrey.

The blond, green-eyed arrogant Lord Southwood bets that he can seduce the mysterious Skye, who spurns him, then entices him, and makes him fall for her until… she’s his!

Oh, and he’s married. Skye doesn’t care.

His wife dies and eventually, Skye marries Geoffrey and is blissfully happy. Until that is, her memory returns when she sees Niall almost killed and screams out his name. But again, they’re married to different people, so they can’t be together.

I hated Geoffrey and was glad when he kicked the bucket.

He blamed his first wife for being unable to bear sons and threw it in her face that’s why he abandoned her. His perfect Skye would have no trouble giving him sons, though. Her vag is pH balanced to accept only the most macho of y-alleles (and only a rare x-swimmer).

She bears Geoffrey two boys, one who dies with his father during the pox.

The Villain & the Honestly Nice Guy

After Geoffrey dies, Skye is left unprotected, as the wicked Queen Bess forces Skye to be her beloved Earl of Lessessester, er–any-who, Lord Robert Dudley’s plaything.

A little bestiality is hinted at as the awful Robert uses his servants as sex slaves to be used by his friends.

But not Skye. Skye, he will abuse her for his own purposes and not in a fun way. Dudley rapes Skye until he’s had his use of her, and she’s left traumatized.

After her awful arrangement with Dudley, Skye shies away from men–no, not really.

She gets involved in some smuggling and shipping with another Lord, Adam De Marisco, an Englishman.

For some reason, my favorite of Skye’s men was Adam, a nice, laughing guy with a beard who made sex pleasurable for Skye again (which, to be fair, wasn’t that difficult of a task). He was like a big teddy bear, with no arrogance, no baggage, just pure fun. Adam soothes Skye’s hurts and gives her passion without entanglements.

Why she didn’t end up with him in this book is beyond me. But he’ll make a return in the series, and I like what happened with him in All the Sweet Tomorrows.

Back to #1

Remember that lusty wife Niall had? Well, now, she’s near-death because she’s suffering from the pox (not the pox that killed Geoffrey, the other pox). 

Not Niall, though. He’s STD-free because that lucky guy gets to be this book’s hero. Due to that, having sex with a woman who’s had sex with hundreds of men doesn’t even make it hurt when he pees. Not even a weird itching!

All things fall into place, so Niall and Skye find their way back into each other’s arms. The dull, boring hero, Niall, gets his beautiful, perfect, sexual, rich, fecund, brilliant (yeah, that last one was a stretch) Skye O’Malley.

Final Analysis of Skye O’Malley

After bearing her assorted lovers and husbands (6 if you’re counting; it seems like more only because, to be fair, Skye does engage in a lot of sex) 5 children (with more kids to come), her figure–and her moist cavern of love–remain tiny and petite, unchanging despite age, births or time.

This book is a romp. Not meant to be taken deeply because if you do, you might experience heartbreak.

I am so glad I read Skye O’Malley when I was well into my twenties. If I had read this as a teen, my poor little heart wouldn’t have been able to take it.

One woman having that many men she all truly loved and in such a short amount of time (relatively), in a romance novel!

Thankfully, with maturity comes the ability to relax and not take everything so seriously, and Skye O’Malley is not a book to be taken seriously.

It’s so bad, yet so good, yet so bad… which is the best of qualities in an old bodice ripper.

I didn’t love Bertrice Small’s magnum opus Skye O’Malley, but I had a ball reading it. And that’s all that matters.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.3


There has never been a woman like luscious, raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O’Malley. She is the courageous seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, and intelligent enough to win a battle of wits with Queen Elizabeth herself. Follow along as Skye O’Malley is swept up in a journey filled with romance and passion that takes her from glittering Ireland, to lush Algeria, to the heart of London in pursuit of a unique and eternal love…

merry christmas

Category Romance Review: Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy

Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy, Harlequin, 1997, Cover Artist TBD

Harlequin Presents #1923


4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Before I discuss this romance, let me address the unfortunate cover. I don’t care how awesome that free book bag was! The editors at Harlequin dropped the ball with this one! That vast yellow oval covers the main couple’s faces. You can’t see the heroine, the hero, or that this was Emma Darcy‘s 60th book.

Simply titled Merry Christmas, Emma Darcy’s category romance foray into the holidays may have you near tears. It may also have you wishing some evil villains get their well-deserved comeuppance. This book throws almost every trope at you but the metaphorical kitchen sink. It’s an angst-filled yet ultimately very happy Christmas Harlequin Presents.

