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raptures rendezvous

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards

book review historical romance
Rapture's Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
Rating: two-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 483
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards


The Book

Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Cassie Edwards‘ bests.

First off, let me say that I am a Cassie Edwards fan. I love most of her books and hope one day to own all of them. Having said that, this book–a reprint of a book originally published in 1982–is not one of her best efforts.

cassie edwards 2nd
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 1999 edition

The Plot

Maria Lazzaro and her twin brother Alberto are poor Italians dreaming of a better life in America. That is where their father, Giacomo, emigrated sometime earlier. Eventually, the twins are sent for and they travel on a ship in decrepit conditions to America. Once at sea, Maria and Alberto both lose their innocence. Maria gives hers willingly to the “hero” of the book, Michael Hopper.

Alberto loses his virginity in a far less pleasant way–more on that later.

Michael lies to Maria by telling her he is a buyer for a vintner in America. In actuality, he is a successful businessman investigating the cruel treatment of immigrant miners in one of the many business ventures of an individual named Nathan Hawkins. Why Michael is doing so himself instead of hiring someone isn’t fully explained.

After the ship docks in New York at Ellis Island, Michael and Maria part. They will find each other again in the future.

Maria and Alberto arrive in America thinking their father sent for them. They don’t realize until much later that they were actually sent for by Hawkins. Hawkins needs Alberto to work like his father in Hawkins’ dangerous, unsafe coal mine. Maria, Hawkins wants as his wife.

Brother and sister arrive in the Illinois town of Hawkinsville–also owned by Nathan Hawkins–to realize their lives have not changed for the better as they had hoped. Alberto goes to work alongside his father in the coal mine. Maria pines for Michael.

Maria and Michael find each other again and they have several intimate encounters. Later, Maria is forced to marry Hawkins after he threatens to deport her father and brother.

Eventually, Hawkins gets his comeuppance, Maria and Michael marry and they live happily ever after.

rapture's rendezvous cassie edwards new
Rapture’s Rendezvous, Cassie Edwards, 2011 edition


There’s a lot of sex, in Rapture’s Rendezvous though not terribly graphic. Or nice. As mentioned, Maria and Michael have several encounters. Michael also has sex with two other women–his secretary and a prostitute–while he and Maria are apart. There is some salaciousness.

Alberto is robbed and raped by a man/woman criminal duo on board the ship to America, which affects him later. Alberto also has incestuous feelings for Maria.

Maria is forced into a sex act by Hawkins after they are married.


Not much, but some. Alberto gets revenge on his rapist/robbers and hits both the man and woman.

There is also a fight scene in which Michael is assaulted and gets help from Alberto. Hawkins is eventually killed, and although he is shot, it is not graphically described.

Bottom Line on Rapture’s Rendezvous

As stated, Rapture’s Rendezvous is not one of Mrs. Edwards’ best books. The characters vacillate between whiny and barely likable. The “hero” isn’t really heroic, and the heroine, while being attractive physically, is less attractive because she is somewhat of a weak, whiny individual.

If one is interested in Cassie Edwards’ books, I recommend her “Savage” series. Those books are far better than wasting your time on this drivel.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.7


A Woman’s Love
Maria Lazzaro was as ripe and as sweet as the full, juicy grapes that grew in her homeland’s vineyards. And as she boarded an immigrant ship for America, the olive-skinned, raven-haired beauty met the only man she could ever love. That night, with feverish desire, frantic passion, and wild, sensuous rapture, she gave herself to Michael in a moment she knew would bond them for eternity.

A Man’s Lies
Though they would have to part once they reached America, handsome Michael Hopper couldn’t deny himself the enticing wench. He had to take advantage of her innocent allure. Branding her satin throat with kisses, he promised his devotion forever. Searing her silken skin with caresses, he vowed his undying love. No matter what, he had to have her. And no matter what, he would have to leave her…Rapture’s Rendezvous

Rapture’s Rendezvous by Cassie Edwards
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the marriage war charlotte lamb

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb

the marriage war by charlotte lamb
The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
Rating: half-star
Published: 1997
Illustrator: TBD
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #1913
Published by: Harlequin, Mills & Boon
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 186
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooksOpen Library (BORROW FOR FREE)
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb


The Book

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb may not have the absolute worst cruel hero in Harlequin Presents’ history, but he certainly ranks in the top twenty…maybe forty.

Okay, maybe the top 50. The HP line has at least a thousand crappy heroes in its 50 years of existence.

The Plot

Sancha is a stressed-out housewife with a handsome, workaholic husband named Mark. While she’s not yet middle-aged, she feels and looks her age, while Mark gets better each year like a fine vintage wine.

She is a stay-at-home mother responsible for cooking, cleaning, raising the children, and keeping her husband satisfied. She works hard on the first three. Lately, though, Sancha’s been neglecting her final “responsibility,” as her husband keeps telling her.

The twin beds in their bedroom don’t help. That became a habit when their twins were young, and Sancha had to wake up for midnight nursings and nappy changes. It had been Mark’s idea since he didn’t want his sleep disturbed by her movements.

Sancha and Mark have been married for six years. Well, if you’ve heard of the seven-year-itch, you know what happens next.

Mark has a charming secretary in the office. Capable, beautiful, attentive, and young.

Sancha starts receiving letters hinting that her husband is getting down and dirty with someone during his late-night work sessions. Is Mark having an affair with his secretary? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure looks like he is when Sancha catches them out at a late-night dinner.

Sancha’s life crumbles around her. Even as it does, she decides, like any good woman from the lyrics of Country Music, to fight for her philandering man.

Romances with adultery are difficult enough to pull off. Combine that plot with a male protagonist–who, if classified by scientific terms, would be considered non-Newtonian fluid–you get a wall-banger that requires great force when tossed across the room.

It’ll be over my dead body,

So get out while you can!

‘Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.


Sancha gets a makeover and decides to be sexier, but now Mark thinks his wife is getting sexy for other men! Could things get any worse?

Spoiler: The Shocking Revelations

Perhaps Mark’s twisted conscience led him to do what he did. For he tells Sancha the shocking truth. He is the one behind all the letters Sancha received, not his secretary.

Apparently, Mark has a super good reason–to motivate his wife to get over herself to fight for their marriage (i.e., cater to all of Mark’s wants and needs).

In truth, he was only planning to have an affair. Nice guy, right?

Mark figured he could have his matronly wife tend to his children and home. Meanwhile, his carnal desires would be fulfilled by other women. Starting with his secretary, who was down for it.

Instead of shagging her right away, though, Mark decided first to torment his wife with anonymous letters to make her re-evaluate what was important: him!

It all works out for Mark, as Sancha gets her mojo back, and insecurity drives her to be the devoted, horny Stepford wife he knew she could be.

So Mark dumps the floozy of a secretary. In return, Sancha promises never again to get too overwhelmed by her many responsibilities. Mark will always come first. (Yeah, he seems like he’d be that type.)

“See that? How much I want you?”

“As much as you wanted her the other night?” she asked bitterly, and he shut his eyes, groaning, turning away.

“Oh, not again! Do we have to bring that up again? Forget Jacqui!”

“I can’t. Can you? Working with her every day, seeing her, being alone with her? You may not have slept with her–but you admit you almost did. Is she going to accept the end of the affair?”

Final Analysis of The Marriage War

I’ve mentioned before how Charlotte Lamb is one of my two most beloved authors in the Harlequin Presents line. I’ve given her more 5-star ratings than any other writer in that line. But she’s also written a lot of clunkers. This is one of them.

Oh, boy, did I hate this book!

Mark was a paramecium scum-sucker. Not worthy of the title of “man.” Cruel hero? More like absolute zero!

Sancha was not much better. She was a bland, reactive character and not too many rungs above her husband in the animal kingdom.

I love Charlotte Lamb’s writings, so I’ll forgive her for this hideous attempt at “romance.” Out of her 160-plus books published, there are bound to be bad ones. And sheesh, was this one ever that!

File The Marriage War under “suck-suckity-suck.”

(Note: the cover rating does not count toward the final score.)

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 1.2


Something worth fighting for!

Sancha’s first instinct was to burn the anonymous letter. Its malicious message couldn’t be true: Do you know where your husband will be tonight? Do you know who he’ll be with?

Sancha adored Mark now as much as when they were first married, even though family life meant that they were no longer so close. She’d never dreamed that her tough, handsome husband would fall into the arms of another woman!

The battle was on – though when Sancha confronted Mark, she discovered the physical attraction between them was as strong as ever. But she wouldn’t let herself be seduced by him…. Not yet!

The Marriage War by Charlotte Lamb
tender savage phoebe conn

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn

tender savage phoebe conn
Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Tender Savage by Phoebe Conn


The Book

This review is of Tender Savage, a standalone Zebra Lovegram by Phoebe Conn.

Tender Savage starts in Wilmington, Delaware, in June 1862. The book spans from June 1862 to September 1863 during the American Civil War.

The Plot

Part One of Tender Savage

The book begins with Erica Hanson and Mark Randall kissing passionately. The night won’t end happily for either, unfortunately. Mark and Erica’s father, Lars, a physician, are going to leave the next day to join the Union army.

Erica is being sent to New Ulm, Minnesota. She is to live with Lars’ sister, Britta, and her husband, Karl Ludwig, who owns a store there. However, Erica wants to marry Mark–or at least become his lover–before leaving for war. Mark refuses. This is the source of the conflict between them.

When Erica arrives in New Ulm, she meets Viper, a half-Lakota, half-white Indian. They share kisses and are attracted to each other.

Things look bleak as Viper and his fellow Lakota will soon be at war with the white citizens of New Ulm after promises from the government fail to materialize. During the uprising, Viper kidnaps Erica. He does so for two reasons. One is to keep her from being killed, and two, because he’s hot for her. It’s not so bad, as she is also hot for him. Erica and Viper become lovers and are married in the Lakota tradition.

Soon, however, hardships emerge. Viper’s aunt, plus an evil-other woman who is in lust with him, causes problems for Erica.

Part Two of Tender Savage

An even bigger problem will soon present itself in the form of Mark. He arranges a transfer to Minnesota to find Erica and marry her. Mark arrives in Minnesota, finds Erica with Viper, and arrests him. Viper must stand trial in a military tribunal, where he is tried and convicted.

After this, Viper asks Mark to marry Erica, which Mark agrees to. Erica and Mark marry, and he is sent back to Wilmington to rejoin the Union Army. Happiness and sadness soon follow as Erica discovers she is pregnant with Viper’s child. Meanwhile, Mark is seriously injured during the war, gets blinded, and becomes an invalid who needs constant care.

Back in Minnesota, Viper’s conviction is vacated. He leaves the state heading to Delaware to find Erica. Adopting the name “Etienne Bouchard” (his French grandfather’s name), Viper finagles his way into becoming Mark’s companion, which severely irritates Erica.

Soon after “Etienne’s” arrival, Erica gives birth to a son who looks exactly like Etienne. This creates a rift between Erica and Etienne on one side and Lars and Sarah Randall–Mark’s sister–, on the other. Poor, hapless Mark doesn’t know he’s not the child’s father.

In the end, Mark conveniently passes away. Erica and Viper go back to Minnesota–to a different part of the state. Lars and Sarah marry, and both couples have their Happily Ever After.


The backdrop of Tender Savage is the Minnesota Sioux Uprising of 1862, an actual occurrence. Mrs. Conn does a fairly good job melding her fictional characters with real people and events.

On some levels, Tender Savage tries to be like Nancy Henderson (Nan) Ryan’s excellent romance, Kathleen’s Surrender. Like that book, Tender Savage takes place in part during the Civil War and features a love triangle. That, however, is where the similarities end.


Mrs. Ryan had the ability to make me, as a reader, care about her characters and feel their emotions. Mrs. Conn–although she tries–sadlyTender Savage does not.

Tender Savage is the seventh book I’ve read by Phoebe Conn. Like the other six, Tender Savage lacks both emotional depth and character development.

I also had issues with the heroine and hero. Erica checks off the basic romance heroine boxes: she’s beautiful, young, sexy, and has a great body, but… That’s it. There really is no substance to her.

Viper is worse. Mrs. Conn would have been better served to name him “Etienne Bouchard” because Viper is basically a white Indian. Although she researched the uprising, it is clear that Mrs. Conn did none about the Lakota tribe.

There is almost nothing about Viper–besides living in a teepee and eating pemmican–that would identify him as a Native American. The only depth to his character is that we learn he has French ancestry.

There is very little romantic chemistry between Erica and Viper. The beginning of their relationship in no way indicates love; they are in lust with each other. Although Mrs. Conn tries at the end, she falls well short of creating the type of characters I can genuinely care about.

Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that after he gained access to the Hanson home, Viper spent a great deal of time trying to have sex with Erica even though she was married to Mark.

I also didn’t buy the “Erica and Mark didn’t consummate their marriage; therefore, they weren’t legally married, and Viper’s actions were okay” excuse at the end of the book, either.


I will give Mrs. Conn credit for writing slightly better love scenes here than in her previous books, but that is damning with very faint praise.


Most of the violence takes place “off-screen.” However, there are “on-screen” scenes of assault and battery, and a slashing occurs.

Bottom Line On Tender Savage

There was the foundation for a good book in Tender Savage.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Conn was not the author to mine the gold that might have been there. Instead, the book ends up in “pewter territory.” 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.1


When innocent Erica Hansen fled to Minnesota to escape the Civil War’s horrors, she had no idea she was stepping right into the middle of an Indian uprising. And until a painted, whooping brave swept her onto his stallion, she never guessed how unsafe her new home really was. The curvaceous blonde struggled against her captor’s grip, but the farther they rode from civilization, the wilder her response to him became. The passionate beauty knew she should bite, scratch and kick the warrior, but before she could think of the consequences, Erica began to caress, kiss and embrace him!

From the moment he beheld the golden-haired paleface, the Sioux fighter named Viper swore she’d never meet the white captives’ fate of torture and degradation. This was a woman created for the most ecstatic kinds of lovemaking … and the virile male would make sure he’d be the one to show her the myriad ways to enjoy pleasure. He promised himself he’d release her when the furor of the battle died down. But once the jet-haired Sioux trapped her in his arms, he realized a lifetime was too short to savor her ivory skin, to exult in her lavender scent, to take her time and again as her Tender Savage. 

wish on the moon

Category Romance Review: Wish on the Moon by Sally Wentworth


The Book

Wish on the Moon by Sally Wentworth has gotten mixed to low reviews around the internet, but it’s a romance I fully enjoyed.

The Plot

The heroine of Wish on the Moon, Skye, is a plain-looking, sweet girl who goes out to a Caribbean island for her cousin Jodi’s wedding.

Skye has always been in Jodi’s shadow: not as pretty, not as popular, not as rich. Skye is mopey but likable because she’s imperfect. You get the idea. She’s a portrait painter, and Jodi wants her to paint a picture of her fiance.

The sparks fly for the heroine and the hero. Who’s the hero? The very man she’s to paint a portrait of. Thane is very handsome and from the upper-crust of society. And he’s engaged to marry Skye’s cousin, Jodi.

Thane seems antagonistic to Skye at first, and that’s because he’s fighting his feelings for her. He’s not ga-ga over Jodi, but he cared enough about her to consider her the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Thane is not a willing cheater. But along comes Skye with her gentleness, openness, and sporting no airs of superiority.

Jodi is instinctively aware of the attraction between the pair, although she finds it hard to accept, as Skye is so “beneath” her in every way. Jodi isn’t written as a perfect martyr. She’s not very nice, and other than her wealth and beauty. One wonders what Thane sees in her.

There is a scene towards the end when Jodi sees the portrait Skye painted. She flies into a rage and destroys it. So stunning was Skye’s work that it cried out her love for Thane.

Skye and Thane struggle with their attraction. Surprisingly, Skye is more willing to take a chance than Thane is. Perhaps that was to show Thane wasn’t written to be an utterly callous monster with no regard for other people’s feelings.

My Opinion

Nevertheless, love finds a way in Wish on the Moon. Even though Jodi tries to get revenge, it’s not enough to stop what must be.

This is an unusual romance because technically, the heroine is “the other woman.” She comes in and breaks up a seemingly happy engagement–and not just a random stranger’s but her cousin’s. This trope seems to be unliked around Harlequin-loving circles, and it’s easy to understand why.

If I put myself in Jodi’s shoes, I’d see she had every right to be upset with her cousin and fiance. But Harlequin Presents exist in a part of the universe where crazy topes are acceptable and, within the hands of a solid writer, can be emotional-wrenching reads you actually enjoy. Sally Wentworth was one of Harlequin’s talented writers who could handle this plot.

Final Analysis of Wish on the Moon

Perhaps if I had read Sally Wentworth’s Wish on the Moon from Jodi’s point of view, I would have felt differently toward the main couple and viewed them as antagonists, not as the protagonists they were. Even so, perspective can alter the way opinions are formed.

Plus, with Wentworth’s solid writing, she had me rooting for Thane and Skye. She’s written some crazy books in her day, but for the most part, Wentworth was in my top tier of writers from this imprint.

Obviously, holidays for this family will mean separate households! But such is the case in HP Romancelandia.

4 Stars


She felt betrayed by fate…

From England, Skye Holman had traveled to the colorful Bahamas, happily anticipating her cousin Jodi’s wedding. But when she met Thane Tyson, the groom-to-be, she couldn’t deny the spark that ignited between them.

Resolutely, Skye convinced herself that she had nothing in common with Thane. She was an artist who valued tranquility—whereas Thane was a lawyer, driven by ambition. In fact, social-climbing Jodi would be perfect for him.

Yet Skye longed for Thane, even though she was reaching for the moon. And, despite her own pain, she would never deliberately hurt Jodi. 

The Perfect Marriage, Laurey Bright 1995 Diane Sivavec

Category Romance Review: A Perfect Marriage by Laurey Bright

The Book

It’s difficult for me to give Laurey Bright’s* A Perfect Marriage a coherent review because it’s a romance novel that deals with adultery.

The Plot

Max and Celine have had a comfortable, friendly marriage for 12 years, however with no passion nor love. The two had been hurt prior to their marriage and agreed that a union based on friendship–not love–was best. Then things take a sharp left turn when the male protagonist “falls in love” with another woman, his co-worker. She’s much younger than he is of course. Max sleeps with her and then leaves his Celine.

But after a night of unexpected passion with Celine, Max gets his estranged wife pregnant. Finally, Max realizes, almost too late, that it’s his wife he’s loved all along.

This was a difficult romance to stomach. The heroine is way too good for the “hero,” a pathetic man in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

Despite the fact that Bright tries to make Kate, the other woman, seem like a naïve, beautiful virgin who is as much a victim as Celine, she wasn’t. In my eyes, she was a manipulative beeyotch. Kate was no innocent schoolgirl. She’s an educated attorney who had no qualms about breaking up a marriage. She even dared to ask a pregnant Celine to let Max go.

Max never sufficiently redeems himself. It is only through Celine’s love and forgiveness that reconciliation is possible.

Final Analysis of A Perfect Marriage

A Perfect Marriage by Laurey Bright was an emotional roller-coaster. The author does a wonderful job showing how separation and divorce can affect not just the spouses, but the whole extended family.

Ultimately, as hard as this book was to handle at times, it deserves a positive rating because of how it portrays the healing power of love.

A Perfect Marriage was awarded the Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA Award for Best Long Contemporary Romance in 1996.

*(Laurey Bright is a pseudonym for Daphne Clair)

3 Stars


Broken Vows

To their friends, family and neighbors, Celine and Max Archer had a perfect marriage. Only the Archers knew they’d never been in love, and that nights of passion were few and far between. Still, both thought the other happy with the dry-eyed deal they’d made instead of vows…

Until Max broke the bargain—by wanting more. And suddenly, after twelve peaceful years, the perfect marriage was over…

But when Celine realized how much she loved her husband, was it too late to get him back? For unbeknownst to Max, they’d been blessed with a new beginning…”

captive angel pino

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James

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

Historical Romance Review: Captive Angel by Deana James


The Book

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

That is pure truth.

An Unusual Romance

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

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

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

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

The Set-Up and the Characters

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

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

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

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

You see, Hunter is a real hound dog.

The Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Light in The Darkness

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

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

This shocks Fancy to her core.

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

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

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

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

The Creep “Hero” Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Thrilling Conclusion

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

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

Does Hunter deserve Caroline? No freaking way!

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

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

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

Nevertheless, she’ll keep some secrets to herself…

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

In the end, Caroline gets it all.

Final Analysis of Captive Angel

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

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

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

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

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.8


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

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


Historical Romance Review: Raven by Shana Carrol


Named for the bird of night, she vowed to fly free and soar on the wings of passion. Once, she had been Marie Celeste Ravenne, a shy and lovely free spirit plucked from her Caribbean island home to become the ward of a cruel, scheming English nobleman. But now she was Raven – a fiery temptress whose daring spirit astonished all who sailed the sea…whose sumptuous body excited the lust of the powerful men who longed to claim her, to use her, perhaps to kill her… and whose aching woman’s heart led her across elegant ballrooms and raging oceans in search of the dashing rebel chieftain who had won her love forever. 


Reviewed by Introvert Reader


The Book

Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer)–not to be confused with Evelyn Rogers’ Raven— is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.

Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.

The Plot

Part One, Raven by Shana Carrol

The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.

Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.

The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.

raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Arrow Books edition (UK),
cover artist unknown

Part Two, Raven by Shana Carrol

Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.

Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).

Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.

In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.

As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.

A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.

Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.

Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.

Part Three, Raven by Shana Carrol

Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?

Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.

More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.

The Shana Carrol team created a frustrating read with Raven. The first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.

Raven shana carrol
Raven, Shana Carrol, Sheridan Books

My Opinion by Shana Carrol

I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.

I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.

He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a man who deserved her.

Final Analysis of Raven

Raven was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.

As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.

If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.

I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it.

3.49 Stars

dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Historical Romance Review: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

historical romance review


The Book

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas features one of her most beloved characters, Derek Craven. Derek was previously seen in Then Came You, whose reserved hero, Alex Raiford, was more to my liking. This is a beautiful romance by the talented Kleypas where two people from contrasting social classes come together in love.

The Characters and the Set-Up

Sara Fielding is a novelist in Regency-era England. She’s not ravishingly beautiful, wears spectacles, and is a rather curious woman. Her novels address the fallen people in society. Sara’s out at night in a rough London neighborhood to investigate material for her next book when she comes upon an altercation. She’s able to prevent the man from being killed, although not before his attackers cut him. The man she saves is the aforementioned hero, Derek Craven.

Craven is the owner of London’s most successful gambling house, which doubles as a house of pleasure. Far from being a traditional English lord, he’s as rough as a hero can get. Derek was born illegitimate and grew up on the streets, having to build himself up alone. He’s wealthy but certainly not part of polite society, even if some of his past mistresses are. Craven is snaggletoothed, handsome in an off-beat, rugged type of way, and speaks with a Cockney accent. I picture him as Christian Bale’s character from the film “The Prestige.”

Derek wants nothing to do with the over-inquisitive Sara. Nevertheless, she did save his life, so he owes her a favor. Derek allows Sara into his dark underworld for her research. Sara will meet Derek’s factotum, Worthy, numerous ladies-of-the-evening, and other interesting people at Craven’s.

The Plot

However, it’s the owner of the establishment she’s most keen about. And Derek can’t help but fight his growing tenderness for the innocent miss.

Sara walks around Craven’s with her pencil and notepad in hand, a naive, inquisitive creature. She asks questions about everything, from gambling to the lives of the women who work there to more personal questions about Derek.

Sara is involved with a simpering nabob, so it’s no shock she’s intrigued by the “bad-boy” Derek Craven.

Derek does not like Sara, or at least he wants her to know he feels that way. He pushes her away, despite his desperate attraction to her. Sara’s a hidden beauty with a huge heart, a heart Derek knows he can only break.

dreaming of you lisa kleypas

Because of his background, Derek thinks he’s not the man for any decent woman, especially not Sara. He wants her yet believes he’s not good enough for her.

Indeed, Sara falls for Derek and she does everything to convince him they should be together. Sara goes as far as dressing up for a masked ball at the casino/brothel, something no conventional miss would dare.

Derek has severe issues of inadequacy. He’s done much to better himself, taking language lessons and having a valet–as a proper gentleman should. But a proper gentleman is something he’ll never be. He doesn’t think he deserves Sara’s love and pushes her off to her “fiance.”

There’s also some mysterious peril afoot. Plus, a crazed, over-the-top villainess in the form of Derek’s ex-mistress, Joyce. Derek is done with Joyce, but like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” she “will not be ignored!”

Will the threat of danger be what finally brings Derek and Sara together?

Separately they had different strengths. Together they were complete.

Final Analysis of Dreaming of You

Unlike many of Kleypas’ readers, although I enjoyed this captivating love story, I don’t consider Dreaming of You one of my favorites. That’s no insult since it’s akin to attempting to rank the best British rock band of all time. There are so many greats Kleypas has created over the last twenty-five years.

Kleypas excels at making swoon-worthy heroes. Derek’s protestations of affection for Sara are cruel, but the reader is always aware of how much he desires her. She consumes Derek as no other woman before (or after).

When he does declare his adoration for the lady, be prepared to melt!

I understand why Derek Craven has made so many appearances in Kleypas’ novels. He’s the kind of man you can’t forget. A self-made man who thinks himself unworthy of love and has a heart of gold. Sara is fine; she simply not as exciting to me as her co-star.

If you haven’t read this one, consider putting it on your to-be-read list. It’s a romance that will grab your heart.

4.22 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.3


She stood at danger’s threshold—then love beckoned her in.

A prim, well-bred gentlewoman, Sara Fielding is a writer who puts pen to paper to create dreams. But now curiosity is luring her from the shelter of her country cottage into the dangerous world of Derek Craven—handsome, tough, and tenacious—and the most exciting man Sara has ever met.

Derek rose from poverty to become the wealthy lord of London’s most exclusive gambling house. And now duty demands that he allow Sara Fielding to enter his perilous realm of ever-shifting fortunes—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But there is a hidden strength and sensuality to the lady that captivates him beyond his better judgment.

And in this world, where danger lurks behind every shadow, even a proper “mouse” can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a cynical gambler can be shaken to his core by the power of passion and the promise of love.


Contemporary Romance Review: Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Pocket Books/ Richard Gallen, 1981, cover artist TBD

Gallen Contemporary Romance #43801-8


4 1/2 Stars

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

A Category Romance on Steroids

Like big, dramatic contemporary romances set in glamorous, exciting milieus? With dynamic characters and lots of plot? Then I recommend Sometimes a Stranger by Angela Alexie.

It was originally published in 1981 as part of the Richard Gallen imprint from Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. The edition I read came from Paradise Press, a reprint house, in 1990. Can’t say I care much for the cover graphics of my copy. But the text itself—wow!

It does something unusual for a contemporary romance of any generation. Typically stories in this genre take place in “the eternal present.” There are no dates as in historical romances. It’s assumed that what’s going on can happen when the work is first published and any time thereafter.

Trouble is, the present ISN’T eternal. Things change. I imagine some readers (not including me) get put off when vintage-contemporary romances employ the fashions, pop culture, technology, and social attitudes of their times.

That’s not an issue here. Except for a few flashbacks, Alexie’s Sometimes a Stranger starts in 1970 and ends in 1979. With tweaks, it could take place nowadays. But in retrospect, the author was smart to lock the story into its timeframe.

Sometimes A Stranger, Angela Alexie, Paradise Press, 1990 edition, cover artist unknown

Greeks Bearing Gifts

Andrea Carswell, an American travel journalist, goes to Athens to write about the splendors of Greece. And promptly falls in love with one. Alexander Deklos, the playboy heir of a powerful family in the shipping business. His uncle Spyros Demitriades runs the far-flung enterprise, Delphi, Limited. Alex is too busy having fun to take part in it.

He falls in love with Andrea as quickly as she does with him. Which throws a wrench into the plans of his mother, Olympia Deklos, to marry him to another child of a wealthy Greek family, Athena Lampos. Olympia’s marriage was arranged by her parents. Isn’t that good enough for Alex?

Well, no. He won’t give up Andrea for anything. But he does give up his carefree lifestyle. Alex becomes a major player on Team Delphi. Both choices come with consequences.

Life In the Fast Lane

Then stuff happens. Lots of stuff! To avoid spoilers, that’s as far as my summary will go. But here’s a hint. The plot covers jealousy, business intrigue, workaholism, medical crises, disaster, family feuds, secrets, revenge. Plus, a theme forbidden in today’s romance fiction. Infidelity.

But these disparate themes all work together to enrich the main one, the love between Andrea and Alex. It’s central to the story even when their relationship hits the rocks. Which it does with a force that can be measured on the Richter scale! 

The author employs multiple points of view. But the most frequent POV character is Andrea. A woman who deeply feels every emotion. Which the author conveys with great sensitivity.

And Alex? He’s an alpha hero, all right. He displays that millennia-old failing of his fellow countrymen, hubris. He’s always right, even when he’s wrong!

Though the heroine remains sympathetic throughout the story, the hero is all over the good-bad spectrum. A paragon and a ruthless businessman. A family man and a libertine. A dream lover and a total ass. 

Yet these extremes and everything in between are all phases of the same man. Such is the author’s skill that I can believe Alex as every one of them. And all are fascinating. Even when he’s at his worst, I understand why Andrea still loves him. 

The settings are numerous. Mainly Athens, the Aegean island of Mykonos, London, and New York. These places seem real; reading about them is the next best thing to being there. But in a profound sense, the story unfolds in the hearts and minds of the main characters. Which IMHO is where any story should.

Dutch edition of Sometimes a Stranger, Zo Dichtbij en Toch Ver Weg (So Close and Yet Far Away), Phoenix, 1982, Franco Accornero cover art (front & back cover)

Nearly Perfect

Sometimes a Stranger does almost everything right. Almost? Yes. A few aspects could be better. 

The cast of characters is large, and some of their names sound similar to those of others. And can be in the wrong form given the characters’ ethnicities. For example, Alexander should be Alexandros. I know, that’s just a picky little detail.

More serious is this. A major plot thread, the heroine’s career, is handled poorly. Early on, Andrea gets into writing novels. But success comes too easily. And with a minimum of drama. That’s one of only two aspects of this book with insufficient drama.

The other is her family. Wisely, the author gives them less attention than Alex’s relatives. But they don’t warrant even that. They’re just not that interesting. And in the case of Noah Truesdale, Andrea’s grandfather, it’s hard to believe a powerful newspaper magnate can be such a nice guy. Though I must admit my idea of a man in his position was formed by watching “Citizen Kane”!

Alex’s kinfolk and their interactions make for fascinating reading. Andrea’s don’t. One of these families is dysfunctional. Guess which one.

But don’t let that stop you from reading this novel. And how I wish someone in Hollywood would buy it from a used-book website, find it as enthralling as I do, and turn it into a movie!

old school historicals thumbnail

15 Old School Historical Romances That Revolutionized the Genre

list of best 15 old school bodice ripper novels

15 “Best” Old-School Historical Romances

Best Bodice Rippers or Just Old School Romance?

Sweet Savage Flame has compiled a list of “the best romance novels/ bodice rippers,” demonstrating the genre’s evolution in the last third of the 20th century. These are 15 old-school historicals we consider to be must-reads for those who wish to understand the roots of the romance industry.

Detractors of these novels may disparage them as mere bodice rippers. To us, a “bodice ripper” romance is a term of endearment. We embrace it without shame. Moreover, we appreciate how pivotal that (unfairly maligned) subgenre was in the era’s early years.

There are books on this list that, indeed, are “hardcore” bodice rippers–i.e., romances where the hero forces himself on the heroine. Such was the nature of the early years of the old-school romance era. But as the list goes into the late 1980s and the 1990s, they have disappeared.

This List Has Only Some of the Best Romances; There Are Many More

Sweet Savage Flame’s position on such controversial matters is never to shrink away from the past. We look back head-on and try to investigate, analyze, reflect, and understand.

Most of our picks are seminal works that transformed the industry’s evolution. A few are so notable or unforgettable we feel they merit special appreciation.

Links to our opinions and ratings are provided in the descriptions, but five of the fifteen listed are yet to be reviewed by our staff. We have read all of these and consider them essential reads. We aim to review all books on this list in the upcoming year.

Please note this is not a complete compilation of essential works. This is just a small sample of relevant texts from the thousands of paperback romances published from 1972 to 2000.

The List of 15 Romances to Read, in Chronological Order

#1 The Flame and the Flower

best romance novel flame and flower

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss radically transformed the concept of the romance novel with The Flame and the Flower. Before its 1972 publication by Avon, romantic novels with happy endings never included “explicit” sex scenes between protagonists.

After the hero of The Flame and the Flower, Brandon Birmingham, mistakes the heroine, Heather, for a prostitute, he forces himself upon her. Too late, he discovers the girl is–was–a virgin.

Throughout this doorstopper of a book, Brandon violates Heather several more times before they mutually consent to make love. This is due to Brandon’s transformation into a kinder, more decent man, all to be worthy of Heather’s love.

Contemporary perspectives would consider Brandon’s behavior to be criminal. Nevertheless, fifty years ago, millions of readers were drawn to this love story, viewing the actions as part of the fantasy of “forced seduction.” This was ostensibly a plot device that allowed unmarried virgins to be sexually active without guilt.

The closed-door love scenes for “good girls” were now relics of the past. Although today we categorize The Flame and the Flower as old-school, it marked the start of the “modern era of romance.” The bodice ripper was born.

And the romance genre–and books overall–would never be the same.

#2 Sweet Savage Love

best bodice ripper  novel sweet savage love

Capitalizing on the success of The Flame and the FlowerRosemary Rogers first book ratcheted up the melodrama and sexiness to a new level of extreme. Rape, forced seduction, multiple partners, cheating, and violence were prevalent parts of the story.

Women couldn’t get enough of it, catapulting Rogers to fame and riches.

Sweet Savage Love sold millions and millions of copies, resulting in several sequels and spinoffs.

This revolutionary Western told the tale of Ginny Brandon and Steve Morgan. Here, Rogers’ depicted a heroine who could enjoy sex with men besides the hero.

Inevitably, it seemed this type of ultra-sexual romp would mark the course of historical romances for the foreseeable future.

#3 Moonstruck Madness

best old-school romance novel moonstruck madness

Moonstruck Madness was Laurie McBain‘s second outing. This novel cemented her status as an Avon “Queen of Romance.” (Although–supposedly–McBain co-authored her romance novels with her father.)

This swashbuckling old-school historical romance was a huge best-seller and the first in a popular trilogy about the Dominick Family.

The plot differed from Woodiwiss’ and Rogers’ works in that lovemaking was consensual. There was no bed-hopping, and the violence was not gratuitous.

Moonstruck Madness was a kinder, gentler offering with no bodice-ripping in sight.

Fans flocked to the more tender romantic style. It ultimately produced long-term success.

#4 The Silver Devil

best bodice ripper novel the silver devil

The Silver Devil’s Duke Domenico is possibly the most extreme anti-hero ever to appear in an old-school romance novel. 

Over 45 years after its publication, many readers frequently discuss this book still highly-talked about and consider it one of the best bodice rippers ever written. Teresa Denys’ first-person-POV romance with an Italian beauty is a gripping read from the very first lines.

The powerful and megalomaniacal Duke sees the heroine Felicia at her window, desires her, and soon purchases her from her brother. Domenico’s obsession over her reigns supreme; he goes into murderous rages at the slightest hint of jealousy.

The prose in The Silver Devil is magnificent. The scenes of violence and brutality are intense. The hero is…a complicated man. The novel ends with the typical HEA. Even so, it’s hard to see a happy ending lasting beyond the pages of this book.

If you’re fortunate enough to find the Ballantine edition with the H. Tom Hall cover, it could cost you up to several hundred dollars.

#5 Fires of Winter

fires of winter

Johanna Lindsey‘s third novel, Fires of Winter, was a Viking romance about a captive Welsh woman and her Nordic owner. Marauders raid Lady Brenna’s home, kill the men and enslave and ravish the women. They spare only Brenna from ravishment and violence as the Viking leader has plans for her. She is a valuable prize that he plans to gift as a slave to his youngest son.

Just over 300 pages long (half the length of Woodiwiss’ and Roger’s fat epics), Fires of Winter is a lean, action-packed lean, bodice ripper.

The theme here is all about the battle between the sexes. Although there is forced seduction/ rape, this romance has no cheating. That made quite a difference to many readers looking for monogamous love stories.

However, the couple does argue–a lot. This was a common trait of many of Lindsey’s earlier works.

Johanna Lindsey cemented her status as one of romance’s top best-selling authors with this bodice ripper. The Robert McGinnis romance novel cover design is legendary, featuring the first naked man on a romance cover.

#6 Skye O’Malley

skye o'malley

Skye O’Malley is “The Queen of Erotic Romance,” Bertrice Smallpiece de resistance–her magnum opus. She wrote over 50 novels, and this is her finest work.

In this Tudor-era romance, the beauteous Irish lass Skye O’Malley amasses numerous husbands, lovers, children, and enemies.

And many true loves.

This is the lustiest of bodice rippers. Skye experiences the most rollicking adventures any heroine in Romancelandia could only dream of.

#7 Savage Ecstasy

savage ecstasy

Janelle Taylor’s Savage Ecstasy wasn’t the first historical bodice ripper published by Zebra books. It wasn’t even the first best-seller out of Kensington’s flagship imprint. It was, however, the one that firmly marked the largest US independent publisher on the map as a major player. 

In the decade that followed, Zebra would be a dominant force to be reckoned with in the romance field.

Savage Ecstasy sold over a million copies, as did its sequel, Defiant Ecstasy. It spawned a long-running series that told the love stories of Gray Eagle and Alisha and their children and their spouses.

Savage Ecstasy was one of the first publications of the enormously popular Native American romance subgenre. Readers consumed these romantic novels in droves until well into the 2000s.

#8 Stormfire

old-school best romance novel stormfire

Christine Monson’s Stormfire is perhaps one of the genre’s last hardcore bodice-rippers. Stormfire made some romantic novels of the 1970s appear tame in contrast.

This tale of vengeance is extreme in its brutality. Set in Regency Era England, Ireland and Napoleonic France, it keeps hitting the reader with action and insanity.

From the moment the heroine is kidnapped and violated by the hero, we can see this is not a romance for the faint-hearted.

Like The Silver Devil, Stormfire transcended its seemingly sordid content through thoughtful, superb writing and intense characterization.

Like that other romance, this is considered one of the best bodice rippers ever. Plus, it, too, is hard to find and expensive if you do!

#9 Whitney, My Love

regency romance novel whitney my love

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught is the story of a gawky, coltish girl in love with a charming young man who barely notices her.

She goes off to finish school and returns a beauty. Then Whitney Stone finds herself forced into marriage with the dark Duke of Westmoreland. After a tumultuous beginning, they slowly learn to love one another.

Whitney, My Love is a beloved classic to this day. It reinvented the Regency romance by making it more sensual and increasing the page length and scope.

#10 A Knight in Shining Armor

old-school best romance a knight in shining armor

Jude Deveraux‘s A Knight in Shining Armor is a tear-jerker of a travel romance. Take note of the book’s cover. It was not Deveraux’s typical stepback or clinch cover but a simple design showing an encircled gauntlet holding a flower.

This was a sign of “respectability” for Deveraux, signifying that she was one of Pocket Books‘ most successful authors. A Knight in Shining Armor had been released in a hardcover edition in 1989 before being printed in paperback, extremely rare for romance writers, who had always been associated with with “pulp” genres.

The heroine, Douglass, is transported back to Tudor-era England and falls in love with an Elizabethan knight. Things take a twist when she returns to the future.

And so does the hero! But now he doesn’t recognize her.

The pair fall in love both in the past and the present eras. Will they ever find their forever somewhere in time?

#11 Gentle Rogue

best bodice ripper romances gentle rogue

Yes, Johanna Lindsey appears twice on this list–for a good reason.

Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue might not be historically accurate as for a Regency romance. Yet it’s so whimsical, romantic, witty, and the best of her Malory series; it’s a gem!

James Malory is an absolute cad. The tables are turned on him when he falls in love with a beauty disguised–quite poorly–as a cabin boy. Then Georgina abandons him at a port.

He’ll have to deal with the wrath of her five older brothers to get things straightened out.

#12 Outlander

best bodice ripper romances outlander

Although Diana Gabaldon has said that Outlander is not a romance novel, it does qualify as one–if you consider it a standalone.

It has the two elements required for the genre: a central love story that ends HEA. Although the subsequent books in the series would separate the lovers through time and space, the first entry is pure romance.

Outlander–or Cross-Stitch as it’s known elsewhere–is, at its core, a historical romance that features time travel. The married-in-the-future heroine, Claire, comes off as improbably perfect (in one scene, she fights a wolf and kills it with her bare hands!).

Jamie Frasier, however, is a favorite hero of many romance readers.

Outlander has been adapted into a popular television show, introducing new fans to this already successful novel.

#13 Flowers from the Storm

best bodice ripper romances flowers from the storm

Flowers from the Storm by the talented Laura Kinsale is an absolutely unusual yet stellar romance. Kinsale’s writing is superb. Romance is at its intellectual best here.

The plot is this: a disreputable rogue of a man succumbs to a stroke.

The Earl of Jervaulx is mainly paralyzed and incapable of speech. A prim Quaker mathematician takes on the daunting task of rehabilitating him. Soon, they discover that he has a secret baby from his married mistress when the child is dropped off at his home.

How can such two disparate people be happy together?

This emotional, exquisitely written book is one of the 1990s best romance novels and deserves a look.

#14 Dreaming of You

best romance books DREAMING OF YOU

Although we prefer its predecessor, Then Came You, the Regency-era romance Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas is a monumental book that catapulted the author to superstardom.

Readers adore the hero, Derek Craven. The sexy, snaggle-toothed London rough pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He now runs a gaming hall and brothel.

Craven falls for a curious, bespectacled young woman named Sara. She turns his entire world asunder with her wondering innocence.

#15 Lord of Scoundrels

best romance novels LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

In Loretta Chase’s old-school Regency-era romance, Lord of Scoundrels, The Marquess of Dain was abused as a child for his ugliness and grew up thinking himself worthless. So he now engages in a life of debauched chaos.

Dain meets his match in Jessica Trent, who initially seeks vengeance against him. She then changes course and fall in love.

However, after he dishonors her, Jessica shoots Dain. This makes Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels a controversial romance in some eyes and a must-read in others.

While the rippers of the 1970s were now a remnant of the past, the power dynamics between males and females remained paramount in the genre.

Your Opinion

Again, this is not a complete syllabus of the best historical books in romance. We could have made this list much longer, but we settled on only 15 books. Now we want to hear from you.

What old-school historical romance do you think we left off this list? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Do you think any of these books rank as the best in romance?

How do you feel about bodice ripper romances? If you were creating a list of best contemporary romances, which books would you choose?

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


Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather

category romance
Sirocco by Anne Mather
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1983
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Presents #683
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 192
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: Sirocco by Anne Mather

The Book

Sirocco is a solid read, worthy of my time, but not without its flaws. It’s consistent with the kind of writing I’m used to when I pick up an Anne Mather book.

An Anne Mather Harlequin Presents is what I consider to be an “old reliable.” She wrote romances that are almost guaranteed to entertain me, or if not, then at least not bore me. Although usually satisfactory, Mather rarely wrote books I would place on an all-time best list. Sometimes she does surprise me, so it makes reading her works an experience to look forward to.

In this category romance, Anne Mather employs one of her commonly used tropes: a hero in pursuit of an already “attached” woman.

The Stalker vs. the User

One night, Rachel Fleming comes across a man whom she thinks requires help. The man is slumped in his car, just sleeping, but Rachel doesn’t know that. He turns out to be Alexis Roche, a blond half-Arab, half-French, sheik ruler of a tiny nation (Rachel doesn’t know that either until later).

Alexis is instantly intrigued by his would-be savior and begins to stalk her.


If it’s not him, he has his “people” trail her. Alexis finds out where Rachel lives, where she works, and that she’s currently engaged to a wealthy man, Roger what’s-his-name. He’s a spoiled “mama’s boy” who uses the heroine for his own selfish desires.


I read this on Kindle but knew it was written long ago. The copyright date is 1983, so it’s “reasonable” to assume social values here would be similar to those found in the early 1960s as this is an old-school, vintage Harlequin Presents.

What blew me away was even though the heroine was a virgin, she gets sexually intimate with her fiance:

“Roger was singularly old-fashioned when it came to relationships, and although he had taught her ways to please him without their going to bed together, they had never actually made love.”

Then Roger tells Rachel later during a passionate moment together: 

“”Oh, sweetheart, I’ve missed you,’ he murmured, drawing her reluctant hands to his body. ‘Hmm, that feels good. Go on, go on: make love to me.'”

I was, as they say, in these books, gobsmacked. The heroine WAS doing what I thought she was doing! How Anne Mather got that past the editors in 1983 is beyond me, but sometimes, as I said, Mather does surprise me.

sirocco alt
Sirocco, Ane Mather, Mills and Boon, 1983, artist unknown

The Rest of the Plot

Anyway, Alexis is able to manipulate his way into Rachel’s life, hawking her, hounding her, and preying upon her until every aspect is turned completely upside down. Alexis is typical of Mather’s heroes, self-centered, arrogant, and determined to have his way.

She also describes the awful clothing her characters wear, so you can imagine the hero in his velvet suit, his silk shirt unbuttoned down to his navel to reveal his masculine, suitably hairy chest as he smokes cheroots while he contemplates seducing the heroine.

Alexis manages to blackmail Rachel into his arms as he uses her father’s outstanding gambling debts to force her to do whatever he wants. Alexis then whisks her away to his little sheikdom, where he has his way with her (and she with him), all while Alexis’ family looks upon Rachel with scorn.

