Tag Archives: Australia

Miranda Lee

Tribute To Author Miranda Lee (aka Maureen Lee)

Miranda Lee

Along with Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee was my favorite writer from the Harlequin Presents line. Sadly, she passed away on November 13, 2021. She was 76.

Lee wrote sensually charged romances that promoted the modern woman in all her forms.

An Author From Down Under

Miranda Lee, whose real first name was Maureen, was born in 1945 in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest of four children.

Her older sister, Wendy, was also a successful writer for Harlequin under the pseudonym Emma Darcy. Wendy Brennan predeceased her sibling in 2020.

Lee’s father was a country school teacher and sportsman. Her mother was a dressmaker. At age 10, her father transferred to Gosford with the family. They moved to another rural town on the coast, much closer to the bustling Sydney metropolis.

Lee attended a convent school. She studied the cello and briefly pursued a career in classical music.

Following that, she moved to Sydney, where she studied computer tech. Lee worked as a programmer before marrying her dear husband, Tony Lee. Together, they had three daughters.

The family lived happily on a few acres of land with goats, horses, and greyhound dogs.

A Writer of Sexy Romances

While she raised her children at home, Lee craved an outlet for her creativity. Preferably one that would allow her to earn a living.

At her sister’s suggestion, she set her hand at writing romance novels. After ten years of trying, she eventually signed with the Mills & Boon/ Harlequin in 1988.

They released her first novel, After the Affair, Harlequin Presents #1362, in 1990 under her pseudonym of Miranda Lee.

after the affair

After a while, the Lee family had enough of country life. They relocated to the more lively Central Coast.

Tony assisted his wife’s thriving writing career by leaving his executive job. He would become a stay-at-home dad and partner. While Maureen wrote bestselling romances, Tony cooked, cleaned, and helped the girls with their assignments.

Lee’s sensual romances resonated with millions of readers. Her writing was provocative and daring.

In 1994, just a few years into her career, Harlequin Presents commissioned her to write a six-book series. This was only the second of its kind for the line. The series, called “Hearts of Fire,” had a tight nine-month deadline.

The first book, Seduction and Sacrifice, was officially released in July 1995. “Hearts of Fire” marked the love stories of six couples. The series had an overarching plotline about Gemma Smith’s search for her real parents.

Also taking center stage was her romance with the much older playwright, the controlling and tortured Nathan Whitmore. The ultra-wealthy Whitmore clan takes Gemma in as part of their family.

The cast of players included: Nathan’s actress ex-wife Lenore; the Whitmore patriarch Byron, Nathan’s adoptive father; Byron’s plump kid sister Ava; Byron’s wild daughter Jade; his reserved housekeeper Melanie; and the notorious cougar Celeste Campbell.

Like a glittering soap opera of old, the melodrama is high. Couples fall in love and secrets are uncovered.

My Miranda Lee Experience

The first Miranda Lee I discovered was Aunt Lucy’s Lover. Surprisingly, it was far more erotic than the usual books I’d encountered from the line.

After I picked up her “Hearts of Fire” series, I was hooked. The novels are a favorite guilty pleasure read.

Other Lee romances I enjoy are An Outrageous Proposal, Marriage in Jeopardy, Simply Irresistible, Marriage at a Price, and The Playboy in Pursuit.

Besides the steamy bedroom scenes–or whatever place the couple found to get it on–I appreciated her diverse heroines. They could be young and virginal or have typically active sex lives. They could be shy and reserved or spunky and spontaneous.

In contrast, most of her heroes were modern-minded–dare I say–beta males. But on occasion, she could create magnetic bad-boy heroes as well.

Lee’s personal favorite was Maddie’s Love Child, about an independent businesswoman with no desire for marriage. She plans to get pregnant by having a fleeting affair, only to have the tables turned on her when her lover demands to be part of his child’s life.

an outrageous proposal

Into the 21st Century

Each of Miranda’s novels contained her trademark style. They were quick-paced and passionate, with relatable characters and resonating storylines. Unsurprisingly, her ideology when writing romances was simple: “Don’t bore the reader!” If only all writers espoused that sentiment!

In 2002, Lee wrote a full-length follow-up to the “Hearts of Fire” series, titled aptly enough, Hearts of Fire. It told the parallel stories of Nathan’s daughter Kirsty finding love with her bodyguard and Gemma and Nathan trying to mend their rocky marriage on a cruise ship vacation.

hearts of fire

Lee would expand outside of the Presents line by writing a couple of romances for the more sexually charged Harlequin Blaze series.

Most of Lee’s books were set in Australia. Quite often in Sydney, as Lee considered it “the most beautiful, exciting, go-ahead city in the world.” She liked creating believable, fast-paced, and passionate stories that kept the reader engaged.

Besides entertaining millions of readers worldwide, what did she love most about writing? She once said, “Not having to travel or even dress when going to work.” Alternatively, she hated dealing with deadlines. I can relate!

Her advice for keeping a marriage hot: “Weekend getaways. Somehow, hotel rooms are sexier than home.” Her husband never forgot an anniversary, lavishing her with gifts.

Death and Legacy

Miranda Lee was one of Harlequin/Mills & Boon’s most influential and popular romance authors. She would author over 90 novels for them. Lee was a USA Today Bestseller, selling over 18 million copies worldwide. She delighted readers around the globe with her captivating love stories.

Lee’s editor, Carly Byrne, recalled: “Being Maureen’s editor for the past nine years has been a career highlight. Her books were my entry point into the wonderful world of Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and it was a dream come true to eventually work with her. She leaves an amazing legacy of alpha heroes, fiery heroines, and stunning Australian settings behind her that will have brought joy to so many readers and continue to do so through her incredible backlist of novels.”

Lee’s motto was “Life is what you make it.” By all accounts, she made a wonderful life for herself as a mother, wife, sister, animal lover, and accomplished writer of sizzling romances.

In 2020, she retired from writing for Harlequin/Mills & Boon. They published her final book, The Billionaire’s Cinderella Housekeeper, in March 2021.   

billioniare's cinderlla housekeeper

Her husband Tony, three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild are her surviving relatives. Millions of fans mourn her passing.

***

CATEGORIES: , , ,
arafura pirate

Category Romance Review: Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon

Arafura Pirate, Victoria Gordon, Harlequin, 1989, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance #3025

From the back of the book:

Marine biologist Jinx Beaumont had the sinking feeling her given name foretold the voyage ahead of her. She was jinxed, all right – stuck with Race Morgan, a merciless buccaneer of a captain. Studying shark life on the rough seas north of Australia kept Jinx busy enough. She definitely didn’t need the unnerving distraction of a human predator like roguish Captain Morgan! Jinx fought against the magnetic pull and her desire. She didn’t want to become one of Race’s romantic conquests. But her inner turmoil only increased when she felt challenged by a rival who was stunningly beautiful…and vicious.

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Book

Arafura Pirate by Victoria Gordon was one of the first adult romances I read, although from what I recall, this is more of a sweet and mild read, rather than a steamy one.

Arafura Pirate was set in coastal Australia. It starred a spunky heroine named Jinx, a blond, short-haired marine biologist who was tough and independent. She sets out with her team of fellow scientists to tag sharks in the ocean waters.

When she met the hero, Race Morgan (what a typical hero name that was!), she wore a shirt that said, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.” Race was a gruff ship captain who smoked, of course. But I remember when they first kissed, Jinx certainly wasn’t thinking of ashtrays!

Jinx and Race butt heads, but their attraction is too strong to deny.

The supporting cast on the ship was a fun crew, and I enjoyed the way they all bonded. There was some “other woman” scenario that wasn’t too dramatic, as it was obvious the captain’s eyes were on Jinx alone.

Final Analysis of Arafura Pirate

Simple and sweet, but I have fond memories of it. 3.24 stars

BORROW ARAFURA PIRATE FOR FREE AT INTERNET ARCHIVE.

asking for trouble ed tadiello

Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

category romance
Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Ed Tadiello
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1614
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Asking for Trouble by Miranda Lee

The Book

I was unfortunately underwhelmed with Asking for Trouble by Australian romance author Miranda Lee. This is unusual, as she’s a reliable favorite.

The problem with reading a much-beloved author almost 50 times is that their books begin to blend together. Plotlines get replayed. And replayed. And replayed.

The Plot

In Asking for Trouble, we see a familiar Lee storyline. We have a sexually inexperienced woman who ironically looks like sex on legs. Then there’s the hero who’s been burned in the past by a bad relationship and is unwilling to commit.

I don’t know if this is the fourth or fifth book where the couple watches the film Out of Africa on a romantic date.

After a few passionate nights of sex, the heroine Sirena gets pregnant, and that magically solves all their problems.

Of course, this is a Harlequin Presents, so it’s all par for the course. But when it’s the same story over and over, I wonder if I should take a break from reading a particular writer.

At least for a while, so that when I read a new book by them, I’d appreciate it more.

Final Analysis of Asking for Trouble

If I had read Asking For Trouble ten years ago, this would have been new and exciting to me, maybe meriting a 4-star rating.

This isn’t a bad book, but I’ve read at least a dozen better variations of the same exact story, just with different character names and descriptions. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around as previously.

Sorry, Asking For Trouble, it’s not you; it’s me.

Rating Report Card
Plot
2
Characters
3
Writing
3
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 2.6

***

CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , , ,

Synopsis

The real thing

Serina hasn’t seen Aaron Kingsley for eleven years, but she hasn’t forgotten him. When they meet again, it’s clear that what had begun as a schoolgirl crush has blossomed into a mature adult love. He shares the attraction, but all he’s offering her now is a temporary, going-nowhere affair.

What angers her most is that she’s tempted to agree. She’s not about to turn her back on a chance to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a man poisoned by a bad marriage hardly makes the perfect Prince Charming.

ASKING FOR TROUBLE by MIRANDA LEE
emma darcy

Belated Farewell to Emma Darcy

Farewell to a Talented Author

After writing my review for Emma Darcy’s Don’t Ask Me Now, I found out the sad news that she had passed away four months ago, on December 21, 2020, at the age of 80. Emma Darcy was a pseudonym for the husband-and-wife duo of Frank and Wendy Brennan.

Emma Darcy’s Life

Wendy was born in Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia, on November 28, 1940. She was a bright student and achieved success in college. She was the first female computer programmer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wendy and Frank married in 1964, and after having children, Wendy chose to leave the workforce and stay home to raise them. Frank was a businessman and a pharmacist.

Both were lovers of reading and they decided to join forces to write books together. Frank and Wendy wrote several books which they submitted to Mills and Boon. The legendary editor, Jacqui Bianchi, aka bodice-ripper author Teresa Denys, accepted their submissions but asked for them to be tweaked a bit before publication. In 1983, the couple released their first book as Emma Darcy, the Mills, and Boon/ Harlequin Presents Twisting Shadows.

Frank and Wendy wrote 45 books together before Frank passed away in 1995. After his death, Wendy continued to write as Emma Darcy, even branching out to write longer contemporary works and mysteries. In total, Darcy published over 100 romances, in addition to her other works.

Her family was filled with talent, as author Miranda Lee, Wendy’s younger sister also wrote for Mills and Boon/ Harlequin.

Emma Darcy was Australia’s greatest-selling romance novelist, with over 70 million copies of her books sold.

Wendy Brennan

Emma Darcy’s Books and Legacy

From 1993 to 2004 Emma ran the Emma Darcy Award Contest in association with the Romance Writers of Australia. This competition offered to provide financial support for writers who needed help to finish their manuscripts, and the winner’s work was automatically submitted to a Mills & Boon editor for possible publication.

Emma Darcy was a wonderful writer with an attentive eye for details and emotion. Many of her plots included love triangles or couples already in relationships who were facing adversity. Some of my favorites books of hers include these Harlequin Presents: Don’t Ask Me Now; Marriage Meltdown; The Shining of Love; Bride of Diamonds; and Fantasy.

I have added an Emma Darcy page to the Contemporary/ Category Romance Authors list that you can access at the header Menu under Authors or by clicking here:

dont ask me now emma darcy

Category Romance Review: Don’t Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

category romance
Don't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #984
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Don’t Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Emma DarcyDon’t Ask Me Now is an unusual Harlequin Presents. Prior to this book, I had seen a similar love-triangle plot done in the Temptation line, which was more sexually explicit. To see this kind of story in an HP was a bit surprising.

The Unusual Plot

What’s the big deal? Well, this romance features two heroes! And the heroine sleeps with both–although it’s not as tawdry as it sounds.

Many years ago, the heroine, Cathy, had a torrid love affair with Hero #1 Anthony Pryor-Jones of the Pryor-Joneses, part of Australia’s creme-de-la-creme. His family disapproved of her as they were a wealthy clan, while Cathy was a nobody.

Hero #1 was obsessed with her, and they had fantastic sex. But the class divide was too much. Finally, Cathy broke free from the toxic relationship and relocated to Sydney.

Years have passed, and Cathy’s made a new life for herself. She’s got a great friend and business partner, Tom. Tom, Hero #2, has always wanted Cathy. Unfortunately, he’s been friend-zoned for some time.

Just when he thinks he’s breaking through her icy reserve, they bump into Anthony at a ball.

Cathy sees him, and her feelings come rushing back. Anthony wants her again, too.

Tom isn’t going to stand by and let it happen. He demands Cathy see him as he really is: a man, a desirable one, who genuinely cares for her.

Moreover, Tom’s not willing to play second fiddle to her ardent feelings for Anthony. Even if Tom knew Cathy loved him, he’s unwilling to be next-best in bed. Tom is rightfully jealous of the passionate relationship she shared with Anthony.

Don’t ask me now, Tom,” Cathy says to him, as she can’t decide what her heart wants. But she must.

Who Gets the Girl in This Love Triangle?

I’m happy to say that it’s the nice guy who wins out in the end. Hero #1 turns out to be no hero at all.

Tom and Cathy get invited to a weekend party at the Pryor-Jones estate. As Anthony sees that Tom and Cathy are drawing closer and Cathy won’t give in to him, he tries to make Cathy jealous. How? By having sex with a young girl in a car in the driveway (what a stud!). Then when he sees Cathy fleeing his family’s party, he cruelly and abruptly abandons the crying, confused girl.

Cathy easily realizes it’s Tom she wants, needs, and–most importantly–desires.

The pair share a memorable scene where they make love and break the bed. This occurs at the party at Pryor-Jones estate, so everyone will see the results of Tom and Cathy’s wildly erotic night.

Final Analysis of Don’t Ask Me Now

Don’t Ask Me Now is a wonderfully unique Harlequin Presents. It was written to keep you guessing who’s the right man in this love triangle, then made you root for that right man to get the girl. I don’t even want to imagine how this kind of plot would be addressed in a modern HP/ Mills and Boon. If it has, I don’t want to know!

Emma Darcy executed this plot with perfection. Although I’ve enjoyed many of her books, like Fantasy, this one is special. It’s one of my most beloved Harlequin Presents; if not a top 10 pick, then top 20 for sure.

5 Stars

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

Synopsis

Only one man was offering the forever kind of love

Four years ago, Cathy Lawrence’s hopes of marrying Anthony Pryor-Jones had been humiliatingly crushed. The country girl from Armidale had been deemed no match for Anthony, whose family sat atop the social register in New South Wales–_ perhaps all Australia.

Since then she’d built a comfortable life for herself in Sydney, and had a steady relationship with Thomas Crawford–her business partner.

But when she bumped into Anthony at the charity ball, one brief look into those green eyes threw her emotions into churning conflict. He wanted her again. And Cathy wasn’t sure she had the willpower to resist the only man she thought she had ever loved. 

DON’T ASK ME NOW by EMMA DARCY
the millionaires mistress

Category Romance Review: The Millionaire’s Mistress by Miranda Lee

The Millionaire’s Mistress, Miranda Lee, Harlequin, 1998, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Presents #2026

From the back of the book:

Made to be his mistress!
Justine Montgomery desperately needed a loan, otherwise, she and her mom would be out on the street. So she steeled herself to ask handsome millionaire banker Marcus Osborne for help.
Marcus had no illusions about the Justines of this world. He could tell just by looking at her that she was a gold digger, out to target a rich husband. Just like his ex-wife…. But Marcus was also glad when Justine told him she’d do anything if he’d lend her money, because he desired her–badly. He’d give her the finances she wanted, and she’d repay him in his bed!

3 1/2 Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Miranda Lee’s The Millionaire’s Mistress is a bit of an uneven read. I’m undecided on this one. What begins with a great sexual build-up, is kind of a letdown on the delivery.

Marcus is a “stuffed shirt” hero with a heart of gold. Justine is young, sexy, and spoiled. Despite her seemingly hot-to-trot ways, she’s a virgin. Marcus takes one look at her luscious curves and long blonde hair and thinks otherwise.

Justine owes lots of money to collectors after her rich daddy passed away leaving her in debt. Marcus is certain she’s a money-hungry you-know-what. But he will get to know the truth eventually about her, as, despite his reluctance, he finds himself helplessly attracted to her. And Justine is gaga for Marcus. So hesitantly, the two pursue a romantic relationship.

The title of this book was a bit misleading, even though Marcus’ is a wealthy mega multi-millionaire, Justine is certainly not his kept his mistress.

I enjoyed Justine’s character development. She was much younger than Marcus but had a maturity that belied her youth. She had wit and charm. As for Marcus, he was good… maybe too good to be true. I like Lee’s nice guys a lot; for example, I adored Elliot from Knight to the Rescue. Although sometimes, Lee’s nice guy heroes come on too “beta.” I prefer her (rare) bad boy heroes.

Still, this Harlequin Presents makes for an enjoyable, quick read. Miranda Lee is almost always entertaining.

Category Romance Review: Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee

Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee category romance
Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1993
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 195
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee

The Book

Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee had everything: sex, humor, and romance. The Australians was a special short run of Harlequin books featuring sexy heroes from the Outback.

If you have never read Harlequin Presents, then maybe this isn’t your style of book, but I loved it!

Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee
Simply Irresistible, 1993, Mills & Boon edition

The Plot

Vivien gets cruelly dumped by her boyfriend and three days later ends up in the arms of the very sexy Ross Everton at the Bachelor and Spinster’s Ball.

They have an amazingly intense one-night stand, then go their separate ways.

When Vivien finds out she’s pregnant, he’s determined to do the honorable thing, even though Ross had another woman waiting in the wings. In fact, the very night she calls him to tell him of their impending parenthood, he had just proposed to his new girlfriend to marry him!

Their shotgun wedding turns from a marriage of convenience into a sexual relationship. But is their physical attraction all Ross and Vivien share? Can they make it last forever?

Final Opinion on Simply Irresistible

This plot has been done countless times before, but with Miranda Lee’s witty dialogue and the simply irresistible hero, it comes off very fresh.

Simply Irresistible is definitely a keeper.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
4
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.3

Synopsis

Ross Everton was the sexiest single guy the Outback had to offer! The most eligible man at the annual Bachelors’ and Spinsters’ Ball, the handsome rancher knew WHO he wanted – and he wanted her NOW!…

Vivien Roberts thought she was a streetwise Sydney girl, but dancing in Ross’s arms made it hard to be sensible – and after tonight they might never meet again…

But neither would forget their one night together: Vivien was expecting Ross’s baby. Irresistible sexual attraction was one thing…being married was quite another!

Simply Irresistible by Miranda Lee

Category Romance Review: Fantasy by Emma Darcy

historical romance review
Fantasy by Emma Darcy
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1985
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #840
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Fantasy by Emma Darcy

The Book

Harlequin Presents #840, Fantasy, is a great oldie by Emma Darcy.

The Plot

Fantasy opens with the heroine, Eve, a fashion model, anxious to arrive home and see her fiancé.

Our heroine gets the shock of her life when she catches her boyfriend cheating. She finds him in bed with another man and her heart is crushed!

Despondent, Eve tries to drown herself in the ocean. Luckily the hero is there to save her life.

He also gives her a nice boost to the old self-esteem to show her that–no matter what her fiancé thinks–she’s a desirable woman.

After their one-night stand, Eve figures she’ll never see the stranger again. How wrong she is.

When they meet again, we discover that the hero is a big-shot businessman whose company is releasing a perfume called Fantasy. He’s running a major ad campaign and naturally demands Eve to be the face of Fantasy.

The hero is in charge of the beach photo shoot. Eve is supposed to pose on the sandy shores with a creepy male model in erotic embraces. She keeps freezing up, so the hero comes in and takes his place.

The heat is off the charts, and Eve can’t deny her attraction anymore or dismiss it as just a momentary lapse into madness.

Final Analysis of Fantasy

I’ve read Fantasy one a couple of times, and it’s such a sweet, cheesy read. I don’t care if the plot is a little unbelievable.

This is just the kind of story a Harlequin Presents should be all about. It’s some sexy little fantasy that makes you smile and not want to throttle the douchey hero for being a dominant ass.

Lucky for us readers, the hero is a dream! Eve’s fantasy becomes reality in the end.

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

Synopsis

HAD SHE DREAMED HIM UP — THIS MAN, THIS FANTASY?

Her fiance’s betrayal and her frenzied flight to a secluded beach near Sydney had been for Eve a nightmare — until the moment a stranger held her in his arms and revealed a lotus land where love was possible …

For a while Eve gave herself up to the joy of loving and being loved for herself and not as the money-making image her fiance had devised with his camera.

She wanted the fantasy to go on forever. Surely to stay would be like trying to prolong a dream …

Fantasy by Emma Darcy
CATEGORIES: , , , , , , , , ,

***

the jacaranda tree outside

Historical Romance Review: The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne

Step-back cover exterior & interior The Jacaranda Tree, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1995, Elaine Duillo cover artist

From the back of the book:

A sense of foreboding had gripped Arabella Darracott when she left England to join her guardian in Australia. Years before, a gypsy fortune-teller had told her of a purple blossomed tree, a far-off shore, and a devil of a man who awaited her there. Now, as she neared her destination, shipwreck and fate threw her into the arms of a rescuer, “Demon” Lucien Sinclair, the notorious ex-convict who had become rich in the gold fields of New South Wales. Lucien – wild and wickedly handsome – was the fallen archangel of her dreams. But the crime in his past was linked to a dangerous secret. And the passion awakened under the Jacaranda tree could cost Arabella her future, even her life…or give her Lucien forever to cherish, forever to love.

3 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Jacaranda Tree was the last historical romance Rebecca Brandewyne published with Warner Books. After that, she wrote a few contemporaries, some paranormals, and a few gothic mysteries for Harlequin, before disappearing from the writing field entirely.

The plot is centered around an Englishwoman, Arabella Darracott, who is seeking employment in Australia. There, she finds love with a mysterious former convict named Lucien after they are shipwrecked together. Not just a love story, The Jacaranda Tree also a murder mystery written in Brandewyne’s gothic style.

Since I wrote this comment in my reading notes for The Jacaranda Tree: “This is RB’S Frankenstein, with plot points and verbatim scenes gutted from her previous books and stitched together into this one,” I’d figure I’d make a Frankensteinian review from my notes.

1) When I started The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne, I figured I’d play a drinking game. Rebecca Brandewyne always repeated the same terms or clichés over and over in every book. This was is extremely repetitive. Grab your choice of poison and take a sip (or a guzzle) whenever you come upon of these words or phrases:

retroussé nose
-halcyon days
-gothic
-labyrinthine
-perditious
-mat/pelt of hair on his chest
-coppery taste of blood on lips
-Gypsy/ Gypsy curse
-sloe eyes
-sweeping moors
-bastard
-twilight dim
-of her own volition
-aquiline nose
-smoking a cheroot

I was on page 88 when I finished my second glass of sherry. (I have to justify it somehow and this is better than just ‘cuz I’m bored!)

2) If Jennifer Wilde is the king of the run-on-sentence, then Brandewyne is the queen of the subordinate clause!

3) Lots of info-dumping history/ecology lessons here… I know the author graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a Mensa member, but is this really necessary?

4) Arabella and Lucien make love. Then Arabella sees Lucien’s “Murderer’s Brand”… And now Lucien is now Michael Myers while Arabella does her best Jamie Lee Curtis imitation.

5) It was painfully obvious who the villain was and there tons of clichés throughout (the serial killer who put coins on the eyes of his victims, for example). Even so, it wasn’t bad. The love scenes were beyond purple prose, they were ultra-violet, yet I liked that. If this had been the first Brandewyne I’d read, I would have enjoyed it more.

6) Well, the bad point about this was that this was the worst Rebecca Brandewyne book I’ve ever read. The good thing is that this was still an ok novel, although not near her best. The Jacaranda Tree was my least favorite of Rebecca Brandewyne’s historicals, mainly because it was almost a verbatim regurgitation of conversations, plot points, and love scenes from other books (mostly from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor and Desperado).