Lover…or Deceiver? Julie Farroux had escaped the guillotine by marrying a withered old man who desired her only for her inheritance. Their loveless union had left her believing her heart was as shriveled as his, until she found the warmth of desire in the arms of a handsome stranger. In the glittering city that was Napoleon’s Paris, deception and greed were a way of life. Sebastian Ramlin had made a devil’s bargain with Julie’s husband … to seduce Julie — and give her husband an heir. But he never planned to fall in love with her. Could he find the courage to reveal his treachery … and risk losing the woman he loved?
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Mollie Ashton’s Terms of Surrender was my first Harlequin Historical, and it got me hooked on the series for a long time! It’s a wonderful gem of a book. Don’t believe me? Just read the seal of approval by historical fiction/romance legend Roberta Gellis on the cover.
She gazed into eyes that held love and joy and laughter. The laughter that had always been in him—only needing her to bring it out. ‘Oh, my dearest,’ she answered, her heart swelling with wonder and gratitude for the beautiful man who bent above her. ‘You’re Love.’
STRANGER IN MY ARMS
Rating: 5 out of 5.
My Absolute Favorite Historical Romance
There are many older romances I like out of pure nostalgia. When I re-read them, I know they’re not perfect, yet I enjoy them nevertheless. Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings first caught my attention over thirty years ago, and I love it more today than I did back then. It even earned the treasured seal of approval from Kathe Robin, the legendary book reviewer and editor of the now, sadly, defunct Romantic Times.
Although it’s a bit on the short side, this is the best romance novel, historical or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. I have re-read this book easily a dozen times in thirty years and am always stirred by its intensity.
“Mademoiselle Marie-Rouge’s bewitching gray eyes widened with shock. King Louis’ minister had made his offer very clear: Rouge must become a spy or else her beloved father would be thrown in debtor’s prison. She chose to flee into a storm-swept night away from the golden court at Versailles and the intrigues that threatened her life…In a miller’s cottage she found a stranger–a brazen, daring man who claimed to be a simple peasant. His arms sheltered her, his kisses intoxicated her more than royal wine, and his desire showed her a paradise no riches could buy. Would he forgive the girl who took his sweet love tonight–only to run from his heart tomorrow?”
4 1/2 stars
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Lousia Rawlings, the writer of such greats as Stranger in My Arms and its sequel, Wicked Stranger, was a masterful author. It’s unfortunate she no longer writes wonderful historical romances in the truest sense of those words.
(Edit: she’s republished her novels as e-books, so now there is no excuse for anyone not to read her!)
From the opening pages of Andrea Layton’s So Wild a Rapture, we are introduced to the 16-year-old heroine, the noble Juliette de Condillac, and her “won twu wuv,” Francois du Quesnay, a slightly older boy from a neighboring and also noble family. They quickly consummate their love and, like high schoolers, vow to be “togetha 4 eva” after Francois finishes his university education. But life has other plans for Juliette and Francois, first in the name of Roger du Deffand, and then in the name of the French Revolution.
Against her will, Juliette is betrothed to the foppish and much older Roger. Francois hightails it back to school, but not before giving her his ring, which he tells Juliette will protect her whenever needed. Juliette dithers about her future: maybe she will marry Roger, maybe she won’t. In the meantime, she is to be educated at a convent and spend time with nobility, learning what she needs to be a proper bride for Roger. What does she need to learn? Oh, the usual: being pious, educated in the wifely arts, properly social, and perhaps take part in a bit of girl-on-girl love, because her husband-to-be loves to watch a good show (or even take part).... Read more “Historical Romance Review: So Wild a Rapture by Andrea Layton”
The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between we witness the epic tale of Purity, a woman so beautiful many men desire her, they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her… In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.
Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love and later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.
Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward. Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and the finally marries her.... Read more “Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour”
His spirit, like the lonely, windswept sea, was ever-restless, ever-changing, sometimes howling down to savage the unyielding land, then caressing it with a lulling embrace, inevitably wearing away its resistance.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Most Controversial Bodice Ripper, Ever?
So, after a couple of decades of reading romance, I finally got around to Stormfire by the late Christine Monson. Whew! They do not write them like this anymore. The ultimate in bodice-ripping, Stormfire is a tale of two mentally unstable people and their violent, intense love. And it’s great!
The main attraction of Stormfire is its writing. If it was a poorly written book no one would still be talking about it 20-plus years after it was published. The chapters each have their own titles such as “Silken Irons,” “Into Eden,” or “The Nadir.” When the heroine meets the hero her first thoughts are of Milton’s poetry: “His form had not yet lost/All his original brightness, nor appeared/Less than Archangel ruined…”