About the heroine, Rachel. She tries to carry herself as a confident, modern woman, disdainful of the type who’d sit back and allow a man to run her roughshod. However, many awful characters weigh her down: her fiance, her father, Alexis’ family members, and Alexis himself. Rachel poses as this strong character but is she really?

Alexis is certainly the take-charge type, and though she opposes him, in the end, we all know how this winds up.

Final Analysis of Sirocco

I sort of hated this book and liked it at the same time. I enjoyed Alexis’ pursuit of Rachel, although it’s hard to see when desire turns to love with Mather’s male characters. Was this just a power play for Alexis?

Rachel attempts to fight for the right to live life on her terms. She’s just not very good at it. I had mixed feelings about this one, but there was something so engaging about the tale I read it super quickly.

As I feel now, it’s a 3.5-star read, which is what I usually rate an Anne Mather book.

3.5 Stars


Rachel Fleming wished she had never stopped to help the stranger in distress. But it was too late now. The tables had turned.

Alexis Roche was no helpless victim. He was a seasoned hunter committed to the chase. He found out Rachel’s name, address, even where she worked and set out to systematically change her whole life. First he toyed with her engagement, and then he closed in on he dangerously frazzled emotions.

Rachel’s mind bid her to run…but her heart was tiring from the chase.

blood red roses

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville

historical romance review
Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Leslie Pellegrino-Peck
Book Series: Medieval Series #1
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon

Historical Romance Review: Blood Red Roses by Katherine Deauxville


“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”

BLOOD RED ROSES by Katherine Deauxville

The Book

Blood Red Roses is, understandably, a difficult book for some readers to enjoy. However, it stands as one of my most-loved medieval romances.

It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderful piece of romantic fiction, styled to appeal to a niche audience.

I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (aka Maggie Davis) twice. Once in middle school and then years later in high school. The story swept me away both times.

The Plot

Alwyn, the Heroine

Alwyn, the heroine of Blood Red Roses, is 28 years old. That is practically ancient for her time period for her to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands.

They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William.

It rang true to me that a woman would be forcefully bonded to her enemy. It seemed authentic that her husband, being a man of war and conquest, would go off to fight while she lived in her castle, awaiting his return.

Blood Red Roses
Blood Red Roses, Katherine Deauxville, St Martin’s Press, 1991, cover artist Leslie Pellegrino-Peck

Fulk, the Hero

What initially drives Fulk is simple. He won lands in conquest and to help solidify the bonds of conquest, he must marry the daughter of the former lord of said lands. What drives Alwyn is simpler: hate towards her enemy and a desire to be free.

Fulk and Alwyn don’t spend much time together, they’re not deep on intimate conversations either. Their times together are passionate and forceful.

My liking for Blood Red Roses could be because I love the brutal incivility of the Middle Age era. Deauxville injects an earthy historical ambiance that I really appreciate. What is the point of historical romance without history?

There’s a scene where Fulk and his men torture a man and semi-castrate him before he flees. Fulk comments that it could have been worse: “At worst yon Welshman has one dangling nut.” Another scene depicts Fulk and his men as they stare at a woman with hairless pudenda.

The Medieval Setting of Blood Red Roses

The genital references seem to be a theme in the Deauxville Medieval series. There is a dwarf with a giant dong in the second book, Daggers of Gold, which also has lots of talk about circumcised penises (the hero is Jewish). The third, The Amethyst Crown, features more references to dwarves, foreskin, castrations, and shorn vulvas.

Blood Red Roses has middling ratings on some review sites, yet here I am praising it. I often have a contrarian opinion on certain books due to my personally peculiar tastes.

The red-haired hero is extremely cold and distant.

While Fulk is away, Alwyn has an emotional romance with a blond Scottish mason she fantasizes about and kisses.

Later is taken captive by Powys, a black-haired Welsh lord from the hills. The latter was foretold to Alwyn by a fortune-teller who told her to choose Powys as her man.

Then, there is Fulk’s cousin Geoffrey who seems to have designs on Alwyn himself.

Final Analysis of Blood Red Roses

Fulk and Alwyn have a lust-based relationship, one not based on trust or communication. Is it a love story for the ages? Probably not, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the authenticity of the time period. Blood Red Roses is a Historical romance with a capital H on the history.

Fulk is no reformed kind-hearted hero at the end, and Alwyn will always be a disagreeable shrew. Still, I can’t give this book a lower than “I love it” rating, because frankly, I did.

Perhaps it’s a matter of temporal tastes, as back in 1991 when Blood Red Roses was released, it was fairly successful, winning the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Medieval Romance.

5 Stars



When King William’s knight, Fulk de Jobourg, is sent to reclaim the lands of a hanged traitor, he is also commanded to take the man’s unwilling daughter as his wife. Bound and gagged, the furious Lady Alwyn is wedded to this dark-eyed, massive man who spends but one night in her bed before galloping off to fight the king’s battles once more.

Left behind to tend to the Castle Morlaix, Alwyn cannot bring to mind the face of the husband she barely knows. But her body remembers the feel of his hot touch…and the urgent passion he ignited within her. When Fulk returns, Alwyn fights his efforts to take control of her family’s estate. But she cannot resist what he brings to her at night…a sensual pleasure that binds her to him forever against her will…

crop person showing broken paper heart

Pet Peeves and Deal Breakers in Romance

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Each person has their own unique limit of what they can or cannot tolerate in fiction. Although it has an absolute requirement for a happy ending, the romance genre may contain deal-breakers for readers looking for a pleasurable experience that takes them away from reality for a few hours.

Our Pet Peeves

Some of our negative book reviews at Sweet Savage Flame have pointed ti personal pet peeves as reasons why we couldn’t enjoy our reading experiences.

In Nadine Crenshaw’s Captive Melody, there were two negative tropes that were deal breakers for Blue Falcon. First, a captive who experiences Stockholm Syndrome for her captor. Second, the hero seeking to inflict vengeance upon an innocent party. There are cruelties that characters experience that cannot be offset by skillful writing or a conveniently happy ending.

As I’ve stated before, as in Dana Ransom’s Love’s Glorious Gamble: I can’t enjoy a romance where the hero is mourning the death of a previous beloved. While I prefer a heroine to be the hero’s only love, I can accept a rival for his affections, so long as she is alive. A flesh and blood woman will always pale to the perfection of a saintly ghost.

We focus on vintage reads on this site, so there may be books we review that consist of “dated” tropes or “politically incorrect” behavior or beliefs that may appear strange, insensitive, or even offensive to modern mindsets. Reviewers provide their own opinions, and on occasion personal insights. Whether to accept these books as products of their age or dismiss them outright is solely up to the individual reader. Everyone has a right to their own personal opinions or idiosyncrasies.

Romance No-Nos

As I’ve scrolled through forums and sites, I’ve come upon various pet peeves in romance. They range from the most minute issues to the most indefensible.

Cheating seems to be the most common deal breaker. Soms older romances featured heroes who would be sexing it up with their mistresses on page one. He might even do so after he’s met or been intimate with the heroine. It takes an extremely talented writer to make their audience accept and move on from this point. If cheating is the main obstacle in a romance, such as in Laurey Bright’s A Perfect Marriage, some readers may not be as forgiving as the heroine.

In a similar vein, there are readers who don’t want to know about a main character’s past sexual experience. A fantasy that appeals to some Romance fans is for the hero to be the heroine’s one and only lover. This is a plot point that seems authentic in Historical and vintage Romances. For some readers it’s unconvincing in a modern contemporary novel unless the heroine is very young or was raised unconventionally.

The abuse or death of animals, the elderly, or children might not appear often in romances, and there’s a good reason why. Those are issues that can be quite upsetting emotionally to folks seeking escapist entertainment.

Sometimes a pet peeve may not be a plot point but a word used. So many times I’ve heard readers state they can’t stand the word “moist” to describe how. er, excited a heroine gets. No matter how erotic the scene, once that word rears its head, visions of Duncan Hines chocolate cake or alcohol-soaked sanitizing towelettes come to mind.

What are your pet peeves in romance? Is there anything that can make you overlook your pet peeves, such as literary skill, or are there some things you just won’t accept in a love story?

Please, drop a comment and let’s talk romance.

surrender to love

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

historical romance review
Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers
Rating: three-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Unknown
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Victorian Era Romance
Pages: 612
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers


The Book

Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epic romances. Alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s my least liked of her books I’ve read so far.

The Heroine

Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky. She hates convention. 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. Everything was political. That attitude is very draining.

But the worst aspect about her is reading her inner monologues. They’re jam-packed with randomly italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.

Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s menopausal mania slipping in. (I’m feeling it myself these days.)

I got a strong sense of Alexa’s mental instability with her long internal rants. Or when she’s scratching the hero Nicholas’s face off. Or sobbing hysterically in front of him. Basically, every scene underscores her fluctuating moods.

The writing was erratic. For example, POV changes without warning, just within one paragraph.

And did I mention those italics?

The Plot

Alexa wants to be independent in a society constricted by stultifying rules. She meets Nicholas Dameron, who’s as wild as she is.

Their relationship is a tug-and-pull game that goes on for too long. There’s no consummation until page 337 of this 612-page brick, which ticked me off.

The tempo in Surrender to Love is more sluggish than the other Rogers books I’ve encountered, even the profoundly introspective The Wildest Heart. The pacing plods on.

It turned around after Part Two, but it was rough when a book doesn’t have not much happening for the first 200 pages. Alexa gets involved in a few scandals and then marries an older husband who brings her to the “Temple of Venus” to catch a naughty peep show or two.

She is soon widowed and goes to England to take society by storm.

Eventually, I saw where Rogers was going with the plot; it’s a tale of a woman who defies the stifling conventions of the Victorian Era through her overt sexuality.

I wondered if Rogers was ever a fan of Mexican telenovelas. The hidden family secrets, brutish hero, and spunky heroine reminded me of Alondra, which was about a “beautiful, rebellious girl, with very independent and progressive views for that time” (i.e., she has sex with other men besides the hero) who looks and acts just like Alexa.

rosemary rogers bodice rippers
The cast of the Mexican telenovela Alondra.

Random Observations on Surrender to Love

All the Viscounts of this-and-that running around got confusing. But at least they weren’t Dukes!

Nicholas Dameron was too nebulous, too enigmatic for a hero, which is unusual for me to criticize. Despite learning the history of his first wife, I didn’t understand him at all.

As always, Rogers drew upon themes of women’s liberation. This time it came on a bit thick.

Yes, Alexa, we get it. Being a woman in the 19th century was smothering and oppressive. However, she was part of the wealthy upper class, plus beautiful & widowed. Alexa had privileges that the average woman of her time did not share.

Alexa’s rash impetuosity was a major flaw. She never thought about her actions first. She was capricious and blamed her troubles on outside forces.

Nobody forced her to move to London and deal with the repressive London ton, but she had to have her “revenge” on Nicholas for ruining her in Ceylon.

Sure, Alexa, it was revenge you were after.

The world was that woman’s oyster, but she had a hankering for geoduck:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
That’s a shellfish. What did you think it was?

The first two hundred pages could have been condensed to half that amount. The ending was weird (although not the “trial” and a whipping scene, which was awesome). One moment Alexa is engaged to Charles, her consummation with him is glossed over, and then she ends up married to Nicholas.

Happy ending, I guess?

Final Analysis of Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love wasn’t Rosemary Roger’s best romance. She’s written far better.

Strong characterization, a staple of her works, is missing here. The heroine was a manic mess. Nicholas, the hero, was too distant and mysterious to be appreciated.

The villains weren’t exciting. Although I liked Alexa’s evil grandma, she was the Diet Coke of evil: just one calorie, not evil enough. Same opinion of the Marquess. But as long as I kept imagining Mexican actress Beatriz Sheridan as the evil Dowager Marchioness, I had a good time with that particular villainess.

Beatriz Sheridan

I would have given Surrender to Love a less than favorable rating but settled on three stars because the pluses slightly outweighed the negatives.

But, oh, those annoying italics made it difficult. 

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.9


Under the midnight moon of Ceylon, on the night of her debutante ball at the Governor’s palace, Alexa Howard met her cousin, Nicholas Dameron. And in the sardonic curl of his hard, sensuous lips, in the commanding arrogance of his eyes, Alexa beheld the fierce, implacable passion that would render her helpless to the trembling slavery of desire…

Every kind of love a woman can be made to feel…
Within the golden softness of Alexa’s alluring gentility flowed the insatiable fires of an innocent woman’s awakening to lvoe — and the fury of a betrayed woman’s lust for revenge. Through the nightworlds of Naples, Rome, Paris and London, she was pursued by the man who heartlessly wanted her beauty. But her soul was possessed by the man whose touch was unbearable ecstasy, whose cruelty was ravishing torment, whose tenderness was passion’s fulfillment. Nicholas Dameron had taken her virtue and mocked her pride. But his love was the offering of every pleasure a woman has ever dared to dream of…

Surrender to Love by Rosemary Rogers

Historical Romance Review: Pirate’s Angel by Marsha Bauer

pirate's angel
Pirate’s Angel, Marsha Bauer, Zebra, 1991, Pino cover art


5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Book

First of all, I love the original Pirate’s Angel Zebra Heartfire cover, but man-oh-man, have you taken a look at the e-book version? Authors, why are you doing this to your books? Lots of folks love to mock old-school covers and Fabio, but there are e-book covers that make clinches look like Rembrandts. Even a plain black cover with white Comic Sans font would be sexier than whatever the heck that new version is.

Besides loving the original Pino cover, I loved just about everything else in Marsha Bauer’s 1991 Zebra Heartfire pirate romance. Sure, the heroine is a two-faced hussy, as she has a dependable guy back home whom she plans on marrying while she enthusiastically partakes in lovemaking sessions with the hero. But I couldn’t blame Ivy. Drake was wildly attracted to her.

Plus, he was hot. (God, I’m so shallow.)

The Plot

Part One

Our story begins with a lovemaking session some 20+ years prior to the start of the main plot, with the pirate Keils Cauldron making love to a beautiful woman he calls Sunny.

Ostensibly, the product of this union is our heroine, Ivy Woodruff. Her pregnant mother settled down with a nice guy who raised Ivy and gave her his last name. From what her mother told her of her conception, Ivy is convinced that Keils is her natural father.

Conveniently enough, Ivy is sailing on a ship when Keils and his crew seize it. Keils’ first mate Drake is instantly taken with the violet-eyed vixen, so he makes her his captive. Ivy resists Drake and tries to convince Keils that she is his daughter, but he’s not keen on believing her as he’s in mourning for his dead son, who was mysteriously murdered. For the time being, Keils is determined to find the killer. So he allows Drake to take Ivy aboard, even though Keils doesn’t trust her.

Part Two

There was an engaging plot at the heart of this book; however, what really drew me to Pirate’s Angel was the chemistry between Ivy and Drake. Blond heroes always intrigue me. Drake’s intense pursuit of Ivy had me reading and rereading many scenes.

I remember as a teen pestering a friend over and over to read this one, not resting until she finished it. I had to share the sexy, cheesy awesomeness with someone! When she gave it back, she gushed about how she finished it in one sitting.

The sex scenes were very steamy. I should not have been reading his trash. What did my mother think these books were about? The covers explicitly told you what was going on!

Despite her prim and proper upbringing, Drake brings out the wild siren in her, and they become lovers. Who then shows up, but Ivy’s fiance, Alan? Ivy begs him for forgiveness, which he gives her without any quarrel. As a man-of-the-cloth, he believes in redemption.

Plus, Ivy’s hot.

The trouble is, whenever she and Drake are together, Ivy can’t resist him; their passion is so intense.

Alan who?

Ivy remains convinced that Keils is her father. Despite there being no solid evidence one way or another if they’re related, Keils accept Ivy as his own.

Part Three

There is a slight surprise at the end when Drake and Ivy get married. They rush off to enjoy the consummation of their nuptials when Keils notices that Ivy transposed the “V” and “Y in her own name as she signed the wedding register. Since Keils does that to his name, too, it’s all the proof needed of parenthood. No DNA test could be more precise.

Although, Keils might have a point. The “I before E, except after C, etc.,” rule should mean his name is pronounced “Kails,” but I read it as “Keels,” which makes sense with him being a ship captain and all. So it’s understandable he has trouble spelling his own name. Certainly, there are given names that would be hard for any adult, let alone a child, to spell: Tiphaniee; Quvenzhane; Chrysanthemum; Donnabháin; ABCDE–actually, that one’s pretty easy to spell, it’s just hard to pronounce.

Final Analysis of Pirate’s Angel

I’m not going to pretend as if there’s any doubt to a HEA in this book. Ivy and Drake are obsessed with each other and will spend the rest of their days together, whether on land or on the sea, always getting some booty.

Anyway, whether you buy Pirate’s Angel as an e-book or have an original copy, it’s a story you’ll want to read over and over again. This is one sexy pirate romance.

Heart of the Falcon

Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson

historical romance review
Heart of the Falcon Rating: four-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: TBD
Published by: Bantam
Genres: Historical Romance, Ancient World Romance
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson


The Book

What a rarity in the romance genre was Heart of the Falcon, a historical about lovers in ancient Egypt. Although Suzanne Robinson wrote Egyptian mystery novels under her given name, this is her sole romance set in this era. Most of her other romances took place during the Elizabethan, Medieval, or Victorian time periods.

The Plot

Anqet is an orphan and her evil uncle lusts after her. To get her in his bed, he connives to steal her land. Anqet may be an innocent all alone in the world, but she’s no push-over. This is a woman determined to gain them back. She will go to the Egyptian court and maneuver through a realm of politics and lust. Anqet is stunningly beautiful and perfect and maybe a teensy bit too good to be true.

Thankfully, the hero is far more interesting and complex. Set is a red-haired man of mystery. His heritage is mixed, as his mother’s people come from a place to the north. There was a horrible scandal years ago where Set burned his mother’s corpse rather than have her embalmed and entombed. This is seen as sacrilegious and marks Set as an outsider.

Anqet gets pulled into a world of political intrigue. The villains really steal the show here. There’s a court priest and Set’s former mistress, with the two scheming and lusting over the protagonists. The villainess vamps it up Ancient Egypt style, donning multiple wigs and breast-revealing robes.

Final Analysis of Heart of the Falcon

Unfortunately, there’s this moment just before Heart of the Falcon ends that soured me, forcing me to drop a star rating.


