I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon. My Avon 1972 first-edition features the typical Gothic cover, with a heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.
In this case, it’s Castle Kenton, a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.
Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town, and the darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.
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!
Other than E. M. Hull’s masterpiece, The Sheik, the Dell-published Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway would qualify as my most-liked sheik romance.
Harems and desert sheiks romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, as I prefer historical heroes to be swordsmen, cowboys, or knights. Nevertheless, a man like Karim who is passionately devoted to his heroine makes for a great hero, and a romance with such a male protagonist will certainly catch my interest.
This is another book where the half-European, half-Arab sheik carries off his object of desire into the sandy dunes and makes her his.
The story starts with a bang where we read about Karim’s mother and her desert abduction at the hands of a ruthless sheik. She plots and manipulates to have her son be taken to Europe where he will be educated and ”civilized.”
Emma Darcy‘s Don’t Ask Me Now is such an unusual Harlequin Presents. I had seen this love-triangle plot done similarly in the Temptation line, which was more sexually explicit, but to see it in HP was a bit surprising.
What’s the big deal? Well, this book features two heroes that the heroine sleeps with, although it’s not as tawdry as I’m making it out.
Many years ago, the heroine, Cathy, had a torrid love affair with Anthony Pryor-Jones of the Pryor-Joneses, part of Australia’s creme-de-la-creme. His family disapproved of her as he came from a wealthy heritage while Cathy was a nobody. Hero #1 was obsessed with her, and they had fantastic sex. But Cathy finally broke free of that 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, but he’s been friend-zoned for some time. Finally, when he thinks he’s breaking through her icy reserve, they bump into Anthony at a ball.... Read more “Category Romance Review: Don’t Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy”
The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth has an exotic setting, but plot-wise is your typical Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon.
Cordelia, a young British woman, visits her birthplace of Sri Lanka with her emotionally distant father. Her father has a heart attack, and Marcus Stone, an older, sophisticated gentleman, comes to her rescue. They both experience a deep, instant attraction, but Marcus is cold and pushes her away for some mysterious reason. There’s a nasty other-woman who makes trouble and a younger guy who’s mad about the heroine. Cordelia dates him and makes him think she likes him even though she’s in love with Marcus. Drama ensues. Some mild nookie. Happy ending.
The Weird Stuff
This was a perfectly adequate book, not exciting, but worth a couple of hours reading. One thing I found funny was that Marcus kept pushing Cordelia away because he thought she was only wowed by his celebrity status. His claim to fame? He’s a writer of popular non-fiction books about history and global politics, not unlike Francis Fukuyama or Thomas Friedman. Fine, worldly men, true enough, but I hardly consider them glamorous sex-symbols, who seduce legions of 20-year-olds out of their panties.... Read more “Category Romance Review: The Lion Rock by Sally Wentworth”
“HE HAD BETRAYED HER Lady Eden Parrish stared in shock at the bare-chested, blue-eyed rogue who stood so proudly on the Bridgetown auction block– he was none other than her husband, the despicable Roark St. Clair! Eden had been sent to Barbados in disgrace after her brief, scandalous marriage to the unscrupulous American spy…after the way he’d betrayed her, she ought to let his contract of indenture be sold to the highest bidder. But memories of how it felt to be embraced by those strong arms and held tight against that well-muscled chest flooded her mind and body, and soon Eden was offering a fortune for the right to claim him as her own!
SHE STILL LOVED HIM Roark had come to Barbados for only one reason–to reclaim his runaway bride. Of course, getting captured by the British and sold into slavery hadn’t been part of the plan, but t situation was working out nicely, things considered. He would find a to escape and take the luscious along, with or without her consent. The little minx might be his mistress now, but he’d soon be her master.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Passion’s Chains by Catherine Creel”
Margaret Pargeter’s Savage Possession begins like any ordinary Harlequin Presents, with the hero & H meeting under unusual circumstances with the situation soon getting heated afterwards.
In this case, Melissa’s car is trapped in the snow and along comes the hero, Ryan Trevelyan, to give her a lift. She’s dressed in bulky winter clothes so he assumes she’s a boy. As they’re driving along in his car he’s berating ‘him’ for driving under such horrible circumstances. When she takes off her cap, Ryan realizes, “Oh noes, she’s this unbelievably beautiful, green-eyed, redhead woman! How easily mistaken I was to think she was a boy because she was wearing a hat and coat! Well since she tricked me, I’ll force her to spend the night at my house even though there are plenty of other places in town that she can stay. That’ll her teach her a lesson!”
I wondered to myself just where this book was going. It was weird. It seemed all over the place on plotting.