Tag Archives: Dueling Review

texas star

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)

We’re posting a pair of Dueling Reviews where our reviewers have two very different opinions on Texas Star by Deana James. Here is Blue Falcon’s take.

Texas Star by Deana James
Rating: half-star
Published: 1987
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Texas-Angel #3
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Forced Seduction, Western Romance, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 458
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon

Dueling Reviews: Texas Star by Deana James, #1 (Blue Falcon)


The Book

This review is of Texas Star, a Zebra Lovegram western historical romance and book #3 in the “Texas” series by Deana James.

The Setup

The book doesn’t begin in Texas but in Mexico, where Estrella Luisa Garner y Montejo, hereafter known as Star Garner, the book’s heroine, lives with her brother, Tomas, and his wife, Clara.

Riding onto their property is a man calling himself “Christopher Stewart,” who claims he wants to breed his horse to Tomas’ horses. They don’t realize Christopher has ulterior motives.

It isn’t until he spirits Star away that he reveals the truth: his name is Christopher Stewart Gillard. He is a bounty hunter hired to bring Star back to Texas to die for the killing of her husband, Luke Garner.

The Backstory

Christopher was employed by Matthew Garner, Luke’s father, to bring Star back after Luke was shot and killed, ostensibly by Star. Star was tried and convicted by a jury, but Tomas rescued her before she was hung.

The real story is far more complicated than that.

The Plot

As Chris transports Star from Mexico to Texas, they become lovers.

However, he also hits her, and she is later raped by an attacker, whom she kills. Chris takes Star to his ranch, where she meets his son, Duff, 5.

Duff’s mother, Christine, passed away, giving birth to him. While there, Star hopes if she satisfies Chris sexually, he won’t turn her in.

Chris’s response: bringing Star to Crossways, Texas, to be hanged. Matthew, however, doesn’t actually plan to kill Star. He has other plans in mind for her.

Upon discovering he was wrong about Star, Chris regrets bringing her back to Matthew and tries to rescue her.

Maudie then hires him as her bodyguard, among other things. Chris leaves, then he tries to spirit Star off Garner’s ranch. The rescue attempt is only partially successful, as Matthew catches up to them and shoots Chris, severely wounding him.

Despite being wounded, Chris makes his way to Garner’s ranch, where Maudie holds Duff hostage. She shoots Matthew and tries to force Chris to marry and impregnate her.

He is saved by Star, who shoots and kills Maudie after the truth of what happened to Luke is revealed.

In the end, Star and Chris realize they love each other, marry, and have their Happily Ever After.

The Upside

I suppose I can give Star credit for surviving her abusive relationship with Luke.

The Downside

Having said that, she then engages in another abusive relationship with Chris, who, like Luke, emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abuses her.

There are two romance novel tropes I absolutely hate.

1. Stockholm Syndrome romance

2. Revenge/proxy romances, where the hero punishes the innocent heroine for something someone she either knows or doesn’t know did to the hero.

Texas Star is in the former category.

None of the primary characters are likable.

There are also multiple creepy elements, such as the fact that Maudie and Matthew-who were twins–were engaged in an incestuous relationship.


Steam Level: The sex scenes between Star and Chris range from coercive to not exciting. Lukewarm at best.



Assault, battery, shootings, sodomy, and killings. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Texas Star

Star may forgive Chris for his perfidy. I don’t. This western romance by Deana James, Texas Star, is not the worst book I’ve ever read–that “honor” still belongs to Cassie Edwards’ putrid novel Eugenia’s Embrace.

But it is in the top 10 worst books I’ve ever read.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 0.4

(Cover points don’t count!)



Ebon-haired Star Garner was a wanted woman–and Chris Gillard was determined to collect the generous bounty for bringing her in. He caught the lovely fugitive… but then she trapped him–bewitching him with her luscious figure and innocent onyx eyes. Instead of returning her straightaway to the law, the hot-blooded cowboy took her to his ranch. There he tried to have his fill of her, at high noon and at darkest night, but once he tasted her magnolia-petal flesh, it was impossible to sate his unquenchable desire.


Desperate to be free again, Star made love to her captor as if her life depended on it. The beautiful outlaw sacrificed her very soul to please him… until, to her horror, she discovered she craved and needed his raw, masculine force. Still, she knew Chris had his price and he’d turn her in with no regrets. But what she never counted on was his obsession with her–and how he’d pursue the sleek beauty to the ends of the earth to forever to possess his fiery TEXAS STAR.

Texas Star by Deana James
Desperado Dream sabin

Dueling Historical Romance Review #2: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Blue Falcon gives Karen A. Bale’s Desperado Dream a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating. Introvert Reader, on the other hand, explains her negative perspective of the historical romance in her review.


4 1/2 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This review is of Desperado Dream, the sequel to The Forever Passion by Karen A. Bale.

The Story:

It is 11 years in publishing time, but only 1 year in book time as the relationship between Lisa Jordan Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, continues. The couple and their daughter, Raya, live on a ranch in Monterey, California. The relationship between Lisa and Eric was tumultuous in The Forever Passion, and nothing changes in this book. After Eric and Lisa’s brother, Tom, go to San Francisco on a legal matter, they become involved in rescuing a woman, Teresa Torres, who falls for Eric, and he becomes attracted to her too. Meanwhile, back at the Del Mar ranch, Lisa has been kidnapped by a bandido named Cruz Estacan, who has orders to kill her, Eric, and Eric’s grandfather as a means of retaking the land Cruz and his cohorts believe belongs to them.