To save the Anqet’s life, Set must sleep with the villainess, his former lover, one more time. He’s able to complete the act by thinking of the heroine. If this had taken place in the middle of the book, I wouldn’t have cared. But with this scene just pages from the end, it put a bitter taste in my mouth about the conclusion. That’s the first thing I think about when recalling this book, besides the setting.

That’s a personal peeve, however. Otherwise, this unique tale of love and drama in the ancient world was a solid read by Suzanne Robinson.

3.5 Stars



Only one woman could win the…Heart of the Falcon.

All her life, raven-haired Anqet had basked in the tranquility of Nefer…until the day her father died and her uncle descended upon the estate, hungry for her land, hungry for her. Desperate to escape his cruel obsession, she fled. But now, masquerading as a commoner in the magnificent city of Thebes, Anqet faces a new danger.

Mysterious and seductive, Count Seth seems to be a soldier loyal to the pharaoh. Yet soon Anqet will find that he’s drawn her into a web of treachery and desire, where one false move could end her life… and his fiery passion could brand her soul forever.

Set against the glorious opulence of the pharaoh’s court, this is a breathtaking tale, rich with pageantry and aflame with unforgettable romance.

Heart of the Falcon by Suzanne Robinson

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.

my hearts undoing

Category Romance Review: My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson

category romance
My Heart's Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1986
Illustrator: Robert A. Maguire
Imprint or Line: Silhouette Special Edition #290
Published by: Silhouette
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Category Romance Review: My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson


The Book

What a frustrating read was My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson. This one was definitely filled with lots of anguish.

Two People In Love…Not Necessarily With Each Other

Colleen had been in love with Erik for years. However, as she stood in her more beautiful cousin’s shadow, Erik had no interest in her. They had briefly dated in the past, but Erik dumped her when he met her much more sophisticated (read: slutty) cousin, Brett. Erik and Brett become the town’s hottest couple, and soon they’re engaged to be married.

Despite the disinterest, Colleen hangs on like an attached puppy, Erik’s friend, to the end. When Brett calls off their wedding at the last minute for a promising modeling career across the country, Colleen is there to help Erik pick up the pieces.

He gets drunk, and they fall into bed together. Naturally, Colleen is a virgin and–naturally—gets pregnant.

Despite the complications this will make in the family, Erik proposes, and the two settle into a marriage filled with lots of love: Colleen’s love for Erik and Erik’s love for Colleen’s cousin.

Things take a turn for the worse. And then they for from worse to worst when Brett returns, her tails tucked between her legs as her career didn’t flourish the way she’d planned.

Will Erik take Brett back and forget his commitments to his ball and chain–er, his wife, Colleen?

Final Analysis of My Heart’s Undoing

I wanted to throttle both the hero and the heroine at times: the hero for being so stupidly infatuated with such a worthless woman, ignoring a very remarkable woman right before him, and the heroine for being such a prideless hanger-on.

Still, My Heart’s Undoing had its angsty moments, which made for a diverting read, particularly towards the end, when things come to a crazy head.

3 Stars

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.3


Colleen had been in love with Erik Johansen for as long as she could remember. And now, in just forty-eight hours, her green-eyed Viking was getting married to another woman, a beautiful model–her own cousin.

But when her cousin left him stranded at the altar, Colleen was there to pick up the pieces. She knew Erik had always thought of her as a little sister, but this night he needed her. And she had never stopped needing him. In one night of unforgettable passion, their lives were inextricably joined. But suddenly Colleen had a decision to make. Could Erik learn to return her love, or was she tied forever to a man she would never really possess?

My Heart’s Undoing by Phyllis Halldorson
Stormspell Anne Mather

Contemporary Romance Review: Stormspell by Anne Mather

Stormspell by Anne Mather
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1982
Illustrator: Len Goldberg
Published by: Harlequin, Worldwide
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 379
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Contemporary Romance Review: Stormspell by Anne Mather


The Book

Written in 1983, Anne Mather‘s Stormspell was anachronistic even for its day. A rare full-length, single edition romance from Mather, it’s certainly chock-full of crazy Harlequin antics.

The Plot

First, the big age difference that skirts legal lines: The heroine is 17 and the hero is 33.

Ruth was raised on a small Caribbean island by her elderly father and is so sheltered she makes your typical Harlequin Presents heroine look like a fusion of legendary romance sluts Skye O’Malley & Anita Blake!

Ruth rescues a stranger when he washes ashore after a shipwreck. A couple of stolen moments later, she’s in love and they consummate their relationship.

Then Dominic–he’s the supposed hero of this book–drops the anvil: he’s engaged and has no intention of dumping his fiancée!

Fast-forward to England a few months later. Ruth’s an orphan now and has come into money. She gets a sophisticated makeover. Dominic pursues Ruth while still engaged.

Oh yeah, they’re gonna do it again.

Final Analysis of Stormspell

Anne Mather’s Stormspell was a fun read.

The hero is a complete dog, but I guess I like jerk heroes because I really enjoyed this Stormspell.

What’s interesting about this is one–at least by 1982 romance standards–is the first half of the book is purely from the heroine’s perspective. So when Dominic betrays Ruth, you really eel it, as the reader has been a voyeur in Ruth’s head witnessing all her turbulent emotions.

Then Anne Mather switches gears and the second half is mostly from the hero’s POV. He’s still slimy, but he’s set up sympathetically despite being such a callous love -them-and-leave-them cheater.

Mather’s writing was at her best here. As a full-page-length novel, this book allowed her to explore deeper avenues that had been restricted in a Mills & Boon/ Harley with half the page count.

If you like cheesy romances–(and I do!)Stormspell is a keeper.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 4.4


Ruth was young, she was beautiful, she was ripe for love…but she was innocent, until Dominic invaded her island home, and her heart…

Dominic was rich and powerful, bored and world-weary, fighting a temptation he had never before had to face…

Indigo was the island, Indigo: Warm and colourful, and seductively romantic; drenched by the tropical sun and washed by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean…

And in the aftermath of the storm, it cast its own spell…

silver storm

Historical Romance Review: Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright

Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright would have been excellent if not for the slow start. However, once it gets there… Oh my.

silver storm cynthia wright
Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1979
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Rakes & Rebels: The Raveneau Family #1
Published by: Ballantine
Genres: American Revolution Romance, Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 342
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright


The Book

I started reading Cynthia Wright‘s Silver Storm, a historical romance set during the American Revolution, then put it down.

It was sweet, but sometimes too sweet, and I had enough cavities. Then about halfway through, it changes in tone.

Our previously gentlemanly hero does a 180 and turns into a lecherous jerk. It was great, and I wanted more!

silver storm sweet bodice ripper

The Plot

The first half of Silver Storm features a sensuous French privateer named Andre Raveneau. He is escorting orphaned Devon Lindsay to her fiancé in Virginia after the end of America’s War of Independence from Great Britain.

The girl is obviously not in love with her missing man. However, she is devoted to him out of a weird sense of commitment.

All the while, this tall, gorgeous, gray-eyed Frenchman plays nice with her. Devon stomps her foot and plays hard to get. Andre was such a nice gentleman–I wondered where this was going.

But oh, he has a plan–a cunning plan–to trap his strawberry-haired prey. And when he finally gets what he wants, Andre plans to just as cruelly get rid of her, eagerly awaiting his next new lay.

In one scene, Andre attempts to seduce his ex-mistress while her brother and new husband play cards downstairs, and Devon, his current mistress, naps in her room.

But poor Devon wakes up and witnesses the dog’s hounding!

It had been so long. He pulled her gown open and her breasts spilled out like ripe, round melons…

Andres is a jerk, all right, but he’s French, so it evens out. I enjoyed the break from the English heroes that dominate Historical Romancelandia. There’s something about a Frenchman that’s so sexy. I can listen to Eric Ripert recite recipes all day…

The second half of this book takes on Devon and Andre’s passionate adventures. That was fun to experience.

Ah, Andre, what a hero!

silver storm sweet bodice ripper

Final Analysis of Silver Storm

Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright would have been excellent if not for the slow start.

However, once it gets there… Oh my.

Years ago, I read a book that designated romance novels, specifically bodice rippers, into two genres: “Sweet” or “Savage.” (Even though it was Kathleen Woodiwiss who started the bodice ripper genre, it was Rosemary Rogers that gave it a name.)

“Sweet” is defined as a story with a hero who may be cruel, callous, forceful, or cheats, but he is the heroine’s one and only.

In a “Savage” styled-romance, anything and everything goes.

In Silver Storm‘s case, although here the heroine is almost raped, her bodice ripped, she is abandoned and cheated on… it’s still sweet.

But it’s very spicy too!

One nit to pick: a reference to “Empire”-styled gowns in the early 1780s when Napoleon wasn’t crowned Emperor until 20 years later.

All in all, a decent old-school romance, maybe not a keeper, but I had fun with it.

silver storm sweet bodice ripper
Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 3.5



Devon Lindsay was a restless, high-spirited girl when she met Andre Raveneau, a notorious sea captain whose pirate’s plunder aided the American Revolution. But his first careless caress stirred Devon to a woman’s wanton needs…

Theirs was a wild, impulsive passion that swept them into wartime espionage and dangerous intrigue. Yet, even in the throes of ecstasy, their willful hearts would not speak of love–until deceit and treachery threatened their life together!

Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright