Sarina is a bodice ripper-lite written by Francine Rivers, the best-known and most successful author of Christian-centered or “inspirational” romances. This was written before Rivers became “born again,” however, she was still nominally Christian. Rivers has tried to distance herself from her first 11 books, dismissing them as: “BC (before Christ) books. They are all out of print now, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.” She purchased the rights to all those and will never allow them to be republished as she feels they don’t represent her faith today.
As a free speech proponent, I think it’s unfortunate that Rivers has deemed these books verboten. Furthermore, I disagree that their sexually explicit content dishonors Christianity.
Catherine Coulter takes her propensity to create unlikeable heroes and dials it all the way up to “11” in her supposed romance, The Lord of Hawkfell Island.
Mirana is a young, unmarried woman who lives with her brother in a fortress in Ireland. When he’s away, their home is attacked by Viking raiders seeking vengeance against him, as the Viking leader Rorik blames him for the death of his wife and child. Usually, a hero grieving over his lost love is grounds for me to dislike a historical romance, but thanks to Rurik, I had plenty of other reasons to despise this “love story.”
I shouldn’t even call this a love story because–let’s get this right out the gate–Rorik never says a single word of love to Mirana. And it’s not because he’s so filled with sorrow over his loss. He’s just an unfeeling, cruel, petty, boorish boar. I detested him so much I created a Goodreads shelf labeled “jerky pig hall of fame” for him and his porcine brethren.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: The Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter”
Christine Monson was best known for her infamous, shocking bodice-ripper Stormfire, which is legendary for the protagonists’ abusive revenge-based romance. Her second book Rangoon significantly turns down the crazy factor, but still retains the sensitive writing that made Stormfire so haunting and memorable.
West Meets East
It’s the late 19th century. Boston-bred Lysistrata travels all the way across the world with her father, a doctor, to Burma to start a new life. Nursing a broken heart from an ill-fated romance, Lysistrata tries valiantly to navigate her way through her new environment and its rigid class system. She meets Richard “Ram” Harley, a half-Burmese, half-British man she can’t help but find attractive. Harley is a pirate who seduces married women and callously threatens to ruin Lysi when she discovers one of his illicit amours.
With a name like Lysistrata that should give a hint about her independent, determined nature. At first, her feisty, “I’ll do it my way!” attitude tested my patience, however I warmed up to her as the book evolved. She’s not the typical foot-stomping, face-slapping heroine (at least not when it comes to the hero) who was so common in old-school bodice rippers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Rangoon by Christine Monson”
Spoiler Alert & Warning: This Review and/or This Book May Offend You (Maybe) ⚠
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Pinnacle Books‘ Passion’s Wicked Torment is a balls-to-wall 20th-century bodice ripper set in the gangster era during American Prohibition. From New York to Chicago, from Alaska to Europe, this book hops around the globe and features lots of mutually lusty sex scenes, rapes, and gangbangs. It stars a heroine so stupid and dumb, she could only have been written by Mr. Melissa Hepburne himself, the author of the blockbuster bestseller (I’m not kidding, it sold over a million copies!) Passion’s Proud Captive.
Aren’t Do-Do Birds Extinct?
Our heroine, Kristin Fleming, is perhaps an IQ point or two higher than Passion’s Proud Captive’s brainless Jenny-fair, whose stupidity made that book a hilarious blast. Now, I am not insulting our resilient sisters and aunts and mothers and grandmothers of the past when I refer to Hepburne’s heroines as too-stupid-to-live. This so-called historical fictional romance plays fast and loose with history, waffles around on the romance, and is HEAVY on the fiction. I doubt many women in reality who were capable of dressing themselves or had the mental know-how to expel their body wastes in a bowl of some sort ever inserted themselves into the moronic situations these caricatures of female protagonists did.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Wicked Torment by Melissa Hepburne”
Drusilla Campbell’s The Frost and the Flame is one of those naughty bodice rippers where the heroine is separated for a long period of time from her true love, the dull, twatwaffle of a hero, and instead spends more time sexing it up with the lusty, evil villain. For the record, this is just the kind of bodice ripper I like: one that does not take itself seriously and knows how to throw crazy tropes at you, so you’ll keep the pages turning, even if the story is not really romantic.
The Crazy Plot and Characters
I loved the Russian setting and liked the heroine’s growth as a character, but the hero, Alexei, is exciting as dry toast. It’s the villain who is the star here: charismatic, evil, and blond!
I acknowledge that not all readers can tolerate a cruel, rapacious hero in their romance; that’s why I gave a rare warning for this book. It’s fair to compare So Speaks the Heart (which should be subtitled: Medieval Norman Psychopath Falls for French Co-DependentandFellow Anger Management Classmate) to another of Johanna Lindsey‘s works, A Pirate’s Love, which had a similar captor/captive trope.
However, So Speaks the Heart is IMO better than the latter because: 1) This heroine is not a spineless jellyfish, fights back, and is strong in her own way; and 2) The hero is more than just a good-looking rapist who eventually falls in love with the woman he’s been tormenting. Ok, he’s as deep as a crack in the sidewalk, and, yeah, he’s still a bully and a douche. But his background is fleshed out a lot more; therefore, we understand why he’s such an arsehole. So I can sort of forgive this hunk of a warrior for his caveman behavior.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey”
A Five-Star Book, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly
After deliberation, I decided to give Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri five stars, although I do so with some high degree of reluctance. The explanation why follows.
The Story: Part One
This Zebra Lovegram begins with the hero of the book, Freya Jorgenson, being born. Her father, Thorfast, is a warring Viking who wanted a son. He orders his man, Sven, to kill Freya. Sven, however, being a kind soul, chooses not to and, with the help of a captured English slave, raises Freya as his daughter.
Earlier, Sven did a similar thing. Years earlier, when Thorfast and his men went a-Viking–i.e., murdering, pillaging, and raping–they sacked an English village, killing all the males and raping the females. One of the women, Wilone, wife of the head of the earldom whom Thorfast killed, offered herself as a sexual slave to Thorfast in exchange for sparing her life and the life of her unborn child. Thorfast raped Wilone and ordered Sven to kill her and her child, which he did not do.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri”
“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”
THE GOLDEN SOVEREIGNS
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
4 1/2 stars
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to rate or categorize as it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is an absolutely skillful writer to make me enjoy a book where the heroine, Carmody, doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 of this 404-page epic. This is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale, however, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end; he’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.
Our story begins in late 17th century England. Carmody Petrie is in love with Waldo, who’s a no-good rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:
Janette Seymour’s Emmie’s Love is Purity’s Passion, redux. Just as in Purity’s Passion and Purity’s Ecstasy, the heroine is separated from her true love and must “find” her way back to him. “Find” being a euphemism for another four-letter word that starts with “f.”
Again, the same terms and motifs are used: a violent opening involving near-rape and an alluded castration; frequent mentions of “handy-dandy”; dampened sheer muslin gowns; blond studs performing for an audience; a one night stand with a doomed soldier; a blue-eyed, scar-faced hero that is rarely seen; and a heroine with no personality save for being a busty, lusty wench.
Emmie Dashwood–granddaughter to an aged Marquess who pats her rump in a most loving fashion–lives in a moldy, decaying manor with her large, moochy family. After grandpa’s death, she is sold in marriage to an older man living another continent away. On her trip across the ocean, she falls in love with Captain Nathan Grant, the very married ship’s captain.
Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epics, but alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s the least liked of her books I’ve read so far.
Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky; she hates convention, and why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?
Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers; a meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Her attitude is very draining. But worse are the random italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.
The Coach to Hell was a bit of disappointment for me after reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ Moment of Desire. While that book had a heroine who was placed in awful situations yet tried to make the best of them while always knowing her mind, this book’s heroine is a wishy-washy sort that just goes with the flow because that’s what toilet paper does.
The Coach to Hell is a paranormal/Gothic/bodice ripper romance that features a beautiful, orphaned woman named Georgina. To avoid the lusty clutches of a local pervert, she is forced out of her home. Georgina has the gift of the special sight of psychometry. Like some psychic blood-hound, she has the ability to touch an item and immediately glean information about its history or find a hidden object if she touches items associated with it. Georgie’s ESP is the Chekhov’s gun of this novel as it will be instrumental in the plot’s resolution, what little there is of it.
Like in all Bertrice Small novels, the history in Enchantress Mine is richly detailed, the villains are just whacked-out, and there’s a lot of WTF situations that make you shake your head, blink and wonder, “What just happened?” But, I don’t know… I guess I just don’t enjoy some of Bertrice Small’s books as much as I do other bodice rippers.
A Too-Perfect Heroine
Enchantress Mine is set in the Middle Ages, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The heroine, Mairin, is a foundling raised by adopted parents.
Oh, Mairin, how to describe her? The cover art is the best thing about her. I both hated and pitied the poor girl. So many horrific things happened to Mairin, but I didn’t care because she was SOOOO perfect, SOOOO beautiful, SOOOO resilient!
She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could?
TEMPT NOT THIS FLESH
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Lorna, the heroine of Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes likes this:
“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”
Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:
Torn between her desires for a Russian colonel and a dashing lieutenant in the Swedish army, Kirsten is swept by savage destiny into the raging lusts of a revolution… Against the tumultuous background of the Northern War of 1710 is woven the enthralling saga of a tempestuous woman forced to choose between her impassioned loyalty and the ecstasy of forbidden love.
1 1/2 stars
Rating: 1.5 out of 5.
I HATE being let down by books that seem to have promise, but end with a lifeless whimper. Bodice rippers set in Russia are my siren song! This should have rocked!
Rapture’s Rebel by Iris Bancroft is the first non-Viking historical romance set in Scandinavia that I’ve read.
Russian soldiers have taken over a town in Sweden and Kirsten hides in a hot sauna for protection. Stupid Kirsten lets a little kitty in there with her and he dies, the poor thing! Well, maybe not so poor. Kitty’s pain is over, but mine was still to come as I had this turkey of a book to finish.
Why, oh why did I not listen to the words of wisdom just DNF this lifeless excuse for a bodice ripper?
But no, like the idiot I am, I kept reading on, expecting something interesting to occur. First one thing happens, and then this happens, and then this other thing happens, but none of it has any zing or excitement about it. In Heather by Cordelia Byers, stuff occurs while characters are like marionettes being pulled by strings to the next scene. Absolute sacrilege for a bodice ripper, because these are the kind of books that are supposed to be so chock-full of craziness that they madly affect the senses, either by offending or delighting or titillating.
I was a little offended, I suppose; not because there was anything to upset my “delicate sensibilities,” but because this book was so freaking boring.
Beautiful Heather Cromwell is brought up as a foundling by a wealthy Marquis. She’s treated as a part servant/part distant relative, and even though it’s not a rough life, it’s not a great one, either. Heather grows up loving the Marquis’s son, David but knows that her love is hopeless.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Heather by Cordia Byers”
It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I started reading Cynthia Wright’s Silver Storm, then put it down; it was sweet, but sometimes too sweet and I have enough cavities. Then halfway through it changes in tone. Our previously gentleman hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great and I wanted more!
The first half involves a sensuous French privateer Andre Raveneau escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia at the end of the American Revolution. The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man but devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment. All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice, and Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a gentleman; I wondered where this was going.
Like many other late 1970’s to early 1980’s bodice rippers, Michael Butterworth’s (aka Janette Seymour) second entry into his Purity trilogy, Purity’s Ecstasy, is a tawdry, rollicking ride filled with just about every ‘ripper trope and then some.
In the first book, Purity’s Passion, after beautiful Purity survived the French Revolution, she was made the ward of the enigmatic and barely-there Mark Landless, with whom she fell madly in love. However, she had numerous obstacles to overcome before getting her man (namely other men). The same is more or less the case with this sequel, as 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.
Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late ’70s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.
Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde, Irish beauty Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. Yet for some mysterious reason, some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara studies the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously, the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.
What can I say about Valerie Sherwood’s These Golden Pleasures? Well, this 512 page epic starts out wonderfully but then falters then lags in the middle, and is rushed at the end.
Roxanne is in San Francisco on the eve of the great earthquake of 1906. She has to choose between the two men who will decide her fate, one of them her true love.
The story goes back to when Roxanne was a 15-year-old girl in Kansas, and the drama of her life unfolds. As is usual in a Valerie Sherwood, the heroine’s first sexual experience is not with the hero. She has a fling with Buck, her best friend’s fiancé.
Circumstances force her out of Kansas and Roxanne goes to Maryland, where she finds work as a maid for the wealthy Coulter family. She is romanced by two brothers: cynical, business-minded Gavin and handsome, carefree Rhodes who sails ships. This is where the book gets cooking! The tension is hot… And then a stupid misunderstanding leads to a long separation. I lament the fact that Sherwood didn’t do more with the brothers.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: These Golden Pleasures by Valerie Sherwood”
(I have long ago put this book in storage, and it’s too much of a pain to dig out, but before I forget it all, here’s a review):
A Great Villain and a Hero Missing-in-Action
Anne Carsley’s This Triumphant Fire is an ok bodice ripper with a more interesting villain than hero. The heroine is a beautiful French girl living off the charity of her English guardians. If I recall correctly, the hero is a rakish fellow who is having a romance with one of the daughters in the family. He also has a secret life as a highwayman. After a brutal rape attempt by one of the sons, the heroine kills her attacker and flees into the night.
The hero and heroine meet again, and he takes her to his cabin in the woods. They make passionate love and spend an idyllic time together before the hero abandons her. The heroine catches him cheating on her with another woman. She confronts him, and in the typical jerky-hero style he is unrepentant.