Cruz is falling in love with Lisa, so he makes a deal with his boss to save Lisa’s life. The bargain: Her marriage to Eric will be dissolved, and she and Cruz will be married. Cruz decides to take Lisa back to his ranch in San Diego. Along the way, they stop at the home of an old friend of Cruz, Miguel Figueroa, who is Teresa’s cousin and is engaged to be married. The shock: Miguel’s future bride is Cruz’ wife, Soleda. Cruz and Soleda are not legally divorced; therefore, Cruz and Lisa are not legally married, either.

Cruz eventually takes Lisa back to his ranch, where they live together until Eric, Tom, and Teresa arrive. A tragedy takes place and Eric, Lisa, and Cruz are plunged into a dramatic love triangle. Who does Lisa choose? The answer is…you’ll have to read the book to find out!


Ms. Bale is a very evocative author. I felt her characters’ emotions and understood–if not always agreed with–their motivations for their behavior. The characters of Lisa, Cruz, Eric, and Teresa are fully developed. Ms. Bale made me feel as though I was watching real people instead of reading a book, a huge thing for me. Only the best writers can make me feel that way.


The “man or woman falling in love with two men or women” trope is, sadly, one Ms. Bale has used before; in at least 8 of Ms. Bale’s books that I’ve read. (Ms. Bale has 18 titles to her credit: Source: FictionDB. I’ve read 17 of them.) I do understand that creative individuals will repeat themselves, but to do it on 40% of your work is a bit much to me. Eric is a hypocrite. He hates the fact that Lisa was with Cruz but got upset with her when she objected to his sleeping with another woman in The Forever Passion. Do as I say, not as I do. The storyline about Cruz and his henchmen is somewhat weak.


There are sex scenes in the book, but they are quite mild.


Multiple scenes of assaults shootings, knifings, and killings. Most of the scenes are not graphic.

Bottom Line:

Desperado Dream is not good enough for a five-star rating, but it is a good low-to-mid 4-star book. 

Desperado Dream sabin

Dueling Historical Romance Review #1: Desperado Dream by Karen A. Bale

Desperado Dream, Karen A. Bale, Zebra, 1990, Robert Sabin cover art

Dueling Review: Introvert Reader and Blue Falcon #1

In this new segment, we have two reviewers offering their opinions on a single romance. Here, Introvert Reader explains her negative perspective of Karen A. Bale’s historical romance, Desperado Dream. Blue Falcon, on the other hand, gave it a positive review and found the book emotionally captivating.


1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

False Advertising

The huge failure of this Zebra Lovegram romance, Desperado’s Dream by Karen A. Bale, rests on the fact that nothing in the book description hinted this was book #2 in a series about a married couple, Eric & Lisa. Of course, Zebra book descriptions never accurately describe the plot, but I didn’t know that back then. If I had known that going into it, I never would have purchased this romance. But at the tender age of 12, I was dazzled by the Robert Sabin cover. Plus, the purported hero’s name, Cruz, reminded me of the daytime soap opera, “Santa Barbara,” its phenom super couple, Eden & Cruz, and the hunky star, A. Martinez, who played half of said super-couple.

I did know the heroine was married, as it clearly states in the book blurb:

“[W]hile her husband was away, [Lisa,] the auburn-haired beauty found it hard to deny her own passionate nature, especially when Cruz, the handsome desperado, commandeered her ranch. And when he captured her and took her to his mountain hideaway, where she was forced at gunpoint to pretend to be his bride, her protests were only half-hearted, for she found herself on the verge of surrendering to the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.”


But I had assumed this was one of those historical romances where the husband is a creep and dies, leaving the hero & heroine to be together. It wasn’t.

The Plot

So Lisa & Eric are married, he leaves her and their daughter behind to take care of business matters. Lisa’s not happy about her husband leaving them alone without protection. Then this gorgeous hunk, Cruz, and his fellow banditos show up at Lisa’s ranch to take her land.

While the rest of the criminal gang are ruthless men, Cruz is kinder and gentler. He protects Lisa and keeps the men away from her, drawing antagonism from the rest of the crew.

Events turn sour and Lisa and Cruz have to pretend to be married so the men won’t molest her. At gunpoint, they are forced to prove to the banditos that their marriage is real. Cruz has sex with Lisa in a very unsexy scene where she is tearful and thinks about her husband.

The thing is, Lisa’s protests against Cruz’s lovemaking aren’t half-hearted. They’re real. She never surrenders to “the ecstasy of her captor’s virile embrace.” While Cruz is in love with her, Lisa is still madly in love with her husband, Eric, the real “hero” of this book. The man who abandoned her at the beginning of the story is the man she ends up with. That would have been fine for me if: 1) The blurb hadn’t implied Cruz was the hero, and 2) If Lisa had spent most of the book with Eric rather than Cruz.

Lisa becomes pregnant and chooses to stay with Cruz as opposed to going back to Eric and their child. There’s an other-woman, Teresa, who has designs on both of Lisa’s men.

Only after Lisa suffers a miscarriage due to the evil villainess’s machinations does Lisa leave a heartbroken Cruz behind. She really should have ended up with him because to me, Cruz seemed to love her more genuinely than Eric, who was a bit of a selfish prick.

Final Analysis of Desperado Dream

Perhaps if I had first read the precursor to Desperado Dream, called The Forever Passion, which was published over a decade prior, I would have felt differently. But as it was, I was devastated by the ending. It left a sour taste in my mouth. I think this is the first book that was in pristine condition that I ever tossed into the garbage.

I can’t recommend this book, that is unless you’ve read The Forever Passion and want to see the continuing adventures of Eric and Lisa in a book where they’re separated most of the time.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader