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my name is clary brown

Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

BOOK REVIEW gothic
My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1976
Illustrator: Elaine Duillo, Charles Geer
Published by: Berkley, Random House
Genres: Gothic Romance, Historical Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Pages: 246
Format: Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Gothic Romance Review: My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

My Name is Clary Brown by Charlotte Keppel was first published in 1976 under the title When I Say Goodbye, I’m Clary Brown. Charlotte Keppel, née Ursula Torday, also wrote romances and Gothics under the names Charity Blackstock–Lee Blackstock in the USA–and Paula Allardyce.

Unlike other Gothic romances, the cover of My Name is Clary Brown doesn’t feature a frightened heroine running from a dark manor, castle, or estate. I couldn’t obtain a copy of the original 1976 release. But all covers, including my 1978 Berkley Medallion issue with an Elaine Duillo-illustration, portray the heroine front and center, looking as strong as can be.

And so she should, for Clary is a woman of great fortitude and intelligence.

my name is clary brown geer
Random House, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

The Plot

Part One

It’s the mid-18th century in London, England. Clary “Diamond” Browne is an actress of little renown, working bit parts while performing under David Garrick. She’s honest with herself that she’ll never be a star, just a pretty face with the ability to memorize a few lines and turn on the waterworks.

Diamond is the mistress of an old man with whom she has an emotionless, strictly business relationship. In a moment of anger, she destroys it, telling her domineering “protector” precisely what she thinks of him: not much. Though she might depend upon him for her income, she deserves better. I loved the way she told him off. Alas, by doing so, Diamond seals her doom.

He counters that he’s tired of her and their arrangement is over. In retaliation for her cruel remarks, he conspires to have Diamond return to the village where she grew up as a poor outcast.

Clary had escaped her hometown in the boonies–aptly named Middleditch–in disgrace. She is part Rom, so her mixed heritage had marketed her as an outsider even though she had been born there. Her father was hanged for a minor crime. Then Clary was sent to live in a workhouse for homeless girls. If not for the generosity of a benefactress, Lady Caroline, Clary would have ended up on the streets.

clary brown UK Coronet version
UK Coronet version

Part Two

Now going by her stage name Diamond Browne, Clary returns to Middleditch to live in an elegant home much grander than the one in which she’d grown up.

The village is in worse condition than when she left. It is marked with eerieness and dread. The few friends Clary had in town have died under peculiar violent incidents. The poor-house burned down, killing some. Others passed from illnesses. And then some were murdered.

Her posh gowns, refined speech, and handsome manners fool the villagers for a while. However, as time goes on, it is evident that Diamond Browne really is old Clary Brown, the itinerant daughter of a gypsy thief. 

Diamond faces the soldier who ruined her life: Captain William Ringham. She had vowed revenge against the Capitan for convicting her starving father for stealing a rabbit. Now Diamond scoffs at his attempts at kindness. Who was he trying to fool?

Soon the dark forces seem to be directed at her and those close to her. Lady Caroline dies a gruesome death. The pastor of the old church is found crucified.

Two men offer her protection in distinct ways: Captain Ringham with his seeming concern and Lady Caroline’s widower with thinly-veiled insinuations.

Something preternatural element lurks in the woods. Who were the creatures that stalked the night? Could she be the next victim of a heinous murder? Was Ringham behind the evil occurrences in Middleditch? Of course, he must! Who else could it be…?

The conclusion sees the wicked baddies get their due comeuppance. And best of all, Clary finds genuine love with Captain Ringham, who is not the villain she had believed him to be.

Final Analysis of My Name is Clary Brown

Charlotte Keppel’s My Name is Clary Brown has a strong, creepy plot filled with enough mystery to keep one turning the pages to see what happens next. Still, the main appeal of this book is the characterization.

Diamond/ Clary was intelligent, outspoken, and refreshingly likable. The way Clary stands up for herself is thoroughly in keeping with her time period (the Georgian era). She is a great vintage romance heroine, for sure.

Captain Ringham, the hero, was a pure gentleman. He doesn’t show up much too often, as this is Clary’s story to tell. But whenever she required support, he was there for her.

As this is a 1970s Gothic, the steam factor is not relevant here, as it never goes beyond sweet yet passionate kisses. Nevertheless, the connection between the hero and heroine is palpable.

My Name is Clary Brown is a fantastic romantic read for Halloween.

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis

THE RIGHT TO LOVE…

Miss Diamond Brown was the toast of the London stage. She had jewels and fine satins to caress her tawny skin, everything a woman could want–except the urgent warmth of a man’s passion…

For the thousandth time, Diamond searched the mirror and found there the gypsy orphan girl who had fled to London only six years before. But had she escaped? Was she now free to love the man whose dark eyes had burned into her soul on that never forgotten night…

MY NAME IS CLARY BROWN by CHARLOTTE KEPPEL
a breath of scandal mason

Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

book review
A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
Rating: one-half-stars
Published: 2001
Illustrator: TBD
Book Series: Sin Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Georgian Era Romance, Historical Romance
Pages: 372
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Having read a few Connie Mason books in the past and (more or less) entertained by them, I picked up A Breath of Scandal expecting some ahistorical yet sexy, romantic fun. Sadly, except for the wallpaper Georgian background, the second book in her “Sin Trilogy” series lacked all those standard Mason elements.

Chock-full of my most hated pet peeves, I should’ve put this book down when the hero raised the ire of my inner Ron Swanson by vehemently proclaiming that smugglers were cheating the Crown and the English government out of their right to collect taxes on French wine.

Not a good sign of things to come.

The Hero and the Set Up

Julian, Earl of Mansfield, is known as the Scorpion (pet peeves number 2 and 3: English nobleman is a spy, plus an animal alias for extra lameness), and he’s posing undercover to catch the evil smuggler, the Jackal (there’s another stupid animal codename).

The Jackal tried to kill Julian years earlier but instead killed Julian’s pregnant fiancée.

Julian vowed revenge for the only woman he ever cared for (pet peeve number 4: the hero is obsessed whis ith dead lover throughout the entire book, so much so that he cannot acknowledge his feelings for the heroine).

A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
A Breath of Scandal, Connie Mason, Avon, 2001, cover artist TBD

The Plot

Julian, the Spy Lord and Lara, the Gypsy Lady

A Breath of Scandal begins with Julian on a mission. His identity is exposed and he is shot by the Jackal’s men. Julian jumps off a boat and washes ashore, to be discovered by some traveling gypsies.

Mason stretches the bounds of credibility here when Julian is found by lovely Lady Lara, the illegitimate daughter of a gypsy and an English Earl, who first knew of her father’s identity when her mother died.

She showed up on her father’s doorstep at age 13. He accepted her and made her legitimate. Now she spends most of the year with her father but is allowed to spend summers with her Gypsy family before settling down with an English husband.

Other than caravans and the word “gadjo” for an outsider, it doesn’t appear as if Mason did any real research on Roma people, but as I said, this is wallpaper historical at its worst.

A Forced Marriage

Lara is drawn to the stranger and helps heal him back to health. In a twist of events, Julian and Lara are married in typical gypsy wedding fashion. (?) Lara declares Julian is her husband three times in front of men who are pursuing Julian, and Julian doesn’t deny it.

With his black hair (another pet peeve–it’s nit-picky and shallow, I know–his hair doesn’t match the reddish-brown hair on the back cover) and walnut-stained skin Julian pretends to be a gypsy while his wounds heal.

Meanwhile, he takes advantage of his marriage to Lara by banging her and banging her and banging her some more.

He doesn’t consider his marriage to Lara binding because she’s only a gypsy after all. He hides his true identity from his “wife” and is known solely as Drago. And, of course, Lara doesn’t tell him that she is the half-English daughter of an Earl.

Julian goes on and on about how he is an honorable man. What’s that saying about how a man with honor doesn’t call himself one? Well, that applies to Julian as his repeated actions belie his claims. Such a shame because I like stuffed-shirt, uptight heroes and was expecting Julian to be rigidly noble. Alas, he was just a lame-ass loser.

Scandalous Secrets Revealed in A Breath of Scandal

Eventually, Julian leaves Lara to go back to his home in England. Lara is headed there as well to enter society and find a husband. Lara’s fortune-telling grandmother predicts that she will not see Drago in England.

Of course, she does see him; not as Drago, but in his true form as Julian, Lord Mansfield. Upon realizing Lara is the daughter of an Earl, Julian’s supposed honor kicks in, and he vows to marry Lara for real. (Because gypsies don’t deserve respect even if they save your life! [That is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.])

The Jerky Hero

Julian does all he can to convince her into matrimony. This consists of:

  • Compromising Lara in a carriage in a public park
  • Accusing her father of being the nefarious Jackal
  • Putting her in danger several times
  • Absconding with Lara to Scotland and leaving her Daddy a note
  • All this while having as much sex with Lara as he can and telling her he doesn’t love her, will probably never love her due to the pain of losing his fiancée.

Honorable man indeed.

The worst is when he hides in the woods like a coward while Lara and her family convince the Jackal’s henchmen that Julian isn’t there. Some hero.

Another pet peeve of mine rears its head as Lara declares emphatically that if Julian does not love her, she won’t marry him. But she’ll keep on sleeping with him, cuz he’s too irresistible!

Final Analysis of A Breath of Scandal

To be fair, the first 100 pages of A Breath of Scandal were okay. Connie Mason has an erotic way with love scenes. I was on board to give it a 3-star rating, as there was a Lindsey-like vibe that appealed to my bad taste.

Unfortunately, this was a 400-page book, and the story went in circles for the last 300 pages. There were glaring errors that were hard to ignore.

When Julian and Lara meet up with her gypsy family, Lara’s grandmother happily exclaims, “I told you that you’d meet Drago again!” No, she had said the freaking opposite!

For an Avon paperback, this was riddled with errors galore. What were the highly-paid New York editors smoking? In 2001, it was probably mass-produced BC bud.

Julian is referred to as Lord Manchester a few times… but he’s Lord Mansfield!

Plus, the anachronisms were painful to deal with.

If a story has charm, appealing characters, or an engaging WTF vibe, I can overlook bad history, but when there are none of those qualities present, then I just can’t enjoy the ride. Sorry, A Breath of Scandal.

1.74 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
1
Characters
1
Writing
1.5
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
1.5
Cover
3
Overall: 1.8

Synopsis

She claimed him as her husband without even knowing his name. Now she will risk everything to keep his secret—but can she give her heart without having his love in return?

Lord Julian Thornton, Earl of Mansfield by day and secret agent of the crown by night, has sworn never to love another woman. But then a mission goes wrong, and Julian is left for dead, his only hope a seductively mysterious gypsy woman named Lara. And when she marries him under gypsy law for his own protection, Julian is too entranced with the dark beauty to deny himself the benefits of their marriage.

Yet even as he longs for their idyllic interlude to last, Julian knows his presence alone puts her very life in danger. Until he discovers Lara in the one place he never expected to see his wild gypsy enchantress…the one place where he isn’t sure he can protect her—or his own heart.

From the moment Lady Lara, half-gypsy daughter of the Earl of Stanhope, finds a wounded stranger washed up on Scotland’s rugged shore, she knows their destinies will be forever entangled. So when a band of smugglers comes looking for the dashing stranger, Lara doesn’t hesitate to claim him as her husband “Drago.”

But when her mysterious husband goes back to his own world—and its dark secrets—Lara returns to her father to take her place as his heiress…never expecting to find her Drago across the earl’s crowded ballroom. And although he still enthralls her, Lara is determined that she will never truly be his wife until he surrenders his heart as well. 

A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason
Dangerous Obsession natasha peters

Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1978
Illustrator: Don Stivers
Book Series: Culhane Duo #2
Published by: Ace
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper
Pages: 630
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Historical Romance Review: Dangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters‘ first epic bodice ripper romance, Savage Surrender.

However, don’t feel you need to read one to be comfortable reading the other. The relationship between the two books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

The Set-Up

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans twelve years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman.

American Seth Garrett has business to deal with in Russia. There, he will meet Rhawnie, and there begins a rocky love story that will span continents and years.

The Plot and the Characters

The Heroine, Rhawnie

Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, to herself! Rhawnie even lies on her (near) deathbed!

She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken!

When caught red-handed, she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this, Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter, [Note: she was 7 when I originally wrote this review] who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not a mere mortal. She is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, and card cheat, and a baroness.

Men duel and die over her. She is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, the savior of an orphan, and a wronged woman.

Last and most of all, Rhawnie is the love object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

The Hero, Seth

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work, and it took me a long time to warm up to him.

He’s no Sean Culhane or Duke Domenico, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. Her lecherous, older uncle then, in angry retaliation, beats and kicks Rhawnie while Seth just sort of stands there.

Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on!

He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress.

And the evil Seth inflicts upon Rhawnie in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice that never occurs.

But…he does properly declare himself at the end (if that redemption/groveling arc matters to you). He gives himself completely to Rhawnie.

Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together, they are perfect.

The Good and the Bad

Dangerous Obsession is written in the first person, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and Natasha Peters could have cut it 75 to 50 pages shorter.

Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American west.

They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river. Seth gets injured, and Rhawnie nurses him back to life. Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment of camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less)!

They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures; she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, gets addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…

And before you know it–whew! It’s over.

Final Analysis of Dangerous Obsession

Natasha Peters’ Dangerous Obsession was so close to perfect. It’s such a shame that, like so many bodice rippers, in the end, it falters under its own hefty weight.

Nevertheless, I’m rounding my initial 4.5-star rating up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4.5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4
Overall: 4.6

Synopsis:

She was daring and defiant; tender and wanton. She was child; she was woman. she was Rhawnie.

From a starving gypsy in Russia to an exotic demi-mondaine in Paris to a countess in Bavaria to a sensation in New York from a survivor in the western wilderness to a card shark in San Francisco — such were the heights and depths of existence for Rhawnie.

Her wit, her cunning, her beauty, the sensuous delights she performs to well protect her even as they cause her agony and shame. For deep in her soul is a love for a man, a man who has brought her only degradation and heartbreak.

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Rhawnie cannot escape Seth Garrett. The constant ache for his arms, the ever present need for the fires of passion he alone can ignite, and his relentless pursuit of her have made her his prisoner. Across continents fleeing danger and death, Rhawnie runs…from this man…from herself…until she knows that with a love so powerful, a love so shameless, she can do nothing but surrender!

DANGEROUS OBSESSION by NATASHA PETERS
the present

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

historical romance review
The Present by Johanna Lindsey
Rating: three-half-stars
Published: 1998
Illustrator: Unknown
Book Series: Malory & Anderson #6
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Buy on: AmazonThriftBooks

Historical Romance Review: The Present by Johanna Lindsey

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 😊

The Book

Over 22 years and under two different publishers, Johanna Lindsey wrote 12 romances about the Malory & Anderson clans. These books were massive hits with her many fans, with some readers claiming them as favorites, especially Gentle Rogue. Her novel, The Present, is moderately short at just over 300 pages. It tells two parallel love stories set in different eras in England, portraying the Malory clan in the past and the “present.” No matter how time changes, the love lives of the family remain the same.

The Plot

It is Christmas time. The Malorys–wives, husbands, and children–assemble at Haverston, the family patriarch’s estate. Lord Jason Malory is a Marquis and father to Derek, the hero from Say You Love Me. Readers familiar with that novel should know the dark family secret. Derek is not a child of the legitimate union between his father and his wife. Jason had an affair with a mysterious woman, and Derek was the result of that. The mystery woman is Jason’s long-time maid, Molly.

Jason’s marriage was for convenience. It is an unhappy one, as he and his wife have lived apart for years. Jason has always been a stickler for propriety and forever covering up scandals. It was a struggle reigning in his two wild younger brothers, Anthony and James.

Out of blue, a package in Christmas wrapping appears. The Malorys open it to find a diary.

It details how the second Marquis of Haverston, Christopher, found love with a gypsy princess named Anastasia. Curious, the family reads the book aloud, discovering long-kept secrets.

The five couples from the previous installments have their roles in the book. Fortunately, my favorite Malory couples feature prominently throughout. There’s little focus on boring Roslynn and Kelsey and more on Uncle James, his wife Georgina, and niece Amy.

Derek, and his parents, Jason and Molly, are the main characters in the current timeline.

The Present tells of how the incongruous pairing between an English nobleman and a lovely gypsy came to be. It also details the romance between the mature quinquagenarian Jason and his forty-something beloved, Molly.

Christmas is a time of miracles. Indeed, it would be a miracle if Jason and Molly could openly declare their love for each other. A rigid class structure controls society.

Nevertheless, the past foretells the future, and love wins out in the end.

Final Analysis of The Present

If you’re unfamiliar with the Malory clan, I wouldn’t recommend The Present as your first foray into the series. You can skip the first two books, but reading Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Say You Love Me is essential.

3.5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
3.5
Writing
4
Chemistry
3
Fun Factor
3
Overall: 3.5

Synopsis

As the entire Malory family gathers at Haverston to celebrate the season, a mysterious present arrives anonymously. The gift is an old journal — a tender and tempestuous account of the love affair between the second Marquis, Christopher Malory, and a dark gypsy beauty named Anastasia, who seeks a love match with a non-gypsy in order to save herself from a prearranged marriage to a brute.

Though the dashing English lord Anastasia sets her sight upon burns for the exquisite, exotic miss, Christopher could never consent to wed such a lowborn lady. But miracles have been known to happen in this season of peace and giving and love, as two extraordinary people seperated by cicumstance of birth begin a passionate dance of will and wiles.

And in the miraculous blossoming of a glorious romance at a long ago Christmastime, there are wise and well-learned lessons that will enrich the hearts of the Malory descendants — and, indeed, of everyone who has ever dreamed.

The Present by Johanna Lindsey
Midnight Captive pino

Historical Romance Review: Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri

book review historical romance
Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri
Rating: five-stars
Published: 1989
Illustrator: Pino
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon


Historical Romance Review: Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

The Book

This review is of Midnight Captive, a standalone Zebra historical romance from March 1989 by Penelope Neri.

The Plot

Prologue

Midnight Captive begins ominously.

A man finds a cache of gold and wishes everything he touches would turn into it. Hearing him, the Devil appears and makes the man a bargain. If the unnamed man sells his soul to the Devil, the Devil will grant his wish.

The man agrees. He later realizes, however, that such a bargain has unintended consequences.

This is the theme running through the book.

Part One

We meet Krissoula Ballardo, the heroine of Midnight Captive, and her business partner, Hector Corrales, in Spain.

Their business: rolling rich men and stealing from them.

When they see Esteban de San Martin, the hero, they try to rob him. This plan fails. Rather than have Krissoula arrested, Esteban blackmails her. He needs her to help him get revenge against his uncle, Felipe Aguilar, in Esteban’s home country Argentina.

Felipe is the brother of Esteban’s late father, Alejandro. There is significant bad blood between uncle and nephew.

We also learn about Krissoula’s past, which involves a happy childhood and much-less-happy young adulthood.

As part of Esteban’s plan, Krissoula must lure Felipe into proposing marriage to her.

However, he discovers that she and Esteban are lovers, leading to major trouble for both Krissoula and Esteban.

Esteban is severely beaten by Felipe’s henchmen. Meanwhile, Krissoula and her duena Sofia de Alicante y Moreno must flee. They end up being kidnapped by revolutionaries who want to overthrow the Argentine government.

Part Two

They escape their captivity. Krissoula and Sofia make their way to the Argentine barrios, where Krissoula has to fight off the predatory intentions of Antonio Malvado, the “godfather” of the barrio they’re staying in.

Those efforts end up for naught, however, as Sofia becomes seriously ill, and Krissoula has no choice but to go to Malvado for help. She also plans to kill Malvado for his contribution to the death of a friend of hers.

Esteban–now recovered from his beating–discovers that Krissoula is with Malvado. After a violent battle and a chase, he rescues Krissoula from Malvado’s evil clutches and kills him.

Krissoula and Esteban marry, have one child, officially adopt two others, and unofficially many others. They open an orphanage for the homeless, parentless children of the barrio.

Krissoula and Esteban have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

The Heroine

A reader might read the title Midnight Captive and think the book is a “Stockholm Syndrome” romance. It’s not, thankfully.

What it is really is a story about a young woman–Krissoula is 19–who has endured major hardships and trauma in her young life, finding happiness through her own inner strength and courage.

At first, I didn’t like Krissoula–she starts the book as a thief–but as I read more, I grew to like, and later love, Krissoula. Readers will watch her grow up before their eyes.

She has a lot of similarities with another Penelope Neri heroine, Freya Jorgenson from Sea Jewel. The two stories are very different in terms of setting and culture. Yet both are about women experiencing hellish trauma at young ages and finding happiness by tapping into strength they didn’t know they had in order to survive.

The Couple

Both Krissoula and Esteban have fully realized characters. Although neither is flawless, they are very human.

They also have hot chemistry that comes from pairing a Gypsy/Spanish/Greek heroine with a Latinx hero. Esteban is my favorite Neri hero–admittedly, not a high bar to climb, as most of her “heroes” are rapist bastards, but he clears the bar easily.

I also liked the fact that both Krissoula and Esteban were willing to give a “hand-up” to the kids that needed a champion.

Ms. Neri also ties her parable from the beginning of the book into her main story. Esteban becomes wealthy but realizes that it’s no good if he doesn’t have Krissoula, whom he loves very much.

For Krissoula, she almost married Felipe–who is later killed “off-screen.” She comes to realize that though she may gain wealth by marrying, Krissoula would not be loved.

For only Esteban could provide her with the true love she has been seeking all of her life.

Ms. Neri is also a very good “scenic” writer. By that, I mean that she is very descriptive in her writing of scenes and takes me, as a reader, into her scenes.

Downside

Like the majority of Ms. Neri’s books, Midnight Captive is overlong. This is the 10th book I’ve read by Ms. Neri, and only one has come in at less than 500 pages. Midnight Captive checks in at 512 pages.

There were way too many exclamation points at the end of paragraphs and sentences.

I also felt the storyline about the overthrow of the Argentine government to be tacked on as a way to extend the page count. It was not really important or relevant to the book as a whole.

Sex

Ms. Neri knows how to write a sexy love scene–she did so in Sea Jewel–but here, the love scenes are fairly mild. They’re not Ms. Neri’s best love scenes.

Violence

Assault, battery, destruction of guns, and killings take place in Midnight Captive. The violence is not graphic.

Bottom Line on Midnight Captive

Midnight Captive by Penelope Neri is not a flawless book, but it has more than enough good qualities-including an amazing heroine–to earn a 4.89, rounded–up 5 stars from me.

5 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
4.5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis:

MONEY WAS SUPERIOR TO MARRIAGE

After a poor, ragged girlhood with he gypsy kinfolk, Krissoula Ballardo knew that all she wanted from life was her share of riches. But there was only one way for the penniless temptress to earn a cent: to fake interest in a man, drug him, and pocket everything he had! Then the sable-haired seductress met dashing Esteban de San Martin, and a hot unquenchable passion seared her soul. The fortune-hunting beauty knew she should flee the handsome devil — but a force more powerful made her run straight into his embrace!

RANCHING WAS BETTER THAN ROMANCE

All his life, dark, towering Esteban had been denied his father’s name; now he swore nothing would keep him from his rightful inheritance. In order to regain his vast Argentine acreage, the crafty vacquero blackmailed Krissoula, the unscrupulous wench who’d once tried to fool him. But the more he involved her in his plot, the more Esteban couldn’t deny her effect on him. Her luscious lips begged for his sensual kisses, her ripe curves invited his arousing caresses, and soon he was ready to sacrifice his carefully planned scheme for one searing moment in the welcoming arms of his exotic midnight captive.

midnight captive by PENELOPE NERI
texas princess blake

Historical Romance Review: Texas Princess by Veronica Blake

Texas Princess, Veronica Blake, Zebra, 1992, Robert Sabin cover art

1 1/2 Stars

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Princess of Which State?

As usual, the folks at Zebra were just slapping generic titles onto these books! Only a tiny portion of Veronica Blake’s Texas Princess takes place in Texas. The hero and heroine travel across the western US, and they only get to the Lonestar State at the tail end of the book.

My main recollection of this tepid romance is while reading, I kept wondering: “When do they get to Texas? The book’s almost over. What about Texas?” Not a good sign. The editors could have gone with something like Gypsy Princess (although perhaps in today’s environment, that would be seen as insensitive), Emerald Princess, or Forbidden Passions. I checked & no other romance novels had those titles.

As for the book itself?

Sad to say that Texas Princess was a forgettable Heartfire. Tasmin, the eponymous Texas princess who is not actually royalty from America’s 28th state, is betrothed to the leader of her Roma tribe. He’s a kind and handsome man. However, she falls for a gadjo cowboy drifter, Blayde (I think that was his name) instead.

He watches her intently as she dances by a fire. Tasmin feels Blayde’s gaze upon her. She is drawn to this strange man, even though it spells her damnation.

Passion ensues.

Because of her forbidden passion, Tasmin is banished from all that is familiar to her. The hero has his inner demons to battle and isn’t looking for commitment. Destiny ties them together as he and Tasmin trek through the West. Tasmin & Blayde only have each other for support, yet can these two people from differing backgrounds make true love work?

Not for nothing, but this is a standard romance novel, so what else do you think is going to happen?

Final Analysis of Texas Princess

Dull, dull book. I love Zebra romances in general, but on an individual level, a lot of them were unremarkable. I’ll give this one an extra half star because I like the cover.