Christmas Past

Many years ago, Meredith or Merry (Get it? Merry as in Merry Christmas?) Palmer had a summer romance with college student Nick Hamilton. Merry lied about her age, as she was technically a minor. She and Nick fell into what Meredith believed was true love. But Merry’s wicked stepmother caught wind of the relationship and informed the 21-year-old Nick he was dating a 16-year-old.

Summer came to an end. Nick went off to school, leaving Merry with a promise to reconnect every Christmas. He believed it was better they go their separate ways for the time being. They needed to both grow up a little before delving deeper into commitment.

As is usual in these cases, the affair left Merry pregnant. Merry, an orphan, lived only with her cruel stepmother. After her stepmom kicked her out, she had no one to turn to. So Merry went to Nick’s family, hoping she could get in contact with Nick. That’s when Nick’s (also) cruel sister gave her shocking news. Nick had been in a surfing accident, and his memory was affected so severely that he had no recollection of their “love.”

So Merry could just scat, thank you very much.

When Merry revealed her pregnancy as the reason she needed to talk with Nick, the sister pounced. She manipulated Merry into thinking it would be best if Merry gave her child up for adoption. The sister conspired to take the baby and raise her as her own child, never letting Nick know he was his “niece’s” true father.

Christmas Present

Over a decade later, the sister and her husband are dead. Their “daughter” Kimberly is under her uncle Nick’s guardianship, who has no idea of her true parentage. Kimberly’s not too keen on her uncle’s girlfriend and knows the feeling is mutual. She had heard enough secret conversations in the past to learn she was adopted. Consequently, she demands to meet her biological mother.

Somehow Nick is able to track Merry down. She’s now working as a successful florist. When Merry and Nick meet once more, alas, he doesn’t recognize her at all. Merry is devastated that he doesn’t recall their love affair, which meant so much to her. She’s been celibate and pining for him for over 12 years.

Merry is anxious to meet Kimberly. Nevertheless, she is devastated the love of her life doesn’t remember her.

Making the situation worse is that Nick has a mean fiancee who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Merry and Kimberly included.

Nick is drawn to Merry, as deep in his subconscious he knows that there’s a connection between them. When the fiancee gets kicked to the curb, Nick pursues Merry.

Kimberly, for her part, is delighted. She hated her uncle’s girlfriend. Nothing would please her more if her mother and her “uncle” were to fall in love.

Christmas Future

But keep in mind, Nick still doesn’t remember who Merry is. He wants to know more about Kimberly’s parentage. The story of Merry having a summer-fling with a young man who pledged to keep in touch but never did resonates with Nick.

Just who is Merry?

In the end, all is revealed. The truth behind Merry and Nick’s separation and Kimberly’s heritage comes to light. Nick is shocked by the depths of his sister’s machinations. It’s a good thing she’s dead. There’s no one left alive to be punished for her crimes. Rather than dwell on bitterness, Merry, Nick, and Kimberly focus on their newfound happiness and the future.

Final Analysis of Merry Christmas

The trio comes together as a family in the unity of Christmas. The ending of Merry Christmas was super sweet. It’s the kind of story that makes you believe in miracles.

I initially gave this 3 1/2 stars, added an extra 1/2 star for its wonderfully corny and uplifting Holiday spirit.

highland fire ireland

Historical Romance Review: Highland Fire by Ruth Langan

Highland Fire, Ruth Langan, Harlequin, 1991, George Jones cover art

Reviewed by Introvert Reader


The Book

Highland Fire is the third of Ruth Langan’s MacAlpin clan Highland series originally published as Harlequin Historicals.

Highland Sisters

The first novel was Highland Barbarian about sister Meredith finding love. Next was Highland Heather, the tale of middle sister Brenna and her English lord. Highland Fire tells the story of the youngest MacAlpin sister, Megan, and her romance with an Irish renegade, Kieran O’Mara.

Now that Megan’s two older sisters are off and married, the title of clan leader falls upon her dainty soldiers. Despite her delicate appearance, Megan is not a woman who shies from violence. She can wield a sword with the best of them.

Despite its title, this romance is not really set in the Scottish Highlands but in the green land of Ireland. Megan finds herself away from her home in a treacherous situation. Fortunately, Kieran O’Mara, a fierce Irish warrior, is there to save her life. Megan and Kieran form a strong relationship that turns into love. Unfortunately, a blow to the head has given Megan amnesia. If she doesn’t know who she is, how can she really love? And with Megan gone from her home, who’s there to act as leader of the MacAlpin clan?

Final Analysis of Highland Fire

Megan is a real tough cookie and a great heroine. Kieran is a match for her toughness. While the action-packed romance entertained me, perhaps there was a bit too much focus on the action. Not that I don’t enjoy a bit of gratuitous violence, but not at the cost of the love story.

Still, Highland Fire was an engaging read, although my favorite of the three sisters’ stories is Highland Heather. There were other books in the series, but lamentably, this is where I stopped. However, these romances were so pleasing that I might just finish the series one day.

3 1/2 Stars

sweet fire pino

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman

historical romance review
Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman


The Book

Sweet Fire by Jo Goodman is an action-packed romance filled with the requisite passion you’d look for in a Zebra Heartfire, but also adventure, murder mystery, and drama.

The Plot

Part One

Nathan and Brigham are former Australian prisoners & best frenemies. They now residein San Francisco, California.

The pair are competing for the hand of Miss Lydia Chadwick. She’s a wealthy heiress, pretty enough, but she pales in comparison to her more sophisticated and only slightly older young stepmother.

Of course, stepmom is the wicked type, and she’s secretly sexing it up with Brig.

Lydia is a woman of social conscience. She tries to help orphans and prostitutes better their lot in lives. Unfortunately, Lydia’s charity work gets dangerous when a killer is on the loose, murdering women on the streets.

The mystery was no mystery to me, as it’s telegraphed early on who the killer was. But I went with it, anyway, knowing the love story was the real centerpiece of this book.

Lydia lets Nathan and Brigham know she’s onto their game and is having none of it! She knows their flattery and claims of affection are false. She wants nothing to do with either of those fortune-seekers.

For Nathan, it’s not so false at all.

Part Two

Nathan is a devil, however. When circumstances lead to Lydia getting injured, it results in amnesia.

Nathan takes advantage of the situation, whisks Lydia far away, and marries her.

With Lydia’s wall of reserve removed, they embark on a passionate honeymoon.

One steamy love scene follows another as Nathan tries to cement a solid foundation if–or more likely, when–Lydia’s memory returns.

It does return, and so does the danger that lurked around her. Who can Lydia trust? Who can she love?

Final Analysis of Sweet Fire

There are multiple threads woven throughout Sweet Fire. Jo Goodman skillfully created a vast tapestry of characters that I cared about. Events led to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.

I’ve read Jo Goodman’s Sweet Fire twice so far. While the second time around wasn’t as exhilarating as the first, I still had a fun time. The 13-year-old me loved this book, while her 35-year-old counterpart enjoyed it very much.

Instead of rating this 5 stars as I would have when I first read it, I’m settling on a 4.5 rating for Sweet Fire.

4.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.4


Told all her life that she was plain, Lydia Chadwick knew no man would come courting because of her looks. So it was with some suspicion that the shy, sweet San Francisco heiress woke one morning with a tall, dark, dangerously handsome husband she couldn’t recall marrying. Lydia had lost her memory, and was desperate to discover if there was truly a love to remember. For as she looked at Nathan Hunter’s lean, muscular frame, she longed to abandon herself to the sensual stranger, and believe—if only for a little while—that the possessive passion in his smoky gray eyes was really for her.

Business and pleasure weren’t supposed to mix, but in this case Nathan Hunter was willing to make an exception. After all, it was in his best interests to keep his new bride’s mind off the secrets of her past. Making sure she didn’t remember her hatred for him turned out to be the easy part, as he initiated the innocent Lydia to womanhood. Not so easy was keeping sight of his own goals as Lydia’s sweet surrender wove a seductive spell around Nathan’s heart, arousing emotions he had thought forever buried…

uncommon vows

Historical Romance Review: Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney


Lady Meriel de Vere had deceived Adrian, Earl of Shropshire. Standing in the royal forest, her falcon perched on her arm, she boldly claimed to be a Welsh commoner, not a noble Norman. Lord Adrian beheld in wonder her raven-black hair and defiant blue eyes, heard her lies, and felt a dark, primeval passion rob him of all reason.

In one irrevocable move of fate, he ordered this fair beauty locked in his castle’s tower, vowing to entice her into surrendering her kisses with lips as hungry as his own. Never to give in, to die if she must, was Meriel’s vow … until one rash moment of impetuousness swept them both up in the royal battles of kings … and into a dangerous intrigue of sweet caresses … and fiery, all-consuming love. 



The Book

I’ve read Mary Jo Putney‘s Uncommon Vows several times and have always enjoyed the compelling romance. It’s a passionate medieval bodice ripper about obsessive love.

The Plot

Lord Adrian was set for a life of priesthood when a family death changes his destiny. Lady Meriel seemed fated for a life in a nunnery. But twists and turns made it, so neither of these things came to pass. Instead, Adrian becomes the Earl of Shropshire and Meriel renounces her calling to live under the protection of her brother, a knight.

One day Adrian comes upon Meriel in a field and believes her to be a commoner. Adrian becomes fixated on Meriel’s stunning beauty. He takes her captive. Meriel, who is half-Welsh, deeply values her freedom and cannot understand how Adrian supposedly loves her if he keeps her prisoner.

She refuses Adrian’s attempts to seduce her so forcefully. Meriel throws herself out a stained-glass window, causing her to lose her memory.

Without all the baggage hanging on, Adrian is able to woo Muriel into loving him. But will her feelings remain the same when her memory returns?

When writing about the Medieval Era, many authors avoid religion. They treat it as a third rail topic. Here, in Uncommon Vows, it’s used uniquely and romantically. Adrian and Muriel cite phrases from the Bible–the Song of Solomon–to each other during their lovemaking. It works beautifully and poetically to enhance this thrilling love story.

Final Analysis of Uncommon Vows

Uncommon Vows is a fantastic battle of wills between a hero who is obsessed with the heroine and will do anything to have her and a heroine who refuses to submit to her enemy. Putney’s writing is at her best here, although maybe it’s because she so often borrows from one of the most poetic books ever written!

PS: I wish Mary Jo Putney had written a sequel about Adrian’s illegitimate brother. Does anyone know if she ever did?

5 Stars


Category Romance Review: Crescendo by Charlotte Lamb

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

Harlequin Presents #451


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


5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Mysterious Beginning

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

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

The Philosophy of Love

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

He says to Marina:

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

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

In Crescendo, he isn’t.

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

No Love Without Change and Forgiveness

And here Marina observes:

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

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

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

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

Final Analysis of Crescendo

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

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

purity's ecstasy harry bennett

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Ecstasy by Janette Seymour


A novel of stolen embraces beneath blazing skies of war, of desire that sweeps across turbulent seas from England to Algiers, of a beautiful woman enslaved by lawless pirate corsairs…a woman bound by no law but endless love.



Youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth.


The Book

Like many other late 1970s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, John Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is fun. It’s a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.

The Setup

In the previous book Purity’s Passion, Purity survived the French Revolution, and then she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she overcame numerous obstacles before getting her man (namely other men).

The same is–more or less–the case with this sequel.

Here Mark is presumed dead after being captured by pirates. Purity knows in her heart Mark is still alive, and she will do whatever whomever she has to do to find him.

The Plot

Alas, Purity has to search for employment after her cruel in-laws kick her out to the street. In her own words, her “youth and beauty were her sole assets on Earth,” so what’s a girl to do? Put those assets to work!

And… oh… my… God…

Not even halfway through this romp, there were more trashy elements here than the previous five ‘rippers I’d read combined. There was lots of kidnapping, lots of rape-and/or-forced seduction, a female pirate, regular pirates, eunuchs, male virgins, lesbian orgies, multi-racial gang-bangs, whippings, bigamy, and amnesia…

Yet, it was so tastefully done—nary a peep of manhoods, members, or dewy petals here. There were plenty of water-based euphemisms to disguise the naughtiness. Still, it had plenty of titillation.

Purity is thrown into the ravishing clutches of the evil pirate/slave-trader called El Diablo, The Devil. He hides a shocking true identity. For he is the same minister she knew back home in England. Her local friend, Reverend Mauleverer, is the evil pirate/slave-trader, El Diablo.

Debauched by an older boy at Eton, ordained as a man of the cloth at Oxford, the mild-seeming minister reveals to Purity that it was he who kidnapped her husband. He who led the Corsair fleet in the Mediterranean. It was he who took Purity into slavery. And he who ravished her.

And Purity had no clue who he was? This girl is seriously lacking in IQ and EQ.

But as bad as it gets, no naughty escapades and no thrilling, charismatic villains will ever prevent Purity from being with her dull, bland, zero-personality-having soulmate!

Final Analysis on Purity’s Ecstasy

Purity’s Ecstasy was, for the most part, an entertaining romp. Although a romance, it was not!

I don’t know if I will read book #3 (Purity’s Shame) in the series. I assume more of the same will occur. Namely, that Purity and her beloved are separated by mysterious forces. She will have to use her gold-plated “poon” as currency to get back to zero-personality-having, dull-gray Mark.

Just like she always does.

3.5 Stars